Special Collections Oral History Program
Betty (Anderson) Watson
War Emergency Teaching Certificate, 1945
Campus School student teacher
Interviewer: Tamara Belts
Date of Interview: September 10, 2005
Location of Interview: Interviewee's home, Oakland, Calif.
ATTENTION: © Copyright Western Washington University Libraries Special Collections. "Fair use" criteria of Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976 must be followed. The following materials can be used for educational and other noncommercial purposes without the written permission of Western Washington University Libraries Special Collections. These materials are not to be used for resale or commercial purposes without written authorization from Western Washington University Libraries Special Collections. All materials cited must be attributed to Western Washington University Libraries Special Collections.
This interview was conducted with Betty Anderson Watson at her home in Oakland, California, on September 10th, 2005. The interviewer is Tamara Belts.
TB: Today is Saturday, September 10th, , I (Tamara Belts) am down in Oakland, California, with Betty Watson who is an alumna of Western. We are going to do an oral history. She has just signed the Informed Consent Agreement.
BAW: I was Betty Louise Anderson when I attended Western. I graduated from Bellingham High School in 1943 and entered Western Washington [College] in the summer. I started in June, right after graduation in 1943. I was awarded a $50.00 scholarship that was for teachers. Believe it or not, $50.00 paid for three quarters of tuition in 1943. Seventeen dollars a quarter was tuition. Actually, it wasn’t too bad when you consider even at the University [of Washington] in 1948 when I went there, tuition for a semester was only $50. I worked giving and monitoring tests at the college for the first year and I made $.35 an hour, which I found out later from a friend of mine who was at Central, that that was standard pay.
This was the war years when I was going there. The freshmen class started with quite a few people, but many of the men were drafted or enlisted so that by 1944, there were 198 students, 31 of them men. It was almost like a private school. I remember the classes were like seminars. The president, Dr. Haggard, once looked at me and said, “Betty, you’re getting too thin.” Now, where else would you go to a college where the president would know you that well and would be able to appraise you! I was so pleased I had lost weight that summer. I was vice president of the freshman class. When the president was drafted, I became president.
There was a teacher shortage, of course, during the war. Those of us attending were encouraged to go out and teach as soon as we could. You could do that in three years in something called a War Emergency Certificate. So I went two years and three summers and got the certificate in August of 1945 and I had just turned 19. I started teaching at Highline Junior/Senior High School when I was 19 and I was teaching some 15-year-olds. I told my granddaughter, who was sort of interviewing me for my life story, I told her, “I wonder why I was in such a hurry? But it seemed like the patriotic thing to do!”
I was looking back over my yearbooks from 1944 and 1945 from Western, and I hadn’t realized that the Campus School elementary school was built only in 1942. That surprised me. That was the year before I entered there. I knew it was quite new, but I had no clue about that. My work was in the junior high department, and for the most part that was in, I suppose it would be, the south part of Old Main – the Seventh, Eighth and Ninth graders. I also took out my old – well, definitely old – transcript from Western over the years that I attended from 1943 until 1948 (because I went back summers, 1946, 1947 and 1948 to complete my bachelor’s). I was looking at some of the classes that I’d taken. I had something called “[Observation and Techniques for Students in the Junior High Curriculum].” It was more observation.
One thing I remember was preparing a lesson for the Seventh graders, and I prepared it on The Carnival of Animals by Saint-Saëns. Of course, as a student teacher, I thought that I had to cover every point. I took 45 minutes instead of the 20 I was allotted! I realized years later that one of the students in that Seventh grade was David Ireland, who is a very famous artist. I suppose I bored him to death when he was a Seventh grader!
My student teaching was in the Ninth grade at Campus School. My head teacher/supervisor was Miss Leslie Hunt. She was unflappable. She was just wonderful. There were three of us student teachers in the Ninth grade at that time in her class. I remember the woman, Iris Bowden; I’d gone to high school with her (she was a year ahead of me in school). I don’t remember the man. I remember the first day of student teaching. It was in the spring quarter. The Ninth graders were going to edit and publish a newspaper and Miss Hunt said, “Who of you has had experience? Well, my experience had been a year of journalism in Bellingham High School and I was the English major of the three of us, so I was elected. Somehow or other, I don’t really remember an awful lot about it, but somehow or other we put out a newspaper. I think Miss Hunt’s thing was that you were challenged and you stood up and you did what you could. I think that was very good. That was a good way to do it.
