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Interview with David Nixon (with Ennett, Nixon, and Ray) December 5, 2002 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with David Nixon (with Ennett, Nixon, and Ray) December 5, 2002
December 5, 2002
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Nixon, David ( with Ennett, Nixon and Ray) Interviewer:  Johnson, Joyce / Cody, Sue Date of Interview:  12/5/2002 Series:  Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length 


Interviewer: We’re here today to talk about Williston and also the Williston Alumni Association. First we’d like to ask each of you about your early life, whether you were born in Wilmington and some information about your family and I’ll start with Miss Ray.

Interviewer – Joyce Johnson

Interviewer 2 – Sue Cody

Ray: Yes, I was born in Wilmington. I grew up here. As most of us did during that time, for opportunities, left home right after high school and I’m real excited right now because I just now the past couple of months returned to home after living away for 40 years. So actually other than just growing up here, that’s all I remember.

I can’t say a whole lot about growing up other than I grew up, I went to school. I think back in those days our parents sheltered us an awful lot and really I don’t remember a lot more than going to school like a child should, attending church and that was my life.

Nixon: An A student all the way through from first grade to seventh grade. Her report card had only A’s on it.

Ray: You didn't have a lot of other activities. There wasn’t a lot to do.

Nixon: At the end of the year, she got a scholarship to Marquette University.

Ray: At the end of my senior year. I did attend Marquette University. I’m a 1964 graduate of Marquette University College of Nursing. That’s been my vocation. I spent 30 years in the Department of Veterans Affairs as a nurse and I retired in 1995.

Interviewer: And Miss Nixon?

Nixon: I went to school in the country. I was born in Porter’s Neck, North Carolina. I went to school out there until seventh grade. When I finished 7th grade out at Kirkland, came up to Williston in the 8th grade, stayed there and graduated in 1933 from Williston. No one was able to send me off, but I did take some nursing courses because I started working at the hospital and worked there for 11 years at Community Hospital, all black at that time until we united with the building of New Hanover and the white hospital, which was James Walker Hospital. They joined together and I went over there and worked there 14 years and retired in 1981.

Interviewer: And Mrs. Ennett?

Ennett: Yes, I was born in Wilmington. I lived here all my life except for five years. I was gone for about five years. But, I went to Williston, little Williston first. Kindergarten first, what’s the church Hannah?

Nixon: Gregory Congregational Church.

Ennett: They had kindergarten, went there and then I went to little Williston and from there, Gregory was right on the corner. Little Williston was on 7th Street near Ann right behind where the funeral home was. Then at the next corner on Nun Street there was Gregory. It had been a normal school. From there we went over to 10th Street, Williston. The 6th grade had a two-room building. From there, I was in the 7th grade advanced class and then to Williston High School and graduated in 1935 in the 11th grade.

I think twice during getting an education at Williston, they had graduating classes from the 11th grade and that year of ’35 was mine. From there, like I said, it was during the depression there was no money for college even though my grades were good. I didn't get to go to college like I said because there was no money, not even for scholarships, work or scholastic. There was just no money so I got married (laughter).


Ennett: My husband and I have six children, five boys and one girl. All that time I stayed home because there was little work for women anyway. I stayed home and took care of my kids. I did do some sewing, I liked that and it helped the income. Then all the children were able to go to college, some on scholarships and some just because they could do it. We encouraged them to get an education because we knew that was the key.

From the time I couldn’t work, I did get a job. I think my oldest son was 15 and the others were smaller on down to 3, I got a job doing childcare. I liked it, stayed there a long time until the hospitals merged, James Walker and Community and I started at New Hanover in ’67. I believe it was the 14th of June they had the dry run. The hospital opened for patients the next day and I stayed there for eight and a half years and I left and went to Virginia and worked at the hospital there. We were called ward clerks and I think that’s the first time they had ward clerks from our race.

When I went to Mount Vernon which was a new hospital also, I worked there five years and we were called unit secretaries. Basically it was the same work except the way they dispensed the medicine up from the pharmacy downstairs to the floor. We had ours all on the floor. It was not a team care hospital like ours was, it was a primary care. One nurse took care of her patients and everything. It was really nice. It was a concept we didn't know about. But it was nice and I stayed there until I came back home. I was able to retire and my husband was sick. I came back and just did part time work. I worked for the Senior program for a while.

