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Q: Mrs. Watson, I want to start out asking you to give us a little bit of background of your family and the geographical location of where you were raised.
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: I was raised, born and raised, in Ruckersville, Virginia. I have two brothers, and four sisters, so there were seven children in our family. I was the oldest.
Q: Okay. And your early education, was here in the Ruckersville area?
A: I went to school here in the Ruckersville area for all my elementary work. I went to two different schools. Our schools were moved, at that time, from one place to another. went to two different schools.
Q: Okay, one you had said was located up between Ruckersville and Quinque ....
A: One was located at least five miles from my home.
Q: And how did you get to school?
A: And I walked to school. I never liked to go to school. My first year, every morning, I had a little cry and would go back home if I thought I could get by with it. But, fortunately, I had some friends, that were in the upper grades, that drove to school and quite often they would pick me up at my gate. I would walk up to my gate, which was a quarter of a mile, they would pick me up and take me to school; and many times, the older girls and boys, who were, oh, I would say fifteen, sixteen years old, would go and I, sometimes the boys would pick me up and I'd ride their back all the way to school. Cause I didn't want to go to school!
Q: Okay and then, so your elementary school was here in Ruckersville, then what about high school? Where did you go to high school?
A: In high school, I, uh, we had two year high school at Ruckersville and I completed that and then I went to Lane in the Albemarle in the city of Charlottesville.
Q: Okay and you graduated?
A: I graduated from Lane.
A: High school in, um, 1922.
Q: 1922 - okay and then you started college at the University of Virginia?
A: I started college. I taught - After I graduated, I taught on my diploma for one year. They needed a teacher and they asked me if I would teach.
Q: Now where was this first year?
A: I taught my first year here in Greene County.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about that first year of teaching?
A: It was in nineteen hundred and twenty-two, and I taught in an old post office building that was called Earld. One of my students and myself walked to school through the meadows across - and we crossed the Rapid Ann River, at one place. We walked across on an old log that had been put across the river, and that's the way we crossed to get to our school. It was a fairly comfortable building with a large pot-belly stove in the center, table, some shelves for the lunch boxes. And we had to walk quite a distance to get water for the school. Children loved to do that because they get out of class sometimes, you know, to do that. And all of our wood was put on the porch and we had to feed the stove all day to keep ourselves warm. In fact, I was a teacher, a janitor, a nurse, and sometimes a mamma. I had thirteen pupils in grades one through seven in this situation.
Q: And how long were you in that school?
A: One year.
Q: Just the one year.
A: Just one year in that school.
Q: And then from there?
A: The next year, I was transferred to a little school in Dawsonsville, Virginia.
Q: And that's down towards Orange is it?
A: And that was, yes, towards Orange.
Q: But still in Greene County.
A: ... This building was very similar, although a much better building. It was Just a one room building with a stove and the wood put on the porch for us to use to burn. Then, of course, it had a little table for the water bucket to be placed on and a shelf for the children's lunch boxes. They always came with bright new lunch boxes, you know, each time.
Q: And you taught, how many grades in that one room school?
A: One through seven.
Q: One through seven. Sometimes you'd have Just one child per grade?
A: Sometimes maybe we'd Just have one child in a grade. Children in those days were very helpful because they would work with each other. The older girls would work with the younger ones if they had something that they wanted, which they could work with them with, and they would work with the younger ones. We worked in little groups, really and truly, all the time. I would be maybe teaching a seventh grade child over here and maybe a sixth grade child would be working with a small group over in the other corner of the room.
Q: And I think they are trying to get back to that more now.
A: I think they are. Well, I think it'd be quite advantageous to get back to a smaller school. I wouldn't say that small, but I think maybe the first three grades or something like that in the school, then go on to the fourth, fifth in another school and ....
Q: So, you feel that the community schools definitely are more advantageous?
A: I think the community school's mean so much to the community. I can remember, very well, because I was teaching then in the Ruckersville school and when that school was moved and all of our schools were put in one place, in Standardsville, Virginia. I can remember that how - we all missed that school because it was a place that we had many functions together and parents and children met together. It was easy to get to and they didn't have to travel so far and it just brought about a better feeling in the community with the school in the community. And I think the community's are missing something when they don't have those schools any more.
Q: Well, I think alot of people definitely agree that something is lost when you have to go so far away.
A: I think you definitely lose something. I can remember the first day that I went to Dawsonsville. That was farther away from my home. I had to ride horseback. And I rode four miles on the horse. I, um - The day before we started school, we would meet with the superintendent, clerk of the board, and quite often with the school board members also. We had no written, uh, things to go by, rules or regulations of any kind. But we would sit and discuss the situation and talk about the does and don'ts and what you might find when you got there. They were usually very familiar with the situation. I was not familiar at all with the Dawsonsville school; although it wasn't very far away, I just didn't go in that direction much; and I did not know many people there when I went there to teach. But I did have to ride horseback because of the distance.
Q: Now, who was superintendent of the schools at that time?
A: Mr. A. W. Yowell.
Q: And he was superintendent of Madison and Greene, is that correct?
A: Superintendent of Madison and Greene. The only supervision I had as a teacher would be that he would visit us three or four times a year and that was quite an occasion for me and for the children.
Q: Otherwise you were on your own?
A: Otherwise I was on my own.
Q: What did you do if a child say would break a leg or know, be seriously injured?
A: Well, we were fortunately near some homes and one would run and get a grown person to come. And then they would pick the child up and get it to the doctor in the country.
Q: Well where was the - who was the nearest doctor at that time?