The class was based on core curriculum, so mostly social studies and English were taught in a related way. Or other subjects such as geography or math could be brought in if they were needed or fit the topic. But there was a certain topic that was selected for a unit. The teacher would introduce the topic (this would be Miss Hunt). Then the students would ask questions about what they wanted to learn about that, or what puzzled them about the unit or what interested them, what they wanted to find out. Then those questions were arranged in groups, and then committees were appointed to work on certain sections.
These students, of course, had started as Kindergarteners I guess in the Campus School, and they were used to doing research and being able to use the main library or anything that was in the room. Of course, I’m sure now it’s computers; there weren’t any at that time. They were experts at the card catalog. I’ve often thought to myself, if you were a student and you knew that you were going to have to answer your own questions, wouldn’t you ever dry up and say, “I’m not going to do this”?
I never found the students I worked with patronizing to those of us who were student teachers. They just accepted us. I don’t think they were smart-mouthed – I can’t think of the term they would be – but they weren’t patronizing to us. They were accepting. They were crazy about one woman I remember; she was a cute, pug-nosed, freckle-faced woman who was a PE major, and they adored her.
As I say, the core curriculum was the main thing that I remember about that. Spelling and grammar were taught only if they were needed. There was no parsing of sentences or spelling tests. The emphasis was on finding out information and reporting on it. Critical thinking -- I would say -- was the main emphasis in the Campus School.
The funny thing is, when I went back to the University of California to update my credential in 1977, what did I hear was the brand new method of teaching? The inquiry method! I’m sitting there thinking, “Wait a minute guys; thirty four years ago …, (but I hate people who do that); but I kept thinking, “Wait a minute! That’s how I was taught to teach.” This was being touted as the idea of someone who had just written a big book and pamphlet. He was the educational lion of the year because he was teaching inquiry method.
My best friend is a Campus School graduate. She finished Ninth grade in 1940. Her class had been together since Kindergarten. They’re like a family. In fact, we were together this summer for our Bellingham High School 62nd reunion. I call them “Campus School kids” – they’ve always had a pre-reunion. They usually have gotten together the day before our class reunion. They are very small and few in number now. They were few in numbers as a class – the Campus School kids – when they came to high school because they were only one class. Maybe there were about thirty some. I came from Whatcom which was this great big school and there were others who came from Fairhaven, which was smaller but still a pretty big school. If you think about how many students there were at our school – at high school in Bellingham – there were maybe 1500 but 30 Campus School kids out of 1500, and they elected a Campus School kid as the president of the school, a Campus School kid as the vice president, a Campus School kid as the president of the Key Club. They elected many of their people to the elective clubs. I guess we from Whatcom were too dumb or something, maybe to band together. As I say, I admired them for their family feeling and also their support and their love for each other. After all, they’ve had all those years of history.
The sad thing, I just got news this last week that Bob Abrams, who’d been the president of our school in 1943 and who was a Campus School kid, died. We had just had our reunion and had spoken about him and then after the reunion, my best friend and her husband and I went to see Bob and his wife down in Portland. He’d had a very traumatic, very serious stroke. When my friend called, and she was telling me about Bob, it was almost as though a family member had died.
The junior high department of the Campus School certainly wasn’t located in any rooms that were particularly great -- they were old! The students, I think their main thought was learning. It didn’t seem to matter if they didn’t have a new school. I don’t know where the junior high meets now or if they have the Campus School at all.
TB: The Campus School is no longer.
BAW: The Campus School is no longer.
I remember I went back to Western summers between teaching and did take some classes. I took “Advanced Teaching in Junior High” in the summer of 1948 and “Teaching and Techniques.” Bearnice Skeen was my advisor. I thought she was wonderful. I just loved her. I remember especially her working with a boy we had who had focusing problems. She didn’t use any instruments but just with her own intuition and having this boy turn around and face the blackboard, she understood where his problems with focusing were. I eventually went into special education and I don’t know if it was because of her, but I remember her kindness with all of us – the “Campus School kids” or with the students that she worked with. I thought she was great.
I have the two yearbooks, the funny little one from 1944, and didn’t remember that I had been called “Sis.” I don’t know why, but one of the sophomores there decided to call me “Sis.” When I looked at this I thought, “Sis? Oh, yeah!” Or I was also called “Andy.” I hadn’t thought about that for a long time – from “Anderson.” Then there’s the Klipsun from 1945 that I have here in my hand. That one didn’t come to me until later. I don’t know why I didn’t get it in June. I got it in the summer time, so I have no signatures in it from anybody! The delay had to be related to the ending of the War or to the paper shortage, I suppose.
