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Interview with Neal Eakins, September 26, 2002 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Neal Eakins, September 26, 2002
September 26, 2002
Mrs. Neal Eakins worked as a secretary at Wilmington College and UNCW from 1966-1981. Most of her time was spent in the Department of Education, which later became the School of Education. She discusses working for Harold Hulon, the first department chair in education, and later working for Roy Harking, the first Dean of the School of Education. When she started, the department had only the department chair plus two professors (Betty Stike and Calvion Doss). Mrs. Eakins discusses the growth and change that she witnessed at UNCW and in the School of Education.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Eakins, Neal Interviewer: Lack, Adina / Pridgen, Leslie Date of Interview: 9/26/2002 Series: Voices of UNCW Length: 38 minutes

Lack: Good afternoon. My name is Adina Lack. I’m the archivist and the special collections librarian here at Randall Library. I’m here today at Lake Shore Commons in Wilmington, North Carolina, room 433. We’re very pleased to have a very wonderful interviewee today. First of all, I’d like to introduce Leslie Pridgen, graduate assistant in the Watson School of Education who will be assisting me with the interview. Leslie and I are interviewing Neal Eakins. Today is September 26, 2002.

Lack: Neal, Mrs. Eakins, I understand you were working at Watson School of Education for a long time.

Eakins: Well it wasn’t called Watson.

Lack: All right, well when did you start there?

Eakins: I started July 9, 1966.

Lack: Where was it located at that time?

Eakins: We moved into Kenan Hall, it was the fifth building on the campus. We were there three years before we got our building.

Lack: We’ll go into a lot more of what you did for the School of Education, but first can we back up a little bit and hear about you. Where were you born and where did you grow up?

Eakins: I was born in Rommoson County and I finished high school there. It was called Philadelphus, but it was about four miles from Rich Springs, that’s where I finished high school. Then we moved to Roseboro and lived there five years before I married. I worked at [inaudible] Company as sort of a secretary. I wasn’t too much of one then, but I did what was done for about a year and a half. I met my husband and we were married November 22, 1941.

Lack: How old were you then?

Eakins: I was 25. We had two children, a boy and a girl and we lived in Atkinson. That was my husband’s home. We lived there until he died on April 29, 1978. I worked three more years at the college after that. Then I retired in December 1981.

Lack: Wow, you have a great memory.

Eakins: Dates I remember, but some things I don’t.

Lack: So you started working in Kenan Hall in 1966 and you retired in December of ’81. Were you with the education department the whole time?

Eakins: I was only the secretary for nine years at least.

Lack: You were a secretary, what were you before that or after that?

Eakins: Secretary, but over at Kenan Hall, I was secretary to the music department too and we had one psychologist in there. Then we moved over to King Hall. We had a kindergarten. Dr. Paz Bartolome started it when she came, a little kindergarten over on the right side of the building. My grandson went to it. But for several years we had that kindergarten. Student teachers would take care of that under her. I did the registering and all that. Finally they dropped that. Of course it’s been built up now.

Lack: Do you remember how it was that you came to Wilmington College? Did you see an advertisement for a secretary?

Eakins: Dr. [Paul] Reynolds, I knew him and I knew his wife. I think when my husband was in the first grade; he walked to school with her.

Lack: Really.

Eakins: So I went to ______ and then I worked two years in Wallace with a lawyer and I left there and talked to Dr. Reynolds and he put my name in so I came to the college. I had to drive 34-1/2 miles every day.

Lack: Each way, sure, that’s a long way from Atkinson. Well what was the college like when you came?

Eakins: It was on the quarter system to start with. So many of the people had been over at Hoggard Hall. I don’t know how many departments they had over there, but they moved out. We had the music department, our department, modern language department, the art department and the drama department. The English department came over to King Hall.

Lack: Who did you have interaction with in your early days? Did you work for Dr. Hulon?

Eakins: Yes.

Lack: Were you his secretary?

Eakins: I was the secretary the whole time and then when Dr. Harkin came, I was his.

Lack: Well what was Dr. Hulon like as a boss?

Eakins: We got along very well. I thought a lot of him. He was very helpful. He would help me collate papers and anything. We had the teacher education program. Has anybody mentioned that to you?

Lack: Yes ma’am.

Eakins: Of course I would get the letters out to them to meet the council and they’d have a class and they wouldn’t go so I’d write and tell them they were not accepted (laughter). Then I had to do it all over again. They’d go the next time.

Lack: So they would have to remember not to miss it this time.

Eakins: Dr. Harkin stopped that.

Lack: Any other changes that Dr. Harkin brought on?

Eakins: Well we had three forms that we’d give out to the supervising teachers and the college supervisor and they would write their recommendations about the student. Then I typed all that up and had it all in the files. Dr. Harkin stopped that. He just let them write out a sheet by hand and put it in there. That was one thing that he changed.