A: The nearest doctor at that time was Ruckersville which was four miles from there. But you know, fortunately, you didn't have as many accidents in a little situation like that. It was more like a, a family situation. The children - you had no discipline problems much in a one room school, very few. The biggest thing I had at Dawsonsville was, I had two sets of twins and I had to learn to tell them apart. But, um, that was a problem for me for a while. But, um, you didn't have discipline problems, very few discipline problems because the parent was right there behind you all the time and the children knew that. And the parents were so proud to have that school in the community that they saw that the children came there to learn and that's what they wanted them to do. And I think that's when, maybe, I started my philosophy of the school. That the school was put there for the purpose of teaching the children and teaching each child as a whole - to prepare him to go out into the world and meet life. And I think that is really the main philosophy that I ever had was to work to do everything you could to prepare that child in every way to meet his needs so that he could go out into the world and get a Job and be happy.
Q: Well I don't think you can improve on that philosophy certainly. Okay, would you share with us some more then, as you progressed, after you left Dawsonsville school?
A: Well, I - another thing that I might say, while I was visiting with the superintendent and getting a few oral instructions - we would leave that afternoon with, uh, uh, water bucket, the dipper, and six erasers, - they never would let us have but six - a box of chalk and that would last all the year. And then they did have, uh, booklists, copies of books that you'd take with you so you'd know what books the children would be using. And those lists were given to the parents. Then the parents had to go to the school board office to buy the books for the children. So ....
Q: They didn't rent books in those days.
A: No rental system what-so-ever. Now one thing they did, which was a nice idea, they shared books. If, well if there were two children in the family, one that used fourth grade books this year, while the next one came along would use the same books another year, so then the one went into the fifth grade would have to buy new books. So, they didn't always all of them have to buy new books. And they would, uh, exchange with the neighbors too.
Q: About how long, when they adopted a particular textbook - do you remember, about how long would they use that book before they would adopt a new one?
A: Well, right in the early days they used them for years.
Q: Part of that was cost effective procedure, I imagine.
A: The primer I taught was Playmates, to begin with. I have a copy of that old book.
Q: Do you?
A: They didn't change the books very often then, very seldom did they change them. I looked forward, especially, to going to Dawsonsville because I thought I'd see alot of new things, meet alot of new people and so that morning I was eager to get started to take the equipment I had and get down there and meet the children. My father would bring the horse up and put the saddle on it, and, by the way, I had to buy that saddle. He furnished the horse. But I bought the saddle out of my first cheek, which was $30.00. And the young man that was working at the store where I bought the saddle, and I bought it from him - I met him at that time - it was the first time I had ever seen him and ....
Q: And how much did you pay for the saddle? Do you remember?
A: $15.00 I think. Half of my paycheck that I had to pay to get started. I met this, uh, young man then and from then on we formed, uh, a friendship. And later, in later years he became my husband. And we have lived together sixty-one years.
Q: And he's probably the best friend you've ever had.
A: Best friend I've ever had. That's right. And, also that first morning, my mother had felt that I should have a divided skirt to ride the horse. So I - she had made me a beautiful divided skirt out of khaki and um, she felt that would make me look more like a lady and be more proper to go to school. So I would dress for school and just pull the skirt on and get on the horse and off I'd go. When I got there, I took the skirt off and hung it on the back door. And, I was all dressed in my skirt and sweater or whatever to teach.
Q: And that divided skirt then would have been an early, what we call culottes today.
A: That's right, it would be similar to what we call culottes today.
Q: Well, interesting, and your mother invented that I guess.
A: That morning, as I said I didn't know many of the people, but as I came in sight of the school, I'm telling you, I was very frightened, I guess. I, not knowing what exactly I was going to meet up with. But, by the time I got to the building, the little children were all standing there with smiles, you know, so eager to see me, I think, meet me. They were just as eager as I were and the parents all were there to greet me. So, in a short time, I felt right at home with them and we started to work. And that first day of course we spent mostly in exchanging books and, uh, checking the books list to be given to the parents so they could go in and buy the books. Sometimes there would, uh, maybe, a week before they could get the books back, you know, to me, for the children. And it was during that time, that I tried to learn the children individually and know what they - how they worked and what they thought in their minds and what they needed to establish a relationship between us and to also educate them.
Q: And did you go into the homes actually?
A: I went into every home. And in those days, the parents invited you in their homes to spend the night, to have meal, and usually I spent the night since I had to ride that distance. They'd take care of my horse and the next morning I would go on to school with the children, you know. And, um, you really got to learn your children. You knew every child, and something about them, and how you had to work with them cause they all had different ways, you know, and they were different and you had to think up things to work with each child. And you got a good, interesting background during those few days even, to learn them. And I always played with my children. Then we had, what we called recesses, in the morning; later on, we called it a fruit break. We'd have fifteen minutes and the children could have an apple or whatever and um, stretch and run around and play a little. I didn't usually play with them at that period, but then, in the middle of the day we had a 45 minute period. And in ball season, we'd play ball and whatever came up. In the winter we played marbles and checkers and all those kind of games. They'd bring their games and we'd sit around and play for 45 minutes. And, I enjoyed it, they enjoyed it, too. They were taught how to play fair and these kind of things. It was really a teaching situation for me, too, to get across to them fair play; the things that they needed to ....
Q: The things they had to be taught and - you Just don't take for granted that they already know. Now is this the school where you made the soup?
A: This is the school where I made the soup. The children the second year - I taught there three years - the second year, uh, they decided they'd like something warm at lunch cafeteria. So, parents, sometimes they would really make the soup and almost cook it and bring it in. We had a big pot; but the children went out and dug a hole and we found an old desk and the end of it was it was an iron piece that was crossed so it would hold the pat and we put that iron piece over the hole and we set the pot there; and the parent, whoever came that morning to help us, would build a fire and you'd put the pot there with the soup and it would get to be a bed of coals and it would keep nice and warm and by lunchtime we had a nice hot vegetable soup. And I would take vegetables sometimes and parents would furnish and all just free gratis.
Q: And that was the forerunner of today's cafeteria.
