|Transcript of Jeannie Noble Interview|
|Date of Interview:||May 3, 2008|
|Location of Interview:||Mount Airy, N.C.|
|Length:||MP3 - 98 Minutes; 10 Seconds|
Okay; this is Joyce Newman and I'm here in Mount Airy, North Carolina interviewing Jeannie Noble who is a graduate of ECU for the ECU Oral History Project and she has given us permission to do the recording and to put it in the archives. Okay; so let's first get some background about your family, where you grew up, who you are--.
I was born in Williamson, West Virginia; lived there for the first six years of my life. My grandfathers were all coal miners and my grandmother was a stay-at-home mom. My mother was a stay-at-home mom. When I was six years-old we moved away and moved to Clayton, North Carolina, actually on a dare. My grandfather who lived in Clayton bet my dad that if he could find a job in Clayton that he would move from West Virginia, because my family--my grandmother, my paternal grandmother was illiterate and there were very few jobs. My father was a typewriter repairman and he moved to Clayton to work with Corning Glass, and--.
So why was your grandfather in Clayton?
That's where my mother originally grew up and the family--my grandfather and grandmother divorced. They were 15 when they got married and had my mother and then divorced within two years. And my mother grew up living with her grandmother; she was very strong--a very strong person because she lived with her grandmother, had divorced parents which was unheard of at that time; my grandfather tried to get her to move back home and she went home with him and her uncle--her cousin came in with a truck to go back to my grandmother's farm and when he left she was in the back of the truck ready to go home. [Laughs] And then my grandparents who lived in West Virginia came down and promised her a pink bicycle if she would go back to West Virginia. And she went to West Virginia and ended up staying there and meeting my father.
Did she get the pink bicycle?
No; [Laughs] that's the sad part of the story is that there--there really--they didn't have a lot of money so they bought a second-hand bike and it was red and a boy's bicycle and she kept waiting for her cousin to come in the truck to bring her back home to Clayton to her grandmother. But she ended up really liking living there but she knew she needed to get back to Clayton once she had my brother and I--I'm the oldest--because she felt like we would have a better life if we could get back here; there were more jobs and--and more job security and she just felt that that's what she needed to do and couldn't figure out how to do it, so her dad helped her.
So your grand--this is your mother's parents?
And he was from Clayton originally and your mother was--?
Right; and he stayed in Clayton and has always lived in Clayton pretty much in the same area in the same 15-mile range.
And your grandmother was from West Virginia. How did they meet?
I'm going to be honest; I don't--I don't know how they met. I--I don't know how they met. She--she's never shared a lot of the story other than that my grand--her father's father was Cherokee Indian and you know everybody claims to be part Cherokee, right--there you go [Laughs] so I don't know about a lot--a lot about them. She actually lived in the area a long time; I think she's probably like me, lived there for a while, moved to Clayton--that area and--because her family actually lived in the Eastern part of the State and oh gosh, around Wendell and Benson and that area. It's still in that Johnston County area, but she went back; she was actually a Rosy the Riveter for a while and worked on the machinery when they needed extra money. But it was really kind of an interesting thing; we grew up not knowing that we didn't have any money. We really had no idea--didn't really realize it until I went to college and saw what other people had because my dad always believed that life was fun and you were going to have fun and he never let us know we didn't have anything.
So your--your mother met your father--
In West Virginia.
--in West Virginia and your father's family was from West Virginia?
West Virginia--had always lived in West Virginia. My grandmother like I said was illiterate but a really kind of interesting woman. She would sit on the front porch and her house was kind of where people congregated to play banjo or whatever. My dad would climb the back of the mountain and pick paw-paws which I still am not sure what a paw-paw is.
I've never seen a paw-paw; I've heard it but I've never seen one.
I don't--and he would sell them to make money. He dropped out of high school his senior year; he was class president. He dropped out of high school and went to the Chatter Jacket which was a local pool hall and was a--actually a pool shark and would earn money for his family [Laughs] as a pool shark. And the principal at that school was amazing; he realized that there was something in my dad and he went to the Chatter Jacket and my understanding and this may be you know all fairy tables and fables, but my understanding is he played him a game of pool to decide whether he would come back to high school or not you know and the principal won. And so my father went back and graduated from high school. [Laughs]
That's a great story.
I hope it's true. That's my thing is you know dad didn't talk a lot about it but I would hear stories here and there and so you put it together and you hope you've put it together right but dad went back to school and you know I've always thought in this day and age if a kid stayed out of school for that long they'd make them go back and start that grade over and he started in just as though he had gone all the way through that year and not missed a day, which probably had a lot of effect on my dad that somebody cared about him enough to do that, but--.
Was he from a big family? Did he have lots of brothers and sisters?
Lots of brothers and sisters; he was the next to the youngest and four boys and one girl and he was I think he and one other brother were the only two who didn't have diabetes, so--and that skipped our generation as well but his mother and then brothers and sisters they dealt with that as they were growing up as well. And I'm not sure how much they knew about it;
my grandmother never ate what I'm sure you're supposed to eat for somebody who is a diabetic--a lot of chicken pastry on both sides of the family. But she was--she always thought we were a little unusual because we came to Clayton. She--she couldn't understand why we would leave the mountains and a lot of times people who live there love it and don't want to go. My grandmother when she passed away just the past two years wanted to go back and that's where she wanted to be buried, on McCoy--she's married into the McCoy family.
Oh you're kidding?
No; and you know I've always said I'm part Hatfield and part McCoy. I'm--I can't quite trace the Hatfield part but it just sounds fun.
But you really are McCoy?
I really am McCoy; actually I'm--my grandfather who--not by birth but I still claim that--and he is still living and he's moved just outside of Clayton to Princeton or Pine Level or one of those P-towns in Johnston County. [Laughs]
Uh-hm; what about your mother? Did she have brothers and sisters?
Yes; there are five again on that side and they all--everybody lives in Clayton except for one uncle who lives in Henderson and none of them had gone to school either, but when I got ready to graduate from East Carolina, my mom's goal was to get her high school diploma. She dropped out in her junior year to marry my father because they were going--they were going to take her away so that she couldn't marry my father, but she got married anyway [Laughs] and she decided before I graduated from East Carolina she was going to have her high school diploma. And she got her brothers and sisters who had not graduated and all of them graduated together, and so that was her goal. She wasn't going to have to her daughter have a
college diploma before she could get her high school diploma and I really had a lot of respect for her for doing that and making sure my uncle is--I have an uncle and an aunt and it gets confusing but my paternal grandfather and his wife who is my grandmother but not birth grandmother had a son, my paternal--no, not paternal--maternal; I'll get it right in a minute. My mother's father--father and his wife had a baby. My mother's mother and her husband had a baby and then mom had me. They were all pregnant at the same time and I'm the oldest and it kind of freaks people out--like this is my aunt and this is my uncle and no, they're not married and yes, I'm the oldest. But so--that's kind of funny.
So--so both sets--did both sets of your grandparents divorce or did--in your father's family--?
No; in my father's family, his--I don't know as much about them. I do know that my father's father passed away when my father was very young. He was in a coal-mining accident. Until just a few years ago I actually thought he had black lung and died from black lung but he was killed between two train cars and that was much more tragic than I had thought. But I grew up knowing Grandpa [Ted].
So--so his mother remarried?
Mother remarried and he--.
Have you ever looked up newspaper stories about the train accident?
No; I just found out about it because I was telling mom what I had thought had happened and she said I don't know where you quite got that from. But that was what was happening and I probably should. I really don't know as much about my dad's family because when we moved to Clayton we would go back on trips but it was--we didn't go very often. It was
once a year and my father was actually killed in an accident on the way to my grandmother's house. We--on a Labor Day weekend and we made it within 10 miles of her house and ran off the side of a mountain.
Oh gosh; how old were you?
I was 27, so I was not young but young enough that it still--yeah; and my--and my father was such a powerful figure in my life and in everybody's life that it was--still one of those things that's quite painful. [Laughs]
Was he a musician?
Yes; he was.
So he sat on your grandmother's house and played music?
Now he--he actually didn't then; he actually just sang but and then he--when--as I was older he did take his guitar and sometimes he'd take--I have his snare drum and my brother got the guitar but and I have his bongos which is also what he played when they did that. But he actually in Clayton had a little band that was a country music band and I couldn't tell you the name of it if my life depended on it, but it was this group of guys who just none of them were singly really, really good except for the--oh shoot the harmonica player was known and had recordings. The rest of them were just kind of old-Joes who liked being together and we'd go from high schools and to people's backyard and to community centers and they would play. And my dad's job was to--he never learned to pick a guitar; he was learning that when he passed away and was learning to play piano when he passed away. He was 48 and was taking piano lessons and he was playing "Mary Had A Little Lamb" and you know just adorable but he would play guitar and his job was to strum the guitar loud enough that the fiddle player could hear the
beat and the melody because he was losing his hearing and then he would beat on the drum and he sang and a lot of Conway Twitty songs and Roy Orbison, so I remember those songs would come on and just kind of a neat personality. My dad was probably one of the most powerful figures anybody could possibly--positive, positive. When he died, the one thing you could say is he never had a day that he didn't enjoy life--never had a day that he didn't enjoy life.
