Citation for this article is: Record Group FS0000, Series 1 Mary Jo Bratton Papers, Sub-series 1 Oral History Tapes, Elizabeth Evans Savage Oral History, December 9, 1981.
Elizabeth Evans Savage was a 1918 graduate of ECTTS. She went on to work in the Model School and Greenville schools after graduation. Eventually she returned to ECTC and earned two additional degrees. Excerpts from her oral history are presented below and include her experiences as a student; a teacher in the Model School and Wahl-Coates; the bond issue election of 1907; campus garden; and faculty members.
Other topics not included here include biographical information regarding several Greenville citizens (Junius Rose, Redditts family, Leon Meadows; Louise Goggin and the Savage family); the administration of Thomas Brewer; Mrs. Savage's bid for Greenville mayor at age 80; and her thoughts on modern education techniques. The entire oral history is available to researchers in the Special Collections Research Room.
EES: I listened to Mr. George Woodward and Mr. [Haywood] Dail. They were two of the people who counted the votes when they were voting to see whether or not Greenville would get the school or not. I've heard them tell a many a time that if they came across a "no vote," they ate it. Whether that was true or not, I can't swear.
MB: That was George Woodward?
EES: George Woodward
MB: I've heard of Haywood Dail.
EES: They were the two who counted the votes.
MB: I don't know. I've heard the story.
EES: I've heard him tell it. He was a good friend of ours. He told me that himself many times.
MB: Was that in, you know they had two elections? One was for the city bond issue, which was for $50,000 and then they had a county, which was $50,000. Greenville voted in both elections. I have never been able to determine whether the story was about the county or . . .
EES: I think it was about both of them. They were both prominent in politics at that time.
MB: The problem with that, it makes such a good story, but I've also noted in the paper and I've checked with several attorneys, Judge Dink James and several others. They printed the rules of this bond election and it said for this special election, the way the rules for that election were mandated, that a majority of the registered voters had to approve it. You had to register especially for this election.
EES: Yes. You always have to have a special registration for a bond issue.
MB: It had to be a majority of the registered voters approving it. So the problem with eating the votes is that it wouldn't have had any effect on the outcome.
EES: Well, I don't know, but he would tell it and laugh. They bragged about it, that they were the ones who got East Carolina to Greenville.
MB: Let me ask you this. When did they start bragging about it? Can you remember? Was it as a child that you heard this?
EES: No, I never was here as a child. I came here to college. I graduated in June 1918 and came back in September 1918 and started teaching. I've never taught anywhere but Greenville. I taught here fifty-two years. The first year I taught school here in Greenville, I taught Charles Woodward, Mr. George's only son. He and Mrs. Woodward were good friends of mine from the time I came to Greenville. That wasn't but about ten years after the election that he was telling that story.
MB: That is what I was curious about, as to when they started that. So they were telling you that when you came to town.
EES: They were telling that by the time the college got started out there.
MB: There is an article during the Fiftieth Anniversary. Haywood Dail was still living in 1958 and there was an interview. He seemed like a very interesting figure in town. That's what I was wondering, how far back this story went.
EES: It goes back to the beginning. By the time they were all counted and it was settled that the school was coming to Greenville, they started bragging that they had eaten the "no votes," or at least chewed them up.
MB: Well, tell me about you. Where were you born and raised?
EES: I was raised down in Roland on the South Carolina line. My father's people were Canadians. Daddy came to North Carolina. I asked him many times why he chose North Carolina. He said, "Because it has the best climate of any state." I used to say, "Why didn't you go to Florida or California, One of the glamorous states?" The longer I live, the more I know he was right.
I came up here in 1916 to East Carolina Teachers Training School. I had been accepted at Greensboro at the State Normal, which is now a university, you know. But I decided that I would rather come here, because I was planning to study medicine. In that day, they frowned on lady doctors, you know.
MB: Your father was a doctor?
