MP: Mrs. James, we are here
to talk about your participation in the Norfolk schools staying open in
1959. Would you tell me a little about your background: Where you were
from? Where you were educated? and What you were doing at that time?
I was born in what was Norfolk County and is now the city of Chesapeake.
I moved to Norfolk when I was seven years old while my father [she
moved to Norfolk after her father finished studying pediatrics in Boston]
pediatrics at Children's
Hospital in Boston. I went to Taylor School and Blair Junior High School
and Maury. When I graduated from Maury, it was depression time so the
College of William and Mary started the Norfolk Division of William
and Mary here in Norfolk which saved our lives, many of us, because
things were really rough financially at that time. This was 1930, and
we were entering school. We were able to stay here, some of us, for
as long as three years. Most people stayed two and then we went to Williamsburg
and finished and had our degrees from the College of William and Mary.
Later on I taught in the Norfolk public schools after having been in
a private co-op kindergarten for about six years.
MP: Were you teaching kindergarten,
at that point, in the public schools?
was teaching the fourth grade when I first got out of college. I did
that for about two years until my husband and I were married. I was
just sort of waiting for us to get enough money to take the big step.
I taught kindergarten only after my children were older--but I was mentioning--you
asked me about my education. When I was teaching kindergarten I went
back to Old Dominion University and received my masters degree there
MP: What took you back to
get your masters degree in '72?
I finished in 1972. I was teaching kindergarten, taking one course at
a time until I completed my masters in '72. Primarily, it was the desire
to have more income after the school suits. I could earn $1,000 more
in the public school system than I could have without a masters degree.
MP: I didn't know that.
So that was my primary motive in getting a masters. Now, I had taken
courses from the University of Virginia when they were trying to upgrade
kindergarten teachers in the area. Many people taught kindergarten who
didn't even have more than a high school education and they didn't know
anything about child growth and development. So, University of Virginia
came down here and gave non-credit courses to upgrade people, and I
took about six or seven of those before I ever started on my masters.
MP: Non-credit...so did
that count toward any recertification?
really. I was in a private school system, you know, the private co-op
and it didn't do anything for me there except give me a little knowledge.
I had not been trained in early childhood, but I'd had a few education
courses at William and Mary. . . simply because I had to do something
while I was waiting to get married. I didn't want to go in totally ignorant!
MP: What is a private co-op?
was in a Methodist church which sponsored a kindergarten for the whole
community. They didn't confine it to members of their own church. It
was run by parents whose children were in the kindergarten. It was supervised
by a church steering committee for the kindergarten. It was really a
neat setup. I enjoyed working with the young children very much.
MP: I am familiar with that
kind of thing. I think we still have preschools that work on that basis.
So, that was in 1972. I think that is real interesting that your motivation
was to be paid more by the public schools at that point. And your husband
died in 1973...
MP: and you continued to
did stay in for a while because after the school suits, we-he had very
carefully prepared for our retirement by investing in real estate, since
his business was real estate, and so he had quite a few pieces of property;
but for a while, we had to live off of that because of the prejudice
against us in the community when it came to giving him property to sell.
We had not really worried about this in the past because this was a
Navy town and we thought there were plenty of Navy people who would
not be as prejudiced as some of the locals were. So in the beginning,
Navy people did list their property with him after the school suits,
but eventually, one man broke down and told him why he was taking his
property off the market. This happened about three times in a row--people
would call up and say well, "We've decided not to sell right now," or
something of this nature, and he said the neighbors were putting so
much pressure on me not to give you this property. They're saying Ellis
James will sell it to a black man. Actually, my husband was in business
about twenty-five years, and I think he sold four pieces of property--Negro
property--in all that time and, while he was not a person who went in
and was doing block busting, he did occasionally have a piece of property
that was in a neighborhood that was changing. So, he didn't really do
what they had feared, but it did hurt his business and so we spent some
time living off of the property that he had accumulated for our retirement.
MP: It sounds like he wasn't
aware of the ramifications of the prejudice that would come out until
it began to happen.
we knew there was prejudice and we were aware, but we thought that because
there was such a large Navy population in the area that we would be
able to survive on that.
MP: Well, let's back up
a little bit and tell me what kinds of clubs and organizations you were
involved in around 1958-59 when all these things were happening.
