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Charlotte Whitford oral history interview, May 6, 2008

Date: May. 06 2008 | Identifier: 45-05-01-13
Interview with East Carolina College alumna and Craven Community College library employee Charlotte Whitford (formerly Charlotte Marie Purifoy). Ms. Whitford discusses her childhood in a tobacco farming family in Craven County, N.C., her parents' attitudes toward education, and her experience at New Bern High School. She discusses in depth her experience as a student at East Carolina College, including student registration, dorm life, studying, and finances. After graduating with a degree in Home Economics, Ms. Whitford later became a library employee at Craven Community College. Interviewer: Joanne Phipps. more...
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Transcript of Charlotte Whitford Interview
Interviewee:Charlotte Whitford
Interviewer:Joanne Phipps
Date of Interview:May 6, 2008
Location of Interview:New Bern, N.C.
Length:MP3 - 64 Minutes; 23 Seconds

Joanne Phipps:

This is Joanne Phipps interviewing Charlotte Purifoy Whitford for the ECU Centennial Oral History project. Okay; so I wanted to start off with just some information from your childhood and--and your background. What did your parents do for a living when you were growing up?

Charlotte Whitford:

Farming.

Joanne Phipps:

And what did they specify in? What--what did they specifically farm?

Charlotte Whitford:

Tobacco; that was the main money crop and we raised corn, soybeans. The soy beans were for hay for our mule; corn for the chickens and the mule; we also did gardening and sold produce from the garden. That was it. There were small farmers. Our community was split up entirely of small farmers. Tobacco was the money crop. And everything else was what helped us live I mean as far as the daily day-to-day needs and so forth. We raised everything we had. The main grocery items that we bought were like flour and sugar. We actually had our meal ground; had a local person from a neighboring community who had--who would grind the meal.



You'd save your best corn and take it there and they would grind the meal for you. So sugar and flour, coffee, tea--we didn't drink much tea. That was a very--that was a treat because we didn't have refrigerators. We didn't have electric lights, no current, and by the time we'd set it and get a piece of ice and put it in the ice-box and we might have tea on Sunday. But that was basically it; it was just--just small farmers and a good life. We learned how to work. And at the end of the summer, children usually would get what we called the scrapings of tobacco, the leaves that were not enough to have a day's work and we would go with our families and pull those leaves off and put them on the sticks and maybe there would be a neighbor who would--might have a full barn of tobacco left and we'd put those sticks in there and maybe another year it might be us that somebody else's child would put their tobacco in our barns. That's what bought our school clothes. And then we also helped our neighbors if--if our families could spare us to work and make money.

Joanne Phipps:

All right.

Charlotte Whitford:

I think I made a dollar and a half for a half a day when I first started working in tobacco.

Joanne Phipps:

Oh my.

Charlotte Whitford:

And I love farm life. I'm married to a farmer also.

Joanne Phipps:

Okay; did you have siblings?

Charlotte Whitford:

Had a sister; she doesn't like to tell me her age. [Laughs] She's much younger; I think that she is about almost nine years younger than I am--around that, almost nine. She lacks a month being exactly nine years older--younger than I am--younger and not older. That's all.

Joanne Phipps:

And did both of you go to school?



Charlotte Whitford:

She went to business school, but I'm the only one that went to a four-year college. Daddy and mama had a little bit more money when she was that age because they didn't have to support two children and she--as I said she went to Kings Business School in Raleigh. It's another name now but it was like--maybe nine months--something like that.

Joanne Phipps:

Did your parents complete education?

Charlotte Whitford:

No; one was in--I believe they were probably around the sixth or seventh grade. The school stopped at grade seven. And--but actually they went to country schools and daddy was about eight years older than mama and he actually lived much further back than she did. She lived a little near Bridgeton which--and then eventually they did let them go to Bridgeton School and did--did away with that little country school; I think she was the one that went through the seventh grade. Maybe she got to the eighth grade; I believe she may have gotten to the eighth grade but her family didn't have money for her to keep going and have clothes and you want to have clothes like everyone else. So she quit school and went to work and she had a car by the time she was 15 years-old.

Joanne Phipps:

My.

Charlotte Whitford:

But she was--she was self-educated. She had me going to the library when I was a little girl. She had me by the hand taking me to the public library in New Bern, very intelligent, and daddy was the same. They were more or less self-educated and everybody in the community was the same way. I mean there was no difference.

Joanne Phipps:

Uh-hm; what was your parents' attitude toward your education and your sister's?

Charlotte Whitford:

They wanted me to have it and wanted her to have it; they believed in it. And they encouraged it. I was a good student. And mama was always a great mother; they participated in



the school activities and--and encouraged us. They just always encouraged us and expected us to behave ourselves, not get into trouble, and to do good work and we did. I remember one time that I had trouble with algebra and of course, my Daddy did not have any background but he sat down and helped me figure out how to do the algebra. So that was--they were really self-educated. And back then the school taught a little bit more than they're teaching now to the undergrads. It was reading, writing, and arithmetic but it was a strong background in it.

