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Interview with Lela Pierce Thompson (with Georgia Bowden, Herman Johnson, and Eva Mae Smith),  May 25, 2005 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Lela Pierce Thompson (with Georgia Bowden, Herman Johnson, and Eva Mae Smith),  May 25, 2005
May 25, 2005
In this interview, Georgia Bowden, Herman Johnson, Eva Mae Smith and Lela Pierce Thompson discuss their education and experiences at Williston College and Wilmington College during and after segregation.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Thompson, Lila Pierce, et al. Interviewer:  Johnson, Joyce / Parnell, Jerry / Mims, LuAnn Date of Interview:  5/25/2005 Series:  Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length  56:40


Johnson, Joyce: Hello everyone. This is Wednesday, May 25th and we have four persons here that we're going to interview today concerning Williston alumni history as well as Williston College. Uhm...our overall purpose is to capture the history of this region. Uh...people don't keep papers or memorabilia as much as they used to and a lot of us rarely write letters, so oral history is a way for us to record this history. And I'm going to ask each one of you to state your name and uhm...tell us a little about your childhood before we get into talking about Williston or Williston College and I'll start to my left.

Bowden: My name is Georgia Bowden. I grew up in Supply, North Carolina. I'm the eldest of six children and uhm...I think I did pretty well in school. I finished High School when I was 16, began my senior year when I was 15, so I was kind of like the baby in my class, you know. And uhm...then I actually started at uh...Wilmington College when I was 16.

Thompson: My name is Lela Pierce Thomson and uh...I'm the eldest of uh...three children in my family. I have two brothers and uhm...I guess you could say that I had a fairly happy uh...childhood because I always loved to read. I've always been interested in books and I think it has something to do with being a little bit shy. You could just read and kind of hide behind a book. But uh...I enjoy learning and profession became teaching and so uh...I just learned right along with the children and it was fun. One time I said, "They don't have to pay me for this," but then I changed my mind a little later.

Johnson, Herman: I'm Herman Johnson. I'm a native Wilmingtonian. I am the knee baby in a family of four. I was a baby for many years until my younger brother, Robert Johnson, came along. Robert has done some work for the university, consulting work. And all of my schooling took place right here in New Hanover County. I started my early elementary school at what was then Williston primary school that now is called Gregory Elementary School. From there I went to uh...Williston junior High School and from Williston Junior High I attended and graduated from Williston Senior High School. And Lela said too I was one of the shy ones in school. I've come out of it in later years you know. I think the teaching profession, which I also went into as Lela said, has a tendency to make you get out of that shell that mode that you have. So, anyway uh...that's a little about myself.

Smith: My name is Eva Mae Macmillan [ph?] Smith and in my family there were eight children and I'm number seven and I grew up in Supply and I attended school in Supply also but I graduated from Union High School in Shallotte. And I think I probably always wanted to be a teacher ever since I can remember and then I attended Williston College and finished my education up here at UNCW.

Johnson, Joyce: Let's talk a little bit about those of you who went to Williston High School what was a typical day for you, Ms. Thomson, in school?

Thompson: Let me think about that. I can think back, I guess you are considering the ninth grade, okay. Well, actually I was eager to get to school uh...and uh...I think we had about six classes I believe and, as I said before, I was always enthused about going to classes and learning whatever it was that I could. Uh...and uh...we had I think about three in the morning and then we had lunch uh...which was another social occasion and I enjoyed that. And uh...then we had the other three and then I could not participate in a lot of the extra curricular activity at school because of the fact that my mother worked and my brother was babysitted [sic] by a neighbor and so it was my task as soon as I finished school day to go and pick them up and then take them home and take care of them until my mother returned from work and that was mostly my day.

Johnson, Joyce: And you mentioned the ninth grade. Now, at Williston was it-- did Williston Senior High start at the ninth grade?

Thompson: As I recall, no, at that time I believe it-- it was about the--

Johnson, Herman: The tenth grade I believe.

Thompson: Tenth?

Johnson, Herman: Uh huh.

Thompson: Senior high, I mean I don't think Mr. Johnson I attended the same school.

Johnson, Herman: Well that's true.

Thompson: That he did so then High School for me was at the ninth grade, yeah.

Johnson, Joyce: What year are we talking about?

Thompson: Well, actually I graduated in 1953.

Johnson, Joyce: Mr. Johnson.

Johnson, Herman: As Lela was stating uh...I graduated in 1961 from Williston Senior High School and before Williston Senior High School there was what was called Williston Industrial High school. And I think maybe the years were a little longer in the high school level. From Williston when I was at Williston there were three grades in the high school tenth, eleventh and twelfth grade. A typical day for me at Williston was uhm...a day in which I looked forward to going to band because I was-- Mr. Robert Floyd was the band teacher and everybody at Williston either wanted to be in the high school and concert band under Mr. Robert Floyd or either be in the glee club under Mrs. Bea Constance Odell [ph?]. I wanted to be in both of those. I sang as well as played the saxophone. But at that time, we could only be in one of the two because and glee club was both uh...a subject that occurred at the same period. So, uh...that was of my most uhm...uh...memorable things from Williston High School.

Uhm...some of my favorite teachers there were some of the ones that I always cherish today. I remember every one of my teachers because they had a lasting effect on me. And, as Eva said earlier, I think that's why I decided to go into the teaching profession as well. And once I graduated from Williston Senior High School, I entered what was then Williston Junior College, which was at the time we were there a branch of Wilmington College. It was during the segregation days when we were there so, therefore, we didn't go to the other school. But Wilmington College at that time was on Market Street.