So that makes you feel good about that even if he's gone because you can remember that.
Oh gosh; yeah I don't have a bad memory about him. I can't--you know I couldn't pull one out anywhere, so--I mean when he passed away the funeral home had no idea how to handle the number of people who came. I mean we were extremely--we knew he was a character. I mean he was the life of the party; he was the one who told the jokes. He was the one who you could not get a word in edgewise because dad was always on show. He was you know--and mom was very demure and in--in conversation and stuff and you never really noticed my mother, who she's come out now more powerful and--and I've realized what an impact she had in my life, but it was more subtle. I didn't realize it until after dad passed away but--. He was just one of those people that everybody loved. I mean I never heard a negative word said about him ever--I mean ever. It just--and funny and witty and just we always knew to have fun.
Well were other people in his family similar to that?
No, no; he had a brother, Don, who looked like him and had kind of that personality. One of them's name was--my dad's name was Jesse James; my--another uncle is Douglas MacArthur; [Laughs] so it was just kind of she--my grandmother named the children according to what she happened to read about--or not read about or hear about or know about
and the last names are actually spelled differently according to who wrote--recorded it, some of us are Roberson and some Robinson and Robertson and I'm a Robertson with a "t" according to whoever recorded it. All the children were born in the home and I think that's kind of interesting. [Laughs] But they were--they were characters. One was--he was actually killed from complications from diabetes and he was robbing something--I don't know, a convenience store--and was shot and then had those--those complications. The nicest person; you'd never really think of him doing that. My brother always idol-worshiped him because he--he was kind of funny and witty and told good stories but I--my dad was the only one who actually--my Uncle Don and my dad were the ones who kind of moved away. Uncle Don went to Ohio and he worked and--and had children and then most of them stayed in West Virginia. My Aunt [Ranie] was kind of the religious leader in--in the family and she died of diabetes and was blind. It's not you know--it's not tragic; she's one of those people who was ready. But it's--I've kind of talked a lot about my dad's side but you know--.
Well this is--it's interesting because of what you--the change you make later that--so your--when your family moved to Clayton--
--was that a big adjustment of any kind for you or--?
The strangest thing was I had not--I didn't really know my grandfather who lived in Clayton and grandmother. And I didn't know my great-grandmother so my mother and my father left us--we were in the first load and we were left with my great-grandmother whom I didn't know. I didn't know my cousins and my cousin and I slept in a bed together because of the room and she had a pair of scissors. I had no idea why; I fell off the bed and broke my collarbone
while they were in transit from West Virginia down, so my grandfather had to take me to the hospital. I didn't know this man from Adam's house cat. And he's one of these people he hates hospitals. He--he wouldn't go; never went with anybody. If somebody got sick my grandfather never went but he cradled me up and took me to the hospital and then he was one of those also later they said if people got sick he'd never be there to help you clean up or whatever, but I got sick on the way to the zoo one time and he was in the car and my mom was kind of fussing at me, and he took care of me and made sure everything was--you know I'm the oldest grandchild and so he kind of--every once in a while I'd get that feeling that you know there's something--some kind of special attachment there that you know probably other people don't see but I know in his personality--he was very quiet and very stoic, you know.
And how old were you when you--?
I was six; I was six and we were supposed to go--we went--it was when kindergarten just started and I didn't make the cut. I can't--I can't remember what they called it; it was like a raffle or a cut or the draft. I don't know; but I didn't make it [Laughs] so I never went to kindergarten.
So you started school in Clayton?
I started school in Clayton; I never did school in West Virginia at all but--.
And what schools did you go to; do you remember?
I always stayed in--in Clayton schools. I was in Clayton Primary School which is now a big Civic Center they're remodeled it and then to, oh gosh, what was the middle school name; I can't remember the name of it but it actually was a black middle school that had--had changed over and I'll think of it in a minute but--and then went to Clayton High School. So I did
that; my brother and I never went to any schools together. We're just enough apart that he had to follow me, so whatever trouble I made he had to deal with it as he came through. [Laughs]
[Laughs]And what did--how did you feel about the school, the education that you got--in the schools? Did that prepare you for going to college later?
Oh man I'm glad you asked that. Elementary school was really--I'm not clinically ADHD but I--holding focus this long is really unusual for me. My teachers were all trying to figure out what it was about me because I was constantly into something. I--you know I got in trouble a lot in school. I was not you know--not the big trouble but the--I was often lined up at the wall and paddled or--or you know--yeah.
You're kidding? [Laughs]
No, no, no; my--my Principal gets tickled because if I get called to the office for anything whether it's you know a parent is here and would like to see you or you've done something good and we want to talk to you I just freak out because I know I'm in trouble again. I didn't really get in that much trouble in middle school because Gerald [Tolar] was my Principal and he--he was probably the first person who really realized that there was something there, if you could just tame it, and so he made me Bus Monitor because if I was Bus Monitor I might behave on the bus. I got in trouble on the bus a lot too and he was the first one who really showed a real interest in me. And then the Librarian made me Librarian because she knew something--she couldn't figure out what it was but she knew that something was going on and that I needed attention and I'm not sure what it was that was going on but I just happened to be one of those kids who wanted attention and I actually considered being a Librarian for a long time. In high school, the--I was really good in English and enjoyed writing stories and reading
stories and not as good in Math but History was one of those subjects that I had a hard time with but my History teacher was also my Drama teacher because she said if you--I will work with you on this History stuff if you will take Drama. And so she really--and her name is [Elise Farrell]--I can never pronounce her name but she loved clowns and I love clowns and she just--she was the one who said, you can do it; you know there's--a lot of people didn't understand me. My English teachers really didn't understand me. I was up for Beta Club and didn't make it because a teacher voted against me. Yeah; I made a zero-minus on an insect collection because I called it a bug collection and--yeah; yes I did and two years ago I was the Entomology Teacher of the Year for North Carolina. [Laughs] So I know the teacher is probably spinning in her grave right now but--. You know sometimes the biggest payback is just to do something positive. [Laughs] But--so school for me was--it was one of those things that I had a lot of friends but while I was there I didn't realize I had a lot of friends. I had--you have to reflect and look back on it. I think a lot of the teachers that I thought didn't care for me actually thought they were helping me but weren't.
My librarian again, Mr. Lawrence was another person who said you know--I was working at Hardees; I worked in the tobacco field from like the time I was 12 or 11 and putting sticks in the tobacco and my whole family did that to make extra money. I never knew we actually needed the extra money; I just thought we were helping out some cousins or something and--and loved it; it was a lot of fun. I just wanted to drive the tractor. I never got--I still haven't driven a tractor. [Laughs] But in school it was--I didn't realize that I needed to study. It was if I passed it I was fine; just you know as long as I was passing I was happy. I took Typing and all those things because my mom wanted me to be--to be a Secretary and I just was not good at it.
I'm still not good at keyboarding. I took Drama and Chorus and--and those kinds of artsy things and I still have kind of an artsy background and would love to teach Art but I don't have the degree. I'm trying to think; let's see but the way I ended up at East Carolina is really a fluke because--.
Talk about that.
Yeah; oh gosh I was not going to college. I really had no intentions of college; really had no idea of what I was going to do. I was not a realist at all about anything. I was living in this fantasy world that life was just going to go on and I had you know mom and dad were going to take care of me and it would be great. And my mother who--you know her way of being powerful in my life is really strange because she would make these decisions that were at the time you know this is so in your face, but looking back on it if she hadn't I wouldn't be who I am. I think it was in February or March, I think it was March of my senior year, I hadn't taken the SAT, I hadn't taken Algebra II, I hadn't taken--I took one foreign language one year; I took French and she said you know we're going to go start looking for jobs. I'm like, have you lost your mind? What are you talking about? So we went to every mill in Clayton and applied for jobs and every secretarial position and she would drive me from place to place because I didn't even have my license at that time, but--or I had my license but I wasn't allowed to drive that much so it--she was just going to be with me I guess. I don't know exactly why; but I would go in and take these typing tests and think, I am in trouble. I can't do this. And I would look at the ladies who came out and my mother had worked in the mill and always said you know--she sewed the crotch in underwear for most of her life. And she wasn't happy doing it. The--the best thing that ever happened to her was she got laid off and she would do quilting bees in our house
with my great-grandmother and my great, great-grandmother and I have one of the quilts that we all made together. And my job was to push the needle back through even at 11--12--15--16 you know I still would do that.