Before I tell you, I think I'd better go back and say that my father
was a Quaker, a Friend. And he taught me to respect a person because
he was a
He was just as nice to the garbage collector as he would have been to
the mayor and I grew up with this belief. Also, I had an interesting
experience that led to my meeting my husband. I was a member of a group
called the Junior King's Daughters, and they used to have an annual
meeting which the adults ran. I thought this was sort of silly-that
since it was a children's meeting they should have children for officers
and they could supervise. So one day, I got up in the meeting and said
this in the annual meeting, and there was a woman there who happened
to belong to my church who was on the committee to select a girl to
go to Chatauqua, New York, for six weeks to live in the scholarship
house there with other girls, seventeen, east of the Mississippi River.
This is an international, interracial, interdenominational group, so
this sort of strengthened what my father had told me. And that was where
I met my husband. I came back and they asked me to lead the devotional
at a couple of their state meetings and by the time I had done that
twice with my heart in my mouth (because I'm not a public speaker unless
I'm talking about early childhood education that I really know something
about), I asked them if they would please take one of the other scholarship
girls next year. So, after I was married I belonged.. .no before I was
married, no that was after I was married. I was very active in PTA groups,
not in the usual way. Larchmont PTA was a little bit on the social side
although they did a lot of good things like buying new curtains for
the stage and so on, but I became involved in the child study groups
in which the parents would get together and we would talk about our
children and the problems that we had, and sort of thrash that out.
And they did send us away for training to Longwood College for a week
and I was the leader of one of those groups while my children were going
to Larchmont school. I am the kind of person who doesn't like to go
around joining everything unless I'm going to be active in it. Usually,
I take one or two groups at a time and become very active in those.
MP: You have discussed in
the Larchmont PTA and these training sessions, your rearing of your children
and their educations for years and years. I mean, you had quite a history
of doing that before the big issue arose.
family is important to me and I became involved with whatever my children
were involved in. For example, I was a den mother for the Cub Scouts,
but I told them for just one year. I said, "Now look, somebody else
can do it too and I'm going to do this and really throw myself into
it for a year." My husband was a leader of the pack over at the Larchmont
school Cub Scout groups. We've always worked together a lot. It's been
sort of a fifty/fifty proposition. I guess you could tell I'm sort of
an E.R.A. person--in other words, he didn't try to dominate me and make
me do things the way he wanted to do. We discussed everything from his
business to my kindergarten and one of the reasons we could do this
was that after the school suits, I did help him in his office for a
while to, again, sort of take up the slack. I acted as secretary and
his accountants taught me how to keep his books so I learned how to
just do his books... but we've always been sort of a team.
MP: You must have been reinforced
an awful lot as a child by your Quaker background and your involvement
in Junior King's Daughters. When you spoke out, you were reinforced and
sent off for more training. It seems to have been, maybe a thread that
continued to run through and allowed you to speak out in terms of E.R.A.
or to support, working as a team with your husband. You had a sense of
even before my husband, before we were married, my father came from
a rather large family and so did my mother. He had four brothers and
one sister, and I can remember, at family gatherings, the brothers were--they
violently disagreed about things like politics. I remember some of them
thought that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was next to God and others thought
he was the devil. They brought this all out and argued, but they loved
each other dearly and after they got through the argument everything
was fine, you know, there were no hard feelings. They just always expressed
themselves and the same thing was true within my immediate family group.
I was always allowed to disagree with my dad or mother and express my
point of view. I guess I just grew up doing that and if I felt strongly
about something, why then, I spoke out.
MP: Is that what you expected
to happen about the school situation--that you would be allowed to speak
out and express yourself without losing friends?
I didn't think that.
MP: That was too much to
ask in this situation, isn't it?
James: No, I didn't think
that. I just had a habit of doing this and it was just a part of my personality,
I guess, if I feel strongly about something to present a point of view.
MP: Was your point of view
clear-cut? Was it clear to you when the controversy over the school system
arose? Did you know where you stood right away? or were you on the fence
for any time?
I can remember when the Sterns came here to Norfolk from other places
would cite to me "They're going to close the schools this fall," and
I thought they were crazy--I really thought they were crazy! I just
didn't believe that Virginia would do this. I thought we were smarter
than that. That's they only way I know how to say it. And while they
were convinced that they were going to close the schools, I was not
at all convinced they were going to take that final step. I thought
that when the show-down came, they would back off.
MP: Did you say "the Sterns"?
