Citation for this article is: Record Group FS0000, Series 1 Mary Jo Bratton Papers, Sub-series 1 Oral History Tapes, Elizabeth Deal Oral History, March 17, 1983.
Elizabeth Deal was the daughter of Ralph C. Deal, professor of Foreign Languages & Literatures from 1923 to 1945. She graduated from ECTC in 1930. Ms. Deal taught school for about three years and then moved back to Greenville to work at the hospital. As a faculty daughter she was familiar with the second generation of faculty and administration of the college. In this oral history she talks about several faculty members and gives insights into the Leon Meadows trial.
Items not included here are details about the Ronald Slay, E.L. Henderson and Leon Meadows families and her work with the hospital.
In part three Miss Deal discusses student life, faculty housing and social life, athletics and summer school.
and Elizabeth Deal Oral History Part 2.
Deal: Well, I can't tell you a lot about Dr. Messick. But I'll tell you one thing. I think he was good with public relations. He did a whole lot for that. When he met people, he remembered them. That was one thing that I didn't notice about his successor.
Bratton: That's true.
Deal: Dr. Messick really had nice manners and he was just so good for the college. At that time I was more active in the alumni association than I am now. It was smaller. We all felt that he did a great deal for the college.
Bratton: I think the college really came back quickly. Of course, right after the war there was a big boom in student enrollment.
Deal: When I was in high school and college, Mrs. Wright always had faculty children to help serve when she entertained. If she had a reception she had us help. She was a lovely hostess. She would entertain the faculty or some of the townspeople. When the Messicks came, Mrs. Messick entertained the townspeople too, and often she would invite people like me who had no connection with the college at all. She would have a group of people in every now and then for tea in the afternoon or something. It meant a whole lot to us. She helped him a great deal I think, in that respect.
Bratton: He had a lot of friends in the town.
Deal: Yes, he did and she did too.
When they were first here, she had a big entertainment she had to do. I don't know what it was. We had lots of camellias where we lived at the other place and Mother sent her a big box of them. Mrs. Messick never forgot it as long as she lived. She would mention every now and then how much it had meant to her to have those camellias at that time. She was just a very thoughtful and kind person and a very gracious hostess.
Bratton: Being the wife of the president is a full-time job.
Deal: It really is and I think the current one is too.
Bratton: Yes. She is an excellent one.
Deal: I like Mrs. Howell a great deal.
Bratton: Wasn't Dr. Meadows wife on the faculty?
Deal: His second wife was.
Bratton: Well, his first wife was too.
Deal: I didn't know that. His second wife taught at Wahl-Coates. She taught sixth or seventh grade. It wasn't called Wahl-Coates then.
Bratton: Well, did they entertain a lot?
Deal: She entertained, but her background was not the same as Mrs. Wright's. She didn't entertain in the same manner. They didn't entertain as much as the Wrights or some of those who came later. I know they entertained the faculty and other things that they had to do. I think she was awfully nervous about it. My sister was the age of one of their girls, Elizabeth I think was near her age, and they would tell her that it wasn't nearly the pleasure that it had been with Mrs. Wright. It was a little tense. Mrs. Wright would come in and tell you what to do and then she was gone. You did it. I enjoyed helping and being associated with Mrs. Wright. I wasn't as closely associated with Mrs. Meadows, because I was working then. My sister was. She saw more of them. I really felt sorry for her. I don't think she knew anything about his business deals or any of those things. There was a great deal of sympathy for her and she didn't know it. She just blocked herself out from everybody after that.
Bratton: She did?
Deal: Yes. When she came back here to see about the property, nobody ever saw her unless they just happened to pass her on the street. It was sad, because she had many sympathizers. Nobody felt that she had anything to do with his problems. It was just real sad, I think.
Bratton: I imagine you children of the faculty had a nice group.
Deal: Well, we did, but there weren't many. There weren't as many my age when we came. There were so few and most of the them had smaller children. Now the younger children did have a group. My sister and brother did.