But it was kind of in your face; you're going to go to work and it's going to be something that if you get into it you're stuck. And you're going to come out with the fuzz in your hair and you're going to have the sunken eyes and you're not going to do any better than you have now. And I ran to my Guidance Counselor, Mr. Vincent, and I said, "I'm in trouble." And he was in the meeting with someone and I tend to blast into rooms anyway. And I'm like--you know he's in a meeting and I just open the door and go, "You've got to help me. I've got to go to college." And he's like, "Jeannie, just hold, wait; go pick a catalog." And I grabbed a purple catalog and it was Fayetteville State and he said, "Honey, I just don't think you'll fit in there. Do you know where Fayetteville is?" And I'm like, "Well it's in the Eastern somewhere down there." And he said it was really hot; it's really--and he said, "Okay. I'll be with you in a minute," and he pulled an Appalachian catalog and an East Carolina catalog and I said, "A comes before E, I'll go to Appalachian." And he said, "Do you know where that is?" And I had no idea. He said, "It's in the mountains." I said, "Okay; that means snow; that means cold--I didn't like the cold and snow in West Virginia. I'll go to East Carolina," and that basically is how I chose East Carolina. I had never seen the campus. I didn't know where it was. My mother thought I was going to school to be a secretary at East Carolina so I signed up for the Business Administration. She never had a clue. My dad knew but my dad was really good at--at softening things out you know. We had the typical teenage mother/daughter relationship that was kind of this love [Sigh]--love [Sigh] you know. I don't know how she has any hair left because I probably made her pull most of it out.
So I had never--we didn't even go tour the campus once I decided that's where I was going.
So did you get--and so--
No; my--I have no earthly idea how I got in. My grades were average; but I did a lot in school you know. I did yearbook and I did--I worked for the Clayton News but I couldn't make my high school Journalism class even though I was writing front-page stories. I just didn't have the byline and I also typeset and so at any time I could have typeset and put myself a byline and my editor would have never said a word but I just didn't feel comfortable doing that. I wish I had now; I--I now know you sometimes have to promote yourself but at that time it was no, I'm just going to do it--I interviewed Dean--not Dean Smith, oh gosh; Norm Sloan right after State had won their big championship and when I went to interview him my editor, the editor of the paper was actually a Carolina graduate.
Okay; let's try again. So you were talking about working at the newspaper and writing the stories and things before you--while you were still in high school?
Right; while I was still in high school I was--actually a senior in high school and I got to do the biggest interview that had been in the Clayton News because my editor went to Carolina and he refused to go interview the Coach Norm Sloan from State. So he sent me; I was 17 years old and I go in and you know I dress all up and I'm all excited and I've got my little tape recorder and I sit down with Norm Sloan to interview him and he--I ask him the general questions and he said, "Aren't you going to ask about a certain ballplayer who came from Clayton?" And I said, "Sir, I really don't know." And he said, "Didn't you do your research?" And I thought I'm making a really bad impression here. So I said, "Okay, I'm just going to tell you the
truth. My editor went to Carolina; 15 minutes before this lunch--or dinner--he decided he was sending a 17 year-old high school student and he doesn't think I can do this. I've never used a camera; I've never interviewed anybody so here I am." He said, "I'm going to give you the best interview I've given anybody." And he told me all these stories and I kept the article until we moved to Mount Airy and for some reason I--I didn't keep it. It's probably on file in Benson because the Benson News has the files there. And one of my regrets is that I didn't keep that article and that I didn't give myself a byline. But I've always thought that--that was really interesting that I was writing these stories that nobody knew I was writing except my mother and my family. And I applied to the Journalism staff and couldn't make it. So it was--but I think people just thought I'd stir up trouble. [Laughs] I don't know what it was; you know I got kicked out of assemblies because I was--I couldn't sit still. I'd move up and down the bleachers.
But Mr. Vincent, my Guidance Counselor really--he went to East Carolina as well and I have no idea if he pulled strings. I know he made a phone call; I don't know what it was that allowed me to be accepted. I had a 2.8 average; I was not a 2.8 student--I was a 2.8 student but 2.8 is not what I should have done. I was much stronger than that but I did a lot of things in high school and then I think he went to bat for me. And so I was accepted at East Carolina and went into the School of Business and loved it; I really did until I took Business Law and when I took Business Law and I just didn't understand it. And was--I was actually doing pretty well in the class and missed the exam--just missed--looked at the exam date wrong you know. The catalog came out and one of the things that I don't think students understand is word of mouth is really a powerful thing at East Carolina and at any other college. You know--you look for the book now and now online I guess you can pull things up with a computer so it's got to be much easier.
It was you go to the Student Union and okay the catalog is out; well we're looking at the catalog and things like that--so I just read the date wrong and showed up the last 15-minutes of the exam, took the exam and did not do well. So I decided I needed to--and I also didn't do well in Astronomy because I was scared of the--when you took an Astronomy class at East Carolina at that time you went up on top of the building and the telescope was at--at the edge and I loved Astronomy but I'm scared of edges--not scared of heights; I can go up high but I would look in that telescope and get vertigo and would back out. And the Professor was wonderful; he could have easily failed me because I couldn't do that part of the lab. But he--and I don't remember his name; I just remember he wore orange plaid pants and an orange shirt most days. [Laughs] And he again gave me that chance and didn't fail me.
But my parents saw that and they said, "You know we've paid for two years of you having a very good time and East Carolina is a place that you have to decide how much fun can you have and how much can you--how much are you going to put into your studies?" And professors tell you that and try to prepare you of that but you're--I still was one of these that was like--I was like set free and I had a blast. I loved being in Greenville; it's a wonderful place to be. But mom and dad said, "The money stops. If you want to go to school you've worked since you were 15; you saved and you've done that--you decide." So I took a semester--all summer I worked at Miles Laboratory or it was Cutter Laboratories and then went to Bayer and Miles but anyway it was a pharmaceutical plant. I made IVs for people with oh gosh, Billy Morris' son, Mark Morris who was also an East Carolina graduate and his dad was a plant manager and even there he and I would get in trouble because we could do the IVs faster than a lot of the people and so we were making the production go up. And so the ladies on the line were not really happy with us. So
they would put us making the little Y that you put the syringe in because we could go to the side and we could make enough that they would be way ahead on that. And I don't think they really appreciated that either. But they couldn't say much but that helped me get the money in the background. And I moved actually into the Housing Authority in Greenville and lived with a friend, Sherry, and Sherry and I stayed there for a year and a half. I worked for a semester at Nichols Department Store and Pic-n-Pay and Arby's and she actually worked at Arby's and got me a job there. But I worked for one of the semesters and didn't go to school and I thought I can't do this; you know I'm back to the--I just as well be sewing the crotch in underwear.
So I got--told my parents I said I've got to--if--if you can't--aren't going to give me the money and I'm serious now and I know you can't trust that I'm serious I'm going to have to just cut ties and you can't claim me on your taxes so that I can get--. So that I could do--is it still on? Okay; so that I could get Pell Grants and so that I could get the student loans. I got a Pell Grant and a student loan but the money doesn't come in until after you've started. And so they wanted the money upfront. I went to the Registrar--just in tears. I said I'm living in the Projects; I am working at Arby's and Nichols (and Nichols was getting ready to close because it was shutting down). I said I--I can't do this; I said there's no--they said we can't do anything for you. I said but if I'm somebody who needs the money and I'm getting a Pell Grant and I'm getting this how am I going to get the money to give to you? That's the whole reason for needing the money. I don't think they had seen anybody quite like me at that time. I'm sure there were other people but they had other places to go. But I didn't. I mean there really wasn no money except what I had in my savings. And I said, "You know I can give you everything in my savings but then I can't eat."
And so I don't know who it was in that office but she must have known I was telling the truth and so she went to people and she sent me a letter and said you know we've taken care of it but the day that money comes in you need to be here, and so the day the money came in I came in with my little check and we did that for the rest of my school career. And then the funding ran out because I was--had to go into the fifth year and go into summer school, so during summer school there was no money and I didn't work during my student teaching, which was probably a mistake, but they suggested at the time that you not so that you could devote your time. I did great--I loved student teaching. I did it at E.B. Aycock with the trainable handicapped class. Most fun I've ever had in my life and the teacher and for some reason her name is escaping me right now. But she was one when she did my first evaluation she said you--you know again you live in the clouds. You just are so optimistic and you just think you're going to cure mental retardation in your lifetime. And I'm like--and I'm not? And by the end of the year she had made sure that I had enough experiences that I knew what the boundaries were--that there were some realistic things that you couldn't do. So I actually--my mother-in-law Sue Noble was a Guidance Counselor at Ayden-Grifton and so she knew that I needed money so they--one of the Guidance Counselors went on maternity leave and they never hire substitutes for Guidance Counselors but Sue is also a powerful woman. [Laughs] And she said you know I've got to do this end of the year stuff so I--and it was the time that all the records had to be purged of teacher comments. So they hired me as a substitute so that I could do that and the first substitute that has been hired for a Guidance Counselor on Pitt County probably and probably the last. [Laughs]
But I was purging records and I got to see my husband's records and his brother's and his dad's and Steve also went to East Carolina and he was like angel baby. He never got in trouble
for anything and all the teachers loved him. And I'm thinking oh my gosh let me mark this out. I'm going I wish I could purge mine. But that--when I changed--when I took the semester off is when I changed in Education. And I lived in Garrett--yeah?