EES: Yes. He taught surgery at the Medical College in Virginia and then he gave that up and became a general practitioner in Robeson County. He said, "Well, you go on up there and then teach school for two or three years until your brother is ready to go to Medical College too, and you all can go together." That was why I came to Greenville.
I came in 1916. I had finished high school that year. That year they were having trouble with the Model School. It was built on a stand, you know, and they were having to remodel it. So they were doing their practice teaching. I mean they had the four teachers: Miss [Miriam] MacFadyen, Miss Whiteside, Miss Morris and Miss, oh what was the other one named? Anyway we only had four teachers. They were all over at Evans Street School that year.
MB: Now where was the Evans Street School?
EES: Where Sheppard Memorial Library is.
MB: Oh, yes. I guess they called it the Graded School.
EES: Anyway, we did our practice teaching there. Then we had to do our practice teaching in two grades: first and third, and second and fourth. Well, I chose first and third. That was Miss MacFadyen in first grade and Miss Whiteside in the third grade. They were both excellent teachers, they really were. I did my practice teaching at Evans Street School.
I was a small town girl, so I put in my application to the little towns around. I wasn't getting a job very fast. I had been offered a job in Greensboro, paying fifty-five dollars a month and I had been offered a job in Atlanta. My third grade teacher's sister was supervisor of schools in Atlanta at that time and she would have been glad to have had me, you know. But they didn't pay much either. It was too far from home and they are both big cities. Being a small town girl, I turned them down. Then I got a telegram saying, "Would you accept second grade at Evans Street School at seventy dollars a month?" I wired back, "Yes." I knew Greenville. I wasn't afraid of Greenville.
MB: That was interesting that we were paying more than Greensboro.
EES: Yes, we were.
MB: Did that make you a critic teacher?
EES: Well, I was not a critic teacher when I came back. I taught second grade that first year and the second year, and then moved up to the third grade. Then I was made principal of the school my fourth year. Miss Lida Taylor was principal when I went there, but she left to go back to Columbia to get another degree. I was made principal of the school. It was the big elementary school. It had everything through the seventh grade. Then the eight through the eleventh grades were over on Fifth Street.
MB: Where the old high school was?
EES: Yes. That was the high school then. Of course, they had three different ones, they burned. The eighth through the twelfth grades were there. The first through the seventh were at Evans Street. They had six grades at the old Model School, which by that time they had rebuilt and had added a second floor. In 1928, that was ten years, you see, I was moved from Evans Street out to Wahl-Coates.
But I had been a critic teacher there at Evans Street School. Christine Johnson and I were given student teachers at Evans Street School about 1924 or 1925, somewhere along there, because we were getting so many students at the college that we kind of had to. Then in 1928, I moved out to Wahl-Coates and Louise Goggin took over as principal at Evans Street. At Wahl-Coates we had Annie Redwine in the first grade and Ruth Faison was first grade, Lucy Nulton was second grade and Christine was second grade. I had third grade. Alma Browning had fourth grade. Miss Rainwater had fifth grade and Miss [Frances] Wahl had sixth grade. There were just eight rooms, four downstairs, four upstairs. They were in that middle section there. We didn't have any auditorium or anything like that. Eunice McGee also had third grade.
MB: Did the old school over on Cotanche, did it, did they have more trouble with the land or was it just not large enough?
EES: No, they had trouble with it. You see, the dormitory now is built on piles put down as deep as a telephone pole. But the old Model School was not built on piles.
MB: Was the Model School in about the same place that the dormitory is now? [Clement?]
MB: I was wondering.
EES: You know where the big white house is there on the corner?
MB: Yes, whose house is that?
EES: That's the Redditts. It belongs to the university now, but that is where Nina Harris Redditt lived. It belonged to her father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Harris. Then there was a vacant lot and then the old Model School.
Getting back to the college and Wahl-Coates. See, they built just the eight rooms to begin with. Then they added the wing over on the other side, and then the wing over here where the theatre is. That made it into an "H."