Helen and Bob Stern were active in Norfolk Committee for the Public
MP: So, how did you and
Mr. James emerge as the plaintiffs in the suit?
when our daughter was actually out on the street, when the schools were
closed, she was a sophomore and she was one of the lucky ones because
Ohef Shalom Temple had built a beautiful new education building, Sunday
School type thing in the Protestant groups, and they offered it to as
many as they could take. Many of the teachers from Maury went there
and taught and so my daughter attended in a beautiful building and had
some of the same faculty that she would have had before. Many of the
others... I can think of a neighbor back here who organized a group
and they met in her livingroom. I can think of another group down Powhatan
Avenue where the Tiny Giant is now that met in a vacant store and when
cold weather came, they sat in their coats around a little coal stove
and the situation was desperate for them--I mean it was-- it showed
a lot of determination to stay in school in a situation like that. What
did you ask me. .do you remember?
MP: I wondered exactly how
you were the one--your neighbors were all involved, but why you?
right. My husband's father was an English teacher in McKeesport, Pennsylvania,
which is just outside of Pittsburgh, and he taught in a high school
there. He was a strong believer in public education and so was my husband.
He wanted to do something about it because he just didn't want public
education to go down the drain, so he would like to have brought the
suit on his own, but we couldn't afford to do it. . . it was too expensive
for one person to undertake. Meanwhile, the Norfolk Committee for Public
Schools had been trying desperately to get businessmen to support the
movement to keep the schools open and without any luck. They were trying
to find people who might be interested in the suit, but they had not
found anyone that they were sure would not back off when the going got
rough and so for a while there, my husband tried to think of ways to
finance a suit and the Norfolk Committee for Public Schools was trying
to find people to bring suit that would stick with it. So, I think that
they became convinced that Ellis would follow through.
MP: Did you ever feel like
don't think so. I mean, we both felt so strongly. The difference was
that while I believe in public education and was just as strong in my
belief that we should do something as my husband was, I had the other
side that I've been telling you about- -from my father--that a square
deal ought to be given to everybody. It was only right and fair that
we would go through with supporting the Supreme Court decision and doing
what the law said--because the black children were human beings too,
and also because I'm a law abiding person and I think it's right to
work to change the law if you don't believe in it, but to support it
until you have been able to change it.
MP: Was the stance that
most of those people, say in the Committee for Norfolk Public Schools,
was that the stance that most people took--the primary stance being support
for education? Did they have that other dimension that you talked about
that your father gave you?
don't really know. As I said, you mentioned a while ago, before we started
taping, that the people from the north might have a little different
point of view from southern people, and so I'm not sure whether they
were just not prejudiced and thought this was ridiculous to close the
schools. I don't think I really got into a long discussion with anybody
about that or whether they were primarily interested in keeping public
education in the area where they were going to bring up their children.
MP: Was there a difference
in the feelings of the women, the mothers, empathizing with other mothers
whose children were being put on the line that was different from politicians
interested in the law?
think those people, whether they be the women or the men, whose children
were being put out of school, who had to do something about getting
an education for their children, certainly felt it, perhaps more strongly
than the politicians.
was just one more problem for politicians. I don't think they were personally
involved and I think that when you are personally involved with a problem,
you feel it more deeply and are more motivated to do something.
MP: It was in your home.
So the precipitating event for you then was...
can't really say. My husband got together with other people in the leadership
group of the Norfolk Committee for Public Schools and they decided that
this was the thing to do to bring the suit with him as lead-off litigant
or with my daughter, my husband, and myself as the lead-off litigants
in this suit. That meant that our names were on it and more public reaction
to us personally occurred than to some of the other people who I'm sure
got just as much harassment as we did, but maybe not quite from the
MP: Would you be willing
to tell me something about that harassment?
surely.. .except as I said, I have sort of a general impression and
don't remember so much detail. Also, I'm the kind of person that sort
of blocks out the bad things that happened and don't dwell on them too
much. We did get, I can remember, one particular very unpleasant letter
that I got and we finally decided who it was from.. .I don't think there
is any doubt. It was a couple that we had played bridge with for a long
time and it was primarily the wife who was very southern and very prejudiced,
from my point of view, and she said things like that I was a lousy housekeeper
and that my house was so dirty--you know, unpleasant things like that.