What made you choose?
Oh my gosh the Special Olympics.
It was--and living in Garrett Hall, the best dorm on campus. Still it has so much character; it's the, you know an older dorm--just the three floors. Everybody knew each other; we all took care of each other and it was basically--basically Nursing Majors and Teaching Majors ended up in that building. At that time it was all girls. So I saw--they did all these really cool projects so they got to use that art side that I wasn't getting--getting to use. They got to see the results of what they were doing because East Carolina's Education program, people don't--they still don't believe me, but from the time I started in the Education program I was in the classroom. So even that many years ago because I graduated in '83 we were put in the classroom doing internships and things early on and people you know--people my age would say you know I wish I had more time in the classroom. I had it; I had it from Elementary. I taught at the little Elementary School--is it Elmhurst that sits at the end of the football field? Is that it?
I don't know but I've heard of that.
Okay; and I taught--I know I taught at Elmhurst but there is another little school there that I taught--where I taught. I taught with a kindergarten teacher who taught me if
you're really feeling bad like she had bad feet. She wore red tennis shoes and the children knew that was a day--to be nice with my kids I would do different things that--if this is a bad day you know I'd have different color flip-flops or I'd do something and kids related to it if they cared about you, so I learned tricks of the trade.
It--it was one of those programs that was with Education I got--I went to Special Olympics and worked with the handicapped children and I thought I'm making a difference. This is something; nobody may ever know what I've done but these kids will know. I loved Special Olympics. I actually helped plan Surry County Special Olympics for several years when I taught at North Surry and at Dobson Elementary. So it--you know that had an impact on me and I still love Special Olympics. But I decided I was going in Education and it scared my mother to death because all she knew of Special Education was kids who were so far out that they would hit you and they would do you--she said I can't believe you're doing this. Please don't do this and now she's so proud that I did--taught Special Ed for several years and worked with Special Olympics and the Very Special Arts Festival and anything you could do with that I did.
But I was really well-prepared you know and I read about Ron Clark and I actually when East Carolina had the alumni meeting in Atlanta, a friend of mine from school and I this year drove to Atlanta to meet Ron Clark and he's dancing on the tables and he's doing his thing and--East Carolina taught me to do that. And--and I was like you know until I got to middle school this year that's what I was doing. I was standing on the tables; I was doing that. And people said East Carolina taught you to stand on tables? Well not exactly; [Laughs] but you were given that enthusiasm and that--that I don't know exactly what it was because I--you know I was still kind
of your average middle--until I got into Education and then my grades in Education you know were As and Bs and it was easy.
It's just like being Bus Monitor, if you're--?
Yeah; it really was.
I guess that's--that's the way I have to do things and you know my mom said I wasn't one of the kids who could burn my hand once. I had to burn it twice you know; that--that might not be what really happens, so I'd have to test the waters two or three times.
Can we go back a little bit?
What--how did your family--when you decided to go to college do you think your mother was trying to get you to make that decision to--?
No, no; she just wanted me to be realistic and know that I was going to have to work and that they weren't going to support me my whole life because I was--I didn't realize it growing up but I was pretty much treated as a princess. I had you know--there was some bad times but I was really given the opportunity to do anything I wanted to do. I turned 18 on the bus to Canada on a field trip and my parents probably couldn't have afforded it; they--my dad was a--at that time he was working on copiers, so he was a copier repairman and they kept trying to get him to go in the sales force and told him he'd make more money and he just said I like what I'm doing and he worked in the Chapel Hill area and was a big Carolina fan--boo, hiss, but anyway--.
I'm still not a Carolina fan. [Laughs] But you can't go to East Carolina and be a Carolina fan; I don't know how you do that. But anyway they had no idea where they were going to get
the money so dad went in the next day after I said I'm going to college and started filling out the applications. And they didn't even realize and I didn't either that you had to pay money to have an application to a college. I was like you apply; why do they want money for you to apply? You know I didn't think about the processing and all that. So dad went in and said you know I'll--I'll take that sales job and he went from making very little money to with that knack he had he could sell you know ice to an Eskimo.
Yeah; it sounds like he was suited to be a salesman.
Oh he was. He should have done it many years ago. So mom said that was something good that came out of it, but it kind of--it really shocked them and I'm not sure whether they were thrilled about it at the beginning. For a while when mom and dad would come to the campus they really didn't know what was going on and where it was and you know it--it took them a while to--to realize that it was a good thing. They knew--
But they supported you?
They did support me.
Oh they did; it was one of those things that they said you know if you're going to do this and this is what you want to do here is the money and we'll do it. Don't know where we're going to get--and I really didn't know all the background stuff until just recently that dad had--that's when dad decided to be a salesman and that they had taken most of their money out of their savings so that I could do that. I had not saved a penny; I hadn't talked about college. I wasn't going to college. But then as I--especially once I got into the education and started proving myself and was--instead of just going to college and being a college student that's when I started joining activities. I was on the Council--oh God what do they call it? It
wasn't Student Government but it was like the Judicial Council at East Carolina, so I was on that Council which was really--I mean it was one of the most interesting things I did because people would come in with these stories of things that had happened and we were supposed to decide what was right and wrong with what they do you know. I can--I can remember somebody coming from downtown who had decided he needed to use the bathroom on the Library [Laughs]. Okay; but--but you know I learned a lot that way. But then once I started doing other things and they realized that--that was what I really wanted to do and it wasn't just another Jeannie is going off the deep end and just jumping in over her head, then they were--they really supported me and even more so once I got out of school and got into the classroom and you know I've--I've been lucky. I've been pretty successful and I started off--I did two maternity leaves and one in Mount Airy City and one in Surry County Schools. We have three school systems in a really small area and now a Charter School on top of it, but taught English--High School English for a little while first and then I did a maternity leave in Special Education on both--two Special Ed teachers pregnant at the same--you know so that it worked that one semester I was at one school and one at the other. I have no idea how that happened other than a lot of good things have happened at the right time.
I loved both places but there were not positions open, so the librarian, again a librarian rescued me. I love librarians. The librarian at--at Mount Airy Junior High was then--said you know they've got an opening in Carroll County, Virginia. So I drove 52--the mountain to Carroll County, Virginia, and taught severely profoundly handicapped students and cheerleading. They always give the first year teachers cheerleading. I had never made cheerleading in my life. I couldn't do a cartwheel if my life depended on it. [Laughs] But I drove a GMC Matador Station
Wagon all over Virginia, all the way up to the West Virginia border with some of the greatest girls you'd ever meet in your life; went to camp with them and all the little--the sponsors were supposed to do these stunts and stuff. I--and I was supposed to be a flyer because I at that time I was teeny--tiny, tiny, and so they're throwing me in the air and my girls are just cringing because they know I know nothing. I mean I knew nothing. But I loved--90-percent of the time I loved doing it. I wouldn't do it again if you paid me a lot of money. Just you need to know what you're doing. But I taught there until April and when I left there my husband said you will always miss this job. And I said no; this is too much work. I had my--my biggest story I've ever had in my life is a kid who was six-foot two and would disrobe and so--and he was 19 years-old and I was 21, so he would stand over me and they'd finally put him in overalls, like white bibbed overalls so that at least you had a chance to grab him before he could get completely out of his clothes. And he would get mad at me; he was also deaf and he would shoot the bird with both fingers pretty emphatically and try to drop his trousers and you know his galluses and I'd get those up and got that straight--squared away, so that we worked well together. But most of the time I just laughed and he didn't know what to do because everybody else would scream at him and I just laughed because I didn't know what else to do so he'd quit. And the craziest thing that happened is here is my kid who disrobed and he had to go in the hospital for surgery and it's probably not a good story to tell but anyway. He had an un-descended testicle that they had to do surgery on so my job when he came back to school was to check the incision and I'm going this--they didn't teach me how to do that at East Carolina I promise. I thought this is the craziest thing I've ever done. Do you take a 19 year-old guy to the girls' bathroom or to the guys' bathroom? And he
would lean up against the wall and just point to where I was supposed to look and I would look and turn my head and go everything looks fine to me; I'm through. [Laughs]
But you know I had kids who--I had three kids in wheelchairs. Fire drills were amazing. We would have to get the kids out and I had figured out a pattern that I put one child pushing a wheelchair so that it worked out that everybody was in between and I had my line and we would get out faster than anybody else. And Southwestern Virginia Training Center came in where the kids--the place from which the kids came and they said I couldn't do that. And I said okay; if you're around I'm not doing that but if this is real we're doing this because it works and my kids are not burning. I had kids you could--you'd have to lay them down on the mat and they had those braces because their bodies would just go limp. And my two--I had two assistants because there were so many kids in wheelchairs and they would make them laugh while I was trying to put them on the floor because they would go limp even with the brace on and they thought it was funny to watch. They had gone through six teachers in five years, so they were like you know this is a rookie. She has no idea and they would make them laugh talking about this cute bus driver. But I had more fun and learned more and got more broken hearted than I've ever in my life because of situations from which these kids came. It was just I mean heart-wrenching. But then in April I got a job in--at North Surry and I did--oh gosh; I did the Alternative Learning Program, so I had the kids who had tried to drop out of school and we wouldn't let them. [Laughs] And I'd go in at 10:00 and teach Special Education--regular Special Education--for half the day and then the other day was the afternoon with the kids. I had three kids in the class and griped because we weren't doing enough for them. We were like would you just realize that sometimes we take an easy job and do it and I was like--we're not doing enough but the best
Special Ed Department I've ever worked with because we've made--we would do things so that the kids when they got out could be employed which I guess came from my mom going you know you've got to figure out what you're doing. And you know our Science was--we'd teach them plumbing and electronics and those sorts of things. Writing, we'd teach them to write thank-you letters and letters of applications and those sorts of things and it was great. A new Superintendent came along and said duplication of services--they teach Creative Writing so you can't do this anymore. And they sent me to Dobson Elementary and I taught LD Resource. I loved it--loved it; probably the easiest position I've ever had because the faculty was one that when we'd go to lunch you know on workdays somebody would stand at one end of the hall and say we're all going to lunch and there was only one place in Dobson to go to lunch, The Lantern, and we would all meet. If somebody needed five minutes we'd wait and the kids respected me and I respected them. It was--it was really a unique teaching position. That's the year my dad died. They had just met me and they sent a telegram and several of them came all the way to Clayton and didn't know me very well at all because we--that's was when you started school just like two weeks before Labor Day and this was Labor Day weekend.
