|Transcript of Mary Boyd Mann Interview|
|Interviewee:||Mary Boyd Mann|
|Date of Interview:||April 17, 2008|
|Location of Interview:||Greenville, N.C.|
|Length:||MP3 - 93 Minutes; 25 Seconds|
Okay; today is--it's 2:30. It's April 17, 2008 and I have the fortunate opportunity to interview Mrs. Mary Boyd Mann. She graduated from Greenville High School in 1933 and then graduated in--from East Carolina Teachers College in 1936. I'm also here with her daughter, Miss Betsy Jones, and who is just going to help facilitate this. Is it okay; listen my name is Marty Tschetter. Is it okay if we record and get--on behalf of the University?
Yes; it is quite all right.
Okay; to hear your experience. We really do appreciate--this is going to be--we'll have a good time here. So what we'd like to do is start off if you could tell me--tell us more about your family, where you grew up, you know your--your parents, that--the lineage and that kind of thing.
I was born in my grandmother's house in Brook Valley because my father was finishing an addition on our house by adding a little school room that my mother had taught in as they had opened another little school east of that. Our house was on my father's land about a mile away. My father was a farmer and part-time mail carrier and I was raised there along with a brother. My grandmother's people were the Brooks, descended from James Brooks, who came
down to Pitt County and was given a land grant from the Governor of North Carolina. My father's people were descended from the Boyd(s), Colonel John Hardee's family, who lived in Pitt County.
Did--sorry; okay did--did--now you--where we're located--we're located right now outside of more or less Greenville. I mean I can imagine when you were growing up--can you tell me how--you went to Greenville High School.
Yes. Ready? I attended school--the elementary school and junior high school and high school in Greenville. My family had to pay tuition for me to go there and I was able to get there sometimes by catching rides or if his second-hand car could carry me that day. My first grade was lived with my grandfather up on Dickenson Avenue. I walked from the territory near Piggly-Wiggly to where Shepherd Memorial Library is located. In the fifth grade the school burned and then we had to go to school the rest of that year in Wilson Dorm.
For the rest of the year and then we went to a middle school that was up on a hill behind the College at that time. J.H. Rose was my Principal and Superintendent all the way through my school years, a wonderful educator. I had teachers in Greenville High School that worked with student teachers and they were a part of the University like J.H. Rose was considered a part of East Carolina faculty; also my English teacher, Dexter Mulholland. One of the--my teachers in school, my Science teacher was Mrs. Picklesiemer. Her husband was a Social Studies teacher over at East Carolina Teachers College. I had many teachers that I will so fondly remember in East Carolina Teachers College. One was Dr. Hanes, my teacher for Education and Psychology. We had to take an IQ test and so we wanted to know what our IQ
was. And Dr. Haynes when he came to me said, well I'll tell you this much; your IQ is much higher than what you are using. [Laughs] And I also had wonderful teachers that my mother had--had like Kate Lewis, who was the Art teacher; Beecher Flannigan who was such an excellent teacher; Dr. Slay taught Science and I--that gave me a great love of Science. We felt like the Library was the most wonderful one there; it was down near the Wright Building. I spent most of my time in the Library. I had no curricular activities other than Music because I wouldn't--I wouldn't have been able to have attended due to the lack of a way to get there. So I was into Music during high school and we had many, many good times; we went to Greensboro in a contest my senior year in high school and we won most of the singing events in Greensboro in the State. Then we had a trio that sang throughout Greenville and at the College and in the Rotary Clubs and Kiwanis and all the churches and so the Music of course was important to me, but also the education.
When I graduated we had the Baccalaureate sermon on Sunday and I was presented a Bible from East Carolina Teachers College and then we graduated on Monday. And I held a solo part that I was very proud of. When I graduated, the day I walked out a Principal of a school in Pitt County wanted to know if I'd be interested in teaching the day I walked out of the College. And so I did accept. And that has been so important to me because I have taught 22 years and probably would have taught longer but my husband was ready to retire and we came back here.
We had been displaced during World War II; we had moved. My husband went into Government Service and worked mostly for the Navy in Norfolk. He was a Supervisor there and continued to be until his retirement. And so our career actually was in Virginia. And then we retired and came back here and I'm still teaching Sunday school--I guess because I just can't
stop. I've carried books I know for 86 years. [Laughs]
Wow; well no that's--that's great. You're doing really--you're doing a great job. This is great. Let me go back to a little bit about--so you finished high school in 19--?
Okay; so that was during the Depression?
What was that like? I mean did you know--how could you really--could you tell it was really a strain?
Well as I said, the teachers didn't get paid for two months--I mean for two months and we didn't have a diploma because we couldn't afford to at that time. We graduated in the Wright Building and I can remember that the orchestra from ECU played for us to graduate and how wonderful it was and I can still to this day hear God of Our Fathers Whose Almighty Hand, which is what they played for us to march down the aisle.
And it was of course quite wonderful to me. My regret is that I didn't go for four years which they had begun for teachers at that time. But money was very scarce and my aunt had helped me so much in college that I was ready to try to put back in. Now I worked also during high school and college and my--I worked in tobacco every summer. My dad was good enough that he could pay me something each week for my own. And I worked at White Store and later Penny's. Now White Stores was sort of the backing for the young students in town. Mr. Charles White--because he would hire us to work on weekends and after school and that was sort of the store for most of the young people that could afford to buy things from there.
Excuse me; was that the White(s) that was by the--?
It was by Jarvis by the Library?
I remember that building.
Yes; and I went back--back many times to alumni meetings and the people always wanted to know where--where White Store is and of course they've been torn down. But that where most of the young people worked.
Did--did now let me ask; your--okay so during the Depression I mean how do you think about going to college you know with money and all that? Was it kind of--did you feel like you had support from your family? Was it kind of expected or do you remember any talking about your parents?
No; you didn't expect anything. You know young people then usually worked. In fact I had a cousin that was a little older than I was. He went to Greenville High School and about the time we were graduating Roosevelt made a plan that young men could go into work to work on like the TVA--the dam in Tennessee--.
The Civilian Conservation Corps?