Then we'd get occasional telephone calls and specifically, I don't remember
the conversation, except they'd just say ugly things on the phone. So
those were the two things I remember more than anything else about the
reaction of the public in general. I did have a very strong reaction
from members of my family--particularly the older generation. I told
you my father came from a family of six and my mother had eight in her
family. I think it was more from her side than from his because they
had been taught that black people were inferior, they mentally were
not capable of doing what white people do, and obviously had not kept
up with research that proves otherwise. Sometimes they would come for
a visit and take my mother and my sister out to dinner and ignore us
totally. That hurt, but at the same time, I did understand that the
reason for this was that they believed something different from what
I believed. The thing that bothered me the most was that they couldn't
accept the fact that I could have a different point of view, and that
I had a right to a different point of view. I had one of my mother's
brothers, and I've always loved him dearly for this: he told me one
time, and he was of that older generation that had been taught the same
thing, said "Ruth, I totally disagree with you, but that has nothing
to do with my love for you", and he has been really affectionate and
loving all of my life, in spite of the fact that he didn't like what
I was doing. That's the kind of person that really made me feel good.
MP: Were they Quakers also?
this was my father's...
actually, I have a very interesting family. I'll have to tell you this,
too, because all of this has some influence. My father's father was
a Quaker and there were five boys and one girl, but only my father was
a Quaker in the group. Most
the men were Methodist and the daughter was an Episcopalian, so that
was the Quaker influence throughout my life. There was no Quaker church
in Norfolk at that time. There is one out on Virginia Beach Blvd. now.
And so the only time we went to a Quaker Church was when my father was
studying in Boston and we went up to spend a summer with him. They were
wonderful people to us, they really were. Then, occasionally, when we
went to Richmond to see my mother's family, most of whom lived there,
there was a Quaker Church there and we attended Quaker meetings there.
So, the direct influence of the Quaker Church was not very big, on me,
but it was big through my father.
MP: They were very family-oriented
MP: Community oriented?
And in my mother's group, people have come around. Time sort of heals
these things, but for a while it was very--we had always been very close
and had a lot of family reunions and just the aunts and uncles came
and visited back and forth and had always been great to me. My aunt
had me come up and stay with her husband one time for two weeks. She
said, "You need to learn how to cook" and so she made out all the menus
and directions and I cooked for Bob for two weeks while she was going
on a trip. That was a wonderful experience, but we were always a very
close knit family, so that's why it hurt when I got sort of turned off
for awhile. But, they came around, all except one, I didn't see anything
of him for about twenty years and was just bowled over when he left
something to me in his will.
MP: So did any of these
people ever come around and say "Ruth, you were right"?
no. Nothing like that. It was just that they began to treat me the way
they had before.
MP: Which was all you asked.
right. Surely. I don't think that they really thought that I was right.
It's just that family ties overcame their terrible feelings about this
involvement in interracial matters. You asked me something about the
groups that I had belonged to and I mentioned earlier that the Women's
Interracial Council was one of the groups.
MP: That was before the
that was in existence. It was just an effort on the part of some people
to establish better relationships with the black community on the part
of some white people, and so we had leaders from the black community
and from the white community meeting together on a regular basis. Sometimes,
we would undertake projects that we thought might provoke--promote a
little bit better feeling within the community.
MP: How did you find this
group? How did they find you?
don't remember... I honestly don't remember.. .it goes back so far.
Possibly through somebody that I knew that was already a member.
MP: But you were concerned
with racial issues?
MP: For all your life, or
was there a precipitating thought or event there?
I think most of my life I had that attitude that, well perhaps too,
I had a feeling of guilt which was not a personal thing. I thought about
slavery and all of these things that white people had done to the black
people, and wanted to contribute something that would sort of reverse
MP: You had a social consciousness.
guess so, it is interesting that when my children were in high school,
two of them took some type of test and they were off the chart in the
social service area... they ranked so high in that. I thought, what
have I done to my kids.
MP: Did you really think
really did. I thought, my goodness, I don't want them to be fanatical
or extremists or something like that.
MP: Were you afraid for
them that they might be.. .had it caused you pain?
really, it was just a temporary reaction. I was surprised, that's all.
group I was active in - - you asked about the interracial groups -our
church, the Baptist Church, had established an interracial committee
under its women's organization and that committee was sort of autonomous
-- they got -- there were about eighty Baptist Churches in this area,
roughly forty white and forty black churches, and they would send a
representative from each white church and the black community would
send a representative from each black church to a meeting twice a year.