Lack: Did you observe a lot of growth while you were there?

Eakins: Oh yes. When I started, I don’t remember if it was summer or in the wintertime, but I remember there were 600 some students and we knew them all then.

Lack: In the whole college. Now there’s about 12,000 in the whole university.

Eakins: When I left, when I retired, there were 3-1/2 secretaries and 28 faculty members. I don’t know how many you have now.

Lack: Did your duties change by the time you retired? Was your work changing?

Eakins: Oh yes, quite a bit. In the early days, we had the old mimeograph things to do. The first or second year, we had the Southern Association for the first time. I typed all those stencils, I think five or six times every one of them. Then ran them off and I asked if I could put the backs on and put them together and I did. I think we had two more of those while I was there.

Lack: Oh yes, that’s a lot of work.

Eakins: It is. Well at first we were on the quarter system and then it became the semester system. In the beginning, we didn't have a budget for our department. I’d go over to the administrative building and they kept supplies and would just pick up what I needed and carry it back.

Lack: Dr. Harkin talked to me about that….

Eakins: Well he wasn’t there then.

Lack: Maybe it was Dr. Doss, Calvin Doss.

Eakins: Probably.

Lack: So you would just go and take it and then how did that change? They had to start monitoring that a little bit more.

Eakins: Well I don’t know what they’re doing now, but they began to have a budget for every department, different types of things and we got these printout sheets. We knew how much we had to spend and I did the ordering for the department, the equipment, all that stuff. Part of the group was over on the other side and I was over on the left side.

Lack: This was in King Hall?

Eakins: Yes, in King.

Lack: Who do you remember from your time there? You mentioned Dr. Hulon. We also interviewed Calvin Doss, he seems like he is a very nice person.

Eakins: Oh, he was so good to me, so good to me.

Lack: What are your memories of some of the other people?

Eakins: Well Dr. Doss and Dr. Hulon and Betty Stike were the three education…when I started. Then we got over in the other building and Dr. Hulon hired Dr. [Bartolome?] and Dr. Bachner. Then later there were others and I can’t remember as they came in.

Lack: But it must have been a very small, tight-knit group.

Eakins: It was.

Lack: How did everyone get along?

Eakins: Well we got along on the surface fine. Some didn't care much for others, but we worked together.

Lack: Do you remember any funny stories about any of the people or funny experiences that you had either during the early days or towards the end? For example, did you meet Dr. Wagoner? Did you get to know Dr. Wagoner?

Eakins: Yes, I knew Dr. Wagoner, but I never did meet Dr. Leutze. I see him on television, but I never knew him.

Lack: What was Dr. Wagoner like?

Eakins: He was there when I first went. I really didn't get to know him too well. I knew him when I saw him. In the very beginning that first summer when I started, I worked at the switchboard over in the Alderman Building. Then the second session, we moved and I had the new furniture and I worked half day there and half at the other place. Then in the fall, I stayed in the one place.

Lack: Education and psychology used to be together, is that right?

Eakins: Yes, we just had one psychologist at that time. Now Michael Bradley, is he still out there?

Lack: Yes.

Eakins: Well he was the second one that came along. The day that we moved, he moved himself and Dr. Doss and Betty Stike were away at a meeting, but they packed up things in a box and I got them moved. I had to move Dr. Hulon because he was in the hospital at that time.

Lack: Really.

Eakins: Something was wrong.

Lack: So were people looking forward to the new building?

Eakins: Oh yes.

Lack: Was it a lot better? I guess you had room.

Eakins: We had plenty of room. We fixed the library upstairs and it was a pretty little library then. I don’t think they have that now.

INTERVIEWER 2: That now is in Randall Library in the main library. It’s big. The Education Lab now is where the CMC used to be, where they do all the tutoring with the kids, the young kids, so that’s taken over that space.

Lack: Paz Bartolome you mentioned started a kindergarten or pre-school. So that must have been very busy during then.

Eakins: Well it was busy. So many people wanted to get into it, but it could only take so many. They just had a good time over there. They painted and things that kids do.

Lack: That must have been great. I understand there was no space for it after a while. Do you remember how it ended or how did people feel about its closing?

Eakins: Well I don’t know how the parents felt. We had that observation room right in the center.

INTERVIEWER 2: That’s Dr. Davies’ office now, where you walked in and met me, that big office there on your right right as you walk in, that was the observation room. So the classroom that you and Dr. Wright went into, that used to be the actual pre-school room itself.

Lack: Oh yeah, that was a big room.

INTERVIEWER 2: Now we use it as a classroom.

Lack: And it’s the only classroom on the first floor.

Eakins: I’ve never been there since they put an elevator in. That was right close to my office.

INTERVIEWER 2: So you were on the left hand side.