A: I guess that was the forerunner of today's.
Q: That is interesting.
A: These children always were eager, though, to learn. We were near a wooded area and for science often times we used that as our teaching ground where in the pretty weather, especially spring when things were coming up and then fall when things were dying. We would go for nature walks and they'd learn a great deal, you know, about nature. And how to observe, so many people these days, I think, pay no attention to what's around them. But they learned how to observe the things around them. It was a most interesting situation. It helped me as much as it did the children, I guess. Of course we didn't have nothing like a supervisor or visiting teacher for those years. The superintendent, just as I said, would visit with us two or three times during the year and that was all the supervision you'd have.
Q: You didn't have to worry about a continuing contract; they were just thankful to have you there to teach for them, huh? Because I'm sure the teachers were scarce at that point?
A: That's right. Teachers were very scarce. Because letting me teach on a diploma showed you that, you know, the teachers were very scarce.
Q: Were there any of your, say, friends, your peers who went into teaching that you could compare notes with or, you know, associate for moral support.
A: Yes, um, which was very helpful and you know, sometimes, we would meet maybe two or three times a year, and exchange ideas. And one time, we started a little newspaper, uh, that we put out once a month with ideas, teaching ideas and uh, things that were happening so you kinda' kept in contact with all the schools in the county, in that way.
Q: And at that point, do you remember, how many schools were there in Greene County?
A: No, I don't remember exactly how many, but I know it was about six one-room schools at that time. And the, uh, the elementary school at Ruckersville and one at Standardsville were the two larger elementary schools that taught through the seventh grade.
Q: And when you say larger now, I know the one at Ruckersville had three rooms. I am not sure about the one at Standardsville.
A: I'm not sure but I think they taught all the grades. And that Ruckersville also taught all the grades ....
Q: With two, two grades in each room, plus there must have been a third grade cause it did go thought the seventh grade?
A: Well, at Ruckersville it was four rooms.
Q: Four rooms, okay.
A: Ah, huh four rooms and we usually had four teachers when I went there. And two grades ....
Q: Then probably the seventh grade would have been the single one? Was that usually the way it worked?
A: Ah, huh. Yes.
Q: Okay, now after you left Dawsonville, where did you go?
A: When I left Dawsonsville, I went to Ridge community which was a community still about four or five miles from my home but in opposite direction. And then, I became what they called a head teacher because the first year I was there - it was just a two-teacher school and I was supposed to be the head teacher.
Q: And that was in Albemarle County?
A: No, it was still in Greene County, Ridge School. Uh, as a head teacher, it wasn't alot of principalship, I guess involved. But, we did work together concerning the children and things we were going to teach them and the units and so forth that we were going to work with. And in that period of time, their workbooks were very popular about that time. So, we would, uh, select workbooks that we wanted to use with the children and we worked to try to bring the two groups together as much as possible and let the teaching be a continuous thing from primary on into the elementary. Urn, however, I did have to be double janitor. I had to see the stoves were burning in both rooms at that time, so that was one of the duties of a head teacher, which 2 I never did think was very fair, but I did it anyway. And we did, um - after I had been at the Ridge School for several years, the parents decided they were going to dig a well; so, they got together and had a well dug and paid for it. We also laid hardwood floors in that school. When we went there, they were terrible floors, cracks in them and everything else; although, it was a four room school. We had four rooms, uh and my husband hauled all the hardware flooring from Orange in our car and put it there and the parents laid the floors for us. And the next year, the parents got together and had a, uh, some type of program or something, and made some money and they bought the paint and painted the school. So we had a rather attractive school there. We added the hardwood floors, we had the well dug, and um, there we also - the parents each year would can so many cans of vegetables for the soup and we carried on the soup program there, too; and in the same manner with the hole in the 2 ground and the iron over it, so that was carried on into that. school. We had, uh, two vacant rooms that we could use for phys ed if the weather was bad, and otherwise, we, of course as I said, we'd play ball if the children were out on the ground. But, when it was raining or bad, why, we would use the old rooms. Each teacher had a vacant room that they could use, which made it nice, but then, later on, we did have four teachers there and we had more children coming in and we had four teachers. And I was there around eight years, I believe. And we would have programs; and we had one parent, especially, uh, we'd have evening programs, late evening; and after the programs we'd usually sell ice cream and cake, or something of that kind, you know; we'd have kinda of social and I can always remember this one particular parent, you'd look up the road and you'd see him coming with his lantern lit and coming to the program and I can always remember him. I can see him now walking up and down that road with just the lantern.
Q: Well this - that was probably the early bake sale, too.
A: Yeah, yeah and alot of cake walks. To make money, we'd have cake walks. Parents would bake cake, you know, and they'd get a big circle and you'd pay so much to get in the circle and then somebody would stand with the back to the group and at a certain point they'd drop the stick and that's the couple then that got the cake where the stick dropped.
Q: Do you remember what they would charge you to ... ?
A: Ten cents to walk.
Q: Ten cents to walk so you could win a cake for ten cents. And these were homemade cakes?
A: Homemade cakes.
Q: They weren't cake mixes?
A: No, no, they were homemade cakes. Good cakes. Lots of good cooks in that community. We had people in that community, even though they didn't have children, that worked just as hard for the school as the parents. They all worked together. It was a community affair and that's what held the community together. It's where they met to enjoy themselves and they enjoyed little outings like that as much as the children enjoyed being together.
Q: Good support.
A: Ah huh, we also got good support from the parents. And once a year, we had one parent that had a big truck and he would put the hay on it and would take the children into Charlottesville for some particular activity. We'd visit the dairy or visit some place. And we'd be riding in this old truck with this straw in ....
Q: And that was the early field trips.
A: Early field trips.
Q: Well, you did an awful lot of things that were probably firsts then, you know, the first hot lunch, the first field trip, many things.
