Mary Ellen Leftwich Interview · Back to DSU Oral Histories

Leftwich, Mary Ellen Tape 1 of 1 11/17/99
By Perry Barrett

 

This is an interview for the Mississippi Oral History Program. The interview is being recorded with Ms. Mary Ellen Leftwich in her residence on November 17, 1999. The interviewer is Perry Barrett.

 

PB: I know that I sound loud because I am doing that because the microphone is over there. All right Ms. Leftwich we really appreciate you taking part in our oral history program. As I mentioned, I will be asking you a few questions. You may think of something else while you are answering a question. Please feel free to talk about anything that you think is relevant. Okay, can you tell me where you were born? How long you lived at that place?

 

ML: I was born in 1916, November 10th in Laconia Circle, Arkansas, which is almost directly across from where I live now. At that time we lived with our grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Guerdon. My dad came to Mississippi to farm here out from Gunnison for his aunt. We lived out in a little home across from where the Earl Home is today. I don’t know whether you go through the country or not. Our mother died while we were out there. I had a sister that was fourteen months younger than I was Dorothy Lynn Arnold Darby. We used to come to town in the buggy. We would go to our Uncle’s, We called him Uncle Scott, and spend our nickels or pennies or what ever we had. Daddy moved into town. We boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Davis, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Davis. We moved into different houses when they moved. Then my daddy remarried in 1921. It could have been ’22, when I was five years old. My sister was four. Everybody in town said that our stepmother married. We called her “Tease”. Everybody said that Tease married my daddy because she wanted the little girls. So daddy took real good care of us when he was by himself. He was a big, lodge member, Masonic lodge. Some of the other men here in town that were not married, they would all go to the lodge and cooked a lot. He would bring us home a lot of things. We were sick because we ate too much in the middle of the night. He took care of his girls.

 

PB: So what age were you when your family moved to the area?

 

ML: I must have been three.

 

PB: This is this area. You moved closed to here.

 

ML: Yeah, just out of town about a mile and a half. During the depression they lost the place. Then his father had died who lived here. He had a Seven Gable Home here in Gunnison. His mother had moved to Memphis. So he moved up here and farmed her place. It was left to my grandmother. So I really grew up in Gunnison.

 

PB: You mentioned the Depression. What do you recall about those years?

 

ML: None of us had any money, but we didn’t know that we were poor. Everybody was in the same boat. We had a nice group of young people here at that time. We just made our own recreation. We had a tennis court here in our yard. My daddy had a dairy. He kept little pint bottles of chocolate milk and milk in the refrigerator. That was our snack for the afternoon. Everybody liked to play tennis. On the weekends we would get together at one of the girl’s home. A lot of times over here and we all learned to dance together. We had a hall. We would just put on something on the radio. We would go 1, 2, 3 dip all the way down the hall. We were learning to do the dip. We made candy. We had watermelon cuttings. We used to go out to Lake Porter, which is out between Gunnison and toward Shelby. We had a nice place to swim out there that Ms. Smith had fixed for us. She had floats out in the middle of the lake. It didn’t have a bottom so you had to swim. So sister and I went to Greenville and took swimming lessons so we would feel safer out there. We had inner tubes. Everybody had inner tubes. Then we would swim a while, and then we would all come back here and play tennis. We would play rook on the front porch. We all learned how to play contract bridge. We still get together with a lot of the friends that grew up here.

 

PB: Now you attended high school?

 

ML: Here in Gunnison, I finished in ’35.

 

PB: What was the name of that school?

 

ML: Gunnison High School, it became a Gunnison Consolidated School later. When I finished, it was Gunnison High. That was in 1935, from there I went to Delta State.

 

PB: Let me ask you about high school if I could? Are there any particular teachers that you recall the most from high school?