Joanne Phipps:

So when you were in high school, how did you decide to go to East Carolina?

Charlotte Whitford:

Okay; I didn't--I was going to join the Navy.

Joanne Phipps:

Oh--oh that's right.

Charlotte Whitford:

That's the one thing I've never done and I'm too old to do it now. [Laughs] But I had planned to join the Navy. I was in 4-H Club and during my senior year we had a new 4-H agent. Her name was Barbara Clark; she graduated from ECU. She also became the Head Librarian at Pitt Community College. She is deceased now but she encouraged me to go and she said she had worked her way through school; she thought I could do the same and that I was a qualified candidate to go. I knew I would have to work before I went. I had a business background; I graduated with what was known as a Commercial Degree, business courses. And she actually started encouraging me actually before my senior year, during the summer before the senior year, and so I found out that in order to get in ECU I would have to have one year of algebra. And so I took that my senior year. And everything else was okay. So she actually started the summer before I was a summer as--as my agent. And she mentored me all the way through--college, the year I worked and the other home economics agent in the county who was her supervisor did the same. But it was through her mentoring and the people with whom I worked; I



mean they were all just hey you can do it. I never had anyone to say you can't do it. I had uncles who were just like my daddy and mother who were just so encouraging. And they had not had the opportunity that I had and if there was such a thing as financial aid I never heard of it; so I don't know. [Laughs] Until as I say I had been in school and some of my friends were on this--it wasn't a teacher's fellowship but you--if you would agree to teach for each year that they provided you money then you could get this--it wasn't a loan; I don't know what you call it. I've forgotten but I didn't plan to teach. That was not my aim, so I said no way. And then of course I did teach; I could have paid it back. But it's okay. It's live and learn and it's helped me in helping students today because there are so many--there is so much financial aid available today and I have met new students who come to school here and they--they're in doubt whether I should apply for this or apply for that. I said listen; if you can get it you don't have anything to lose. You can always pay it back if you don't do what they require. And so this helped me help others. But I had encouragement and I had a desire; I've always--I guess my parents put that in me. They--they were the type who were self-sufficient, believed in work, never cheat; you treat everybody completely honest, you do not lie; I had a good background. And I knew how to work; I grew up working.

And my high school business courses have really helped me throughout life. They helped get me through college. They helped me after I was married. The home economics degree taught me how to get along in the world--all of it together was just real important.

Joanne Phipps:

So how about if you tell me about your first day?

Charlotte Whitford:

My first day [Laughs]; I can sit right here and almost cry right now. Registration--it went by one day and then we didn't have Orientation per se like they have it now. And I had to



go to a different building. It was raining; I didn't know which way to turn, what to do. You would go along the line there would be someone like Office of English such and such--what the number was, biology or what have you and wherever--wherever you stopped to sign up that would be your--that person would be your instructor who was sitting there. I didn't have any idea who was good, who was bad, or what have you. And I didn't know what I was doing; I was completely frustrated and I got soaking wet. I didn't have an umbrella. And when I went back to the dorm I was ready to go home. We had no telephones at home so I couldn't call anyone to come get me so I stayed. [Laughs]

Joanne Phipps:

Who dropped you off that first day?

Charlotte Whitford:

My parents.

Joanne Phipps:

How did they feel about everything?

Charlotte Whitford:

Oh, my mother actually cried. [Laughs] I can remember it to the day. She was seeing me leave home and in fact then Greenville was--you just didn't go every day. Well she actually cried and at my high school graduation I saw her cry. She--she had always wanted to have been able to do that and didn't. But they encouraged me. They didn't have the money to pay for it and I knew it and I didn't ever expect it. I really appreciated it when they'd send me $5.00 in a letter and hey that $5.00 I could use to go to Bissette's Drugstore downtown, use it for different things that I needed and once in a long while it might be $10.00 and then when they went to Greenville to sell tobacco they'd usually get me a little box of groceries, so they--they helped and encouraged in that way. And then at the end of the year sometimes I would--my money would just get really tight because hey I had been there the whole year. And once in a while I would borrow maybe $100 from them and as soon as I went back to work during the



summer I paid it back because I knew that they were in tight too. And I didn't believe in going in debt--no way, never any debt. So I didn't apply for loans. And I didn't get my driver's license until after I was 18; they did not believe that they should be signing for me. When I was old enough to sign for myself then okay; you can get them, so I got them.

Joanne Phipps:

Uh-hm; so on that first day what did you bring with you?

Charlotte Whitford:

When I actually went up there?

Joanne Phipps:

Uh-hm.