A: We enjoyed those things.
Q: You must feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment looking back. Because some of the things that you did then were really kinda' pioneering.
A: Well, they're really things that are being done today, but they're done, of course, with much more and in a different way.
Q: You were the pioneer for it.
A: Well, probably.
Q: That must be a real feeling of accomplishment for you, though, to be able to look back and realize that you did that years ago; things that ....
A: I'll never forget one morning, we had a, uh, boy, I guess he was about twelve that, uh, came to school and they were playing ball - it wasn't time to take in school because the children get there early - you had to be at school early. I always left home by seven, so that I would be there when any child came because I had to unlock the door and let them in and supervise them on the playground. And um, the children were, I think, playing some game and this boy came, walked in, and I thought he looked peculiar and was acting peculiar and finally he kinda fell over in the yard and I went out where he was and I found that he had gotten into his mother's wine and so I had to take him home immediately. His mother was horrified that he had found the wine bottle and drank enough to really be pretty high. It was quite an experience.
Q: I guess it was. Now, what did you do with the other children while you literally had to take him home?
A: Did you know that you could leave that group of children? I could leave them. They knew the schedule and I had all my plans on the board. I could leave them for two hours and they would never get out of their seat or speak. They were excellent children, really. I had no problem. If I was called out or had to go some place for some particular reason, take a child home - I just opened the door between the primary teachers, later we had four teachers, opened one of the doors. They said they never moved or spoke, that they just worked. And I was usually - at that time I had a car that I went to school in and um, so I would usually take them home if they had to be taken home. People didn't have as many telephones then. It was not easy to get in touch with parents. You just had to take them home yourself.
Q: And possibly, the parent wouldn't have had a car to come after the child anyway.
A: That's right. They wouldn't have, if they'd, maybe, Just had one car and the husband was out with that or maybe they'd just have a truck.
Q: Okay, now time wise, what are we talking, say around 1930?
A: Ah huh, Just about.
Q: Now, most of the children - how did they get to school?
A: Most of the children walked to school. They were close enough to walk. Some parents had to bring them and pretty soon ....
Q: But there was no bus system at that point.
A: ... toward the end of my work there, the buses were put on.
Q: Okay, now how long did you stay at Ridge School?
A: I think I stayed there eight years. And when I moved from Ridge, I came to Ruckersville to Ethel school that I would have attended, but it was a now school then because it was built by the W.P.A. and they had moved to a different place. So I came to that school and was there, uh, I think eight years too, I believe.
Q: For the people who are not familiar with W.P.A., de Bcan you explain that program to us?
A: Well, this is a government program that was set up during Roosevelt's term of office. Urn, the people at that time were being brought out of the mountains and located down on the lowlands because the mountains were being prepared for uh, Skyline Drive and other things up there. And, so most of the people were brought out of them and some of them, of course, were not qualified to do any very excellent work because they hadn't had the training; but, they always hired one person who was a good carpenter, in this case, and this happened to be Mr. Creel Sims and he was head of that project. And he had three or four people working under him that were familiar with carpentry and knew a great deal about it and then the other workers were people, who were more or less, being trained under him in building this building. it was, I thought, quite an accomplishment. Of course, it was something different from what I had ever been in - we had, uh, the indoor toilets there and all the facilities that we needed and we did have a cafeteria.
Q: And this was the first time in your career that you had had indoor plumbing, running water, lunchroom. At that point then, did you have a, a staff in the lunchroom?
A: I had a staff in the lunchroom. We had uh, three women in the lunchroom that planned the meals and cooked them under my supervision and uh, we had to buy all, everything that we used in the cafeteria. So I would plan with the manager and we would buy locally when we could, say at butchering time, we'd buy maybe one or two hogs and put them in the freezers of the parents and then later on, we did buy a deep freezer ourself, a couple of them. And uh, we would buy things ahead. We needed eggs, we'd buy them locally. Of course there were certain things we had to order from a company.
Q: Did you find that some of the parents, for instance, who lived on farms, would donate this sort of thing?
A: The parents would donate, very liberally, because when we started, this program - can you believe it, we charged five cents per lunch? So they had to donate, or else we had to have programs to fill in with the money we needed and charge for programs, which we did. We would bring in um, maybe singing group, or some kind of group that would bring in a good program into the community and would be for the community. And then they would - we would charge for that and we would use that money then back in the lunchroom.
Q: So you really were self-supporting. You didn't get money from some other source?
A: No, no. We were self-supporting to begin with. Then later on, you know, of course the state came in and helped us with the lunch rooms when I was in some other schools, why we had state support, too. But there, it was more or less a state was a program - that was really taken care of by the school itself.
Q: Now, you were at Ruckersville for how many years?
A: I was at Ruckersville, I think around nine years.
Q: Now, do you remember what year was your last year at Ruckersville? So, your last year at Ruckersville then was?
Q: 1943, okay. Where? And you left Ruckersville and went...
A: To Albemarle, McIntire Elementary School. And that was a county school, although the school was located in the city, it was a county school.
Q: It was a county school, but situated physically, in Charlottesville. And you were at this point - you went in as a teacher.
A: As a fifth grade teacher.
Q: Fifth grade teacher. How long then did you teach there before you became principal?
A: I taught there six years as fifth grade teacher. One of those years, the school became so crowded, that three teachers were moved in the barracks up at the University and I went as the head teacher of it - there were three of us.
Q: Now did they call that still McIntire?
A: But they still called it McIntire. We had our supervisors and everything that went to McIntire. We were under the McIntire principal, in other words.
Q: But it was kinda' like an annex.
A: It was an annex. And we would go up there. Those old barracks were dark and gloomy looking but ....
Q: That's what they called Copeley Hill.
