Yvonne Roberson Cobourn oral history


Yvonne R. Cobourn


Alston Cobourn

East Carolina University


February 23, 2019

AC: Hello, I'm Alston Cobourn. Today is February 23, 2019 and I will be interviewing Yvonne Cobourn about her time as a student at East Carolina University. So first Yvonne, could you please introduce yourself and tell us when and where you were born.

YC: My name is Yvonne Roberson Cobourn and I was born May 6, 1956 in my grandmother's house in Martin County.

AC: Okay, so which years were you a student at ECU?

YC: I began in '75 or '76 until '79. (0:51)

AC: Okay, and so what degrees did you earn from ECU?

YC: Earned a bachelor of science in special education.

AC: Okay, so what made you end up deciding to go to school there?

YC: I failed to mention that I went to Martin Community College my first year and everything I took went towards credits to transfer. So, I had planned on going there anyways because it was the closest university to where I lived at the time.

AC: Gotcha. Okay, and while you were there, where did you live? Did you start on - in a dorm on campus? (1:41)

YC: No, I -

AC: Or were you living at home?

YC: I lived at home for a real short period and then someone told me a good bulletin board to look on. And that's where a lot of people left messages, especially looking for roommates. So I saw one with two girls, named Carolyn and Kathy, and I - and their phone number - and I called them. So they lived in an apartment, I believe it was called "River Bluff" and I lived there for a while.

AC: Okay.

YC: A few years.

AC: Sounds good, were there any -

YC: And then I moved to another place [unclear] (2:27)

AC: Yeah, still near campus?

YC: Mmhmm, it was more - actually more towards downtown the one house that was behind the "Crow's Nest."

AC: Okay. Actually, can you tell me what the "Crow's Nest" was? Because I don't know.

YC: Oh, it was a restaurant.

[At 2:47, the interview is briefly interrupted to silence the background noise. Resumes at 2:50]

AC: Okay, it was a restaurant?

YC: It was a restaurant where. it was open. it was probably the only restaurant open after the bars closed, so you could still get food there till about 2 or 3 in the morning. Everybody went to the "Crow's Nest." (3:09)

AC: Okay, that's good to know. I'll have to look up where that was. So you said you were studying special education, could you tell me a bit more about what that entailed? You know, what buildings you attended classes in, what sorts of things you were doing in your classes?

YC: I believe it's the education building where the special education classes were. But before I declared that major I had thought I had wanted to be a nurse and so I had taken a few chemistry classes, and so I don't remember what building that was in. But when I changed to special education, most of the classes - except for maybe psychology - might have been in a different building. I really can't remember. Except for the art building, I can remember that best because that was. Oh, and I forgot to mention with a minor in weaving. They were really strong in the art department and weaving at the time went as far as a major. So I spent a lot of time in the art department and that building, of course, is the one where all the art. (4:40)

AC: Yeah.

YC: Classes and lectures were.

AC: Weaving?

YC: Mmhmm, like on a loom.

AC: So is there anything else.

[Crosstalk at 4:49]

YC: They had a lot of floor looms.

AC: . about that you can tell me?

[End crosstalk]

YC: That it was just very very interesting and fun.

[Crosstalk at 4:56]

YC: It's like meditation.

AC: Did you do studio classes? (4:59)

[End crosstalk]

YC: Yeah, yeah. And I mean, they had several looms. Like really huge rooms where there would be two or three floor looms. And then there was small projects you could do, I can't remember what the pieces are anymore. the ladder and the weaving thing that you can hold. But I mostly worked on the big machine because I liked to make bigger pieces.

AC: Do you still have any of those pieces that you made?

YC: Possibly

AC: I'm just curious. Okay.

YC: Possibly.

AC: Okay.

YC: They'd be tucked away somewhere probably far away.

AC: Right.

YC: Because I never look in there anymore.

AC: Right. (5:37)

YC: I made a pocketbook and a few other things.

AC: Mmhmm, did you do any shows of your work?

YC: No.

[Crosstalk at 5:47]

YC: . Because I was just a minor in it, so I was just taking, you know, just a class here and there.

AC: Were they ever in something?

[End crosstalk]

AC: Okay. And, for your special ed studies, did you work with students? Did you do student teaching?