Eakins: Yes. How about Betty Green, is she still out there?

INTERVIEWER 2: I don’t recognize that name, but that doesn’t mean she’s not there.

Lack: Do you remember when they started having graduate students?

Eakins: Yes, I kept those records. I had two files for all that so I had all those folders.

Lack: That’s grown up real fast. There’s quite a few different graduate programs now. Did you have interaction with the registrar?

Eakins: I helped with registration in the early years every time.

Lack: Did you know Dorothy Marshall?

Eakins: Oh yes.

Lack: We interviewed her as well. She’s a lovely person. Did you ever have to talk with her about the records or registration or not too much?

Eakins: Well now I didn't work in that office, but the days we registered, I would have work with her, but later on I didn't. Another thing, we changed the telephone system several times while I was there. To begin with, I had a phone and Dr. Hulon had one and Betty Stike and Dr. Doss had to use mine.

Lack: They decided they didn't like that anymore.

Eakins: And one morning I went in and my typewriter and my big old _____ was gone. There was a desk with nothing on it. They brought me an old manual until I could get a new one.

Lack: They brought you a manual typewriter until they could get it replaced. Well that’s interesting. Did they ever catch anybody?

Eakins: No.

Lack: So Dr. Harkin came on board as department chair and became the first dean. What was his style like, of leadership?

Eakins: Well he was quite different from Dr. Hulon. Dr. Hulon was just as tight. I know one time we were short of paper and we’d print on the backsides of things, we had to use something. I know one time I had a whole ream of paper run off for something and decided we didn't need it and Dr. Hulon just couldn’t bear it. I told him to just look the other way (laughter). He was tight. Dr. Harkin was not. He was quite different.

Lack: He was more reasonable.

Eakins: Well Dr. Hulon felt like spending the state money was spending his. If more people felt that way, now Dr. Harkin didn't feel that way. All that he could get, the better whether he used it or not.

Lack: Was he the last dean that you worked for? When you retired was Dr. Harkin dean?

Eakins: He was still there.

Lack: What about some of the new faculty that came on?

Eakins: Well Hugh Mac- [inaudible] came, Noel Jones, [inaudible] came.

Lack: I suppose with all those new people you got some more phones, is that right?

Eakins: Oh yes, we all had a phone.

Lack: That’s funny, for a while it was just…

Eakins: And we had a secretary on each side too. Dr. Doss was getting all the links together from Raleigh.

Lack: He was associate dean for a while.

Eakins: Anyway he got all that together so he had a half secretary.

INTERVIEWER 2: Was it the testing they had to do before they got their certification and licenses? I’m trying to help jog your memory there. I’m not doing too good at it.

Eakins: I wish I could think.

Lack: Oh you’re doing fine. I’ve learned so much.

Eakins: When they came to college, I wish I could remember…it was in the different categories. I had all those records too.

Lack: I know Dr. Doss was telling me about transfer students from community colleges. It wasn’t uniform, he had to look at each one and see if it counted so there’s a lot of work involved with that.

Eakins: I have found when I get tired that I don’t think as well. He would help people plan their schedules, counseling. Yes, he did that. He was a good one too.

Lack: He also worked with the grounds. Do you remember that? Dr. Doss was the grounds manager. He may have been finishing that by the time you got there.

Eakins: I don’t remember that.

Lack: So what do you remember about the students? What were they like? Did you get to know them?

Eakins: The ones in our department I knew. They were all coming through there. I was sitting out in the center.

Lack: What were they like?

Eakins: I didn't have time to really take up with them too much. Of course, I was there to help with whatever I could help with. I was busy usually typing or doing something or filing. They were pretty nice students I think. They wanted their education.

Lack: Well do you want to take a break and then finish up.

Eakins: We got along very well. Has it been 45 minutes?

Lack: He must have been different. He was from the big city; this was a small town especially back then.

Eakins: Well Dr. Bachner was very nicely dressed always. A very nice looking person. He could take steps about that long. He had a temper, but it was okay.

Lack: That’s one thing, it seems like the department of education had some real interesting people. Dr. Bartolome, she just seems like she was a lively, lively person.

Eakins: I think a lot of her, I really do.

Lack: Nice lady. Do you remember how she ran the little red schoolhouse?

Eakins: I went there twice I think when she had it. I wonder what she’s going to do now since she’s retired.

Lack: She’s retiring, she’s teaching some, not this semester. I think she’s teaching next semester and she keeps you with her plants and gardens. I think she has a nice home on the water.

Eakins: She does have a nice home. I’ve been there several times. Is her daddy still living?

Lack: That’s a good question. I don’t know. I remember she said that one reason why she sold the schoolhouse was because her parents weren’t able to come and help her as much in the summers.

Eakins: Well her mother died, but she did have her daddy. I don’t get the paper so some of that I miss.