A: Copeley Hill. And then, after McIntire - I had started my sixth year as fifth grade teacher, which I loved because I loved history around that period and those kind of things and I enjoyed teaching the children. But at that time, they had a school, Cismont, and the principal, a young man, came there and stayed one month and when he left, the superintendent came to me and asked me if I wouldn't go there as principal of a four teacher school. I hated to leave my class. I'd only been working with them a month and I really loved every one of them and had gotten acquainted with them and I hated to leave so badly; but, he pointed out the advantages that there would be for me and after thinking about it, and considering it, I decided I would go. But, I'll never forget going down and talking to my principal and Just boo-booing and he says, "You don't have to go. I don't want you to go." But, taking it all into consideration, I felt that it was steps toward a, maybe larger principalship and I liked principalship work.
Q: But really at that point, you did not pursue becoming a principal; they came to you.
A: No, I'd never even thought of it. They came to me and asked me. And my principal felt that I was - had many qualities for a good principal and although he didn't want me to go, he said, "I do - can understand why you would go because I think it would mean a great deal to you."
Q: Okay, now then after that, did you go back to being a teacher or was it a teacher/principal?
A: It was a teacher/principal situation; then, I only taught the seventh grade. And I had three other teachers under me. We had a nice little school and the teachers were most cooperative - worked together all the time and uh, the parents worked with us. I always felt that I had to get my parents involved, so they would know what I was trying to do. And so I always had meetings where we had the parents and talked with them, and trying to tell them what our philosophy was, and what we were trying to do, and how they could help. And I never had any to turn us down; they always were willing to work with us along that line.
Q: Did you find that - of course during those times, most of the mothers were at home; they weren't working. But, did you find that even the fathers were willing to give their time, too?
A: Yes, indeed.
Q: So, you didn't have problem getting the support?
A: No, and that was a very wealthy community. Now the wealthier children, of course, didn't go even to that school; they went to private schools. But those parents worked in that school Just as if their children were there. Urn, they decided they wanted hot lunch and the parents came in land] prepared it for us; and uh, one parent told me one day, said, "We need money for this hot lunch ... and I want you to take off one evening when it suits you and after school and go with me and we'll get the money." And we visited, I don't know, quite a few - she knew them all - I didn't know them all personally, uh, wealthy people there. They were horse farms and so forth. And we came home that evening with $600.00 (to] carry on our lunch program.
Q: And $600.00 ....
A: Was alot of money at that time. That's right. They were, you could see, most cooperative. Uh, we then - the homes - they were town people, most of the children we had and uh, the homes didn't have alot of reading material and those kind of things for the children and those other homes would save their magazines and all those things and bring 'em for the children to have to take home and to use in school for pictures and so forth. They brought in things all the time for us to use. They really enriched the curriculum by bringing in so many things that they had that they could share with us. And they always shared their property, their land. There was one big farm, um, that was a big horse farm and they had a beautiful stable; and a room where they entertained the guests and a drinking place and all this, you know. And they always came and took the children once a year to visit there and serve drinks and Cocoa-Cola or something for them, you know, and uh, just shared everything with them. And then the church was very close to the school and on special occasions like Easter and so forth, the children were always invited to come for a program, sometime during that period. And we'd always take them to church and one hour out of our day's program and shared with those people.
Q: Of course, now, there points out a big difference as far as the church/school relationship. A lot of changes have taken place in that atmosphere.
A: That's right. That's right.
Q: What about - I Just happened to think - what about patriotism? Did you, for instance, the pledge to the flag and that sort of thing?
A: We had all those things and we - each year, either I would or maybe an interested parent would get a flag, that had flown over the Capitol, donated to us. And we'd have a little ceremony to put it up and then the children were allowed to take the flag out each morning; each teacher would have somebody that would take the flag out. And in pretty weather, alot of times, we'd go out around the flagpole and have a patriotic song and salute the flag for our morning exercise and then come back in for our work. And for the bad weather, of course, we'd have small flags. I had one parent that always donated a small flag for every room and the children thoroughly understood the meaning of the flag and respected it. Another thing that we did there that I thought was very interesting - we had what we called "the guest table", and each teacher was allowed to select four children to sit at that table, one week; and then the next week somebody else and then, these children were taught table graces and those kind of things, that you know, would improve them when they went out, um, to visit other people.
Q: So you were the early etiquette lady, too, then?
A: I guess so. The children enjoyed doing that. Sometimes the teachers would set up reasons for letting them do it if they had completed all the work that week that they could do it, or you know, some little - it was an honor and let them work a little bit for it.
Q: I think it's interesting how you brought in all of the aspects of what it takes to develop, what we'd like to think of as a responsible citizen who has training ....
A: Well, that was always my philosophy from the very beginning, from my one room school. I felt like that that would be an important thing.
Q: Did you feel that you differed, maybe, from other principals in some of your convictions as to - you wanted to teach this child, first.
A: Well, I think, yes, in some ideas. I felt I did. But I still felt what I was doing was very important.
Q: Did you have any feelings of, uh, - you probably were one of the few female principals at this time, weren't you?
A: That's right. And especially at the time when um - the colored was coming into the schools - there wasn't but two female principals in Albemarle County and my school happened to be very accessible and so, that was the school at that time that was picked on. And, I, of course, was not allowed - my superintendent told me, "You cannot register a colored child." And so, of course, even though I couldn't register 'em, they came and tried to make me register 'em. I'll never ..., remember, one day after lunch and all the children were just settled back in their rooms and the secretary and I were going over some work and in drove this great big automobile and I thought, "My, who are we having for guests?" And this um, very stout, manly, uh, colored man got out with a satchel in each hand, and a parent, there in the community - a colored parent, that I knew - was with him; and in a minute another car drove up and here was the editor from one of the Richmond papers, and the editor from the Charlottesville Progress walked in. And I was amazed, I didn't know what in the world .... And this lawyer that was with her, tried to inform me that I had to register her children. Well, by this time I was so upset and I really wasn't responsible for what I did; but I Just stood up right in front of my desk and I said, "I'm sorry sir, but I don't have to do any thing but die and you have nothing to do with that." So, my picture was in the paper with my hands on my hips and one little boy told his mother, said, "Ms. Watson was really upset when she put her hands on her hips." So, that's the way that turned out, but we had those visitors all the time for the whole year.