Bratton: I guess the Wright children were older.
Deal: Well, William wasn't. He was a little younger than I am, I think. The other children were all older. We saw them at the beach and we always thought a lot of all of them. Alma McGinnis and I were pretty good friends in college, but actually there were no others.
Bratton: There's Helen.
Deal: Yes. Alma doesn't live here. Helen still lives here. Alma was older. But the younger children did have a group, the Slay boys, my sister and brother, Louis Rebarker, and the Henderson children, all of those children. In the summers we used to go down to little Washington almost every Saturday and go swimming and take a picnic. There were the four people along there on our side of the street, and the Franks, if they wanted to go. They were part of the time living on our side of the street too. Mrs. Bloxton, who was in Home Economics, also went with us when she here in the summer. Everybody thought so much of her. Those who were teaching in the summer school and were interested would also go with us.
Bratton: Was that on the Pamlico?
Deal: Yes. There was a public landing, they called it, that was down there near Bayview. I'm not even sure exactly where it was, but there was a place down there that you could go swimming. It had a pier. It has been sold now and is private property. It was the nearest place that we could go. It was mainly those of us who lived on that road, those four houses, and Miss Bloxton. She was always included. She and Mrs. Slay and mother were always good friends. She was in our church and she and mother became real friendly.
Bratton: I saw a reference one time to a faculty club among the men. Was that a formal thing?
Deal: I don't know a thing about that.
Bratton: There was a little mention of it in the Teco Echo. They had a room over there in Austin basement. I imagine it was very informal.
Deal: I imagine so. It was probably just a place where they got together and talked.
Bratton: They had to increase the number of men on the faculty.
Deal: Another interesting thing that we had was our relationship with the book men who came. You know those book people always came around and sold the different ones. We enjoyed knowing a lot of them.
Bratton: The salesmen?
Deal: Yes. Of course, they all wanted their books used. In fact, the first year that I taught, one of them who had known Daddy came by and brought me some books. I was in a little tiny town and I know it wasn't convenient for him. He was just as nice as he could be. Daddy often brought them to lunch. Mother didn't ever care, so it worked out very well. We really enjoyed knowing a lot of those people.
Now, Daddy and M.L. Wright were in a group that used to fish. There were others in the group besides just school people. There were people like those book salesmen or representatives and superintendents of schools at other places. There were twelve of them who went down and fished every fall for years. They went down to Morehead and went deep-sea fishing. When they couldn't fish, they played cards.
Bratton: Were some of them the ones who got lost one time?
Deal: No, that was another group from here. Dr. Wooten, who was a surgeon; Gulledge, the librarian; and Dr. Hollar, I believe were the ones.
Bratton: There were a lot who went hunting too, weren't there?
Deal: Yes, some of them hunted. Now, Daddy never did hunt after he came here. He enjoyed fishing, but he never did hunt. I think Mr. Henderson did. I imagine any club they had over there was just informal. Just a group who met and talked.
Bratton: Were you in the Poes or the Laniers?
Deal: I was in the Poes.
Bratton: That was very active still when you were there?
Deal: Oh yes. The societies had their debates and it was a real big occasion.
Bratton: They gradually phased out as other groups took over their work.
Deal: The girls athletics were big then too. The classes played each other. I didn't play in any of them, but we went and watched the games. That was real exciting.
When we first came here we didn't have any holiday except one day at Thanksgiving and we stayed here. They had a game Thanksgiving Day, I think. We stayed here weekends all the time.
The summer schools were real interesting. They were small. They had free movies every week and watermelon feasts, as they called them, right there back of those houses. We saw a whole lot of those summer school students.
Bratton: A lot of them were teacher.
Deal: Most of them were.
Bratton: They were older.
Deal: At first they were all teachers, but later there were some who tried to finish school in three years and they would come every summer. But at first they were nearly all teachers that were coming back. In fact, some of them had started teaching after one year of college. They got what they called a C Certificate.