Charlotte Whitford:

Oh gosh more junk than you can think about because I didn't have [inaudible] . Oh I brought the--I just took the clothes that I thought would need and then of course the blanket and sheets, iron; I didn't take a little box of groceries to start with because I didn't know how it was going to be. I didn't work the first quarter either; we were on the quarter system but I--I just took more clothes than I really needed because I had clothes and shoes and basically that was it. And I bought my pencil and paper and so forth from the college bookstore. But that's all I took but still it was too much. Like I--there were only two dresses that I never would have worn there because I didn't participate in that type of activity. But I took more clothes and shoes than I actually needed, but as I said bedspreads, I had bedspreads and we had to have our curtain for a closet. I was in Cotton Dorm. And my roommate and I had corresponded and gotten together. She had two bedspreads and I had two and we could change back and forth and have them matching. And I did the curtain for our closet. And she was from Farmville; she was younger than I. And she was homesick always and wanted to go home. But a nice person; we got along fine, but during the first year with working I'd find--I did get a job during the second quarter in the cafeteria and then of course I met my close friends, who also had to work and from



then on we--we all roomed as near together as we could get our rooms. And then I had the same roommate until I graduated. We're still friends. But we all worked; we all had this thing in common that we needed to work. And they were the ones who had their Teacher's Loan and tried to talk me into doing it and I said no way.

Joanne Phipps:

None of that debt for you?

Charlotte Whitford:

Uh-um; live and learn. [Laughs]

Joanne Phipps:

How did you adjust to the--the shock of being at college?

Charlotte Whitford:

It wasn't really difficult because I had always been a book worm studying. I've always liked people; I'm a people-person. That part was not difficult at all and I enjoyed it and being in 4-H Club it helped me. I was fairly outstanding in 4-H Club and then I went to a large high school. I did go to Bridgeton High School one year and they closed it--it was so small and the shock and the change was actually--when I changed from a small high school to a large high school here in New Bern but that prepared me for the college. So I really didn't have too much of a shock except Registration day. And just learning to get where I had to go and be there in the right amount of time and I could do that because I was always the fast walker, so it wasn't really that much of a shock as--except for the first day. And as I say, I enjoyed the people and it was so different back then from what it is now. It's--it was just different.

Joanne Phipps:

What are some of the memorable experiences that you had there?

Charlotte Whitford:

Besides Registration?

Joanne Phipps:

[Laughs]

Charlotte Whitford:

Okay; all right studying together--we would get in our groups and study. I had one friend who was an home economics major; she didn't have to work like the others of us. She



only had to work part-time but we would study together. The others were elementary school majors but we did take some subjects in which we could study together and ask each other questions, doing my own laundry to save money and we'd do it in the--we--each room had a lavatory. We would do it there, hang it in the--on close racks in the bathroom. We made our own milk; we used powdered milk and go to the cooler--water cooler and mix our milk with the cold--the powdered milk with the cold water and we'd use that over our cereal and drink it also. Then during the wintertime we could have hot soup. We'd just put the cans on the radiators and heat it up and we'd go in at lunch or supper. We could have the hot soup and we would usually eat maybe one meal a day in the cafeteria. That way we could save our cafeteria tickets and get paid--reimbursed with cash to have that to sort of live off of as sort of a side thing. We also learned how to toast sandwiches. You were not supposed to cook in the rooms back then; we could take an iron and toast our sandwich on the--just turn up--heat the iron and maybe put a piece of waxed paper on top of the iron and put our sandwich on top of the waxed paper and toast our sandwiches. So those--those were memories.

And another memory I have is that when it snowed we were living in Wilson Dorm at that particular time, and I remember so well we had a room that was on the corner and it was right over a porch. And the snow was just packed on top of the porch and we opened our window and went on top of the porch and got us some snow and made snow cream. That was a good memory.

And then the other memories that--that were really good--we didn't have money for entertainment so we went to all the free movies that they had, all the concerts, football, basketball games; we went to everything. We didn't miss a thing, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.



Going to Bissette's Drugstore on Saturday afternoons was a treat; I don't think--I know it doesn't exist anymore, just being together as friends and sharing and studying. I always loved to study; I loved to learn anything new and I was always very good with History. I didn't have time to read a lot and study and History was a class at which I could just sit there and I could absorb it and I made--it was called a 2; I guess that would be a B now. But I didn't have to really study for History. I could just sit there and absorb it.

Let's see; and I enjoyed my home economics classes. I had taken those classes in high school also but it was a challenge to learn to do so much more than what I had done in high school. And then of course maybe a shock in some respects was in using some of the appliances and so forth we had because we didn't have those appliances at home. I didn't think about that. Yeah; that was--I had to learn to use many things that some of the others didn't have to learn to use. I had never used an electric mixer because we didn't do that in high school. We did some of the simpler things in high school. But we did more of the--more up-to-date appliances, so that was sort of a shock to learn to use that and do that. But I'm a person that can adjust. And if there's a way--a way to get there and I want to get there I'm going to get there. I'm still that way today. I've not changed.

