Interview with: Celeste Hatcher (CH)

Date of Interview: October 28, 1988
Place:  Savannah, GA
Interviewer: Robert V. Williams (RW)
Transcriber: S.Bells, D. Dedmont
Permission to Use Restrictions

RW: Ms. Hatcher as I said, if we could just start at the beginning, I have a little bit of biographical information on you and you'll have to fill in the gaps as we go along. How about telling us... I have here that you were born November 11, 1905 in Graniteville, SC.

CH: Yes.

RW: So that's correct then. How about telling me a little bit about your parents, where you grew up, where you went to early school.

CH: I grew up in Graniteville, SC. That's about three miles from Aiken -- south of Aiken. And my mother... my father's name was John Hatcher and my mother's name was Adella Mae Hatcher. We lived there until my parents -- and her family lived there -- until my parents died, both father and mother... four years apart. We had eight children... they had eight children. We all grew up in the family home and my six sisters... including me that's six... they went away to school and learned to be teachers -- everybody but me. I didn't want to be a teacher. So when I went away to school, I decided that I would try to find something to do besides teaching.

RW: Were your sisters older than you?

CH: Yes they are...I was the youngest.

RW: Of eight children?

CH: Yes I had two brothers. They did not go to college, but they finished high school.

RW: What did your father do for a living?

CH: My father was the manager of the... Graniteville is a manufacturing town...

RW: Textiles?

CH: Graniteville Manufacturing and they made cloth. He was a manager of the warehouse where all of the cloth that was made in the mill was shipped to this warehouse and he was in charge from there on. His main business was to sample the cotton, in other words grade it. He graded every bale of cotton than came in and also, as I said, was head of the department. And then he had to check when they shipped it out -- they used to have big box cars -- you don't remember that, maybe -- box cars that would come up to the warehouse and load and he had to keep a record of all of the material that was shipped out into these cars. But now where they went I don't know. That was what he did.

RW: He must have been -- and your mother, too -- very education oriented.

CH: They... the beautiful part about it is, they were not educated people, -- my parents were not educated people -- they made it on their own by being very thrifty and using a lot of common sense, you know. And I think that is the beauty of any family life, you get... you put in it what you think is most valuable and then you pass that on to your children, if you have any. No, they were not college graduates...not by a long shot.

RW: But they insisted that you and your sisters go.

CH: Definitely. We had to go. We had to...follow the rules and regulations of the family, they were not ours. We had a-plenty to eat, we had good clothes and we had a comfortable home, a very comfortable home, but all of that was made on my daddy's paycheck because my know didn't have any time for anything but children...and she took care of a little garden. And that's the thing I think of most, of what my parents did without a college education. But the beauty of it I think was the fact that they worked together. I remember we used to sit by the fire and I'd hear my mother say, "John..." (my father's name was John) "John, I was thinking, so and so was in here and they said so and so and so and so and I was thinking about doing so and so, what do you think about it?" And he said, he would say, (my mother's name was Della), he would say, "Well Della, whatever you think would be all right, it sounds all right to me." And that's the way they were, just like that.

RW: That's great. Where did your sisters go to college?

CH: South Carolina State, Columbia, know, Benedict College.

RW: So they all went to either SC State or to Benedict?

CH: Yes. That was college, but they used to have a two-year college... and their first two years were done at Schofield School in Aiken, SC. Have you ever heard of Schofield? Well, that's where they did that, what you call preparatory work.

RW: That's where you went to school also? For preparatory school?

CH: No I went straight from... I went straight from graded school -- high school...

RW: High School in Graniteville?

CH: No. I went to graded school, they didn't have all these fancy divisions then. You went to the ninth grade and then they added another year, to the tenth grade, and I went through the tenth grade, and from there, one of the professors from SC State told my brother-in-law, he said "I think she can make it... go off to school... go off to SC State, she can make it if she can handle the arithmetic, the math, and English," he says, "And I know she can handle the English because..." You wouldn't believe that now, though, but because he was head of the English department, see, and so then I took off for SC State, and went right on through.

RW: So from after the tenth grade, then to SC State for four years or for how many years were you at SC State?

CH: Yes.

RW: About four years?

CH: Yes. Then while I was there I used to visit the library, I don't know why I was so attached to the library, but I just, you know, that's where I spent a lot of my own hours. I used to say when the rest of the kids were out on the campus courting, I was in the library. So while I was there working in the library -- they gave me a job working in the library. I remember writing home to my Mama, telling her, you don't have to send anymore money 'cause I got a job now and it pays a part of my expenses, you see. So I took that responsibility to help with them, so I worked in the library. The librarian was there -- her name was Mrs. Williams, by the way.

RW: Oh, is that right...

CH: No relation to Barbara Williams. So she was very nice. And because I was so pleased over the fact that I was working, I did a bang-up job I thought, you know! So that went on until...

RW: The library was in Wilkinson Hall at that time?

CH: In White Hall. So anyway, I worked on that and then the librarian died and I knew more about the library than anybody else because I had worked there with her. So then they gave me an additional stipend for working there. Then they moved me on over when they finally found a person. They moved me on over into the president's office and I was assistant to his secretary...and then they moved me back over to the library.

RW: This was when you were a stenographer, because I had...

CH: Yes, that was it. Then I moved back to the library and while I was in there the director of the school of library science from Hampton came for a visit -- you know a lot people go around places -- and she came there and started to talking and finally she said, "Would you be interested in library work?" And I said, "No M'am. I don't have any money and my parents don't have any money." So anyhow, she didn't say anymore about it and when she went on she left me -- I don't know where she'd gone -- but anyway she left me and went over to the president's office and talked to him. And I understand -- he told me afterwards -- that she asked to see my scholastic record and she looked at it and about three weeks later he called me and said, "Come over here, I want to talk to you." And I went over and he said, "You know the lady that was here the other... a week or so ago?" And of course that was very vague to me then, and I said, "Yes." And he said, "Well, she was impressed with your record and she wanted to give you a scholarship -- offer you a scholarship -- a Rockefeller Scholarship, to study library science." And of course that sounded real good to me. So he told me, you know, other things she had said. Well, when the time came to go, the Rockefeller Foundation wrote me a letter and told me that they would give the money. The scholarship would be made into three different checks: one at the beginning to get myself ready to go down, and the other one would come at the middle of the year, and the next one would come at the end... you know, close to the end of the year. So that part was finished, and then I went on to Hampton. I wish the children now could go to places like Hampton, where they could get basic training. I don't mean just education... but how to work and how to live, not only with people, but in communities. When I finished Hampton, I had five jobs offered to me, but I was duty bound to go back to Orangeburg, to SC State College.