Yes; that's what it was and a lot of the young men went into that. Now of course during the World War II everybody went in the Service then and I had married then and was teaching down in Craven County. We lived in Newbern and we were told that--and we had one son. So we were told that he would have to go into war work and so he went into war work and that's--we moved to Wilmington, Delaware first and then I did not teach there because it was
not--I was not into the system or anything. So when we moved back down to Norfolk she was born and they started asking me to substitute, so I started substituting a little. I wanted to wait until she could get back into school and so just about every other day someone was standing on my porch ready for me to run down and substitute. So I substituted in most every grade--seventh, sixth, and wound up to where I thought well if I'm going to substitute every other day I'll go back in.
She was little and sometimes I carried her with me. They allowed me to do that and she'd color and all in the classroom. And so then we moved out into Princess Anne County and I taught out in Princess Anne County--wonderful, wonderful place. It was like home out there and I taught--wound up teaching fourth grade which was my real love--fourth and fifth. They love the teacher a lot see. And we could go to Williamsburg every year--
--and so we would take them on a trip to Williamsburg and then come back and have a play for the rest of the classes and I wanted to tell you one thing all through school that we had every week. J.H. Roses had an assembly every week and he told us what he expected and what we--the rules that we should go by.
Now this is--he--this is when you were in college?
This was in high school and believe me; it made for a great school; it couldn't have been any better for the times but the assembly is so important and I don't think that they have it anymore.
I mean I--I finished high school well maybe 70 years ago but I remember having assemblies and stuff but you know I'm sure it's changed. I have no idea now.
Uh-hm; yes and so--my education has been my life.
That--that's--what--what do you remember about that? I mean he would get up and maybe once a week, J.H. Rose would talk about--?
Well usually we would have a program of something that we had accomplished and he was always so good about telling us the good things that we were doing and the important things and how important we were to the community. And he was very inspiring.
Rules and regulations were just included in what he was saying and when he walked down the hall you could hear everybody sort of quiet down.
He had a lot of respect?
He had a wonderful voice and he had respect because he was so good at what he did that you respected him.
Wow; well now I know to go back a little bit--when you were at--can you--you said--you mentioned that your mother--your mother went to East Carolina Teachers College for a brief time?
Yes, yes; and let me tell you something that she was so proud of. She never missed a single spelling word the whole time she was there. And the reason I think for that and I still have the family dictionary about that big [Gestures]; they kept it on a pedestal and when she was growing up she and her brothers and sisters--there were ten--she and her brothers and sisters would see who could spell the best and who missed a word of course. And so they had spelling bees in the family.
Wow; that--that's pretty neat.
Now did--where--just because you mentioned your mother, where did she grow up?
My mother grew up in the area of Brook Valley because that was the family homestead but my grandfather, I have to say this; my grandfather met my mother's mother in LaGrange. He had gone to a church meeting. And he met her in LaGrange and he came back and wrote several love letters. And so at my grandson's wedding I read one of my grandfather's love letters. He told my grandmother in the letter, "when you crossed my path I was astounded," and it has the longest words in this love letter. So I think on both sides of the family there was a love for education. My grandmother Boyd on my father's side taught at--Sunday school at Jarvis for a few years. So I really think there was a great love for education throughout. My--some of my uncles and aunts went to East Carolina and thank goodness it was in this town.
Oh yeah, yeah; that--that would have--I mean if--if you were in a--like a rural area you know like Kinston or even Washington or whatever you know it might not have been--.
Might not have been; my father was a tobacco farmer, so all my life we worked in tobacco every year.
Tell how they met neighbors--how they met, how they--.
Oh my mother met my father; she was--well of course they had lived next door almost but they didn't mingle or know each other very well. She would walk out to the mailbox and come around this way from her house over there [Gestures]. He'd be working in the field but she wasn't allowed to speak to him because she was by herself. So when she was teaching one day he came by on his horse with his dog and she thought he was very good looking which I think he was and she said she saw his pretty brown eyes and she thought, well that's the one for
me. So that's the way that got started.
But she would walk to the mailbox to mail a letter to him but not speak to him in the field. It just wasn't done.
Huh; oh wow. Yeah; that's a different era. Now your mom--your mother went to East Carolina for a while too, correct?
Yes; she went to East Carolina and that was how she could teach in Pitt County. Also I had an aunt on my father's side that taught in Pitt County and I have her--she had to take a test in Pitt County by someone from the State of North Carolina. She had never even been to college; it wasn't here. And by taking this test and making such high grades she was allowed to teach her in Pitt County.
That is your aunt?
Yes; that was on my father's side, so both sides wanted education. My father went to an Academy in Littleton, North Carolina. He was --working his way through by doing carpenter work and his mother was--became ill, so his father wrote him and told him he'd have to come home and help take care of his mother, which he did. She had tuberculosis and you know at that time there were no cures and vaccines and things like they have now. So he came home and took care of her until she passed away. And so he didn't go back--he didn't go back. But he went to school to Professor Ragsdale who had an Academy there for boys near where Shepherd Memorial Library is; it was a one-room Academy.
The Male Academy I guess--I think it--was it the Male Academy?
The Male Academy is that what it was?
Yes, yes; it was--so far as I know it was for boys. No girls could have been allowed
but I don't remember hearing anything much about that and of course they had to walk or drive a car or anything to be able to get there. So he went there until the fourth or fifth grade and then I think he stopped and helped his father. His brother had the same education and became Mayor of Greenville for a while, so--
--they were all educated oriented people. My father read National Geographic like it was a novel.
So what's interesting is they--your parents it sounds like and a lot of extended family supported school. I mean you always felt supported you know; you didn't really have--I mean you--.
That's--that's--I mean that's--that's real important I think and you know if--if your dad read a lot and you know encouraged--.
Yes; if you're not encouraged of course I had always wanted to be a teacher. I taught dolls and all like that so I loved teaching but my mother was so good about remembering holidays you know Memorial Day and all that kind of thing. And so she was an incentive for me to think about those things.
Now--now did your--your mother--your mother went to East Carolina right for a brief time?
I know that she went for a year. I'm not sure how much longer; I know that some of the folks had measles and things were kind of bad at home. She told me the first car that she ever rode in was one of the professor's and I can't remember his name. He had just bought it.
