BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with Beverly Tetterton,  August 28, 2007 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Title:
Interview with Beverly Tetterton,  August 28, 2007
Date:
August 28, 2007
Description:
Beverly Tetterton is the Special Collections Librarian at the New Hanover County Public Library's downtown branch. Tetterton has served on the Historic Properties Commission and the board of directors of the North Carolina Genealogical Society, among other groups. She is an author, lecturer, and historian, and has published, with her husband Glenn, two volumes of her North Carolina Factbooks.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Tetterton, Beverly Interviewer: Jones, Carroll Date of Interview: 8/28/2007 Series: SENC Notables Length 60 minutes

Jones: ...Thursday, August 28th, 2007. I'm Carroll Jones with Chris Malpass for the Randall Library Special Collections Oral History Program. My very special guest this morning is Beverly Tetterton, Special Collections Librarian, New Hanover Public Library, noted author of local historical data, former chair of committee who wrote guidelines for historic district. Society editor, is that right, of the Journal of Old Hanover Genealogical.

Tetterton: I've done that.

Jones: You've done so much, I don't know where to stop. Beverly has served on the board of directors for the North Carolina Genealogical Society for multiple years. Historical Wilmington Board of Trustees and chair of Historical Platte Committee since 1983?

Tetterton: Yes.

Jones: She's been the awards chair, Lower Cape Fear Historical Society, North Carolina Library Association, Roundtable on Special Collections -- past president and member of Jewish Heritage Foundation of North Carolina and many, many other things. I'm not going to read because it's boring. We're to hear Beverly talk about these things, including awards. Let's go back to where you're from originally and how Beverly became to become interested in history to this really great extreme and get here to New Hanover County, to Wilmington?

Tetterton: I grew up in Williamsburg, Virginia. I always say that I had history stuffed down my throat from the day I was born. It was a wonderful place to grow up and I always enjoyed history. In Virginian, they take history very seriously so you have it every year. In North Carolina, they have it on the 4th and the 8th grade but I think we had it every year. So I went off to college, studied history and then became a librarian later on and was able to put the two together. I think I have the best job in Wilmington as a local history librarian at the public library.

Jones: Were either of your parents historians or interested in history?

Tetterton: No, my parents were not historians but I had a lot of mentors in the community -- school teachers and others. I worked for Colonial Williams, started as a tri-corn hat girl taking around 12-year olds. I was trained as a, we called them hostesses back then -- I think they're tour guides now -- when only women could have the job, which was kind of important because all the boys, college boys could be ticket takers but we could actually learn history and share it. We were trained for 12 to 14 different buildings so we wouldn't sound like a broken record. I thought at that point, when the feminist movement was just getting rolling in the '60s that it was great that we had the good jobs and the boys were outside punching tickets.

Jones: I think you're very fortunate to have grown up in Williamsburg. That is, without a doubt, one of the most special places in the country. What do you think of it now that it's gotten so big and commercialized, and it's become like a fantasy land in some ways?

Tetterton: It is. There was a time that I thought I wanted to go home and retire there but I don't think I do anymore because of that very thing. It's a different town, although I still like it. I have family there. I go home and visit, but I don't think I want to live there again.

Jones: Isn't that a shame. So you're going to stay here, as far as you know?

Tetterton: As far as I know.

Jones: You went to Peace College. How did you happen to choose Peace? That's in South Carolina, isn't it?

Tetterton: I don't remember. It just appealed to me and my parents.

Jones: And you have a BA from East Carolina University. Was this your introduction to North Carolina, going to school?

Tetterton: Going to Peace was, yes. In between, I went to several other colleges before I ended up at East Carolina, finally graduating. I did go home and went to William and Mary.

Jones: I was going to ask you how did that slip by?

Tetterton: I loved William and Mary but nobody wants to live at home and go to school.

Jones: You're married and you have one child?

Tetterton: I have a daughter.

Jones: Tell us about meeting your husband. Was he from this area? Did you go to school with him?