Bratton: Then they worked their way up.
Deal: In the annual there was an A class and a B class. What was that?
Bratton: I think when they first started the Teachers Training School they had two high school classes. They were phasing that out when you came. I think 1923 and 1924 were the last years of those classes.
Deal: We were looking at that and we couldn't understand what they meant by A and B.
Bratton: They didn't use Freshman and so on, they used A, B, C and D. The two college classes were C and D. The high school classes were A and B. When they went to the four-year college they phased out the high school.
Miss Morton was here as dean. Mrs. Beckwith was here when you came. What was your impression of her?
Deal: Well, she was a real aristocratic type lady. She wanted all the girls to be that way. If they made the least bit of noise in the dining room, she'd say, "Now girls, don't do that." She went well with Dr. Robert Wright too. They were "old school" people. We thought a lot of Mrs. Beckwith. The students respected her.
Bratton: How would you compare Miss Morton with Mrs. Beckwith?
Deal: I thought a lot of Miss Morton too. She was younger and the college was a lot larger. It began to grow when she was here. But she had a whole lot of the same ideas that Mrs. Beckwith had about the standards that the girls should keep.
Bratton: I got the feeling that Mrs. Beckwith gave sort of a finishing school touch to the girls.
Deal: Yes. Miss Morton was really more away from that. But I think that tradition was good especially when the college was small. Some of those girls had come from real lowly backgrounds and it didn't hurt them to have that little finish that Mrs. Beckwith tried to give them. I don't think that Miss Morton was as much into that as Miss Beckwith, because by that time the college was a good bit larger.
Bratton: I bet she had difficulty just in keeping order since there were so many more students.
Deal: She had very good matrons for the dormitory. She was very selective. I think Ruth White was too.
Bratton: She was an assistant to Miss Morton?
Deal: Yes. Elizabeth Smith was the first assistant to Miss Morton and then she left to get married. She was the first one that I knew. She finished in the Class of 1928. She was Miss Morton's assistant and when she left Ruth White came as her assistant. I don't think there was anyone in between, but there may have been. As I recall, Ruth came then. I think Ruth came sometime in the mid-thirties, because I was working in Roanoke Rapids in the spring of 1935 and she was teaching there then. She came here shortly after that.
Bratton: She came to school here too.
Deal: Yes. She graduated in the two year class in 1925. Whether she ever came back and got her degree I don't know. But I know she finished the normal course, as they called it, in 1925.
Bratton: Then she started working here.
Deal: She started working here in the thirties and continued working until she retired. She was there when Dr. Messick came. I can't remember when Miss Morton left.
Bratton: She left in 1951 I believe. She wanted to round out twenty-five years and she came in 1926.
Deal: After she retired my sister and I used to go see her when we were at Morehead City. She was real interesting. I used to hear from her too, once in a while. She was very well respected. Ruth was, too. I think they have always had good Deans of Women.
Bratton: We've really had just four Deans of Women. Of course, now they don't call them that.
Deal: I know. They have to have new names. It is just like the dormitory matrons who were renamed counselors and now are called administrators or something like that.
Bratton: Did they have a May Day when you were in school?
Deal: Oh yes. It was a great thing with May poles and everything.
Bratton: That phased out later.
Deal: Yes. They had it the whole time I was in school. I think the only way you'd be able to find anything out about that would be through the annuals or papers. They would have pictures of the May Queen.
Bratton: I've read all the papers and I can't tell. One annual didn't have it. Usually they were so late in the year that they would be in the next fall's issue or the next year's annual, so I wasn't sure when it ended.
Deal: I think when athletics became more prominent, those things just kind of died out.
Bratton: That's probably right. They phased that out and athletics in.
Deal: The fraternities and sororities were doing things too. I think all those things just changed the interest in that. We enjoyed those May Day performances.
Bratton: Where did they have them?
Deal: They had them in front of Austin.
Bratton: That's a pretty part there. That's something that Mr. M.L. Wright did, didn't he?