And they had to stay over at Thanksgiving because so many were sick at home and so that was the first time--he took some of the girls to ride at East Carolina and that was the first time she ever rode in an automobile.
Wow; yeah that's--that's something.
She was there in 1910 and I think they had just gotten the steeple for the laundry over there, the tall steeple that was torn down several years ago and they were so proud of that because they were having steam heat I guess. You know where it came up--?
Yeah; did--did--that's interesting, okay when you went to--I was looking through the annual--the annual we have here and I noticed that there was regular seniors and then there was like a normal--there were normal seniors; what was the difference? Do you remember?
Well yes; normal seniors were the ones who were going for the short course.
Okay; so there were like two tracks? There was two ways you could go; one was like a--a short quicker route? What--
There were two ways you could go; one was shorter than the other?
Yes; yes. See this is a normal professional--the other one was a four-year.
Do--do you remember how the curriculum was different?
There were fewer choices; in other words, you had the things that were absolutely necessary. Now we did have Music courses, Art courses, and Physical Ed which we had I think two courses we had to pass, and let me tell you; I did terrible. They had one year of gymnastics. Well I had worked on a farm but gymnastics--when you had to get on that horse thing. I could not do that; the tumbling stuff--and the machine that you have to walk across that--hands you know, I've forgotten the name of it but those things were so hard to me that I got marked way
down and got a bad grade. So the next term I took Dancing and I made an A.
So that counteracted that. And of course the programs like Music where we went around--we had to furnish our own transportation. There was nothing--if we entertained somewhere we had to get there the best way we could.
There--there was no bus or--?
No, no; nothing like that--the Athletic Department was very small because boys at that time were not really into teaching as much as they are now. So of course I think there were about 100 boys that were going over there; of course they were really popular. [Laughs] And there was one that played piano that like we said we were on the radio program several times and he played the piano and I sang and I remember one song that they liked a lot, sitting on a log petting my dog, feeling blue as blue--that was one of the songs that [Laughs] we sang on the radio.
Well you mentioned the singing and you have some beautiful pictures here. What--tell me more about the--the teacher and how you really got into singing and if you'd tell me about this picture I guess.
Well Major Bowles was of course a radio program that was popular all over the United States and they looked in towns to get talent.
It was called?
So they sent an Agent to Greenville and we had a big contest, so we were one of the--we were a group. It was a young man named James Dee that won--he had beautiful baritone voice. And we won for the group; we--my husband was very worried because we were going
together at that time and he was afraid that we were going to fly off and go national but we were in school and none of us could have gone even had they offered us a contract. So of course that was our little bit of glory; we were sponsored by the oil companies. And I was Miss Opaline; these two girls were Sawyer girls, Helen and Eileen Sawyer and Eileen was Miss Penn and Helen was Miss HC. Miss Raye Tyson was our accompanist and we were really quite popular around Greenville for any group to have a program.
So now you--you would sing and then it would be on the radio nationally? Was--was it on the radio?
Talk about Major Bowles Hour.
No; now the radio part in Greenville was separate. I sang for that with this young man I told you about. But this was not on national--no.
It was just a local--?
It was local.
Okay; now what--you said it was called the Major Bowles--?
It was sponsored by Major Bowles program; they sent Agents for talent.
You know how you spell that?
Bowles--it was W--I mean B-o-w-l-s--just like regular bowls or maybe there was an E on the end. I'm sorry.
That's all right; I'll look at that. I had never heard of that, so--.
It was called the Major Bowles Hour on the radio.
Huh; and then did-now did you--you have some--a lot of nice articles about you know when you sang as well. Did--who was the teacher? There was a name; it was Gussie--?
Oh we were--
Your Music teacher.
There was a woman named--.
Oh my Music teacher in college was Gussie Kuyken--K-u-y-k-e-n. [Laughs]
No; that's good. And she--she was like your teacher?
She was the Music teacher for East Carolina. The one in high school was Miss Shindlar and she was a wonderful Music teacher also but see; we had just the Music teacher and an accompanist; we didn't have all of the things that they have now like the wonderful things they have over at ECU.
Oh yeah; well you definitely would have been in the formative years you know--early--early years.
One thing that I left out probably that I should have mentioned; we had an Expression teacher which probably today would be called a Reading Technician. And I was allowed to take that I believe in the fifth grade. And it was wonderful; I had done really--really well and so they picked just a few to take the Expression and we were in a lot of plays in the school. And I can remember being Lorraine, carrying the watering can and still carrying the watering can and a cape and then we had Art masterpieces and we had to pose like the portrait and I was Miss Holland and I had flowers--was holding--holding flowers in each hand and the
Dutch. And I was--and I can't remember what the masterpiece was but it was--.
And some of them were--?
It wasn't a Van Gogh I don't think.
Yes; but they were such rewarding things and particularly for a child that was raised in the country because when I was going to school in the elementary grades I was sort of not one of the in-people because I was from the country and if you were from the country you were just not in the crowd--main crowd in town.
That's--that's funny. That still exists you know.
These things meant so much to me and speaking of the people that went to school with me, they--they were wonderful people. We had--they went home for lunch. I had one friend that ate lunch out under the tree. Of course there were no lunch rooms of any kind and so she and I would eat out under the tree every day and would play marbles. And we played the kind, the three-hole marbles and the kind with the circles on them but we liked the three-hole because we could take a hand spin and shoot. But one interesting thing, my second grade teacher was one that married the newspaper editor here. And it was so funny because we would go out to take exercise you know and formation and so we always went near lunchtime because Mr. Whichard got off from the paper and went home for lunch and so when we were out taking exercise and he'd come back she'd wave. And we thought that was so funny because her boyfriend came by every time we took Physical Ed outside.
Of course it was called Exercise then.
Now where--I know where the old Greenville High School--where would you have done exercises?
Out in--right at Fourth Street there's a big ravine there on the corner by St. Paul's Church.
It is St. Paul's and that's where we used to take exercise down in the ravine. Now if it rained it was the biggest mess you ever saw.
Yeah; I'll bet.
So that was our exercise place and then if it rained we had to--we had of course the small gym or place where we had our assembly, so if it rained we had to go in there and get our exercises there. And we wore black bloomers and white tops and--had to take them home and get them washed and all that kind of thing. We had lockers just like I guess they do still now.
