Interview with: Mrs. Rossie Caldwell (RC)

Date of Interview: May 24, 1988
Place of Interview: Mrs. Caldwell's home in Orangeburg, S. C.
Interviewer: Robert Williams (RVW)
Transcriber: Sabra Bell
Permission to Use Restrictions
Photo of Mrs. Rossie Caldwell

RVW: Mrs. Caldwell, I have here that you were born November 4, 1917 in Columbia, SC. Is that right?

RC: That's right.

RVW: Tell us a little bit about your family background -- what you know -- what you remember about your father and mother, growing up in Columbia...those kinds of things... where you went to high school.

RC: All right. Well number one, I was born in the parsonage of the Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church on Gervais Street. My father was pastor there at the Wesley Methodist Church and I almost didn't know him because he died in the 1918 influenza epidemic when he was 34 years old. My mother at that time had...this left my mother with two small girls. My sister was 3 years older and at about the age of 2 my mother brought us to Orangeburg, SC, where I grew up. She placed us in the kindergarten department of Claflin College and there I remained for my entire elementary school, high school and college education. At the time Claflin had all those departments and my mother, being the widow of a Methodist minister received a small pittance, a pension -- whatever you wish to call it -- from the Methodist Church. Probably it was twenty-five dollars a year, or something like that.

RVW: How could she manage on that?

RC: Oh, she didn't. She had to do some things to have us remain at Claflin, which was a paying situation, no matter how small, from kindergarten through college. At first she was Assistant Matron in a self-help building known as Souls Home. By that time however, the first thing she did was to take whatever funds she had and buy a small cottage about a block from the college campus. And as long as she could maintain that she did. But somewhere along the years when I was about 10 years old, she went north with a group of women in the community who did domestic work in the north as general housekeepers to maintain their family. And this happened all the way through the college years.

RVW: You were still here in Orangeburg.

RC: In Orangeburg...

RVW: And she was up north?

RC: She almost emigrated -- is that the word? -- to the north, but she came back and forth and lived with her family for a certain period of time and then went back to the north. You know, there was more money in the north and of course you could be independent -- as a person who had only the capability of being a general housekeeper -- you could really maintain yourself because you would go there and you would live with the people... you had no food bills, you had no housing bills. And this is what happened among a number of the ladies, of the gentle ladies, in Orangeburg who had no means of support other than that. And sometimes the ladies went in order to assist their husbands who had some jobs here in Orangeburg. Well, that's in a nutshell the background of that experience. [Mrs. Caldwell adds: While she was away, she lost the house through default in a mortgage payment, handled crookedly by a lawyer.] My father was from North Carolina, and sometimes we visited our grandparents in High Point, NC.

RVW: Where was your father educated?

RC: Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta, GA. And Wesley Methodist in Columbia was his first appointment after graduating from Gammon in 1914. His father was a minister in North Carolina, and he had some brothers who were ministers. So it was largely from this religious background that we came here to Claflin Methodist College.

RVW: So the South Carolina connection was because of his appointment in Columbia as a minister.

RC: My mother was from Bennettsville, South Carolina. And before he [my father] went into the ministry he was a North Carolina Mutual Insurance man. I'm not sure what sort of education he had prior to the ministry. It could have been in the local schools of NC -- he had a high school background -- probably so. [Mrs. Caldwell adds: "Since this interview, I have read History of the American Negro and His Institutions (SC edition, 1917) by Arthur Bunyan Caldwell which states that my father took a college preparatory course at Mason Academy in Hickory, NC, secured a teacher's license, and taught in Lincoln and Caldwell Counties in NC. He joined the SC Conference before his Gammon experience.] My mother appeared to have had a high school background, but we were not really of a generation that sat down and talked with your parents. [Mrs. Caldwell adds: She was mainly reared in the family of a first cousin -- a genteel lady, wife of a lawyer, "Cousin Ella" Sawyer.]

RVW: So during the time you were in the lower elementary grades and high school and college your mother was going back and forth...or was that just when you were in college?

RC: No. During the first years, the elementary years, she was fairly stationary here in Orangeburg and part of the early high school years. But from then -- from the high school years through college -- she was going back and forth. She basically had quarters... you might say, or residence in White Plains, New York. And of course we went to see her, but we stayed... we were in South Carolina, in Orangeburg at Claflin all during the winter months. Then when we were old enough, we joined her in White Plains. Other than that, we were boarded out here in Orangeburg, and my mother's cousin, Mrs Ada Sawyer Cooper [Dr. H.H. Cooper, Sr. of Columbia] took care of me summers when my mother was away. I think I was about 16 years old when I first went to White Plains, NY.