MB: It certainly does look nice now.
EES: When I came here, there was no paved street. It was a dirt street, but we had a boardwalk from Five Points out to the college, a board sidewalk. We called it the "boardwalk." If you'd drive out about where old Wahl-Coates is now there was a gate across the highway so the cattle wouldn't come in. If you were riding out that way, there was always a child out there ready to open the gate for you. We'd toss him a nickel and ride on through and then they would close the gate behind you. Out on the railroads they had things like this to keep the cattle from going on the railroads, too.
There were only six buildings: old East, old West, I don't know what the names of them are now. I think Jarvis is one of them.
MB: Jarvis and Wilson.
EES: That's right. Those two with old Austin Building in the middle. In the back, there was the infirmary which they changed one time to the Mamie E. Jenkins Building. I don't know if it is still called that or not.
EES: There was the dining hall and the power plant. That is all there was to the college when I came.
MB: The rest was fields and forests.
EES: Fields and woods, yes. We had a garden down there. It was not as far away as Wahl-Coates was from Jarvis, but back in there we had. Dr. [Herbert] Austin, who was a science teacher and I guess taught everything about nature, was the supervisor of our work in the gardens. I remember very well that we never got enough strawberries to go around. If we had to pick them, the faculty got the strawberries, so we at them while we were picking them. I don't know if you can remember when Nabisco Wafers came in little tin boxes about so big and square and about that deep. Those were the best Nabisco Wafers in the world. I used to take one of those little tin boxes down to the patch to put mine in and bring them home.
MB: Was that some rule that the faculty got them or was that . . . ?
EES: I don't know whether there was a rule or not, but they got them. They'd pass a note around in the dining hall "If you all would pick the berries and bring them up, everybody would have some."
MB: Was the garden used as a . . . ?
EES: It was a teaching device.
MB: That's what I was wondering. There were so many people in rural schools then, and they were teaching basic agriculture. It wasn't like a victory garden during World War I?
EES: Oh, no. Each girl had a garden about ten feet square. We had to tend that particular garden.
MB: Did you all get to eat the other things or was that for the school too?
EES: I don't know. I don't remember eating anything but the strawberries.
MB: That was your favorite!
EES: We didn't have but about three hundred students there at the time. I think there were fifty-four in my graduating class.
MB: You graduated in 1918?
EES: Yes. It was coeducational from the beginning, but we never had very many boys. I just saw an article in the paper the other day about Henry Oglesby.
But, now, oh what was his name? We called him "Sister." He came back and taught. He was a Ph.D. over there at the college. He taught there and he was very active in the Salvation Army. As well as I know him and I have known him for years and years. I'm so very fond of him that I can't even remember his name now.
MB: Was he there when you were there?
MB: But he wasn't a . . .? I think when they were talking about Henry Oglesby . . .
EES: He was not in the dormitory or anything.
MB: He didn't graduate from the four-year program?
EES: I guess he did graduate from four years, but not, we didn't have four years then, we only had two.
MB: Yes, you got that later. Maybe your file will turn up the name in a minute.
EES: Over in Jarvis, that's where I roomed. Room 183, right over the porch. Down that hall, upstairs, there was a door that divided it and on the other side of the door the faculty rooms were in that same dormitory. Dr. [Leon] Meadows used to send roses to one of the teachers and she would keep them out in the hall in a big dishpan. We'd see such beautiful roses.
MB: Is that the one he married?
EES: No, it wasn't. It was Miss Hill, the music teacher.
MB: Didn't he marry her?
EES: Yes, he married her first. Then he married Miss Louise Goggin. Louise was teaching here along with me. She had seventh grade. Miss Hill was in the music department when we were there. Then Mr. Meadows had to go to war, you know.
MB: Yes. He was gone in 1917 and then he went away again and got his degree in the late twenties.