Well was there a uniform? Is that what you just said--there was--?
We wore that when we took gym; yeah.
Oh okay; hmm. Wow.
And we hated that because it meant coming in and getting re-dressed and maybe the--a class or two after that, so it was--that part we didn't like very much.
Yeah; yeah did--let me ask--now what--the University, the campus at East Carolina, East Carolina Teachers College, the University--these yearbooks have really great pictures. You know it was really sparse you know. There were like--like for example Wright Auditorium, there weren't a lot of other buildings around it. What do you remember--do you remember walking across campus or--?
I certainly do--hoping I'd make the next class before the bell rang. And it was a good ways you know from the Library all the way up to Wilson and the Austin Building. We had our classes in the Austin Building mostly.
That was a pretty building.
And of course a lot of them were upstairs and so you'd come back from the Library and walk across to the Austin Building and go upstairs.
Yeah; I think that's Wright?
Yeah; there's a picture behind her--.
Now this--this was to the left where the beautiful new building is for the--is it Art--no Sciences--Business and Science, the new one that was built near the entrance.
Because okay I've always wondered because here is a lake and here's this bridge.
Yeah; and that was all down on the west end which would be down where the new entrance and the new buildings--all that end.
So at one point that would seem to be a lake I guess.
Yes; and it--it--they had some beautiful flowers down there and my mother talked about one of the best times she ever had they had a vesper service in the evening and she could get there and it was so beautiful. Now she lived over there when she was there and they were allowed to use the Parlor in one of the halls if they got special permission and they had to use the Parlor if they had a date. So and of course when she went over there you had to wear hats. When I went over there you wore dress clothes or I wore dress clothes which is what the girls all wore--no slacks, no jeans, none of that, but it was--it was a beautiful area on that end of the building
and that's I'm sure where that was.
Do--do you recall that having a name--a specific name or area?
Yes; and I can't remember what it was.
It shows up in a lot of these books but I never knew where it was.
Uh-huh; I can't remember what it was called. But of course it was very natural beauty because they just--and as far as this is concerned, you see I didn't live there.
Yeah; you weren't on campus.
But my mother would have probably been using the Parlor if my daddy came.
Oh okay I got it, the Parlor and like the lobby--the lobby of the--okay; I got it.
Uh-hm; let's see if there's anything--of course that was where our classes were in the Austin Building. Dr. Wright was a wonderful--that was who was there when my mother went and he was there when I first went but Dr. Meadows came in.
Now you--were you in the Poe Society?
That is to the best of my knowledge because I know that I was in one but like I say if you're not available to go to the meetings it's sketchy what you remember. There was--it was not as important to me as the Music at the time.
Yeah; I know I can--
I always wanted to be there.
Let's see; did you go to any athletics events?
None at ECU; now I went to some of the--our football team at Greenville High School was just beginning and I went to one or two of those but that is all.
You can see there's no--there's no fields you know.
No, none of that. Things were just beginning along that land. Dr. Wright had started the YWCA.
What year is this? And see I wasn't even available for pictures most of the time.
That's really pretty.
You know they got rid of the fountain. The fountain doesn't exist anymore.
See that picture is in front of Wright Auditorium.
But I don't see myself in this because a lot of times when they took pictures I wasn't able to be there.
Yeah; and I--I can understand that for sure. Now see--I'm going to see if I can find one of these societies.
It's amazing how few things I seem to be doing.
This--this is the--oh sorry.
I was just wondering; I never found myself in here and I don't remember this at all.
This--this is the--the yearbook when you graduated--1936, so here is--
--I was just going to show you I mean I know you have a copy too but--yeah. And let's see; let's just see if there is anything--how about you--what do you remember about meeting other people? You know you would have met girls from all over the--.
Oh I met--met so many people and I was so fortunate because I had a friend down
in Trenton--they lived beyond Kinston who asked me to sing in her wedding and I went down and spent several days with her family and sang for her wedding and then I have a friend up in--near Raleigh who lived near Raleigh and she asked me to come and visit with her and then so many friends in Greenville. I was very fortunate; I had lots of friends when I was there. I liked a lot of people and at the--when we went back for our alumni meetings there would be people who came in and every year we sat together at the alumni luncheons and that made it really nice.
And they were educators also which we had lots to talk about.
Oh yeah; yeah, a good social network.
Yes; yes. I would have probably had a lot more had I lived in the college but I couldn't have afforded that.
Yeah; no you're fortunate to have what you did. I was just seeing if any of this looked familiar. There was a--this is Emerson--another one of these groups and there's--
Did you remember the Emerson Group?
Oh yes; yes.
I mean here's a song and then there's--a Poe I think--.
Yes; yes we sang that but I can't remember the tune at this time.
No chance of you singing it?
I'm afraid not.
Okay; that's no problem. I was just curious.
I'm afraid not; my--and of course with the loss of hearing it's been hard for me to
keep up with music.
Oh sure, sure; what--what--let's see.
I needed no help in enrolling in East Carolina Teachers College because I had lived in Greenville or near Greenville and the College had so much interaction with the community that I felt at home going to college. Many of my friends whom I had attended high school with were going to college and so I needed no help as far as enrolling or getting into the school itself. My aunt helped me pay the tuition; my father of course supplied the rest and so there were no problems as far as enrolling and I had no fear of things like that. I felt pretty much at home. We would go in and there would be tables and we'd go over and enroll and they'd tell us well you go to the next table and you can enroll in the Sciences and the Math(s) and that kind of thing. And of course they had a curriculum all set up for teachers who were just getting normal professional, and you knew exactly what your classes would be and that you would be able to take Art if--so much Art and so much Music to add to that. And they were both wonderful because everything that I took over there I used in my work. And I felt like I really was capable by having the whole curriculum that they had set out for us; I was able to use that to structure my own because we had no aids or any outside teachers that came in. No one to teach Physical Ed; no one to teach Art or Music--we had a Music teacher within each school who would take them for an hour a week. And then the rest of the time we did what was needed. We had our own Physical Ed set up and I must say that when Kennedy came out with his programs that--that made a--a great set up for us to go by because we had requirements that had to be met for that like in the fourth grade they would have to do a 50-yard run, 100-yard, so many tumbling events, and we also would umpire the baseball. We didn't have basketball usually because it was hard to be in the gym a lot of
times and you remember this was during War times too before then and so we taught the Physical Ed. And the funny part was that we needed bases for baseball so my friend in Virginia Beach and I covered the telephone books with cloth so you'd go out and they'd put down the bases and they were telephone books and they worked just great. So we'd bring them in after the class and something that I was so proud of; one of my classes was one of the first at Virginia Beach to take swimming. I had swum in Tar River all my life; my dad taught me how to swim and after we worked in tobacco we'd go down and jump in Tar River. It was clean at that time and we thought that was wonderful. So when we took swimming my children--we had 21 that their parents gave permission to take swimming and they drove us on the school bus down to the YWCA in Norfolk and so 21 kids learned to swim, so we would have a big headline in the Norfolk Ledger Dispatch one teacher, 21 students were given their beginner swimming certificates by the Red Cross.