Tetterton: He's a North Carolinian. We met in History class at East Carolina. I graduated from East Carolina but I was really only there for a year and we were both in graduate level-- Intellectual History of Europe is where we met in Dr. Nichon's class. He is a History teacher and a German teacher. That's where we met. We both went to Europe to live for awhile and then we met when we came back.

Jones: Where did you go, Germany?

Tetterton: I lived in Amsterdam, Holland and worked for Time Magazine. Glen lived in Kossel, Germany and then he went and taught school in Israel.

Jones: How did you end up working for Time Magazine and what did you do?

Tetterton: I edited letters in several different languages. I didn't actually go there with a job. I went there to have fun and wanted to stay, so I did. I had to get a job and I thought well, I'm a college graduate, so I went to Time/Life. At the time, they had their international headquarters in Amsterdam. I actually lied. These people, they think they speak better English than I do, so I said I can, of course, speak English and I had many years of French. They weren't impressed at all and I said German, I'm beginning to get a little further out there. And finally I said "And Norwegian." They said "You're hired."

Jones: Was that a lie?

Tetterton: Well, my parents are Norwegian so I grew up saying "pass the butter" and things like that. I knew a few prayers and things like that. I was so fortunate because the first time I got a letter to translate that was in Norwegian, I had met a very nice Norwegian businessman who rode the same tram home work that I did. The whole time I worked there, which was really just a little over a year, he translated all the Norwegian letters for me.

Jones: That is sort of serendipitous in a way. In the meantime, Glen is off in Germany and then Israel. So what happened then?

Tetterton: He came back to the United States before I did and he was sort of on my doorstep when I came back, and we started seeing each other again.

Jones: Where was that, here in North Carolina?

Tetterton: In Williamsburg, he came to Williamsburg. We got married and he went to Duke and went back to grad school. I followed him there and we ended up staying here.

Jones: So this has been a long commitment. Was he the one and only always? I don't want to put you on the spot.

Tetterton: I've only been married once, so I guess yeah.

Jones: That's what I meant. I think young women today need to see a little bit of the world and get to know themselves first. How old is your daughter?

Tetterton: She's 29.

Jones: Married?

Tetterton: No. She's a wine representative and very proud of her.

Jones: How did you come to Wilmington and get this job?

Tetterton: When Glen graduated from Duke, he got his first job in Goldsboro and we lived there. That's where my daughter was born and I was a stay-at-home mom for awhile. Then we moved to Wilmington. I was very fortunate. I went down the public library. Katherine Howell was the librarian then and I said "Do you have any job openings?" She said "I have just the right thing for you, honey." We were still at the library on Market Street, 409 Market Street in what is the WLI Building. They were getting ready to move to the new library, which is not so new anymore, the former Belks building. She said "If you can stick with me 'til we move, I'm going to hire you as my first local history librarian." So I've been the one and only, professionally trained librarian in that job. Like I said, I had the best job in town. I've sort of grown with the job and with the community and that's why I've got involved in so many--

Jones: And that was in 1980?

Tetterton: That was in 1980.

Jones: You came here from somewhere else and now you're an authoritative voice. Did you just dive into it?

Tetterton: I didn't know a thing when I started out and I called my friends and colleagues at State Library. They told me who to call and who to talk to locally that would help me. I had good library sense and I had Catherine Howell as a mentor because she had been hovering over that collection. Our collection is the oldest local history collection in the state, our North Carolina collection, except for maybe Chapel Hill and a few other large institutions. I felt that the people in Wilmington were awfully serious about this because in 1910, they brought all this together in a North Carolina collection that's very early. So we're about to celebrate our 100th anniversary. And the library was founded in 1906. So four years later, they see the importance of taking all of this wonderful stuff that they had and putting it together. People were very generous. So I think they've always been serious about it and taking care of it. So I guess just by working and having questions and meeting people, I started to branch out and I learned so much from other people. And I personally, as a professional, think that you should get involved in your community and that you don't have to be on every board in town, but you should be involved. I know when I hire people, I always look at their resumes and if they say to me "Oh, I just love history. It's the most important thing in my life," and they're not a member of anything, then that tells me something about them. I've tried not to overdo too many volunteer organizations but I've been working at it a long time. You ask me how I became an expert. The other day, somebody said "Oh, Beverly, you are so smart. How do you know all this stuff?" And I said well, for goodness sakes, I said, if you've been in my job as long as I have and it hadn't rubbed off a little bit, then you'd be pretty dumb. So I owe it all to my job and my learning it.