EES: Dr. [Robert] Wright started the first class over and above the two-year normal school in 1921. There were just six of us in that class that summer. Gladys Womble was one. She died about a year ago. Johnnie Grey Currin was one, a Miss Elms was one, and I can't remember the other two. But there were just six of us. Miss Cassie Lee Spencer from Alamogordo, New Mexico taught all the classes.
MB: On that subject?
EES: All the classes over and above the two-year course that summer. I was in the first class that started the A.B. work over there.
MB: Did you work on that during the summer?
EES: That was the summer of 1921.
MB: Did you go back to school?
EES: No, I didn't go back. I just did it all in extension work at night or in the summer. I didn't get my A.B. until 1928 because I did it either in the summertime or at night classes.
MB: They had the schedule arranged so that it was feasible for teachers to . . ?
EES: Yes. See, we were working in quarters then, not semesters. Then in, I'm not sure what year it was, they started the M.A. and I got that in 1933. I was in the first class to start on the M.A. I was the first person to ever graduate over there three times.
MB: Really? There was another person that I've heard . . .
EES: Deanie Boone Haskett and Mrs. Roberson were the other two that got masters degrees. We were the three first ones.
MB: There was somebody else who graduated, I guess she got her masters from Greensboro and then came back.
EES: Oh, we had a lot of them that came back. Because I had one person that graduated with me in 1918 that came back and did student teaching with me later. I guess she was working on her A.B. degree. I had a lot of them like that, that had finished the two-year course and then came back and got their A.B.s or the B.S.s. At first they weren't giving anything but A.B.s.
MB: It was A.B. until 1947 I believe.
EES: Then, when I got my masters, it was in psychology and math.
MB: You met your husband [Lindsey] while you were teaching here?
EES: Yes. I never met him while I was in college. I never met him until I came back to teach.
MB: You didn't have much chance, did you, to meet [boys]?
EES: When we were in college, we couldn't go downtown without permission. We had to wear our hat and our gloves, and we either had to have a senior or a faculty member with us.
MB: Just to go downtown?
MB: It was run in a way, though a professional teaching school, like a finishing school for young ladies.
EES: Yes, like a boarding school. Mrs. [Kate] Beckwith was very, very strict. Mrs. Beckwith said that her husband never saw her feet. We wondered about it. We never believed it.
MB: He died, didn't he? Right before?
EES: I don't know. I never saw him. All I ever knew about were her and her daughter.
MB: Well, I've never seen any reference to him. I was just wondering.
EES: I've never heard anything except the things that she said.
I wrote home. See, I was just sixteen and I had never been away from home except to my grandmother's or places like that. I was so homesick. I was so in love anyway and I had to leave my boyfriend and everything. I wrote home and told my daddy that I hated everything from the walk to Mrs. Beckwith. He wrote back and said, "You keep a still upper lip and tough it out." When we came in September, we stayed until Christmas. When we came back after Christmas, we stayed until June.
MB: Well, you got so much more involved in campus, didn't you?
EES: Well, you knew everybody. There weren't many to know. They had the last two years of high school and two years of college.
MB: You came in the first year of college?
EES: Yes. I was here just two years for that. But you know what, I'm glad I came. It has meant a great deal to me.
MB: I understand it was a very good place to get an education.
EES: Well, at the time we began to expand so, we were third in the nation in teacher training, you know.
MB: In size?
EES: No, in quality. There was one in Texas. I believe it was Denton, Texas. The other one was in Oklahoma. They ranked above us. Then they began to expand and go into all of these different arts and sciences and stuff and get away from education. So, we downgrade. But Dr. Wright saw the need for a school to train teachers. Before that, if a teacher got through high school and the high school was not qualified, I mean it was not accredited, she could go to a teachers' institute in the summertime, which was about six weeks, and be qualified to teach. I know my Aunt May did that. Aunt May taught all of her life, but she didn't have a college degree, because when she started teaching all she had to do was go to a teacher's institute. Then she began to teach at the teacher's institute. She was an excellent teacher. Then we began to get a better idea about what education should be. I'll tell you frankly that back in 1916 and 1918 and along in there, the children got a darn sight better education than they are getting today.