Johnson, Joyce: Now what year was that?

Johnson, Herman: Uhm...I graduated in '61, so it was like about '62, '63 _______. And when we graduated from there we had a graduation at First Baptist Church over on Fifth Street.

Johnson, Joyce: Now why was that? Was it that there wasn't a gym there?

Johnson, Herman: There was a gym at Williston but I don't know the reason why. Well, one thing the classes weren't that large where you would have a graduation in the gymnasium. At Williston the gym was huge.

Johnson, Joyce: Right.

Johnson, Herman: So, we had our graduation at the First Baptist Church over on Fifth and Campbell.

Mims: Do you remember how many students were in your class at Williston College?

Johnson, Herman: Well it varied. I can't say a number because see we had like uhm...some students who were just coming into the college and some students who were ready to graduate because we had like English classes, biology and zoology and so as a result sometimes you may-- I may take a class my first year whereas uh...Eva may take it her second year, so therefore-- I'll say a typical in my English class there was like about 20 of us I think to give you a number.

Parnell: Students, people at the school _________.

Johnson, Herman: Oh, boy, huh? Can you all help?

Bowden: I'm trying to think.

Johnson, Herman: I can't remember.

Thompson: I think it was 26.

Bowden: You mean at Wilmington College?

Thompson: Yeah.

Johnson, Herman: Williston College.

Parnell: Williston College.

Thompson: About 20.

Johnson, Herman: Yeah, I would say about that many.

Smith: Williston or Wilmington College?

Parnell: Williston.

Thompson: Williston College.

Smith: Oh, I would say maybe 40 or 50.

Parnell: It wasn't a very large group?

Smith: Because it varied, you know.

Johnson, Herman: It did, right.

Smith: In the afternoon some came.

Johnson, Herman: That's true.

Smith: There were classes that met. By the time we got there they had already gone.

Johnson, Herman: That's true, right. And then, as Eva said, the nurses at that time from Community Hospital, which is right across the street--

Smith: They were also students.

Johnson, Herman: -- they were also students. They came over for their students as well.

Smith: Yeah, that was a large group.

Johnson, Herman: Right.

Smith: Uh huh.

Johnson, Herman: ____________.

Johnson, Joyce: So, the students that were going to--

Bowden: Community Hospital.

Johnson, Joyce: -- Community, right, attended Williston?

Bowden: Williston College.

Johnson, Herman: Williston College as well.

Johnson, Joyce: They did.

Johnson, Herman: Right.

Parnell: We'll talk about that later.

Thompson: There were also veterans attending there also.

Johnson, Joyce: Right.

Thompson: Yeah, you already have that information, okay.

Johnson, Joyce: Well, no, I want you to--

Thompson: That's all. I was just going to say I didn't know you had it, yes.

Smith: Did she say the veterans?

Johnson, Joyce: Uh huh.

Smith: Yeah, they did.

Thompson: Huh?

Smith: The military people.

Johnson, Joyce: Right.

Johnson, Herman: Oh, okay.

Johnson, Joyce: Tell me what a typical day was like at your school.

Bowden: At my school. Oh, my high school I attended uh...BCT for short, Brunswick County Training School, in Southport and uh...I think I had the best, Lela and Herman will disagree and Eva also but I think we had maybe the best principal that anyone has ever had, Mr. A.C. Cavanas [ph?]. Now that name I think he was from Wilmington. He lived in Wilmington.

Smith: Yes, he was.

Bowden: He was the best. I know they think they had the best but he was so well respected by everybody and I think he had taught-- he had taught my mother, I mean had been principal when my mother was in school and he was just a person that everybody loved. But I uhm...I had a choice to either attend uhm...Brunswick County Training School or Union High School. Eva attended Union High in Shallotte. But I-- Union High did not have a band at that time and I really wanted to be a majorette, so I went out of my way, I mean, I wanted to be-- and I became a high-stepping majorette who participated in the parades, you know, the Azalea Festivals.

Johnson, Joyce: Right.

Bowden: And, of course, my favorite subjects have always been, you know, reading, writing, spelling. I was never a good math student but I enjoyed even French. I think I really had fun with French in high school. Don't ask me about any now. It was really fun. I got a medal for French believe it or not for being a good French student but I do not speak French. And so it was-- it was a fun time. Everybody uh...was really nice back during those years. I graduated from high school in 1961 and I must say if you had troublemakers in the classroom there were only one or two, maybe one or two. You didn't have a whole bunch of troublemakers in a classroom like there are today, so it was a great time to be in high school.

Smith: Well, my principal was Mr. Jonathan Hankins [ph?] from Southport and he passed away recently, not too long ago but he was also an excellent principal. I've always said that he should have been the superintendent of Brunswick County Schools; however, he never did get that recognition.

But uhm...a typical day for me was just trying to complete assignments and stay on task and focus and uhm...make sure that I did everything I was supposed to do because, if not, when I got home I would be in real big trouble. My parents stressed the fact that you go to school to learn and they would always say you may not-- you can make straight A's but you can behave and that is exactly what they expected. So, I just really had a fun life in high school and I had very good teachers. Mr. Hankins was also principal but he also taught us and his wife, Ms. Irene Hankins, was the math teacher. She was an excellent math teacher. I think she could teach math to a rock. I just don't know how anybody could get in her class and couldn't learn math. So, I just had a lot of fun, good memories of high school and I graduated in 1961 also.

Johnson, Herman: Joyce, if I may go back and add we must mention our principal at Williston, Mr. Booker T. Washington.

Thompson: Yes, that was just on my mind also.

Johnson, Herman: ______ a very outstanding man in the community. Mr. Harris was our assistant principal.

