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Interview with Beatrice Sharpless Moore, July 8, 2003 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Beatrice Sharpless Moore, July 8, 2003
July 8, 2003
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Interviewee:  Moore, Beatrice Sharpless Interviewer:  Johnson, Joyce / Cody, Sue Date of Interview:  6/9/2004 Series:  Williston High School Length  50 minutes


Johnson: I’m Joyce Johnson and today we’re going to interview Dr. Beatrice Moore who is an alumnus of Williston Industrial High School.

Interviewers: Joyce Johnson, Sue Ann Cody

Johnson: We’re so delighted that you’ve given us this opportunity to interview you.

Moore: The pleasure is mine, the pleasure is all mine.

Johnson: First I’d like you to tell us something of your early childhood, siblings.

Moore: I was the youngest of ten children my mother had. My father passed when I was very young so I really don’t remember him, but I grew up where I was born. I grew up in the house next door so my roots have been here for years, even though my body has not been here. Of course I was the youngest of the children and of course like they say you spoil the baby, they probably spoiled me because I really didn't have anything to do.

I might have been a very outgoing person because I remember my mother always had me in church programs. I can remember the longest lines of poems and I would get up there and I would smile and I would say my poem and get lots of applause. I remember one time they had a smiling contest at church.

The one who could hold the smile the longest, you know, was supposed to get a ham. And of course the older people like the students in high school, I don’t know if there were any college students there or not. They would get up there and their friends would make them laugh. Nobody could hold a smile. So they put me up there and I held that smile forever (laughter). I just smiled.

Of course the unfortunate thing might be, it depends on whose point of view it is, the minister’s wife held her smile too, but the people said I should have gotten it. Well they can’t leave the minister’s wife out. So what they decided to do was to cut the ham. The minister’s wife had half and my mother took half. At that time, I didn't know the different parts like the shank and the butt has more meat on it. I don’t know which part they gave my mother, I didn’t care. I remember that vividly, holding that smile. I guess I must have been about six years old, six or seven years old, I remember that.

I had good teachers. The thing about it the teachers in those days came to visit your parents. I was the youngest of my siblings so many of my teachers had taught my sisters and brothers, so they knew me. In many instances, I was very smart, I thought I was. I was the best reader in the class. Sometimes the teacher would begin to read a story and I’d get called up to read it. I would sit at the desk and I just loved that. I wanted to be a teacher. The teachers, as I said, they would come to visit so many of the teachers knew my mother already and they’d come to visit and had only nice things to say about me and I liked that.

My brother, elder brother courted some of the teachers. They were good friends and so I really sort of had it made. I did my work, I studied. I got a scholarship when I graduated. I got a scholarship to Knoxville College. That’s why I went there.

Cody: Where is Knoxville College?

Moore: Knoxville College is in Knoxville, Tennessee. It’s a nice Presbyterian school. My childhood I think it was sort of typical of, you know, during those days the schools were not integrated, but we had good teachers, teachers who really cared. I learned a lot because after I left here, I was able to compete in any venue I found myself. So I thought that was nice.

We spent our time in school and in church. Sunday we spent most of the day in church, Sunday school, services. Sometimes we had BYPU in the evening, at night but I loved that. So we had lots of things to keep us happy and going.

Cody: Which church did you attend?

Moore: We went to Central Baptist Church, which is at 7th, and Red Cross. Of course having left here, I became Episcopalian and so I was Episcopalian, my husband and all my children grew up in that faith. When I come back though, I really go to various churches to meet my friends. So the denomination doesn’t matter. I just want to go and be with friends.

Johnson: You were saying… talking about the teachers, who was your favorite teacher and subject?

Moore: I think my favorite teacher; I can remember my teachers through the years. For instance in the first grade I had Mozel McGee. She went to our church. She was a good friend of the family. Second grade, Perkins, Susie Perkins, she was a very nice person. Third grade I had Georgia Dwelly, her name was Dwelly. She was from Atlanta and I remember I was her pet. She wanted to take me home one Easter with her for vacation and my mother wouldn’t let me go. I thought that was the worst thing in the world.