Jones: But you obviously love the job because you've gone many steps further than most people. The library was founded in 1906 and you have the early collection and you've put out a date of 1910. Explain what that means.

Tetterton: In 1910, the librarian took all of our collections that had to do with North Carolina and brought them together into one space. Even at that time, I believe I'm correct in say UNC-Chapel Hill had lots of North Carolina collections but not all brought together into one area or one room. From then, they actively went out and began to collect. We have all of the old histories. We have maps that people collected over the years. The only thing that's wrong with our collection sometimes is that it is old. It's been used so much by so many that it's kind of abused and needs preservation efforts. But it's great. And then there are people in this community, like Winston Broadfoot who is the rare books librarian at Duke who went out of his way to help our library collect. I have the letters where he would write and say "Mrs. McMillan, this map is available for $200, and somehow, Mrs. McMillan would find somebody in the community." And that's what carried on this tradition of if we want something, we somehow manage to get it. We raise money. Dr. Chris Fonvielle really wanted this Civil War map to come to Wilmington. I think it was being purchased by a New Jersey dealer and he didn't like that. So the Friends of the Library and some very generous people got together and we bought it. Now it's still in Wilmington, which is-- Over the years, we've done that and I think it's carrying on a tradition that came before me.

Jones: What is the percentage of "newbies" in the community? It's about doubled in the last 10 years?

Tetterton: I don't know.

Jones: Have you seen since the 1990s more and more historical preservation-type groups spring up and headed up by people who are not from here?

Tetterton: I haven't seen too many things spring up since I came in 1980 but I've seen a lot of retirees volunteering at the various organizations. Our genealogical society, I was a member when we organized that in '89 and I would say just about every person, except for me maybe, were from Wilmington or had local folks, ancestors. But I don't think it's that way anymore. I've seen some changes in the Historical Society. I'm a long-time member of the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society. But just on a state level, when I joined the board of the North Carolina Genealogical Society, certainly it was a very hometown kind of home state organization and one of the reasons I joined is because I got to travel around North Carolina because we would have our quarterly meetings in a different part of the state. And while we were there, we would meet with the local societies and so I met the most wonderful people all across the state. I think if I was to go on that tour now, if you would go to some of the really smaller counties and towns, you would still have most of the people involved locally would be local. But if you go to Asheville or Wake County or any of the bigger towns, you don't see that anymore. And to get off the subject a little bit, you mentioned that I was an author. One of the reasons my husband and I wrote-- We wrote a two-volume set called the North Carolina County Factbook, and as a librarian, I would have all these school children come to me and they'd want to know all these different facts about North Carolina. So I would have to go to this source and that source, and this source and that source and I kept thinking how wonderful it would be to just put a book in their hand. So in the meantime, I told Glen if I'm going to be on the state board and have to travel a lot, I want you to go with me. I'm not going to do it alone." So he said okay. It eventually became our factbook and we've been to all 100 counties in North Carolina.

Jones: Do you give a speech there or work with--

Tetterton: When I was on the board of the North Carolina Genealogical Society, I would go to meetings. But I've also done something called Hometown History across North and South Carolina where I talked about special collections with some other folks. I've been on a few state library things. So as I saw more and more of North Carolina and became more of a North Carolinian, I ended up going to all 100 counties, which--

Jones: I think that's terrific. Are these books in the schools?

Tetterton: Oh, yeah.

Jones: And they're available in bookstores?