Thompson: Yes, he was.

Johnson, Herman: He was a local photographer, so I mean it's just like they had their principals, everybody that went through Williston had Mr. Washington. His wife was an English teacher at Williston.

Thompson: Yes, she was.

Johnson, Herman: I had her for English.

Johnson, Joyce: I agree with that. I was there too. He was the principal there when I was there and his wife taught me.

Johnson, Herman: Yes ninth grade.

Thompson: Yes, Ms. Washington. She was-- speaking of that she was one of my favorite English teachers and I must mention Ms. L.S. William [ph?] another favorite. She was a little intimidating but uh...she was a good teacher.

Johnson, Joyce: Another good teacher.

Thompson: Yes, and Ms. Sadie B. Hooper [ph?] and Ms. Catherine Robinson.

Johnson, Herman: Right.

Thompson: I'm mentioning her because uh...I guess uh...I could not attend, like I said, a lot of the extracurricular activities at school; however, in my senior year I was able to be a dancer for a play there and that sort of set me on my uh...goal I guess uh...for drama. And so now uh...I'm the uh...president of the Willis Richardson Players [ph?] and we have some plays each year and we've been in existence since uh...1974 so I just want to stick that in.

Bowden: Yes, and I would like to add that when I was speaking of French and English and all like that in high school, I must say that Herman's brother-in-law, Mr. James Frank, was my English/French teacher, so give him a plug.

Parnell: So at least three teachers, three of you are teachers.

Bowden: All of us.

Johnson, Herman: All of us are teachers ________.

Parnell: Are any of your parents teachers?

Johnson, Herman: No.

Smith: No.

Parnell: So you all got interested in school through high school.

Johnson, Herman: Yeah, that's right.

Thompson: As a matter of fact, I think in my family I was probably the first teacher there, yeah.

Bowden: I was the first to graduate from college in my family. By the way, my maiden name is Simmons. I didn't say that before but I was the first to graduate and actually when I finished high school I had planned to join the Navy. This is really silly. I liked the Navy uniform, so I was going to join the Navy, don't know how to swim, don't know anything about swimming but my father was very wise. He had only an eighth grade education but he wanted his children to get an education and he didn't go along with that, so he made some plans for me and I just-- I had to keep them. I was only 16, so I was still taking orders from them.

Thompson: Of course.

Bowden: Uh huh. Yeah, so I chose-- he made a way for me to start attending the Williston College.

Johnson, Joyce: So now both of you were from other areas and you attended uh...Williston College. Where were you staying while you were attending college?

Bowden: That is a great question. We stayed-- we had to rent a room from somebody in Wilmington, whoever would rent us a room. That's how we did it and we did not have transportation. When we were attending Williston College, though, we could usually walk to class. Wherever we lived we were able to walk.

Johnson, Herman: Right.

Bowden: But once we started uh...out here to, what was it?

Thompson: Wilmington.

Bowden: Wilmington College.

Thompson: Wilmington College.

Bowden: Wilmington College then again we had no transportation, so there was Herman and Lela. They had cars. They brought us. We rode with them.

Smith: Right.

Thompson: We've been friends for years.

Smith: Have they ever paid you off?

Thompson: That's all right just by being friends.

Bowden: I still owe a few dollars.

Johnson, Herman: I didn't have a car either really. It was my sister's car. My sister at that time was teaching at _________ junior academy and she would go to-- well, I would take her to school and then I would get the car and then I would go around and pick up all these ladies before we came on here to class at Wilmington College.

Smith: Exactly.

Johnson, Joyce: So now were all your classes at the same time?

Johnson, Herman: No.

Thompson: No.

Bowden: No. He would wait for us.

Smith: He would wait for us.

Johnson, Joyce: (Inaudible).

Bowden: He studied while we were finishing our classes or we would wait while he-- we had no choice.

Thompson: Waited in the car many times.

Bowden: Yeah.

Thompson: Oh, yeah that's what got us through really to think that we could all be together.

Johnson, Herman: Yeah, uh huh.

Bowden: Uh huh.

Thompson: And socialize.

Bowden: And sit in the car.

Thompson: And study together and that kind of thing, so was a struggle I think, maybe not for them as much as it was for me because, as I stated earlier, I was the oldest one of them and I was married and I had four children and so uh...doing the work was kind of difficult doing housework and then taking care of the family and then trying to study but I got through it and I'm thankful for that.

Bowden: But she had a great husband.

Thompson: Oh, yes.

Bowden: Her husband he treats her just like a baby doll even today and he was such a good man, just worked with her.

Thompson: Uh huh.

Bowden: So well with the things to do around the house and the children.

Thompson: Yeah.

Bowden: Was he teaching at that time?

Thompson: Yes, he was-- yeah, he was.

Bowden: Okay.

Thompson: And that helped a lot because I guess I can tell you that we just recently last year celebrated our 50th anniversary but I was a child bride.

Bowden: That's wonderful.

Smith: You know as I look back on those days now I really don't think anybody could do that today. I don't think anybody would have that much patience with you or love or concern or there may be but it would be interesting for me to know if anybody could do that now where you have someone who finishes their-- until the finish class, pick them up faithfully every day.

Bowden: Every day.

Smith: Every day, no pay, sometimes once in a while.

Thompson: Once in a while.

Smith: Once in a while but most of the time no pay, not from me because I didn't have it.

Bowden: Right.

Smith: So, I mean it was just-- there had to be just genuine love.

Bowden: And we were poor, I mean I was really poor growing up and that's why I had planned to join the Navy, you know. I thought well I can't go to college because I don't have any money and uh...but, you know, God made a way through my father. He did not give up.