As I grew older, I understood my mother. Even though you’re a good teacher, I’m not going to let my little baby go home with you because she didn't know any of the circumstances of this lady’s life. She went to our church, she like me and wanted to take me so I missed that. I had never been on a train; I was in the 3rd grade. So I missed this train ride and this trip. As I got older, I realized my mother was absolutely correct because I don’t care how good the person is, I wouldn’t let my child go either. A strange person, you never know with some one.

In the fourth grade, I had Miss Borden who became a Tellfaire. She married after I was put of her grade. In the fifth grade, was Lettie Harding. She was a very pretty lady. I would read a lot for the class. Her classroom looked out on 5th Street, 5th and Red Cross, the old Peabody school I went to. Sometimes I think her friends knew she was in that classroom because you’d see her waving (laughter). So I had her in fifth grade.

In sixth grade, we went to Williston School; I guess it was like a junior high. Sixth grade I had Miss House. She married a Coach. I can’t remember his name, but she was Miss House. He was Frank Robinson, Mary Robinson. Well, in the seventh grade, I had Miss Story, Mildred Washington; you remember her and Booker Washington. Her mother taught me in seventh grade, very rigid, almost Victorian lady, strict order, 7th grade.

Johnson: And her daughter followed in her footsteps (laughter).

Moore: All right, then in eighth grade, I guess it was the 1st year of high school. Because we only went to 11th grade, so 8th, 9th were part of the four year of high school. I always felt we were cheated out of a year of junior high or high school however you look at it. So sixth and seventh were in junior high and then we went to high school to begin to take the sciences and the languages and things like that.

I remember homeroom teachers. In my 12th grade, I remember my homeroom teacher there who was Miss Simon. But Miss King, I think that when you think of teachers who made an impact, Annie Cogtail King. She taught English and they called it the ‘King’s English’ (laughter). She was an excellent teacher and she knew Latin too. I took Latin. I think it gave me a good background for all those cases that they had for my grandma because I always was a good writer.

Miss King, she impressed me very much as an English teacher. We had to memorize long passages of MacBeth, she believed in that. She really liked me and I liked her too. I think that probably instructed me or encouraged me to major in English in college although I liked science. I liked chemistry, but you know when you’re in the sciences, you spend a lot of time in the lab. I sort of had a flair for English, reading, writing and regurgitating or renouncing or explaining what you’ve read and that kind of thing. I loved English.

But I think Miss King made the best impression on me at school. Of course, I had very good teachers. For instance I remember Miss Borden, Mrs.Tellefaire, I was her pet too. I had such a hard time learning long division, but you know what, when I finally learned it, something clicked in my head. She gave me a dollar at the end of the year I think it was, I got a dollar from her. So that’s a thing I remember.

Miss Lofton taught chemistry and general sciences. Mr. Washington, the principal, was a teacher then. He taught at Williston High School before he became the principal. He taught biology. I remember doing the frogs, I said, “Grrrr… they suck” (laughter). Here I wanted to be a chemist and but I didn't want to touch the animals. Mr. Washington taught me that, biology. Chemistry, Miss Lofton taught chemistry. General science, I think Miss Lofton taught general science. We probably had about three science courses.

I remember the mathematics, which I had never considered myself being very good at math. I always managed to get an A or B. Algebra, Miss Sadgwar taught me that.

Cody: Was that Felice or Carrie?

Moore: No, Elizabeth. I think she was a niece. She’s still living by the way. I think she lives in Massachusetts. As a matter of fact, my teacher, this is her property and my sister bought this property from her. My sister built this house. My sister was Esther Sharpless; she was an activist for the city and a spokesman for the school children.

Getting back to teachers, I spoke of Miss King, Miss Borden, Miss Perkins. I just remember, as I go back, I flash back and I remember the teachers would read to us. A lot of reading and maybe the last period of the day before going home, we’d begin reading a story and stop at a certain point. But it made you come back to school.

When I was in Miss McGee’s group, I was the best reader. We had to stand in line and read and the best reader was the first in line. But if you were absent, you had to go to the end of the line. So one day for whatever reason I was absent, my mother kept me home, I had a cold. So I went back to school the next day and I had to go to the end of the line. I cried, I remember that, I cried. I was a good reader and I didn't want to be at the end of the line.