Wow; that's impressive.
So that was so wonderful to me at that time.
And that would have been during the War time--1940s?
I was teaching at Larkspur; that was probably during the '50s, but probably the early '50s.
Yeah; that's impressive.
Yeah; it was to us anyway.
Yeah; yeah, no, definitely I mean now days you couldn't do that. You just couldn't.
I know; no the--
I mean you know I--it's--
But that was just so wonderful for us.
Wow; now--now you--
We had during my teaching career I'd like to add two things. We had a fire that burned out one of the buildings which had been a Wartime building and there were six classes in that building because the ones that ruined there were so many students of government people that lived there and so they had to put them in big annexes that they had used for War utilities and so we were out in that annex and it burned. And so we had to take our children, they bused in each morning; then they had to get on another bus with books, lunches, so on, go out, cross Virginia Beach Boulevard and go into another school so that they could finish out the year.
Then we had a flood in our new school in which I taught. It rained seven inches and--
--but there were 13 cars sitting in front of the building and the water was up to the steering wheel because it was sort of a ravine. So they called in an Army Duck from Fort Story--that's you know one of the big military--that they carry troops on and came into the school to get us out--about 8 o'clock that night. So I say I've been through fire and flood.
Oh yeah; yeah.
And Wartime--during the War we were in shifts. We had children coming in from 8:00 to 12:00 and then another coming in from 1:00 to 4:00 and so we alternated of course.
Now why would you do that?
That was elementary school and--and buses, there were not enough buses of course so we had to have shifts of buses that came in and out and it was--it was quite a challenge. We'd have bus duty for students--lines--lines--lines--.
Tell them about Trenton when you--when the War broke out you were teaching in Trenton?
No; I was teaching in Bridgeton.
Yes; I was teaching in Bridgeton near Newbern and it was across the bridge and we had the one end that they were putting troops on the bridge to guard it because they had heard there could be enemies coming into the Neuse River. And so we had the warning and that was the only time I think I've ever been really afraid of something in my life; it was to go across that bridge to teach over in Bridgeton. But they didn't--it was safe.
So you lived in Newbern at that time?
I lived I Newbern from 1940 until about 1942 because you see the War broke out and my husband had to go into war work so I had the little boy and that would have been about the time that we had to move.
I mean New Bern back then would have been a nice little town. Did you like living in New Bern at that time?
Oh yes; it was a beautiful place to live and we only lived a block from the Neuse River and in fact the New Bern waterfront was only a block away and so it was a wonderful place to walk in the evenings and with a stroller particularly.
Oh yeah; now what--tell me when did you--how did you find out about Pearl Harbor? Can you tell me that?
We were sitting in our living room on Sunday; we had--had lunch and my son was in the playpen and we were listening to the radio. There was no TV or anything but we did have
a radio. And it came over and it was--it was just so stunning and I regret so much that they don't show that more often because it was so horrible for this country. They can't realize now how it would be to have an invasion of your own country.
Do you recall--did you know what Pearl Harbor was?
December 7th, 1941.
Yeah; did you know what Pearl Harbor was?
Oh yes; oh yes I knew what it was--it was a Naval Base in Hawaii. I knew what it was.
Yeah; but I mean it--
It was so stunning to us because you think about it; things had become better. The Depression was easing out; life was getting sort of good.
And you were--well plus at that you were young. I mean you know you were ready you know--starting a career and kind of an exciting time in your life.
My husband was working in the furniture business. My uncle had a furniture business in Newbern and he was working there; in fact my uncle married his aunt and I went to visit my uncle and so she was keeping a chicken in a chicken coop in the backyard. They didn't buy them from a grocery store; they bought them from a farmer and kept them until they decided they wanted to have chicken for dinner. Well she decided she'd have a chicken for us since we were visiting. So she called her nephew around to kill the chicken. Well he came--same age I was and killed the chicken. I was 14 at the time. He cut his hand really bad so they blamed it on me. But anyway he called and asked me would I like to walk down by the river that evening and I said well sure. Of course I had to get permission; my dad was there. So we walked down to the
river and he came by. He had on a navy blue blazer and white slacks and white buck shoes and he was a good looking guy; believe me and I just went duh.
And so we started--that's how we started dating and of course he didn't have a car so we saw each other off and on. And one time when I was teaching my first job I went to the dance over at ECU with the Principal. Well now he had another girlfriend also, but we decided we'd go to the dance over at ECU. So we went; well he had come over unexpectedly--brought a bunch of guys with him that knew girls at ECU formally and discovered that I wasn't where I was supposed to be. So he didn't speak for several months; so on my birthday after that I got this beautiful gift package of Evening in Paris cosmetics and it had his card in it--nothing else--just the card. So of course we got back together again.
Wow; did he--now would he write letters to you?
Did he write letters?
Wow; you know people don't write letters like that anymore.
And we got real upset if we didn't get one that day. And of course with nothing much going on you didn't have a whole lot to write but still that letter was that important every day and he came over in some trying times. His father had a big Studebaker with a wheel on each side and so when he came we'd ride by the college and I'd wave and some of my friends would be out and walking downtown. And that was just so nice. One time he brought a bunch of boys over here and it snowed. That road was dirt to my house; he got that thing stuck down in the snow and couldn't get out. He had to stay at my house and they had to stay wherever they were. And sometimes he got stuck coming in from another direction. But he usually went by Fifth
Street because there was a filling station there, Rivers, and it still is there on Fifth Street.