Parnell: What interested you in Williston College other than Fayetteville State or somewhere else?

Bowden: We were close home. That was, you know. I was about 30 miles from home and no one will ever believe this but Eva Mae and I we have hitchhiked from Wilmington to Supply, I mean literally, not with strangers. We would-- we would get in an area where people that we knew and knew us would give us a ride home because sometimes we had money to ride the bus home, you know the Greyhound bus would always put us out at a store in Supply, along Highway 17. And uhm...if we didn't have money, then we would see someone that was going our way and we would get a ride home and we did this back and forth all those years.

Johnson, Herman: And another answer in response to your question was it was very reasonable, you know, to have--

Johnson, Herman: Right, to have a college right there at Williston.

Bowden: Right.

Thompson: Right.

Johnson, Herman: You know, we stayed at home, we didn't have to pay tuition or nothing just bought our books and that so it was very reasonable.

Johnson, Joyce: You didn't have to pay tuition?

Johnson, Herman: No, because see we didn't-- oh, yes, we paid tuition but we didn't pay room and board that's what I meant.

Bowden: Right.

Thompson: Right.

Johnson, Herman: I'm sorry.

Thompson: And that made it--

Bowden: It was very minimal.

Thompson: Yeah. It made it easier for me--

Johnson, Herman: That's right.

Thompson: -- by being a family person uh...that I had folks who come out here and uh...because I don't believe I would have been able to complete my education if this college had not been available. And I need to sort of thank Mr. Johnson again because I saw him one day after I had my fourth child and I did not plan to come back to school because I thought I needed to just be there, you know, with the children. But he said know you should come out there because the college it's right there, you know. I said "Well, I don't know." But anyhow he said "Well you'll have to look into it."

And so I did look into it and decided to come and I'm so glad because I tried to think it out and I said, well, children, my youngest child at that time was ready for Kindergarten and I said now while she's in there and the others are at school maybe I can go to school too and be back home at the same time that they are there. And so, it worked out and so I'm grateful to Wilmington College and Williston College because that's where I got my start.

Johnson, Joyce: Now were all the classes during the day or were there night classes also?

Johnson, Herman: At Williston College?

Johnson, Joyce: Uh huh.

Johnson, Herman: The classes were at night because the instructors who taught at the college were instructors of the high school.

Thompson: Uh huh.

Bowden: Uh huh.

Johnson, Herman: Yeah.

Bowden: They taught during the day at the high school.

Thompson: Yeah.

Johnson, Herman: Right, uh huh, Mr. Isaac Moore [ph?] taught his zoology.

Bowden: Zoology, yeah _________.

Johnson, Herman: Biology.

Smith: Helped me through some science.

Johnson, Herman: Oh, really.

Smith: Marvin Johnson.

Thompson: That's Williston.

Johnson, Herman: Yeah, Marvin Johnson taught us chemistry.

Bowden: Chemistry, uh huh.

Thompson: Mr. Lowe [ph?] for a while and--

Johnson, Herman: Mr. Lowe.

Thompson: And A.C. King.

Johnson, Herman: Mrs. King was English.

Bowden: Mr. Moore.

Thompson: Yeah.

Bowden: Who I think you mentioned.

Thompson: Right.

Johnson, Herman: Right.

Johnson, Joyce: Did Ms. Williams teach you?

Johnson, Herman: And L.S. Williams taught us.

Thompson: ____________.

Bowden: ___________.

Thompson: Yeah.

Johnson, Herman: So all of these instructors taught in the high school in the morning, so it was like after school.

Johnson, Joyce: Then taught at the college at night.

Johnson, Herman: Right, uh huh. And we would have class until about 9:00 at night.

Smith: Yeah.

Thompson: But the classes that we took here were morning classes.

Bowden: Uh huh.

Smith: Yeah.

Thompson: There.

Johnson, Herman: But you're still talking about Williston College though.

Johnson, Joyce: Right.

Thompson: Talking about Williston, okay.

Parnell: So did ya'll work during the day while you were at Williston College?

Johnson, Herman: I didn't.

Smith: No.

Thompson: I didn't.

Smith: No.

Thompson: I was a stay-at-home mom, yeah.

Mims: I'm trying to figure out a clarification on a date. This campus was built here in the early '60s and courses started to be offered here. Are you saying that you still went to the satellite over at Williston campus in the early '60s? When do you remember coming over here?

Johnson, Herman: Uh...I don't remember. Well, I came here in uh...'63. I don't know when this--

Mims: I think the doors opened the fall of '61.

Parnell: '61.

Johnson, Herman: '61.

Mims: The 1960-61 school year.

Johnson, Herman: Okay. Well let me say this, you know, during that time segregation was a factor in our country.

Mims: Right.

Johnson, Herman: So, we were not allowed to come to school here.

Mims: That's what I'm trying to find out.

Thompson: Yeah.

Johnson, Herman: At that time, right.

Parnell: When that changed.

Johnson, Herman: Yeah, so we had to attend Williston Junior College.

Parnell: When you graduated from Williston that was '63, right?

Thompson: Except me.

Johnson, Herman: From Williston College.

Thompson: Williston, well not '63.

Johnson, Herman: We were in the same classes, '63, uh huh.

Bowden: Yeah, '63 we all attended.

Parnell: All four of you came straight over here to Wilmington College in the fall of '63.

Johnson, Herman: No, I was the only one.

Thompson: Yeah, he was the only one.

Johnson, Herman: I came first.

Thompson: Then he told me.