Cody: What was he teaching?

Moore: This was reading, the first grade. After I stayed in the line, the next day I was able to come back to the front. Another thing I would say about my schooling, there were students, my friends, we started in the 1st grade and we went all through school together. That’s not true now in other cities because you don’t know who’s going to be in your class from first grade, second grade. But as we got to high school, some of the students who had gone on the south side, they joined our class.

But basically I have good friends, some have gone on now, we started first grade together and went all through 11th grade and we kept in touch. When I came home, I’d see them. As a matter of fact, I’m going out to lunch today at 12:00 with one of my classmates. We went through school together. So we were a very tight group. Helped each other. Those were the days when it was just clean fun. Nobody smoked.

You never heard anything about any pot, marijuana or anything like that. It was almost like the Stone Age. We never caused any trouble. The only thing we did maybe was that we were silly. We were giggly. It was always said that we were always laughing. Everything we’d just find fun in everything. So I just really had a very good school life.

Of course the schools were segregated, but we didn't know it. I had a good education. And another thing I’ll say about the Wilmington teachers, the black teachers, generally every summer they went away and studied. Many of them would go on vacation, but they also studied. They would go to Columbia University, NYU, even Durham State, North Carolina State, but they would go someplace in the summer and study. I don’t know if that was true with other teachers or not. But our black teachers really I think were on the ball. They were good teachers.

As I said, I had no trouble competing with geometry. I also took French; I had a year of French. I had of course economics, sociology, American government and of course four years of English. So I was really prepared.

Johnson: So what was a typical day like at Williston?

Moore: A typical day, there were three senior classes and my class I would say was probably the top. Miss Simon was our homeroom teacher, but Miss King taught our English. Our class was so good. She came, took the roll and then left. We would have little programs. We’d put on a little show or sang the latest song, just a lot of fun things. We never caused any trouble. We weren’t too loud or anything. That was homeroom.

Then we went to our classes. I don’t remember the rosters, but we had good subjects. One thing I remember especially when you were seniors, you could use the front steps. You could come to school and use the front steps. During lunchtime, you could sit with your friends, that was really a treat, you had arrived when you can go up the front steps. Professor Rogers was the principal of Williston at that time.

We had sports, basketball games, I remember after school games. Very nice. I wasn’t much into football, I didn't care for football. But they did have a football team. Maybe I went to one or two games. But basketball, I loved basketball because they played that right in the gym. So it was good.

When we had a National Honors Society, I was a member of that. I guess other than that, it was just a typical school. It stands out for me that having access to the front steps, no other grade level could do that. I remember that.

Cody: So the others had to go in like at the side or the back.

Moore: Either the side or the back. You know we only had three senior classes and no more than about 33 or 35 students in a class. My graduating class was probably about 100 or less. I didn't keep any of the mementos. Maybe my mother kept them. Of course moving around and when you have a lot of children, I guess it’s easy to not keep track or lose some of the documents. But when you get older. These are precious documents. I wish I had them, the class list or the program or something.

But they were really fun days. I had no problems growing up. As I said, even though the schools were segregated, we didn't know it because we had a full life. Our parents and our teachers saw to it that we had a full life, that we didn't have to face any discrimination.

Our teachers were all black. They took an interest in us. We did not have a good library. I remember the library we went to, a lady by the name of Miss Shobar was the librarian. You had to go upstairs and it was dusty, old and the books were old, not up to date. That’s one thing I think against the school system. You know some people equate color and they equate appearance with mentality. But that’s not true. Many teachers go in and they somebody who’s poorly dressed, he is nothing. They don’t say it, but they sort of internalize it.

Their expectations are not high, but you can’t do that. It is not fair to the children to do that. You take the children as they come because many of the people who were smart with book learning; they can’t give you as good of a background as I’ve given. A lot of smart people in my class, I don’t know what happened to them. But people who pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, people maybe never went to college and many who had the opportunity to go to college and made the best of it, that you hear about.

Somewhere along the way, we lose a lot of people and I think Wilmington is an example. I know a lot of southern cities have lost good minds because the opportunity at that time was not there. If the opportunities had been here, I always wanted to take typing. They didn't offer typing at Williston, but at New Hanover High School they offered typing and everything.