One time they would meet in the black church and the other time they
would meet in a white church. One time they would bring little tiny
items like toothbrushes and toothpaste and soap and they would send
it to a black orphanage and the next time they would send it to a white
orphanage -- just trying to communicate with each other.
MP: It was a conscious effort.
had a board that was independent for this group. It was under the women's
missionary group totally, but it was a separate organization in a way
dialogue was lost here where the tape was changed)
MP: ...your father's influence
and his Quaker background.
MP: Tell me about your mother's
right. Well, mother was a very independent person because my father
was a physician, and in those days doctors made housecalls at night,
she had to run the show in our family too in a lot of ways. Whenever
it was gardening, my father said, "I can't get dirt under my nails,
I've got to handle these little babies" and so she took the lead in
most of the things around our home. I was
terribly dependent on her as a young person, and I'm very thankful that
when I did get married, I left Norfolk for two and a half years and
sort of established myself as a human being because she had been so
capable that she did everything for us. She is now ninety-eight years
old and has just stopped living alone in the last couple of years. She
drove a car until she was ninetytwo.
MP: Oh, she did. You said
earlier when we weren't taping, that she was from a family of eight and
that she was the matriarch of her family..
after her mother died, her mother lived to be ninety-four and she was
MP: Oh, she did. . . longevity
is in your family.
both sides.. Her father's sister lived to be ninety-eight and so she
acquires it from both her mother and her father. She's been very active
all her life and in many organizations.
MP: You've patterned after
her to a great extent.
I mean, I think that both your parents have a great influence on you,
but I think in my thinking, I am more like my father than like my mother.
She likes to - - she and her brother traced their family way back, you
know, and she is interested in genealogy, and my father used to say
it is what you are today -- that's more important and I believed him.
But, it was always nice to know that you had good family background.
MP: You had both sides.
She was probably influential in having me be a debutante, which I enjoyed,
but was not all that gung-ho about. I fortunately was teaching school
and it kind of saved my life 'cause I'm a little bit of a perfectionist,
but my approach is serious-minded -- somebody tells me a joke, why I
usually take thirty seconds to realize it's going to be a joke, because
my approach is always the serious kind. I sort of lost the trail of
thought here -- you asked me about my mother's influence.
MP: I'm interested in her
influence and in her sense of direction in terms of her family and her
family's understanding of her, as such. You seem to have that same...
was a very devoted mother and tried to see that we had all the things
she wanted us to have and she did many, many things to make us happy,
like willingly gave little parties and make the refreshments and didn't
seem to discourage us in that way. She sewed a lot, made a lot of our
clothes for us. She was very active in many ways. She has all kinds
of plaques from different organizations like the day nursery where she
went and told a story to the children once a week for about twenty years.
And the Public Health Hospital where she was a gray lady for a long,
long time -- an equal number of years-more I think, and she was president
of the Women's Auxiliary to the Medical Society at the state level (I
can't remember whether she was locally or not) but anyhow, she was very
active in a lot of groups and in church. She always loved little children.
She taught the beginners' class there for many, many years.
MP: That's really interesting
to hear your family's influence and how interested they were in the community
and in people. Tell me more about how your personal life changed in that
time when the school closed. When you were being pushed away in some ways
from family and from some people, who did that push you to?
I'll have to think about that one. I can remember we used to play a
lot of bridge when the children were small. I haven't played bridge
in about twenty years. . .I might get interested again. . . I love cards,
but anyway, I can think of another family. It was a doctor's family,
and after the school suits, we didn't play bridge with them anymore
either. Now, the wife was always friendly, but the husband was extremely
prejudiced, and so that sort of cut off a little more social life there.
But we took up the slack with other people that we knew or perhaps at
that time, we were so busy making a living that we didn't do quite as
much as we had done when the children were small, and we didn't have
this problem of trying... .when you own your own business, you see,
you've got to keep with it and keep making money.
MP: So, survival was your
issue at that point.
right. At that point, economic survival was a big issue.
MP: Eventually, the big
suits cost you all financially an awful lot of money. It was my impression
that donations were solicited and that the community helped to some extent,
but that it was never clear how much they were going to help.
the Norfolk Committee for Public Schools raised the money for the suits.