Q: Okay now, this was what year?
A: Well, this was after I had moved up to the new building - the two small schools were joined together and we were then in a brand new building that had every facility imaginable and uh, it was called Stone Robinson. And that was in Albemarle County. When they actually began to - well the first year that the colored came into our schools, I had seven families to come in, colored families, to come into my school. And I gave the county two weeks, so that I could take their records that the colored principal brought me and sit down and discuss the children with the parents and I gave them time and everyone came. They were - I've never seen a more cooperative group. Uh, I told them that we would - we had certain standards and their children would be placed right in the standards with the white. And that I would do my best to put them where I thought they should be, and they were eager. They said, "If you have to put them back, put them back. We're here with you and we want to work with you.' They were very eager to work with us and I spent two weeks working on their records in trying to place those children where I thought they would be best suited. Some were good students, some were very poor.
Q: Were there any particular - I guess I'm going to ask you two questions now - any particular negative things that you can remember, instances that happened and then the positive?
A: I tell you most of the things were positive... I can hardly remember one that was negative. And I think it was due to the fact that I did take the time to sit down and discuss and understand their problem as well as our problem and we blended the two together. And they understood that they were to meet our standards.
Q: And you found them to be cooperative.
A: And they were most cooperative. I told them that we were not going to lower the standards of our school, that they had to stay where they were; but, that I would do my best to put their children - and I had seven of the children, quite a -- well more - five or six of them that went really in our top group and kept themselves there - worked well. Then I had some that were very slow learners that were with slow learners then.
Q: Okay, now at this point your school - McIntire had which grades?
A: McIntire, when I first went there was a high school and uh, through seventh grade. Then they moved all the high school to a new high school and we only had seven grades. When I left there, we just had seven grades. Then I went onto Cismont and we had seven grades down there, but of course not as many children. And then when they Joined Cismont and another smaller school over in the other end of the county - but they could come together where the new school was going to be - when they Joined those two then, we had, um, about uh, sixteen or seventeen teachers. And then I think I really - was when I became a principal.
Q: And was that the Stoney?
A: Stone Robinson.
Q: Stone Robinson School. And it was located out on 250? Right out of Charlottesville?
A: Right out on 250. Right in Keswick.
Q: Okay, and you were at Stone Robinson until ... ?
A: Well now, I was at Cismont, um, - what year did I go to Cismont?
Q: Mrs. Watson, about what year now, was it, that you went to Stone Robinson?
A: Around '61 ...'62.
Q: Okay and you stayed there ... ?
A: Seven years.
Q: Now you were principal, but did you also teach?
A: For - yes, I taught all the time I was at Stone Robinson.
Q: What grade level?
A: Seventh grade.
Q: Teaching seventh grade and fulfilling the duties of principal?
A: Ah, huh, and I had a student, um, teacher there all the time, too, which was kinda like an assistant principal. All the time I was there I had a student teacher.
Q: Okay, and how many teachers did you have working under you at that time?
A: We started with ten and it ran up to sixteen before I left.
Q: So that was a pretty good size school. About how many students?
A: We had about four hundred and some students.
Q: That sounds about right.
A: Between four and five hundred students.
Q: One thing I'd like for you to talk - as a principal, what were the things that you felt were important in working with your teachers before the children actually came; what sort of guidance did you give, what sort of preparation to get ready to start the year?
A: I usually, um, had kinda' of an outline that I had worked on myself. And when - we had, um, we had a week together. Now two of those days we met in the county with all of the other teachers in the county. But, we had three whole days at our school. Uh, I started the teachers out with a breakfast the first day, morning. And we learned each other and began to socialize and they learned each other. And then, we sat down and I briefly went over what I had planned and then we filled in this outline together on what we planned to do for the whole year, tentatively. Anytime that we felt something we had planned was not working, we would work it out in a different manner. We had our faculty meetings once a week; and once a month we had a big faculty meeting, where'd we'd stay a good while and work on it.
Q: What about supplies for your teachers?
A: Now when the two schools Joined together, you know that we didn't have many supplies - just two small schools. But we had a wonderful PTA at that school, Stone Robinson; and they had, what they called a Strawberry Festival every Spring, and they would make several thousand dollars, and they put it all back into things for the teachers to work with. Now one year, we, um, - the second year, I was there, we bought carts for every teacher's room and on the cart we'd put a victrola, um, slide projector, and they could move - keep those carts in their room. Then when they wanted the overhead projector or one of the bigger machines, they could put it on that cart, take it to their room and use it with the children and we had several of those that they could switch around and use when they wanted it, in the library. And then, um, maps and charts. The school board gave us some maps and charts; but, not enough, and the PTA always worked to get those. I usually gave each teacher, say, $50.00 to spend as they wanted - they wrote down what they wanted and we bought it for them. And that took care of, um, little things that they actually wanted in their room for themselves. Now the school board would give us, um, money to buy, um, art supplies and things of that type.
Q: Did you find as principal that you spent your own personal money to buy things for the school?
A: I've spent alot of my own personal money to buy things and also to work - children who had nothing. uM, my assistant principal there and myself, we worked a great deal with the poor children and um, we always found some means of getting them money to go on trips. We took trips with our children and if they didn't have necessary supplies, we - it was always a parent ready to help us. In that area, most of - alot of the parents were - had horse farms and they would have plenty of money and they were always very liberal with it. They brought us alot of nice magazines to use and things of that type all the time. And then they would come and share their experiences with the children, too. Of course they did alot of travelling. And they were always glad to fill in to share their experiences.