Tetterton: They need to be updated. The state has changed so dramatically, like we were just talking about the people who live here now. One of the things that children would ask and one of the facts that we put was manufacturing and textiles, textiles, textiles, and they're all gone now. So all of the historical facts like how a county was named, how it was formed, all of those are true but anything that we put there that was up to date needs to change just because North Carolina is changing so rapidly. Sometimes when we go on trips now, in '92, we were in a county out west somewhere and we go back on vacation and you wouldn't even recognize it.

Jones: What do you think about that? How do you personally feel about that?

Tetterton: I personally hope that we do it well and environmentally sound. I worry a lot about the environmental impact. I did a tour for someone Saturday morning. I live downtown and we'll have to talk about being a preservationist because that's my passion. But I walked down to the waterfront and I live on 5th and as long as I was under the tree cover and around all of the lush green neighborhood where I live, I felt cool, and you know how hot it was. The minute I started to hit the pavement and the closer I got to those big parking lots, it was just hot, hot. I mean, it was just such a visible difference. Claude Howell told me one time he could walk from Carolina Park all the way to the railroad and be under a tree. I think if we don't do that, we're going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. The reason everybody wants to move here is because it's paradise, it's heaven. If we don't manage it, I think we're going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

Jones: I can't help but agree with you. How do you feel about what's happening in downtown?

Tetterton: I think new development, or infill, is great and I think as long as it's designed properly, that it's not out of scale or mass or setback is correct, there's nothing I like better than new development. What I don't like is if there's a horrible parking lot here, why don't you put your condos there? Why did you have to tear down an 1840 building and put your condos there? No, I'm all for infill, new construction. I'm not particularly fond of going up too high because I think we have this-- You come in off the river and you have this pretty river town that goes up to the hill and if we build all of our tall buildings on top of the hill but I don't want to see the waterfront look like that, with-- But I think we have two wonderful organizations, DARE, which is now Wilmington Downtown, and the Historic Wilmington Foundation, who have been doing the hard work for a very long time. I think we were the first in the state to form these kinds of committees to work very hard. We've done a good job of saving what's there. For the future, however, I do see some very disturbing trends and one of the trends is as towns develop and become more and more urban, everybody wants to live inside the beltway, but they want to live their lifestyle. And in many places in our state and across the country, they're tearing down perfectly good houses or two of them and building what we call the McMansion, or Montiecello on steroids I like to call it. I have seem some of this begin in Wilmington and that worries me that, I think if you have enough money and you have enough perseverance, you can do just about anything you want. People say that you're prohibited, and you're not. I mean, preservation law is very gray. It's not black, not thou and thou shalt not. It's very gray and with some persistence, you can do what you want to.

Jones: Do city commissioners have much sway in what happens in this respect?

Tetterton: They do, they do very much. The Historic District Commissioner, the Historic Properties Commission they call it now, I was on there for a long time, but we have very strict guidelines. People think that we just would sit there and on a whim say "I don't like that. I don't like your colors." But we would not do that. We had to stick to guidelines. And it's a quasi-legal group because what you say is somewhat the law so you have to be very careful about it. We have a city attorney with us. Still, even then, the laws will allow you-- I guess you could tear down the Bellamy mansion in 365 days if you really wanted to. So it takes good faith and goodwill, not just law.

Jones: Do the strict guidelines apply only to the exterior or does it apply to the interior as well? Is there any kind of special financing that can be had for people who will take an old property and preserve it?