RW: They'd asked you to come back before you left? Did they insist on it, or... ?

CH: No, that was just understood that I was going on back there because far as I was concerned, that was home. And so I went on back there and worked `til I decided that I wanted to find somewhere else to go. I'd been there all my life, I thought. And so I told the President by word-of-mouth that I thought I wanted to go someplace else, and he said... he didn't pay me any mind, as a matter of fact. So then I told him again, and he still didn't pay me any mind. So the president at Paine College in Augusta, he had come down on one of these visits, you know, going around. He was a new president and he was trying to get a layout, and he came to the library, he and his secretary, and talked, looked around... just talked, you know -- just general conversation. At the end of his conversation he said, "Are you going to be looking for a job at the end of next year?" And I said, "Not that I know of!" He went on out and finally told his secretary that he liked the way I talked, and the way, you know, everything about the library. And he'd like to have me over at Paine. Of course, I didn't know anything about that, but one day -- we used to drive from Orangeburg up to Columbia to do our shopping -- we were parked in an automobile right in front of Watkins Drug Store and his secretary came out and he said, "Oh boy, I'm so glad to see you, my boss just wrote you a letter and they want you to come with us." And just jokingly I said, "Oh, you all won't pay me enough money." You know Paine was little... still is little, I reckon. So she said, "He wrote you a letter... you'll get it when you get back home." So when I got back, there was an offer from the president to take the job.

RW: For more money, I hope.

CH: Well, no. That was a conflict. I told his secretary, "You all won't pay me enough," so I don't know whether he told the president when he got back about that -- that I would be willing. I was saying all that as a joke. So the president wrote and told me that they'd like to have me there and would I consider taking the job. I wrote back and told him that... told him what I'd come for, as a matter of fact. So I was sitting on the campus with Benjamin Mays... do you remember Benjamin Mays? I was sitting on the campus talking with Benjamin Mays and somebody hollered from the dormitory that there was a long distance call for me. And when I got up there to answer it, it was the president of Paine asking me to come and let's talk about it. So we struck a favorable point, as far as salary was concerned.

RW: Do remember what the salary was?

CH: I think, as I remember now, it was $187 month, and that was way beyond what anybody else was getting.

RW: So $187 per month, that was... how did that compare with what you were making at South Carolina State?

CH: It was more than what I was getting.

RW: Better. Can we go back just a little bit before we talk about Paine College, and talk about what Hampton Institute was like when you were there as a student and what kinds of courses you took, the professors you remember, those kinds of things. What kind of course specialization did you have?

CH: I took the whole library science course.

RW: You didn't have any particular specialization? In academic libraries, or anything like that?

CH Well, the emphasis was on the academics.

RW: How did you like it there? This was a big move from South Carolina to Virginia.

CH: Oh I liked it quite well, it was fine. I liked everything about Hampton. I like most of the things... I liked the discipline at Hampton. When I went there, I had asked to live in Kennedy Hall and they told me that I wasn't old enough to be in Kennedy Hall. And I grieved about that a bit, but finally now I said -- I used to trot back and forth from Virginia Hall where they put me, to Kennedy Hall because all my classmates were in Kennedy Hall since they were older than I was. So the house-mother decided that she got tired of me running in and out over there so she called me one day and told me she was going to weedle me over with the rest of the girls.

RW: And you were what, only 22 then?

CH: Oh I don't know, I don't count age. I put that off of my slate all together!

RW: You were young anyway.

CH: Yes. When you start thinking about age too much you begin to be aged. I've been fortunate because I've always worked with young people and I think that has had something to do with my attitude, you know, toward young people. Except now that I've been retired and sitting here doing nothing, I kinda wonder if that isn't why I'm slowing up. I don't have any young stimulation, or over-stimulation... I don't know which one!

RW: But you really liked Hampton Institute?

CH: Oh yes, I liked everything about it. But when I went to Hampton they wouldn't let me go to town by myself, I had to have a...

RW: A chaperone?

CH: Yes. Not only me... there were others.

RW: Other girls, too. In terms of what... you had been the librarian at SC State for a couple of years really... worked in the library for how many years?

CH: Fell right in line with what they were teaching. I didn't go back to think about what I'd done before, or whatever they had... whatever they were offering, I picked it up right there.

RW: You already knew how to catalog and all those good things...

CH: Yes.

RW: And answered a lot of reference questions so you knew your reference sources real well. Did the librarian at SC State, before she died, teach you how the library operated?

CH: Well, yes... what she knew and what she had to work with.

RW: Did she have training as...

CH: I don't know where she got her training, I really don't... because I think when she was there, and I was just a student working under her supervision... I guess I just didn't know to ask questions that you would normally ask now.

RW: How good was the library then at SC State? Did it seem to meet the needs of the students?

CH: Oh, I would say not to any great degree. Because, it's like everything that's just started off... it has to grow. And the growth depends on who is responsible for the growth. I think that's one of the reasons now that we... this isn't a part of this interview, but I was listening to a statistic last night about how far behind the children are now because teachers are not interested... not all of them.

RW: Not dedicated like they used to be.

CH: Not dedicated.

RW: How did the library compare with other libraries that you knew about? Had you been in other academic libraries?

CH: No, that was my first job.

RW: Had you been in the library of Benedict where your sisters were?

CH: No.

RW: Now during the time before you went to... I have that you graduated from SC State in 1924, and that you were the stenographer for 1925, and then you were the librarian.

CH: See, that was when I went to the president's office.

RW: And that was for one year?

CH: I don't believe it was for a whole year because they called me back to the library when the librarian died.

RW: And so then you came back for a year, I guess, and then went to Hampton because I have that you graduated from Hampton in 1927. And then you must have been back at SC State three or four years there. What do you remember about the kinds of problems you had when you were at SC State Library... getting money?