I wanted to mention something about Williston. We had a lot of opportunities there. Our teachers were dedicated and they cared about the students and how you behaved and that sort of thing. In fact the students, the parents and the teachers knew each other. The teachers there had to visit the home at least once a month. That way she got to know the parents and they knew who your teacher was and what was expected of you. I think that kept the discipline in order.

We had a football team, basketball teams. We had various clubs like High-Y that was for boys. We had a debate club, a drama club, of course the Glee Club and the Crown and Scepter that was an honor society. I remember standing on the front steps with my crown and kids laughing at us, but that was all right.

Williston had the best band in town. The streets would be lined for parades and when they saw that band coming they would start screaming and raising their hands and just so elated. They were really good. Precision, oh they were good.

Of course all that was taken away when the schools merged and it’s never really been the same. Take my stepmother, she was a teacher and she was concerned about it. The integration was good, but she said a lot of kids were going to get lost and they did. It was really tragic because they were floundering. Because in a way they started school at Gregory Primary and were so accustomed the care and concern they got from Williston, it did affect some children. It really was a great school as they said; it was the greatest school under the sun.

Interviewer: Okay, David.

Nixon: Born and raised in Wilmington. My mother might correct me on this but I was born at James Walker Hospital. I went through Williston Junior High and then Williston Senior High and graduated in 1955. Just to add to what Mrs. Ennett was saying, it wasn’t the best band in the city; it was the best band in the state. It was one of them.

INTERVIEWER 2: David, what instrument did you play in the band?

Nixon: Trumpet.

INTERVIEWER 2: Do you still play?

Nixon: Not much. In fact, the last several years not at all. I gave my instrument to my son and it got lost.

Interviewer: What were your favorite subjects in school?

Nixon: French, which I don’t remember a word of now (laughter). I took it for two years and band, of course.

Interviewer: Who was the instructor then?

Nixon: For band? Mr. Floyd. When I started, I don’t remember the band director who was there when I first got in the band. The following year Mr. Floyd took over. But the majority of my time in the band was with Mr. Floyd for high school and after my first year of junior high is when Mr. Floyd appeared, for me anyway. And from then on it was Mr. Floyd.

Interviewer: Mrs. Ennett, what was your favorite subject?

Ennett: Oh I loved English. Didn't like math, I did it, but I didn't like it (laughter). I never got in the band or anything, but my daughter was in the Glee Club and I had three children in the band, my three sons. Ernest played trumpet, and Ronald was the clarinet and Reginald the trombone. They all were under Mr. Floyd. Ernest received a music scholarship. We called them scholarships. It was a one-time thing for the band because Mr. Floyd said he taught them everything he knew.

Our priest wanted to get my son a scholarship at Harvard University in Massachusetts…I can’t think of the name of it now it’s been so long. Ernest wouldn’t take it because he said it takes you so long to get established. He wanted to hurry up and graduate and be able to get a job and go to work. That was back in the 60’s so he could have, but he didn't want to. He used that knowledge to play with the band when he first got to New York and was looking for work. They just snapped him right up. He finally had to give it up, you know, after three years. If you’re going to start a family, you want to be home. Ho found other work. He still has his instrument.

Interviewer: And Mrs. Nixon?

Nixon: My favorite subject was algebra. I loved it. I could go to the back of the book when the class was about middle ways. I could go to the back of the book and work problems. They couldn’t understand why I knew it so well, but there was something about it. It to me was much easier than arithmetic. It did to me anyway… Y plus Y plus this and that… I was exempted from it. Every time they gave a test, they wouldn’t let me take it. I was exempted from about three subjects. We had to take the examination to graduate.

Ennett: Speaking of that Hannah, we had Mrs. Lofton, remember she was physics, very strict… and chemistry.

Nixon: Yes, she taught chemistry too.

Ennett: Yes she taught chemistry and physics. In our senior year, the 11th grade, she started us off that year and said we were going to have to keep a notebook of everything that we were doing and be sure we keep our notes because we were going to another notebook that we were going to pass in.