So generally when you go away to college, you say you’re going to settle someplace else. I have good friends who are professors at universities who have told me the same thing. I just go back home to visit my friends and maybe to a funeral or something like that. They have poor memories because they remember the discrimination and that’s unfortunate. So I think the south has lost a lot of good talent.

A lot of people who have good jobs and are educators in the north and other places, most of them come from the south, North Carolina. See they could have stayed right here and improved things here, but I guess the time wasn’t right for them. We went through a lot of hurdles and a lot of destruction, a lot of tragedy to get at the point where we are now today. I hope the future will be better. People have an opportunity here and the whole body of politics government and everything. These people are not different; they’re the same as we are. So let’s give them the best.

If they put the best in the poorest schools, we wouldn’t have the dropouts. A person, a student has to feel that he or she is wanted and you’re doing something to better that person.

Johnson: Do you find that attending Williston protected the students from discrimination?

Moore: Well, I would say most of them, I think the parents sort of looked upon it as I did or my parents did, my mother, my father was deceased, we were sort of sheltered from it. Our mom…we didn't go anyplace where we would be brutalized. I never heard of any white and black fights or anything like that. So I think to a certain extent they shielded us, yet they taught us black history and things like that.

I think they wanted to shelter us and shield from that. I do remember when I got my degree from Knoxville; I got my degree in ’42. My mother was very proud and would introduce me as…rather than call me Miss Moore, you didn't call black…I think it’s so silly when you look back and see some of the things, but they called me Professor Moore (laughter) because they couldn’t bring themselves to say Miss Moore. Ridiculous, you know, some of the things just don’t make sense. You laugh and you feel sorry because you know it’s unfortunate.

Cody: So tell us what happened after you came back from college?

Moore: I stayed in Wilmington for a while. I wasn’t interested. I didn't apply to teach in high school. I majored in English in secondary education. All these teachers knew me and they were sort of like mothers to me. To go back and work there, I didn't want to. I got a job I guess for a month up in Rocky Point because some people knew me up there so I went up there.

There was a Dr. Burnett here and his children had gone to Sedalia, North Carolina and I met Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown who was president of Sedalia Institute up there. She wanted me to come up and teach there so I went there. That was my first year of teaching. Some of the students there were much older than I was. Some of them were from well-to-do families. Some were not able to function in the ordinary school and their parents would send them there.

It was a good school. Dr. Brown really trained them in etiquette. We had teas and the correct thing to do. It was almost overwhelming because we would go to Bennett College, an all girls college. We’d have teas there. It was really lovely. I taught there for a year and I said I wanted to go back to school so I went to the University of Illinois. I taught there in ’42-’43. In ’43, I went to the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne and I got my Master’s. I taught one year after that at Kentucky State College.

Cody: Where is Kentucky State College?

Moore: In Frankfort, Kentucky. Of course my husband, I met my husband in college, Knoxville College, Samuel Moore, he’s from St. Louis. His parents had moved to North Carolina, I didn’t know it at the time. Anyway we got married, secretly married in ’42. Then we finally told our parents. He had to go into the service, World War II. He went that summer right out of college. When he came back, he was discharged I think in ’44. I got my Master’s in ’44. So I think the war was just about winding over.

He came back and I had a sister who was living in Philadelphia. I was visiting with her and he wasn’t sure if he was going to get out. So we said why don’t we just stay here. He had never done anything because he was right out of college when he went into the service. So we decided to stay in Philadelphia so I got a job just like that teaching junior high school. So I taught junior high school for a while.

Then I got out when Sam was born, I stayed out to nurture him and after that I went back and took the teacher’s exam so I was accepted into the Philadelphia school district. I think that was in ’56. So I taught there until ’86. I moved on up the ladder. I was in junior high school and I went to senior high school and I became a department head. I was sort of like a lead teacher in junior high school. I would take care of the subs and help the principal out and things like that.

In senior high school everything is on you, you’re just like a principal. If a teacher has a discipline problem, you’ll send the child to my office and I would sort of handle that. I made the roster for the teachers. I just loved it. I just taught one class. I taught the top class in the school because I could depend on them. I would roster that the first period in the morning so I would have my class and then could devote the rest of the day to administration. So that was it.