CH: I didn't have any problems because SC State was state supported and the college got the money and they prorated it according to what they needed, or what they were doing, or whatever their program was. I didn't have to budget that because I was not a member of any administrative part of the library... I mean of the school. So I don't know anything about that.

RW: But did you feel that the president supported the library?

CH: Yes.

RW: Gave you enough money?

CH: Yes I think he supported it. You see, when I took library science, libraries weren't what they are today. They had just started going, or else they wouldn't have had me there, but I think they came along all right.

RW: I just wondered if you had been to other schools while you were the librarian, after you finished at Hampton, to go see what Benedict's library was like, or...

CH: No, I didn't.

RW: But you felt well supported by the president, in terms of collections and money and those kinds of things?

CH: From what I learned in library school... ALA, American Library Association, headed up everything then, and you got your basics, what you needed and what you had to have for this, that, or the other. And of course, that 's what we went by. ALA was an authority... still is I think.

RW: Pretty much. Did you go to national ALA meetings during this time... when was your first national meeting?

CH: I would not know that...

RW: After Hampton?

CH: No, but I went whenever they had one. I was more or less there, you know, conferences.

RW: Before Hampton, or after Hampton?

CH: Oh, after Hampton.

RW: Were you at the Richmond meeting where there were real problems about the segregated hotels...the Richmond meeting was 1930's, anyway.

CH: I don't remember that.

RW: You don't remember that. That was the last meeting in the south for... I don't know... maybe 20 years. There's been several articles written about that meeting and the fact that there were segregated hotels.

CH: I remember that incident, but I don't have any facts...

RW: About it... and you don't remember being there at the conference?

CH: I wasn't there. I'm sure I wasn't there.

RW: Well now, at SC State -- after you had finished at Hampton and came back and worked there before Paine -- you were located in which building then?

CH: I was in Mannon... you mean as far as the library was concerned?

RW: As far as the library is concerned.

CH: White Hall.

RW: In White Hall...okay.

CH: But you see after I left, they built this new library.

RW: Right. I was thinking that Wilkinson Hall was the library at that time, but it wasn't.

CH: No.

RW: While you were the librarian at SC State, were there library clubs... ways to encourage folks to come...


RW: But you were influencial in getting folks to go to library school who came through SC State. You said you'd had influence on a lot of folks, over time, to be librarians.

CH: Those were all for doing training library science. See, you knew they had all the material that you would need to carry on. And one of the things I remember my director at Hampton saying to us, when we graduated, she said, "Now, when you go to a new town to work, take time mixing," she said, "Because when a new person goes into a town..." She didn't use the words every Tom, Dick and Harry, but that's what she meant... don't rush in, you know, just take your own time 'til you get a complete picture of what is surrounding...

RW: To learn about the community...

CH: And the people, she said, because everybody will want to be your friend so you have to be very careful about that.

RW: Well, how did you feel SC State treated you after you came back from Hampton. There were....?

CH: Oh, I`m bragging now... I was a part of the university, you know.

RW: You were family, so to speak...

CH: Yes.

RW: And what I was asking about earlier was, you mentioned when we were first talking that you had influenced a number of students to become librarians. Did that start at SC State?

CH: No, that started here.

RW: In Savannah?

CH: Right here... yes.

RW: Do they have library clubs at SC State, or someplace along the way?

CH: No. Not that I know.

RW: I thought maybe they started after you were there. I've just seen pictures...

CH: I guess they must have... I tell you the truth, I don't know too much about what went on at SC State after I left because at one point, it seems to me, they started to... started deteriorating. The school started deteriorating.

RW: The high schools?

CH: No, the college, but they came back up. I think there was too much inbreeding at SC State.

RW: The graduates stayed there?

CH: That's right.

RW: I think a lot of them did at that time. Now these are getting close to the depression years. You went to Paine College in 1930, at a better salary. Did you stay at Paine from 1930 to 1934?

CH: Yes.

RW: So you were there 4 years? What was Paine like then, during those four years?

CH: Well, Paine was just beginning its growth then, but it came on up just like most of the schools. If you don't mind my saying so, most of the schools didn't have any basic goal, I guess you'd say, in mind for black schools, you know. We had to take what the state of GA or SC gave us. When I say we, I mean the administration, and we had to live on it and do the best we could. And if we didn't have any faculty that had a... I guess special goal for the progress, we just didn't make any. We have this situation right here now.

RW: It must have been particularly frustrating to not have the resources that you -- both the library and the school -- thought you needed.

CH: Well, I can't say yes to that because we had what was available and when I say available, it didn't mean that you couldn't have used more if you'd had it. You see what I mean?

RW: Just take the best advantage of what you did have.

CH: That's right. And people then were, you know, we didn't have Ph.D's and all that kind of thing when I was there.

RW: That's why I was asking whether or not you had been to other colleges, in particular, the white schools during that time to know what their library resources were like.

CH: Well, the only thing that I know about was when I would go to conventions and they would... on most all of the trips they took you on a tour of the library facilities while you were there. That was one of the major parts of the convention. They acquainted you with all of the new materials, and that sort of thing, that had developed since your training in library school.

RW: What about in SC, though...did you go to the University of SC to see their library during that time?

CH: No, because it wasn't any better than mine.

RW: Oh, you didn't think it was...

CH: (laughing) No, I didn't think it was... South Carolina just started going.

RW: It wasn't very big at that time. What about relationships with white librarians during this period, were there any at all? Did you go to any SC Library Association meetings?

CH: No.

RW: Didn't feel welcome, or totally...?

CH: Well, it wasn't... I don't know. I guess I figured when I would go to the conventions, I got what everybody else got.

RW: The national meetings...

CH: Yes.

RW: But not at the... you didn't try even inquire about going to the SCLA meetings?

CH: No.

RW: Not on the state level?

CH: No. I'd read what they did, but I didn't go.

RW: I wondered, I'm not sure when black librarians first started going to SCLA meetings. Maybe not until the 1960's, as far as I can tell.

CH: I don't really know.

RW: Did you belong to the Palmetto Teachers Association?

CH: No.

RW: So ALA was your main... ?

CH: ALA was my main source for library activities and information.

RW: So you went to all the annual meetings?

CH: Most.

RW: So, what was it like during the 1930's when the depression was hitting real hard for all these... particularly at Paine. You were there in the middle of the depression.