So we did. When it came time that was the neatest notebook. But anyway I got an A-. All the tests we had, I only had three subjects in the senior class. The only one I had to take was history. I didn't have to take one for physics and I didn’t have to take one for English because I did so well in them. She was tough, she just meant for us to learn what she taught us. All our teachers were fair. They really were.

We didn't have the problem of kids talking back or even wanting to appear belligerent or ignoring the teacher, nothing like that. I don’t think we had an incident in Williston that I can remember. There was one fellow in our class who was an only child. I think his mother taught, I don’t know what his father did. He wouldn’t get his lessons so they talked to his parents and they talked to him, but he still didn't do well. He came to school one day, he wasn’t a vicious person or anything like that. He had a little pocketknife; you know they sent him home, that’s it. That’s the only thing I can remember in all the years I went to school. And he hadn’t done anything. He just had it in his pocket, someone saw it and sent him home.

Nixon: One of the things I remember about Williston, which started all the way in Gregory, is was the majority of the classes that we were in as the teacher went through the roster for the first couple of days. She would tell you about your mother or your uncle or cousin or your sister or brother who had preceded you that she had had in your class and whether they did well or they didn't do well (laughter) and what she expected of you. From that you knew that you had better be careful otherwise somebody at home or your family would be looking you up.

Interviewer: What was your favorite?

Ray: It was really interesting that my mother was so good in algebra because I think I made my first C in algebra (laughter). I didn't realize she was so good. But my favorite subjects were English and literature. I think, well I know it was because we had such excellent teachers, Miss King, Miss Robinson.

My kids get tired of hearing me say this probably, but when they were in high school and I’m waiting to hear them to recite some Shakespeare or Chaucer and I never hear it and I think, “Goodness, what are they teaching?” That’s what I remember most about school is being in the kitchen and washing dishes and reciting Shakespeare and Chaucer because I had to get up in class and do this.

Over the years my writing skills have helped me tremendously. I just marvel at how well we were taught back then. I actually have said, after seeing my kids through school, that’s it really fair, but my personal opinion is that we got a better education. When you think about it, it just really hurts your heart. I don’t put it all on the school systems. I put a lot on our generation’s parents. I think we got lax. I think with integration we thought we had it made now, but with our parents they were always on guard. Our kids have to have this so they were forever on us and forever in tune with the school. They had to be able to compete.

Ennett: Well, anybody that went to Williston can tell you, you were just expected to do Shakespeare and Chaucer. You KNEW it when you left there. One kid, Ernest Dixon, came back and spoke. He had a scholarship to Yale, I think it was. He was just telling us things that had happened since he had been gone.

He had a roommate he said who seemed to have a lot of money and stuff like that. He said here he was, a little old boy from Wilmington and he hardly ever studied. One night he was studying trying to get prepared for the next day’s test and he asked him why he was scrambling so and he said because he had to get all that stuff remembered for tomorrow. He looked over and it was Chaucer and he said he had had that in high school. This kid was privileged, but he had not had it. I don’t know where he was from but he was not from here.

Nixon: One of the other things that I recall is after high school, I went into the military, the United States Air Force, and one of the things they did in the Air Force was continued education. You got a lot of training. Of course, my thinking was when I graduated to get away from school. The first thing they did was put me in school. When we tested they divided you up and put you in classes. And there were three of us that came out of Williston at the same time and we went in together. And we were in these classes.

Of course in ’55 we did have the separation of the schools. The first time I ran into sitting in a classroom with whites, they put some basic math on the board of course the three of us worked through it. Then they took us out of that class and put us in where we could start algebra. Well, the three of us had had algebra and we looked around and there were all these white guys struggling with algebra and that blew me away cause I’m thinking I went to Williston, an all black school. New Hanover High School a few blocks away which was supposed to be a better school, yet I’m sitting in a class with people who can’t really compete with me because of my high school education.

The same thing happened when I tried out for the band. I tried out for the military band for my permanent base assignment and the band director walked up to the board and he drew a staff and he wrote a little rhythm up on the board for the young guys that were taking the test. Quite a few white guys fumbled through it, but when he put it on the board, I recognized it because Mr. Floyd always had us play all types of rhythms.