Sewing was the part that I disliked the most because I had to sit still. And I really would rather finish something when I started it and basically you're--one really needs to do it bit-by-bit if you're involved in something else. So let me see what else I can think of. Oh one thing that I remember well that was a good experience--I would--had to take household--excuse me, household physics and as far as I was concerned that was a complete waste of time. But I had to take it. Well I married a farmer and back then when you had children you--in our area you didn't



work; you stayed home and raised the children. So I worked on the farm beside my children growing up and when we got--bought tobacco barns we had to put tobacco in those big trailers and then it was very difficult to get what we called the curtain part unloosened to get it out and I wasn't really strong enough to do it. And I remembered something from my household physics class about leverage. I found a two-by-four and I took it; I was able to pop those things right off because I had--had household physics. So it did work. [Laughs] But then I did learn--some of those things did help me, but it was just--at the time I thought it was a complete waste but it wasn't. It was amazing. And some of those students well and there were students too but we hired high school students to help us. And they were amazed to think that hey look what I learned in physics. [Laughs]

Joanne Phipps:

How do you think you changed once you went to college and then when you finished?

Charlotte Whitford:

When I went to college I was probably would have been considered back-woods(y) okay because that's where I came from. But as I say being at New Bern High School had helped. I knew how to deal with the public more; I was a little more refined. I'm still back-woods(y) and always will be. I knew how to approach more aspects of life; the challenges that I had--had in--in college helped me to adjust to the challenges that I had throughout life. Let's see, all right; let me go back. All right; I lived in a home management house during my senior year. It would have been winter quarter. We had two sides to the home management house. I called them the rich side and the poor side, and I had to be able to manage both. On the poor side I was fine; I knew how to do that one. On the rich side I felt completely out of place and I--that was more of a struggle for me to learn how to serve tea [Laughs] and things of that nature. I had never done



that. And that--that was more of a culture shock to me probably than anything else in college was besides registration. I did learn how to go through registration after a while but learning to be a refined person was probably more difficult. But I made an A, so I did okay. [Laughs] And then I did student teaching; we were required to do that back then. If you got a BS Degree you did student teaching. And we had to draw where we would be; had no idea who our teaching partner would be but there would be two of us, where we would go; the most dreaded place to get was Plymouth. Everyone said that supervisor teacher was absolutely the worst one there was.

Well I drew her, but it didn't phase me. And then the--my partner was a farm girl who had to work hard and came somewhat like I did so we were both together and we found out that teacher was an outstanding person. We loved her. We cried when we had to leave. And we could never understand why the other students didn't like her. She had never been married and she was strict, but she made us do what we were supposed to do and that's what we were there for. And we learned to love her.

It seems like that--that throughout life maybe something wasn't turning out so well or maybe it wasn't what I wanted but in the best it turned out for the best--always did. And it's been my way--it's been that way always through life. But I have really--I liked her. And the day I became engaged that year to--during that--well actually it was while I was in her management house and my husband had drew me a picture. And so when we were getting ready to leave that day to leave Plymouth and go back home and then would be graduation, I couldn't find this picture. And I was about to have a fit and Miss Brinkley was there with us--giving us--helping us pack our things and getting ready to go and then she started laughing and then she went back and got his picture. She had hidden his picture. But she was just--she was a great person. We lived in



a boarding house and Joyce and I we had--well we slept together and made our bed and we ate there at the house and it was just like family. There were other people there; I had a great time. But like I say, I--I don't usually sit back and say oh me me; I say okay what are we going to do? Let's get out there and do it and enjoy life. That's what life is all about; that's why I'm still here. [Laughs]

Joanne Phipps:

Tell me about Graduation Day.

Charlotte Whitford:

I couldn't believe it was actually happening. It was--it was the actual--I thought I have reached it; I've actually done it. It was so exciting. My parents were so excited. I had--an uncle and an aunt went to my graduation. And my roommate's parents and our parents were together. They had learned--they had become acquainted with each other but it was--it was exciting. This was the opening for a whole new world which I had never thought I would ever be that person. I had thought I would be in the Navy and I was--I was going to get my life experiences in the Navy, but instead I had done this and I had reached a goal for which I had worked for. It was a great feeling.

Joanne Phipps:

Uh-hm.

Charlotte Whitford:

The world was opening to me in a different way. And I have to say this too; after the first year in college I needed a job. I had to survive. And so this--this was something else too; this was a challenge. I walked the streets of New Bern looking for a job that would help me make enough money that I could support myself and have some saved for school. And of course, they were not there; they were not that easy and so finally I got around to the Hotel Governor Tryon which no longer exists but it was the--the main hotel in this area, a very elegant hotel and I went into the restaurant and to see if there was any job I could do. And the restaurant manager met



with me and she said we have an opening for a waitress. I had never done that. And so okay and then I found a place to live in New Bern and wasn't very far--within walking distance. It wasn't a boarding house but they rented rooms and of course I could work--eat at the restaurant and I could get my meals for each shift that I worked. I made $1.25 a shift; everything else--tips. I made good tips. Any time there were any extra hours to work I worked them. There was three shifts a day, okay; I did it. And I worked with girls and women there who had never had a chance for education. And it was--it was a learning experience in itself. I learned to respect people from all walks of life. It didn't matter from where you came, it didn't matter what you did in life, but each person was important in shaping me the way that I am today. They were some great people. And they would always look out for me.