I am happy that I attended Western. I loved it. I had, I think, some excellent teachers. Dr. Cederstrom I loved. I had to have an emergency appendectomy in 1944 and Dr. Cederstrom came to see me with notes from my class. He had made a casket and outside had put “R.I.P. Betty Anderson.” He checked with everybody to see if I were really ok, and then came up and brought that to me. I wrote that to his daughters after he died and told them about that. I loved him. I have another special memory of Dr. Cederstrom that shows his fairness. He loved Hemingway and didn’t care much for Whitman. (I liked Whitman, and he teased me about being a “Whitmaniac.”) In one of the American Literature courses I took from him, so that he wouldn’t prejudice us with his opinion, Dr. Cederstrom asked Dr. Hicks to teach the Whitman section.
I had Dr. Hicks, of course, whom I saw walking, always holding his books. Dr. Hicks, I remember, started many of my classes with him, with a “pop quiz” on the assigned reading for the day. I sat next to a “jock” (definitely not a scholar-athlete) who never seemed to have read any of the text and was always in a panic. Mr. Kibbe, interesting psychology teacher who didn’t like Freud and we didn’t ever learn anything about Freud from Mr. Kibbe! That was his selection, his choice. Miss Breakey, lots of people with art and science, which were definitely not my fields. But those are real special memories.
Why did I choose to attend Western? Well, it was my school; it was the school in Bellingham. I didn’t have enough money to go away and didn’t really feel bad about that. That was no problem. I received, as I say, the $50 scholarship, which covered one year.
I attended, from 1943 to 1948. I started in summer of 1943, went through summer of 1945 and then came back each summer until I got my BA in 1948. I have a BA from Western and I have a Master’s in English from the University of [Washington] in 1950 on critical response to the gothic novel in the Gentleman’s Magazine, which was an absolutely useless piece of research, but at least it got me through the program!
My brother attended Western. He is seven and a half years younger than I am, but he also took time out to go in the Navy. He also is a teacher. I don’t know where he did his student teaching, interesting.
My first job after leaving Western was teaching at Highline Junior-Senior High School, south of Seattle. I taught junior high English and social studies in Seventh and Eighth grade. I was the first “new teacher” that Highline had ever hired. I think that came about because Miss Hunt was my head teacher, and a friend of hers was Dr. Lucy Kangley, whom I adored (I was an English major and I loved Dr. Kangley’s class); I think they put some influence on Highline. It was a wonderful place to teach and a wonderful place to start.
My subsequent careers? Well, I taught three years at Highline and then went to the University of Washington for two years, got my masters in 1950, married, then didn’t go back to teaching. I take that back. I taught then in New York from 1950 to 1953 at Valley Stream, which is out on Long Island.
I taught in the Junior High. The junior high and senior high shared the same building at Valley Stream. The school had been on shifts for seventeen years. The high school went in the morning and then junior high in the afternoon. I would commute from the Bronx. It was five hours commuting each day until we moved a little closer, and then it was three and a half hours commuting each day. We started teaching at 12:30 and we finished at 5:30. It was a long day.
I didn’t then teach again until after my husband died. Then I went to work in 1971. I went back to work as a home and a hospital teacher in Oakland, California. I worked for 23 years as a home and hospital teacher, then retired from full time teaching and went back right away and have worked – I don’t know if you call it teaching – the last twelve years in an adult school for Oakland. All I chose to do was to do was music. So I lead sing-along’s at four senior residences and I direct an African American women’s gospel choir. They never had a white conductor before and it’s really a fun situation for me. I learn lots.
Where did I live when I was going to school? I lived at home. I walked across Sehome Hill early in the morning and at night. I tell my children about that when I want them to remember mother walking all those miles to school. I passed the dorm, passed Edens Hall on my way home. I always remember hearing - especially at night - hearing the clink of the glasses and dishes and feeling sorry because I had to walk up to Iron Street. Our home was taken by the freeway some years ago. I do pass it, when we go across the freeway I can see it. It’s right off Lakeway and up on Iron Street. That’s where I had to walk.
I talked a little bit about my favorite teachers -- certainly Dr. Cederstrom, Dr. Kangley, Miss Hunt, Miss Skeen, Dr. Bond. Who wouldn’t love him?
My main course of study, of course, was education and English – the “soft” courses is what one of my friends said. English is a “soft” course, not the hard one like science or math.