So I taught there and in the meantime, well I had my Master’s and I was also doing studies. When the NDA fellowships came out, I applied for that.

Cody: What’s NDA?

Moore: National Defense Education, something like that, the government sponsored it. I won that and I had eight weeks to study at Boston University. I made good friends there. A young lady who now lives in Palo Alto, California, we correspond. I hope to see her when I go to NCTE in November. She was there. So I won a fellowship there.

Another time I won a fellowship at the University of Missouri, School of Journalism. Wall Street sponsored that. So I was there for three weeks. You studied, but the final project was to do this paper, put out a newspaper and we did it. It was so much fun, going around, trying to verify your sources and all that. That was fun and we got it done.

Another scholarship I got NEH, the humanities scholarship that was right at home at Beaver College and that was in writing and the humanities. I won that fellowship. I lived very close to Beaver College so I didn't have to stay there at night in the hot dormitory. I stayed home. So those are the scholarships I won. Oh! Another scholarship I won, I won a scholarship to study in Israel the entire summer when Carter was president.

The Education Department gave the scholarship and we went in teams. We had a curriculum team, a subject team and a library team. I applied for that and I got it. Six weeks. I lived in Jerusalem at the Hebrew University. We went all over the state, Haifa. Haifa has vertical subways, Tel Aviv, even Bathsheba. I went there one day and they were selling livestock and examining and they would lift them up, I saw that. It was a marvelous experience. It was six full weeks over there. That was really a wonderful experience.

Of course they still had problems. At that time of travel, we couldn’t go to Egypt. We couldn’t go to Jordan because they weren’t friends. They weren’t on speaking terms. But that was a good experience there. In addition to that, I’ve done a lot of traveling on my own. I’ve been to China twice. I’ve been to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji Islands. I’ve been to every continent except Antarctica and I don’t want to go there (laughter). I’ve been to every place I wanted to go.

In my kitchen I have thumbtacks so show where I’ve been. I’ve traveled a lot in the States too. I think my favorite is out west in the national parks. My husband worked for the national parks. Like Zion and Bryce and the Grand Canyon, all beautiful. A good experience. One of my classmates, we grew up together here, but she lived in Oakland, California and so we traveled a lot in the summers together. We’d get in the car and just go.

We traveled together, I went with her. She passed away sort of suddenly about four or five years ago, but we went to Greece together. We did the Greek islands. We went to Egypt together, saw the pyramids. You could look out your window and see the pyramids. There’s nothing like it, the Great Sphinx.

Cody: You have an adventurous spirit (laughter).

Moore: Another year, I went to South Africa with friends. That was a lovely trip too, Johannesburg, Cape Town. And I would tell my students about this when I came back. They thought, as I did when I was growing up, that all Africa was jungle. It’s not. They have cities just as beautiful if not more beautiful than some of our cities, high rises. And the beaches, you can’t beat the beaches. Cape Town beaches, and they have Table Mount Island, it’s like a tablecloth covers it. When the clouds come over, it’s like a tablecloth.

I saw where Mandela was in prison. He wasn’t released when I was there. The island where he was imprisoned, we saw that. That was very special. We went all over. We went to church services there. It was just a magnificent experience to see that.

Another good experience I had, I went to Cuba. That was about three years ago. That was quite an experience. Veradero Beach, the most beautiful beach, I’ve never seen a beach so beautiful. The water you could walk out a block in the water, warm, mild, beautiful white sand. It was just so beautiful. I can still see it in my mind’s eye…the azure.

Cody: You must have had to go on an educational visa.

Moore: Yes, I went with World Affairs to that, to China. First I went with a group out of Indianapolis, the Curriculum Specialists, we were about 35 educators on that tour. We had a national tour. In each city, you have a local tour, but the national guide stayed with us all the time. The first time I went to China was in ’84. The next time I went was in ’93 and I went with the president of the National Council of Teachers of English. That was a good trip too, to see how things had changed.