I had actually told my principal that said how is it going? And I'd had a really bad day and I said the only thing worse is if we drove off the side of a mountain in West Virginia and we did. But it was a lot of fun. And I left there to go to Mount Airy because of the drive. And they were going to change my position to Resource and I was going to be in a trailer and I just knew that what I loved about that school was working with the population of which I was working and that working with those teachers and if you put me in that trailer by myself I would go crazy. So then I went to Mount Airy Junior High School and that was--I did LD; I
learned more there from my Principal, Dr. Phillips, and Dr. Phillips was one that he believed that you have to learn from hard knocks. And so I--the mistakes I would make he'd call me and I cried more with that man, but loved working there. And then David Long came along as Principal and we started a Student Council. And his belief was that it shouldn't just be the most popular kids who get to be on Student Council. And I was kind of his whatever--I was his tool to do it so I did Student Council and ended up with 102 kids on Student Council. And all you had to do was during the summer 40 hours of community service and then you were on Student Council and then you did 10 hours each semester so that what you had done was during the summer a regular business workweek and during the year you had done a regular business workweek. We did leadership programs; probably the best thing I've done in my career--we did leadership seminars the first year at Raven Knob, the Scout Camp, and then the second year we said well we'll go to Old Government so we took them to Williamsburg which also let you go to Busch Gardens. And then we went to D.C. the next year and we would rotate that and we did that until I was just worn out. And I had gone through cancer and then we adopted my son and at that point I thought I've got to decide which I'm going to do. And so I stayed in school because I had used up all my sick days with cancer, so I happened to--he came; we got him the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. So I got Thanksgiving off and the State wouldn't let me take sick days; I would have to take personal days and then I'd have to go without pay. And my Principal, God love him; he called everybody. He fussed everybody out trying--he said you know people are pregnant; they're well. But they get to use sick days so why can't she? And he never got it figured out but he said I'll tell you what. The next time you take him to the doctor you tell that doctor to find something wrong. And I'm like what am I going to do? [Laughs] My child had an
ear infection--minor and so I called Dr. Phillips, or actually I went in and I showed him, I said I got a prescription for ear infection medicine. He said how long does it say you have to take it? I said two weeks; he said he's sick for two weeks. Stay home; take a sick day. I thought, God love you. He--he was you know the first one here when we got him. He just had a lot of impact. He--he--I had some of the--I had kids would draw knives on you. I stepped between two kids who were in a knife fight but my kids wouldn't cut me. They said, Ms Noble I'm going to cut you. I got--I've got--I will cut him and if I do I will cut you. And I'm like I am too scared to move so you can't cut me. [Laughs] Can you guys handle this later you know and teachers standing there watching; that's--that really hurt to know that people would stand there and let you be in that situation but I just couldn't see letting those kids get in that much trouble you know--they were mad.
But did you meet your husband in Greenville?
I did--I did.
Is he a teacher too?
No; he works for Pike Electric in the--the--. We met actually at the Lambda Chi House. I was a little--I was not a little sister at Lambda Chi then but my college roommate when I was at Garrett my sophomore year really loved this guy who was in a band who was going to pledge for Lambda Chi also so we would go to the pledge parties and I was like I could care you know--I could care less. And I met Steve and he really did--I mean we really didn't even hardly make eye contact but over the course of a--a little while we ended up liking each other and we kind of dated on and off and on and off and on and off. And then it got pretty serious my--his senior year but still not to the point--he couldn't quite decide whether he really
wanted to be tied down I guess. [Laughs] But when he--he moved to Mount Airy with the Tax Department, the North Carolina Tax Revenue Department and he stayed up here for a while. And it's not a really good town for people who are single. [Laughs] And he would come down; he would drive back and forth which to me is just romantic. He would drive back and forth to Greenville to see me and we got engaged Christmas of my senior year and then got married in August.
But one of the neat things that--that East Carolina did for me there is the last summer session I needed two classes and one of them was offered and one of them didn't make and it was Science Education and I wish I could remember the Professor's name because he really probably changed my course of history. [Laughs] He taught the class without pay because there were four of us and it was four girls and all four of us getting married. And we were all going to have to come back another semester for one class. And he--and I guess I was more in tune with the wedding. But these other two girls who turned in these beautiful Science projects and mine were kind of mediocre and--I--so at one point I said you know yours always just look so much better than mine and instead of sugar-coating it, which doesn't work for me, he said--they put more work into it. And if you would you'd be doing the same thing. And he said you know I'm doing this class for you but you've got to put into it something to get it out and from that point on everything I do--I mean even now my projects are you know--the edges have to be straight and the content has to be there and there has to be an organization and it's not thrown together and I expect the same thing from my students. And he probably had no idea of the impact that he made and I really need to get my transcript and look up who he was and send him a thank you note.
But then I went to get my--when I went to get my Masters in Education in K-6; I did that at Appalachian because they had a cohort at Winston-Salem State. I was drawn to the Science Education and I teach Science Education now. So he had a really big impact that he has no idea but just to think that a Professor would give up time in his summer to teach a class for four girls who are getting married that he knew none of us. None of us had ever taken a class and he had--you know I could see it kind of if there had been a student that he had kind of followed and had helped along; he didn't know us from anybody. You know just to think that somebody would do that for you, you know and--and in retrospect it's even stronger now than it--than it was at the time and I'm not sure I realized quite how much he had done for us until then.
And your husband's family were from Greenville and--?
And his--they weren't--he wasn't a first graduation college graduate?
No; his--his grandmother I think actually went to college which is unheard of but his mother was a teacher who actually taught her own brother or younger brother in English. She was an English Major and then went into Guidance Counseling. They're actually from Ayden, North Carolina and his grandfather owned a little store there--and then some of the families from Thomasville, the Clodfelters, which I think is just a cool name.
My aunt married a Clodfelter.
Yeah; in Statesville.
Wow; how--it's kind of in the general--the general area but he--Sue is my biggest influence probably now. She--she's the one who saw this and said you know you'd be
perfect for it and she was--when she was a Guidance Counselor I still have a hard time working with any Guidance Counselor now because I worked with her and she was good. And she looked--she knew the kids well enough to say you can go for this scholarship. This is the job you need to be looking for. She took such an interest in them and now my son is a junior in high school and I'm not sure if the Guidance Counselors know his name--other than when I call and say you know you need to be doing this. So it's been--that--it's been hard but I also know what they can do. She's the one that when I--I got to go to Belize through the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences which is a really neat program, they call it Educators of Excellence. I don't know why it's that but we just--it was Science studies and Sociology studies in Belize. She's the one who said you know go ahead and try for it. And when I got ready to go you know they kind of--they sent me money so I could do what I needed to do there and not have to worry about that. And then I went to Yellowstone the following year to study the wildlife there which was amazing to watch the wolves hunt in the pack and just the camaraderie and the connections that I've made from those two groups are amazing. She's always the one who says you know you can do this; she tried to get me to try for a Teaching Fellows with East Carolina. And I said, "You know my grades--I won't ever make it." And she said, "But you need to know how to write," and I didn't trust her then because we were just dating. But I've learned now you know like this--I never would have done this if Sue hadn't said, Jeannie, you know you need to try it.