Q: So you had good resource people.
A: We had good resource people.
Q: If you would, tell me your views as far as your feelings of the importance of student teachers, not only from what they can offer the school but what the veteran teacher could do to help their student teacher learn?
A: I nearly always had a student teacher. And they brought to our school, many, many new ideas. And I'm sure that we tried in every way we could to help them. I feel that right there that the student teacher should have a longer period of teaching under a strong person, that can seek out any weaknesses that they have and if they feel that the student teacher has some very definite weaknesses - I feel that they should suggest to them - maybe they go in some other field of education rather than a teacher, if the person feels that they are going to be a weak teacher, I think that's a place that we need to take out our weaker teachers and get them into some other educational field. And I never had to do that but one time, and the teacher was not a student teacher. I hired her for a seventh grade teacher. But she just found out that she could not manage children at all, so she couldn't teach. Uh, we talked it over. She and I sat down many times and discussed her weaknesses and she decided that she would like library work. She loved books and did a great Job in library work. She took one year leave of absence - went back, studied to be a librarian, and came back to my school and made an excellent librarian, but she could not teach because she couldn't control the children. And I feel right there is a good place to weed out the teachers that you feel are weak in the teaching field but could be of alot of help in some other educational line.
Q: Then, if you would, elaborate a little more then on the discipline, because I know that was one of your strong features throughout your ....
A: I never had many discipline problems in my schools, unless I did have a very weak teacher. And then the children took advantage of her because - well I don't know whether they...Just liked to come to my office and sit down and chat or whether they just wanted to keep her upset all the time; but that's what happened in this situation. Sometimes I'd have two or three of the boys in my office talking to me and they would make promises but they'd go back and do the exact same thing because they knew they were fretting her and they - it was a Joke with them and that's the way it went.
Q: So, without the discipline, there's not much hope of being a strong teacher?
A: You cannot be a strong teacher unless you can discipline the children. First thing you have to do is to have your children under control. I use to always tell my teachers to take a week to study their children and let the children understand them, too. It goes both ways. And if they took a week to do that and not try to do too much teaching, but Just work with the children and get the children to know them and they to know the children that they would get along much better and we found that worked better too.
Q: Certainly good advice. Particularly, I think, for beginning teachers.
A: Well, even other teachers that have taught and had experience - when they come into a new situation, they have to take a little time to understand the community and the children and what they have and what they're use to and these kind of things before they can do a very good Job of teaching.
Q: Were most of your teachers local people or did - at that time did you pull from, say, University students' wives?
A: At that time, I pulled from the University [a] great deal, students' wives at the University. And I found the University people were very eager to work with you, too. They was always ready to come. In fact, I had some of them, of course, my parents, but they were always ready to come and give you time and sit down and discuss situations with you and that was most typical for me.
Q: Probably because they were associated with the University, they realize the importance of education.
A: Right, right.
Q: If you would, share with us, some of the things that you felt were the most pleasant duties that you had as a principal and then some of the most unpleasant?
A: I think the most pleasant thing I had as teacher was working with children, because I love children. I never had any children of my own. I did raise one child, but I love children and I love to see them develop and grow. And I try to keep in close touch with them so I would know just how they were progressing. Then I did enjoy the teachers because each one had so much to offer if they were real teachers and I always felt I had real teachers under me. Uh, I think the most unpleasant thing that I had to put extra-duty on my teachers to help load the buses and be on duties in the morning, in the evening. hated to see my teachers have to do that and take away and wear themselves out before we got ready to teach. And that was very unpleasant for me. I use to go and do alot of that myself so they wouldn't have to do it.
Q: ... expectations of your teachers as far as the A dress code, but if you would, I'd like for you to review again, when a teacher came in to interview with you, how you presented to them what your expectations were?
A: I always talked with my teachers and told them that I felt they should be very careful about their dress. I never allowed my teachers to come to school without hose, at which at that time it was quite a style for them to go without hose. And even on workdays, I never let them come with slacks because we had parents in and out all the time and they would have children with them. It was - I guess I was old-fashioned about those things; but I was - I always told them what I expected of them, uh, as to what they wore. I expected them to be ladies and for the children to learn from their actions.
Q: Did you find that any of them disagreed or were they fairly accepting of your standards?
A: They did very well, I thought, very well. There was another thing that I never allowed my teachers to do was smoke on school grounds or in the building. Alot of times, after all the children left and we were getting ready for a faculty meeting, they'd go out to the end of the walk and take a smoke and then come back to have our faculty meeting. I didn't object to that, but I didn't feel it was good for the children to see them smoking and to know - quite often if a teacher went in the lounge to smoke, she was in there longer than she thought and her room was left without any help and uh, I found it was good that they not smoke during school hours. And at first, some of them just said that they couldn't make out, but they seem to learn to. We got along alright with it.
Q: Now, looking back over the forty-six years of teaching and principalship, what are some of the things that you attribute your success to? Starting back from the success you had at that first year at Earld school and then later, as you've said several times, your being a principal kind of evolved, you didn't actually go looking for a Job as a principal.
A: I never even thought about a principalship when I started teaching. But I Just went from a one room to a two room to a three room and so on, and finally I ended up with - in a large school. Things, I think, maybe - that I hope I was a successful principal and I think the main thing was, that I was very interested in seeing the child get exactly what he needed to go out into the world. And I enjoyed working with him to make sure and working with my teachers, to make sure he did get what he needed. And if he was weak in a certain subject, we always made arrangements to see that he got help in that particular field. And I really enjoyed just seeing the children progress and seeing the unity in our school. I always tried to keep it on the basis where the teachers all loved the children and was working with the children and with me - we were working all for the same purpose.