RVW: What was that like?

RC: Oh, it was just a very interesting experience. And what we did all the way through college was to have a summer job there in the North.

RVW: Oh you did.

RC: Yes...

RVW: From the time you were 16?

RC: From the time I was 16. In the summer months there it was mighty nice to join the people in White Plains, NY. And this was in Westchester County.

RVW: It must have been good to be out of South Carolina in the summertime...

RC: I don't know, it was a happy time in South Carolina... all summer and winter... all the time... we didn't feel... didn't have a sense of being deprived of anything.

RVW: You must hold the all-time record for Claflin attendance.

RC: There were several of us, who were in that same position. I had... we had a fifty year class reunion in 1987; and in that class were five of us from Orangeburg. Let's see, I believe there were three of us who were classmates from kindergarten through college. Two or three... Maxine Sulton Crawford... then in the class that came out... that had their fifty-year reunion this year -- the 1938 class.... In that class was a classmate of mine because, with the kind of matriculation that you had between high school and college at Claflin, if you wanted to and had sufficient average you could skip a... go over into the college department... I did that and came out one year ahead. 1938 was really my class. So this year [1988] -- in this fifty year class -- there is at least one person with whom I began my college education, at Claflin. So she had a complete record from kindergarten through college.

RVW: Your mother must have been a very determined sort to get you all the way through college and keep at it all those years.

RC: Well, I don't think you could match her determination too often. Of course, there were a number of people I know who had the same kind of perseverence. But that was why she came to Orangeburg.

RVW: What was your major in college?

RC: English. My major in college was English. My minor was French. At the time there was no thought of library science. We had a library at Claflin. Claflin was rather unique in that it was a black of those offsprings of the... what was it... the Civil War? The founding of a college by people who were interested... and it had a plant that was unique... a library building which was a single library unto itself, which was a building built for a library. We often made a comparison with the state institution sometimes...a very accurate comparison. This state institution had a room for a library...Claflin had a library building and a librarian, and we had to read the books... we had to use the library from the time we were down in elementary grades. So...

RVW: Elementary school kids and college kids were using the same library?

RC: Oh yes. If you had to go look up something in the library you did it when you were an elementary school child. I don't really remember how much we did like that, but I do know that we could go in to the library and that there were some encyclopedias and some books. So, yes... your original question was what... ? Just about the general major and the minor....oh, I was a English major and a French minor, and very interested in reading. And the English teacher worked at this in a very individualized fashion. If she thought you could read David Copperfield, Tale of Two Cities, or any one of those novels... whoever she thought could read it would read it and report on it in class. Now I think that was probably a fundamental reason for my being a librarian because it was a during my senior year in college that a principal -- the principal of Reed Street High School -- came to Claflin and he was searching for someone who would be willing to get started in the library profession. Someone who could start his library -- his high school library -- at that time, there was no question of elementary school libraries -- so my dean, Dean E. Horace Fitchett at Claflin called me and said, "Rossie, I think this would be a wonderful profession for like to read. Now what you'll have to do is start taking library science training". That was my senior... that was the spring semester... spring quarter of my senior year. So that's how I got into this and...

RVW: Where did he have in mind that you would take library science training?

RC: At South Carolina State College. There was a beginning of library science courses. Now I believe that was the very beginning of training librarians in South Carolina. Here at State College they had a program of certification so that you would end up with 21 hours... was it 21 hours, Barbara, or was it 24 hours? [Note: Dr. Barbara Jenkins sat in on first few minutes of interview]. At the time I believe the certification required 21 hours... so, as I graduated from college, instead of going to join my family -- my mother and my sister back in White Plains, NY -- which we did for some time because we were building a house -- and instead of going back there that summer, I came over to State College and began my library science training with 9 hours of library science. Now you might have to jog my memory right here, because sometimes it was 9 hours and sometimes it was 6 hours, but I believe we had three courses that summer.

RVW: Who was teaching the program?

RC: Mrs. Nix. Mrs. Athelma Nix. Mrs. Charles Sheffield. As I recall those were the 2 main people.

RVW: Were they on the staff of the library?