She's just--she's kind--I don't know; she holds everybody together. She's the one who--so I don't even know how to tell you how--how powerful she is; she's just really a cool person. I'd love to take her on all these trips and she kind of lives vicariously through me. She went to Teacher Academy when it first opened and was the one who got on me for probably seven years
before I ever applied. I will not make it; I will not make it. They will not choose me. And she said, girl, if you would just fill the paperwork out, and I have gone to the Teacher Academy five times. [Laughs] I actually taught a course there with National Board Certification; when I got my National Board Certification they asked for people to come back and I thought well they helped me get my National Board Certification so I can help somebody else and really enjoyed doing that. And then well that was the--that wasn't actually the Teacher Academy. I did the Teacher Academy too but oh gosh--North Carolina--what is it--? The--what is that called in Cullowhee ?
The summer thing--?
Yeah; yes, North Carolina--
I know what you mean.
Oh it's not coming to me. I know it's in Cullowhee and I've gone--the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching. That was it and then I've done--actually done six Teacher Academies where during the summer you go to different campuses. I actually came back to East Carolina one of the sessions. And it was like coming home except they put us in the guys' dorm and it was just awkward. And I don't know why; it was--it was really weird.
But and you've won some other awards for teachers?
Oh I've been really fortunate. I was Teacher of the Year--the year that I did all the Student Council things for Mount Airy Junior high school and then was chosen for the Mount Airy City Schools Teacher of the Year [Phone Rings] and then I was Teacher of the Year again with Jones Elementary School and I had written several grants and had gotten those. So I
got the WXI Science Teachers Grant and then the Entomology Teacher of the Year which is still funny to me. I got that a couple of years ago and then I've written Very Special Arts Festival Grants and then the Bright Ideas Grants and I got the Michael Jordan Grant, so I've been really lucky. But something about East Carolina that I don't think people realize is that they don't accept status quo. If you turn in something that's just what they've heard forever they're going to ask you to do it again and think outside the box which is kind of a trite phrase but the--the thing that I learned more than anything is think about it from a different angle, you know. You can take the same information and you know no lesson plan is actually a new lesson plan but you can take what you're learned from everybody else and use it a different way.
We did a lot of group projects which I know people hate but they really helped me because you learn to work with other people and take their ideas and then make something new out of them. When I did inclusion it really helped me because everything I did I took people's ideas and put them together to make them my own.
Were there any special Professors that influenced you a lot or do you remember any particular teachers that--?
Uh-hm; Dr. Richards was really good. I'm trying to think who else; I wish I could remember the Professor who was--who--who taught the--the Science class because he really did. I'm awful with names too. Dr. Richards I remember a lot; and it was more--I was not--I was not a standout student at East Carolina until I got into the Education program but it was like everybody gave all they had and so it didn't seem as special when I was there as it does now to know how much they've given you and I know that sounds probably bizarre. But it was like every Professor gave you everything they had; they all expected you to do your best. They all
worked with you, you know in small groups so it was--it was normal and I didn't know--I guess in my mind that anybody anywhere else did it any other way, but I do now. [Laughs] You know you--you know that sometimes you sit in a big lab class--oh my gosh; who was that Professor? Oh my gosh he was a Science--again a Science Professor who was hilarious. He taught Physics and what we used to call Football Physics, but I mean it was a hard class. I don't know why they called it Football Physics. But it was a lab class; he was from New York and I actually think he was killed not long after I graduated back in New York. But he would do all these experiments and I can remember the tube with the vacuum and the feather and the rocks falling at the same time and when he would flip it up he would hit the glass and it would break everywhere, or he--it was like the absent-minded professor. But he was so intelligent and so much fun and he actually took the time; it was a lab class--I mean an auditorium class, but he took the time to know--know several students and at that time I loved to tan so I would go from--my classes were scheduled from 8:00 to 10:00 and then I would tan from 10:00 to--I don't know; you--you love this part of it, huh. I tanned--I would tan until 2:00 and then I would go this class. And he would always go--my maiden name is Robertson--Robertson? Yes, sir. What's the tanning index today? They didn't even have a tanning index at that time. I mean he created it. And I'd say well it was about six today and he'd say okay we're going to learn about so and so and so and so today and go on. But I felt like somebody special you know.
I never missed his class; you know I never missed his class and just a lot of fun and I hate that I'm somebody that doesn't remember names because it's awful. He--he really was a lot of fun.
What--how did the rest of your family--I mean some--some of the stories you put a little bit about your effect; how--how did the rest of the family react to your going to college? Did it--was it difficult for them; were there problems or--?
Oh; great question--for some of them it was you know here goes Jeannie again. She's going to go do something that--that none of the rest of us have and my--my grandfather--my grandparents on my dad's side really didn't understand you know. Is she trying to be frou-frou and high-falutin' and all of that stuff; that--there was not a lot of support there, basically because they just didn't know. I mean they really were--I had not realized how illiterate until you know after I graduated and you know just thinking about the--you know the house was covered in--newspaper was their wallpaper but my grandmother couldn't read the newspaper or could read very you know--she was functionally illiterate. She could then now sign her name and she could do some other things but she really couldn't read much of it.
In Clayton they were like you know you're--you're allowing her to go off to school? They're very religious you know. What is going to happen to her when she's there? They weren't sure about you know the--the parties and the--the going off and--and drinking or the doing all of that stuff. That was really difficult for them to know that I was an adult and that I was going to school and it was like well--well why do you think you need a college education? But my mom and dad were always okay; just--just do it and--and see what happens. She's going to have to figure it out herself anyway.
My parents are very proud of--now; a lot of my cousins now have gone to--to school. Two of them went to State and then one of my aunts actually ended up going to State later on.
Do you think as the oldest grandchild you set a pattern or an example for it?
I think--I would love to think so. I hope so; I have--I was--it's really strange because the aunt and uncle with whom I was really close, their children are the ones who--who have gone to college and you know there were two sets of them and they all ended up going to college and one of them is actually going to go back to be a medical doctor which nobody would have ever thought because country family, we lived out on--my grandmother lived out on like what we call Trash Pile Road. They were sharecroppers. My grandmother was the person--if I got in trouble or something even if I was grounded I could get in my car and drive to my grandmother's house and that was fine and she and I would sit and talk for hours. They were all very intelligent people but it wasn't book smart. It was just smart. My grandfather, my mom's dad was in the military and one of the cousins has gone into the military and is now working with the National Guard, but he was in the Army for a while. One of them is actually teaching and is teaching swimming and I'm a swim coach now too, which is another funny story. I've never swam--I swim but I never--I didn't know the strokes. And this year they didn't have a swim coach and there were five kids who were eighth graders who were not going to get to swim and which would hurt them going into high school. So I told them I'd do it [Laughs]; I don't know why. I have no idea but I would get in the water with them and I had a high school student whom I taught in fourth grade and she came back to help me coach the Swim Team. And we ended up winning Conference. I have no idea how we did this but it was just--they had never finished above last place. But it was more you know--the kids knew I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know I wasn't supposed to get in the water with them. They said the Coaches don't get in the water with them to do this. I was like how are you, you know a Football Coach gets on the football field, a Basketball Coach gets on the basketball field, Tennis Coaches get on
the tennis court; Golf Team--they get on the golf--why don't you get in the water? [Laughs] And I didn't understand. And the high school Swim Coach actually stayed sometimes and would help me and then I didn't know how to run a swim meet. I had never been to a swim meet you know. So when I read about the Swim Coach at East Carolina and how many times they had won I really wanted to take my Swim Team to East Carolina to see them swim. I'm trying to convince them to let me have the money to do that because I just think it would be powerful for them to see and from Ron Clark, I got this--he always takes his students to East Carolina. I don't know how he gets the money or how he gets the schools to do it. Now he has his own school but it's something I think they need to see, and particularly this part of the State is not as aware of East Carolina as they are of Appalachian or--or some of the other schools.
Do you remember your first day at college?
My first what now?
Day at college?
My first day?
Who took you or did you go on your own or--?
Oh gosh; mom and dad and my brother who--my younger brother, Warren, who is very much like my father, just a firecracker, he got--he got like the personality and the--of my dad and he could sell anybody anything too. But they all came with me and I was so excited because I had gone to Orientation and I knew my friends were going to be there at school and--and so they unloaded me and we got everything in. And then I was trying to push them away which is probably one of the worst things I've done to my family ever because I didn't allow them--and I'm thinking now as a mom--that my son is getting ready to go to college after his
senior--his senior year next year and I'm thinking why did I do that? Why--and then when they left none of my friends were there yet and so I'm sitting there going I just pushed my family out. But when I came back for the next time after I had taken that semester off mom and dad came down and they actually brought me my car, so that I could have a car to get around because I lived off-campus and the bus at that time didn't go to the Housing Authority. And there were a bunch of college students who lived in that one little area and we all kind of protected each other from what would go on. But they brought my Pinto station wagon yah, so that I would have a car and at that point I realized I need to stay and embrace them being a part of my college career and we did dinner. and then from that point on it's--it's like once I got into Education and what I needed to be in I grew up and I knew what I needed to do. You know you can't erase that first part of your transcript and that's part of your life but it's like two different students and from the time I went into Education on you know I've done well. When I went to Appalachian I was Honor Guard and Phi Kappa Phi and all of these things that I just--yah. [Laughs] And what is Phi Theta Lambda or something--that one I got because I got National Board Certification so anybody who does that they just kind of sign you in, but I couldn't have done it if I hadn't have had that background from East Carolina to know what it was that I needed to do and what was expected and nothing wrong with the Business Department at all. It's just it wasn't me. And I think that's hard for students to know whether you're first generation or second generation or who you are, especially though being first generation. I had nobody to go to--to look to--to know what college was even supposed to be. I--I had nothing to relate it on. The only college campus I had ever seen was State University and actually in Shaw you know because you know they were both in Raleigh. And--and St. Augustine's because I got lost one time and ended
up on their campus; but that's all I knew of college and--and sports that on television you would say you know Carolina and State and all those teams play but I knew nothing of college--nothing.