Tetterton: We have different districts in Wilmington so the guidelines are different for different districts. Like Carolina Heights, the guidelines only apply to the facade on the street, whereas in the downtown historic district, it's all four sides of the building. But there's no guidelines concerning the interior, local guidelines. If, however, you want to get tax credits for all of your hard work, which you're foolish not to apply for if you spend over a certain amount of money and as you said, it's not cheap, then you have to go through the State of North Carolina. In that case, they do have guidelines that pertain to the interior as well as the exterior. But as far as Wilmington is concerned, as long as your exterior remains in tact-- And most people do the right thing. Most people are really nice. I was on the Historic Commission for 10 years and I must say that most people are very proud of having a house. They wanted to do it right. The ones that make the newspapers are the ones that cause a stink but that's always the way. But I must say most people were very nice about it. And even when you told them, "No, you can't take that two-story back porch off. You can enclose it with glass." And this is why, most people would say "Oh, I understand that now." My feeling is that the people that were most unhappy tended to leave. People who want a basketball court, they want to park their horse trailer, or their mobile home do not want to live in a historic district and they say "Oh, I always wanted to live in an old house," and they buy one, and then they're unhappy because their lifestyle doesn't fit it. I mean, when you buy in a historic district, you're not going to have a garage probably. You're probably not going to be able to park the boat in the yard or play basketball, so you've got to have that mindset, and some of the people that we had problems with didn't. They thought they wanted an old house, then they got it, and they wanted to make it fit them. And most of them would leave in a couple years. They'd say "Oh, this is not really what I wanted," and they'd go somewhere else. But the majority of the people, I think, have to make a pretty big commitment.

Jones: I think so. Can anybody go in and take a look at the photographs you have available at the North Carolina Room?

Tetterton: Yeah.

Jones: They're not under lock and key?

Tetterton: Well, we have to pull them out.

Jones: I'm sure they're fragile if they're original photographs.

Tetterton: We have several thousand online so a lot of people don't even come in anymore. That's the way that libraries have changed during my lifetime. We get more emails and telephone calls than we do actual people walking in. At first, being an old librarian, I thought oh, I don't like this. But now I love it. We serve the people of New Hanover County first and we get so many people from all over the world. But if you're living out in this urban county we've been talking about, Porter's Neck, and you want answers or a page scanned, there's no reason why I can't do that for you so you don't have to get in your car and drive all the way downtown. If you walk by and you think we're not busy, we are 'cause there's always a million questions in the backlog.

Jones: Do you mail it to them?

Tetterton: We do a lot of emailing but we do a lot of mailing. I can't scan--

Jones: This is an added expense, right?

Tetterton: Well, if they're a library patron, we can put it on their account. Otherwise, for the rest of the world, we often put it in the mail and say the cost of this is about a dollar. But if you would like to add a donation, we thank you for your generosity, and we really get far more money than we ask for.

Jones: Since this is time consuming, do you use volunteers? How many paid staff do you have?

Tetterton: Just the two of us. There's two full time and then I also supervise our county law library, which is in the courthouse. It's a wonderful place. The law librarian works with us as well and there's a library associate that works with me. And of course, the public library is open seven days a week, day and night so there's a lot of part time people as well.

Jones: The good stuff is only available at your library downtown, right?

Tetterton: Oh, yes. You couldn't duplicate that much--

Jones: Do you have any restrictions on things for people to see or handle?

Tetterton: No.

Jones: Any record can be brought out?

Tetterton: Yes. As a public library, we do not take anything with restrictions.

Jones: What would you call restrictions?

Tetterton: A restricted collection would be, someone gives it to us but nobody can see it for five years, or restrictions such as that. But if something's really fragile, we will have it in a sleeve or we take care of it before. However, there are some collections that are so big, like the Bill Reeves clippings, which is tens of thousands of newspaper clippings from 1865 to 1950, and if we waited until we preserved every one of them, nobody would ever be able to use it. So most people are pretty good about it.

Jones: What are the usual types that come in to your special collections department looking for data? Researchers, genealogists, all the above?

Tetterton: All the above. Having been the librarian, a special collections librarian for a long time, it's interesting to see how it has changed over the years. When I began, I would have a very small segment of Wilmington society that used the collection. In the Market Street Library, it was locked and I can't say this for a fact, but I think only certain people were allowed in there. Then I would say by the mid-'80s when genealogy was really beginning to peak, we would have fellows with their hard hats come in after work and were looking up their families. And we had this huge surge in genealogy, which has subsided somewhat because of the internet. We've always had scholars because Wilmington has good records and we have a lot of them. And if they're doing any kind of scholarly study, they'll use our collection. But now, the biggest change is visual. I would say most people want to see it. They want a photograph. They want a map. They want to visually see the history. The other thing I would say is there is this huge surge -- I don't know why -- in the weird, the bloody, the nasty, and the ugly. We get so many questions about ghosts, about murders. "I want a list of all the murders on 2nd Streets." Ghosts, murders, gore. It's a phenomena that I don't understand.