Deal: Yes. Mr. M.L. Wright did a lot of the decorating and planting on campus. I think he did it when he first came and was Dean. What was his title?
Bratton: They said it was Executive Secretary. There was a note about the position in the Board of Trustees minutes. It said that Dr. Wright explained that he didn't want a dean, but wanted somebody to help with the administration.
Deal: That's when he planted all those camellias or saw that they got planted. They are all over the campus and he should get credit for that. He did a great deal of work. Dr. Robert Wright would not let them cut down a tree if he could help it. He was just sold on keeping the trees. I know he would have had a fit about those they had to cut down on Fifth Street. Of course, they were diseased, I'm sure they had to. He wanted them to build where they wouldn't have to bother the trees if they could.
Bratton: Was there a lake when you were there?
Deal: Yes. I think that our class, if I'm not mistaken, gave some money for that. I'm not sure.
Bratton: Is it the Class of 1930?
Bratton: I believe you did.
Deal: We were talking about that not long ago, because they are talking about putting a building there and we didn't like that. That arboretum is named for Miss Davis, the Davis Arboretum. They had a little lake there, but it kept draining and it got murky and had a lot of growth in it. I don't know whether it was good place for a lake. But at times they had a sunrise Easter service over there up on the eastern side of that lake. That's all behind Rawl Building. Now, they did not have the lake there when they had that sunrise service. I think that was already gone. But they used to have a little bridge there. I haven't been down there lately. I don't know whether all of that stuff is gone or not.
Bratton: It is all gone.
Deal: They had a pretty little bridge there with a little railing on it. I had some pictures one time that were taken over on that bridge.
Bratton: There are some pictures in the annual taken in 1935 or 1936.
Deal: That was about the same time. But it was beautifully planted around there. I was sure our class gave some of that.
Deal: I don't think it was a very good place for a lake anyway.
Bratton: I think when they put in Tenth Street they drained it. Tenth Street wasn't there at all when you were there was it?
Deal: No, Tenth Street wasn't there. We used to walk through the campus and on over to where the Blounts lived on Rock Springs. There is a spring there. People used to picnic over there. It was right back of a farm and belonged, I guess, to those farm people, but we used to walk over there anyway.
Bratton: It was sort of out in the country wasn't it?
Deal: Yes. There was nothing out that way. We used to be able to find trailing arbutus in the spring. I don't know whether you are familiar with that little plant or not. It grows up right next to the trees and blooms this time of year or maybe a little earlier. You can just pull the pine straw or leaves away and here are these sweet smelling little blooms.
Bratton: So you grew up right on the edge of the campus?
Deal: I was in high school when I came here. The other children weren't. My sister was just a baby and my younger brother was little too. They grew up here. In fact they grew up in that college house, because we lived there nineteen years.
Bratton: Were they duplexes?
Deal: No. They made some of them so that they had an apartment upstairs, but they were just single family houses.
Bratton: When I came to town, I was hoping to get one and didn't. They said there was a possibility, because they still had them in 1967. It was my impression that they were duplexes by then.
Deal: No. They did make two of them that way. I don't know what they did with the first one. The one that we were in the Brownings lived in after we did and then the Jorgensens, I think. Then they used that for an office building. It partially burned and they stopped using it for anything. But the first one from town stayed a single family house and then they made the others into duplexes. They put outside staircases, I think. I believe that's right. I know they did to one of them.
When Dr. Wright had those houses built for the faculty, he wanted them built so you could entertain. They were ideal for entertaining but they weren't always ideal for living. All the downstairs opened together. They were inconvenient houses, because they were designed by an architect who designed school buildings and they weren't well heated. He put these Arcola systems in that were for smaller houses. It was a coal unit, but it didn't hold enough coal to heat. It was a hot water system, but it was never sufficient. We had to have fires in the fireplaces all the time in the winter. They didn't have back staircases. When Dr. Wright noticed that he made them put one up. It was right against the wall in the kitchen. It came up and met the front one, so it wasn't really private then all the way up. But it was nice and roomy and we enjoyed it. It was "airish!"