You know when you come down--you pass the College now coming out this way [Gestures]? There's a filling station there on the left--old station and it's still there on the corner.
That was the one--
Oh yeah; that does look old. The land might be gone.
Uh-huh; that's it.
And he used to stop there and freshen up and comb his hair.
Wow; that's cool. Now what--what was your husband's name?
George Leonard Mann.
Yes; and we were married for 52 years.
Wow; that's a long time. That's a lifetime.
Wow; you miss him?
He was a family man; he was always there just like my father was always there. And my father was strict but you know I think about it--that was because he cared so much about me. And that's what we need now.
Yeah; I know.
It was the family, the structure, being there at dinnertime and my husband was the
same way. He was always there. So whether they liked the rules and regulations it was evidently the right thing to do.
Yeah; no I can--I agree with that you know and that's just how things have changed so much you know. There's so much going on and it's--it's just crazy to keep up with everything and just--.
It certainly is and when you have lived 92 years and see how different it is now, I try not to be so structured and so narrow getting old. I try to keep my mind open and my grandchildren have helped me to do that because I hear all about what they are doing and they keep me up on the latest way to talk and things of that kind and what different terms mean that--. Just like my husband asked me to go get a dope; well now to go get a coke--and now that means something entirely different. [Laughs] So see they keep me up on all the new things and I try not to be so narrow.
That's good; that's--well I mean education helps a lot, reading and being accepting. Those are really, really good values.
Reading a lot.
Oh reading was my life always and I never had a problem with that. In fact one of my greatest things in first grade, I was at the top of my class and I know it was because my folks read and read lots of stories and things to me and so that was why I was picked for one to be able to take Expression in the fifth grade and be in programs because of that very thing. So it's so important.
Yeah; that--that reading I think really helps being open you know accepting. I think that was a really good--that's a very good trait for value--it's a good value.
And you have to look for the good in things instead of always looking for the worst and the news is so gloomy and so depressing and you've got to remember there's so much good to look for. This country is the best in the world for people who volunteer. They give their time and what they've got. In fact that is astounding to me because when I was growing up my folks helped anybody that lived nearby, took them to the doctor, gave them food; lots of times my folks would just slip a bill if they had it in somebody's hand when they shook hands and knew they were struggling. But now it's so far-reaching. There--there will be a group for this disability, a group for that disability, and people really are if you look for the good stuff--people really are wonderful volunteering just like at Greenville. So many things that people help; of course we weren't--we didn't have the money to do a lot that we would have love to have done but that isn't the important thing with the child. It's just like my grandson used to come and visit me in the summer and my husband would--when he retired he did woodworking. It was his hobby. He was an electronics supervisor but he built that hutch there in his spare time. And most of the furniture that we have and it's so important to--to know how to take care of yourself and so many people now are so dependent--go on government--and I don't--I wish we weren't so quite dependent on everything because even the school--. See when I was coming up the government had nothing to do with Greenville schools.
Hmm; yeah that's a good point. That's a different perspective.
Uh-huh; but of course when we were in Virginia the government paid part of my own children's tuition because schools were so crowded that the government had to step in to help the schools who were struggling to give an education to government children.
Yeah; well that was a big Navy base too.
During the War and all.
Navy presence; now you have two grandchildren that graduated from--?
Right over there.
From East--what were their names?
Amy Ann Edwards; she was in honors and of course she won awards for Latin and--
I took Latin.
Yes; and languages and she is an attorney now. And my grandson graduated; he took Psychology which he was said no good for anything but for him [Laughs] but he is a Service Manager for a plumbing company here and loves it because he had trouble sitting still a whole lot and it gives him activity and he likes it.
Loves working with copper and things like that. So he says he's glad that he went but he was sort of tired of studying because he has dyslexia. And I told my daughter the other day; he must have really worked everything he had to give in college because reading still is a struggle.
Yeah; well that's--that's changed a lot too just how people accept it.
Uh-huh; but he had really planned to go into the nursing field and he was put on alternate that year that he graduated and he kept waiting and waiting and so he felt like he had to make some money so he went into that. And my brother went on the GI Bill.
That's Edmond Boyd.
He went to ECU on a GI Bill after he came out of the Service, so--
Wow; you have a whole family.
A lot of--that's good, a lot of extended family?
That--a couple more quick things. I was just thinking about--you showed me earlier you had a check of when you went--just happened to have a check of when you were a teacher I think?
Yeah; your paycheck.
I don't know where it is--somewhere back here.
Uh-huh; it's in here I think. But it would be back--no; that was the first car I bought from John Flannigan Buggy Company and I paid $25 a month out of my salary.
I don't think it's back here.
Where would it be?
Got to be here because I showed it to him.
Okay; maybe it's sticking together.
[Laughs]It was $89.
Must be further back; we just don't--
There we go.
Okay; now this is one of your first paychecks?
No; that's not my first one. That was just one of them.
Did you teach in Chicod?
Yes; I did. I taught at a little school called Hollywood out near Chicod but it was under Chicod. Mr Pugh was County Superintendent and he was wonderful.
That-that Chicod School is a really pretty building. I mean it's still there; I don't know if this school was but the one--the Chicod Building.
Uh-huh; the building--the main building is still there.
Yeah; it's kind of a pretty building. I mean it's old you know; it's just out there and it's--it's--
I was in--I was in a little--actually it had been a former house that was probably used for a church or something and it was made into a little school because the main building was full. And so these were just third and fourth grades that were out away from the school and we built a fire every morning in the stove.
Wow; they wouldn't do that now-days.
[Laughs]there were two of us and we taught a combination that year--third and fourth. She taught first and second I believe; maybe I got that a little wrong. I believe she taught first, second; I taught third and fourth and the rest of the main school was from there on up.
Wow; well did--is there anything else that you can think of? Do you want to look through your notes?
You asked a question I believe--did you have any fear or pressures in school? My only fear was that gymnastics class. And I made up for that; my father was very strict and I did not have a way to go to things. That was probably the only pressure that I would have felt. I felt
somewhat as an outsider but most day students did not feel outside I don't think. We had--one thing I forgot to tell you about high school; we had relay races from Greenville to Washington. And the boys would run a relay--no girls and stuff like this.