Jones: Are these people of all ages?

Tetterton: All age. There's people writing the weird and unusual book about Wilmington, but there's also just a great interest. "I heard on the street that there was a murder down at so-and-so." So that's been a phenomenon. Then, of course, we have the ability to research your house. So there's been a steady increase in that in the last few years I believe as the value of property has gone up. The value of plaques have gone up and I don't have any hard data. Some nice economic student at UNC-W should try to take this data. But I'm told that having a historic plaque on your house makes it worth more money. It seems like it would so we've had a surge in that, too.

Jones: I think it's appealing to everybody but the people who come here from somewhere else are really impressed by it.

Tetterton: We have about 500 plaques on the streets.

Jones: And different grades?

Tetterton: There's 75 years, and 100 years, and we have 50 at the beaches because there's not going to be anything left at the beaches. Anyway, that's really the only criteria that we have and it is so visible. I live and work downtown, I walk downtown all the time and I think the country residents would be surprised how many people stop and look at those all along.

Jones: Do you know how many homes are plaqued?

Tetterton: I think it's around 500. And, of course, we do churches and commercial buildings. I have to tell you a funny story. We did the old jail. It's at the corner of 2nd and Princess. The exterior of the building really dated back to the 18th century jail, Wilmington Jail. It's a law firm. Actually, it's something different now. Anyway, the law firm that was there wanted to have a plaque so we did it. We called it the Old Jail and then explained on the plaque how it had changed over the years. But when they did a renovation, they really went down to the 18th century part of the building. It was really interesting to see. So they proudly put it up and it promptly disappeared and we had it repainted. And finally, they had to just put it inside the window because everybody wanted to have that plaque I guess and it was stolen repeatedly.

Jones: What would you allow, disallow, or encourage to take place in the downtown area?

Tetterton: I would like to see continued success and historic preservation downtown. It's like I said. We've had a lot of good success. We've had some pitfalls, particularly lately. But the town is not going to stop growing and people are going to keep coming, and people are going to continue to want to live downtown and in old houses. It's fun to live down there. So I would very much like to see it continue and when they do build, build in scale and build something big enough for real people to live in. Some of the condos they build are so tiny that I don't know how you're going to raise a family in one. I think right now in 2007, I'm worried about the streets. The streets are dirty. They're nasty. Glen and I walk early in the morning and you can smell urine and people have thrown up. I think a lot of people would be surprised to go down there at 2 o'clock in the morning when all the bars close and see the enormous numbers of people down there. I lived in Amsterdam as I said earlier and everybody in Amsterdam had to clean the street in front of their building or pay somebody to do it. I think if you go to Asheville and other cities, they're building parks, we're building parking decks. I like parking decks; I like them a lot.

Jones: I know what you're saying.

Tetterton: Like the community college right now is going to build a parking deck on top of those beautiful railroad walls. If this was Asheville, they'd be putting a park in there so the students could play drums or something. I just want us to continue to cherish what we have and take care of it and as we grow, try to do it in a sensible way.

Jones: How does someone go about doing that right now in 2007?

Tetterton: I think they can join the good groups that we already have? There's the Chamber. There's the Historic Wilmington Foundation. There's Wilmington Downtown. There's your city council, your mayor. I think our mayor cares a great deal about our city. We can strengthen the laws. People say "Well, they don't do that in Charleston, Beverly." Well, they don't because it's code. Once it's code, it's code. But we don't have that. We have guidelines that say it is not recommended.

Jones: A person I was speaking to asked where are we going to put the people in a very small area? They'll still leave the trash and the smells, et cetera. On the one hand, they're saying this is great, Wilmington is never going to change, it's going to be our jewel. But the other side is saying if we allow that, this is what can happen. In other words, it's going to fall apart.