CH: Well, I guess I can't give an accurate answer to that question because we had to work with what we got. And of course, during the depression that wasn't an awful lot.

RW: Did you see a distinct decline during those years in terms in the amount of money?

CH: I really can't say. I can't answer that either because I don't know.

RW: But it was limited, the amount of money.

CH: Yes it was limited... everybody was limited then. I felt that I was very fortunate to have had the jobs and the money that I got. Because when I found out that I was getting more money than anybody else, that was a shock to me. I didn't think that I was....I won't say I wasn't qualified, I think I was as qualified as anybody else, but it was just one of those things that happened to me that wasn't happening to a lot of other people... not only in the field of library science, but in general work. A lot of people were layed off because they couldn't... they couldn't operate with that type of money. Then a lot... when this money gave out, that was it.

RW: But you were paid all during that time?

CH: Oh yes. I didn't miss... all the time that I have been working, I have never missed, but twice, getting money that they promised me on the first of the month, or whenever it was. Twice it was delayed. I didn't miss it, it was just delayed because wherever the source came from, that's where they had to work to get it.

RW: Well, why did you leave Paine in 1934?

CH: Because -- this is a funny thing and you must listen closely because it's funny -- when I went to Paine there was a professor at Paine and he went to Oklahoma to a job at Langston University. The lady who was librarian there... an opening came at the city library in her hometown, so she gave up her job at the college in order to take the job in her own hometown. And this man, who was on the faculty at Paine when she left, went to the president of Langston to tell him that he knew a lady he thought could take the job. And this is the fun part... the president called me up one day about 2 o'clock and told me that they had a vacancy and I had been recommended for the job. So I said I'd think about it and then he called me back and I asked him what they were paying and he told me. And when he told me that, I said, "No, I can't come for that." So he said, "Well, what will you come for?" So I told him how much I wanted, so he said, "I'll call you back." And he called me back and told me that they couldn't give the salary that I asked for, but they would give me free rent and that hit it on the dot. And the next news I knew, I was headed out. My father had a great amount of [American] Indian blood, which I'd always been interested in, and reading in histories way back yonder I read about oil wells and Indians, so that fit the bill. I was going to see Indians and I was going to see oil wells. So I went. I just hopped a train and went on and when I got to Langston -- I don't mean Langston -- Oklahoma City -- I had to take another train to get out to Langston. Went on out to Langston and got off the train...I stepped off the train and a man walked up to me and said, "You're Miss Hatcher?" And I said, "Yes." He said, "Well, I'm Mr. so-and-so, and I'm the station master." This was at a town called Cordell. "I'm the station master..." and he says, "Is there anyone here to meet you?" And I said, "No, I thought I'd take a taxi." So he said, "I'm very sorry, but they don't have any taxis." I think he meant any black taxis... now I don't know about that other race because I didn't have any reason to know. So he said, "I'll take you on out there... I know Dr. Young very well and the Dean of Women and I'll take you's about 3 miles." The university was about 3 miles from this little town called Cordell. So of course, one is afraid to ride with anyway, he took me on out to the college and introduced me to the Dean of Women. And so I stayed on there 'til I got ready to leave.

RW: Did you see any oil wells and Indians?

CH: Oh, they had what they called '89-ers day. Was that the day when the territory was settled? Well, that's the big thing out there, like the Fourth of July, or something. And I was on the front line, so I wouldn't miss any of them. And the Indians came in on something like a wagon...a big wagon with all of the things they need at home, cooking utensils and whatever. They came in with this big wagon-like thing and that was '89-ers day. And as far as the oil wells are concerned, I had a friend who had dug one right in their back yard! ---END OF SIDE ONE-----

CH: We had, just like our exposition, you know. And they had -- strange as it may seem -- they get sugar from oil.

RW: Do they? I didn't know that.

CH: I didn't know it 'til I got out there, either, but they had vials, don't you know, with all the products that came from the oil, and sugar was one of them.

RW: I didn't know that.

CH: I didn't either, until I got out there and saw that.

RW: So your father knew that he had Cherokee in his blood?

CH: Definitely.

RW: Had his family been slaves in SC, or do you know way back in the family history?

CH: I don't know anything...I knew his grandmother, but you know in those days children and grown folks didn't talk together as they do now. Because if they had, I would have known much more about my background than I do, which I'm very sorry that I didn't know.

RW: When you had left Paine, your folks were still living?

CH: Oh yes. My mother and father were both living when I moved here. They died two years apart.

RW: They must have hated to see you go all the way to Oklahoma.

CH: My mother didn't want me to go, she said, "That's too far away from home." And while I was... I'd had an offer, after I'd come back from Oklahoma, to go to Texas and she told me when I was going to OK that it was too far away from home and then when I had this offer to go to Texas, I knew that was plum out of the question, as far as she was concerned. So when they called me, I got this job by pure accident. A friend of mine had a friend in Augusta and I was at home deciding what I was going to do, you know. And so she said to me, "Celeste, let's drive down to Savannah." And I said, "Okay." So we took off for Savannah, for her to visit her friend.

RW: Was it after you had left Langston?

CH: Yes. That was my rest period. And so I was... I asked her friend, while I was... while we were talking about how far a friend of mine that I knew from Savannah lived, and she said, "Oh, right around the corner." And I said, "While you all are talking, I think I'll walk around there and see her... see if anybody's at home." And I went around there and sure enough that lady was there sweeping off her front sidewalk, and she said, "They just wrote you a letter, did you get it?" And she said, "Well, they sent you a letter... they want you to come and take charge of the library." And so, no quicker said than done. The chairman of the library board was on his way to his office -- he was a doctor -- and she waved him down. He stopped, and she told him that I was the one that they had recommended for the job... to fill the job. And before you could turn around, the secretary of the library board came by, and they waved him down. And the treasurer lived right over there in front of where we were standing talking, and they said, "Well, we'll have a meeting right here, because we have a full board." And we went inside to talk about it, and I told them the same thing, that I knew they didn't have any money to pay me, you know, I knew that. I didn't have to be told. So anyway, the chairman -- they had their little pow-wow -- came back and said, "Well, we'd really like for you to take the library." And so I told them the same thing I told everybody else, that they didn't pay enough money. And so they said "Well, we'll get together and have a board meeting and see what we can do." So the chairman of the board, he went down to the mayor, and told him that he thought we had a pretty fair prospect, but she won't consider it because of the salary. So he told them that the city council would have to decide on that, but he said, "Don't let her go until after I talk to the board." So the chairman came on back and told me what the man said. And so I said, "Well, I hadn't signed any contract to go to Texas, so I thought it would give me a chance to be with my parents, a little longer anyway." One day, the chairman came back and he said, "They agreed to give you a little more money, but it's not what you want." So I said to myself, "Well, I haven't got nowhere to go, special." So I stayed on there and he said he would do what he could. So one day the mayor called, and he said, "Miss Hatcher, it's raining today, come on down and let's talk about the library." So I went on down, and we talked about the library and he said, "I can't promise you we will give you the salary that you wanted, but I will take it before the Council and see what the council says and how they feel about it." So the council decided to give me about two cents more than what they were paying. So I just stayed on. I figured that something would happen, you know. That I would be moving on, but you see where I am today, don't you?