They would run it all the way from Greenville--?
To Washington--and they would run a certain distance and then of course take over down the highway. And so you were just lucky--I was lucky enough to ride with a group from Simpson. A guy down there had a car, so his daddy's car, and so we rode down and saw the boys run the relay to Washington and that was a big deal.
Yeah; I've never heard of that. Would--would they have run the Pactolas Highway or would it have been the other one?
No; this is the Highway 33 from Greenville to Washington. Pactolas Highway was built later; I mean it was made into four lanes later.
It was probably dirt and all that too.
But that was very exciting. I believe Greenville won. [Laughs]
I mean that's--that's a lot of people--that's a lot of ways for--30 miles to run, wow.
Now of course the guys would run that and think nothing. What is it--a marathon? I had it in the crossword puzzles through 23 the other day--23 miles.
She works the crossword puzzle every night.
In a marathon now.
Every night she does the crossword puzzle in the paper.
And she always gets it.
Well I just love that; I enjoy that a lot. It's interesting to me.
Yeah; yeah well it's a lot of good trivial type stuff too, you know it keeps the mind sharp.
But now see when I was growing up you did everything. We--I worked in the tobacco every summer; we worked--had a garden. We had other crops besides that had to be chopped out. You learned--you did the ironing because you didn't have wash and wear and things that you could take out in the sun. They would wrinkle and you had to iron sheets, pillow case, the whole works, so you ironed at least two hours. And then of course I learned to cook everything my mother cooked and so you had sort of a well-rounded education in itself.
I can see that. That--that's definitely taken for granted today.
Tell him how you washed clothes; tell them how you washed clothes.
My mother had three tubs outside; well the wash pot--I got a wash pot just like it right here up in the building and of course you had to build the fire and get the water really scalding hot because the clothes boiled and you put them in the boiling pot with the suds. There was a stick that you stirred it with. And then after you took them out, she took them out with a stick, and put them in the first rinse water and then in the second tub and then wrung them out with your hands and hung them on the clothes line to try, so that's the way we washed every week.
And you would do it once a week?
And then I mean to iron all that; that takes not--not just 20 minutes it's done; it's
Well see that was the main thing besides all the field work that had to be done--vegetables to be gathered and washed. The fish man came around usually once or twice a week and on the fish truck he sold ice. So you bought some ice and had tea for two or three days and that was so good. And of course we'd get fish, usually butter fish or whatever he had--shad, like the Shad Festival over here. And one time my mother laid the fish down. She always cleaned them outside under this big tree. And a cat came and got the fish and drug it under the house, so my mother went in and got our gun and started shooting under the house. [Laughs] And the cat did leave it so she got the fish back.
Oh really; she got the fish from under the house? And you didn't waste anything, huh?
But we looked forward to that; sometimes he'd have a few things like candy or cookies or cakes and a few vegetables in case there was something that we didn't already have. And we had a filling station out here where we'd come and get drinks once in a while. And I remember we laughed so much about this little boy in the neighborhood that came out to the filling station with an egg and he wanted to buy an egg's worth of ice. And the man got him a chunk of ice to carry home for that egg. Now that's how hard things were--to come to the filling station and get a drink and a piece of cheese and a cookie was a real treat, because of course my mother cooked vegetables at home. My father raised pigs and he killed those each year, so had to do that in the cool weather time when it was maybe 35 or 40-degrees. And when you cut up fat and make sausage and grind meat outside it's a cold job.
But we put all the fat in this big wash pot, the same one we'd wash the clothes in and boil that out to get the lard and it left the barbeque cracklings that you buy at the grocery store and they were just as good as they are now.
The pig skin yeah.
So that was the way we grew up; we had plenty to eat. And of course we didn't hear everything was bad to eat, so we didn't think about it. We just had our meals and we didn't think about food all the time. Now it seems like you're bombarded all the time with all the foods--the good, bad, indifferent and so on, so--.
Yeah; that's true. Well everything is processed and everything is quick, quick, quick now you know.
Right; and my mother made soap. She took the lard from the pigs and box lye and combined those and made the soap to wash clothes with. She cut that into chunks and it stayed in the smokehouse where all the meat was during the winter and of course my father had to salt it and smoke it and hang it in the smokehouse. We had chickens and a garden; we put sweet potatoes in a bank of dirt and put pine straw so that took care of the sweet potatoes during the winter season and sometimes we'd come home after school and get a sweet potato and peel it and eat it raw. It was good.
Wow; yeah--yeah that's something. No; yeah that's neat. You don't--that's a whole education like you said in itself, you know.
And of course I started driving a little bit, so my daddy would let me take our car every now and then. He had an overland Ford--Overland Ford excuse me because it had four
cylinders and the water had to be turned out every night. And if I drove it I had to turn the water out.
Now what do you mean?
You had to get underneath the plug, underneath the radiator, turn the water out, put that plug back in and fill it up the next morning or it would freeze and crack the motor.
Yeah; no antifreeze.
Huh; I never thought of that.
So when I'd get the car once in a while in high school my friends would put in 10 or 15-cents and by that time we had the first Ford--no the--the second Ford that was a real change and I can't remember the name of it but the model had completely changed and it was new and it had a gas indicator and it had a zero on it and we joke about that to this day that the zero stayed half-up all the time--call it the sun. So my friends would give 10 or 15-cents and we'd ride out over the river to Dal Cox Filling Station. He had music and you could go over and sit in your car particularly if you had a date; that was the place to go.
Now where was that?
Sit in the car, get your Coke and you know peanuts and so that was a wonderful place to go. They played music.
Where--where was it?
It was just over the Tar River Bridge; of course it was almost the same place that the new one is now and it was over on the right about a half a mile beyond the bridge out--going toward Bethel. And all the young folks would gather out there and listen to music and it was who
had a date that night you know and talk about it the next day. But they'd put in 10 or 15-cents sometimes at school and we'd ride out at lunchtime and ride over there and come back.
Wow; well like music on a radio?
There were no radios in cars.
I mean music on a radio at the gas station?
No; they played records.