Tetterton: Kill the goose that laid the golden egg. I think we're in a transition at this time. Having been down there in so long, I've seen it wax and wane. There was a time where we had businesses. I would use those businesses if I needed to buy a wedding gift or a baby gift or a book because even if I paid a little bit more money than driving out to the mall, I didn't have to drive out to the mall. Then the buildings have been purchased, the rents have skyrocketed to the point that the only way you can make money in that particular commercial space is if you have a bar. Bars make lots of money. So it has to do right now I think with the transition in that the shops had to move out. The bars make the money, or some restaurants. They move in and hopefully-- What I would like to see is the Gap or some chain store move in, like you would see on King Street in Charleston or something. I think once we can get that kind of business rather than legislate you can only have one bar in so many blocks. You can stand at 2nd and Market and be within 50 bars. There are a lot of them. I don't think people realize how many there are. Downstairs, upstairs, all around. I think if we get that retail back and it's going to take retail that has some real financial backing behind it more than my second hand shop kind of thing. As those buildings are bought by entrepreneurs, they're in it for the money, too. Of course they are, and so the rent's are going to go up and I think it's going to change again. I really do.

Jones: I hope so. Do you speak to school children about the history of Temple the of Israel?

Tetterton: I would like to but I really don't have the time to go and do that. I do lectures, usually maybe one original lecture a year. It takes a lot of time and effort to do that and I have a full time job. But the Temple of Israel, like the Historical Wilmington Foundation, has been my number one volunteer organization since I moved here. I'm a member of the Temple and I'm their unofficial historian. I've become fascinated by that. We only have maybe one or two families from the original members. It's a wonderful place. I'm also a member of the Jewish Heritage Foundation of North Carolina. Right now, we have done one tour of Eastern North Carolina Jewry and we're collecting information about the entire state. And we will be doing a North Carolina Jewish history exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of History and there'll also be a book about North Carolina Jewish history. So that's just kind of a little thing I do on the side but I'm always--

Jones: That's such a wonderful part, one other facet for this area.

Tetterton: I do give tours. Glen and I gave a tour to two ladies who descend from the original families of the Temple who just happened to be in Wilmington and they happened to come to the library and happened to run into me. I said "Oh, would you like to see it?" So we took them over and showed them. I've done that for historical societies and others.

Jones: Good. What's your favorite thing to do?

Tetterton: I think I'm coming full circle, Carroll, because I started out as a tour guide at Colonial Williamsburg. Occasionally, Bob Jenkins, Janet Seagram, Ed Torberg, or the Historic Wilmington Foundation or somebody asks me to lead a tour. I certainly can't do this and work full time but I occasionally do it. I had the North Carolina Library Association, some meeting down here, and they said "Take us on tour," and I'd take them on a walking tour and I'm beginning to like it more and more and more. I think maybe when I retire, I might do that once in awhile because now, I have my story, too. Like I was taking this group up from the Henrietta on Saturday and I was walking by the Derizette [ph?] house and first I said "You must look at the Derizette house. The Historic Wilmington Foundation saved this building." They're all oohing and ahing and then I said "Oh, and this is the Derizette house." "My sister used to live up on the third floor. Boy, we had some good parties up there." People like that. They like that personal touch. Or I can say "I helped save that building." So it's a little bit more fun than it used to be because of that.

Jones: I think Janet's group, Tours by Design, is the right idea.

Tetterton: I'm not going to give up the day job but I kind of like it.

Jones: I know it's a real full time job but you're not an old lady yet.

Tetterton: I just wrote a book, Wilmington Lost but Not Forgotten and believe me, anybody that thinks writing is easy, it's not. I had done a series of lectures which they put on New Hanover County TV and standing up and talking to people is one thing, but then when you start-- You say "Oh, I can do that," and then it's hard. It's really hard. Anybody who's ever done I don't care what kind of book--

Jones: Are you talking about writing, lecturing or both?