Johnson, Herman: Yeah, I was one of the first Afro-Americans, like I was telling Joyce earlier uh...Judge Ernest Fullwood [ph?] uh...James Sterling and I were the only black students on the campus at that time and uhm...but we were in that first graduating class in uhm...'66 to graduate from uh...then Wilmington College and then it became UNCW I think the next year or the year afterwards.

Mims: They had already started their four-year program. That's what your motivation to come over here--

Johnson, Herman: Right, uh huh, so that's when I came over to the campus and I was-- to get back on what Lela said when I was a student here it was-- I was so lonely because uhm...Ernest and James were not in the education program as I was, so all of my classes I took by myself. I was the only African American in the class at the time.

So, uhm...between classes, you know, I was by myself and so I got on the phone and called these people after my first year and I said "Well, look, ya'll need to come out here," because things at that time in the country were not uhm...harmoniously uhm...settled yet and uh...they were very hesitant because they said "Herman, how do they treat you out there?" I said "They treat me very well," and really I didn't have any problems, a student-- as a student here. So, I talked to them and I encouraged them to come I think it was the next year.

Thompson: The next year.

Johnson, Herman: Yeah, the next year after I was here and they came on out here.

Smith: The schools were not integrated until 1969 and uh...

Johnson, Joyce: Actually '68.

Smith: '68?

Johnson, Joyce: Uh huh.

Bowden: That's according to the _________.

Thompson: Williston was '68 and that was my senior year.

Woman 1: Total integration didn't come until like '72.

Smith: Yeah, well some of the professors are telling us that we were among some of the first to graduate after this turned into a university.

Johnson, Herman: We were.

Bowden: Yeah.

Johnson, Herman: Because we were the only black students, you know.

Thompson: Yeah, at that time.

Johnson, Herman: We were the first three, Fullwood, Sterling and myself.

Bowden: Yeah.

Johnson, Herman: And then when they came we were the first students on the campus at that time, yes. It was interesting.

Thompson: It was.

Bowden: It could be lonely.

Thompson: Yeah.

Bowden: It could be lonely at times, really. I mean sometimes we were the only person of color in a whole class of students.

Johnson, Herman: Oh, yes.

Bowden: And, you know, that takes a lot of strength to get through that.

Johnson, Herman: It does.

Bowden: And hold out to just hold out, you know. A lot of kids-- there were other black students that came and they didn't stay. They stayed a while and left.

Thompson: Left.

Bowden: But we stuck it out.

Thompson: Yeah, uh to add to that--

Johnson, Herman: It's a little emotional when you think about it, yes.

Thompson: Most of my classes I was the only uh...person of color in that class and was a little-- a bit of a strain, you know, trying to concentrate and that kind of thing. But the good part was that after that class was over we could all get together in that car and discuss whatever had gone on and, you know, it was a comfort to have them here.

Johnson, Herman: Yeah.

Thompson: It really was.

Johnson, Herman: That's true. I think back to uh...when I came, my first day at this, I had to catch the bus. I didn't have that red and white car at that time to travel here, so I had to catch the city bus, at that time living on Chestnut Street across from the Presbyterian Church. So, I caught the bus and I came down Whitesford [ph?] Avenue and I thought the bus came out to the campus but when I got down to the across Wrightsville Avenue and College Road it continued down by the, Cafey [ph?] Hospital. So, I got up and went to the front of the bus and asked the gentleman. I said, "Do you go out to uhm...Wilmington College?" He said, "No, we don't go out there." So, I had to get off the bus down that road and walk out.

Thompson: Wow.

Bowden: That's a long walk.

Mims: There was nothing out here right? Nothing like it is now.

Thompson: That's true.

Bowden: A church or two maybe.

Thompson: Yeah, right.

Johnson, Joyce: So now when you started out here how many buildings would there have been?

Johnson, Herman: There were-- there was Alderman Hoggard Hall, and it was called the Pub at that time.

Thompson: Yeah.

Johnson, Herman: I think now it's the administration. Yeah, James saw that. And Hanover was where we had our education, I mean physical education. That was it.

Thompson: Was that small library over there at that time?

Johnson, Herman: Well, see the library was in Alderman.

Thompson: Oh yeah, okay.

Johnson, Herman: That was the administration building at that time.

Thompson: Okay.

Johnson, Herman: And when I got here I walked in. The class was in uh...forgive me if I get emotional, it was in Alderman, the Alderman building. And I walked into there and saw all these white faces and I said, "Oh, man." So there was only one seat available at the back of the classroom, so I had to walk back there and all the face turned around to look like that. That's my first experience here.

Thompson: Oh, yeah.

Mims: Was it fear at all or just...?

Johnson, Herman: I guess so. It was fear because uhm...during that time, you know, the races did not mix so therefore, you know, I was a little apprehensive knowing that no other black students were here. Uh...then I found out that those two students, Fullwood and Sterling--

Thompson: Sterling.

Johnson, Herman: -- was here at the time.

Thompson: Right.

Johnson, Herman: Yeah, but I didn't even see them. Many days I didn't even see their faces, so really that's why I recruited these people. This was my support team.

Thompson: Come and told us.

Smith: Well Fullwood is now a judge here.

Johnson, Herman: Yeah, he's a judge now.

Thompson: Yeah and Sterling a principal.

Johnson, Herman: I don't know. Well he was assistant principal at ______ at one time.

Thompson: Oh, okay.

Smith: But when we came--

Johnson, Herman: I lost track of him.

Smith: Excuse me, I'm sorry. When we came here we were called in by the administration. Didn't they tell us that if you all are nice you will be treated nice? And I mean I think there were ten, were there ten of us or seven?

