Sweeney: This is James Sweeney of the History Department at Old Dominion University, and today, I'm conducting an oral history interview with Mrs. Grover C. Outland of 5434 Powhatan Avenue in Norfolk. Mrs. Outland has lived in Norfolk for many years and has seen the development and growth of Old Dominion University over the past 40 years. Now the first question, Mrs. Outland, I’d like you to give me some information about yourself, your background, and your life in Norfolk.
Outland: All right. Well,I was Lida Maddox Outland … from Snow Hill, Maryland High School. My favorite sports were horseback riding, tennis … and skating. Then what else you want me to say?
Sweeney: Could you tell me the story that you mentioned before about your grandfather and about the war. I’d like to hear that.
Outland: Oh, my grandfather, oh yeah. Well, listen. My grandfather was a slaveholder. And when the slaves were freed - he was very kind to his slaves – but when the slaves were freed, they cried and begged and prayed that night for him not to send them away. That they couldn’t leave, they didn--they just cried and begged. And it upset the family very much, but they knew that if they let one person stay, they would be put in prison. The owner of them would be put in prison. So, he had to let them go. But that was one of the saddest things that ever happened at the end of slavery. It was not a joy for those poor people who had been there and been fed well and treated kindly, and then were turned out in the cold. They were free, but many were not in the same condition. There were many of them were glad to go--not from his group, but from other groups. But that was a blessing that happened to the South. And even it was so severe that if they kept one slave or contributed to them, they would have been put in prison. And in Virginia Assembly Room hallway, there is a picture of a whole group of color--nigras who were representatives in the Maryland Assembly, instead of the whites. It showed that they really had taken over. And we had many upsets all over the state. Some of them were wrong and some of them were something that couldn't be helped at that time. My grandmother was very devoted to the slaves. She used to go on Sundays and conduct a Christian service to ‘em down in the units. They sang and sang, and it was lots of joy. I heard a lot about all of this from two of my father's oldest sisters. He was a young boy at the time, I think he said he was 11 years old. His two sisters were older and they knew all about it. And when I was quite a girl, they used to tell us all about the conditions. And we even knew the names of many of the old slave people. One of them, who was a slave, came and
died near us years after that. My daddy had her buried, and we made flowers and put on her grave. We were little things, but we wanted to do it.
Sweeney: And this was on the eastern shore of Maryland?
Outland: That was eastern shore of Maryland. Right on the Poc—a branch of the Pocamoke River. And the Pocamoke River went to Snow Hill and carried English freight there years before. And it would go up the oce—go up the river. I don't know how it could it was so crooked, but it was deep. And they went to Snow Hill. And old Snow Hill is one of the oldest towns in the state of Maryland. That was where I graduated high school and that was where I was quarantined when we had small pox, in the city. We had hundreds of people there died with small pox. And we had a pest house. And I had been exposed to the small pox by a little girl I was trying to help get home from school, she was so sick. And so they put me in quarantine for three weeks, but I never had it. The reason I never had it: my mother was--believed in all the things that she heard that was for the best. And when they said, “Vaccinate your children,” two years before that, “before they go to school,” she had us vaccinated. And I had a very severe vaccination, almost lost my arm. It was so terrible. So I had been exposed to small pox twice, and that never been any trouble.
Sweeney: That’s right. Well, you were immune to it.
Outland: I was immune to it. And so I have always believed in vaccinations for things because of that one thing. I graduated from this school in 1903, as a high school. In my class were 10 people. Ten people, three of them were my cousins. One of ‘em was the principal of the school, and he was my cousin. Since I was a little country girl, he didn't know whether I knew all I ought to know or not. So, he used to have me come in a half an hour early every morning, and he’d go over some things with me. But, he soon found out that I could take care of it myself. And when we graduated, I had a very great interest in public speaking as a little girl in church. I thought it was great to get up there and make a little talk. So when they had the gradu--oldest--the top graduate got that opportunity to address the whole graduating assembly and so that came to me. My subject was "Night Brings Out the Stars." My daddy was the one that gave me the idea. He was a great person for taking you out and showing you nature, and telling you about. And he told me about how great the stars were and, as the night came on, how bright they were. And he told us this: that no matter how dark things got, there’d always be a little star that would come out that we could look to. That was why I selected it. And I did get quite an ovation with that speech that night. It was a great honor. And then after that, this same cousin wanted me to go to college. Well, no girls had been going to college, especially if they weren’t but 16 years old. There was one girl in Snow Hill who had gone. So, he came out and talked to my mother and daddy, wanting me to go. So I went to Washington College. And boy—that was Chestertown, Maryland, just off from Baltimore, across the Bay from Baltimore. And it was the most wonderful thing that ever was. Girls could only go there two years, you know. We weren't supposed to be so smart. But there were some wonderful students there and what a wonderful time we had. In taking the program we had to select what we were going to study. Well, I hadn’t thought about it, I didn't know what to study. I lacked one study, so the teacher says, “Come on here now and tell me what you want.” So I picked up dramatic art. I didn't know what dramatic art was. So when--I found out it was reading poets and making speeches, so I did. And so I took that and I had a wonderful teacher. Oh, she was great. And since I was kind of a slender athletic girl and with long brown, light brown hair, when the people from Baltimore came over from the theatres to select a cast for it - they brought lot of their people, but they also selected some of us students.