Was it hard to adjust to the difference in the environment or the people around you or--?
It was hard having a roommate. I was put with a senior the first year which was probably very smart. A lot of people would disagree with it; it was smart for me because she ended up being a mother figure, so I couldn't go too off the deep end because she would be in bed at 11 o'clock. My hardest adjustment was going from a family that was very controlled you know everything was controlled. I couldn't get--I got in trouble in school but it was never, I mean you know it was the talking too much and moving around too much and you know I always turned in work but it might be a bug collection. But I--once I got there because I had not had any background I didn't think about if you go downtown and spend all night downtown and then come back into the classroom you're not going to be able to focus like you should. That was more an adjustment you know. And they try with Orientation to tell you those things; I mean they were very frank but it was again I have to burn myself twice. So that--that was quite an adjustment for me and more the second year than the first because my grades were good the first year, so I thought well if I can have this much fun then I can have a little bit more fun here and that was not the case. [Laughs]
What did the Orientation consist of?
Orientation they--they would bring all the freshmen together and they talked to us about what classes that we needed to take. They would talk about choosing a major and--and
at that time you didn't have to declare a major right off the bat but my mom and dad were if you're going to school and we're going to pay for it you're going to declare a major. And I knew mom thought I was going to be a secretary and that I could slide that through. And that was probably pretty evil but anyway they talked to us about you know some of you are going to go downtown and if you do they're looking for freshman girls. And they know freshman girls because you have your pocket book with you; don't carry your pocket book downtown. They tried to warn us about you know the Sunday nights or you know nickel draft things and so they looked for the people who have the highest tower of cups and they tried to warn you of all those things. But I just was you know--I was just--you know just--but--.
Was Orientation in the summer before--?
Right; in the summer before and--
And did your family come to that or did you just come yourself?
They--I rode with--I rode down with somebody and I'm going to be honest I can't remember who I rode down with. I think I rode down with Greg Parish who also went to East Carolina from Clayton and the girls stayed in Tyler Hall and I can remember that everybody always said there were bats in Tyler Hall at the time. I never saw a bat [Laughs] but they--that was always like the big rumor around there is if you go to Tyler Hall there are bats in the top hall. But we went to you know several little classes and they would show you the classes and they'd walk you around campus and show you the different buildings and you know if you were concentrated in this area this is what you'd take and you know told us about the meal plan and then if you go to these meal plans, you know. I--mom and dad bought a meal plan but I would never eat at the different places even though they weren't bad. It was just--now with Todd Dining
Hall [Laughs] I'd have eaten every day. When I went to the Teacher Academy at East Carolina, Todd Dining Hall had just opened. Oh my gosh that place is pretty good. We enjoyed eating there.
Did you keep in touch with people you pal(ed) with in high school or did it make a difference that you went away to college?
I really didn't because the friends that I hung out with in high school didn't go to college. They went to Johnston Community College, so yeah they went to college and they studied Radiology and Nursing and those things. And then I went to East Carolina just on a whim; so I mean my friends were shocked. I mean they hadn't--we had all kind of decided together we were all possibly going to go to Johnston Tech and I was going to go into Secretarial School or whatever, you know. I didn't even know what they offered; I hadn't even looked into that. They had done that much but I just--I don't know what I thought was going to happen. I really was so naive that you know I was just going--somebody is going to take care of me. But when I got there you know and I took the Business classes and you go learning--learning kind of the--the ins and outs, being in a small dorm I think was better than being in a large dorm. I--you know and if I'd get upset or something you know and this is crazy but just outside of Garrett Hall between Garrett and the Leo Jenkins Art Center is a tree. And I used to climb trees as a kid. We had a China Ball or we called it "Cheney Ball" tree in our yard and it was this big tree that you could climb. And so I would go across the--the little driveway there and sit in that tree and look in the window at the art stuff and the art students and people would come up and go what are you doing? I'm just chilling. [Laughs] And before the end of the year you know I'd be sitting in the
tree and people would come join me and sit in the tree with me. [Laughs] You know so--I don't know if people do that or if the tree is even still there, but that's kind of--.
You'll have to go back and see if the tree is there. [Laughs]
Yeah; come back and see if the tree is there. And I do get to go through Greenville; it's changed so much--so many buildings and the campus is spread all over. I can remember the first class I took off-campus at Belk. At that time I didn't have--I had my car but I didn't have a parking pass because I couldn't afford the parking pass so I'd try to park on the street and I took a Speech and Language Pathology class there. The only negative experience I ever had at East Carolina was that class because I made 100 on the first test and the Professor thought I had cheated because nobody had ever made 100 on his test. [Laughs] And so the next one I made a B and ended up with a B in the class but I loved--I loved the class. It was a great Professor. I just think I had flipped him out but I had studied so hard because I thought--I was a big Helen Keller fan and I thought you know this is something I might think about doing. Glad I didn't but it was just--.
But the Belk has all moved to the new building.
Oh really? Now I didn't realize that.
This huge wonderful big area for Allied Health and Nursing.
Oh over by the hospital?
So you will have to come back and see that.
Oh gosh and East Carolina's Medical School and they're getting a Dentistry School. Oh I'm so proud--I mean I really am just so proud.
Well then once you went--well before and after it did you participate in a lot of campus activities or clubs and you--?
I was on the Judicial thing and then I did the Little Sisters for Lambda Chi Alpha and I was--I did some of the stuff with NCAE there but I didn't officially join. I just kind of went to the meetings. I was not--I did Special Olympics and those sorts of things; I was more kind of--I did intramurals and I actually was unofficial--for the Soccer Team I was like an unofficial manager. It was supposed to be kind of an official thing but I didn't know what I was doing well enough to--to do it so I never went on the road with them but at that time the Soccer Team had just kind of started and they weren't very well known. But I did some of that and then more than anything my--those--those of us at the dorm we would take snacks and stuff to the Soccer Team and--and that sort of thing and for intramurals we did some of that. And I lived--when I lived off-campus there was a little lady that lived across the street from us who was a retired teacher and we would go and take care of her, so I kind of did things that way. I didn't join as many of the clubs as I wish I had now. I don't think I had the big picture of what was there. And then once I decided I needed to be a serious student I really didn't have time to do it--to do those things.
What--what do you think made it possible for you to make this huge change?
From? Oh gosh.
Something to do with your family, a trait or--?
My father was very determined and--and my mother is very strong-willed. I have a huge fear of failure; I you know--if I'm going to do something I am not going to fail and if I do everybody knows it. [Laughs] So you know I mean my--my great-grandfather was a sharecropper and my great-grandmother were you know huge influences in my life. They--they both were very religious. I really don't know exactly what it is other than the--that I--I refused to be defeated. Now with my kids it--it doesn't matter really what you do to me but with my students once you're in my classroom you're my kid. I--you know I tell parents; I tell the kids you know you're my baby and my middle schoolers that cracks them up but I'm--I'm serious. Don't mess with my kids and that--and I don't care if you're an Administrator; I don't care who you are. Don't mess with my kids. And then having had strong Principals at times who would say this is what you're going to do and then having people believe in you. You know you can do this--again, Steve's mother, always saying, you know you're better than you think you are. Just you know I called my disorganized perfectionist. You know things are going to be scattered but when I finish it's--it'll be right if I can help it.
I had a good background with Teacher Academy and--and the National--and I like doing things and I think a lot of teachers don't realize how many things are out there that you can do that there are more perks than people realize and that's one of the things that I'd love to do at East Carolina or Appalachian or wherever and I tried it--I also teach at Surry Community College and I love teaching teachers. People who want to be teachers I just--there's nothing to me worse than a bad teacher. You can hurt kids more than anybody in their lives other than their parents, but a good teacher can make more difference and change a child's life. You know Miss Farrell and Mr. Williams and--and Lawrence Williams and Mr. Vincent you know believing in
me and saying you know this is--I didn't feel like I could let them down you know because there were other people who were saying I couldn't do it. So I had enough hard knocks that I knew that there were people against me and they weren't going to win. You know and--
Is this the McCoy side of the family?