RC: Yes, they were on the staff. Mrs. Nix was head librarian... BJ: Correct...
RC: And Mrs. Sheffield was catalog...?
BJ: Yes, cataloger...
RC: Cataloger...

RVW: Is this who Nix Elementary School is named after, that I saw coming in..

BJ: It's named after her husband....Dean Nix... Dean Nix was the first Academic Dean here at the college.

RVW: So she was teaching -- the two of them were teaching the library science classes?

RC: I believe it was the two of them and...yes...those nine hours that summer... I believe it was how to catalog some books, classify some books... do some kinds of reference work.
BJ: Probably so because in the 30's the college had a large outreach program for teachers, for agriculture workers, home economics workers...

RVW: This was a big decision as it turned out. Did you think twice about being a librarian then or did it just sound like something that would keep you doing what you always loved doing...mainly reading.

RC: Oh, the kind of person I was, the kind of people we were I think, we had no real opportunities or... to do any other career than to work in schools... to teach. Teaching was what we were...that's all we were going to be able to do. We were taking a... we were college preparatory all the time, and then if you were a liberal arts student in a liberal arts college such as Claflin – there were some students who emphasized education -- the education courses -- but there was no kind of occupation other than teaching. Now, this, I think, this must have attracted me... that here was something different from just going into the classroom and just teaching. And being a person of small stature... that's what my Dean really put before me...He said "Now you are a small person and you won't have to be out there in the classroom all the time." And actually, we were fun-loving people, and although we knew we had one thing to do -- that was to get our college degree and go on and make a living -- the other thing was that within five years we were all going to be married anyway.

RVW: He made that assumption...or you made...

RC: No! We did that...we said this is what we would we weren't really worried about anything else, especially if things came sort of easy to you...if you could think about -- if you could master your subject matter then it became incidental by the time you graduated from college that you could master your subject matter. So there was a great deal of social attention to give and we were rather a kind of group that could be pressed into some activity if it was worth while... and we weren't going to waste our time. But different from today, we did not rebel when the adults said certain things...we were out there doing what we wanted to do there wasn't much need for rebellion...there wasn't anything out there to attract you to make you rebel...we were a close circle. And therefore we could be advised into things by our adult...

RVW: This was 1937, too....

RC: This was 1937..

RVW: And here in 1937, in South Carolina, there probably weren't that many choices anyway... the depression was on...

RC: If we could finish college and have a job that was it...we weren't even thinking about the graduate world out there very much because you operated from a college degree and it was... there were a few years before we felt any pressure for master's degrees...for master's and doctorates. Now we did have... we did know about the school at Hampton and probably the school at Atlanta in library science. That was where Gracia Waterman and Charlie Sheffield got their degrees --at Hampton. But nobody thought about it... well, when you didn't even know about the field of library science... I don't know how they'd become interested. I didn't know how they thought about it...maybe it was Mrs. Nix who led them...
BJ: Probably so...because she was an early graduate of the institution...
RC: Of Hampton...
BJ: Of Hampton...
RC: So... but we had no connection with library education.

RVW: How did you like the courses...were they interesting and different?

RC: Different...that was something new...that was a new field. Of course what we had to work technology other than your handwriting.

RVW: Did you learn the library handwriting?

RC: Printed. I printed...we printed our catalog cards to begin with... handwritten catalog cards...whatever you had...and I remember that the first working library experience -- which was Teacher-Librarian -- I taught 2 classes in French -- high school French.

RVW: This was your first year at Reed Street School in Anderson?

RC: At Reed Street High School in Anderson. That was a rather advanced situation...I only taught 2 classes... let's see... let's say there were 6 periods in the school day, 2 of those I spent with French. Eventually, of course, you had... there was a requirement... Mr. Perry was a graduate of Claflin and he followed the traditional Claflin college style -- 2 years of French in high school.

RVW: He was the principal...

RC: He was the principal at Reed Street. So I was assigned to teach French and then I had a little history class on the side. So American History -- 3 classes to teach -- and 3 hours to spend organizing the library. We had a small, narrow room for the library. One wall had shelves. There was a small desk in the front. And so you tried to set up a kind of circulation area and then you did all of your work on the little desk. Not a typewriter at that time. But all your operations of course were in, within that circle... your little office was in that circle around that desk and your students stood all around and asked you to do certain things and then you tried to tell them what you could... within those 3 class periods. That was a small... that was a beginning.