Oh gosh; I can tell you this [Laughs]. We served banquets and when we had to do bar mitzvahs all right, and we made a lot of money to serve those banquets and of course there would be a lot of drinking and so forth. And that was not me; I don't do that either. I'm still a teetotaler, but those girls would look out for me and the women they'd say okay, Charlotte; no way. You cannot have nothing. If they do give it to you, you can't have it. And one night we had worked almost all night long and they let us stay in the hotel, they let us have rooms in there because we had got off late like 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning and if any of the waitresses wanted to--anything to drink they could have it after a certain hour if the people who were doing the party said they could do it. Well my partner in my room had gotten so intoxicated that she was sick and I held her head over the commode. [Laughs] But it teach(ed) me something that I never did, but they--they were a great group. And when the last summer that I--I worked there before actually--before my senior year they gave me a party. And--and I really appreciated that.



And then also I went back there and worked when I graduated that summer. I had to pay for my wedding and I had always worked. I didn't know what it was like not to work. And some of those girls that had been there were gone; there were new ones. But I worked until two days before I got married. I finished my wedding dress; I made it, and decorated the church. It was a small country church--did that and we did not have our reception--could not afford that and--and in our area they didn't have that. We had a cake cutting and that was unusual because we didn't always have that. I made my cake and I got so nervous that one of my friends had to help me finish it because we did it at her house, but I had never known what it was not to work and so I just--I just continued to work. And I had a good time.

Joanne Phipps:

So after graduated what did you end up doing?

Charlotte Whitford:

Okay; after that summer--since I went back and went to work--in fact, the following week I worked--went to work as a waitress after I graduated. I taught school at Pimlico (Pamlico) County High School. I was going to be married and the summer that I graduated I was going to be married at the end of the summer. And so there was an opening at Pimlico (Pamlico) County High School and I went and I applied and I got the position. I loved it. Oh I did; I loved it. I was not a vocational teacher at the beginning because there were two positions and naturally there was only one vocational position open. So I taught General Science and in high school I had utterly despised science but in order to get a degree in home economics I had to take my science. In fact I have my minor in general science. And I taught it and I actually loved it; oh I just grew to love science. But I taught general science and home economics, and then the following year I became a vocational home economics teacher. Also the following year I worked as a perimeter operator with an agricultural--what do they call it now--they call it FSA--but it



was Agricultural Stabilization Conservation Service, so I did that also. And then I became a vocational teacher at the end of that summer, so I worked during the summers at--at the school. But I taught for three and a half years--let's see how long did I teach? Okay; but I had--this was the thing that--that I've had to learn the hard way. I always thought that work was necessary; I didn't know how to slow down. I was married to a farmer and this farmer grew up in the way that the women did all the work; the men worked outside. They did not do one thing around the house. That was a job. I had to do everything. I might get home at 7 o'clock at night; I had to cook supper. I had to clean; I had to do all of those things. But that--and then I thought any time I had time off I was supposed to work, so I had worked that summer. And I also worked just maybe about a month just to help fill in some--month or two during the summers while I was teaching even at the--with that perimeter--perimeter operator. And if it was a holiday I went on the farm and I worked; I never took a day off. I didn't know how to stop. And I began to have breathing problems. I couldn't breathe. And I couldn't associate it with anything but then finally I got so sick I landed in the hospital--didn't land in the hospital, okay. That was my English. I was put in the hospital--couldn't breathe. And they were treating me and then I became very, very ill with severe pain in here, here [Gestures], high fever and I couldn't eat. I couldn't eat anything. But the doctor said that she has enough weight on her; we won't worry about her. We'll give her fluids and let's just see what happens.

They couldn't figure out what happened except that I possibly had Hepatitis from the antibiotic, Erythromycin which was made differently back then. That was one of the side effects that could happen. Well I--I realized my body was really tired; that was 19--I'll say 1963, '64, '65--it was 1964--but my body was tired. And I decided that I was going to have to have rest. I



had--I had been in the hospital one month with that. So I decided that hey they've already had a Substitute and that Substitute was looking for a job, so I decided I would just resign and just stay home. My health got better. I had not known how to stop working to take care of Charlotte some. And so then we decided that hey it was time for a child, so I became pregnant. At the end of the summer I was approached to teach seventh and eighth grades at the school in Pimlico (Pamlico) County--just to fill in because they didn't have a teacher. So I taught there until I was five months pregnant. Back then you could teach no longer than five months. I loved every minute of it; I loved teaching. And then I quit and I stayed home with my children, raised them on the farm; back in 1980 I was approached to see if I would like to work at our--our little Post Office as a part-time clerk to fill in for the postmaster so I did. I worked an average of seven hours a week; that gave me an opportunity to get out in the public.