 

ML: Yes, Of course, Mr. W. D. Bell was our high school principle, superintendent. He was hard of hearing. He also taught Latin. So we also had a friend that was real smart, Quentin Nash, in the senior class. He would instruct us by holding a little class in the cloakroom before our class. We could do well. If Mr. Bell came in, we could tell whether or not if he had his battery up or not for his hearing aid. He had a battery in his shirt pocket. If we stumbled over something, Quentin would correct us. Mr. Bell couldn’t hear him, but if he turned that battery up, we knew we were on our own. It was fun. Mr. Dick Lee was the coach. He taught history, as most coaches do. He was great with the young people. I played basketball. We had a football. We had boys and girls’ basketball with an outdoor court. We didn’t have a gym. The only school that had a gym at that time was Skeen. So sometimes when we played Skeen, we would have to watch out for the post that was along the edge of the court. It was a good old time. Nobody had any money. Though we just had a good time.

 

PB: You graduated from high school in 1935?

 

ML: Yeah

 

PB: Then you went on to?

 

ML: Delta State

 

PB: It was called?

 

ML: Delta State Teachers College, and later it became Delta State College. It was Delta State Teachers College when I graduated in 1939.

 

PB: So you went for four years straight?

 

ML: I went for four years straight. Girls didn’t go in the summer then. There were very few. The summer school was mostly for people who were older. It was for teachers that had come back to get their licenses. My stepmother was one of them. She had been teaching school for a long time. She didn’t have a license. They were given permits. Some of them had little private schools at first. Then they went into the public schools. They went back in the summer time trying to get their degree. I would go over and visit with here. This was even before I finished high school. So I went to Delta State. I thought I was going to be a secretary. Well I wanted to be a nurse really. She wouldn’t let us be a nurse, because she said all we would have to do is empty bedpans. It is not like it is today. So I was going to be a secretary, but I couldn’t do typing. Our little school didn’t have typing teacher.

 

PB: Your high school?

 

ML: Our high school, so when I went in to typing these girls that had came from Jackson and Charleston were typing ninety to nothing. Then here I was. I got confused. I liked the bookkeeping and the shorthand, but I could not manage the typing well enough to be a secretary. So I finally decided that I better teach. That is all there was to do then for girls.

 

PB: So you get your degree in education from Delta State Teachers College. Where did you go to teach?

 

ML: At that time, teachers had a hard time finding jobs. I had a close friend. She was married to a man who lived here in Gunnison. She was from Hulga, MS. She said that they needed a first grade teacher over there. So she got me an interview, and I went over and got the job. My daddy took me over there. He said that it was a hell of a place to get to. He called it a Hellga, instead of Hulga. It just took a long time to get over there. Do you know where Hulga is?

 

PB: No

 

ML: It is between Houston and Pototoc. He had to go around about way. It didn’t just have a blacktop that took you all the way over there. I signed a contract for eighty dollars a month. It was an eight-month school, but after the first month, they said that they couldn’t pay the eighty dollars to teach the eight months. So my salary became seventy-two dollars and fifty cents for eight months. I paid twenty dollars a month for board. Money went a long way then. I roomed with a lovely family. She had girls, and they were three teachers there. Her oldest daughter had a car. Back in that day in time, the hills kind up rolled up the sidewalks at dark. On the weekends, the teachers would get with Hueghly Hobson. That is who she was. We would either go to Tupelo or Houston to shop. If we had a date, we would go out. They had Midnight Picture Shows that started at ten o’clock. Then it got out at midnight. I don’t think they were very used to teachers coming in at midnight. It was just a whole group of us. It was a lot of fun. I didn’t come home very often because it took so long. I had to take a Friday off. I would have to come from Hulga on the train. I would catch it in the morning about ten o’clock. I would come to Mathiston. We had a lay over for two or three hours. Then I caught a train on into Elizabeth town. It came through Greenwood. Then it came on over to Elizabeth, then it backed into Greenville. Did you ever know that they train backed in? Do you know where Elizabeth is?

 

PB: Okay yeah.

 

ML: It is this side of Leland. So my daddy would meet me at Elizabeth. To go back, I couldn’t catch the train back there. It didn’t work that way. So I had to go to Clarksdale to catch a bus on Sunday morning. I would go to Grenada. I would there change busses. Then I would go to Pototoc, and I would have to change busses. Then I would go on up. It was an ordeal. I didn’t come home very often.

 

PB: How many years did you teach in Hulga?

 

ML: I just taught one year.

 

PB: Oh okay

 

ML: Then I got a job at Wade School out from Drew. It was eight grades. We had teacherage for the teachers. There were four women teachers. The coach stayed and lived with the superintendent and his family. There was the schoolhouse, and there was these two teacherages out there.

 

PB: Now what is a teacherage?

 

ML: It was where the teachers lived.

 

PB: Was it like a cottage or a house?

 

ML: It was a house. There were four of us in the women’s house. The coach lived with the superintendent and his wife. It was just two little white cottages. They were two bedrooms, living room, and a little dinette next to the kitchen.

 

PB: That was owned by the school district?

 

ML: Yeah

 

PB: Oh okay

 

ML: We had a football team, junior high. So I started out there in third grade. I stayed out there for two years. There I got ninety-five dollars a month. That was better than seventy-two fifty. It was for nine months instead of eight months. Then after two years after there, I moved to Benoit. I got married. That was in ’43. It was ’42, ’43. I married in March of ’43. The war was going on. My husband came home one weekend to visit his family who was managers for Delta Pine and Land. So we met. I went to New York before he was shipped out, and we got married up there. It was in The Little Church Around The Corner. My stepmother, we call our mother. She went with me because girls at that time still were not going off unchaperroned. The trains were crowded with troops and soldiers and sailors coming home. I sat on my suitcase in the aisle for a while. It was just that crowded. So I married, and I finished the year in Benoit. I taught in Benoit for five years. I had a good time. Mr. W. B. Driven was my principle then.

 

PB: What grades did you teach in Benoit?

 

ML: I taught fifth grade. I moved up.

 

PB: How was that in terms of discipline? How were the students?

 

ML: The first year that I taught in Hulga. I taught first grade. I enrolled seventy-two pupils that year. I had an average daily attendance of sixty-five for several months. That is a lot of children for first grade. Now they think twenty-six are too many. I love the little children. They are so sweet. Then as I moved up, I really fell in love with the fifth and sixth graders. The sixth grade is an interesting grade. They are still little boys and girls at the beginning of the year, but they are junior high age at the end of the year. They are feeling their oats. I enjoyed it. I missed the children. I retired in ’78. My husband was retiring from the postal service. He was the rural mail carrier. When we first married, he was in the army for five years. I had came back to Benoit. He had left Benoit, well Scott, Delta and Pine Land, as one of the men in the store. He came back to that job. At that time, the Delta and Pine Land store across Lake Bolivar called Eutaw had lost its manager. So they moved Gene out there. It also had a post office. So he became a postmaster and a store manager. We had a little house. It was a two-bedroom house that was owned by Delta and Pine Land that we lived in. It was close to the store. The bridge is no more going across Lake Bolivar. We used to go across a bridge right there. I guess where fisherman would go out that way. They will go that way. Then in 1949, our Uncle Scott, we call him. He wasn’t my uncle, but he was my stepmother’s uncle. He had his grocery store here, and he was retiring. So we bought the grocery store here. So we moved to Gunnison in ’49. We built this house in ’51. We lived up in the second home where I grew up in. It has been torn down now, but it was a two-story home. It was seven gables. Like old houses then, it was not a whole lot of bedrooms. It had bedrooms, parlor, and a big living room. Sometimes we made the big living room into a bedroom when we needed it. Do you know Dr. Eleanor Walters?

 

PB: No

 

ML: She was at Delta State. She is retired from the Head of the Math department at Delta State. Her family lives just about a little bit over a mile up past us here. Their home burned when we were still in high school. Eleanor was at Delta State. Her family came. We took them in. Our mother and her mother were cousins. They lived with us for two or three months until they rebuilt their home. Eleanor was at Delta State, so there was just two girls. So we put two beds in my sisters room and mine. So the four of us stayed in there. They made the big living room into a bedroom for Mr. and Mrs. Walters. So we just had a big happy family for a while.

 

PB: After you moved to Gunnison from Benoit, did you continue teaching?

 

ML: I was working in the store for a while with my husband. When we first moved to Gunnison, I had my first child. She was nine months old. She was a little girl. I was nursing and babysitting her most of the time and working at the store part of the time. Our second child was born; it was a son in ’51. I did not teach again until he started school in ’57. Then I went to Rosedale. I did teach one year here in Gunnison when Mr. Bell’s wife was ill. I filled in that year for her. That is the only year that I taught in Gunnison.

 

PB: What grade did you teach?

 

ML: I taught fourth grade. I have taught one, two, three, four, five, and sixth grades.

 

PB: Then in 1957 when you went back, what grade level?

 

ML: I went to sixth grade in Rosedale. I stayed there for twenty-one years.

 

PB: Well tell me some things about that would be called Rosedale?

 

ML: Rosedale

 

PB: Rosedale School.

 

ML: Rosedale School, I guess it was.

 

PB: It had what grades?

 

ML: I don’t think it was Rosedale Consolidated School. It had first through twelfth.

 

PB: It was first through twelfth all in that school.

 

ML: The elementary part was in the back building. It is before you get to the gym.

 

PB: It is the youth building now.

 

ML: I guess so. Teachers then had to sell tickets to the football game.

 

PB: You mean they had to go to the game, and they would be the ticket sellers?

 

ML: Right, and before they had the field out from Rosedale, the playing field was back behind where the gym was. The gym was not even there when I first went there. I think it was maybe completed the next year. The ball teams played back there on that field. That was our playground when I was there later. As they came through, we had to sell tickets. Then when they moved up to the other field, we had to sell tickets.

 

PB: So you were there from 1957 to 1978?

 

ML: Right

 

PB: What are some of your favorite stories and experiences at Rosedale School?

 

ML: Well I don’t know. I loved the children. I sixth grade, the girls are going through the age where they get their feelings hurt a lot. If one of their friends paid more attention to somebody else, or they went home with somebody. She wasn’t invited. They would come in crying. One little girl she was late nearly every morning. She came in just crying. Her mother was an alcoholic. So you could understand why. The boys were sweeter. They just don’t have the problems that the girls do about getting their feelings hurt. I had some mighty nice pupils. The first year that I went to Rosedale in the sixth grade, I had an attendance of forty-eight. Then it kept dropping a little bit. Then when they built the new junior high building, it is now on the breezeway connected to the shop. The fifth and sixth’s grades were moved over there. At that time, my classroom was down on the breezeway. It was the first one from the where the busses parked. It was second from the old school. That was in the time of integration.

 

PB: What year was that?

 

ML: That was in ’64 or ‘5. You better check that date. I think it was somewhere along in there. Everybody was kind of tensed up. You just didn’t know what to expect. There was policeman out there. The Board Members were out there. It went along just fine. We had no problems.

 

PB: You said, you had an attendance of forty-eight. Were all the kids in one room?

 

ML: It was in a self-contained classroom.

 

PB: It would hold forty-eight children?

 

ML: Yes, I was up the stairs. The first, second, and third grades were downstairs. Forth, fifth, and sixth were up stairs.

 

PB: So you would have forty-eight desks in there? Did you have a desk for each step?

 

ML: Yes, and a table. We had shelves for the books. You had your own library. We didn’t have an elementary library at that time. It came later. I guess we got one in the 70’s.

 

PB: Your were talking about the integration that was in 1964 or ’65. So did they have after that did they have black and white students at the school?

 

ML: Yes, I think in that first year, there were maybe five or four in the sixth grade. At that time, we would also departmentalized. There were two sections of sixth grade downstairs. We had two sections of fifth upstairs. We had a large enrollment of white. As more integrated we lost more. (Tape cut off.)

 

PB: We were talking about the change that came when they integrated the schools. I think we were talking about as more of the black children came in the more the white children left. Where did they go?

 

ML: They went to Bayou Academy. It was formed about that time. It was the only private school around at that time. That was the first one here.

 

PB: That is up in Cleveland, right?

 

ML: Right, it was at Skene at that time when it first organized. They were more families’ children living from the high school than from the elementary. I taught some mighty nice black children.

 

PB: Do you recall what year where it reached the point where most of the white children had been moved to other schools?

 

ML: The last two to three years that I taught sixth grade. It was just about half-and-half in the sixth grade.

 

PB: In the upper grades?

 

ML: In the high school, it was mostly black at that time. Benoit didn’t come until after I left. They just came from tenth through twelfth.

 

PB: So when you were teaching at the Rosedale school there was a school in the town of Benoit. There was an?

 

ML: Yes, it was an elementary and high school. It is where Gentry is now.

 

PB: That was eventually brought into the Rosedale system.

 

ML: The nine through twelve or the ten through twelve, which is it?

 

PB: It is nine through twelve. They sent busses all the way down to there. You mentioned after the integration that the police had come on. Did they come for a long time?

 

ML: No, it was just for that first day. They just didn’t know what was going to happen. It all went very smoothly.

 

PB: Any interesting stories you recall from your teaching years in Rosedale?

 

ML: Oh not really, I will think of some later. I am sure. I just really enjoyed my years there. I have a lot of friends of the ones that I taught. Most of them are married now in Rosedale. I think I had better repore with the boys than the girls did. At least they would open up to me more. We had a good time. We had a Rally Day in the spring like they did in the high school. We divided up our fifth and sixth’s grades up into teams. We would either have red or blues or whatever the colors were at that time. We had good field meets out there in the playground out in the back. We don’t have a playground back there anymore. It is grown up now. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed teaching there. We had chapel programs there. We had to have chapel programs about twice a year, each teach. I remember, the one that I liked the best, I guess it was the first year that I was here. I guess I spent more time in it. I gave Tom Sawyer. It was too long for a Chapel Program. I had the type students that could do, and they loved doing it. I just really enjoyed that.

 

PB: When you say Chapel Programs?

 

ML: Everybody came to Chapel.

 

PB: To Chapel?

 

ML: In the high school auditorium, everybody came to chapel. It was the elementary school. We did not meet with the high school. They had theirs different. We had chapel every week. We had it once a week in the high school auditorium. Each teacher was responsible for a program that day.

 

PB: When you say Chapel, is that like church services?

 

ML: They had an assembly. I guess you call an assembly now.

 

PB: This was not like reading from the Bible?

 

ML: No, but we did. We always had a Bible reading to open. We did the pledge to the flag. Then we had our little play. From the first grade on up, we had two a year. We had to fix bulletin boards in our classroom and in the hall. We were responsible to turns for the bulletin boards in the hall. We did fifth and sixth grades upstairs. The first, second, and third were downstairs. You don’t do that anymore.

 

PB: No

 

ML: I know Ms. Denton did in the Library. Were you there when Ms. Denton was there?

 

PB: No, I just started this year.

 

ML: Are you just out of Delta State?

 

PB: No, actually I just came over to work on a master’s degree. I am in a program that in order to get them pay the tuition, I work in a shortage area. So I taught one year in Clarksdale in Cohoma County. Now I teach here, because I am living in Cleveland. It is part of the program that I am doing this for. Let me ask you about that chapel thing. That is interesting. The reason you all called it chapel was because, was that the term you used for that building?

 

ML: No that is just the term that we used for the classes meeting.

 

PB: Okay everybody coming together in that room. You would read from the Bible. You would pledge of allegiance. Then you would have a drama program that one of the teachers would put on.

 

ML: It would be some kind of little play. It would be kind of like you would see. I remember one of the first grade programs that I remember would do little exercises with music to some little song. They would sing it. I know one that I did when I taught first grade was Little Black Sam Bo.

 

PB: Oh, yeah, he would run around the tree.

 

ML: First and second grades worked up cute little programs. The children were so cute. They might do a little dance and sing. It was fun, but they do not have to do that anymore. I think they miss that. I think children miss getting on the stage. They loved to get on the stage and do something. It gives them more incentive to want to get in front of people at an early age. Then they are not as afraid of the stage later in high school. I think the only thing in high school now is to have a senior play.

 

PB: Right even that is not as frequently.

 

ML: It used to be a big production.

 

PB: I think they are trying to get that back a little more regular.

 

ML: Not a first, but in the last few years that I taught there, we had six grade graduation.

 

PB: Oh, so they would actually come on stage and get something.

 

ML: Then they thought they were really ready for junior high. It was cute. I can’t believe you haven’t heard of a chapel program.

 

PB: The only way I have heard that term was when I went to a boarding school. Every Sunday night we would have chapel, but it was in a sanctuary.

 

ML: Sanctuary of some sort.

 

PB: It was on the campus. It was used on for.

 

ML: Religious services, well this was not quite that. At that time we could read from the Bible. We could have Bible stories, but not any more.

 

PB: There was something that I wanted to ask you about. I made a note. I failed to do it while we were talking. Let me kind of go back in time, and ask you if you recall or have any memories of the flood in 1927. Do you remember any of that?

 

ML: Yes, I do. My daddy and some of the men here were walking this levee. The levee then was not nearly as high. It has been built up since then. If a motor boat went down, which was not a powerful motor boat like you would see today, you would see the waves wash over. If the wind came up, they would come over. The men were walking the levee because they were afraid that Arkansas would blow it up. They wanted to blow up a space over here so they would be relieved over there. They were in trouble just like we were. It broke down there in the curb out behind Utah where we had the store when my husband was manager back there. It was out from Scott. That is where it broke. The water came. It flooded Greenville. I think it went over to Leland and that area. It came all the way up to about where the highway 446 goes east from #1. It went over toward Boyle and Skeen. My daddy drove us down. We parked our car in somebody’s yard. We walked up on the train tracks. We walked the tracks on down with water on both sides of us. He wanted us to see what the flood was like.

 

PB: Now where was that? He drove you down to?

 

ML: He drove us down toward Benoit.

 

PB: So the water didn’t come?

 

ML: It didn’t come to Rosedale. It came pass Benoit on up. You don’t know where 446 cuts across.

 

PB: Yeah, it goes over to.

 

ML: Over to Skeen.

 

PB: So it came that far up?

 

ML: Yes, we parked and walked up on the railroad there. Of course where we walked up there wasn’t any water. We walked on down until water was on both sides of us. We were thankful it didn’t come up here. We were ready. Daddy had fixed things up stairs for us to move furniture up. We were afraid it was, but it didn’t.

 

PB: How close was your house to the levee, the seven gables?

 

ML: It was right here.

 

PB: Oh my. So it was right next to the levee.

 

ML: It was just a dirt road between us at that time. Then they graveled it. Then they straightened it out a little. Now it is blacktop. We were right there on it. So you can see it. The Walters right on above us was right on it to. You can see why they were all nervous about it. Blue Holes had formed up here. Do you know what a Blue Hole is?

 

PB: No

 

ML: Well there two. There was one down south, which is now gone back into the river. It was out between Rosedale and Waxhall. It was out that way. It is kind of an underground stream that goes out. When the river is up, it goes down it sucks out some soil. Then it fills with water. When the river is up, the blue holes are up. There were several up and down this area in here. I am sure there were some even below and above us. We used to go and swim in the blue hole down south of us out from Waxhall. There was one out from Round Lake. There is one right up here about two miles. It doesn’t have bottoms. You can wade out a little bit on sand on some of them. This one up here you can’t wade out. It is straight down.

 

PB: It doesn’t have a current though?

 

ML: No, it doesn’t have a current.

 

PB: But if you put a boat in it, you can go right on out to the river?

 

ML: No, you don’t see it. The entrance to it is way down under the ground. It just looks like a lake.

 

PB: So it has land all the way around.

 

ML: Yeah

 

PB: The river has sucked out underneath, and so you have water. How about that.

 

ML: It is called a blue hole. It is interesting that this pastor came by. They scooped the dirt out to help build the levies. That is what they call bare pits. Some people call them bar pits. I think they were called bare pits. They are supposed to be. They took land on the other side of the levee where people fish and where the water fills in. The land was moved from there to build the levee higher.

 

PB: Is there anything else that you could think of that we haven’t talked about? I think we have touched on all the basis. Is there any thing else that you wanted to mention?

 

ML: At Delta State there was more girls than boys. We had girl break dances.

 

PB: You had what?

 

ML: Girl Break Dances

 

PB: What is that?

 

ML: You know at a regular dance the boys do the breaking.

 

PB: Breaking means?

 

ML: Tapping you on the shoulder, and swapping partners.

 

PB: Oh yeah

 

ML: Where did you grow up?

 

PB: I never heard that term before.

 

ML: You are kidding. There were more girls than boys. So we had a dance once or twice a month in the cafeteria or the gym. Ms. Cane didn’t like us to use the gym, because she didn’t like for us to put shoes on the gym floor. Ms. Cane was the physical ed. Teacher. That was her gym. The girls would do the breaking. We had lots of fun. We just went whether we had dates or not. Everybody just went. If you were going with somebody, of course you were dating. It didn’t matter whether you were or weren’t. Girls couldn’t go out to town by yourself at Delta State. If you had to walk to town if you had a date. You couldn’t ride in a car. There wasn’t but one on campus. That was my second year there. That was Ben Bailey. He had a little coupe. He was good looking. So all the girls thought he was something because he had a little car. Nobody else had any cars. It was still during the depression. You just didn’t have any money. I worked and my sister worked. I worked in the Demonstration school library. Did you know that Delta State had a Demonstration school?

 

PB: I have heard of that. What does that mean?

 

ML: It is taught by the faculty at Delta State. The teachers learned to teach those that were in the education department. They called it the demonstration school. That was for elementary.

 

PB: They actually had children that would come to that school.

 

ML: It was almost like a private school. It was elementary school. Then the high school teacher went to the high school to learn to teach. They didn’t go out all over the county to learn to teach, like they do today. You learned there on campus.

 

PB: That is good.

 

ML: I worked in the Demonstration School Library under Ms. Doolittle. She was the head of the Demonstration school. I worked all four years there. You almost had too. Then education was cheap compared to what it is today. I my sister was giving about five dollars a week for spending money. You made it do. Back in high school, nobody had any money. Lela Lyle Wilkonson, she is Lela Underhill now. She has been interviewed too. She usually could get her car, or we might be able to get our car. Five to six of us would ride to Rosedale. It was about ten miles then on gravel road. We would drive up to the drug store. They had curb service. One of the boys would come out. We would order six glasses of water and a packet of Dentine gum. It was only a nickel. It was lots of fun. Then when we would really have a dance when we would dress up. It was usually over at Ms. Owens home. Mr. and Mrs. Owens had the drug store here in Gunnison. Their daughter graduated a year before we did. She was ahead. We were all one big crowd. There was a black man from Shelby. The boys would just whistle a tune to him. He played by ear. He could really beat out that piano. So we danced to a piano. I can’t think of his name. It was something Jackson. He would be familiar with most of them. He played for dances all over Bolivar County. His name was Tommy Jackson. They would whistle a tune. We would just roll up the rugs and dance. We had lots of fun.

 

PB: Well Ms. Leftwich, you have certainly provided us with a wealth of interesting information. We would sure like to express our gratitude for taking part in our Oral History Project. The tapes will be transcribed. It will be part of the collection. On behalf on everyone with the project, I would like to express our gratitude and appreciation. Thanks for taking the time to do.

 

ML: Well thank you. I am sure I have left out some things that I would like to say, and things that I put in, that maybe I shouldn’t have said.