Bowden: More like seven.

Smith: Yeah. And we felt like that they should have been calling the others in telling them that since there was just a few of us.

Johnson, Joyce: Right.

Smith: So, you know, that really floored me. I was like--

Bowden: But no one-- they never really picked on us or said things out of the way.

Smith: No.

Bowden: The only time that I felt afraid was when Martin Luther King was killed and I happened to walk down the hall. I left a class and I was walking down the hall and there were a group of guys standing around the corner there. And so when I walked past they said "bang, bang, they shot him dead." And I just-- I was so hurt anyway, you know, I just-- my whole heart was filled with sadness and that I think hurt me more than anything.

Thompson: Uh huh.

Bowden: That's the most hurt I think I felt when I was here.

Parnell: Did anyone go out of their way to be nice and friendly or __________?

Johnson, Herman: Sure.

Bowden: Oh, yes, sure.

Johnson, Herman: It wasn't a situation where everybody, all the other students were standoffish from us by no means. Just like in any society you have some people who are going to be friendly with you.

Parnell: Yeah, right.

Johnson, Herman: I remember one young man who was in my hygiene class. He sat right across from me. He was always such a friendly person and tried to make me feel so comfortable, uh huh.

Bowden: And I remember Jane Rickenbacher [ph?]. She was a wealthy white girl that lived over there near where your husband used to work part-time what was the--

Thompson: Was that the country club?

Bowden: The country club she lived over near the country club. In fact, she invited us to come by her house. She had something she wanted to give me one day. And uh...she was so very nice, so you know I will never forget people like her that just went out of their way to be especially nice and helpful.

Johnson, Herman: Yeah, I think back to Diane Dubose [ph?] uhm...I don't recall her name when she was a student but uh...her husband ran the uhm...Nissan dealership for years, a sweet person all the years I was a student here, uh huh, yeah. So, yes, to answer your question, we had a lot of good friends.

Parnell: What about the teachers?

Smith: I was just fixing to say that.

Johnson, Herman: Yes.

Smith: Some of the professors were just so nice.

Thompson: Yeah.

Johnson, Herman: All of my professors were.

Bowden: Professor _______, my French teachers.

Smith: Such a nice man.

Bowden: See ___________ that French teacher.

Thompson: And Ms. Stikes [ph?] who was a--

Johnson, Herman: Oh, Venna Stikes yes was so sweet.

Thompson: Venna Stikes, yeah she was really uh...inspiring you know and she went out of her way to just make you feel right at home.

Johnson, Herman: Yeah. Stikes was our education teacher.

Thompson: Teacher.

Johnson, Herman: Well not education, she was the teacher who was there just before we went out to do our student teaching, such a sweet person, always had a smile.

Thompson: Sure did.

Smith: And I was recalling telling them about Dr. Watson. He taught us education classes and he was such a friendly man. I asked him, I said "Is that building named after him?" Because it says Watson School of Engineering and I think Herman, he knows everybody anyway, so he said yes I think so. So, know I had good memories of the school, good memories.

Bowden: _________ he--

Thompson: We all loved-- I was getting ready to say we all said things really nice and I don't want to say anything really bad but I just want to say that there was one teacher that was real intimidating that was Dr. Randall [ph?]. He was the geography teacher.

Mims: Are you talking about William Madison?

Thompson: The son.

Johnson, Herman: The son.

Woman 1: Oh, Duncan.

Thompson: Duncan.

Johnson, Herman: Yes uh huh.

Thompson: Duncan, Duncan was really intimidating.

Bowden: Uh huh.

Thompson: Can you take that off?

Johnson, Herman: No, leave it there.

Johnson, Herman: May I add on to what Lela said about Dr. Randall. He wasn't a mean teacher but he was a teacher who was very strict, just like L.S. Williams at Williston.

Thompson: Uh huh.

Johnson, Herman: Everybody was so afraid of L.S. Williams. He's such a stern, strict teacher. And a lot of times when you have a teacher like that you get the uhm...connotation they're a mean person but he was-- he wasn't just that way with us.

Thompson: Everybody.

Johnson, Herman: Even all the students. Most students had to take his regional geography class twice and pass it.

Bowden: His reputation preceded him. I mean before you ever got him you heard about him, so by the time you went into his class you were a nervous wreck.

Johnson, Herman: Yeah.

Thompson: And I don't think he was prejudiced at all.

Johnson, Herman: No.

Bowden: No.

Thompson: Like you'd say that was just his personality.

Johnson, Herman: Personality, right. Yeah. We remember Dr. __________. He was our adviser. He was the head of the education department while we were here and uh...all of the education classes, 101, 102, 103, you had to take them from Dr. _________. And uh...sometimes uh...some students would say that he was a little prejudiced but I don't think it was that he was prejudiced.

Bowden: I always liked him.

Johnson, Herman: But he was just a teacher/instructor who was like Dr. Randall. You had to-- if you were going to pass you had to really produce.

Thompson: Uh huh.

Johnson, Herman: In his classes, yeah. But uh...and I was telling some of them out there, I think I told you Joyce, as we ride along the roads on the campus now we see the streets are named after our instructors.

Thompson: Yeah.

Johnson, Herman: ________, yeah.

Parnell: They're still around ___________.

Johnson, Herman: Okay. That was the dean. We have some fond memories.

Bowden: Mr. Cruz is still around?

Mims: Yes, he is.

Bowden: Miss Crebbs [ph?].

Mims: I went through education myself and I know that the final aspect of your education is the practice.

Johnson, Herman: Oh, yeah.