And then I worked as a part-time Clerk at Bushing Post Office some but I didn't really like that one that much; I didn't really enjoy the postal service that much--at least I would see people. And I decided I wanted to go back to work and I really wanted to work in a library and I really would like to get a Masters in Library Science. So I--I had put in an application here at Craven in case anything came open but I didn't hear anything. So one day I decided to call and I spoke with the Library Director. He said yes; we have an opening. It just occurred today. And would you like to come in for an interview? And so I did and two days later I had that job. It was a second shift job. All right; the day that I had to interview, the day position became open so I was told I could have either one I wanted. Well in order to work on the farm and stay home I had to have a second shift job. My husband did not want me to come back to work. My boys were teenagers but they wanted me at home, but I did that and I've been second shift now for



November will make 20 years.

Joanne Phipps:

Wow.

Charlotte Whitford:

So I work a day shift on Fridays. But--but I've used the home economics; I've used my Business Degree; I've used all those college experiences that I had because I work with students now and I work with students who are perhaps--many of them were like me. They're having to struggle to go through school. They're having to work to go to school at night; now they can do online, but I feel like that my background has helped many students and I've been told that it has.

And I've written--oh and I did, oh yes; I was going to get my Masters Degree. I went and took my test, made it; I was supposed to start during--I was going to start during the summer and work out my schedule so I could go during the summer and because I had already worked here I was going to be able to skip a few of the beginning courses. Well my husband's brother died and he was his farming partner, so my husband needed a partner--more than just someone at home and what have you. So I didn't go to get my Masters; I became his business partner and it was a challenge too. I loved that too. But my college experiences prepared me for that; I don't think I could have done what I did if I hadn't had the background. My husband and his brother never made plans for one of them to die. And so whoever was left living was the one that was left to hold what there was.

My husband didn't want to retire; he was so old he didn't know what else he would do. So we had to buy-out my husband's brother except for some of the land. But--and it was--it was real adversity but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. But because of how I had worked in school with different courses I had--had, the experience I had--had in college, it helped me to



learn how to get out there and deal with people being a teacher--all that because I actually did part of the management. I was the one who dealt with many of the people with whom we worked and what have you. And I worked with the high school students out in the field and had a ball. When it would come up a storm, thunder and lightning, we could be in the fields sticking tobacco I was the first one out; I told them they couldn't stay. I could run faster than they could run. [Laughs]

But--but research, now I'm--I considered myself a skilled researcher. I have been told that I am. I learned how to do research in college. I didn't really know how to do research until I went to school at ECU and I learned the skills of research and all those skills of research have helped me in every situation I've ever had to do. And--and I didn't have the internet back then. We had to go to books or we had to dig; we had to know that if you don't find one source you go to another source. But it--it did help me be a refined lady sometimes. [Laughs]

Joanne Phipps:

[Laughs]Okay.

Charlotte Whitford:

I could be that way if I wanted to be.

Joanne Phipps:

Always a good skill to have. [Laughs]

Charlotte Whitford:

I have said if I ever decide to retire I might write a book and I was going to name it Backwoods Country, but I'd rather talk than write, so--.

Joanne Phipps:

So that's why you're doing this interview.

Charlotte Whitford:

Uh-hm.

Joanne Phipps:

Now you mentioned you had two sons. Did you send them off to college?

Charlotte Whitford:

Yes; they didn't like school as much as their mom. The oldest one went here the first year and then transferred to State. He never really liked to be burdened down with



schoolwork. So he didn't--he quit. But growing up he wanted to be a grocery bagger; all the boys in the general area were grocery baggers here in town. Well he worked on the farm and he couldn't do that. And he always wanted to be--he found himself a job as a grocery bagger while he was at State and he liked it so much he got into their managerial program with Food Lion. He quit; he's no longer with Food Lion but he has a very good position. He works with Agri-Supply in Greenville. He was a Store--he went from Salesperson--or--well that's another story but anyway the youngest one came here to school, auto mechanics. He's always been skilled; he could fix anything no matter what. When he was three years-old he helped me put a toilet seat on. And then that was when my husband's--during the period of time my husband's brother became ill and so he stopped and stayed home to help us with the farm, but he has been very involved in Emergency Services. When he was 38 he decided that he was going to take a turn at being a highway patrolman. He had always wanted to be that. And he made it; he was accepted and then after he got into it he decided that was not his cup of tea. So he went back to the school system as an electronics technician. Now he is the Assistant Emergency Services Director here in Craven County but he loves that type of thing. He just--that's it; but he is--he's taken all the courses he can take along that line, so he has that. He--he likes that.