Oh records; okay.
Yes; when I was growing up my grandmother, the one over in Brook Valley had a Victrola that one of the tall ones; she had a parlor. And we didn't sit--ever sit in the parlor; we just sat on the front porch or in my grandparents' bedroom--huge bedroom but she had this Victrola and it had only Classical music. So I was allowed to go in and play it and of course that was my wonderful place to get--to play records and listen. And they had--she had a bookcase and it had so many books and I think I read almost everything. That probably is where my beginning for the love of reading because she had some great books and I still have two or three of those that were left after an auction where they were sold--gave one or two to my granddaughter. She loves books and reading as good as I do and she appreciated those too--Poe and old--a lot of the classics and I have a Robert E. Lee book that was one of the first of his books, his letters and several small things that I have but I still love books. I hate to throw one away. The worst--I do give them to the Library or something because they're--I'm a member of a book club too.
So I've enjoyed that through the years when I moved back down here. I had really sort of thought of going back and getting a degree. And my mother we were looking after her
and we moved back down here and my husband never lived on a farm before and we sort of got tied up in looking after her and then looking after everything else. So I never really got back to getting a degree but I think about--nearly every teacher that I ever taught with had a degree much higher than I did. I don't know; Virginia Beach no one ever pressured me about going back but I stayed in Continuing Education. Every summer I would go back for Continuing Education somewhere. For several weeks I took some correspondence; the year that we went into the new Math though the modern Binary Math was the summer that my husband jumped in and helped me because he had it at the Naval Air Station. They used Binary in some of the Math that had to do with Electronics and of course it was a new start for Math which really didn't work out. They found out it just--they couldn't teach it in Elementary Education. And so anyway that was a summer I had to get help from him--not only from the teacher but that was really very hard for me at that time. But he helped me and we put it into place but they--they didn't keep it up because they thought it wasn't being successful. You still have to go back and do those old multiplication tables and I had records that were--for my kids--that and I know now were bop almost--be-bop because they had so much rhythm with the multiplication tables and I used those to--as a teaching aid and they--they loved that. And if you don't get those roots and those basic things instilled I don't know how you get along; of course you've got spell check and all those things on computers but to me you still need to have that basic training.
Oh yeah definitely; do you--do you know how to use a computer?
That's not my fault. My granddaughter, she and my grandson have offered to teach me about the computer and somehow--well one thing I study a lot during the week on my Sunday school teaching and you know your eyes and I have to do closed caption and I read all
the time at looking at closed caption and stuff on TV and you know things get kind of tired. I have implants; I don't even wear glasses but still they get you know tired, so--.
It is--I was just curious; it does take a lot out, yeah.
If I need something done on TV, I--. [Laughs]
No; I was just curious.
Well and too, I have a--something--I don't want to bank on computer and put my personal--nobody is interested and I don't have that much but somehow I just like some things to be private, so I'm very careful about credit cards. In fact I've never had one until I was 75 and my husband and I were going out West and we paid as we went for everything. We built this house; paid as we went. He did the--actually the electrical stuff; we laid the floors; did the--anything except main brick work and roofing. But we never did buy stuff we couldn't afford--ever.
No; that's what people get in trouble with for sure.
Yes; and I knew when they started this credit line on your house because to me to put a mortgage on your--the last thing that you've got to live in is the silliest thing I've ever heard unless someone is so ill that you have to do that. And when they started doing that I thought somebody is going to really be in trouble here because you don't go buy boats and extra cars and stuff and put a mortgage on your house and that's what they were for. Most people were getting things they really didn't need and putting a mortgage on and that's what it is. See bankruptcy when I was growing up was almost disgraceful. I mean you whispered about it if anyone went into bankruptcy. Now they do it to get out of paying debts and of course then if a person went bankrupt they tried to pay back what they owed everybody even though they had
Yeah; it's like an easy way out or--not that it's easy but--. Well I really have enjoyed--I've really enjoyed talking to you this afternoon and you've been--you got a lot of good energy and a lot of vitality and it's been a real pleasure. The University--on behalf of the University they're really going to you know--it's going to be in the archives--will be your interview. You will get a copy like I said.
Oh that's wonderful. My granddaughter interviewed a friend of mine when she was over at the University and he was quite a character. He had taught in Pitt County too. He lived in the old Proctor Hotel down by the Courthouse. It's a big building on the corner.
And he lived there and worked his way through school. And he had teachers over at the College that would come by to see if he was living okay in a hotel. And they wanted to make sure I guess that he wasn't compromised or something but he was quite a character and he cooked. So Western Sizzler used to be out here on the highway. And he cooked for Western Sizzler when he was--
In his 80s.
--in his 80s and he also cooked for our church. And he was just such a character. He was talking about one day getting a turkey in the sink or something over there. I thought good heavens it doesn't sound so good to me but--.
What was his name?
He was a sight [Laughs] but he was really funny and she enjoyed interviewing him
so I hope maybe I've been some help.
Oh yeah; definitely. This is--I mean you're really prepared. You got a great array of you know treasures I guess and it's been--.
I have a friend that's being interviewed. She's in my book club, Marguerite Perry that taught over there so long. I think she's one of the teachers that taught the longest. She was--she taught English I know; I'm not sure about French. I think she taught French too but it was Languages anyway and I went to an alumni meeting where they were honoring her several years ago and the girls were talking about how much she helped them in things that they needed help like their own mother and of course she lived I think in the dorm at that time along with them. And they were--they were so appreciative of the way that--that she sort of took over in place of them being at home. So I thought that was such a--a good thing for them to say and they have written of course tributes to her which was so nice. So it ought to be interesting with all the characters--. [Laughs]
Well now you--you shared a lot of odd things; it's just not as much--you know I mean you--you talked about a lot of different aspects you know. Not--it wasn't just you know question by question; you know like going to the--across the River to Dal's Service Station, you know. I mean I had never heard of that.
Dal Cox's Station that will ring a bell with a lot of people around Greenville I can tell you. And to think about of course it was getting into the Big Band music which all of us loved so much and to be able to go have a place to go and sit in your car and have a drink and--so innocent you know.
Yeah; that--that was--I think that definitely is conveyed through the interview.
[End Mary Boyd Mann Interview]