RW: Many years later. Let's go back a little bit to the Langston University team. I have that you were there from 1934 to 1937, four years. What was the University like there, in the library, and how did you enjoy that experience?

CH: Well, I enjoyed a lot of things about Langston because as far as I was concerned, it was a different world than I had been living in. I found files, and so forth, and so on. And I really was fascinated and I don't know exactly why I decided to leave Langston, except the fact that it was so far away from my parents. And that's why...but I enjoyed every bit of it.

RW: Was it a good library?

CH: It was fairly good. It was on the level with most that I knew about. Now, it wasn't tiptop, but most of what I knew about.

RW: Was it as good as Paine at South Carolina State?

CH: Well, it was... let me see... it was on the same level, about equal. Because you see, libraries libraries are just a matter of...what's the word I want to use? I mean it was an accepted thing now.

RW: Better support, more commonly accepted?

CH: Yes, that's it.

RW: Then Langston was a good experience for you? You were in charge of the library?

CH: Yes.

RW: Were you the only librarian?

CH: No, they had a library assistant and student help.

RW: But you were the only professional librarian?

CH: Yes.

RW: So you left there in 1937 and came back home, essentially.

CH: Yes.

RW: Now I have that you were... what did you do... were you out of work for three years then, from 1937 to 1940?

CH: No.

RW: You talked about your "vacation."

CH: Oh, no. I was never out of work.

RW: You said you took a little vacation there, between Langston University and working for Paine.

CH: Before I came here.

RW: It wasn't three years?

CH: No, I worked. When I left Langston, that's when I took the little vacation... when I came on here. As soon as I left Langston, I came on down. I didn't come here to work. I came here with a friend to visit a friend at work.

RW: You were staying at home, in Graniteville, but not for very long... not for three years, anyway.

CH: Oh, no. Just from the time I visited her and visited her friend. Then they asked me to take the job here.

RW: Then these dates must be wrong that I have here from your biographical.

CH: Well, I'm pretty sure they are. Because I was never out of a job.

RW: I have that you were at Langston for 1934 to 1937, and then down here from 1940 on. So that must be wrong.

CH: Yes, that's an error right there... that's an error.

RW: There is some gap here, but not for three years.

CH: Not that I was unemployed.

RW: Now you said you were offered a job in Texas? Sometime?

CH: Yes, at Fairview.

RW: But you wouldn't take that.

CH: No. That was when I was in between my jobs, leaving Langston and coming here.

RW: Well, this was a switch from academic libraries to public libraries.

CH: Yes, that was the thing that attracted me. I had not had any experience with public library work, and I think it influenced me because I think I had... all my life I had been in college work. See? I said I want a change and to see what it's like to, you know, be in public work. Because in college work, it isolates you. I learned that, and I learned it too late, you know.

RW: How did they know about you down here? You said they had sent you a letter.

CH: No, when I was... when I left Langston, I was home, see, and that interval was when I had this offer for Texas. I was thinking about it and in the meantime this friend of mine, who was living in Augusta, she had this friend who lived in Savannah. And she said, "Come on, let's ride down to Savannah." And of course, I was ready to go because I didn't have anything else to do. And so we came on down here.

RW: But you said you had found out they had sent you a letter. So they knew about you?

CH: Oh, the chairman of the library board wrote a letter, after that little pow-wow they had, you know.

RW: So you started to work for the Carnegie Library, which was the main library in Savannah?

CH: No. Savannah Public was the main library. And they were, of course, at that time, segregated, and the Carnegie was the black library for Savannah. And Savannah Public was the white library. Got that?

RW: Yes. You worked for the City Council, though.

CH: I worked for the City of Savannah, which is governed by a Council.

RQ: Right. Were you the only librarian at the time?

CH: No, they had a librarian named Mr. Dennegal, and he had an assistant when I came here. By the way, Mr. Dennegal died, and that's why they were looking for someboday.

RW: So they were looking for somebody to replace him? Well, how did you find the Carnegie Library when you moved in? Was it in good condition?

CH: (laughs) Well, it had an excellent building, for that period. It was given by the Carnegie Foundation.

RW: Were there plenty of books?

CH: No.

RW: Not well supported by the Council?

CH: It was supported by the city about the same way they supported everything else. If they had any change left. (laughs.)

RW: It went to the white branch?

CH: Well, he admitted to me when I had that first meeting with him, he said they had not been supporting it. He was a library-minded person, which was fortunate for me, but he said that they didn't have anybody working out there who knew what they were doing. And so they decided that they weren't going to waste any money on it.

RW: It was a separate board for the black library?

CH: That's right.

RW: There was only one building that served blacks in the whole city?

CH: Savannah Public served only whites.

RW: And you just had the one Carnegie library building?

CH: It served only blacks.

RW: And that was the only service for blacks in the entire city?

CH: And when I came here and took the job, the first thing I did when I got to Savannah was to visit the Savannah Public Library, and I mentioned to the librarian at that time if we could have a sort of association, since I knew that it was segregated. And she said, "Well, I don't know about that..." she said, "because that question has never come up, but I will talk with some of my board members, and see what they think about it." So, sometime later, she came back to me. She was a very nice person. She was for it 100%, but you know, with the city, you [can't] bite the hand that feeds you. She knew what the attitude was here, between races. And she had her own personal feeling. I guess she figured that anybody would... should be welcome to a library, regardless of what it was, black, blue, green or pink. So she said, "I'll think about it." And she came back and said that she had talked to her board, and that it was a brand new idea, and they would think about it. So they thought about it, and still nothing appeared. But she did say that if I had a request from anybody, and I didn't have the material to meet that request, that they could come over there. But you just didn't walk in and out, like you can now.