When I got my instrument and stood up, I played it through the first time. He just kind of shook his head. The majority of the others, there were a couple of others that did as well as I did but the majority fumbled through the test. I didn't get in the band because my test scores put me in a bracket and the Air Force had to put me in a high electronics field. They assigned that I had to go to school as an electronic technician to work on a radar weapon control system, which at that time was a very high level technical field. So when I put in a transfer to go to the band they turned me down because they wouldn’t let my level in it.

Nixon: And he retired as an electronic engineer.

Nixon: Yes, as an electronic engineer, I retired. But the competition I ran into, I was well prepared all the way through the military because of the education I got through Williston.

Interviewer: And you’ve talked about the band, but what other activities did you enjoy? I’ll start with you on this end.

Ray: I can recall being in the Drama Club. We did have some social clubs developing at that time.

Interviewer: Were you in any of the social clubs?

Ray: The Uniques, at the time, it was fun. Actually, I was a very studious person so I didn't have a lot of activities. I do remember just the camaraderie at the school because we all went to the same school from all around. Once you got to high school, you went to Williston. You just developed such pride. When my girls were in high school we were in a big city and there were two or three different high schools and you could see where they lost that camaraderie. They didn't develop that kind of pride. That’s just the way it was then. It makes a difference in children’s lives.

Interviewer: Did you attend your prom?

Ray: Only one year I think. I can’t recall if it was my junior or senior prom.

Interviewer: What about field trips?

Ray: I recall one field trip, I remember once going to J.C. Smith College. That’s about the only field trip I recall. I think that was a conference as I also was in Student Council.

Interviewer: Now who was in charge of the Student Council at that time?

INTERVIEWEE: I’m going to say it was Mr. Lowe.

Interviewer: Okay, and Mrs. Nixon, your other activities in school?

Nixon: I was a bussed student so we couldn’t stay over for any kind of club. They tried to get a tennis club going and that’s the only thing I got further into it enough to get the tennis shoes (laughter). I never did find out why it was a flop. They did not have tennis, no one played tennis for the next two or three years. They didn’t have a tennis class.

Nixon: There wasn’t a class, but they did have a tennis team.

Ennett: Yes, my son was in the team that won the city championship in his senior year. He was also in the Glee Club, I forgot to mention that. He’s still playing tennis. He won the triple crown championship here. Do you remember Miss McIver’s nephew? He used to live here, I can’t recall his name. He was in New York at the time and they played doubles… Rod Beamon...he was on that team. He still plays. They used to do real well. He did have a team up there, I don’t know whether he still has a team or not, but he coached.

Interviewer: And what were some of your activities?

Ennett: Well, I was in the Drama Club and proud of myself.

Interviewer: And David…other than the band?

Nixon: Crown and Scepter.

Interviewer: Tell us about some of your favorite teachers and I’ll start on that end this time.

Nixon: Well, my memory is very short, but I think Mr. Floyd, of course the band teacher, Miss McIver, my French teacher. I also liked Miss L.S. Williams who taught English and literature.

Nixon: The “Big Wheel.”

Interviewer: She taught me my senior year too and I still remember Chaucer also. And Mrs. Ennett who was your favorites teacher or teachers?

Ennett: I really liked all my teachers. I can’t tell who I liked the most. I did have a favorite teacher, I think it must have been Miss Graves. She was also my godmother so I guess that’s why. I really liked all my teachers. Mr. Hendron was nice. I liked him. He was the algebra teacher. He taught me algebra and geometry, he taught both. I liked them all. They all seemed to have the same interest in you, encouragement and everything.

You always wanted to do your best because they were expecting the best. My sons went to school, the young ones were going to school and the older ones had passed through there already and the teachers would tell them, “I taught your brother” or whatever. They expected you to live up to whatever anyone else has done.

Interviewer: And Miss Hannah.

Nixon: I think my favorite teacher was …I think her name was Miss Vines. She taught me algebra. Of course, Mr. Washington who taught chemistry, he was real nice.