Mims: What levels were you guys assigned to for your practice and what school? This again comes into the integration portion of it.

Johnson, Herman: Uh huh.

Thompson: Uh huh.

Mims: Like where were you sent for your practice?

Bowden: When I did my practice work?

Mims: Yes.

Bowden: I was sent to uhm...a school at Gregory. Gregory, I think it's Gregory today.

Mims: So it was elementary education?

Thompson: Uh huh.

Johnson, Herman: Uh huh.

Bowden: Yeah. Excuse me. That's where I did my practice but uh...I ended up teaching at a middle school. I did elementary and then I taught middle school for over 20-some years.

Mims: Did you teach here in _________?

Bowden: No, I didn't get a job here. I-- when I finished my practice work I moved back to Supply and I waited uh...a few months. I got a job near the end of the school year. A teacher got sick and I got her job but, I didn't get-- I finished my practice work in November, I think it was. Anyway, it was before Christmas that I finished it so it was right in the middle of a school year, so I just was lucky to get something before the school year completely ended in March that year.

Johnson, Joyce: Ms. Thomson.

Thompson: Yes, I did my practice teaching also at Gregory under Ms. ________ Chestnut and uh...she was very good also and uh...I got-- I got a job at Mary Washington High. That was my first job and it was in 1967 I believe. I believe that's when it was. I'm not quite sure.

Mims: Mr. Johnson.

Johnson, Herman: I did my student teaching at uh...Gregory Elementary also. I think Lela and I were across from each other. I did my student teaching under Mrs. Julia Bibbs [ph?] and I think she was in Ms. _______ Chestnut's room at the same time.

Thompson: That's right.

Johnson, Herman: And uhm...while I was doing my student teaching under Mrs. Bibbs, uh...she-- well, the supervisor was Ms. Sarah Nixon at the time. We had elementary supervisors that would come around and they would uhm...what you call it, critique the student teachers, yeah. So, what happened she came to uh...Mrs. Bibbs' room and I was teaching that day and she was so impressed with me as a student teacher she went to Mr. Tally [ph?], George Tally was the principal, and told him that he needed to come and observe me, which he did. And uh...he hired me. I started teaching right after I did my student teaching.

Mims: Okay.

Smith: I did my student teaching at _________ elementary school and I don't remember my teacher's first name but I know her last name was Wiggins, Ms. Wiggins and it was first grade and I discovered then that I did not want to teach first grade. I wanted something higher, so uh...when I did get a job they gave me second grade. I didn't really care for second. Finally, I ended up with fifth and I taught fifth grade for 32 years.

Parnell: Where did you teach at?

Smith: I taught uhm...well I taught at several schools. I taught-- I think I taught fifth grade for about two years at Union Primary School. Then I went to Charlotte Middle School and taught there for 18 years I think and then finally at Supply for 13. I guess that will total up to 32. But, anyway, I taught fifth grade for 32 years and I taught second grade one year, so a total of 33 years.

Parnell: Where did you teach Mr. Johnson?

Johnson, Herman: Well, as I was stating earlier, I began my teaching at Gregory, the same school I did my student teaching and I taught there for I think three years. At that time it was Williston Primary and one of the most fortunate things for me was that I started teaching and all my teachers that I had as a child were still teaching there.

Thompson: Teaching.

Johnson, Herman: And I was the youngest thing on the staff and they were still babying me as their student. And then they uh...demolished uh...Williston Primary and we moved over into the uh...the old Williston Industrial Building and they named it Gregory. I taught there for I think two years and then New Hanover County devised this system where they had uh...centers. They had uh...well I went to Charleston after that because they divided like fourth and fifth grade centers, fourth, fifth and sixth grade centers and then they did away with that and they had uhm...I think it was fifth grade centers.

So, I then went to Wrightsville for one year and then I came back to Townsend for some other years. I can't remember how long until they demolished uh...Townsend as an elementary school. The principal at that time was Fred Nelson and he asked me to go to Pine Valley with him. They had to disperse all their teachers in other schools, so I went to Pine Valley and that's where I retired from in 1998, yes.

Thompson: Oh, teaching?

Parnell: Where were you when you __________?

Thompson: Okay, well it started at uhm...what is it Mary Washington High School. I taught first grade there. Then I skipped the first grade and went all the way to the seventh grade at Williston under Mr. Howey [ph?]. And I taught there I think one year because I had another child and so I stayed out until that child was about uhm...I think seven or eight months and then I went back to Gregory and finished out that year and then said they got rid of Gregory. What did they do?

Johnson, Herman: Yeah, and we went to Charleston.

Thompson: And we went to Townsend. Mr. Johnson was there at Townsend and stayed there about two or three years and it looked like I was following him because he went to Wrightsboro and then I went to Wrightsboro. Uh...I think I remained there about 20-some years, left there, went to uh...went back to Gregory. I think it was still named Gregory at that time, taught one year, then went to Snipes uh...taught there about two years and ended up uh...retiring from Snipes, 30 years.

Mims: (Inaudible).

Johnson, Herman: Yes, that's right.

Thompson: Yes, right.

Johnson, Herman: We tease Lela and we tell her she's been in every school in the county.

Thompson: I get around.


Bowden: Well, I went to Brunswick County. I taught at Union Elementary I think for about a year and I finished out that other teacher's term, which was about two or three months and then they sent us, moved us to Shallotte Middle, to Shallotte, used to be Old Shallotte High School but they turned it into I guess a middle school, so I went there and I stayed a couple of years. Then I moved to Durham, taught in the Durham city schools for about four years I think. I moved to California. I didn't teach there. My husband was in the military, so I kind of moved around. And then I came back to Brunswick County in '79 for the '79-'80 school year and I got my old job back at Shallotte Middle School and I stayed there until I retired in 2003. I did 31 years.