I am talking about money to live on after my husband's business was
hurt. You see, we had gone through the property that we had for old
age, you know, retirement. I began to teach, but first I helped him
in his office, but then I thought, well, maybe I could bring in some
income from outside sources, and so I went back to teaching at that
time. And so, that helped too.
MP: So, it was the personal
business loss and not the expense of the suits.
not the expense of the suits, no, but many, many people in the community
belonged to Norfolk Committee for Public Schools, and people who didn't
publicly do anything gave money to support it. I can remember a neighbor
that perhaps we talked to about entering the suit, I don't remember,
in any case, they said, "We believe in public education, but we can't
do anything. We have these two high school age children (one of them
was a year behind Penny, I was trying to think, she was probably still
in junior high) and we can't risk". This particular man worked for a
governmental agency locally and he couldn't risk losing his job even
and so he couldn't participate, but they gave money.
MP: Had they been told not
to participate.. .had the government...
don't think so, I don't think so. I think that they just feared this
because emotions were so strong in the community. There were businessmen
in the Norfolk Committee for Public Schools who did support it both
verbally and with money, but in general, the business community did
not support the suit. And I've always been grateful and I think they
deserve a lot of credit, that when the day that the decision was handed
down they ran a full page ad in the paper saying that we should.. .
I don't remember the wording of it...but the general idea was
on, let's support this now and obey the law and get with it and get
our schools back."
they hadn't done that, I don't know what the reaction of the community
might have been. If that many people--there were 100 businessmen, so
that was important -- but if they had just come out sooner, we might
have been able to do something sooner.
MP: You wouldn't have had
to go through -- all that time --
MP: So, what was the time-frame
then. . . the schools were closed from...
the beginning of school, in September, until January, and I guess they
went back in February. I don't know the date of the decision.
MP: I think February 2nd,
but I'm not sure.
was the last week of January the decision came down, and they started
the schools again
MP: The second of February,
I think was their first day back.
That sounds about right.
MP: Tell me about your children.
What were they going through during this time?
of course, the one that perhaps the experience did the most damage to
was my daughter. She was the one who was out of school and when school
reopened and she was back, why there was a bit of being ostracized by
other students and even by some teachers who were not sympathetic to
the integration of the schools. She was president of the Keyette Club
that year, oh, it was her senior year, so I mean, she wasn't totally
pushed aside by everybody. --I don't mean that at all. But, I mean,
it was hard for a young person to have people within the classroom looking
down on you or treating you other than in a very friendly way.
MP: Did you ever think about
sending her away or getting her out of it.. .or... What did you do to
support her here?
people did that when the schools closed because they didn't have any
other way, I mean there weren't enough groups to take care of everybody.
Some people sent their children away ... or moved away. They sent them
to relatives in other states and this kind of thing. I don't think we
ever considered leaving. I don't know... I avoid controversy. I really
don't like controversy, but I'm the kind of person that if you push
me.. . if I get my back to the wall, I'm going to fight. I'm not going
to just lie down and give up. So I don't think it ever occurred to us
to leave Norfolk. . . I mean, my husband's business was here, and of
course we didn't want to abandon that either. My mother was here and
all of my friends except the ones I had made in Medina So I guess we're
fighters, we're not quitters - very easily.
MP: No, and you've lived
and I think it was hard on her, she's sort of a private person. My oldest
child is very outgoing, my middle one is sort of borderline like his
father, and I guess I'm a little bit on the extroverted side, but not
very far.. .and she was more introverted, I think, more of a private
person. So, she didn't talk about it a lot is what I'm saying. I asked
her when you wrote me that letter and she was here.. ,I asked her and
my other son, too, to tell me a little bit about how they felt, but
both of them backed off of that. Frank was influenced in a different
way -- he was going to Dartmouth that year and fortunately, he had a
scholarship. He was not here in person to see everything that was going
on, but he had to work awfully hard to get through Dartmouth. We thought
it was broadening to send our children to a different area to school
instead of just growing up with the southern attitude, go and see how
somebody else in the world feels about everything. So, when Frank entered
college, and Penny too, it was very crowded. It was hard to get into
a school, so each of them applied to more than one university. In Penny's
case, she was eventually accepted at one of her original choices, but
they had a center out in the western part of the country, central-western
part, where they had colleges write in for people who wanted to go to
college if they had vacancies. She heard from about forty colleges when
she put her name at the center and could have had a choice of many places
to go. She went to Beloit College in Wisconsin. Both she and Frank had
to help a lot in their educational expenses because that was the time
when our business was being hurt so badly. They both worked. In fact,
I've often wondered how Frank ever survived Dartmouth because I don't
think they would have allowed him to do what he did if they had known
he was doing it. There was a hamburger place on the campus and he worked
there from something like seven o'clock in the evening until eleven
o'clock at night. I don't know how many days a week, I don't remember,
but I don't see how he ever studied enough in addition to getting through
Dartmouth successfully, but he did. At one point, we suggested that
he come back to Virginia to school. We said if he wanted to join a fraternity
or something like this, he might have enough money to do it if you were
here not paying so much tuition to a school like Dartmouth. But he elected
to stay and work it through, which he did.