Ennett: He taught biology too.

Nixon: Oh yes, he was a chemistry teacher, biology and science. He should have let me go through that test because I could find out how much I knew. Because in chemistry problems it was propositions with the two things. In chemistry you had to think about the components…what brings out the acid or whatever… and they were right in the book. It was easy for me. I didn't have to do the thinking like I did with algebra. I guess he knew that I was smart in algebra and he felt surely I could do the chemistry problems. But I did find some I couldn’t do.

When it came to the test, I was left out because he said I didn't need to take it. I said I think IF I had taken that test, I would have flunked anyway (laughter). Therefore I don’t think they should just pass children over a test. I know I would have according to my sister. Miss Lofton taught my sister and she was real good, worked those problems and some that she could work I couldn’t work them. She said too, “He should have let you take that test” (laughter). I said he certainly should have.

Interviewer: And your favorite teachers?

Ray: I have to make a correction too because it was geometry that was the ‘C’ my first ‘C’. It wasn’t algebra; it was geometry that threw me for my first six weeks. My favorite teachers and like Miss Ennett said there were so many favorites and I’m forgetting names, but I do remember Miss King and Miss Robinson, English and literature teacher. I just enjoyed listening to them so much. They were captivating and could draw you into it and make it so interesting.

Nixon: It was surprising to me when I got into the service to meet so many fellows that graduated from high school and we talked about our various schools. Like at Williston, you had biology, chemistry, physics, you had geometry. I didn't get to trig but I had a plain and solid geometry before I got out of school. In talking to the other fellows, I found that some of them didn't even have those courses available in their schools. That was surprising to me.

Ray: I recall, I don’t know about you, but I recall in high school when they started dropping trigonometry, dropping chemistry. It was just amazing.

Interviewer: Are all of you members of the Alumni Association? Tell us about the Alumni Association.

Ray: I can’t tell you much about it because like I said I’ve been away the past forty years, but whenever they would write me and let me know about something that was going on and ask for membership fee, I would send it in. If anyone is listening from the Alumni Association, I think every year they should ask people to send their membership in because I think it’s a matter of forgetting, as I think all of us would.

The alumni Association has been doing so well with giving out scholarships to the kids and honoring our teachers from the past. I think they should be honored. Because as we have grown up and had our children grow up, we’ve realized how wonderful they were to us, what a difference love makes.

Interviewer: That’s right. Miss Hannah, how long have you been a member?

Nixon: I’ve been a member, it was started in the 70’s, I wasn’t able by working at night, I wasn’t able to attend the meetings so I really didn't get into it until I retired in ’81. Then I would make the meetings and we worked it so that we could have entertainment and different things. We started out with just one scholarship for the Williston students. Then we changed it after the integration went on.

We decided that we had to go and choose the children that graduated, had been in Williston but went to these other schools so therefore we started giving scholarships from the three- Hoggard, Laney and Hanover, we choose one out of each school. Then when they started this school for dropouts over there at Lakeside and we began then to give four scholarships. We haven’t given any in the last year. We weren’t able to give that many the last year. I think we gave out one last year. That’s why we’re working so hard now because we want to get back to at least two scholarships.

I thought it was so nice to get into the school at Lakeside because those that had dropped out and went back and graduated, well naturally they were trying hard and they did do real good some of them. I was the one that would go and check them out so I had the opportunity of doing that down through the years.

Ennett: I find that at Lakeside like any alternative schools, the students are really smart. They just have a problem with discipline and they send them to these schools because…there’s a young lady who was sent to that school. A neighbor said how well she had done. She’s in college now; it’s her second year. I said, “Well, because she went to that school, it doesn’t reflect on how smart she is.” She was really smart but she just couldn’t take things, like if somebody pushes, you’re pushing back. That was the problem. A lot of them are very smart but sometimes need a little guidance, discipline.

In my son’s first principalship, my younger son, was at that alternative school and he fully expected he might have to stay there for five years because there was no guarantee when they would move him. He’s a very good disciplinarian without being mean and he’s made friends out of all of his students. So he was only there a year but he did such a wonderful job in that year that they just sent him over to the Longhill School, some school up there where the parents are well off and that sort of thing, an integrated school of course.

That school has done wonders for a lot of kids. They get the kind of attention that they need. My son had one student who he said was a junior ROTC. He said he could never understand why they sent him to them. He was a leader and he gave him things to do that he had to be head of. He said he wasn’t a mean kid or anything. He never knew why they sent him to him.

He did say there were some that would leave for home and would never get there. He’d have to go find out why and that sort of thing. They did things like the students complained that it was Christmas time and they didn't have any sort of celebrations or programs. The parents wanted that sort of thing so they asked him if they could have a party for the children that Christmas.

He said he didn't see why not. They said they would do everything and of course he would have to be there. He said those kids had the best time. The parents, mothers and fathers were there and they said they hadn’t had that at that school. Now I don’t know who was head of the school before but they didn’t have that. They just did school and went home. There was no basketball or that sort of thing anyway. Little things like that make a big difference especially with parents.

Like I said Hannah was doing the interviews and everything for the students. We used to give them, way back when they first started, she was in and I was too, but then we sort of dropped off for some reason for a few years and got back into it, but we always sent our dues. That’s what helps to give the scholarships.

Interviewer: David, how do you feel about the closing of Williston?

Nixon: Well, when they closed I was upset over it because at that time I was living in Kansas City, Missouri. Kansas City was going through the same thing. They were integrating the schools and what it amounted to was they were shipping black kids across town to some of the all white schools. We were having problems with it. When I found out they were closing Williston, I figured well here we go again, the same problem. I think my feeling was that this truly was a problem.

In Williston, like everyone has said, we seemed to be a close-knit family. Again the teachers knew so many members of your family and even within the kids, you knew who it was, for instance, her son and I started school together at Gregory and we went all the way through school for 12 years. The majority of the time we were in the same classes and there were quite a few of us that had started together and went all the way through school together.

Also the fact that I had cousins galore in school plus my sisters and brothers coming behind me so there just seemed to be, you might say, someone looking over your shoulder and you look back and see who saw you. If I do this, not only did I have to watch for the teachers to be sure the teachers didn't see me, but I had to look around and see if there was a family member or a very close friend that saw me.

There were a lot more controls over your activities and you watched yourself a lot better. You always wanted to put forth your best.

Interviewer: Right. Mrs. Ennett, how do you feel about the closing?

Ennett: Well, I was like a lot of other parents we were concerned about how it would affect the children because of this bond that they’d always had and everything. These people didn't know them, nobody knew anybody. Then just like I said, they were floundering in a way of speaking. That can deter a child or an adult even from doing their very best. The least thing that they feel is a slight or something can turn all the way around and it did a lot of them. Instead of like saying well nothing’s going to stop me, I’m going to do this, well of course what’s the use.

It showed…of course there was no band or anything like that. All these things that they were brought up with, “When I get to Williston” now there was no certainty. That’s not a good thing. It takes its toll. It depends on the person I’m sure, but some things regardless of how much assurance you get and everything, you’re just not able to deal with it. I’m sure it was frustrating for the teachers as well.

Anyway we had that program, remember that, at the museum, the 25th Anniversary closing of Williston, we still feel strongly about Williston.

Nixon: In fact we have the room at the museum, the Williston Auditorium at the museum that they use for all occasions. I guess I was a little selfish because when they did do that I said, “Thank God my children are out of there.” They don’t have to go over to those schools because all of them had graduated. My last graduate from Williston, the last one was Robert, my baby boy, and he graduated in ’61. So they all were out ’55 through ’61. They were gone so I didn't have to cope with it like some others did.

Ray: It wasn’t as hard, like I said I was away from here so I really didn't think too much about it and I think a lot of people are like I am. Really the nostalgia and everything like this has come back after you’ve gone through life and you’ve seen what happened with your children and you see what they missed and you see the deterioration of your children’s education and children’s education in general. Then you look back and you see just what you had. You realize it more now than you did then. I think that’s why these strong feelings come up about the school, why the school means so much to so many of us.

[Tape 2]

Ennett: …he doesn’t do this at his home…the kids throwing temper tantrums.

Nixon: There were consequences.

Ennett: In my house the discipline wasn’t there, but you didn't want to do things that displeased your elders because they were so kind and good to you and you wanted to be this little lady or this little gentleman. That was your goals to strive for the best. And the teachers took it up the same way. That’s why it was a continuous thing. Like he said – anywhere you were across town, didn’t know a lot of people you didn’t do anything you wouldn’t do in front of your parents.

Nixon: And most of your teachers lived in the neighborhood too and that had a significant impact.

Interviewer: In talking to others we were told that a lot of celebrities visited Williston. Did any visit while you were in school?

Nixon: I know Jackie Robinson visited the school and Alvin Ailey, the dancer, came one year.

Ennett: Speaking of that you know we had several graduates from Williston like Meadowlark Lemon, Althea Gibson, Sam Bowen, professional baseball with the Baltimore Orioles, in the ‘70s. We had so many of them that went into professions like… Dr. Eaton and so many and a lot of them have come back. Some of them have come back recently, but they did really well. That’s why we have that display at the museum that tells you, it has pictures of when they were students and what their professions became.

A lot of them went into teaching. They loved it because their teachers were so good. They had the same way with their students as the teachers did when they were students.

Ray: The teachers had a lot of respect then.

Ennett: They had a lot of respect for you and you for them and for themselves because if they don’t have self-respect, they can’t be respectful of others.

Ray: And when you’re speaking of celebrities, I don’t even think we got into celebrities that much, do you? Our teachers were celebrities to us. I mean we had that much respect for them. A teacher was a big thing.

Ennett: Well at one time that was because being able to educate was really a wonderful thing and they felt that. That’s why they were so dedicated to do their very best to educate these children.

Ray: I think in our generation, celebrity was somewhat of a different concept than what it is now. Now it’s the ball players, the basketball players. I didn't think much about it then.

Nixon: One of the individuals that I looked up to was the scout master.

Ennett: Yes, scouts and den mothers. I think all of us had dealings with them as children. In fact, I have pictures of my sons in scouts.

Nixon: Ricky Clyde and his brother now when they see me, “Oh, there goes my den mother.” (Laughter)

Interviewer: We’re trying to talk with as many persons as we can. Who would you suggest or do you have any suggestions of persons that we should talk to?

Nixon: A friend of mine, a fellow student, have you talked with William Robinson, I think they call him Robby now but when we were in school we called him Jinx. As a fact speaking of celebrities, he wasn’t a big time musician, but he had a band that played up and down the east coast and even into Europe. One of his sons, Ernest, played with him for a while in his band.

Ennett: He played and then decided to get a job where he could stay home more.

Interviewer: Do you have any other suggestions?

Nixon: You might speak with Adolph Green. He’s back in town. He was in a band. Adolph graduated from Langston University in Oklahoma. He was a band director at the all black school in Oklahoma City. The historical black school in fact it’s still the majority black now. It was the counterpart to Williston for Oklahoma City. They integrated it, but in this case the majority of the whites didn't go so even now it’s still mostly a black school. But he was the band director there for the school.

Interviewer: When I asked the question about the closing of Williston, I also wanted to ask, would it have been better if Williston had been kept open as an integrated school and do you think it could have been done?

Nixon: I really think it could have, I really think so because we put much thought to it after it happened. It was too late to try to arouse the people about it, but several of us discussed that after it was done. We didn't realize, at least I didn't and most of the members that I talked with, we didn't realize what they were going to do. When we found out anything, they were closing down Williston.

Ennett: Had we thought that the high school would be taken away from us, it was just like pulling the rug from under us. They were talking about integration, but we thought that Williston High School would always be there. But rather than move the kids around integrate, some here, some there, they just took the high school away.

That has happened other places in North Carolina. There’s a documentary that was on channel 8 and they were talking about this school, I think it’s called Wards something. There’s nothing there now but shrubbery, but that there was a school on that block and they’re trying to get another school put there. It was closed the same way, just shut down. They’ll show it again because they show them over and over.