Thompson: Wonderful.

Johnson, Herman: You know to go back on your question. You said it seems like all of us went around. During that time segregation was practiced in the school system as well, so we were assigned to black schools and then once segregation or integration was passed then we were assigned to integrated schools, yeah.

Thompson: Integrated schools.

Johnson, Herman: So that accounts for some of the reasons why we were moved to different schools.

Thompson: Moved around.

Johnson, Herman: Because during the segregation days, you know, we all taught in black schools, yeah.

Johnson, Joyce: Ms. Thomson and Mr. Johnson how did you feel about the closing of Williston?

Thompson: Oh, I don't-- well, I don't know. Even now sometimes it bothers me, you know that it was closed because it was so dear to my heart, you know, graduated from there and a lot of fond memories I had. And uh...I just felt that we were kind of losing something, you know them closing it that way. But uh...the mere fact that we still have that building there it kind of brings comfort to me because oftentimes uh...we go back there for something for some event or something and uh...but I was hurt at that time really.

Johnson, Herman: Yeah.

Thompson: I felt bad.

Johnson, Herman: It was like a part of, you know, us was taken away from us because know like these ladies they graduated from their schools and I think they still exist.

Bowden: My school, the old Brunswick County Training School I think part of it is now being used as the alternative school.

Johnson, Herman: Right, uh huh.

Bowden: I believe that's part of it or it was part of the college of Brunswick Community College and now it's the alternative school I believe.

Johnson, Herman: And I think they experienced the same thing we experienced at Williston once integration was passed and Williston was uh...unit, the high school was closed and some of us were sent to Hoggard and Hanover and uh...I think Southport because my brother-in-law was teaching at that time. He went to the

Bowden: To the new school.

Johnson, Herman: Yeah, the new school.

Bowden: They built South High, North High.

Johnson, Herman: Right.

Bowden: West, you know.

Johnson, Herman: And then they did away with the old black schools.

Thompson: Oh, yeah.

Johnson, Herman: Yeah but go back and answer your question for those of us who graduated from the school it's like we don't have nothing to connect with now, yeah. Now it's a junior high school and the homes are still there but many of the memories are not like they used to be because they've done a lot of things to convert it into-- I mean for the students who are there now.

Johnson, Joyce: Do you feel that your schools could have remained open as integrated schools? Do you think it would have worked?

Johnson, Herman: Well I think so because one of the things I say uh...they kept New Hanover High School open and it's still functioning. At the same time, when it was in uh...operation Williston was as well and I think we all at that time wondered why was Williston chosen as the school to close? Why wasn't Hanover closed? And I think that's what a lot of-- we were called Willistonians at that time wondered why was this school chosen to be closed because we had a school son that we still sing when we get together.

Thompson: Sing it.

Johnson, Herman: And in it, it says the greatest school under the sun.

Thompson: I think everybody feels that way about that school probably.

Johnson, Herman: Yeah.

Thompson: But we have many uh...reunions and uh...we still sing that song, you know. It just means so much to us and I-- I feel good that the building is still there.

Johnson, Herman: Uh huh.

Bowden: Yes.

Thompson: Now if it had been torn down I really-- I really would be sad, you know, but the fact that I can still see the building.

Johnson, Herman: But going back to what you said, Lela, like I said the building has changed a lot. You know you see the façade there.

Thompson: Yeah.

Johnson, Herman: But when we were at Williston one of the things that we always looked forward to--

Thompson: Oh, yes.

Johnson, Herman: -- when you became a senior you could go through the front door.

Johnson, Joyce: That's right.

Johnson, Herman: Because only seniors could go through the front door of the building. And I think now they have closed the front door all together.

Johnson, Joyce: They closed it.

Thompson: They closed that the front door. I didn't know that.

Johnson, Herman: Yeah, it's closed right. They have a whole new entrance to the school.

Johnson, Joyce: Actually that's a classroom now.

Johnson, Herman: Oh, really?

Thompson: Oh. And we could also sit on the step. That was a big thing.

Johnson, Herman: Only seniors could.

Thompson: Seniors, only seniors could sit on the step.

Johnson, Herman: On the steps of the building.

Thompson: That was really a big thing.

Johnson, Herman: And not only did they close the school they took all the teachers like Mrs. L.S. Williams and Mrs. _________ and sent them to Hoggard and so forth, so not only was the school closed all the teachers that were dear to our hearts were taken and scattered throughout the county as well.

Johnson, Joyce: I want you to say that L.S. Williams was still L.S. Williams at Hoggard. I know at Williston no one would have ever questioned her.

Johnson, Herman: No, my goodness.

Johnson, Joyce: They did at Hoggard but set everyone straight there.

Thompson: She was intimidating also. Let me say that. She was intimidating.

Johnson, Joyce: She was a wonderful teacher.

Johnson, Herman: She was.

Thompson: She was.

Bowden: Yeah.

Johnson, Joyce: I was scared, terrified to have her my senior year there but I ___________.

Thompson: Yeah, I did too and I can recall one incident. She had this big desk. I don't know if she had it.

Johnson, Joyce: She had it.

Thompson: Had that big desk and from time to time she would just kind of push it out like that and I remember when I was diagramming a sentence one time for her and I was shaking like a leaf and she said, "Pierce, stop that shaking. I'm not going to bite you." I felt like she was going to though.

Parnell: This would be a good time. Let's take a break.

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