What did I like the best and learn the most from? Goodness -- anything with English literature. That’s the fun. I turned out to be an 18th century literature major at the University of Washington. But I think it was American lit that I really enjoyed the most with Dr. Cederstrom.
Extracurricular activities: Well, some of us who were town girls formed a basketball team and we were terrible! We were so bad, we were asked to leave the league or not show up anymore. I was a member of the Blue Barnacles, which always makes me laugh - the swim club. I never wanted to compete in anything. I always made an excuse so I wouldn’t have to compete. I unofficially beat the school backstroke record at practice, but I could never swim straight in the lines and I never wanted to compete. I have no claim to fame or anything; no medals, no cups.
Special memories of college days: I remember the last year that I was there with my friends in 1944 or 1945. A friend of ours had been given a car. She was the only one of our group who had a car. And of course, gas was rationed. The car had very plush upholstery, plus fancy pulls on the side that you could hold on to, like the kind I’ve seen in English movies where you ring for the butler or something, and vases, glass vases. It was an old car! We were so thrilled when Lou would take us in the car. I remember on VE day driving downtown in her car and shouting out the window that the war had ended. (Actually, the war didn’t end until two months later, but I can still remember how thrilled we were that it was finished in Europe).
Again as I’ve mentioned, there were so few students, 198 of us all together, 31 men. For dances, the sailors from Whidbey were imported to be our escorts. I remember one time they came up by bus, looked at us (we probably weren’t gorgeous looking) and took off for downtown. I can’t imagine this of myself now, although maybe my kids could. Two of us went downtown and just went in and out of all the restaurants and said to the sailors, “You’re here for this dance!” I can’t believe it! Going into The Horseshoe (the bar)! And they came back! That’s one of those things where you think, did I really do that? Yes, I did! I must have been obnoxious!
I remember the salmon barbeques out at Larrabee Park. I remember how special those were. I remember going out to the college cabin on Sinclair Island. That was wonderful. We could stay a week and never pay anything. We had Lakewood out at Lake Whatcom and we could go out there. But I think especially [when] there were about six or seven of us freshmen [who went] together and renting – not even renting, we just signed up – for the college cabin on Sinclair and out we went for a week of wonderful times. Walking and cooking and I think probably smoking. That was a big deal, you know. Can you inhale? Can you French inhale? Good lord! Nobody smokes in my group anymore, but we all had to try it as freshmen.
I remember one time at Sinclair Island, here came Dr. Hearsey, the head librarian. He was out there with his family. We’d always seen him so formally attired in his suit and necktie. He was in kind of old jeans and an old funny plaid shirt. He was rowing a boat. I don’t know why that has stayed with me. I’m sure there are some other things I could think back on, but those are real special. I enjoyed the small town. I enjoyed the small college. Those were precious.
TB: Could you talk a little more about the barbeque? I’ve seen pictures of them, but I’ve not really heard anything about it.
BAW: The barbeque was at Larrabee down on the rocks and it was a summer school thing. In Bellingham, I don’t know if they still use the motto -- Summer School: Where Summer’s Cool. I forget who was in charge. I don’t know if it was Dr. Bond who was in charge of it. It was a big thing. You got a great big… I don’t know how many salmon. There was a pit dug and the salmon was wrapped in -- I think it was seaweed -- and then buried with hot rocks on top and then cooked. It was wonderful. I remember Dr. Haggard being there. His daughter and I were good friends. I would sometimes stay at the President’s home, stay upstairs, second floor, with his daughter. I think about that closeness you had in a small school. But the barbeque was a wonderful thing; it was a summer tradition.
TB: Could you tell us a little bit more about what Dr. Haggard was like?
BAW: You know, I don’t think of him as an academic as much as almost a father figure. Of course, I knew his daughter and I stayed in his home. For me, there was a real closeness from him to the students, so I think of him more in that way. But Dr. Bond, it dawned on me later, what a great mind he had; he was famous for his mind. Dr. Haggard was just always to me, just like a father figure more than the president.
TB: Could you tell me a little more about Dr. Kangley, what she was like?
BAW: Dr. Kangley was wonderful. She was a matter-of-fact woman. I always think of her as being very matter-of-fact. I’m trying to think of which courses I’ve taken from her. The classes, for the most part, except for the first one, the first one was quite large, [were small]. As an English major, I talked a lot, I guess. I remember we used a book (I still have it here) which has a whole collection of writings from after World War I, between WWI and WWII. We had another book of English literature. We were supposed to read just a section of the Forsyth Saga. She said, “How many of you read the Forsyth Saga?” I thought she meant that little section, so I raised my hand. I hadn’t read the whole thing. She said, “Oh, good! Now Betty, tell us.” I couldn’t answer one question! I felt so embarrassed. Later, I said, “What was this?” Somebody said, “She wanted to know who had read the whole book.”