Tetterton: Writing, publishing, doing the book. Writing it down is difficult.

Jones: Do you feel like you've become very proprietary about what you've got?

Tetterton: Yeah, I'm proprietary a little bit about certain history, like the capitals history that I have really spent a good deal of time researching. But being a librarian, that's what I do, is help people, so I'm pretty willing to share what I have.

Jones: Get used to these walking tours, they're wonderful.

Tetterton: It keeps you in good shape, too.

Jones: What do you call that room across the hall and upstairs?

Tetterton: It's auditorium space, the New Hanover Library--

Jones: And that's where you do a lot of these things.

Tetterton: Yeah. But I do it-- I've done things for UNCW. I'm going to be their luncheon speaker coming up. My last year's lecture -- and like I said, I can only do maybe one a year where I have do original research -- and that was on the year 1966, which was a bit reminiscent for me because I was around in 1966 and I played all the '66 music while I was researching it. My job was to do a portrait of Wilmington in '66 and I really enjoyed it and I'm going to do that for the university. And the year before, I did one for the Railroad Museum on how the coming of the railroad changed the town, because the railroad was situated where it was situated, how the town grew and what developed because of it. But things like that take me some time, otherwise, I just have some-- My hobby is architectural history so I can do some lectures on pretty buildings.

Jones: Is there something that you haven't done that you want to do?

Tetterton: There is but I think about oh, I really want to do this. I'm going to do this and then I think, oh, it was so difficult writing that Lost but Not Forgotten, that I don't know. Working and doing other things, at this point, I'm just sort of enjoying doing an occasional lecture and helping other people.

Jones: Do you enjoy the interaction with people who come into the special collections and you feel like you're helping them?

Tetterton: Oh, definitely.

Jones: What's your favorite subject down there?

Tetterton: Well, I must say, I have enjoyed the scholars all these years and becoming a part of their research and helping them and having learned so much. This year, we had a young man from Germany who wrote his thesis on German immigration into Wilmington and he spent five weeks with us and he just sent me his thesis. I have learned so much about the German connection to Wilmington, both the Lutheran and the Jewish Germans. So being a part of his life for five weeks and just learning from him and I think I helped, too, and others like him, that have come to me over the years I think is intellectually the best part of my job. Murders on Front Street I can do without some days but I get a kick out of that, too.

Jones: I think it makes it easier that you and your husband share interests.

Tetterton: Oh, it does.

Jones: If somebody were coming here for the first time to live here and they wanted to learn about Wilmington, what would you tell them to do?

Tetterton: I would tell them to get a good, well-rounded local history. There are a lot of them and a lot of them have photographs, which I said we're all very visual now, and just read. I worry about people don't want to read anymore. As a librarian, I've seen it really change over the years as to how people find information and what they read and if they can read and how they read; and then just get involved. If they want to know about their town, get involved in some group that appeals to them.

Jones: Is there any one particular thing you want to do that you haven't done yet in this line?

Tetterton: In this line? I've got a few books running around in my head but I don't know if I'll ever do it. When I retire, Glen and I are going to go live in Germany for awhile. We have a lot of friends there. We've been going back and forth for a long time.

Jones: Do you speak German?

Tetterton: No, I don't speak very good German. He speaks excellent German. Our friends speak such good English, they're always correcting my German so I don't. If I'm out by myself, I'll speak German to get around. I really want to do that. We're going to Ireland next year, which is a fun thing to do. I love to travel.

Jones: Don't leave us for too long a time.

Tetterton: Thank you for saying that.

Jones: Even though I have been associated with this university library for almost nine years, I also enjoy going downtown. I wish I could live in the place for about a month and I still wouldn't be through. Thank you for coming and visiting us. I wish we could spend more time and we probably will. Next time you have a book in your head, come back.

Tetterton: Okay, thank you very much.

Repository:
UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Found in:
Randall Library | UNCW Archives and Special Collections | Online Database | Contact Us | Admin Login
Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign