King, Sue T. Tape 1 of 1 11/5/99
By Kari Willis
This is an interview for the Mississippi Oral History Program. The interview is being recorded with Ms. Sue T. King in the Capps Archives Building on November 5, 1999. The interviewer is Kari Willis.
KW: Ms. King, what are your parent’s name, including your mother’s maiden name?
SK: My father was Charles Clifford Thwealt, and my mother was Mabel Marie Rowe.
KW: Where were you born?
SK: I was born in the Greenville Kings Daughter’s Hospital. In those days the ladies went by trains to somebody home when it came, and then walked across the street to the hospital. Then I was brought back to Cleveland.
KW: Anything about your parents, anything interesting like how was you raised? When you were born how were you raised through school and in the home life?
SK: I have a sister who is two years younger than I am. So would you like a date of birth?
KW: Yes ma’am that is fine.
SK: I was born in September 27th, 1919. My sister is two years younger than I am. So my mother had a busy home life up until. They had their own business.
KW: What did your parents do? What did your mother do growing up? What was her job? Was she a housewife?
SK: She was a housewife up until daddy established a funeral home. Then she helped him. Her great grandmother raised her in Shaw, MS. Her mother was ill. Her daddy worked in Shaw after W. W. II. He couldn’t wait till he got out of service because mother wouldn’t marry him till he got service behind him. So they married in Shaw on Christmas Day in 1918 then came to Cleveland. He was already in Cleveland at that time.
KW: You said your mother helped her father with the funeral home.
SK: No, my father, she helped her husband. I did too while I was growing up. If there was anything that had to be done, I did it. I did it all my life up until we sold. I don’t know how many years that was now.
KW: What was that? Can you tell me what the funeral home business like growing up? What as far as your family, what was your main job or your?
SK: Well when I was knee high to a duck almost, when I everybody was busy, I kept office at the funeral home. Then as the years went on and my daddy had his heart attack. Mother sold to us. Martin has been mayor so long. That between the two of us, I ran everything, and he came when he needed to be there. That is a long time.
KW: So you did mostly secretarial work.
SK: I just answered the telephone.
KW: How many brothers and sisters do you have?
SK: I just have one sister.
KW: Is she in Cleveland?
SK: No, she lives in Hide-a-way Lake, Texas. We call her Rea Lambright. Roger was originally from Brookhaven. He is deceased. She lives in Hide-a-way Lake, which is a planned community outside of Tyler, Texas. She has a daughter and a son.
KW: Where did you go to school? What was elementary up to high school like?
SK: Well I went to Cleveland High School. We had kindergarten to Cleveland High School then. It was the old building. Then from high school I came to Delta State. My mother and daddy was very civic minded. They really helped everything in Cleveland get started. My mother did the W. C. T. Do you know what that is?
KW: No ma’am.
SK: Where they fight alcohol. She was a big worker in her church. She was in the business’s women’s club. At that time the Woman’s club and the Garden Club was one club. They had been very civic minded. Daddy started the Fire Company. That is what we were talking about a while there. It was a volunteer. It is still a volunteer with the highest rating with paid people.
KW: You went to Cleveland High School, and then on to Delta State. Did you graduate from Delta State?
SK: I did.
KW: What was your major at the time?
SK: I was an elementary major. I taught school for one year. At that time they were forbidding people to discipline children, and I couldn’t cope with that. They had to mind me or else. I left there, and I worked in Cleveland State Bank for a while. Cassibry and some of the girls had gone in to the service, and I was in Nap’s home one day. When Martin and I were close friends. Nap said, “Sue you have got to come to work in the bank.” I said, “Oh, but I am a elementary major.” He said, “I don’t care what you are. I need help in the bank.” So I went to work in the Cleveland State Bank.
KW: How long did you work there?
SK: About a year and half, then I left. When I was on vacation, I was visiting a friend of mine that was at Delta State and went to Pratt Institute. She was an art major. I went to visit her. She was getting ready to go marry Bob Mcknight. Did you ever go to Rockefeller Center?
KW: No ma’am.
SK: There is a little bird that comes out and twitters. Her husband designed that many years ago, Bob Mcknight. Patty was going to marry Bob, and the Dean of the Art’s school said, “You know we need a southern accent on our faculty and staff. Would you stay here?” I said, “Dean Wither, I am an elementary major.” He said, “Well that is all right. I need you.” I stayed there for over a year.
KW: That is at Pratt?
SK: This was at the Art’s School of Pratt Institute. This was during the war. I was in Times Square VJ night. VJ night was horrible. We were all there.
KW: You graduated from Delta State University in Elementary Education.
SK: No, at that time it was Delta State Teachers College in ’41.
KW: What was it like going to school then?
SK: Well it was great. We lived at the second house over there. As somebody said to me the other day, “How do you know these older people.” I said, “In those days there were very few people that went to Delta State that were not on work scholarship.” Of course the boys were in service. That is how I got to flying because they couldn’t get any boys. The boys were in service. In those days, all the people that went to Delta State were Baptists. They taught me in Sunday school or something else. So that is how I kept up with people through Delta State. Everybody knew everybody.
KW: Did you say you were in service?
SK: No the Air force went around and put in flying schools at different schools. To teach the boys to fly and get interested in flying. When they came to Delta State, you had to have ten boys. I had been the business manage of the annual. I think I had hundred dollars in the bank. They needed the tenth boy, or we couldn’t get the flying school. The city had all ready let them use the air hanger out there. We just had one concrete strip then. I made the tenth boy. I didn’t tell my parents or anything. I had the money in the bank. I think then it was like $45 dollars then that we paid for a year of flight and ground training. They had three or four classes after that. The boys got interested in it, and they were ready to fly. They were trying to get them in the Air force. It was a part an Air force program.
KW: So they had an aviation school at the time?
SK: Well Raymond Meeks still in Cleveland was the flight instructor. They took Dr. Sanderson who was a Physic teacher to teacher the navigation part of it. We had night classes with the navigation and everything that went with it. We would then go out and fly.
KW: What was tuition at the time?
SK: We were on the quarter system, which was wonderful. We had one president that came here that wanted to change everything. He put us on the semester system. That was Ewing. I think for the quarter system was $45 or $50 dollars a quarter. I don’t know what it was living in the dormitories because we were right there off campus.
KW: Did you rent the house?
SK: No, we owned the house, mother and daddy had bought it. It looked it about like it does now. It was lovely the way she had done it. She had to fix it up and put closets in the house and things like that. There were two girls, and we just rolled out of bed and went to class. It was nice.
KW: Did you meet your husband at Delta State?
SK: Yes, he was a veteran. Every month I had to check to be sure that they were going to class. Then they would come by and sign once a month to get that little seventy-five dollar check that the V. A. mailed them. When he graduated he was on the staff. He was college accountant. I was in the registrar’s office. Well I guess I was director of admissions then. There is not much out here that I haven’t done at one time or another. He was on the staff. We married in ’55. He was out of there. Then he went to the high school as principle of the high school. Then he left there when daddy had his heart attack, and we went to the funeral business.
KW: How long was your husband in the funeral business? Does he still own it?
SK: No, we sold it. I can not tell you. It has been five or six years ago.
KW: He owned Thweatt-King Funeral Home in Cleveland, MS. You don’t know how long?
SK: Well we went in there it must have been about ’56 or ’57. I don’t know the exact time we sold it because I stayed there as an advisory capacity with one group that owned it.
KW: Was he the funeral director?
SK: He was not the embalmer. He was the director and the business manager. He did it all but that. You know when you have been in one place all of your life, families means so much more to you than just people. I miss that contact. I really do.
KW: You go to First Baptist Church here in Cleveland.
SK: I go to the First Baptist Church. I taught Sunday school from the time I was fifteen on till they standardize the Sunday school and said, “Women couldn’t teach boys.” I tried teaching little girls. It was no way I could teach girls. I didn’t appeal to little girls.
KW: Where did you grow up and what was it like then?
SK: I grew up right here in Cleveland. I was a Girl Scout. We did everything that little girls do.
KW: So you grew up here in Cleveland.
SK: Always, except for the few times like I lived in New York. I never did change my church membership. All I did was I would go out on Sunday. The first church door I saw open, I just went in. I didn’t care what it was.
KW: You said you lived in New York.
KW: How long did you live there?
SK: A little over a year.
KW: Were your parents transferred in a job? How did you get to New York?
SK: Like I told you, I went visiting a friend of mine.
KW: Visiting at Pratt Institution.
SK: She was going to school at the Art’s School at Pratt Institute. Her name was Patty Mancil. Patty died recently too and her husband. That was a great experience. In those days you could go anywhere in New York. You know two girls by your selves and you were safe although it was full of soldiers. I will tell you an experience. It is hard to believe. This friend of mine from Greenville came to see me. She decided she would stay. We got off the subway at the Village to shop. I hollered and asked Katie that was in the back, if we had something with grocery shopping. She was hollering back to me. Well Katie has a horrible southern accent. I man in the stock room hollered out, “Camp Shelby, MS.” That was in the Village in New York. He had been stationed there, I guess. You know how everybody came through Camp Shelby in the war. It is all over us.
KW: What did you do for fun and social activities? What did you and Patty do?
SK: Well Patty went on to get married. I put her on the plane. I have forgotten where they married now. I was there with ladies that were at Pratt. That were from other New York families. They saw that I went to every culture thing in the world. I will never ever forgot. I wanted to know what Coney Island was like. They said, “Sue we would take you, but you can not go there when it is open with people in it.” That is how I got to see Coney Island was off seas. There were lawyers and different things that were working there at Pratt. It was lovely. It didn’t cost you a lot of money to go to all of the things. Then when the money ran out, we would get on the Stanton Island Ferry. We would wave to the boys as they come back on the ships. It just took a quarter or a nickel then. They would ask, “What did you do when you were out of money?” I would say, “Then we would get on the Stanton Island Ferry and rode out there and received the soldiers as they came back home.”
KW: What do you remember about W. W. I growing up or the depression?
SK: I wasn’t born. You mean W. W. II?
KW: W. W. II?
SK: Yeah, because I was born after W. W. I. What do I remember about it? Well everybody just disappeared, and everybody was doing something. We volunteered for everything, and we didn’t think anything about it. I did have to take a course on how to fix a tire and something else. I have forgotten what that was in. That was one of the things that if you had to do things to help. Everybody pitched in and helped. There were ladies that fixed the bandages to ship out. You just pitched in and did everything. You didn’t even stop to think what it was or why. You knew that you had to have it. Everybody was just about gone. You didn’t have many boys in school at all. There were three hundred students here in ’41. Half of the students had gone and volunteered, and the Air force was trying to get the others.
KW: Do you remember anything about the river flooding?
SK: No, I remember that my mother said. See this was in 1927 the levy broke and came up all the way up as far as Shaw. All of the men that had motor boats took them wherever they had to get in them. I remember mother said that daddy would take his lunch and get in his boat, and he would go get people off of housetops. He said he would never have any food because he didn’t have room for the dogs. He would feed the dogs his lunch, and he would put the people in the boat and came on down. Then they would come back from Greenville on the train. That is before half of the tracks were washed out from Greenville. That is another time, where everybody worked together. They had right down below the police station. They had all of that land back there put up in tents with wooden floors where they were bringing the people that had no homes. I can remember that.
KW: Who in your family members including your extending family if appropriate most influenced you or inspired you?
SK: I don’t know. I had a great family during my childhood. We were a great religious family and church going. Along with a lot of fun my family had. My mother and father influenced me. That was it.
KW: What was the most important thing that you learned at home?
SK: Well you better be in Sunday school on time. That a family really is important, and the closer you are. I fished with my daddy. I have sat on the lake all day long with my daddy. Mother was a doer. She was involved in everything.
KW: A lot like you.
SK: Yeah that is the way you get it. I know.
KW: Where did you go to elementary school?
SK: I went to Cleveland. I went to high school at Cleveland High School, and then on to Delta State. I did everything there was to do at Delta State.
KW: Were any of your teachers influential?
SK: We had a great group of teachers. The only one left around here is? Do you know Dr. Walters, Eleanor Walters?
KW: No ma’am.
SK: We just had some great people. We really did. Ms. Doolittle that introduced along with Dr. Ziegal elementary work at Delta State observe something I did. It must have been a Sunday school class or something. She told Mary Roy Seckles, you be sure that girl majors in elementary education. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the children. I tried to do some other things. We had a great soccer team in those days. People are just now playing soccer. I played soccer. I remember when I was at my desk out here at Delta State, one of the young girls and came in to me and said that she was furious about that physical ed. Class. They had been playing soccer in the cold. She said, “That is terrible isn’t it?” I said, “Girl get out of here.” Alfred Cane put us on a soccer field after a rain, and there were sheets of ice. In those days you just had thin tennis shoes. They didn’t build them up like they do now. The ice could cut your feet. I am not sympathetic with you at all. We had all kinds all things in those days. Ms. Cane did a pageant. The students had to know dancing and everything else that she taught in the gym. The pageant always had a theme. I can remember one year I was a disease one time that had came to disease and a dance. It was fun.
KW: Of course.
SK: Nobody objected to it. The boys danced like the rest of us did.
KW: So you played soccer.
SK: I was on Margaret Wade first high school basketball team. That ought to tell you something. She said I was rough. I fouled so much. I told her that she put me in there to get that ball, and I wanted it no matter what. She taught at the high school before she came to Delta State, but she came off the professional team the “Redwings” that was at Tupelo way back then. She didn’t know a thing about exercise or anything. So she called the football coach in to give us exercise. It nearly killed us, because she gave us exercise the boys were doing. We shouldn’t have been doing. We made it. She was a great gal.
KW: Why did you decide to go to college? Is it something that you have always wanted to do? Or did your parents influence you?
SK: You didn’t have any choice in my family. They knew that we were going to college. It never entered my head to think about doing anything else. I had such a protected home. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to get out of it. I wouldn’t go a way to school. We were all going to Delta State for two years. Then we were going on to Ole Miss or somewhere, but half the group got to squabbling in those days. They had blacks balls and sororities. In our group, two families got to bickering. I thought I am not going over there with them, and get in the middle of that stuff. So I stayed and finished school at Delta State. I have never regretted it.
KW: Were you in a sorority here at Delta State?
SK: No, we didn’t have them. I was fighting sororities when Martin King was organizing fraternities. I didn’t think we were really big enough nor have enough background. I am not sure of this. I don’t know because I don’t know what goes on now. I don’t know how it is. I know our daughter went to Mississippi State, and her friend that went to Delta State was one on this side and one on the other side. If she was with one in this sorority then she would be taking classes. In fact she graduated out here. They didn’t have anything do with Jenny. She was with this group, and then the other group didn’t have anything to do with her. I think you needed a lot more background and be a little bit older and knowledgeable than Delta State was at the time that is was organized. Martin, H. L., Hugh Smith, and John Herico organized the K. A’s. The whole time that I was saying that I don’t think they should have sororities. So I stay out of things like that now.
KW: Did you say that your parents went to Delta State?
SK: No, my daughter, both of my children went to Delta State.
KW: So you have two children. We have a son. My husband is Catholic. I am a Baptist. Our son is a Presbyterian youth minister. So how can you get any better than that? They both went to Delta State. Jenny went to Mississippi State with her group from Bayou Academy. They had a heck of a good time. I brought her home to graduate. She graduated from Delta State. Our son who is the third went to Delta State for I think two and half maybe three years. Then he went to Mississippi College and graduated from there. Then he went to Reform Seminary in Jackson. He put himself through there. He is a Presbyterian youth minister in Stanley, NC now.
KW: What are there names?
SK: Jenny is Virginia Thweat King, and Mart is Martin Thomas King III.
KW: Are they married and have any children?
SK: Jenny has. Jenny has been married longer Mart Jr. Jenny has been married for fifteen years. She has a little girl twelve soon will be thirteen. Graham is ten the little boy. Mart recently adopted a baby. (Tape cut off) We have two children. Jenny has Martin Graham Myers. Jenny’s name was Virginia Thweat King. Her daughter’s name is Caroline. I have forgotten what name they put together with that. Mart has one son that is twenty months old. Of course his name had to be biblical. It is Noah Reese. I said where did you get Reese. The only Reese that I know is a candy bar and Mary that goes to our church. He said that I thought the names were good together. So it is Noah Reese King. Caroline’s name is Virginia I guess. I don’t know. I can’t remember. Isn’t that strange? We never use it.
KW: Was sending you to college a financial hardship for your parents?
SK: No, because it was so low. I mean.
KW: Tuition was low. What was it?
SK: Like I said. It was probably $50 or $45 a quarter. It was only three-quarters in the year. So it was only about $150 a year.
KW: It really wasn’t that bad. Isn’t that something?
SK: It really was. Then the people that really had the desire to go to school, they had work scholarship that made it possible to go to school. I never did work, except everything I shouldn’t have been doing.
KW: Did you say you worked while you were a student at Delta State?
SK: I did not.
KW: You did not work.
SK: No, no, I had plenty I could do at home with mother and daddy in business. I was helping them doing everything. I would get left there by myself. I remember I went out and took an ambulance. We needed two ambulances with an airplane crash. I had on my truso and all dressed up. I took an ambulance out to pick people up. I have done it all in parts of the funeral home.
KW: Did you have a certain dress code here at Delta State when you were here?
SK: I just can’t wait. I am so glad you ask me that. I came to school in a pair of Jogpairs and a length coat because this was in the fall, and it would get cold up in the airplane. Ms. Virginia, Dr. Kethley’s secretary came to him and told him that she did not think that he ought to let Sue come to school in those pants. Well he laughed that off. I wished he could see some of the things that are out here. Then I worked out here. This is even more hysterical. She was as old as the hills. I had on. Everything wasn’t air condition. I had on a denim dress that was like this and in the back. It was about eight or nine inches. She came running down the hall to measure the straps on my dress because in the handbook it had to be a certain width. The girls couldn’t wear what they were wearing these days. She was running up and down the hall to measure my straps. They got real disgusted with her. She was reaching her age, and she should have been some where else. I guess we all did. Yeah the dress code, it was no certain thing. We wore skirts and sweater to school during that time. If you look back at the old annuals, you could see the skirts and sweaters. That was mostly it. Not many just dressed up in real dresses.
KW: What was there to for fun on Delta State campus? Did you have certain activities other than sports?
SK: Yeah, we had all kinds of things.
KW: Did you have dances?
SK: We had dances. I can tell you about one. Because there were not many boys, this was after the war; the girls really didn’t want to come out to the gym. So we decided we needed an orchestra here. I have forgotten what big orchestra we had here. One time we had Tex Bennicky here and it brought the house down years ago. Everything was just dull. H. L. and I decided. H. L. and I were in college together. We had been friends. The Nowel’s were here in the summers. So we decided that they should get a little bit picky and have a little more fun. I went to the girl’s dormitory and made them all get dressed and get ready, and H. L. went to the boy’s dormitory. He brought the boys from this side, and I brought the girls from this side. We met out there at that gym, and they had a good time. They were happy. In those days, the girls did a lot of breaking. You see because you didn’t have that many boys. They were at a disadvantage that way too. They probably did want to dance with some of them anyway. You made your fun. The students have a good time.
KW: So you had really strict rules as a student?
SK: Now I can’t tell you about all of that with not living on campus. I know there was certain days and certain times they could get in cars and things like that. You need to ask somebody about that because that was funny. I can’t think of anybody around here. I will look at your list sometimes and see because that would be a good thing. You wouldn’t believe it. You had to have permission to go home. Then you had to be in and be there when you were supposed to be.
KW: You met your husband here at Delta State.
SK: I met him here at Delta State.
KW: What did you all do? Did you all go on dates?
SK: Well we had been in the same group of people for quite a while before we started dating. We were always in the same group. We went to the faculty things together and things like that. Then he hunted and fished with friends that we had.
KW: Were there places to go here in Cleveland like anywhere to go on a date other than going out to eat?
SK: And a movie and that was just about it.
KW: What was the movie theater like? Did you have a drive in movie?
SK: We had both. We had a big drive in movie. There was not much of drive in movie because of the bugs. We have had two movies in Cleveland for years up until now. The old theater is on Court Street where the printing office is. That was the last theater we had. Then the drive in was out on highway 61 north. It was a big one.
KW: When you went to the drive in movie, what did you do?
SK: You had concession stands out there. There weren’t really many movies that you were anxious to see out there.
KW: How were you able to listen to the sound on the movies?
SK: Each car had a box that you drove up to this little thing. You would put the box in the car. You would watch the picture, and there was the voice coming out in the car. I guess they are still like that. I see them in Memphis. I haven’t thought about that.
KW: They had a drive in movie here on campus, but they told us to turn our radio on to a certain station and from that we would be able to hear the movie through the radio.
SK: Where did they have the screen?
KW: They had the screen behind the football stadium.
SK: When was that?
KW: It was about two weeks ago.
SK: Boy that defeats what a drive in movie. You mean you had to stay in your room or on your car radio?
KW: In the car, you drove in to see the movie. It was just like a regular drive in, but you would tune in on your radio.
SK: I am going to have to see that. I don’t know who dreamed that up.
KW: It wasn’t like where you had to put a box in your car and turn it on just to listen to the movie.
SK: I will have to go and see that. So they have some very decent ideas they are going to repeat. That is good.
KW: Where did you teach?
SK: I taught one year at Isola, MS. It was a little town, and they had a brand new school. It was a good school. It was about eleven of us that lived in a house right across from the school. I came home every weekend. Since I was an elementary teacher, I didn’t have that many activities. Daddy had a car there on Friday afternoon. My roommate and I would get in the car, and we come to Cleveland. Then come back there on Sunday night. It was a big school, but as I say it was just at the time that they were forbidden people to discipline children. Which there is a certain group that you can not even talk with, without doing some type of discipline. I couldn’t do it.
KW: How many students were in your class?
SK: I think I had thirty-five. I think it was the third grade.
KW: What was the as far as blacks and whites? What was it like then?
SK: There were no blacks in our schools then. You still have people that need discipline regardless.
KW: That was in Isola.
SK: I don’t know whether that school is still there. They do nothing but catfish now. Now that they consolidate all those schools, I don’t even know whether they have a school there or not. It is just out of Belzonia. The trains used to go there. You don’t even have trains any more. I think it is the saddest things in the world. It was fun going on trains.
KW: What did you do after you graduated? Did you just start working or teaching?
SK: Yeah, I went to school to teach that year.
KW: How do you see that the delta has changed over the years?
SK: Well we have all worked hard to make it better. I think it is better, culturally and every other way because the college has helped. That is why we work so hard for the college to keep it going.
KW: It has grown.
SK: It surely has from three hundred to what it is now, four thousand. I help with the Alumni group now. I try to find a parking place. I couldn’t get a place to park. I said, “Don how many students do we have?” He said, “Four thousand.” I said, “How many automobiles?” He said, “Four thousand and fifty something.” I said, “Well I said have you ever considered a high rise parking garage.” You know if it would do any good, because all through the years people would drive from one building to the other. They never walked around here. I guess I had the first foreign car anywhere. Daddy bought me an Austin because when he had to leave home. My sister and I would drive to school in the Austin. I still had it in college. It was so tiny. One day I started where the dining hall was, it was part of where the Nowel building is now. I was in school out here now. I drove around. A group of boys that had come by had came out and picked up my car and turned it around. It was still running, and I went the other way. People never drove anywhere. I walked to school. It wasn’t that far away. They didn’t walk when they got to bring cars. They drove from one building to other.
KW: You can’t do that now because.
SK: There is no place to park.
KW: No ma’am no place at all.
SK: No body walked in those days. Of course it is better to be walking than anything else.
KW: Do you remember which girl’s dorm was the first to be built here on campus?
SK: It was Cleveland Hall, but there were three buildings right where the library is now. The building was in the middle. This was the old agriculture high school. There were three buildings. There was a boy’s dormitory and the elementary school, which where the practice teaching in there. I did my practice teaching in there. Then there was another one over here for the girls. That was later made where the faculty lived when it began to grow. Then they built Cleveland Hall. Now of course they had torn them all down. We don’t have an original building on campus.
KW: I live in Cleveland Hall.
SK: In Cleveland Hall, well that was the first one that had the suites where the bathroom between two rooms.
KW: They still do.
SK: Where did I read the other day, that the boys were demanding suites. They can’t live the way they want. They even wanted rooms with private baths. I don’t know what college it was.
KW: They have community bath rooms now. Now they are tearing Woolfolk and the other dorm down.
SK: Now do you know what those two dorms were? Those were barracks for soldiers that they moved here when we started growing so. They were old wooden buildings. Then they started bricking them up because we had so many students coming back after the war. We had to have a place for them to live. Then they built Ward Hall. Ward Hall was going when I was in school.
KW: Was that a boy’s dorm at the time?
SK: No, Ward Hall and Cleveland Hall were girl’s dorm. You see for years you had three girls to every boy around here. That is right. That is why girls had to start breaking at dances. Boys didn’t like it either.
KW: Where did you say that your parents were born?
SK: My father was born right in the middle in Aberdeen, MS. The house he was born in is still there. My mother was born in Sunflower County. Her father had a farm. It is out from Indianola. I think they call that. Her mother was born in Garvers Fairy, which is in Sunflower County. Of course these names are not there any more. Mother was born out there, and her mother was ill. She moved to Shaw and lived with her grandmother, who was Mary Rein. Her mother’s mother’s name was Jenny Rein.
KW: I am sorry you had told me that earlier. I just forgot.
SK: Caroline’s name is Virginia Caroline. I guess. That is good that I though of that. She is named for two great grandmothers on my side.
KW: Did you or anyone in your family ever feel discriminated against?
SK: You know when you live in one place all of your life. There is just not any difference really. There are only people you know real well. We had a cook. She called herself Alma Thweat. Everybody would call daddy Tweet instead of Thweat. She named herself Alma Thweat. We loved Alma because she did all the cooking. She bought all the meat and vegetables. She planned the meals and everything else. You know when you were real close to them, it really didn’t make a heck of a lot of difference. If were not thrown with people that were not happy people, I didn’t face it. I didn’t face that anywhere that I have lived. I know at the Art’s School that the best students that we had were black boys. They were beautiful artists. I have been here even long enough here now that when your families have been in one place and your parents helped get everything started, you fall in their footsteps. We are charter members of everything that is helping people and in everything that is going on. You expect to be, and you don’t think anything about it. Except when you get older, and they think oh Lord are you that old. It doesn’t matter. When you get there it still don’t matter.
KW: Where do you live in Cleveland?
SK: I live on 706 South Fifth Avenue.
KW: Have you lived there ever since you have been married?
SK: No we built a little house right behind this house. We had a slave made brick left over from the funeral home. Daddy gave us. We built us a little house on the G. I. Bill over there which in my neighbor got ready to sell her house. Martin went over and bought it. I haven’t lived many places in Cleveland. We just stayed put.
KW: What does your husband do now?
SK: He is mayor.
KW: He is mayor.
SK: For some thirty odd years.
KW: I did not know that.
SK: Yes he is. He has been. That is what I said earlier that I continued full time at the funeral home when he was trying to get things started around here too. He got in the right family because he has interested in starting and improving Cleveland. He works real hard at it. When we get out of town, he has a one-track mind. He wants a Civic Center. We spend our time taking pictures of light post. We even went up in Missouri somewhere and the lights that are down where the Civic Center is going to be. He saw somewhere, and he wasn’t satisfied with the picture. He went in the Light Company, and he wanted to know where the lights came from. He got them. So I could go places. He has one thing. We went to a Casino one day and had lunch. He wanted to know what the ladies bathroom looks like. He wanted to know how many stalls they had and everything. Then when we got home, he got on the telephone and called City Hall. He said, “Look at the map and plans for the Civic Center.” He had been out here for the opening of the Bologna thing too. He said, “You know that board room we got there.” I want that a ladies bathroom. Everywhere I have been ladies are standing in line, and there is no place for them to go. I want that a ladies bathroom. We got boardroom meeting in every building this city owns. That has to be a ladies bathroom. He is using the architect of the Bologna Building in the night of the opening. (Tape cut off)
KW: Where did your husband go to school?
SK: When he came out of the Navy. He went to Delta State. Him and his friend finished school here also. They went to L. S. U., and they put them in the athletic dormitory. They were so unhappy. They had a car with them. They got in the car and drove to Delta State. Both of them enrolled in Delta State in school. He was a business major. He finished school. Then he taught school at Cleveland High school. He was a good business teacher. They invite us to some of their class things that they have the classes he had taught. It is real funny. They had all married before we did every thing else. We got a late start. We didn’t miss anything. He has never anticipated leaving Cleveland. He liked it, and he wanted to help improve it. So that is what he has done. I do know, Jack, one person, ask me one time why in the world my husband wouldn’t be doing something else other than working so hard for Cleveland, which made me furious because that is what my family had done. I told him that is what my mother and daddy did, and I didn’t object at all. I have lived that way to make things better for everybody instead for just us. You get to a point you can’ t do anything for a while.
KW: Well thank you for the interview. I hope you enjoyed as much as I did.
SK: I did.