MP: You must have been proud
of their attitudes.
I was, I was.
MP: So, it didn't tear you.
and Penny had a job each semester in Beloit, too. I'm glad she went
there because in the long run, she had completed most of her work, college
work, by the end of her first semester as a senior. She was able to
go to Europe and take her last semester over there because most of it
was elective work. She went to Copenhagen and had a fantastic time and
lived with a family there that she was very devoted to. When she finally
graduated, she had saved enough money in about a year to go back for
Christmas. Another interesting thing is that we didn't have enough money
to give her to travel in Europe, but she was able to work that summer.
I don't know how, because you had to have a work permit -anyhow, the
family she lived with - he was manager of a mink factory or something.
He probably had enough influence to get her the job, I'm not sure of
this, and she saved enough money to make one major trip. She went to
Greece, that was her choice, for two weeks. And guess what? She married
a Greek, in the long run, when she went to Johns Hopkins University
as a copy editor, after she had graduated, she met a Greek student who
had graduated, who had gotten his doctorate
Johns Hopkins and was asked to stay on and teach. He taught, but he
also mostly did research. That's his reason for having stayed in this
country. There is so much grant money available which the Greeks are
not wealthy enough to provide. He does a lot of research work, but he
also teaches. So, I have a really interesting family. My oldest son
went two years to the University of North Carolina. I don't know whether
it was because he realized that we weren't going to be able to swing
both his and Frank's entrance into Dartmouth in spite of the scholarship
or whether it just was not the right thing for him at that time. He
said that I'm wasting your money and my time, so he got out and went
to work for a while for Otis Elevator Company. He soon found out that
wasn't what he wanted, so he volunteered for the army because they were
still drafting men even though the war was over. He didn't want to do
three years, so he went in as a private, not as an officer, he could
have gone to Officer Candidate School and he turned it down. By the
time he'd had this experience, he told my other son to get into the
Naval ROTC program at Dartmouth - that that was the better thing to
do. Well, anyway, Don was stationed on the Czechoslovak border in Germany
and he met a girl and married her. So, I have a Greek son-in-law and
a German daughter-in-law. She is absolutely fantastic. I just love her
to death -- we get along just great. Then, when my son graduated from
Dartmouth, he had to do two years in the Naval ROTC I mean in the Navy,
and we were simply bowled over when one day he said that he wanted to
stay in. We couldn't see anybody in our family saying "Aye aye, sir".
We were all too independent thinkers so that really surprised us. The
Navy did ask him to augment, which was nice. They came to him and asked
him if he would stay in. He is now Commander in the Navy and is about
to retire and go into business for himself...after twenty years in,
he has been toying with this for three years. He finally wrote his letter
of resignation and he'll be out next August.
MP: Where will he live?
going to come back to Norfolk, so I'm real excited about that...and
then, I mentioned my father's brothers were Methodist, Episcopalian,
my husband was Episcopalian, my other daughter-in-law is Catholic, so
we have a really interesting family. She's a smart gal, in nursing parttime,
because she has, well they're not really young anymore, as you can see,
they are fairly recent pictures.. .but they're still in high school,
so she works about three nights a week, I think. She's going gung-ho
with her nursing career and gotten certification from the Nurse's Auxiliary
to the Obstetricians and Gynecologists which is her main interest --
delivering babies and so forth.
MP: Your family is really
supportive of each other.
MP: And they've been able to
go in all kinds of directions.
MP: That's wonderful. Well,
I think we've pretty well wrapped this up, don't you -we've traced a thread
throughout your background and the influence of your parents through the
period of time that was very rough for you, and then through your children
who are now free to choose their mates from any cultural background. And
they're active and happy now.
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