Q: Okay. We have been talking for quite some time and I think we have covered alot of territory as far as your early years as a teacher and then as a principal, certainly your philosophy of education and the impact that you have had on alot of lives during your forty-six years in education; and even since then, you served on the school board and have continued to stay active in the field of education. Can you think of any questions that, to you are important, that you would like to share with the people who will be listening to this tape as far as education today or your feelings about different educational situations?
A: Well, I think - I remember distinctly when President Kennedy was killed, of course, um, we heard it. We turned on, um, the radio, so that we could listen to it. And finally we turned it on so the children could hear it too and the children, uh, the teachers had the children in groups and we let them listen to what was happening. And at that particular time, I had two teachers on the field with their children, giving them phys ed - we had our field wired also - we take music to the field or radio either - and uh, when they announced that he had died, uh, we had a student teacher, unfortunately, that day, that evidently thought very little of our President, and she made some very ugly remarks about the family and so forth, and one of my the little teacher that was out there with her Just took it up immediately and she got very indignant and actually we brought the superintendent in on it. Because we didn't feel that this particular, uh, substitute teacher really had any business in the classroom. And so we never hired her anymore.
Q: She just was out of line.
A: Yeah. Entirely out of line with what she should of said before the children or the other teachers.
Q: Lack of respect.
A: She wasn't showing any respect for our country at all and that was one thing we always taught in our school. Another thing that we did, um, - we had, especially, when I was at McIntire, we had children, uh, parents with different views; and I'll never forget that we had several parents that did not want their children to salute the flag.
Q: How did you handle that?
A: And so, I explained to them that the children did salute the flag, and when they did, their children were given some little petty job to do and they went along about what they wanted to do and we continued with the salute of the flag.
Q: Okay, were there any other things that you can think of where parents, if you want to say, caused a problem or were demanding of things at school that you thought were out of the ordinary for a classroom situation?
A: These parents - we would bring them in and ask them to visit the class for a day and then the teacher and myself would set up a time that we would sit down and talk with that parent, and try to explain to them what we were doing and we had real good luck with that. Uh, the parents, as soon as they really understood what was going on - I remember one time we had, uh, open house, and we had every teacher in her room to discuss what she was teaching and what she was doing and so forth. And that's when many units were used and we had this, uh, professor from the University, came down and he just sat and listened and listened and so when he got ready to leave, he said, "Ms. Watson, I really didn't recognize what you all are doing by what my child was telling me," said, "I certainly am glad I came to this," says, "Now my eyes are opened and I know what kind of job you're doing.'
Q: So, you encouraged the parents ....
A: And so we encouraged the parents to come in and uh - my teachers never minded parents. I taught 'em that, I guess, because, I always wanted to work with parents and I would say to them, "Now you work with them, let them come, when they want to and sit in and listen in." And then we - if they do have problems, we can straighten it out among ourselves without any problems. And it worked out well.
Q: Did you often have a situation where you had to go to a higher up? - I know you mentioned the disrespectful substitute teacher - did that happen?
A: Not very often.
Q: And at that point, you would go to the superintendent?
A: I would go to the superintendent or our assistant superintendent. Our assistant superintendent really came into the school more often and was more a help mate for you. And uh, quite often I would Just call him and ask him to come by and we would sit down and discuss it and then I would, in light of what we had talked about, I would try to straighten it out.
Q: So, obviously, there was a good working relationship.
A: Yes. We had a good working relationship. I always - that was the first thing I'd tried to do was set up a good relationship with my superiors - to let them know what we were doing. And then we always had a monthly, uh, principals meeting where you could discuss anything you wanted in your school and that helped alot because then they knew what was going on in your school and of course, since we had an assistant superintendent and a superintendent, they did visit the school a great deal.
Q: What about evaluations? Now, when you had, say, twelve or fourteen teachers under you, you were solely responsible for their evaluation?
A: That's right. I had to evaluate those teachers. And I evaluated them and handed them a sheet and they - then we went over the evaluation - I explained to them what I had done and if we didn't see eye to eye, on it, we worked it out. And then I always turned those into the office.
Q: But you had no, say, uh, supervisor who came and evaluated the teachers, it was strictly ... ?
A: No, no. Nobody else evaluated them with me. I did the evaluation. Now, we had, um, our supervisors, but they never entered in on my evaluation. I'm sure they made an evaluation of their own and compared them with mine; but, they never entered in on my evaluations at all.
Q: Did the supervisors come and go into a classroom?
A: They came and went into the classrooms regularly. We had three in the county, and so we got quite a bit of help from them.
Q: Do you have any advice that you could give to young, well not necessarily young, but a teacher, an experienced teacher, who is pursuing uh, an advanced degree in administration, hopefully to become an assistant principal and then a principal?
A: Don't attempt it. I would say to them, "Don't attempt it unless you love children and love your work and don't mind long hours to work." Because it's certainly going to take most of your time.
Q: One of the things then, there are of course, are more and more women getting involved, you were certainly, one of a few women, as far as principals were concerned - I think it's very hard to balance, it's hard enough as a teacher, but to balance being a principal with raising a family and what not, you have to really be able to organize ....
A: That's right. You have to have time to give to it; because it takes practically all your time.
Q: And if you're not willing?
A: Then I wouldn't enter.
Q: Don't do it if you're not willing ....
A: Don't do it if you're not willing to give of your time. Because you can't be successful unless you give it your time.
Q: Okay, well, Miss Anna, I want to thank you for myself and on behalf of VPI because these tapes will-go into a collection at VPI.
A: Well I thoroughly enjoyed this. Brought back so many memories.
Q: Well, I have enjoyed it and I'm sure the people who listen to this will certainly enjoy it, too.
A: I hope it'll be of some good to somebody.
Q: It certainly will, thank you.
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