And so they selected me for the leading lady. And that was Vincent of Old Vincennes, and I was the queen of that. And I wore a long, blue velvet gown with two little people in the back of ‘em with a full yard train, holding it up as the queen went in – I was the queen. I had several little things happen to me like that; that was just one. And it was a great time. I played a lot of tennis, went skating, I skated, and I rode horseback - I was an expert horseback rider, when I went there and I rode all my life, up until a few years ago, and I had my own horse. And when I taught school in Maryland, I used to drive down – it was about ten or fifteen miles from where I lived – I’d drive down there and put my horse in the livery stable, and then I’d take her out and ride after school. It was great. And then there was skating, always good skating up there. Skating, and it was fun. It was a lot of fun. And that's one reason why I think I've lived so long. I was interested in things and I took a lot of exercise. And you know I’ve always done it. I’ve always taken exercise now. I don’t skate [Chuckle] but I used to do a lot of walking, and my husband and I did an awful lot of dancing. We used to go on these long trips.
And let’s see there was something else I wanted to say about that. Let me see, first I went to that little public school, and then I went into Snow Hill High School. And, which the whole Snow Hill then, I would say there was a big percentage of it were my--were close friends of my mother’s and daddy’s. John Walter Smith, the United States Senator, was a very close friend of my dad’s. And if there were any political favors to do anything, he got it. He never had to ask for it. He just asked- -called him up, said, “Ned, would you do this.” And he did it. He was faithful to him, but he never wanted any politics for himself. He was just a good mixer. And another thing is children. There were four of us. And his sister, who lived not far from us, she had four, same age; and a neighbor had two. Well, my daddy was a violinist. He played the violin and taught us all how to dance, and taught us all the square dances and all those fancy little dances. Hoe-downs and things. And we had a great, big, old kitchen with a open fireplace. And that's where he'd take us all out there. And the neighbor women, the mothers and fathers would come to watch us. We had a grand time. Wonderful time. So, I never had to learn how to dance when I went away; I already knew. It helped a lot – everything you do for children counts. And he was a violinist, oh, he did play the most beautiful violins. He was a kind of a socialite, his family were. But he joined with my mother. And we had prayers mornings. We’d have, even called in the help while Mother read the Bible and he led in prayer. And Sunday morning, each of us had to have a little verse from the Bible at the breakfast table. That's a nice way to raise a family. They never forget it.
Sweeney: What was your maiden name?
Outland: It was Maddox. I understand that we are really from France, but my grandmother was from Scotland. I was named for her. She had come to Baltimore with a group of Scottish people who had come over when things were terrible in Scotland. That's where my grandfather met her. They came down to Princess Anne, Maryland and spent their lives there. Everybody said that she was a wonderful woman. My mother's father served homemade brandy each morning at breakfast to each member of the family. My uncle, my mother's youngest brother, stood up one morning when he was 15 and said, I can't take it. I'm going to be a drunkard if you all don't help me! I love that stuff and I'm having a hard time keeping myself from drinking it." My grandfather, who was a fine man, put it up on the sideboard. Mother said that they never opened it again. That was the last time They also freed their slaves, and they said that they had to pay money to the government. He (uncle) went into the ministry. He married a neighbor. He went to Boston University and Harvard; he got his degree for preaching. He was home sick and wanted to come back. He got an appointment in Tennessee. When he went down that Sunday morning to church, there wasn't a soul there. There was a big board nailed across the front door, and written on it was "No Damn Yankees are going to talk to us!" He went back. We had a nice home
on the water, and he used to come every fall. He used to take us children for walks and talk to us the whole time. It was great to have him like that. He told me many a story. He had a lot of influence in my life. His wife, Aunt Claire, died young. He had a daughter who was a graduate of the music school. She played the organ in church. After Aunt Claire died, he married one of his old members of another church in Massachusetts. She was a very wealthy woman. He didn't live but just a short time after that. She wrote me a pitiful letter, saying that she had this beautiful home and this money but no body to leave it to. So, she turned it over to the church. She was a great person. Well, that's my child- life. After that, I went into teaching school. That was just wonderful.