She just really stimulated me to read and read a lot of things, and to read with a questioning mind and with such enjoyment. As I say, I just remember her being a very matter-of-fact person; nothing flowery about her speech. She talked quite fast as I remember. I remember one time, I guess we were studying Elinor Wylie in a very, very small group; there must have been about only three or four of us in this class. I can remember this horrible pun I made about someone who was a writer who lived in the oil fields and I said, “Oh, that’s when he wrote gushy poetry.” She went, “Oh….” Things that stay with you for sixty some years, how corny can you get?
TB: Did you ever have Dr. Van Aver?
BAW: I can’t remember for sure. I think that I had Dr. Van Aver for one class in 1945.
TB: I heard a little bit about Campus Day. Did they have Campus Day when you were there?
BAW: I don’t remember that.
TB: [Anything else?]
BAW: I had Dr. Arntzen for Constitution and what else did I have him for? I had him for another class. Dr. Arntzen had a habit of saying, “By the way.” Of course, being bratty freshmen or whatever we were, we’d count how many times he would say “by the way.” I remember going to his home. It was for the Honor Society. We were supposed to have some kind of erudite discussion. I can’t remember anything that was said. It went over my head, that’s my main thing.
TB: Do you remember Dr. Arntzen using a timeline?
BAW: Gosh, I don’t.
I have a music minor. Dr. Boson, I took voice and sight-singing from him. My best friend and I forget how many of us, there were about nine, I guess we were a nonet. We sang madrigals and we sang for some programs. There was a fundraiser once that I remember in somebody’s beautiful garden that was close by the school. I took music appreciation from Dr. Bushell and I just dearly loved him. He had polio. Do you know Dr. Bushell? Don Bushell.
BAW: He was a cellist. He’d had polio, I suppose as a young person. In the old auditorium, the floor sloped. Dr. Bushell was so strong in the shoulders (he used crutches); he could hoist himself from the floor of the auditorium up onto the stage. He was so much fun. He had a delightful sense of humor. Things that he would tell us about the music! We were seated alphabetically, so I was ‘A’, way in the front, Anderson, on the left hand side, and my friend was ‘O’ back in kind of the middle. We would keep eye contact as he would say these things and we would just be roaring with laughter. I remember his telling about the Firebird. “This young fellow, oddly enough named Ivan, found her when she was busy.” He just threw these things out with just this dry sense of humor. I babysat for him and his wife for their two children. I can remember sometimes when I was walking up the hill to school he’d give me a ride. He was so funny. We’d pass a young woman and he’d say, “I don’t know who that is, I don’t recognize the legs.” He had an absolutely delightful sense of humor!
In order to pass this class, music appreciation, you had to listen on Sunday to the New York Symphony broadcasts or attend a concert and write your own reviews. Mine were probably pretty corny. Then, you had to listen to music and be able to list one hundred pieces, composers and the key in which they were written. You could listen to the music; of course they were on records. You could go up to the music room and put on the music and listen to it. My best friend and I would sing; we’d had to get mnemonic devices to remember the things. For Brahm’s First hers was “My Grandfather’s Clock.” We could sing In the Steppes of Central Asia, the two parts – Borodin.
Interestingly, when I taught school at Highline, I lived in Seattle, the Evangeline Residence for Young Women. It was Salvation Army run, very nice building -- room and board -- for young women. It was quite near a church. I saw an advertisement for Seattle Philharmonic and Choral Society. I went, and Dr. Bushell was the director, so I sang there for three years. My best friend and I sang with him. He was just wonderful. It was volunteer. You paid to play or sing with an orchestra he conducted and we sang Elijah, we sang, Dream of Gerontius, we sang all the classics with him. He certainly influenced my love of music.
I go crazy when I’m driving along in the car and I think, what is the name of that? I know what it is, but I can’t think of what it is! You did know a hundred things you could name at one time or another, thanks to him. I’m glad you asked about him because I adored him.
TB: Where was the music room at?
BAW: It was on the top floor, as I remember it, a big room, a very large room. It had a very big, old console. I don’t think we had any tapes. I just remember records. You could go and just play them and listen to them. They managed to survive all the students.