RW: A patron couldn't go over there, or you couldn't go over there?

CH: The patrons who wanted advanced materials... because the Savannah State College itself... I was told that by half a dozen whites when they came and they found out about Carnegie... they came in there and I told them, I said, "You're supposed to get your materials from the Savannah Public Library." And they said, "We've been over there and they haven't got anything..." I had several people to tell me that, "...and we want to use this library." And I said, "Well, don't tell anybody I told you you could." "You can take it at your own risk." I was going to give them a book, but they would be responsible. So with that, I had a nice white clientele.

RW: From Savannah State?

CH: Well, Savannah State students came, too. One or two admitted that the Savannah State Library wasn't as good as ours, and one member of that staff told me the same thing.

RW: So students from Armstrong and Savannah State came to your library?

CH: No, Armstrong wasn't born then. (laughs)

RW: Just from Savannah State.

CH: It was Savannah State, and see, they were supported by the State of Georgia, and they were just like everybody else -- they had to take what they could get.

RW: So you had a better library than they had?

CH: That's what they told me from several sources, and I know that a man who just died here the other day, Mr. Young, he was...he taught out here -- grade school and high school -- and he came to me and said, "Miss Hatcher, I'm looking for such and such a book." I didn't have the book because he was working on his advanced degree, but I said that I could get it for him. So he gave me the name of the book, and I wrote to the Library of Congress a number of times. I got material from them that we didn't have, and I know of at least three people who got material, by way of Carnegie, from the Library of Congress. So I was very pleased with that. It made me even more anxious to try to upgrade the collection...our collection.

RW: Now, who were your main users during these years?

CH: Children.

RW: Children. Many of those?

CH: No, because when we opened a little branch down here, at the Amoco... what started me on opening that... we had Carnegie which was way out here removed from most of the black neighborhoods, you see, and children needed the materials, and I was anxious -- as far as I could go -- to get the materials that they needed or wanted. And there was a little school out there called Beech. It was the first high school for blacks, and some of those children had gone there and knew about Carnegie, so we had a member of the board, Frank Callan, a member of the library board, and he had what they called "The Boy's Club", you know... the Boy's Club is national. And so one day he said to me at one of the board meetings, "You know, Miss Hatcher, I think this library could be helpful in that community down there." I went after anything that looked like it might bear fruit. So I scraped and went through my collection, to put a few books down there and put one of my girls down there. And it went... it caught on. And then after we had used it up, I had to...I didn't have to...but the mayor was interested in the library, so whatever happened, I would always tell him. I told him what was going on, and he was interested, and I told him that we had this little library with a few books down there in the Boy's Club -- it wasn't big enough -- and I wanted to go to one where they had just put up a housing project. I would like to have a space in there. And he said, "Well, we'll see what we can do about it." And it just opened up. And I remember that we had the opening meeting set, you know, how they have a little...well, the mayor was there, one or two patrons from the neighborhood were at the meeting, and one or two members of the board was at the meeting. And so a man here, called Mr. Frank Spencer, he was very interested in the library community, helpful, you know, so he walked up to me and said, "Well, Miss Hatcher,"---this was after the ceremony, or program, I guess I should say---he said, "Well, Miss Hatcher," he said, "what is going to be your first plan?" And I said, "My first plan is that twenty years from today there will be more people using the library than are using it now." And he said, "Well, I couldn't hope for anything any better than that." Frank Spencer was white, and he was head of something to do with cargo, riverboats, and big ships.

RW: When was all this?

CH: This was when I first came to Savannah.

RW: So you opened this little branch.

CH: I opened that branch and I had... we couldn't have wished for any more activity than I got from that little branch. Well, the manager of the housing project then, it was not Savannah Housing Project then, it was ... I forgot the name of it... well, anyway, it was the housing division for the city, and when...I'm trying to get things together... but the chairman of the... the manager of the housing project, he said at the little program that we had, he said, "Well, I want to say this: that if I am manager of the housing project when the next housing project is built, they are going to build a library in it." That's what he said. I was very pleased with that idea being openly expressed because it was what I had in mind to begin with, and unfortunately, when they built the next housing project, he had died. So one day in council meeting, we were talking about the library, and I said, "Mr."---whatever it was, I can't remember now--he told me that when they were planning to build the next housing project---"the manager of the housing project is my brother-in-law." He said he was going as soon as he leaves this meeting, "I am going right down there and tell him what you said." And he took off. And the next news I knew the new housing manager called me and told me to tell him what I had in mind. So I told him. And that was this little Hitch Village Library, down there. And so we opened up. They gave us more money so we could buy books to work with, and it got good use. So now another problem comes up: when they opened this one right up here on the hill, Caton, called Caton Housing Project, he wrote me a letter and told me that they wanted to put a library in that housing project. I wrote back and told him that the city was responsible for the expenses, you know, and he would have to get their permission to support it. So he did. So we opened up over there.

RW: All this is still in the '40's?

CH: I reckon so. I really can't say.

RW: Well, years aren't important. I just wondered where we are time-wise. Say, ten or fifteen years.

CH: Oh, no, not that long because as soon as we got the Yamacraw [branch?] then the fever started rising, and we went on from there. For you see, the man who was in charge of Caton Homes, he saw libraries in the other housing projects, and he wanted one in his.

RW: And you had to provide staff for all these libraries.

CH: Yes. The city... I had to get the money, see, the council had to vote to give money for it. It was part of the growth of the city and the council at that time had the same person that they...well, not the same one...well, they were interested in the growth of the city, see, and that was a factor in that growth that they had not come in contact with -- it [the library] hadn't been a question that was discussed.. And so now the State Department in Washington, the Library Bureau, sent somebody down here to check it out. And then I was told by a member of the State Department that they had followed the success of the services of these branch libraries, and now they put a library in every housing project. So I was very pleased that they had thought that the work being done in the projects created sufficient interest that the federal government would put a library in all of them.