MB: I believe you. Just as the teacher-education concept was taking off, East Carolina was really in the vanguard of this teacher-education program, a really modern program.
EES: We were. Back in 1926, 1927 and 1928 we were going through what was called at that time progressive education. That was the case where the children learned in spite of the teacher. Everything was based around one big subject matter. Usually in the fall I would take Indians until Thanksgiving. Then I would have time. We'd start back to the most primitive ways of telling time right on up to now. Everything would be more or less based on that. I wrote up those things from the state department that they put in their manuals that they sent out for the teachers. That was very good, but it got to the place where the children were doing more or less what they pleased. You cannot teach without order. You cannot teach without organization. So, Mr. Rose said, "Let's get back to some good old-fashioned teaching." And we did about 1932. We settled down to some good old-fashioned teaching again, you know. It was a whole lot better.
MB: Tell me about Dr. Wright.
EES: Dr. Wright was president of the college, but he knew every person as an individual. He was a personal friend to every girl over there. I think he loved every one of us. I know we loved him. You see, we didn't have a big faculty then. When I came here Dr. Wright was president. There was Dr. Meadows, he wasn't a doctor then, he was Mr. Meadows. Dr. [Claude] Wilson was here and he was a dear. He taught pedagogy and psychology. His favorite little speech I learned from him has been my philosophy all my life and it is a good one. It was:
That was his philosophy and that's what he taught us. It has been mine all my life. It's a very true thing too. Well, as I said, there was Dr. Wright, Dr. Wilson, Mr. Austin, and Mr. Meadows. Then there was Miss Maria Graham, Miss Sally Joyner Davis who was in history, and Miss Mamie Jenkins who was English. We had a science teacher and I can see her just as plain as day, but I cannot remember her name. It seems like her name was Ziegler or something like that. I can't remember. I've tried and tried to think of her name. I know who came after her.
MB: Was Miss McKinney there when you were there? Birdie McKinney?
EES: No, she came later. But Nellie Maupin in education came there while I was there. Mary Bertolet Smith, Mrs. Guy Smith, came in music. There was Miss Meade in music and Miss Kuykendall.
MB: Was she there?
EES: She came later.
MB: Was Miss Muffly there?
EES: Oh, May R.B.! Oh yes!
MB: Tell me about her. I've read so much about her.
EES: She's the only big, tall, red-head I ever saw that was cute. Honey, she was rough. She was a bird in this world. She and the science teacher were buddies. When the science teacher would take us out on bird walks at five o'clock in the morning, Miss Muffly always went too. She was in public school music.
MB: It looks like she was very active. You all had a lot of programs and plays.
EES: Oh, yes.
MB: All sorts of activities.
EES: We had plays all the time. I played in As You Like It and we had Ingamar and we had all kinds of good things.
MB: That was . . ?
EES: No boys, of course, the girls had to play the boys' parts.
MB: It took a tremendous, I mean it contributed so much to the school, didn't it? This involvement?
EES: Well, we didn't have any sororities or fraternities then. We had two societies: Lanier and Poe. I was a Poe. At Halloween we always had a carnival and that's when the rivalry between the two societies really paid off. We played pranks on each other.
MB: You say Miss Muffly was very tall and red-haired?
EES: She had a fiery temper.
MB: Did she sing or did she play or both?
EES: She did not sing. She played and she made everybody else sing. She could get it out of them.
MB: She was a good director? I noticed that she directed the Mikado and some other plays and light operas.
EES: Miss Muffly could do anything. She was a dandy. We had such good visiting artists to come to the college too, while I was there.