Bratton: That was my impression when I looked at it. I thought it would be something to heat.
Deal: That's right. I don't know whether they replaced those heating systems or not. They did fix one of them so that it worked better, but they were not sufficient. You could put two scuttles of coal in this heater. It was in the kitchen too. It was suppose to heat that water and it just didn't heat it sufficiently for a big house like that. They were built pretty well, but it was just that they were so open and had so many windows.
Bratton: He liked the idea of the faculty entertaining?
Deal: Yes. He had hoped they would live there just two or three years and then let somebody else move in. But most of the new people who came didn't want to live in them because they were too big.
Bratton: I guess that later it was easier to get houses.
Deal: It was easier to get houses and they didn't want those big houses. We could have stayed there right on, I reckon until Daddy retired. They rented them to us. But Mother sold some property and had an opportunity to buy this Austin house, which had been vacant for three years.
Bratton: Tell me about Mr. Austin. He was here until 1928 or 1929. He died in 1929.
Deal: Yes, I was still in college when he died. They were very genteel people. Mrs. Austin was one of those who enjoyed entertaining the faculty. She really liked to do that. I can't remember a whole lot about him. We always thought a lot of him. We were neighbors and friends. He was not real active for a while, because he had something like Parkinson's Disease. I don't know what it was. I don't think that was it. What do they call creeping paralysis? Is it multiple sclerosis? That's what they said he had. I believe it was multiple sclerosis. He was unsteady.
Bratton: I got the impression that he was sick for a while.
Deal: He was. He got so he was dizzy and then real unsteady on his feet. He was a good teacher. He taught geography. She had cancer and was sick for about three years. She was in and out of the hospital. That was when I was working in the hospital.
Bratton: So you didn't teach school?
Deal: I taught three years. Then I took a business course. Back during the Depression, in order to keep those vocational subjects, they had to give adult classes and they taught business here at the high school at 7:30 in the morning.
Bratton: Oh, this was at the high school?
Deal: Yes. They didn't have any business at the college then. That was not until much later. They had a good class down there. He gave us two years of shorthand in one year. The typing we could do at home and the bookkeeping we just had to pick up. We did go to the high school classes if we wanted to and I went part of the time to that. I worked off and on. One place I worked was for Mrs. Spilman when she was running for the State Senate.
Bratton: You were her substitute?
Deal: Yes. They told her that it was all right for her to run, but if she was out she would have to get a substitute. Of course, I had known Mrs. Spilman, so she asked me if I would be willing to work. I was delighted and I loved it.
Bratton: Was this when she was working at the college?
Bratton: As assistant treasurer?
Deal: Yes, she was assistant to Mr. Spilman. He and I just got along fine and I enjoyed working for him so much that I was hoping that they would offer me a permanent job. But they said they couldn't do that because at that time they couldn't give you one if any of your family was on the faculty Of course, they both worked there, but I could understand that.
Bratton: So you worked for the college for a while?
Deal: Actually, I was working for Mrs. Spilman. I didn't work for the college, she paid me.
Bratton: She paid you while she was out politicking?
Deal: But I really enjoyed it. I like business work anyway, I should have done that. If they had had a business course at the college, I would have done that rather than teach. I don't think I was a very good teacher. I worked at it. I worked hard at it, but I really didn't enjoy it.
Bratton: Where did you practice teach?
Deal: In Greenville High School. All of us did it here. There wasn't that many of us that we couldn't all do it at Greenville High School. I taught my two classes, French and English at the same time. I went down the first day of school to see what they did, so I was more prepared than a lot of other teachers that went out that first year. My critic teacher was good, I thought, but she was of the old school, too. I don't know, maybe we did just as well as they do now. They learned to spell better. I worked with girls who were college graduates and they couldn't spell anything.
Bratton: You've spent almost all of your adult life in Greenville.
Deal: All but three or four years.