RW: Did you have to fight for money?

CH: No, no, I didn't have to fight.

RW: Folks were eager to support them.

CH: They were eager to once they found out that progress was being made. I remember one thing, we had... you had to get in there and clean it up... just do everything just like you do if you move into a new house, because everything had gone, had deteriorated so, except the building. It was a very good building when it was put up, and I reckon for the years, it was fairly well maintained because it didn't have enough people using it to tear it up, so to speak. So it did all right. But the thing that pleased me most was the fact that the idea of putting a library in housing projects was a success, because the kids in the community didn't have to go through town. We had another thing that happened: we had children coming from Tompkins way out here, and they had to come all that long distance, plus traffic. One of the library people from the State Department came to Carnegie, and she said she knew that the budget was slim, and she said, "Miss Hatcher, I think you might be able to get a little money from the State Department." And I said, "Really?" And she said, "Yes, because you are furnishing a service to those children way out yonder at Tompkins." And I said, "Well, that's good news!" And she said she would recommend it.

RW: That was outside the city?

CH: It might be incorporated now, I don't know. But anyway, it wasn't then -- it was under county support. And so, sure enough, they gave me five thousand dollars.

RW: There was no county library system at that time, was there?

CH: Yes.

RW: Oh, there was? Strictly for white?

CH: Yes.

RW: What was your co-operation? You said you had tried to get co-operation with the white library.

CH: Oh, it turned out to be a success. One hundred percent. She fought from the very word "go".

RW: Who was the librarian then?

CH: I forgot her name now.

RW: But she was co-operative and the council was with her politically?

CH: Oh, yes. One hundred percent. One hundred percent co-operative. And when I wanted to build a black collection, she had a few books over there that had been donated to her library, and they weren't serving blacks, and she came over here and asked me if I would like to have the books, and I said I would be glad. And from that moment on we started a black collection. We had one of the best black men who was writing his thesis from Atlanta University, and he came over there and he said, "Miss Hatcher, this library collection is better than Atlanta University's collection." Well, I figured that was saying a WHOLE LOT! As I told you, I remember people who were working on their degrees got material and all and I wrote and got it for them.

RW: Well, compared with the kind of support that Savannah Public was getting, do you remember what yours was and how that compared? Were you getting the dregs, or were you getting good support?

CH: No, they helped. I didn't get any support directly from the Savannah Public Library. It all came through the city.

RW: I mean, did the city give you as much money, compared with the population, as they gave Savannah Public?

CH: I don't think so. I don't think it was a matter of not wanting to give, but it was a matter of trying to stay within the city's budget. Because I never had any trouble with the city council at all. Only two people on the Carnegie Library Board showed the attitude of not giving a damn, if you will excuse the expression.

RW: Was the Carnegie Library Board all black?

CH: All black.

RW: But two of those didn't want you to have things?

CH: Did not co-operate.

RW: Who appointed the library board... city council did?

CH: Yes, in the beginning. The mayor used to pick people that he knew. After that I took charge (laughs)... quietly.

RW: That's the way to do it.

CH: Quietly.

RW: What about when integration of the two libraries came in. You were still working there.

CH: That happened. We had a mayor that... he talked to me several times and I said something about serving, you know, the people who couldn't get what they wanted at that colored library. And I said now there are other towns that have... that would serve the blacks, and I don't see why we couldn't either. And he said, "Well, that's a good thought. I'll see what we can do about it." So he finally came back and asked me what I thought about it and I said, "Well, I'd just like to open the doors, and let anybody that wanted to come in, come in." And so he told me that he'd go back and talk to the Council, and he'd let me know what the Council thought about it. He came back one day and told me that that Council was in favor of the idea. He said, "You send a card to all the members of your board, and tell them to meet me here at the regular board meeting, and we will talk about it." So, from that moment on the door was wide open.

RW: Your doors. What about the doors of the white library?

CH: Yes.

RW: No problems at all?

CH: Absolutely not a single problem that I know about.

RW: Had blacks been systematically excluded from the main library, and told not to use the main library?

CH: Well, it was the law. There was no "you can or you can't". It was an established fact that there was a white library and a black library.

RW: So just peacefully, simply, integrated with the City Council agreeing?

CH: There was... he was the one who gave the idea to the City Council.

RW: And you had put the idea in his head.

CH: I hope. I didn't try to force any argument or anything. I just told him what the situation was.

RW: What year was this?

CH: I don't know.

RW: In the 1960's?

CH: I guess so. He didn't serve but one term, and I don't remember his name. It will come to me.

RW: But you are fairly certain that this took place in the 60's.

CH: Yes, I'm pretty sure. (inaudible comments) He came there one day and wanted to read... wanted to see the New York Times. And I said, "Go on over there to the Bull Street Library." And he went, and I haven't heard whether he got what he wanted or not. He went, because I sent him over there. I said go on over there to the public library, they got one over there.

RW: When did the administrative parts become combined? You were the librarian of the Carnegie Library, and there was a librarian for the Savannah Public. When did you start integrating administration, budget, and all of this?

CH: Well, that happened... I can't remember... after I left, as far as board members were concerned.

RW: What year did you retire?

CH: I can't remember. Read that thing up there.

RW: 1974. You retired then? So it was after you retired that the two boards were integrated.

CH: Yes. I do remember that they started off the first member of the board -- the public library board -- I do remember that the first one that became a member was the librarian at Savannah State College. I remember that much. I don't remember his name right now, but he was the first black man on the board.

RW: The combined board?

CH: Yes.

RW: Oh, that's right. C. J. Josey, I think.

CH: That's right. That's right.

RW: And you worked with him a lot?

CH: I never had anything at all... any association whatever with him.

RW: Is that right?

CH: No.

RW: Because he was the librarian at South Carolina State, you know.

CH: Oh he was?

RW: I think so. I think this is the same person. I can't remember.

CH: I don't know.

RW: He was at South Carolina State before he came down here, if my memory serves me correctly. Before Barbara Williams [Jenkins] became the librarian. But you had worked with him, kind of?

CH: No.

RW: He's now at New York State Library. So integration took place very easily then?

CH: Oh, perfectly easy, perfectly.

RW: Now you continued working, and then retired in 1974. So this was a good ten or fifteen years. You were your own boss of your libraries, and she was the boss of the Savannah Public?