MB: It looks like it. Then these schools became a sort of community center for the community. Tell me something. Did you ever hear a reference to something called the coffin? It had to do with . . . I think it was in the twenties. I've read about it in the school paper as well as in the Training School Quarterly. It said that they got so many demerits and they were placed in the coffin. I was wondering if it was a bulletin board or . . . ?
EES: I don't know. I've never heard of the coffin.
MB: I had never heard any reference.
EES: That was well after my day.
MB: I think maybe it was in the twenties in the dormitories.
EES: I was there, but I wasn't in the dormitory. See, I got married in 1921. I was there that summer in summer school and I got married that December. We've been married sixty years this December. I lived just a block off the campus. When we first married we had an apartment just one block down on Jarvis Street. On the corner of Fourth and Jarvis. Then we built on the corner of Fourth and Rotary. I lived there for the next twenty-six years. It was just a block from Wahl-Coates, really two blocks, one block to Fifth and one block down. I walked back and forth to school at night by myself and never thought anything about it. I went to all the dances. I was usually a chaperone at the dances. But now, you couldn't do that.
MB: One of the things that I identify with him [M.L. Wright] is the work with the grounds.
EES: Oh, he was excellent when it came to landscaping and things of that kind. He was great. I never will forget one summer that we took, I think, fifty-two students with us. We would leave here and the first night we would spend at Natural Bridge, Virginia. Then we would go on the next day to Philadelphia and we would stay there a couple of days and a night. And then on into New York City and we should stay there for a week or more. We would then go back to Washington, D.C. and stay there for several days. It was usually a three-week trip. Then we'd come back to the campus. We had classes on campus before we left. They were getting credit for sociology and government. I was teaching sociology and he was teaching government.
When we got to New York I always took then down to Welfare Island to the Children's Hospital, the the Henry Street Mission, usually down to City Hall, out to the Cloisters and to the Statue of Liberty. Anything we thought would be interesting.
I had them there that summer and we were at City Hall. Out in front of City Hall is this statue, it's called Civic Government or Civic Minded or something, and it looks like a man with his foot on a lady's neck. This mountain sprout, I don't know her name, we always called her Mountain Sprout, but she was from up in western North Carolina, said "Is that the Statue of Liberty?" Some man standing there said, "What's this, a convention of farm women?" I've never forgotten that. I had a good time.
MB: This is the Rick's Tours?
MB: Did you go as one of the instructors and I guess, as one of the chaperones too?
MB: You said Mr. Wright went. Did Dr. Meadows go?
EES: Dr. Meadows never went.
MB: He didn't go on the trips, he just organized them?
EES: Yes. Sometimes Paul [Ricks] went, but most of the time I went. M.L. never went, I don't think, except that one summer. I went summer after summer. The two bus drivers, Ray Lewis and Tommy Adams, knew the routine and they could take care of a lot of the business part of it.
MB: When you were at Wahl-Coates School, you were on the faculty of at East Carolina as a critic teacher?
EES: I was in the education department. Dr. Henderson was head of it for a while. Then Dr., oh, what was his name? He was a short, fat guy, then Dr. Carter and then Doug. He lived right out in front of the college in a white two story house.
EES: No, not Dr. Haynes. Oh, he was a little short fellow. Dr. Hollar. I had to think about the boy, his son, that shot himself, Bobby Hollar. Then I could remember his last name.
MB: Was that?
EES: Dr. Oppelt was another one that was in there, too.
MB: There was a Mr. Hollar in the history department. Is that a different one?
EES: That's the one.
MB: Was that the one?
EES: Yes. I was thinking he was the head of the education department, but he wasn't. It was Dr. Oppelt who was head of the education department.
MB: And Hollar was in history. And his son shot himself?
EES: Well, he was climbing the fence. He was hunting. He climbed a fence and his gun went off.
MB: That's terrible.
EES: See our faculty was not so large then and everybody knew everybody else and we worked together. We'd have our parties at New Years and everybody, all the different departments, was there. Now, there are so many out there that you don't know anybody.