YC: Mmhmm. Yeah, there was a place called "TEACHH" - it was like the letters T. E. A. and it stood for. something else. But I did some work there like that last year before you start student teaching. And I believe that was like the beginning of hearing about autism, that was the first children that really were diagnosed and given a - I hate to say label - but a description of, you know, what their problems are. (6:32)

AC: Right.

YC: Seemed like they had quite a few there. And from there I worked and it seemed to happen more with autistic children than any other handicap in particular.

AC: Interesting.

YC: Though I've worked with all ranges - from severe to mild.

AC: Mmhmm [affirmative], okay. Are there other places on campus that you really remember spending time at? Like the mall or student union or, I don't know, a dorm? It could be -

YC: In a newspaper office, but I have no idea where that would be.

AC: Like the campus newspaper?

YC: Mmhmm [affirmative], because I did just a few hours of volunteering in there, maybe every month. But I liked the smell of it and the energy and all that. So I remember that part. And of course the art building because that was a good place to just wander around and look at what other people were doing. (7:34)

AC: Right.

YC: And then downtown the "Attic" to see music or hear music.

AC: Yeah

[Crosstalk at 7:42]

YC: [Unclear] and performances.

AC: Yeah that is actually - that is something I was going to ask you

[End crosstalk]

AC: What else did you like to do for entertainment? So you like to go see music downtown?

YC: Mmhmm [affirmative]. And they had a lot - well, I wouldn't say a lot but back then maybe three or four different clubs that had live music, but the "Attic" always had music that I liked to listen to because there was also disco bars, but I didn't go in those. (8:09)

AC: Right. What kinds of things did they usually have at the "Attic"? More rock?

YC: Mmhmm [affirmative], yeah.

AC: Okay.

YC: And there was some jazz-fusion too, there was some band - they were called the "Dixie Dregs" and I believe they're still around. But it was sort of like jazz-fusion with rock n roll, and it was pretty cool. So they were always like - they had the leading whatever was going around, where the other clubs probably - not knocking this - but had more locals

AC: Right, I gotcha. Yeah. Were there times - Do you remember seeing music on campus at events?

YC: It seems like there was a few, but I can vaguely remember it. And it was around like maybe St. Patrick's Day there may have been like a parade or. you know, I remember some events, but it was a long time ago. (9:10)

AC: Yes, were you involved in any other student groups on campus?

YC: I worked with - I believe it was at the Democratic Convention like preparation-thing for one season. The newspaper, volunteering and -

AC: What did you do with the newspaper?

YC: Edited, like proofread.

AC: Okay.

YC: Cause I was always been a fickler about words spelled right so that seemed right for me. And then I had class - I mean not classes, but work programs that I did on campus, like each semester. And the art library was one, I believe I worked there for a year or two semesters. And then the Geology department for two years and I can't - there was one other place I worked on campus but I don't remember where it was. (10:17)

AC: What did you do at the art library?

YC: Helped catalog, it was sort of like everything was just out, there wasn't any order and there was - they rented out, well not really rented out, but loaned out instruments too. So it was not just books, but [unclear]

AC: Was it the music library?

YC: Mmhmm [affirmative]

AC: So it was the music library.

YC: It was the music library

AC: Okay, okay.

YC: Right, and I don't know if that's even still there.

AC: It is, it is. (10:49)

YC: Well good, and anyway, it was sorta getting at organizing because, like I said, they had the instruments and then music - there was albums for loan so you know, it was a lot of media and. And helping students because there was - must have been a lot of that were music majors.

AC: Right, what did you do when you worked in the Geology department?

YC: I worked with Dr. Stephen Riggs - I hope that his first name is right.

AC: Yeah, I think it is.

YC: He's still there I think, I'm not sure if he's retired.

AC: He retired.

YC: Oh he did?

AC: Yeah, a few years ago. (11:26)

YC: Oh, but he was wonderful - he was a very intelligent man, but he had a. He had this huge closet that was like right off his office and he wanted to use that closet for a library. Well, he needed one because there was books just stacked around the perimeter of the room, you know, and then whatever wall space was left over there was bookshelves. So every - we started moving, or I started moving everything in there, but then I started cataloging pretty quick because we were. I was starting to get overwhelmed by how much was in there, so I tried to get it, you know, organized and write down what he had in there. The other part of the time, I don't know, I remember more of that it seems like it was always to do though with his - with cataloging something. Because I, even back then, I believe he did a lot of consult work, I see him now on PBS every once in a while because he is very knowledgeable about North Carolina.

