0:07 - Growing up in Elliston, Va
5:01 - The African-American Community in Elliston
Partial Transcript: Elaine: Well, I can. It was pretty simple. Well-to-do white people lived on Route 11 and if you go there today, if you're driving through Elliston, you have to get off on the new way of coming in--81 or whatever it is
Keywords: Elliston; Interstate 81; Route 11
Subjects: Christiansburg Institute; Elliston
6:35 - Stories from Childhood
Partial Transcript: So Elliston was, for me, being able to go over and watch the tadpoles and watch the frogs come in. I was always afraid of the cattle but I loved the branch and the little fish swimming around. You could sit out there and play all day.
Andrea: Very rustic childhood.
Subjects: Christiansburg Institute; Elliston
15:02 - Elaine's Time at Christiansburg Institute
34:25 - Candid Feelings about the Closing of CI
39:23 - Black Catholicism
Partial Transcript: Elaine: My family was not that kind of evangelistic. So, the Catholic Church was the perfect place for me. I was so relieved. I was so happy. My father said mama was letting us be in league with the devil.
Keywords: Catholic; Masonry; St.Gerards
Subjects: Catholicism; Christiansburg Institute
47:10 - Transferring from Rosary College to Howard University
71:56 - Thoughts on Segregation
Partial Transcript: Andrea: Can we pull the lens back? Like maybe your candid thoughts about desegregation?
Elaine: Oh well, [laughter]. I think it's barbaric. I think it's made the United States a country that will never be able to rise to its total height.
Keywords: Desegregation; segregation; United States
Subjects: Christiansburg Institute; Segregation
Andrea Ledesma: It is Friday, November 9, 2012 and this is an interview withElaine Carter. We can start off with what it was really like growing up in Elliston.
Elaine Carter: Well, it had, let me put it to ya, I loved Elliston. When wefirst moved there, I was three years old. There was--what do you call it--a meadow across from me and they had cattle and [laughter] I was afraid of 'em. So I sat on the front porch and looked at them all day long and cried and my mother would say, well come in here. But I felt like somehow they wouldn't bother me if I looked at them. I could tell what they were doing. But anyway, I don't know why I told you that. I have no idea. My memory is very short so you will have to be very patient with me and don't let me wander because I'll never remember what 1:00I said. I'm in the last days, thank God, I don't think I'm going to live much longer. Get the hell out of dodge while you still know your last name. So what did you ask me?
Andrea: What it was like growing up in Elliston.
Elaine: Growing up in Elliston, I loved it. We lived on a four-acre land and welived in a brick house that my father's sister had built but lost when we moved from Roanoke and there was a wonderful creek across and I could go down and see the tadpoles and watch them grow into frogs. Oh, I loved it. I loved the woods. I could walk in the woods right next door to my father. Well my uncle, his brother, the Dowes lived in a row and my father's home place was there. So I could wander the fields and go up in the hills on my family's property. We were 2:00not allowed to go into the hills. We were African Americans, and if a white person killed you, they just killed you. That was that. Nobody cared. So, but I could wander. I was on Uncle Felix's place. Uncle Bentley owned--he kept buying up land. He had about two hundred acres when he died. Uncle Felix owned a whole hillside, so I could storm through the woods with these Dowe boys. My father was one of fourteen children. Someone said, your grandmother's womb must have been tissue paper because she carried all those kids. [laughter] Isn't that awful? [laughter] But they all grew into good citizens. There were only five girls. Uncle Felix was a scholar-like and he was reading a book and they had a fireplace--that's the way they heated their houses, fireplaces--and his little 3:00five-year-old sister got her dress caught on fire, and before he could get it out, she died of smoke inhalation. But other than that, I must say the oldest son turned out to be an alcoholic and got run over by the train. He was drunk, he was coming home, he fell down, and the train didn't see him. So there were two--this darling little girl that was only one of five girls--all the rest were males, out of fourteen. I think two of them died in childbirth, so a family of twelve. There were four girls and eight boys, after the one died. But the Dowes 4:00were very aggressive Christians. They had lots of pride. They believed in buying up all the land. So Uncle Bentley worked on the railroad and he started buying. And he and Sid Henson, who was the wealthiest man in Elliston, they fought for who was going to buy the most land. [laughter] Uncle Bentley outsmarted him because he lived among the people and Henson had to run his store and he lived down on the highway with the upper-class whites. So Uncle Ben could always pull a purchase away from something, whether they were white or black, because he always had the money to pay them immediately. So anyway, what do you want to really know from me? Because I can ramble on forever.
Andrea: Well, you talk a lot about the Dowes, but maybe more about theAfrican-American community growing up?
Elaine: Well, I can. It was pretty simple. Well-to-do white people lived on5:00Route 11 and if you go there today, if you're driving through Elliston, you have to get off on the new way of coming in--81 or whatever it is--but, if you go down there, you will see these lovely brick homes that the white people had. And then you had Brake Road and black people were not allowed to live too far--you couldn't see a black home from Route 11. But they lived on Brake Road. I don't know how they got there. I think a family called Calloway was enslaved but the 6:00slaveholder left his slave family with a beautiful brick house that never got finished. I don't know if it's fallen down completely now. Then white people began to threaten to lynch them if they moved into this brick house. Of course, these were all out-of-wedlock children but it's kind of a nice story. Then he built a frame house for them and that was the beginning of the black community--a lovely, lovely house. So Elliston was, for me, being able to go over and watch the tadpoles and watch the frogs come in. I was always afraid of the cattle but I loved the branch and the little fish swimming around. You could sit out there and play all day.
Andrea: Very rustic childhood.
Elaine: Yes, wonderful. Just wild. I had breakfast and I didn't start helping mymother until I got about ten years old. No, eight. It was about eight that I 7:00started helping by washing the dishes. But, generally speaking, I'd head out, I would sit up and look at the place--we could walk on the Lundwall property and if there were no bulls--we weren't afraid of the cattle but there were bulls--
Andrea: You and your mother?
Elaine: No, not mother. By myself, by myself. I walked all the way. I don't knowhow many miles but a long time. My cousin Ernestine and I by the time we were six, we were walking way up to Uncle Bentley's house without telling our parents. One day we were petrified--we forgot about--children don't try to do things because they're trying to upset their parents. We were just having a good time walking up the Brake Road and my God, all of a sudden, we heard these 8:00screaming mothers. Somebody told them they saw us going up to where Uncle Bentley lived and that was probably, I would say three quarters of a mile and we were not yet in the first grade.
Elaine: One woman told my mother, don't worry about 'em because when a car comesthey get way over. And my mother said, have you ever heard of copperhead snakes? I don't want them way over. [laughter] She was hysterical. But they were so happy to know where we were and we were safe. We didn't get--we got whippins. Where you got your parents talking to you and maybe taking away a little of your liberties to punish, we got whippins. Some people use men's belts. Mama didn't. They'd send you out and let you pick something from the limb. You know! You're a country girl, in Virginia. And maybe you have to go out and get your own damn whippin thing and if it was not long and limber, you had to go back out again. 9:00So you tried to make it short. My mother didn't whip a lot. She didn't, and I had the blessing of being able to be scarred. If you hit my legs, they would swell up and then everybody would say look at that poor child. [laughter] Mama was so humiliated. One time she whipped me on Sunday morning, because I decided, as a little girl--my brother was almost two full years older than I. Nineteen months, I think, twenty months. He would do anything I said do. Mama wanted us to go to church. I didn't want to go to church. See, we only went to church when Mama felt like going to church. So I got in the habit of not wanting to go and I locked us--I told brother we could go in the room and lock the door and my poor mother had to get out on the roof, which was a slanted roof, to come in and she had to break the window because the window was stuck--nobody ever opened that 10:00window--to get us out of there. Brother was so little, I must have been five because he was so little that he would go to open the door and he'd be so frantic. Every time he stopped, it was still locked. It had one of these slippings [laughter] and I thought, oh, Lord. Oh, she did--oh, she spanked us. She went out and got a switch. If you're rural, you know what a switch is. You whip children with it. And she got a switch and of course we're fair skinned, so we had these little red marks on our legs and this woman [laughter]--Mama was late for church [inaudible 10:36] and the town crier, the woman, the biggest gossip, Miss Carrie, she said, look at those children. That woman is the meanest woman. I was so glad. My mother leaned at her, and I'll never forget it, she said, shut your damn mouth. [laughter] These are my children and I'll do what I please. But I felt so sorry for her. I was so ashamed because I thought, you 11:00know, she thinks my mama's bad. I drove my mama crazy this morning. But anyway.
Andrea: Was she just as strict a teacher?
Elaine: She was not strict with us at all. In fact, I couldn't believe that mymother was a good teacher. I thought, Lord, I will not go. My brother had to go. She taught in a one-room schoolhouse in Elliston and poor little brother had to go and be taught by her, third grade. But then they pulled mama out, brought her to Blacksburg and then she was at Christiansburg. She only had first and second grades and she was incredible with children. You know, the only thing mama had was problems with principals. If a second grader could read at fourth grade 12:00level, she said to the mother go buy the books and she started teaching at a fourth grade level and the other teachers were furious. You know you can't do that. Mama said, I am never going to let a child stay behind in their quest for learning because of a grade. She said, grades don't matter. Grades don't matter a damn. She cussed out somethin' terrible. Her principal told me, when she went to Christiansburg, she taught first and second--
Andrea: Who was the principal?
Elaine: No, no but the principal was a young man. Mama was strictly elementaryschool and of course when she first started teaching she had all seven grades. We had one school teacher in Elliston and they taught all seven grades. Can you imagine? And every day I was through with my work by ten and just began to talk and go talk to the other children. So, during the world war, there was surplus foods and they began to give them to rural public schools. 13:00
Andrea: Public school lunches.
Elaine: Yeah, public school. [laughter] And at eleven o'clock every day, I wasin there with Ms. Polly Ford getting the lunch ready because I had finished all my lessons. When I finished, I--a typical child--I was going around to other children. I wanted someone to talk with and you know, it was very hard for the teachers to--they had to do research and stuff in order to give me challenges. My mother helped, my mother had taught school before she married and so she was not teaching when we were little. Ms. Lester would come by and mama would give 14:00her my lessons [laughter] but I still was free of that as a child. So she finally, my mother told her to let me read to the first graders. Oh, I loved that. I loved telling them stories. I made up stories to tell 'em in the first grade. That was good. So at ten o'clock--I mean, when I was ten years old--I was sent to Christiansburg Institute. I'd just worn all those people out. I'd done the seventh grade work. So I was on the school bus, I was four feet ten--four feet eight, I think, when I first--I got up to ten when I graduated I was four feet ten. I took my mouthy self up there-- 15:00
Andrea: Can you talk a little bit more about your time at CI?
Elaine: My time at CI was manna from heaven. My sister was also ten years oldbut Talma looked like she was twelve. She was tall. By the time Talma got to twelve, she was fully developed. Well, I wasn't. I mean, I was like four feet maybe seven. I didn't start going into puberty until I was in high, almost fourteen years old. So, even when I got to school, when I got there, the boys especially teased me because I had these three braids and stuff like that. 16:00[laughter] And they were pulling my hair while all the high school girls tried to get their hair done and you know, going to the beauty parlors, I was still in my three braids and I didn't wear--I stopped wearing the little--what do you call them? They used to put--oh God, I can't think of anything--I am getting senile. You are lucky to get everything you want today [laughter] because if you come back again I might not know who you are: What are you talking about? [laughter]. For me, school was a wonderful place. I read all the books that the school had. But, they couldn't afford--I mean, they couldn't keep me out of school and mama was pretty glad to have me going out. So, at ten years old I had finished the seventh grade and I was off to Christiansburg Institute. I was four 17:00feet eight and as mouthy as I could be. And high school, didn't intend to take me at all. I loved it.
Andrea: Why is that?
Elaine: Most kids go on to high school, ya know. I loved it, I loved it and ofcourse I spoke. I loved the stage. A teacher had introduced me to Paul Laurence Dunbar, a black poet and I was always performing so when I got to Christiansburg Institute and the principal was going around to colleges to recruit, he'd bring me and I'd be on the stage with Mr. Giles [laughter]. And people- one woman was describing to my mother- my mother had not finished college and she started going back so she could--you could teach in elementary school in the county without a degree, but my grandmother said I'll pay for you to go to college. Get 18:00back, get your degree so you can make as much money as possible because we don't want these children to end up ignorant [laughter]. My grandmother did not like my father: that low-down man you married is not going to have enough money to educate these children. Because we were--for example, my sister, when I went to Christiansburg Institute, my sister was in her junior year. So, we had this overlap and that went into college and the day I finished college my brother entered. So, my parents, even if daddy wasn't--he wasn't a ne'er do well. I liked him very much because he took me into the woods and we walked and he told me about all the animals and he was just wonderful and I went out and made gardens with him. So, he was dear to me. As I got older, I began to see what made my mother so unhappy is that he would not come to grips with the goals that she had in mind. He was always proud when we were successful but if we hadn't gone to college daddy wouldn't have cared. If we hadn't gone to college my mother would have killed herself. You know that was the difference between 'em, the passion was there. My grandmother, she had gone to college before she 19:00married. And daddy, my grandmother came, and she said, I found places for the children to go this summer, she had already talked to the people and they said they would take us and she said, your brother--my Uncle Douglas had just come from New York. He had a divorce and he came back to--they were living in Bluefield at the time, so they had decided that they would pay for mama's getting. She said, there are people who are teaching in Montgomery County that don't even have any college education. So, you go up there and tell that man 20:00that you are gonna go back to school and she had two years of college at Fisk University before she married. [Inaudible 20:17] Luckily her first teaching job was in Elliston. Now my mother was very high tempered. If you bothered one of us she'd threaten to kill you. [laughter] I mean she'd go out and my mother had a very foul tongue when she was angry. She would cuss people out, talk--I mean, treat them like dirt and dogs and you know the ones that were really kind of very poor and very rough would say, Ms. Talma you aren't to do that. I'll do as I damn please [laughter] and, I thought, that's a nice thing: I'll do as I damn please. It became sorta my motto in my life. But she would die for us and I knew no matter what I did, if I could get to mother, if somebody was going to shoot me, she'd stop the bullet. Then I said, oh God if she doesn't die, she'll kill 21:00me. The rest of life: do you know what you did? My God, you almost got me killed. [laughter] But she had a high temper, she loved her children, she was bold and daddy was gentle. Walking through the woods with my father was a pleasure for me. We got the Christmas trees and we picked them out and we watched them spread out a little bit. Daddy said, you start getting the good Christmas tree by looking at the shape. You know, what is it going to grow into? So we would go out and go picking by the time Christmas came it had gotten a little bit bigger. So I was very fond of my father as I went on and got to my 22:00college. Mama had asked him--he was a bellhop at Patrick Henry, he wouldn't take a job in the post office because it was manual labor. Mama said, what is carrying suitcases? I mean [laughter] that's manual labor. But, that was a problem. That was a problem. So, what are we doing about school?
Andrea: Who was your favorite teacher at CI?
Elaine: Mr. Cooley.
Andrea: Why's that?
Elaine: Because he was brilliant. He taught history, world history. I missed himin American history because he moved. It was after the war was ending and he could get jobs out of teaching for his young family. And his wife took over and it wasn't so much. But, he was brilliant; he brought the subject matter to life. You really felt like you knew the kings when you were dealing with world history. And he would stammer like some of them. He was just a magnificent--but 23:00he was also a fine actor. At Christiansburg Institute the faculty always, just to keep themselves busy and all, they'd always give a play each year. And they were spectacular.
Andrea: Did the students ever help out with those plays?
Elaine: No, we had our own. The students by grades all had an annual on thestage for the community and I was always there. Between acts I recited poems from Paul Laurence Dunbar. I was so young and my sister was ten when she went. She was tall and she got none of it, but I was just, I was always--anything that 24:00went on at Christiansburg Institute, I was on the stage more than likely. The principal came down and told mama to try to help to get me under control, stop screaming at people across the room. Somebody, one of the teachers there--you know the boys would like to pull my braids. I was probably the only sophomore that still had her mama braid her hair in the morning and they would pull it and tease me. Throwing books around and carrying on something terrible. But I was a straight A student and they really didn't bother me. When I got there I was ten years old and I just went right into As like I had in grammar school. Learning, 25:00most of my learning, was not in reading. The curiosity that I had was very intense and I listened very carefully so that--and I had a sterling memory as a child. So, I really just loved school. I loved all of these things that were just going on in the world and sometimes I'd go read the books and sometimes I'd pass my grades just by listening to what the teacher said in class. It didn't make much difference to me.
Andrea: So, what was your least favorite subject?
Andrea: What was your least favorite subject?
Elaine: Physical education, physical education. Oh, I was terrible. I wouldn'tdo any of the exercises. I wouldn't do anything and I had to take it because that was a part of the--
Andrea: It's still that way. [laughter]
Elaine: Is it still that way? [laughter]
Andrea: Yes, in high school.
Elaine: You know, I thought, I'd rather be running in the woods or something, Imean what do I need to be up here doing these silly old things? So, in fact, I finished my physical education when I was a senior and the valedictorian of my class. I'd been traveling all to the colleges and all with the principal. Every 26:00time he was recruiting he would go and then get on a program and I would speak. And so, my mother, when she started back to finish her degree--particularly, Bluefield. Bluefield State was a black college at that time and the dean there just couldn't get over me. And all the students thought, what is that little girl sitting up there. She said I would swing my feet back and forth, these little patent leather shoes, I'd just be swinging. I was bored. Finally, Mr. Giles would turn it over to me and I recited poetry and I traveled all over 27:00Virginia whenever he was recruiting and whenever there was--when the faculty gave a play, anything went on the stage, they included me. Sometimes I think it was just because they knew it would hurt my feelings. I tried to get in the glee club. A great musician who had been in the army came back to the school and he was getting a choir together and a band for the boys. He did that in like months. So I was going to go and I was going to stand beside by my sister and sing like--I could hear enough to sing. Well I didn't know that he could tell that I was following Talma. I wasn't with Talma--I was following her. So he put me out. He put me out. He had to. He had three voices and I couldn't hold a tune, I couldn't read music, and he put me with two of my first cousins and they had the worst voices you ever heard. You know he was doing that and he made 28:00these little trios. I just started to cry when he put me with Camelia Dowe and Goldie Scott, they were my first cousins. I thought, I am out of here, so I started to cry and I go, what do you want me to sing for? Just put me out. I didn't say that, I wasn't that outspoken at the time. But it was amazing. I called him an old gray-eyed devil. He was right in the room, and this teacher said to me, Elaine, he didn't mean any harm. I said he's a gray eyed devil, that's what he is. [laughter] And he could have put me out, but instead he got in his little car and drove down to my mother and he said, her heart is broken. She's never been put out of anything at Christiansburg that went on the stage. And, of course my sister went in and she had a lovely voice. And she was much more musical. But Christiansburg was my life, my vitality. I was fourteen when I 29:00graduated. I was sort of growing up at that time.
Andrea: Did you ever feel challenged by anything at CI?
Elaine: No, not at all. [laughter] That's terrible, not at all. I can say thatwith total confidence. There was not one course--I went through algebra, went through geometry, it didn't bother me at all. They had general science and then we had biology and chemistry. The faculty changed. Mr. Cooley and Mr. Giles was principal--they fired him because they said he was too progressive. He was an incredible, an amazing principal and we were outstripping with these state examinations we had. We were way, way ahead of the white schools.
[Mobile phone rings]
Elaine: What is that?
Andrea: Sorry, it's my phone. I apologize.
Elaine: [laughter] She's getting mad at that noise.
Andrea: I know--ugh.30:00
Andrea: Just bringing it back though, what about the other students at CI?
Elaine: What do you mean what about the--?
Andrea: Were they as happy as you were?
Elaine: Oh, I think so. I think so. I mean, you have to understand that most allof us--not all of us because there was Pulaski and Christiansburg, Radford. They would have four-room schools but we were all country kids coming into a place where there was a decent desk to sit at. We had to ride the buses each day and some of them didn't have family with cars. So, they'd never been coming into school. The school was wonderful. There was glee club when Mr. Holmes got back from the war and Mr. Giles always had--we had chapel every day. The school, 31:00Christiansburg Institute was founded by Quakers so they would bring you together for meditation. So Mr. Giles had that. We only had half an hour to eat because we had to go to chapel. Chapel, for him, was not religious. It was student performance. So students sang and they played the piano and they had all kinds of things and of course, yours truly was there [laughter] a lot of times and if I wasn't going to be there, Mr. Giles would call and tell me and generally speaking the faculty tried to--I just took for granted that I should be on the stage if the stage was open. But then I had my first theater and I was either a little girl or an old woman. I loved being the old woman. I had gray hair and I 32:00stormed around the stage for our senior class. But I couldn't have been in a better environment. I couldn't have been in a place where--I was loved. The students took, when we went traveling together with the band, Mr. Holmes took me and he said, give them a break. Then I got to go to all the colleges and the oldest students, sixteen and all, I graduated at fourteen. I started traveling at thirteen with Mr. Holmes and they took just wonderful care of me. I can't say they were the best days of my life but they let me--the further out in the world I went, the more eager I was because I got things from Christiansburg Institute 33:00and the students and I took that all, too. I went to Rosary College in River Forest, Illinois. And I still thought I would be liked. I would be taken in. I could be myself and not have to be worried about--I never worried about whether I was liked. I was a mean little girl. [laughter] But I was. I was liked because the students admired me, you know, my straight A's and my talents and I wasn't as talkative. I could be, but by and large with my older classmates, I just loved listening to them. They talked about their boyfriends and stuff like that. I thought, Oh, boy. I'll be glad when I get fourteen. I was graduated when I was fourteen, went to an all-women's college, so I didn't even start dating until I 34:00was sixteen years old when I went to Howard Univesity.
Andrea: So how did you feel when CI closed? When you heard the news?
Elaine: Like I always feel about the South. I was cussing and carrying on. Itwas inevitable. Christiansburg Institute had over a hundred acres of land and the county took that over and they gave it to Virginia Tech [laughter] for some 35:00kind of farming and stuff. So, you knew that this was an institution that the Quakers had put together. And of course they had to finally turn it over to Montgomery County. They couldn't wait. That was the best thing about integration for the county, because all of that land mostly went into use for Virginia Tech and its cattle farms and all that kind of stuff. There was no effort. All the buildings were torn down. Only one lasted and that was because protest, protest, protest.
Andrea: Were you part of those protests?
Elaine: No, no. By that time, my darling, I had left the South. I was ready tohave another Civil War. I hated the South, and, and because I joined the Catholic Church. [laughter] Oh, my God--when I think of this place--but anyways, St. Gerard's was basically a black church. My uncle had become Catholic. My 36:00mother sent him to a boarding school that was Catholic with a Benedictine priest. So, when he came back there was a priest there and he let the black people sit in the sanctuary. And then, all of a sudden of course, the Catholic community grew and grew. It was here in Roanoke. The Catholic Church then was able to interview and bring their own priest in. So, when they did that, all of the black people that had been down in the sanctuary were told they had to go sit in the choir loft. They couldn't sit in the sanctuary. So, my uncle and 37:00about nine, eight, ten, maybe other black--other Catholic people went down to the bishop. And, the good, old Catholic Church says, well, we'll give you your own school--your own church. So the Redemptorist old priest came in and founded St. Gerard's. St. Gerard's is still there, of course--pretty large, integrated. It's down on--where is it? Orange Avenue. They bought a little grey cottage that you all had to walk up this hill to. And, of course I followed--it was my mother's brother and his wife was my dearest family member and I went up. And of course I fell in love with the mass. I was so sick and tired of these Baptist ministers talking about others going to hell, hollering, and hooping, and people shouting. I though oh, goodness gracious. I got afraid of the people shouting. And one day [laughter] there was a big rally. And of course they were all--the Baptist church was filled and my cousin and I decided--the town crier, this Carrie Calloway was the biggest gossip in town, she told everything--so we decided we liked her. Mama said please, please don't stay with Carrie. Come over 38:00here. No. My cousin Shirley and I, we wanted to be right with Ms. Carrie. One on one side and one on the other [laughter] Right in the midst of--during one of the religious parts, she began to shout. [laughter] Well, I was on one side of her. Shirley was on the other. Mama said--mama was back there. I don't know how. We must have been five years old, at the most. The Baptist church there had three aisles and so we were in the center one. So, I went this way and Shirley went the other. And mama heard this boom, boom, boom. She said, what is going on? There was Shirley and I running back to where mama was, just absolutely crying. We had never had anybody shout. [laughter] We didn't know what was going 39:00on. So mama just looked at us and she said--and brother must have been about three years old, but he had fallen asleep. You know you have these things, revivals and stuff--and she just said, well I guess you got [Inaudible 39:09]. She said, shut up, sit down, and just shut up. Scared the living daylights out of us. My family was not that kind of evangelistic. So, the Catholic Church was the perfect place for me. I was so relieved. I was so happy. My father said mama was letting us be in league with the devil. So she said, well if Jesus is up there on that place where you go to church, I'd just as soon see my children in hell. I loved my mother. She could just boom, boom, boom. She said, I'd just as soon see the children in hell, Albert, she said, so don't start talking about the Catholics. You know, because Masons--my uncle told me they put a sword through the heart of the--who is the head of the Catholic Church?
Andrea: The pope?40:00
Elaine: The pope. The anti-Catholic feelings in these masonic and all kinds ofplaces, vicious stuff. And that's what daddy had grown up with. Now my mother, her brother was sent to a school because he was becoming unmanageable. My grandmother was always a domestic. She only went to fourth grade. She was very intelligent woman, highly intelligent, so she was working in service and did the housekeeping, cooking and cleaning for a white family. They turned out to be catholic and she was sort of, you know, you get to know people you work with. She was getting very concerned about her son, they had been living in Detroit 41:00and they had brought him back and she was losing control of him. You know, he was in high school. So, they suggested to her to send him to a Catholic academy. He loved it. He had to wear these uniforms and capes and all of this kind of stuff. When he went to St. Andrews after they got what they call a local priest, meaning it was out of the Bishop's appointment and the people actually interviewed priests and they sent all of the black people up to the choir loft, wouldn't let them sit down in the sanctuary. And, of course, my Uncle who was very Catholic went to the bishop and the bishop--that's what they all do throughout the Catholic church. They say, here, we'll give you a black church. They managed to spread the holy spirit around. So, my mother's youngest brother was a devout catholic and he was the one that went to the bishop, when asked to 42:00go up to the choir loft and not sit down in the Sanctuary. He didn't have children, he and his wife. I don't know what that was but I think it was physical. I think neither of them would have not had children consciously. But, it was none of our business. My cousin and I would love to know. We still talk about how we would like to know why they couldn't have children. It was one of them that couldn't handle that. But, he was very proud of me and his wife adored me and I loved her. She was very dear to me. I bounced right into the Catholic 43:00Church. My father was very upset: you puttin' those children in the league with the devil. She said, well I'll just so have them in the league with the devil rather than have 'em up at that Baptist church. Let 'em go. [laughter] So I went and then, of course, out of my grandmother's six grandchildren only one stayed out of the Catholic Church. I trucked in and they trucked in behind me and finally my sister at twenty-six decided to come in.
Andrea: So, were you just as excited about Catholicism when you went to Rosary?
Elaine: Yes, I was. You know, I loved it. The mass itself is essentially a44:00prayer and it's a prayer that engages you in the process of it. And it just took me over. That's how I got to Rosary. I wanted to go to a Catholic women's school and I wanted to leave the South. And I was accepted to a church in New York but my parents would not have let me go there. Rosary was out in a suburban area and my mother wrote around to all these catholic schools, do you accept Negros? And Sister Aurelia [laughter] said, my dear, Mrs. Dowe, of course we accept Negros and she had an exclamation point. That's what got me to Rosary, her enthusiasm. She went on to talk about--there were only four of us in there but that was by choice. The Catholic Church is not very prominent to the Black community. So, that was the beginning of the turnaround for me. I fell in love with--I loved urban life. I loved the theater and the Broadway plays would come and I loved 45:00the museums. I got along very well. Then, I wanted to date. Then of course, there were no black--I didn't know anybody black in all of Chicago and there was only one black student who was a dayhop and the rest of them in the dormitory didn't have any dates. There were only four of us, or five at Rosary College. So I transferred--it was that when I started, kind of, looking at guys.
Andrea: Is that really why you transferred?
Elaine: Yes, it was.
Andrea: All the boys?
Elaine: It was, it really was the boys. I didn't like most of the boys that Iknew because they struck me as backward and ignorant. Living in Chicago from 46:00fourteen to sixteen really left me very isolated. When I came back to Roanoke and Elliston, I knew it. I loved the big city. I loved going to the restaurants. The first Chinese restaurant I went to, I ordered moo goo gai--moo goo--I used to remember, moo goo gai pan or something.
Andrea: Um-hm, that's it.
Elaine: That's it? Okay, yes, I will never forget it. I just, I fell in lovewith it. I always love it. From that day I'm eating with chopsticks. I wouldn't think of putting anything, putting anything. I mean I love it. That was a very sweet Chinese woman. She was from China and she wore the dress and she was Catholic. Of course, that was when the reds took over. She was closed from her family. I don't know quite ever what happened to her. But I decided that I needed dates. I'm stuck out there out there in River Forest, Illinois. No 47:00African Americans or Jews could buy homes out there where I was. Where Rosary College was. It was tough country. So I transferred to Howard University.
Andrea: What do you think the most difficult thing was about transferring fromRosary to Howard?
Elaine: The intellectual life.
Andrea: Worse at Howard?
Elaine: No, it was worse at Howard. The students were very bright. They were thebrightest people. The faculty was superb but there wasn't a strongly felt intellectual life. For me, the students were party, party, party. Boy, boy, boy, everyone wanted--the medical school was there, the dental school was there, the school of religions. Everybody wanted to go home with a husband--preferably 48:00medicine. And the sororities and fraternities, they took over the campus and I had just begun at Rosary to move more toward--my ideal was to be an intellectual. I wanted to know as much as possible, talk as much about it. And I hated Howard. Hated. I was ready to go back to Rosary and my father said no, if you think every time you don't like a school, you're going to be shifting around you've got another thought coming. You were at Rosary, you wanted to leave, you gonna finish Howard. So, I finished Howard, a good solid two terms ahead of time. And, of course, my family just kept me at home and I was just awful. I still, today, hurt at how I ridiculed, denounced. I was like a thing. I was in a 49:00trap and I hated my family. I hated their interest. I called them ignorant. I did all of this stuff. Even though my mother was a school teacher, I thought I was something. She said, well you're ignorant yourself and I said, no, you don't read, you don't talk about anything. Oh, I was awful.
Andrea: So she never brought her school work to show you guys?
Elaine: She was teaching school, I had finished college when I was acting likethis. Yes, I finished Howard ahead of time and came home and wore my family out again. It was this meanness that I had towards my family. I was lonely. When I tried to talk to my mother about Chicago and the theater--my sister could talk about The AKAs and the Alphas and Dr. So-and-so. Her whole education was in 50:00black college and I was just out there. I had fallen in love with the theaters. And they came from New York and to Chicago, music, I mean it was just--I was very isolated. And Howard was not a place for me. It was a wonderful place with beautiful faculty but the culture was not intellectual. There were intellectual people on the campus but I came in as a junior and you know, I did start dating there. That was nice. I did start dating. You know who I was dating? World War II veterans. [laughter] Because these little freshman and sophomores, sweaty types [noises of disgust]. So, a lot of the guys who were older, they thought I 51:00was adorable. They were old enough to know that I wasn't--I mean they all had girlfriends but they took me places and they got me used to talking to guys. One of them was just adorable, I loved Frank Sullivan, and I think he did me. I mean, but, he was in medical school. A veteran in medical school is going to be hanging around with this little sixteen-year-old person? But, he was very protective of me, he let me know the harmful places, the men who were not good people. And I wish that I had stayed in touch with him. He finished medical school, he went into internship in Philadelphia and I was in Philadelphia 52:00visiting a friend. And that was the last time I saw him and he called me and I was too busy learning about the world. And I was still only eighteen years old, had finished college. Always ahead, always and I got to the point that if I wasn't probing something new, I was unhappy. So, I moved around, I went to Boston and of course I went to Boston College to get my master's degree. I loved Boston. I had always wanted to go because American History. That's where all the anti-slave people were. Boston, Massachusetts. So I loved Boston and Boston lived up to its reputation with me. The theaters were good, the symphony was superb. I was a social worker so I spent my days in the slums and when it was 53:00the weekend with my roommates--one of them, Loretta Dixon, who is still very dear to me. We would go to all the theaters together and saved our money. We were at the matinees on Saturday. My first Broadway play was Brigadoon. It was a musical and I had to be pulled down by my friends. I just stood up. I was just mesmerized by the power and singing. So, I loved the theater although I acted a lot when I was--I gave it up. When I got to college, my age bore an impact on 54:00me. I wasn't like the grown-up people. I wasn't like the girls that could flirt. I was just sort of there, particularly at Howard, but when I went--a friend of mine that I met--we became friends. We graduated from Howard at the same time but since I was a transfer student into Howard, I didn't meet Corky until my senior year. We were just in the same dormitory. So, she was upset that--I was so sorry--going to a white school strangled out some of my energy for being on the stage. I had a southern accent, in Chicago they all--they would come to my room just to hear a southerner talk, stuff like that. So I pulled back from it heavily and I got to Howard and I hated Howard just because the academic voice--you couldn't discuss anything. I said my God, who do--I think we were in the Korean war then or something?
Elaine: And I thought, that whole--they could take over the United States and bewalking down Fourth Street and the guys at Howard would be saying, look at their crazy--what do they call clothes? Something. They wouldn't even know they were at war. I mean, that's how far Howard was from everything that went on in the world. It was right there on that campus. The people made A's from the teachers that they had but they were not intellectually oriented. Now, I didn't meet all of them, so I know there were certain departments that was not true. The English department was superb. That was where--oh God, what was her name? What's her name now? I'm getting senile. Do you know what--yes, I am worried. I'm going to 56:00be sitting here one day, I won't be able to tell anybody my name. This is terrible. She's an outstanding black writer. If I could remember her name, you would know her. But, I graduated Howard with her. My first year at Howard, I was just miserable. I cried all the time. In fact, I went home a term early. You know, I doubled up on things. And then second year I did meet this bright young woman and friends. I got friends that senior year and Corky told me, well why don't you go back to--she was with the Howard players--so she said, why don't you go back? I said, I'm not--I feel. She said, oh, come on. So she told Dr. Cook, who was head of the drama department. Howard's students traveled all over Europe. It was an excellent dramatic school. They put a lot of talent into acting. So, Corky, took me to see her so she said--she gave me something to read. So, Dr. Cook said Carolyn, okay, put her on the crew. So when you first went to the Howard players you had to be on the crew. So Corky said, Dr. Cook, 57:00[laughter] Elaine is graduating, she is already finished all of her degree. She said, I just brought her over here to let her know she can still act. This woman whirled around, she said, Corky why didn't you ask me? She said, well I was afraid you would say no, so if I told you she was going--. She said, I admire what she's done, and she said, pardon me, Elaine, it's not because I didn't want you. I am a very busy person. She said, Corky if you ever do it, I will put you out of the Howard players. She said, oh, you won't do it anymore. Corky was wonderful, she was one of these--she was from the North and she'd always--. She transferred into Howard from the University of Iowa just as I did, because she 58:00wanted to go not be in a white school. You didn't have any dates. You were isolated. So she had made a deal with her mother, who was a chemist. She was from Rochester, New York and I had made a deal with mine to put Howard off. My family was very happy when I went to Howard. It really was different. You did have dates. It was the social life but the intellectual life was just--if you didn't meet the right people, you could forget it. It was party time, party time, sorority, fraternities--you know, it just really did remind me a lot of Virginia Tech. [laughter] When I went to Virginia Tech, you rarely heard--I don't think the whole time I was there working on my doctoral degree as I did, I 59:00don't think I heard one intellectual conversation among the undergraduates. I don't know what it's like now.
Andrea: Do you know how your college experience compared to the other ones from CI?
Elaine: Goodness, so few in my class went to college.
Andrea: Where did they usually go?
Elaine: They went into working. You know, getting jobs, women in domestics. Themen--in some things like the Radford Arsenal was there and places like that, they could get jobs because of the war. But, they married as soon as they could. So, out of my class Johnny McClenahan, he did. He came to Chicago, lived with his family, and he went to school there. I'm pretty sure he graduated. I think Gloria Jean Mitchell did too. She wen, but most of the people that graduated 60:00Christiansburg with me did not go to college.
Andrea: Did CI never stress--?
Elaine: Well, they stressed it the best they could, but where were they gonnago? You know? Virginia Tech--segregation was rampant. The parents had to have--. There was a state college and if you were a valedictorian in Virginia at that time--I don't know if they're still doing it--if you went to a state school. 61:00And, of course everybody got very upset with me. And, in fact my brother was penalized because he was valedictorian in his class. And the principal said, no, we're not going to give you that. We're going to make you a salutatorian and we're going to call the young woman who's close to you, but not as good, we're going to give her because--. As a valedictorian I could have gone to Virginia State free. And, my mother said, no, you're not going to Virginia State at all. [laughter] So, because I was Catholic and got the priest involved, and we picked--I picked Chicago and Rosary College. And, my mother said I could go with the nuns. Poor little Talma was accepted at Mount Holyoke. But my grand--. My father's sister was, you know, she was a housekeeper. She was a part of the staff to serve a very wealthy family. So, she said, well you don't want her to go Mount Holyoke. Upper-class white people are immoral. So Talma was rather bored. She was much--she was same age--in fact, she was younger than I was when 62:00she finished but she matured quickly. She was a little boy crazy. She was giggling and all. I never got into that. I just walked into a much older expression of my interest with men. But Talma was giggling. And all of her little friends, all they talked about was boys. They dressed the right way and then they wanted to go to the drug store at the same time they came in. Oh, that's what Talma did with her young life. Although, she was valedictorian, extremely intelligent and very disciplined, but much more ladylike, much more sorority-oriented, much more--you know, never cross your legs. You were a woman, you keep it like that. I didn't care. I would put mine up on-- 63:00
Andrea: Like you're doing right now?
Elaine: My mama would say, would you put your foot down? That's not the way tosit. [laughter] I think a lot of it was because I went to a woman's college at a young age and didn't take any of the social life out of Howard. Guys liked me. You know, they used to sing. There was a song that came out, a popular song: Good morning, judge. What makes you look so mean? [laughter] How did I know your daughter was just sixteen? [laughter] And the Kappas would sing that every--those bastards, I had to end up walking all around to get to class. Because, when you went in the triangular way, like that.
Elaine: I'd pass the Kappa tree and they'd start singing: Good morning, judge.[laughter] Here she comes, she's sixteen. At Howard, the sororities and fraternities dominated, and the Kappas actually chose me for their courts and 64:00things like that. But I thought, that sounds so stupid. And they wouldn't stop. They liked making me blush and mad. I was so young that they really--there were other students at Howard that came in from southern schools where they had been double promoted because of their intelligence. What was so difficult for going to Christiansburg--and I think that this will be for most rural, southern, black schools--is the teachers had some students who were very bright, others barely making it. And, then you had very few, very little support for the students in their homes. So, the teachers had to work overtime. If I got into a problem, my 65:00father was educated. He went to Virginia State before it became a college, so he doesn't have a degree. But I had my parents there, you know. Read this. What are they trying to say? If I was writing a paper and got stumped about how to turn it into the paper. Truncate it. You know, truncate the material? Both of my parents were well-educated enough to help me with that. Well, when you were going into high schools where parents were totally illiterate, very bright kids who learned like mad, but they didn't have the support. And the Christiansburg, everybody rode buses. You know, Christiansburg had a bus from Pulaski, a bus from Radford, a bus from Elliston and Shawsville, and, I don't know how the 66:00Blacksburg kids got to school. Was there a bus?
Andrea: There was a driver who would take them from New Town, which was one ofthe Black neighborhoods
Andrea: And they would, he would drive them.
Elaine: He would drive them. 'Cause I knew there wasn't a bus. There wasn'tenough of them going.
Andrea: It was a volunteer effort.
Elaine: I think it was a volunteer thing. And that would be the place where youwould get volunteers because people--all they did at Virginia Tech was clean the floors and cook the food. But they had a sense of university life. I was awfully glad I went to Virginia Tech. And, I'm not sorry that I got involved in Christiansburg Institute and didn't finish my degree. I could care less about the degree. I did all my coursework and I didn't--I began to get involved in Christiansburg Institute. And I don't care. Meanwhile, the state of Virginia will let me hang on the campus, there. [laughter] I felt like I was finally getting my dues because my poor parents had to pay for Rosary College, which was an expensive college. And they had to pay for Howard University. I was cum laude 67:00and I didn't know it so, my senior year, they told me that. I went to pay my bills and and all they paid me were little things like--I don't know what. The kind of small things and I said, what's wrong? They said, that's okay. Don't you worry about it. Here's your class schedule. I was cum laude and I didn't even know. When I graduated, I didn't know it until I saw the bison. Mama said, why didn't you tell me? I said, mama I didn't know it. I didn't care about Howard. I hated Howard. So, I spent most of my time hating Howard, but I'm glad I went to Howard.
Andrea: In the long run?
Elaine: In the long run, yeah, in the long run. When you go out in the world68:00with a college degree and you never run into people that you know. You know, when I went to Boston and anyone that went to Howard wanted to meet me. University life is a support system. You can walk into a town that you've never been in for a job and then somebody will find out you're there and they will come running to you and the next thing you know you're at the dinner table. You both are going and when you get out into the real world you'll see how true that is. People are always very happy to meet somebody who goes to their school at the collegiate level and its one of the gifts that higher education brings to you.
Andrea: Before we interviewed people, we did a reading on ChristiansburgInstitute history and one girl actually compared Christiansburg Institute to college. She said, she loved--it felt like a little university.
Elaine: I can see why, because they had dormitories. You know, there was noother--you know, Mount Holyoke and places like that. [laughter] And, I'm sure Virginia has this one women's college. But, by in large, you know, 69:00Christiansburg Institute had people that came from as far as New York. When people had behavior problems with their kids, they sent them down South. [laughter] Keep them out of the streets. And, so, Christiansburg Institute was an amazing place, all I can say. The faculty gave you everything. The learning curve--it was just tremendous that they set for you and they always managed. They did a lot of things. There was an incredible glee club. There was a band that Zedekiah Holmes came back from the military, and boy, he really marched 70:00that band. It was unbelievable. You've never seen anything like--little kids, you know, little boys who were twelve and haven't grown up yet, and they would be there, and they marched like nobody else. You'd never see a high school group like that. And those kids--the ones that were really good--they would go out and play for white dances, with Mr. Holmes directing it. And they got the money, enough to buy them uniforms. So they were in these dark greens, with the gold on the thing--they usually wear, like the military does. So, his coming back from the war was just wonderful. He came back in the middle of my junior year. And he traveled them. He could always get the Virginia State College and Lawrenceville. 71:00And I always went because I recited poetry and gave them a break. So, I went. I was always with the crowd. And, I've never known students--they were teenagers. They were dealing with the girls and flirting with the guys, but to travel with them--they were so, you know, I wasn't in that at the age. I was still really backward in terms of social life and they never made me feel like I was taking anything away from them. They were just--Christiansburg was a very wonderful place for me. And I think most students who went there--if you talked with them--would say that. It had a way of making you feel good. The courses were pretty strong. And, then of course, when the Quakers left, turned it over to Montgomery county.
Andrea: Can we pull the lens back? Like maybe your candid thoughts about desegregation?72:00
Elaine: Oh well, [laughter]. I think it's barbaric. I think it's made the UnitedStates a country that will never be able to rise to its total height.
Elaine: Yeah. Segregation tosses the souls of people. So, there is alwaysanimosity. There is always tension and stress. Not by everybody, but I don't think that anybody who lives in the United States can avoid encountering that. And, it's a destructive thing. Because, let's say Asian people come in, as 73:00Mexican people come in, they never have quite the full blown loyalty to this country because they're always treated. It gives away--it just makes it the hell that it is. I don't give a damn about the United States. I don't give a hell if you bombed it tomorrow. I had a friend who was just absolutely wild. This was in Boston and this was when everybody was talking about the atomic attacks and that scare--it was genuine, it was very frightening for--. The nuns were talking about to one of the--I was a registrar at Catherine Library School. Nursing there was one of my first jobs and so Sister Cecilia said to Mary, she said, oh, they were practicing. People were building tunnels for themselves under their houses. You were too young to remember that, I would think, but maybe not. And 74:00it was terrible. I mean, we were gonna go to war, we were gonna go to war, the japs were going to get us after all or something. I don't know who we were supposed to be going to war--I think It was Korea wasn't it?
Andrea: Probably Korea at that time.
Elaine: Probably about that time, yup. Well, I wasn't paying much attention toit. Sister Snug came by--the woman who was on our--she was our--the person you first went into the office and she was--that was her desk and she was a lovely woman. So she said, oh, she goes, how are those beautiful children? And she did have beautiful children. She's a catholic mother so I think she had five already. She said, it's gotta stop, I'm gonna just have to tell God I can't follow those rules. Get out of here! She said, I'm gonna kill my husband if I 75:00have to. I'm not gonna have any more children. So she said, well, are your children? She said, oh yeah, my children are ready, she said, if there's a war. Well what did you teach 'em? She said, I'm gonna tell them to listen to the radio, find out where the bombs are gonna fall, go there, bless yourself, and die. Oh, you didn't! She said, if you think I'm gonna send my children down in these holes and all this dirty stuff and practice that kind--she said, no, Sister, no, that's what they're gonna do. And she said, let's just hope that no bombs fall here and they won't have to do that. But, she said, I am not going through. I mean, oh, there was a period there that all people were practicing and they had their homes all done. What is wrong with you? [laughter] That is not going to happen. I mean, I know we had fools in the White House and all. If Romney got to be president I was going to have to leave the country. I am too old and tired to put up with an idiot at the round--George Bush was enough. Eight years of George Bush, everybody in this country, and in fact, I think they did. I think that's why Obama got in and that's why I think he stayed in. People really began to see the limitations of having a president who cannot handle himself like a president. Oh, God, and Romney looks like--what does he look like 76:00to y'all? You think he looks like?
Andrea: That's a golden question.
Elaine: He just looks stupid, doesn't he? He looks like he's lost somewhere, andthen he has this insipid grin on his face. Oh, would you please? How in the world? Only money would have allowed him to become a candidate. I wish the Republican party would get itself together. And George Bush was certainly money and politics. You know, his father. His father. I don't know what's going to happen to America, but apparently most Americans don't take most of this stuff too seriously.
Andrea: I think they've learned.
Elaine: Well I think they--well, I think to some extent that's a flaw. But77:00they'll go down and see what's going on at Macy's or something. Post-America: I don't have time for that, I'm gonna go down, there's a sale. I like the country for that but I wish that there were--many of the presidents are selling out the nation in relationship to other nations. America is a very isolated nation now. Nobody talks about that. But, nobody is going to risk themselves with the United States anymore. It has been as ugly abroad as it is here.
Andrea: Do you think desegregation kinda started that?
Andrea: Do you think desegregation kinda started that?
Elaine: How would you say how desegregation started--
Andrea: Well you said that it jumbled the souls.
Elaine: Well I think for the world abroad, opportunities expanded into someextent because other nations, particularly African Nations and Latin American 78:00nations, these were people--when the Indian, when India sent its first, what do you call it?
Elaine: Ambassadors and companies to the United States. Every day for a whilethere was a big picture of an East Indian person who had been taken out of the restaurants because they were told blacks couldn't get in. Oh, that desegregated Washington in a hurry. And they would be laughing. You know when the reporters were there talking to them, they were just roaring, like, you know, where in the world are we? As far as they were concerned, America was nothing and it was 79:00really the world that pushed the United States into civilization. And there's always been people here fighting forward and the North was certainly better than the South. With desegregation, the South has bloomed. They bloomed, you know? GE would not come here until it was desegregation. People, they moved. A lot of these large companies moved south in a big hurry because the cost of--it's better to have new people, with taxation programs and stuff like that. But, I don't know. America is a funny place and it still is operating pretty much on individualism. I don't think that many people in America--they feel they have a right. And so, it's what I want, what I can do. You know? The only thing they 80:00tend to gather around is church, but it's not a country where people really--. Like the North, you know, it's usually your neighbors, your family, people like that and people tend to be very cliquish. But, it's changed. It's changed. It's changed enormously. And, I left it. I was not, I was not going to come back here if my life depended on it. And I had a hard time getting a job, you know, and then I got sick. My skin broke out and I had to come back home. And as soon as my--that cleared up, I was back and going again. And then finally worked my way into Boston College. Because while I was out I went to Church and there was a priest and he said, you're too young to be working anyway, so why don't you go 81:00to Boston College? And that's how I got out of here. And I lived with a sister and I didn't have to pay any room and board when I was at Boston College. My graduate assistantship, it was all done politically so I was in the dean's house and I was with another young woman and we were both working with the registrar and stuff like that. And Father Fitzgerald had never talked to an African American. [laughter] He was the dean of the graduate school and he had never talked to an African American. So, he kept telling me, you're not African American. I said, what do you think they all look like, Aunt Jemima? He said, no, no, no of course I don't and he was just very pompous and he just kept looking at me. Here was a man from Massachusetts, very prominent in the Catholic 82:00Church, turned Boston College around and made it competitive at the graduate school level--that's what he came there for--he had no idea of what was going on this country and that is so typical of Americans. You know they are focused on their way of life, their communities and they don't have much political life. It is a strange kind of thing. Father Fitzgerald, he could just not--first of all, 83:00he could not believe I was negro: well, you don't look like one. I said, what do you think they look like? And I said, you should see my father. Even white people don't know he's white--I mean, he's a negro. [laughter] Even down here, daddy was famous. The bus one time--stopped the bus, the bus driver, looked back. daddy got on the bus, went back and sat right in the middle of the seats. So the bus driver looked up and he stopped the bus again. He said, come up here. You in the middle, he said, you get up here and sit behind me, he said, because 84:00they'll be getting on again. He had another stop up in Radford for picking up. He said, they'll be getting on and complaining that we're taking their seats. So daddy said, okay. So he let the bus pull out and so all the black people thought daddy was passing. So he looked up. He said, I'm looking up here, they change the state law? He said, what do you mean? He says, whites to the front, blacks to the rear. I mean, that was up in the bus. Well he said, why do you think I stopped the bus for and got you up here? He said, I'm black. My daddy was blonde and blue-eyed. [laughter] He said, well, why didn't you say that? He said, you didn't ask. You told me to get up and come up here. I said, daddy! When I first came back here, you know, you can imagine getting in touch with people that I'd gone to school with and around, especially since I was doing the Christiansburg Institute work. And they just loved my father because when he stopped, and the bus driver came up, they thought he was going to pass. Daddy got up there. The 85:00bus had to stop again while daddy was--it was against the law to move when you had a passenger. Daddy was laughing. I don't know, there must have been at least, I think, a half dozen people who told the story of my father. You know, he really messed over 'em. He was laughing: see you changed the state law. [laughter] I said, daddy! And my mother hated my father for that. Ya know, she really did. She felt like he should have been cussing somebody out. Very direct and confrontational. But anyway, life in the United States has been interesting for me. I've never had much faith in the country, I don't believe in it, I could care less. I never did earn enough money to really move to another country. That, when people move to another country you have to know the country, you have to have money, chances of getting work and stuff. I just stayed here. Of course, I loved New York and I loved Boston. You know I went to Boston College and I knew I would fall in love with Boston and then I went to New York. When you leave New York, you don't go nowhere. I don't care where you go across the world. It is just a phenomenal city. I have friends from around the world and they say it really is the most enticing. It's just enticing. You love it. You may not want to live there but, you know, while you're there, you can't keep up 86:00with it. You can never say you know New York. It is just too fluid and, of course, I lived there for a very long time. You know I love it. I came back here because of family and health to some extent. I don't regret it. I'll say this, I wish that I wasn't afraid to live in a rural area. Because I would get a little cabin and live in the woods. But I wouldn't down here. I would not. No, no, no. I'm scared. I'm scared of here. I told a friend of mine. They said, what is 87:00going to be your first thing? I said, getting some white friends [laughter] I'm not going anywhere in this dumbass place. I really wouldn't. I would not go onto the Blue Ridge Parkway or anything with an all African American group. I would not. I mean, some of it is paranoia. Luckily, when I first got here, working for CI, I met this wonderful woman with Italian heritage from New Jersey. So anywhere I wanted to go, Ana would go. We'd go together. She'd go down the hills and around the hills. I said, good, you can tell them I'm your maid, just get me 88:00out of here safe. But there is a fear that I have in the United States--I mean, in the South--that was not a part of my experience in the Northeast. I went to Boston, I stayed there, lived in New York for thirty-one years. Came back when my marriage ended. My family was down here, I'd not spent much time with them. New York is a place--it's very fluid and almost all the people that I was close to had moved out of New York and gone back to California or gone to Boston. My marriage was ending, that's what drove me out of New York. I felt like I wanted to be quiet and not hustling for jobs. And I could not handle the lifestyle I had. My husband was a businessman and a very good one. I lived on the high life in New York and I could never support that, you know, as a divorced person. He 89:00was wonderful, he loved the symphonies, he was quite musical and we went to the opera, we went to the symphonies. New York is just funny, you come out and that's when you go have your dinner. So you didn't get home until two o'clock in the morning. By that time, people from the cast would be coming in, and they were having their dinner. It was just magical. And in New York, you do not bother a celebrity. Unless you're a visitor to New York, and southerners are particularly, you know, if they see somebody walking down the street like Yul Brynner. I saw one day, this man running to catch up with him, and he got in 90:00front of him and Yul Brynner just pushed around and never looked at him. I would go to watch Yul Brynner. He was the handsomest person you'd ever want to see. He walked, I mean--the walk was there and it was just wonderful. But, anyway, what else? Do you have one more question? She doesn't care how many questions. She keeps the notes.
Andrea: No, you've covered everything I've actually wanted without me having toask. But, is there anything that we didn't ask you that you'd like to say?
Elaine: I don't know. No. You know, you haven't told me exactly what--this isjust a paper for school? Or what is it?
Andrea: We're just trying to gather an oral history collection of theexperiences of students who went to CI.
Elaine: Oh, okay. That's right
Andrea: So, we'll be transcribing it and put it in special collections so otherpeople can learn what kids at CI, what they thought about the school, what they thought about their experiences there
Elaine: Have I told you about the school enough?
Andrea: Um, what would you say Anna?
Elaine: Because, I mean I always take you down and around, underneath and upagain, up this hill and over the mountain. [laughter] In terms of CI, CI was a 91:00place where the care they took of their students was phenomenal. And, when children were headed for college, they poured everything they had into preparation for that child, regardless of what their background was. I mean, we had my mother and my dad was pretty good. But mama had gone to college. Most important, it was a place that took advantage of all of the students' capabilities, like the band, the glee club. We had acting. And, it was the 92:00center. Everybody came. That was what all the community people did, to come to CI. There were continuous--almost continuous programs of people to come in. The teachers were not happy there. The younger they were, the the shorter they stayed. There's nothing to do. As one woman from Philadelphia, she said, good God almighty they didn't even have telephones. [laughter] You had to go down to the office. She was Mrs. Cooley and of course her husband was teaching there. She hated it. She hated it. And finally, he then realized that he could get more money not teaching somewhere in northern Virginia. So she took his place. And, I 93:00interviewed her. [laughter] She was just as wild as I thought she'd be. She said, it was the dumbest place, with the dumbest people. She was from Philadelphia. You know, she said, good Lord! She she said, we had to get our children out of there. They'd grow up. No matter what you'd do, they were going to be a moron at best. [laughter]. It wasn't that bad. Christiansburg Institute had the only telephone, on the campus. She was in a whirl. And she said, you know, I was in a whirl. When he left, she took his job, and she was awful. I told her. And she said, I know I was. She said, I couldn't--. [laughter] She was a wonderful woman, though. You knew that. She was a lot of fun. I interviewed her somewhere, when I was trying to get--. Well no, I didn't interview her. I interviewed Mr. Cooley and she sat in on it and she gave her--. To have both of them there was good. But he had prepared. He wanted the world to really know 94:00what Christiansburg Institute was like. I don't know where that material and all is now that I'm no longer there. I have no idea what the Christiansburg Institute is today.
Andrea: But we got your impressions down so it will definitely go into its history.
Elaine: So, anyway, ladies, I hope I haven't over-talked you and worn you out.But you must realize I am old and I am lonely.
Andrea: We were happy to hear you speak. Thank you so much.
Elaine: Oh, thank you.