And Curt, the oldest one is a talker like his mother. He has a gift for gab. And he does very well. But now they see the importance of education. And each one of them has taken courses to help themselves, so--but as far as finishing the Degree--no; they didn't do that. But they know that mama was right; they did need that. And actually Curt is considering going to Auctioneer School now because he--he is--he can do that already. He does it for our church when we have something. And he can probably use it in his job but he's been with Agri-Supply for 20



years. So I think it's been 20 years.

Joanne Phipps:

So they're a lot like you; they never stop learning?

Charlotte Whitford:

They never stop learning. That's right; they never stop learning--both of them. They--they will never stop; that's--that's in them.

Joanne Phipps:

Uh-hm.

Charlotte Whitford:

And they--they recognize the fact that in order to keep abreast of things one must keep studying. And actually Curt never learned to read; that's the oldest one. I mean he did--learned to read--wait a minute; he never liked to read.

Joanne Phipps:

Oh.

Charlotte Whitford:

Oh he did not--he hated to have to be sitting down and reading. He had to be forced to read a book and give a book report. Guess who reads now--Curt; he gives me books for my birthdays and so forth. [Laughs] But I can remember at one time he had to read this book and he just had to be forced to do it. And he decided the only quiet place that he wanted to be would be in the bathtub. He got in the bathtub, no water, no nothing; he sat in there and read the book. We took his picture. But both of them know the importance of education. And as I say they still take classes, so--.

I was trying to think of anything else. Another thing--the research, again learning how to research in college, I had some great instructors who taught me on that line. I mean that--that was the thing.

Another thing that home economics helped me with and of course coming up the way I did--we raised livestock and we raised hogs and this was after we had to buy out my husband's brother. Hogs went down to such a low price that we couldn't even afford to buy the feed for



them. I learned what it was like to go into a grocery store and have to learn to buy food for a balanced meal; I could feel for people who didn't have money because we were making ends meet in order to survive. But my experiences at school had helped me with that and of course I grew up that way. But I had never been the one that was responsible--hey you know my parents always saw that we had food, but here I'm part of that. I've got to see that; so my home economics background helped in that. And I actually sewed too. [Laughs] But it's still not my favorite thing, but I sewed. I made my boys suits; I've taught them how to mend clothes and sew on buttons. They do it if they have to do it.

Joanne Phipps:

Otherwise they have you do it?

Charlotte Whitford:

Well actually they've learned that they can go to the dry cleaners and do it [Laughs]. At one time they could do it with me. [Laughs] But they do know how. They know how to do a lot of things about the house. But it's not their favorite thing; they'd still rather be outside. And I enjoy the outdoors also. I had--and one more thing with the research and I can mention this. As I say I have that tendency that--I mean I have that strong work ethic and I know that I'm always going to have it. If I died working that's okay. But after--when my second child was born I--well before he was born I started staying sick often. I was nauseous all the time. I thought it was just morning sickness, okay but I stayed sick. And I thought--and I couldn't breathe. I thought it was asthma, so I took asthma medication. It never helped me. And I never really got over it; I would keep having problems and I've always had sinus problems. I was--my mother said I was born with a runny nose. I had a cold last--the first--let's see two weeks ago. I still have a little bit left from it--not much; and it just kept getting worse and I couldn't--it was always worse at night. I could not breathe. And they did surgery on my sinuses and it wouldn't



help and finally it got to a place where I was put on--I had a sinus surgery. I got worse instead of better and life was really purely miserable. So I was put on continuous steroids and then I started thinking hey; I don't have to live like this. I can see what I can do to help myself and I started doing my research. Background, all the science courses I had--had, nutrition, all those courses that I had in college--even managing--I mean it was just--just so many things. And as long as I was on steroids I was doing okay but then I went to Duke. I had been on allergy treatments; they didn't really help me and I kept getting worse. So the doctor at Duke put me on inhaled medications and then I began to have severe chest pain--worse than breathing. I called him and he said come on up. Well then they gave me double doses of it when I got there. And I was getting worse. And finally I told them, I said I need a bronchoscopy. No, ma'am; no, you don't. I said I do, and I want one.

Now I'm telling you I'm going to have it. And the rest of the doctors smiled at me and finally this was the Chief of Pulmonary there that said well okay. I see no need of it but if you insist we'll do it. My bronchial tubes looked like a base case of poison ivy okay. But they still insisted upon giving me inhaled medications and I couldn't breathe. So after I got home I went back to what I had been doing, got off of them, took myself to ECU. I had a doctor who would listen, Dr. James Metzger and at any rate, I also had another doctor who listened when I couldn't breathe and he said I'm going to give you--. I said whatever you do don't give me anymore steroids. I cannot stand them. So he gave me nystatin. I could breathe. Nobody knew why but Dr. Metzger would listen and eventually I--when it kept on I learned exercise. You take calcium--I mean just different things you can do to help yourself. I kept studying.