CH: After we integrated, we had a joint sort of a thing. I made my own rules and regulations, and she made her own rules and regulations, and we had a separate budget. Yes, my staff followed through on whatever my plans were and her staff did the same. I mean, it was done in an agreeable satisfactory manner.

RW: Now, when did the regional library system get set up?

CH: Well, I don't think I remember that.

RW: This is the Chatham, Effingham and ? regional library system with this?

CH: Well, that didn't affect me as far as I was concerned, and I don't know anything about it.

RW: So you were still in charge of the Carnegie Library and had your own separate administration and so forth.

CH: I was the boss.

RW: You were the boss.

CH: That's right.

RW: Okay.

CH: And we had a Council meeting and one board member -- well two board members were going to object -- and on the way out of the Council meeting McClain walked out with me, and put his hands on my shoulder and said, "Don't worry about a thing, Miss Hatcher, we're going to take care of you." You know, that made me feel real good.

RW: And you had a very supportive board?

CH: Yes, with the exception of two men, two members. They didn't give much trouble because we didn't have... things didn't, you know, get out of hand.

RW: Now, other than the establishment of the branches and getting that idea going, what were your other central accomplishments in your field? The things you are most proud of?

CH: I don't know... I know of nothing else in mind because as hard as I had worked trying to get that library established, and trying to get the public interested, and that's about all. And that took a lot of thinking and a lot of time and a lot of headaches, too. Because you are going one way and three other people are going another way, and you got to figure out some way to sort of squeeze in between. I had a pretty hard time with it, but it didn't discourage me at all because I knew what I had in mind that I wanted to do. And I had the support, the 100% support from the City Council, so I didn't have any idea that I had to worry about anything else. My work had been sufficient to prove that I was putting forth my best effort, and my best effort was showing success.

RW: This must have been a twenty-four hour a day job.

CH: You bet your life.

RW: Where did you hire your librarians? Where did most of them come from?

CH: Well, I had two, I think, that came from somewhere else, I don't remember because they were not satisfactory. And I trained the others, you know. And they did all right. One or two fell by the way, but then you don't expect to get one hundred percent, you know.

RW: How many professional librarians did you have in your library?

CH: I had five, because one of the librarians at Savannah State, she was sort of envious, and she said one day, "You've got more trained librarians than we have out at Savannah State." That's what she told me.

RW: And you said, "I know and I'm proud of it?"

CH: No, I just looked at her and smiled.

RW: Where did these trained librarians come from? Where had they gone to school?

CH: Atlanta University and...I don't know...I think I had three that came from Atlanta University.

RW: All with Master's Degrees?

CH: Yes.

RW: Now this is how you got to know Virginia Lacy Jones, or had you known her?

CH: No, I knew her when our program started growing. I think I met her, as I remember, that was about a hundred years ago now, more or less. I think I met her at one of the meetings. I think that's where I met her and we sort of, you know, how they say, hit it off from the beginning.

RW: One of the ALA meetings?

CH: Yes, one of the ALA meetings.

RW: Did you go to Georgia Library Association meetings?

CH: I don't think I went to but one, I don't think so now... I'm not sure. I know I didn't go to more than one, but I do think I went to one.

RW: Were they segregated in the early years too?

CH: No, no.

RW: But you knew Virginia Lacy Jones from ALA meetings? How were her graduates? Did you ever hire any South Carolina State graduates?

CH: No, I didn't know any.

RW: You know, they had the undergraduate library science program there for many years.

CH: I didn't know about that.

RW: I don't know when that program got started there, but it has been going on for a good long while. They have turned out folks with a bachelor's degree in library science. Probably it started in the 1950's. I'm not sure.

CH: I don't know. I didn't know about it.

RW: Your services... you had children's story hours, those kinds of things, were part of your services.

CH: Oh, that's how we got our membership. Library membership built up through the story hour.

RW: Did adult use pick up over the years?

CH: Oh, definitely!

RW: And you had a good collection for those folks?

CH: I was very proud of our general collection, and extremely proud of our black collection. Especially when several folks told me that our collection was better than some they had seen.

RW: Have those collections been maintained since you retired?

CH: I understand that since I left there that it has just about been depleted, because when I was there, we had a system we used in letting books out, because some of them were out of print. So I had a system that you had to either use the collection in the library, you know, whatever book you wanted, or we had cards that you took them out on, that if you didn't bring them back, you had to pay for them. So the library collection stayed pretty well intact until years later when somebody else took over. They didn't care. In the first place, they didn't know the value or the importance of certain books, so they didn't mean a thing to them.

RW: They let people check them out?

CH: And if they came back, OK, and if they didn't OK.

RW: That's what happens when a person doesn't know. A collection like that needs to be taken good care of.

CH: I had a professor from Savannah State, he came and borrowed eight or nine, and then came back and told me, "I don't want to get these books out, I'll just pay you for them, 'cause I'm gonna keep them. I don't want to bring them back."

RW: What did you tell him?

CH: Well, I think they were books that I could replace, so I let him have them.

RW: Was there anything else that you remember, particularly about your experiences about being a librarian? You said you felt real good about influencing a number of folks to be librarians over the years.

CH: And they've gone on to be successful. I had only one failure.

RW: Where have some of those folks that you have influenced gone on to? Do you keep up with them now?

CH: Well, no, I don't. They've gone to other areas, don't you know, and I don't know where.

RW: Well, it's good to know that you have influenced them over the years, and that they have done well.

CH: There is one girl here, that works at one of the high schools. I know where she is. She is the librarian out here at one of the schools.

RW: Well, you have certainly had a long career, from starting out working at South Carolina State as a student... you started there as a student?

CH: Yes, that's where I got my interest stimulated.

RW: If my dates are correct here we're really talking about fifty years as a librarian.

CH: That's right, because you know what, not only that, I have my membership card for the ALA that says fifty years. I thought it was in some of this here, then I took it out, and said well you're not going to be interested in that.

RW: Fifty years. Do you still maintain your membership in the ALA now, or did they send you a fifty year membership?

CH: Fifty year membership.

RW: Well, I think those are about all the questions that I have. If you don't want to say anything else, I will let you eat your lunch. You must be starving by now, since they got here early.

CH: I have meals on wheels, so...

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