AC: Right, that's very interesting. So you talked about some. Okay, about student groups and entertainment. Where did you do most of your studying on campus?

YC: I used the library a lot. (12:54)

AC: Joyner Library?

YC: Mmhmm [affirmative], there's good places in there to get some. kinda get away. But my apartment where I lived with my friends, they were [unclear] it was a big enough apartment we each had our own rooms so I could close the door and study in there and that's where I studied a lot too was at home, because I was working - I mean, not only campus jobs but I worked as a waitress at Shoney's, which I'm sure isn't there anymore. And then when the Carolina Opry House opened up, I'd forgotten to mention that in music and events, I was - I worked there. So, that was always night time jobs and more weekends, but I didn't have a lot of spare time really - I was busy.

AC: That's good. Are there any particular events on campus or in Greenville that you remember feeling significant to you? So, you know, maybe something that we would say was state-wide or nationally important? Or maybe just important to campus history? Or maybe just a memory that has always stuck with you? Any of those things. (14:24)

YC: [whispering] Is this where I should mention.?

AC: You can if you want.

YC: The significant event one night was at the "Attic" and listening to a band and then all of a sudden, tear gas was thrown into the front door. I believe they caught the culprit later and there was a stampede, there was only one other door to get out and that was out the back door. And people gasping for air - like a panic. Panic, yeah it was a panic mode.

AC: Makes sense.

YC: So, I remember that happening there. I wish I could think of a really fun thing to say.

AC: Do you remember - Well that is an interesting story, I wonder what inspired that, but.. Do you remember why you were there? What you were there to see that night? Just curious.

YC: Maybe "Molly Hatchet"

AC: Oh yeah? (15:34)

YC: Mmhmm [affirmative], it's so loud that it's hard to tell when someone is trying to tell you something, you might not even - because there's always somebody hollerin something.

AC: Right, do you remember anyone coming to campus, like for an event? Or, like you said you worked with the Democratic Convention some, do you remember when that was held and then candidates coming to campus?

YC: John Edwards, for some reason, seems like he may have been there. Or Mary Edwards - no, his wife. I can't remember her name. Mrs. Edwards. But I'm not sure about that because he was, I think, working in the senate for a while, but I'm not sure. And there's a name, but I can't remember the last name. So, I'm sorry.

AC: That's okay.

YC: I was in the background more.

AC: Right, right. Right, making all the pieces come together. Is there anything I haven't asked you about that you think you'd want to tell me? Any other places in town that you really remember going, maybe to eat.? (16:57)

YC: Yes, there was this place that a lot of students went that didn't have much money, but the thing is: anybody could ate there, it was a restaurant, but because it wasn't downtown a lot of people didn't know about it. I believe it was on Pactolus Highway, but I'm not sure now - Caroline or Cathy may remember, but we went there a lot and it was like, older women that worked there and a cafeteria-type style, like when you came in you just went down the line and told them what you wanted. They made food like a lot of us were used to eating like cabbage, collards, turnip greens, and then you know meat or something and biscuits and some vegetables. So, I mean, it was really great for students because it was so cheap, but it was always home-cooked food. And then I think it washed away in a hurricane or something and they never rebuilt it so - "Venters"? Or something like that, that may have been the name of it and Scott may remember because I believe he ate there before it was gone. (18:11)

AC: Did you eat at the dining hall on campus?

YC: Some, but not very much because I was on and off campus, I mean - I'd go to classes and then I may have to go off - and then I lived pretty close by so I'd go home sometimes to eat and then I'd come back and go to work on campus.

AC: So you didn't ever end up living in a dorm then?

YC: No.

AC: Okay, that's interesting. Well, thank you very much for your time.

YC: You're welcome, and thank you. (18:45)

Yvonne Roberson Cobourn oral history
In this oral history Yvonne Roberson Cobourn discusses her time as a student at East Carolina University in the late 1970s, including her classes and her on and off-campus jobs. At one point she worked with Dr. Steven Riggs. She discusses her life in Greenville, North Carolina including local restaurants and attending musical performances at the Attic nightclub. Interviewer: Alston Cobourn.
February 23, 2019
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