BAW: I took of course speech from Victor Hoppe. It was almost like My Fair Lady in that we learned how to pronounce the vowels. We had to learn the phonetic alphabet and so forth. We had to give impromptu speeches. One of the lessons I remember was you were supposed to tell a joke. We were in the room by ourselves and Mr. Hoppe was in the recording booth. One of the men told a joke that would be very tame by today’s standards but a little risqué for the time. At this point Mr. Hoppe came running out of the recording booth and asked, “What was that?” Evidently our loud hoots had made the whole needle jump off the recording machine.
Years later, after I began going to Ashland, Oregon, I found out that the Ashland Shakespeare Festival had a close connection with Mr. Hoppe. I bought the book, As I Remember, Adam, by Angus Bowmer, the man who founded the festival, and was thrilled to read about his having Mr. Hoppe as an instructor at Western (then called Bellingham Normal School). He called Mr. Hoppe a superior actor whose classes were the most exciting in the school. It’s fun to see pictures in Bowmer’s book of Mr. Hoppe in costume for the Normal School’s production of As You Like It.
Also, I’m glad I’m looking at the old year book because I see Miss Powers. I think she was the advisor of the women’s association. In 1944 I remember that we had a college show and each organization was supposed to put on a skit. I was in charge of the women’s skit, and I was very slow about getting anything put together. Miss Powers said to me, “Betty, I am really concerned.”
I got some of my friends together almost at the last minute and we sang, “They’re either too young or too old,” which was a World War II lament that all the good men were in the service and only boys or old men were left. We then had one of our men students (Kewpie Clement was a good sport) run across the stage. We women then jumped up, screamed, “A man!” and chased him off the stage. I don’t think Miss Powers was very happy with me because I don’t think she ever got to preview what we put together at the last second.
Another show that I remember was the All-College Revue in 1945. Again this used skits by school organizations. We nine members of the madrigal society took part in what was supposed to be an African-American picnic. And what did we do? Can you believe this? We sang (in black-face!!), “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.”
In fact, in the 1945 Klipsun you can see us in costume and black-face.
And the year before the freshman class sponsored a Minstrel Show for the college! Again, in black-face! My friends and I have asked one another, “Can you believe that?”
TB: What do you remember about Declan Baron? Did you know him very well?
BAW: He was an older man. I know him more as a personal friend of my neighbor who lived in Bellingham. He was very proper. It’s hard to think that, when I look at the picture of him as the Interlocutor in the Minstrel Show. That’s mostly what I remember about him, as being an older fellow. Of course, he was a senior and I guess I was a freshman then.
Nora B. Cummins I had for social sciences. Nora B., bless her heart, to a seventeen year old was the most boring teacher I’ve ever had in my life. We had to read the text, but then she had great big cards, they must have been about eight by six, she’d written out her notes, and she went through them and read each one. It was just painstakingly boring. I remember once when Alfred Clement (whom we called Kewpie) challenged her on some topic in a class. He was very bright, very informed, but only a freshman challenging something she had said. She looked at him and said, “Oh, you think you’re so snug!”
That sent my friend Jean and me into paroxysms. This is my best friend, so we will do that to each other when either of us says something pompous. We’ll say, “Oh, you think you’re so damn snug.” [Laughter] Forgive me, Nora B. But I have a lot of doodles in that history book because it was such a bore.
Mabel Zoe Wilson, I had her for a class, I think it was called “Books for Boys and Girls,” which we shortened to “Books for Bs and Gs.” It was taught in the library in a downstairs room. We had to read all kinds of books for children. Maybe Miss Wilson was thinking that we were all going to be librarians. But in hindsight I see that we really learned who were the best writers for young children. I think she lived in the same apartment as my friend Allene; it seems to me on Garden Street. I’d always say, ‘Gee whiz, you’re living with a celebrity! It was sort of fun to hear about her name being attached to the library.
Is Mr. Hearsey’s name attached anywhere to any of the things?
TB: He’s a major donor to the library and has big scholarship fund sponsored by him and his wife.
BAW: One of the first things I had to do was write an essay in a nine week course. I think I waited until about the seventh or eighth week to even get started and I went in to see [Mr.] Hearsey. And of course he would take you over to the card catalog. I just wanted him to point me to a book. It would take forever and I would just think, hurry up! The interesting thing is that I called that essay, “Black Music.” I did it on spirituals and five years ago I started leading a gospel choir. I thought, isn’t that interesting? I don’t know if that has anything to do with anything, but life comes full circle I guess.
TB: That’s great.