Now the second time I went there, they were really gung-go. They were preparing for the Olympics. They wanted to get the Olympics. China is as if one foot is back in the 19th century and the other foot is groping towards the 21st century. You have this dichotomy there. A lot of machineries they don’t have. You could hear them hammering at night. They were busy trying to get things ready for the Olympics. I wondered how they could very well do it, I still wonder. They’re going to get it the next time aren’t they? I’m wondering how they’re going to do it because the water is not drinkable. I wonder what they’re going to do about the water.

In the hotel rooms, they have a thermos and you have hot water all the time and you drink green tea. But you can’t drink the water. The water is not drinkable. But I was able to see how the country had changed in those 10 years from ’84 to ’93, those 9 years. When I first went there, you could count the cars that you would see. In every home I went to Mao Tse Tung was still living and they had pictures of him in every home.

You didn't see too many televisions, very few telephones, one or two cars. But the second time I went there, the Chinese people were in western dress for the most part wherein before they only had the friendship stores, now they had their own stores on the avenue. You could go there and buy things. Now they had lots of cars, lots of cars. But you still had the old-fashioned, where they would pedal and when they got to a stoplight, the load was so heavy, the next driver would have to give him a momentum push to get going again.

The people were just wonderful people. Everywhere I traveled, just wonderful people. We talk about the French here, but I never had a problem. I’ve been to France many times and I never had a problem. But somehow with dark skin, I’ve been accepted everywhere I’ve gone, never had a problem. I like people and I try to be courteous and polite and I don’t do any less for a person than I’d do for myself in terms of respect. So that’s some of the places I’ve been.

Cody: People respond to that.

Moore: I think so, yes. Even when I come here, sometimes I have jobs that I want done. The people come through. I say I’m going to leave Monday, but I want this done. They come through. I had a problem with my light ever since I’ve been here. It’s supposed to go on at dusk and come off, but it’s burning all the time. So I called three times for the electrician.

He came this morning, took down what was wrong and now my light is done. He was a very nice person and not only that, but they trust me. I said send the bill to Philadelphia and I’ll take care of it when I get home because we’re leaving Monday morning so I won’t be here when he mails the bill. So people are nice. If you’re nice, they’re nice to you.

I love people. I love students. I could teach until the day I die (laughter). So that’s the story of my life. Of course, I had a very good husband. I had three children. Sam is my oldest. I have a son in California and a daughter at home who has two children so I have two grandchildren. They’re just adorable. When we’re finished, I’ll show you the pictures, they are just lovely. I always try to find something nice and different when I go away. So I’ve already done my shopping for them.

Cody: They’ll ask you what did you bring (laughter).

Moore: Yes, they say, “Granny what did you bring?” As I said, my husband, I met him in college. He worked for the government, the National Park Service, equal employment opportunities. He worked there until he retired. Of course he passed on in ’83. My children had very good parenting, I think. I would deny them and say I don’t think you need that; well he would get it for them.

Johnson: Now when you heard about the closing of Williston, how did you feel?

Moore: I felt very bad. Oh well, I was very sad because when you come back, you don’t come back to the school. My sister Esther, she was in a crusade to retain the name Williston Industrial, Williston High School, but now there’s no Williston High School. So you know when you come back, what do I come back to see. I think that’s unfortunate. They didn't do that with New Hanover High School. They retained their name.

Yet you have new high schools added, Hoggard and Laney, but no Williston. I just felt very badly about that. I think that name should have been retained because my alma mater, as I know it, is gone. So that’s the way I feel about that.

Cody: How do you think education changed when integration came?

Moore: Well, I heard some of the teachers that went to white schools they were mistreated and had a hard way to go. I guess maybe that was to be expected. You always have this fringe population, the fringe who would think the time is never right. But if it’s possible for us to function with blind folders on and not see a person’s color, it would make all the difference in the world.

Unfortunately, when you look at a person the first thing you see is color and you make some sort of judgment, he’s poor, I don’t want to cross over, he’s going to steal my purse. You would be making these kinds of judgments. It’s not fair to do that because many people who are poor are ragged. Many people who are homeless have good minds, but because of the circumstances they find themselves in that position like that. It’s really unfortunate, but I guess that’s the way the world is.