Sweeney: Was this after you left Washington College?
Outland: After leaving Washington College, I went into teaching. I got a choice salary because I had been to college and had taken those courses. I got $50 a month! Some of the teachers were so upset because they didn't get that much. The superintendent was a mighty fine man who appreciated effort. So, I never stopped; I kept on. Every summer, for 5 years, I went to a summer school in Ocean City, Maryland. All the teachers would be sent to this three- week course in Ocean City, but we didn't get to go until towards the end of the season. That was one of the best of us. I loved it. While I was in Berkley, there was a Jewish rabbi here in Norfolk who selected twenty ladies from the city of Norfolk to give them a course. We didn't know what it was going to be about. He taught us child psychology, and boy, it was a lesson! He was a wonderful man. We got one hundred women together and divided them into ten groups, with a captain in each. They discussed problems and gave their recommendations. After we joined together, I called on each captain to give a report. Some of the reports were great. That was one of the nicest things I had ever seen for teachers.
Sweeney: Where was your first teaching job? Was it down here or was it in Maryland?
Outland: The first teaching job that I had was in Maryland, at a little place called Wesley Station. It was right on a railroad track and about 3 miles from Snow Hill. I loved it every day. I had children there who were as old as I was. I had a boy who was a year older that I was. Instead of going out a recess time, he would sit there. He wrote me a note that said, "I love you." It embarrassed me so badly that I didn't know what to do. I told him, I thank you so much. It must be awful to have to work with some body that you don't love. But you get to work on those books and get that out of your head!" I never had any more trouble. You just have to handle things. I wasn't really
old enough to teach them, but I was teaching. I went on and taught in Stockton (?), Maryland the borderline of Virginia and Maryland. This was the place where I rode my horse. We skated, rode bicycles, and had a grand time. I met my husband at the beach. He was a principal in Virginia. He had had hard luck. He didn't have any money, but nobody did in those days. This was in 1911. I got a letter from him one day. He wanted to take me to some kind of dinner and a movie on Friday night. I had one date with him and then I never shopped anymore. That was the last date--we were engaged. He had to go back to William and Mary. He had already graduated from Fork Union, and he had 3 years at the University of Virginia. At William and Mary, he took every honor that was offered. He got his degree from there. He was a wonderful speaker. After he worked in the schools for a while, he went with Mutual Life of New York.
Sweeney: Is that when he came to Norfolk?
Outland: Yes--boy, what a life we had! He was the best thing you ever saw. Everybody had high regards for him. He was a Sunday School teacher and a speaker for everything they had around here. Nobody trusted anyone about life insurance. They thought he was the only one who knew anything about it. He got some of the boys together who had quit school to play football. They were remarkable. They couldn't play with the other high schools because they weren't in school. They had to be registered students with good standing. That was the trouble. So, they all came in and registered for school. Two boys from the group are now lawyers. One of them is a judge. All of them did well. He (husband) got credit for that. People in Norfolk loved him because he was working for the good of them.
Sweeney: Were you in Norfolk during World War I?
Outland: Yes, we were here. I'll tell you now, it's been a wonderful life! There was never anyone who had ever had a finer husband than the one that I had. He was as near to perfect as anybody could be. He always thought that everything that I did was right. A lady came to me one day and told me that the train nurse was in love with him. So, I looked real serious and asked, "Is that so?" "It certainly is," she said. I told her that I was glad of it because it must be awful to work with someone that you don't like! After I came to Norfolk. I liked to do public speaking. I kept a notebook of other people's speeches. They are some of the greatest speeches that I have ever read. I also kept scrapbooks of everything we did. I've got a trunk full of thirty-some scrapbooks. About my children, my daughter received honors in New York yesterday. She's an artist, and she's married to Walter Chrysler. They don't have any children. Art is her love and I am her child (she thinks). They were celebrating the gift to the Library of Art named after
my daughter, Jean Outland Chrysler. It's going to be in Norfolk. She's a very likable person. My husband and I had four children. He won so many high ratings with Mutual Life of New York that we traveled all over the United States for meetings. He was often a speaker at these meetings, and he always carried me with him. He would never let the company pay for my trip because he was giving that to me. He didn't think it was right for the company to do it. He was a conscientious old soul! I was a member of the Girl Scouts Board in Berkley that organized the troops. Mrs. Ashton Gay, Mrs. Brown, and I organized Troop 31. The Kiwanis Club sponsored us. We couldn't find a place to meet because the churches didn't want girls tearing up the church. We finally found a basement room at one of the old school buildings. We cleaned it out and painted it. We had the greatest troop in the whole city. I was also a member of the Navy YMCA Women's Auxiliary Board. That was one of the greatest things. We featured things for the sailors, like parties. They were chaperoned; there was no drinking. One day, a boy came to me with tears in his eyes. It was Mother's Day. He said to me, "Lady, you look like my grandmother. Would you have lunch with me?" I said, "Sure!" We were having a lunch for them. I sat with him as he wiped his tears away. He was so homesick that he didn't know what to do. We found a lot of them to be that way. A lot of them needed our help; that was our motto. I've been on that board for years. I was on the Welfare Board of this district after the war. We had about 20 representatives.