Nixon: In retrospect, in Kansas City when they integrated the schools we sort of moved out to Oklahoma right afterwards, I’m not sure how things went with the Kansas City schools, but in Okalahoma City even though Douglas is still 90% black, when they integrated, they took the top teachers out of it. The school quality has dropped. My feeling is is that’s what they would have done with Williston. If it had stayed open and they would have integrated, they would have pulled all of the top teachers out.

I know in Oklahoma City they sent in a lot of their new teachers. They sent in a lot of their inexperienced, 90 pound white teacher and they were afraid, scared to death of those kids. They didn't have any discipline. It was a case of I’m going to put it up on the board. Get it if you can and if you can’t, okay. As long as you don’t bother me, I’ll pass you on. That happens to too many kids I know in the Oklahoma school system. I’m afraid that’s what would have happened to Williston if they had kept the school open.

They would have taken away the experienced teachers and brought in new teachers. I’m not saying they wouldn’t have been good teachers, but their young life experience would have been different. And a lot of them are afraid especially of the black kids.

Ennett: That’s because they don’t know. If you don’t know people, you don’t know how to be with them. I find if you learn to know a person, you find qualities that you can admire. When we were going to school some kids were, “I don’t like her” or “ I don’t like him” and then you see them all huddled-up together, playing together. What happened? They got to know each other.

Nixon: That’s like at Williston, the things I heard about Miss Lofton was she was tough, but she was fair.

Ennett: She was, you liked her once you were in her class you liked her. She would not take any foolishness. You did your work and if she thought you could do it, you better do it. She was good, she was fair. Our teachers were fair. Miss King was another one.

Nixon: And Miss Williams. We called her the “Big Wheel.” She was fair and they didn’t take any stuff from us.

Ray: Accountability. I think with integration they stopped holding the kids accountable. They stopped holding our parents accountable and it just deteriorated from there.

Nixon: There was an expectation from the kids from not only the teachers, but the staff and parents and everyone, you were expected to accomplish at your best. I think, the majority of us, we tried to do that.

Ray: And there was no doubt you could do it. You can do it, there is no such thing as some reason you can’t, you can do it. You’ve got to prove to me that you can’t do it.

Ennett: And they were there to help you, and then they’d stay after school to help you get it, to understand.

Interviewer: Now is there anything that any of you would like to say that I have not asked? Well, let’s say as our closing statement, just say one statement about what Williston meant to you.

Ray: As I look back after my life experiences and that’s college, raising children and everything, working, I realize that I had gotten probably as good a foundation, primary, secondary, than anybody had gotten in this nation. I graduated from Marquette University in 1964 as I said earlier, and I just feel that I was prepared to go out into the world and compete anywhere. It’s because of Williston.

Nixon: I think I was really satisfied with my teaching and learning in Williston. As I said that ’45 got me certain education, of course until I got afterward while I was working in the hospital form the nurse. I knew enough then…my schooling taught me how to handle all kinds of situations and I think I did very well at it. I raised four children, two boys and two girls and they turned out very pleasing to me (laughter).

Ennett: Williston I think was just great. I can’t find anything that I would want to change. As I said it was a place where you wanted to go. Getting up in the morning and going to school, I always liked school, but I think it was because of the teachers and the way we were treated and nurtured really. I loved going to school. It was always a pleasure going to school and I hated if I had a sore throat and had to miss school because it was just like being home. It was familiar, it was comforting all that and at the same time I was getting an education and I wanted to get that. They made you want to learn. Sometimes that’s hard to instill in kids who want to play. I appreciated my teachers, I really do and I don’t think we could have had any better. I really don’t. I don’t care where we’d have gone.

D. DIXON: I’ll have to ditto on Edna because if you asked me a couple weeks after I graduated from Williston, I probably wouldn’t have been able to give you much of an answer. Because at that time I really didn't realize what I had gotten. But after many years out in the real world, I graduated from a technical school in Kansas City, which is now part of the DeVry Institute School with an associate degree in electronic technology. Then I went on to graduate from Oklahoma City University with a degree in physics.

All of that and my four years in the military, plus my time I spent working in the government and I look back and all of it started with the foundation I got out of Williston which was a lot better than I thought it was at the time I graduated.

Interviewer: We would like to thank all of you. This has been really an educational session.

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