Lack: I liked interviewing her. Can you tell me a little bit more about your family? What is it you said your husband did?

Eakins: He was a Coastline freight agent.

Lack: Oh on the train back when we had a train.

Eakins: Oh yes, we had a train, passengers, too. I thought my brother was at Pearl Harbor at the time and we didn't hear from them until March. They had sailed three ships towards the Philippines. He got back, but we didn't know what to think. The railroad kept my husband out of the draft.

Lack: Because he was needed at home. What did he do?

Eakins: He was a freight agent. We had the depots along there and they were shipping from these places. Even the mail to start with was put on the train.

Lack: What was his name?

Eakins: John David Eakins.

Lack: What are your children’s names?

Eakins: Well my son is named John David Jr. My daughter is Susan. David is a contractor. Susan is the principal at East [inaudible] High School. This is her third year there.

Lack: A high school principal.

Eakins: It’s almost a three A school, almost and they haven’t lost a football game yet. She tries to come once a month and she brings my supplies. You know, I have to keep a lot of stuff and I don’t go shopping anymore. So I give her an order and she brings it.

Lack: Does she have children?

Eakins: Her husband, he’s retired now. He was a baseball coach at Southern Wayne High School in Wayne County. She taught English there 13 years before she went into administration. David has two children and has two grandchildren, a girl and a boy. She is 9 and he is 8.

Lack: You’re a great-grandmother. That’s impressive.

Eakins: Susan, ____ had retired, her husband. They have two boys. David had two boys and she had two boys so I didn't have any girls. They all married. She has three grandsons.

Lack: Wow, a lot of boys.

Eakins: One girl, David’s granddaughter.

Lack: Well congratulations, that’s a lovely group.

Eakins: I enjoy my family and they take turns, Susan has Christmas one year and David has it the next year. We go to her house this time.

Lack: Before we go I wanted to tell you a story that Dr. Harkin mentioned. He said he remembers you were always prompt, always on time, came at a quarter to 8 every day. One time you came exactly an hour later. Do you remember that?

Eakins: I think there was one time I was early and one time I was late. When I met [inaudible] at the door she said she knew they were glad to see me and I didn't even know I was late.

Lack: Yes, everyone was worried; they called your relatives in Atkinson.

Eakins: Well anyway it was just a matter of looking at the clock wrong, I don’t know. But twice I got up too early and I’d go along the road and people didn't have their lights on. I got down there and had another breakfast in the cafeteria.

Lack: That sounds good; you had some time to relax. Dr. Doss was mentioning a lady, there were a couple in the housekeeping staff and they were real nice. One of them said, I can’t remember her name, she said her job was to keep the coffee warm for Dr. Wagoner because he used to come and visit a lot and she said her job was to keep the coffee warm.

Eakins: Well he did that way back and then we got too big. I painted 136 pictures.

Lack: I didn't know you were an artist.

INTERVIEWER 2: I wanted to ask you about that. They’re gorgeous.

Eakins: That’s Black River. I did two of those, one is in the Town Hall at Atkinson and I did three of that one. I had a Sunday School class, I taught 50 years. Before I left, I painted every one of them a different picture and I sold one. I don’t have but five or six pictures here now. That was one of the last ones I did, right there.

Lack: Did you use oils?

Eakins: Yes. I’d still be painting, but when I went to Catherine Kennedy, there was just no room for anything. My room is not this large. I sold my sister all of my stuff. She always wanted to paint and she’s in Tennessee. She’s into portraits and she just finished one of a man and he’s going to pay her $500 for it. It’s about this large and she’s thrilled to death. When she calls me that’s what she wants to talk about, her painting.

INTERVIEWER 2: Are hers as good as yours?

Eakins: Well, portraits, I don’t paint portraits. I like to do this kind of thing.

Lack: That’s a nice hobby. So that’s something you could do.

Eakins: Well, all of them are different. I just find magazines and find a picture or something. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I did calligraphy for five years before I got into that. So I have one that I did around the corner there. I sold enough of that to pay for all that I had in it.

Lack: Well, that’s a nice hobby too. Most people don’t make money from it.

Eakins: After I retired, I was into ceramics, but I gave away most of it. I got tired of that.

Lack: Did you bring any of your artwork into work when you were working? Did you bring some to have by your desk?

Eakins: I didn't do the painting until I retired.

Lack: That’s one advantage of retirement.

Eakins: Didn't know I’d ever be painting. I just sort of drifted into it and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Lack: It’s been a real pleasure to talk to you today and get your memories of UNCW and other aspects of your life.

Eakins: Well, I enjoyed it out there, I really did. I felt like they couldn’t get along without me.

Lack: Yes, I bet, the professors and the chair and the students.

Eakins: Well, I thought a lot of all of them, I really did.

Lack: Thank you very much.

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