Sweeney: What did the board do?
Outland: We looked out for people who had troubles. If there was anything we could do, we'd recommend where they could go to get help. I was president of the Larchmont Garden Club for some time. I was also president of the Women's Club. In fact, I've been a member of the Women's Club since 1933. I was president of the women's group of the Freemason Baptist Church, and I'm still an active member. I was a leader of that child psychology group with the rabbi. I helped organize the Crepe Myrtle Festival. The Women's Club was really a power in this town. Mrs. Frantz Nailer(?) organized this. She was a leader for 11 years. She was for Old Dominion, too. Mrs. O.D. Brockett was a reporter who gave us a lot of help. She was one of the finest reporters I've ever heard. She gave us a lot of publicity and that was what we needed. Mrs. Bertha F. Taylor was another great addition to Norfolk. She was an artist who looked after the Women's Club on Freemason Street. She was a power for years. Mrs. Ernest Wooden was another powerful woman. Her husband is one of the owners of the Lafayette Villa, a local nursing home. She was a junior in the club when I was in charge of the seniors. Mayor Fred Duckworth was one of the greatest men we've ever had here in Norfolk. Oh, how we loved him!
He pulled for everything that was good. He was killed, and nobody has ever known who killed him. Mrs. A. 0. Calcott was on the School Board. She was one of the most powerful women in this area for years. She also thought that Old Dominion was a good thing. Fred Heutte, Charles Vogan, and Grayson Daughtrey have all done a lot for the city of Norfolk.
Sweeney: Did you know A. H. Foreman?
Outland: Mr. Foreman was one of the finest men that you could ever know. He had everything in the world, including a heart for helping others. He was the man who caused us to have Old Dominion. I think I can give him credit for that. He had a lot of help from some good men who backed him. The old building (Larchmont School) was condemned and not safe. One day, when some children were in there, a chandelier fell on a girl. It did some damage to the girl and they had to take her to the hospital. There was never any question after that; they went to work on it! I had 3 girls who went here. They went here for 2 years and then went to William and Mary. All 3 of them graduated with honors from William and Mary, so they must have gotten something from here. I've always been satisfied with it. All of my girls graduated from a dancing school here in town. Jean (Mrs. Chrysler) was an expert dancer. So many of the Norfolk boys and girls went to Old Dominion. The war slowed things down a little, but they came back after that. The wonderful thing that the Women's Club presented to the city was the Crepe Myrtle Queen.
Sweeney: Do you remember Dean William Hodges?
Outland: He was just great! There was another man, Eddie White, who was one of the finest men. In his younger days, he was a great power; he did a lot. He doesn't have the ability that some people have, but he's got the heart. He was a wonderful person.
Sweeney: Do you remember when they planted trees and flowers around the Old Administration Building? Was the Women's Club involved in that?
Outland: Yes--Grover (my husband) used to say that there wasn't anything in the world that he and I weren't, in, but we enjoyed it. I never left the children unless I left them in good care. My roommate from college had a sister who lived here. She and her husband would move right into the house and take care of the children while we went on those trips. They had a little girl, too.
Sweeney: Do you remember anything about the early students at the college? Did you have any contacts with them?
Outland: Louise, Jean, and Nancy (my daughters) all went there. When they went to William and Mary, they made good grades, so they must have gotten a lot from it. Nancy, the youngest
girl, is Mrs. Chandler, the real estate lady. She is the most honest person in the world. She tells her agents that if they misrepresent, they are off the list. Those students at the college were the nicest things.
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