As I said, you always find people who will not agree with the status quo. But I like Wilmington. I see in Wilmington a lot of construction going on here. I think the next time I come, “It’s a beautiful city.” They have new plans for the north side. When I look at 4th Street all that land over there. It’s precious land because we’re close to the water, we’re close to downtown, we’re close to the highway, I-40. It should be a beautiful place. But I think you get one or two people who don’t want to do it.

You know, it’s all the city. We’re all in this together. Do this side and THEN do this side and then Wilmington would be a very beautiful city. Look at all the beaches we have, beautiful. Wilmington is a beautiful city and it’s not too expensive to live here. When I come down, I don’t need a winter coat here. Just a suit because you have maybe one or two cold days and then that’s it. Wilmington is a beautiful little town, but I think a lot of the adults have to grow up. We’re all people. We’re in this together.

It’s a small world. You can have breakfast here and lunch in London. So we have to understand we’re here on this planet together. We can live together or we can destroy ourselves and the planet.

Johnson: Do you think Williston would have survived as an integrated school?

Moore: I think so, yes. If you had integrated teachers there, absolutely, bring in the white students. I can speak for black teachers; we’re for doing the right thing. We’re not looking at children differently for the most part. I can’t speak for other races, but for the large part I can speak for blacks. They would do the right thing; see that the child got their education.

But of course a teacher must be trained. If they’re trained, they’re willing to go more than halfway. I really feel that way and I think it could have been a good, strong, integrated school because I think they bus-in white students now don’t they at the middle school?

Johnson: Yes.

Moore: So they could have done the same for the high school or the high school kids could have driven their own cars there (laughter). When I was in high school we went on the bus, now they have their own cars. I hope they’re making progress. I’ve lost touch with what it is. I read in the paper there was a reunion out there. I don’t know what kind of reunion they had because they don’t have a school to go to. They just meet out there for the mix. There should have been a Williston High School, that should have been retained and I would have been out there.

Cody: What about celebrations you had when you were in school. You mentioned the basketball games were a good time. What other kind of…did they have parties or dances?

Moore: You know what, I don’t remember. As a matter of fact, I don’t even remember homecoming. I don’t know that Williston had a homecoming that I went to at that time. Of course this was back now in the 30’s because I graduated in ’38. I know you don’t believe that (laughter).

Cody: It is hard to believe (laughter).

Moore: At my 50th anniversary, we had a good aggregation. I was in Philadelphia, people from Chicago, people from California came and we had a wonderful time. That was the last one we had. It’s hard to get together after that. We had a number of deaths in between. But they came for my 50th homecoming- ’38-‘88. That was in ’88, my sister was living there.

We went out, there was no Williston High School out there, but we all met. The teachers were out there. My sister Esther had this old-fashioned bell she kept because before they had the electric bell, they would have to go and ring the bell for the children to come in. She had a little straw hat and that bell was ringing. I’ll tell you, she was really a legacy. I met so many people who said, “Ester Sharpless, she taught me”.

Cody: What did she teach?

Moore: She taught elementary school, from the 1st to the 4th I think. Fourth grade was her specialty I think. But she taught at elementary school.

Johnson: Now Louise taught me.

Moore: Oh did she, because they taught at the same school I think for a long time.

Cody: And who’s Louise?

Moore: My sister, I had two sisters that taught here. But I think had Williston been integrated, it would have survived I think because if you want something to happen, you can make it happen. That’s the way I feel.

Johnson: You were talking about the biology or chemistry lab. Do you feel like the materials were inferior? What are your thoughts on that?

Moore: Well, my thoughts to be frank, with chemistry, I thought the teaching there …I got A’s in chemistry, but I’d have to say I thought it was less than college level. I think it was sort of like an elementary kind of chemistry that I had. The reason I say that is that when I went to college and I took chemistry and they were talking about gas problems, my friends from Alabama and Mississippi and Tennessee, the Midwest, the understood about that and I hadn’t had that.

So that’s one element, I felt as if I had been cheated. They would do math problems for gas problems in chemistry and I didn't know how to do that. That was a subject I had to learn. I think maybe if my teacher had been qualified to teach, maybe she taught chemistry and that wasn’t her field. So maybe she was a page ahead of us, but it was interesting and I loved it. She gave me the impression she knew everything. She was good.