I--it might be. [Laughs] We always call it the Barber side, too--my mother's dad's family you know. You don't mess with the Barber(s) and if you mess with one you've messed with all of us. But and I'm the only one who really lives far away, so you know I miss the family connection there. I'd love to move back to the eastern part--I love this part of the State; it is absolutely gorgeous and the people here have been wonderful and I really feel like this is my community and I know it's my son's home but I miss the eastern part of the State and that climate and atmosphere and you know and my dream would be going back to East Carolina and teaching with East Carolina and teaching teachers at some point. You know and if not at East Carolina, somewhere else but it would really be neat to come full circle; yeah.
The first person I interviewed has done that. He got a degree in Math and taught at East Tennessee State University and retired and he's back now teaching at East Carolina.
Oh that is so wonderful; that--that--that would be my dream. I just think that you know and I don't mean to sound cocky but I think teachers have so much impact on kids or you know and as adults and you really can make or break a kid you know because there were people who did try to break me. and then there were those people who stood behind me and said you know I don't care what--you know I had people that when I was being sent to the detention for something who were saying she didn't do it, and actually were written up because they defended me, you know. Mr. Williams, [Laughs] the librarian, you know people who just went
to bat for me because I wasn't easy to go to bat for you know. Even in college you know I had that wild side that had a really good time but I just had to--had to focus you know. And then Steve is very calm, you know my husband. He graduated in gosh what was it--I graduated in '83 so he probably--he graduated in '82 and he was a Business major but he just has that really calm influence. And he's always supportive; whatever it is that I do, he--he's not going to say you can't. He's not going to say you can. He's just going to say you know--he's just there and what is it you need? When I went back to get my Masters I had to live on campus at Appalachian which I--yeah they don't do that anymore but at that time if you went to school there even taking a cohort at Winston-Salem State you had to spend a semester on campus. So I had to leave my family and live in a dorm [Laughs] you know at--gosh how old was I? I was 39 years-old living in a dorm.
My son is adopted so I had not had--I had not--I have never been pregnant. My roommate was eight months pregnant and my suitemate was two months pregnant. So I--it was amazing. [Laughs] So that was a really interesting experience there.
What was the hardest thing that you dealt with in going to college? Was there a particular thing?
Oh gosh; hmm trying to balance being a student and then--and just--and then being just a person. You know how much time should I study and how do I study because I had never learned those study techniques and then when I started taking the Special Ed classes I started realizing the techniques I was being taught were techniques that I could use for myself, trying to--trying to balance that side of okay I want--I want a date and I want to go downtown and I want to do this and--and this is the limited finances but I also need to be a student and am I really
here to be a student and you know I think that's--that for me was the hardest thing you know. Getting up and making yourself go to class when you really didn't want to--to go and--and be a student at that time. I think that was probably the hardest thing for me was that balance of--of being both people and for me I've always been a late bloomer or a late learner. You know when once I had graduated the hardest part was looking back and going you wasted a year; why did you do that? You know my freshman year was great; my other years were great and I just went off the deep end you know for--for a year and I mean not bad but just I shouldn't have made Ds you know. I shouldn't have made Ds; I'm not a D-student. And--and that it affects your GPA and it goes in for your whole life. I'm always asked what's my GPA at--at East Carolina University and I'm like can I throw out a year? [Laughs] You know and my GPA is not bad but it's just a matter of not realizing that--that it follows you.
So it wasn't really going to college; you know not--coming from Clayton and moving into the--?
That wasn't a--?
No; it really wasn't. It was--because I liked people and I loved being in the dorm. I thought you know it was great. I--you know and it wasn't so much that--I think it was not having that knowledge you know. I had nobody who had been to school to say okay, this is what's going to happen and this is--and not that I would have listened to anybody anyway being honest but there wasn't anybody to say when you go to college this is what's going to happen. When Steve went to college his mom had been to college, his dad had been to college; his dad went to Citadel. He had this background. Now his mom will say Steve went to school to have fun
and--and he did some of the same things I did but he still had this focus and he had the study skills and he had somebody going this is what's going to happen and--and when you enroll for classes you need to do this. I didn't even know how to enroll for a class. When I got ready to sign up it was like okay you go into oh Mendenhall and dropping and adding a class. Well how many classes should I drop and can I handle this many hours and you know that part of it was--was difficult and--and the communication lines which I'm sure with East Carolina being you know--I read about how much they've gone into technology and being wired that has got to be wonderful for students because they use that all the time, so they know; whereas at my time it was in a paper thing that if you were at the Student Union and--and people started pulling out the paper and going oh my gosh we've got to do this it was kind of word of mouth that it was important to pick up that paper today, whereas the week before you may have looked at it or not.
So there wasn't anybody to--they didn't have a person that--
Not that I knew of and a lot of it I think if there may have been if I had actually known and you know and they may have even sent a letter saying this is your Advisor so and so you know. But there wasn't that connection of me calling and saying okay you're my Advisor; what do we need to do. I didn't know; I--I just didn't know.
Well and your high school was--other than your teachers were in your life before you went--did you have models of women with education with college educations?
Just teachers; those were the only people I knew who had gone to college and I guess--I guess some of the people I knew who were nurses, you know obviously they would have gone to a community college or something but I really can't think of anybody--. You know because even my--even my Minister was not a college graduate. You know because I went to a--a Baptist Church; I went to a Pentecostal Holiness Church first and they were you know just--they had been called to be Ministers and you know so there wasn't even a college there that I can--I don't really remember anybody in my life.
Some of the--the work that they're doing now about first generation college graduates it's important that the person be able to sort of envision themselves in the role. Did that happen to you? Was there a point where you started seeing yourself as a teacher or--?
Something that happened that made a difference?
Yeah; I think you know again I was one of those once I was put in a classroom, the minute I walked into the classroom with East Carolina--and thank God, East Carolina puts you in early, I mean that--for anything that's the most thankful--the thing I'm most thankful for at East Carolina is that they immediately put you in a classroom. And when I walked in I mean I was not someone who even babysat. I really didn't; I babysat maybe two people and they were cousins and didn't do a very good job, so I'm like why would I choose to be a teacher? I had always said I'm not going to teach, you know. People who teach are you know there are these who are mean and cruel to kids and then there are these who care a lot about you. You know I might be a librarian but a teacher--never; no. You know they--they work too hard for too little money. Why would I ever think of doing that you know? But as soon as I you know working
with the--the roommates and--and college--and a lot of people in that dorm who were making the projects and then going to Special Olympics with them because it was just something to do on a Saturday and I didn't have plans. But when I walked in that classroom and connected with those kids and they did a good job of finding the right teachers, and so I'm not sure who set us up with who you know being honest, but the teachers with whom they put me were perfect for my personality, you know. They were not the stand behind a desk and teach; they were active you know. They were doing it the way inclusion was supposed to be done.
Okay; so--so it was important that--that you started that experience right away because that gave you the model--?
That was my model.
To be able to see yourself because you were in the situation.
Exactly; the--the people with whom they put me were very energetic. They were hands-on; they were doing things that--I go to workshops now and I'm bored out of my mind because they're teaching me the same things that I had at East Carolina you know over 20 years ago. And I'm wondering where everybody was you know and why was East Carolina so ahead of the curve and did I--I mean I didn't realize it. You know and I go to Ron Clark Academy, you know I actually saw his school, and I'm thinking you have taken what you were taught and you have amplified it. And I'm really glad that he gives East Carolina credit because I'm thinking if you didn't you know [Laughs] something would be wrong here because you know you're taught that you have to be a part of the classroom and you have to be not just the person standing up in the front. You've got to get involved with the students. You know I--I'd love to go back to--to some of the classes that I took you know and see how they've changed
because I can't imagine that they would have to change that much because I'm still being taught the same things that I was taught before, you know other than you know they change these exceptional children's paperwork every you know five minutes. Other than that I--I just can't imagine because I was so well-prepared. I have students--I've had five student teachers now and watching them come in they still don't have the hands-on resources that I had; they aren't in the classroom as much as--as I was. You know I don't want to name--name colleges but there were a couple of colleges that--that the students came to me and they had never seen any of the hands-on stuff that I had been doing for you know--just the folder games that I was doing you know in 1981, you know. We were doing those games and--so I'm really excited when I get to teach them those things but I'm also a little concerned that not everybody prepares their teachers as well as they do. Now you know Appalachian did--they must be very comparable because they--they tended to give me the same kind of education I got there so I'm really fortunate to have both sides, but I really don't think I would be who I am if I had gone anywhere else. I think I had to have that experience with those people at that time and I really do.
Is there anything else you'd like to add to the interview?
Hmm; I can't think of anything else other than that--that everything that you are you know happens for a reason and I hope that there are lots of other people who are first generation who can--can be role models for those people in front of you and that maybe somebody behind me looks and wants to--to do what I've done and go to East Carolina and you
know--I loved it there. I'm very proud that I'm--that I'm a student--or was a student there. I'm very proud.
Did we get on the recording about the effect it had on your mother and all the other family members who went back--?
Yes; we did--yes, yes, uh-hm.
I'm sure that was asked, so--.
Yeah; so thank you.
Well thank you very much.
Thank you very much.
[End Jeannie Noble Interview]
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