But I decided--I decided I was going to get me more help so I found out about the Life



Line and I would call them. Well they talked me into going to the National Jewish Center in Colorado. Okay; I had never been anywhere. I was scared to death of flying and I didn't tell my doctor I was going to go. I was scared to do it. I still had a local doctor back here and--then I decided before I went maybe I better tell him. He said I absolutely see no sense in your going there. I went anyway. I went on a train by myself. Got there and they said--they didn't find where I had asthma. I wasn't really allergic to anything except molds. I still don't know what I have. And they couldn't get any records from this local doctor I had here; he refused to send them anything. But I learned so much there to help myself. I learned all these different exercises. I learned breathing functions. I mean oh I just learned so much. And then I came back to Greenville and still didn't tell Dr. Metzger what I had done but due to my response to nystatin he sent me to Infectious Diseases and they had me do a culture of my sinuses and I had a fungus in my sinuses. So I stayed on fungal medication for a year and then actually I had to be put back on it, and while I was on it because I had learned to listen to my body, I had learned about my body parts--I learned that ECU and all that--I was able to work off of breathing medication. My pharmacist helped me; the local doctor--forget him--another one, but we got off of it. I lived a fantastic life until my mother became ill. I had to be her caregiver and then breathing problems started again, but hey I'm doing fine. Stress--I learned that stress--you have to learn to listen to your body. You can't just work like a work horse all the time and you have to learn that when--there's a time to rest; there's ways to release stress. You don't have to be stressed out. And I can deal with that now. Sometimes I still get going too much and okay; it's time to slow down.

But we--and now if I get a cold, I have breathing problem sometimes--not always, the doctor at ECU gives me nystatin and I can breathe. We don't know why. But one day I'm going



to get enough nerve; I'm going to ECU Respiratory and we are going to see if we can get a respiratory center for Eastern North Carolina; that's my dream.

Joanne Phipps:

Nice.

Charlotte Whitford:

I've not given up on that. If Dr. Metzger had stayed we would have it I feel reasonably certain. They did away with the Allergy Pneumonology Department there but I'm still a patient there. Because I did what I did and then wound up with no local doctors they suggested I stay there so I'm a patient at the School of Medicine.

Joanne Phipps:

Excellent.

Charlotte Whitford:

And my dream is that we have something in Eastern North Carolina that people can go and learn to help themselves. I mean there's so much out there and I know so many people in my own neighborhood which I can help--breathing disorders and they just don't know what's out there and what can be done. Life is good; you don't have to be perfect. We're not all going to have perfect health but we can learn to deal with it. I have no regrets for anything. I told one of the teachers here the other day, I said--her son was in the Service over in Iraq. I said well I've done everything I ever wanted to do except join the Navy; I'm too old, so--. But that thing--if I decide to retire before I die I am going to work on that. I had even thought about leaving my body for research. I've not made my mind up about that because I'm not certain my family would like that; I don't know yet. But I may, and I--my doctor has suggested that I write down my medical history and--and get it in order. But I've lived a fantastic life. But if I hadn't gone to ECU I would not have lived the life I've lived. I'm not a success as far as I'm not--I'm not famous; I'm just the average person and because I looked up and had a Library Assistant job I could still work because I hey I don't have to worry about finances in the Library; I just work



and have a good time. [Laughs]

Joanne Phipps:

Exactly.

Charlotte Whitford:

So it's worked out for me.

Joanne Phipps:

Well that was great, Charlotte; thank you very much.

Charlotte Whitford:

Oh I'm a talker you see.

Joanne Phipps:

No; it's fine.

Charlotte Whitford:

I've probably forgotten half the things I probably would have told you.

Joanne Phipps:

No; I think you covered a lot actually.

Charlotte Whitford:

But really the background at ECU helped me to learn to do all this because I really don't think that I would have had to deal with some of the health issues. Oh listen to this; what I discovered was that I didn't know what was happening and now they do--esophageal reflux causes breathing disorders. While I was pregnant--nauseous, esophageal reflux and then finally we put it together. I would be sick at night because I--at morning I'd be okay; lunch I might be a little short-winded. After the evening meal and then lie down I couldn't breathe--esophageal reflux. Now I ate last night when I went home from work a mustard sandwich. This morning I had to take pepcid®, so--. But it's--and--and that was when I was--the hepatitis, my breathing cleared up; it wasn't just merely relaxation and rest, but I didn't eat. My digestive system had a chance to heal and we didn't know it back then.

Oh I even had my medical records. I had gone back to the hospitals and researched and I've got them all. But one day I hope that something I've been through will help someone else.

Joanne Phipps:

I hope so too. Well that's all I've got, Charlotte.



[End Charlotte Whitford Interview]

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