When I went to college, I realized that I had missed a lot. It wasn’t true with English. I had had Shakespeare plays and novels and things like that so I was right on top of that. The math wasn’t too bad because I took trig or something like that. The math I had gave me a general idea about thinking so I was able to survive that. Chemistry is the only one that gave me problems.

Now of course languages, I took German, “sprechen die duetsch?” I took German in college. I had French and I had Latin here. I think chemistry was the only one, only subject I felt sort of inadequate about. When I felt myself feeling inadequate…I was going to major in chemistry so I jumped over to English and had no problem after that. I tell my students, English has afforded me a wonderful living. I don’t have to lift anything heavier than a book or a pencil. If you can write and read and understand, you can get a job anyplace. Because even if you major in math or chemistry, if you’re going to rise to the top, you’re going to have to do papers, deliver papers, write for bulletins and every field entails writing and reading so if you can do that, just like Bacon said, “Reading makes a full man, writing a ready man, a whole man”.

Johnson: Do you feel like all or most of the teachers inspired the students to excel?

Moore: Absolutely. I think here again to be honest and truthful, you might have one or two, you’re not going to have 100% in everything. You might have one or two who might have done better or who maybe who didn't do 100%, but by in large I don’t feel cheated at all. I liked my teachers, I loved my teachers and had good rapport. I was an eager beaver. I wanted to be first in peace, first in war and first in the hearts of my teachers (laughter). I just loved school.

I think the teachers by in large were fair, they were honest and they tried to shield us. They didn't talk too much about the separation that we had. I think they tried to prepare us to be able to face it. That’s why the young college people were able to have the sit-in in Greensboro and turn the other cheek. See if they hadn’t turned the other cheek, maybe we wouldn’t be where we are today. You can’t fight fire with fire. I would give the teachers credit. I admired my teachers. In college and graduate school, I had favorites there too.

Johnson: Now did any of your children follow in your footsteps and become teachers?

Moore: No, my son in California went to Boston University, no Northeastern University in Boston. He majored in business. I tried to get him to major in journalism. He’s a good writer. I said, “Why don’t you major in journalism?” But he went for business. So he has a good job in California. He’s a specialist. He works for a company that outfits hotels, banquets and everything like that, everything from soup to nuts, pottery, silver, you name it. As a matter of fact, when he comes for Christmas, he likes to set the table because he knows how to do all that and make the napkins fancy.

My oldest son Sam, he went to Knoxville College and he didn't like it. So he went to work for the post office. Of course, he had some years in Vietnam and after the post office he retired at an early age. So he’s retired now. My daughter, Monica, she’s the baby, she went to Pratt and she majored in fashion merchandising and she’s very good. She can make good hats. But she has two little ones, 3 and 6, and they keep her busy. So she works with Unisys, she places people in jobs, human resources. The children are in school. They go to day care and the little boy is in camp now.

We live within a radius of I guess about 15 minutes from each other. I live in the Eastmont area; she lives in the Westmont area. Her husband works the same job she does, for the same company. We’re a very close family.

Johnson: Do you think you’d ever move back to Wilmington?

Moore: I would say no. I have this big house in Philadelphia. Most of my business really is there. So I come down as often as I can. This is the first time this year I’ve been down. I’ll try to come down again maybe in November, early in November because in September, I’m going to a trip to Canada, the Underground Railroad. I want to see that. I’ll be there for a week. That should be a very fascinating trip.

Cody: Have you been to the museum in Cincinnati? They just opened an Underground Railroad museum in Cincinnati.

Moore: No, I haven’t been there. It’s been years since I’ve been to Cincinnati. On the trip to Canada, we’re going to spend a day in Detroit and they have a museum that’s opening a black museum. So we’ll stop by and see that.

Johnson: Good, good. Well, I want to thank you. You’ve really been great today.

Moore: Oh have I?

Cody: Your memory is amazing, being able to name all your schoolteachers. I’m afraid I couldn’t do that.

Moore: Well, you know what, I’m a big Scrabble player and I like to do crossword puzzles. Those things keep your mind sharp so they say. I’m so happy to know who I am and can answer to my name and nobody else’s (laughter).

Johnson: Well, thank you so much.

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