RVW: About how many books...?

RC: Oh, maybe 200. The high school certification requirements were that you had....I can't even talk to that point, but I know that we had to have 500 books...was it 500 books Barbara? Or 5 books per student? When I really got into it, it was 5 books per student. But you had a small collection of probably had the World Book Encyclopedia, the old edition. Did we have the World Book at that time? I'm talking about 1937-38.

RVW: I thought we've had the World Book forever.

RC: Probably. This first position changed -- that was 1937-38 -- in that small room. The principal was rather progressive, so the next year when I came back there was a large room that had been arranged in the elementary school building. That was a big building. The high school building -- you may have noted -- that our high school building was a small building when they finally built high schools for blacks. As compared with the traditional 2 or 3 floor high school for whites. This was a frame building in Anderson. The high school was the newest and a small one...a one floor structure. At the old elementary school we had all the children in 2 stories and were sprawled out in a larger manner. There was an industrial arts building -- always an industrial arts building -- room for agriculture classes and manual training.

RVW: How many high school students?

RC: I don't remember...right now I don't remember. But we moved into a large room; and there we followed the instructions that we received at State College the next summer.

RVW: Excuse me a minute, let me just stop and make sure we're recording O.K... Okay, we're continuing the interview.... We were talking about the years of working at Reed Street high school in Anderson. And you were telling about coming to SC State...this was to get more library science courses.

RC: This time there were 6 hours of instructions. And by the time I finished that summer I had 15 hours...had accumulated 15 hours towards the 21 hours certification. And back in the library... back in this large new room, I followed a program which was outlined during that summer. And I'd like to say here that although I don't remember right now how many persons were involved in the program of instruction at State College, there was a core of people who went out to do the same thing I was doing so that if you could get a list of those original schools that tried to have high school libraries they would have been manned mostly by the people from that core. We worked with vertical files in that new building and we were instructed "Now you don't have the money, so what you do is get an orange crate and put your vertical file materials... file them vertically in an orange crate, or some such large box -- until the vertical file could be purchased. I remember that my shop man as we called him, made a wooden box-like structure on legs for that library and I began to file these... whatever... clippings, pictures, pamphlets... whatever we had... which we had been told would be good vertical file material in that type of structure. And around the wall -- there was the kind of room arrangement that persists in many places today in school libraries -- your books around the room and your tables in the middle of the room. A one room operation. That was at Reed Street and I stayed there for two years. During those years, I believe we were making about fifty dollars a month, which was a good salary...considered a good salary at that time. I left Reed Street at the end of the second year because the Rock Hill school system offered about seventy-five dollars a month. So my next move was to the... to Emmet Scott High School in Rock Hill, South Carolina. That was an experience.

RVW: Was that a larger high school?...Is that why they were paying more money?

RC: It's a larger school system I believe. The financial structure of the school system was stronger in that part of the state. But the library provisions were not as good. There was a combination -- my first experience with the combination -- of school library and public library work. This was... this situation consisted of a large classroom plus an enclosed set of shelves at the back of the room, and it was enclosed and operated under the auspices of the public library of Rock Hill and the school library.

RVW: And you were in charge of both?

RC: No, I was in charge of the school library segment. There was a librarian... a person who served as librarian for the public library section. I developed probably a special shelf or two of school library materials. At that time, we did have a vertical file -- a steel cabinet. We tried to have a nucleus of things that school people would need in a specialized section of the room. And then the enclosed section was where the public library books were kept. The front part of this large classroom was adjustable... that might have been the first time I heard [experienced] the word modular because what they did... they had the kind of chairs -- these were new classroom furnishings, and during one part of the day I taught 2 classes of French and 2 classes of English. And then the other 2 periods were strictly for library science operations...library operations. For a while after school, I worked with students who would come in, but the main part of that job consisted of classroom teaching and on the side, though, there was that effort to try to develop and organize a nucleus of school library materials.

RVW: It had been predominantly a public library focus or....

RC: I suppose so.

RVW: So adults in the community came in ...

RC: Adults in the community came in to use their public library collection. That was a branch of the public library collection; of course the main library downtown at that time was segregated. So this was an opportunity for the blacks to come...

RVW: Was this the only place...the only library that blacks could use... the only public library that the blacks could use in the city?

RC: In the city... now, this was a small college town because there were Friendship Jr. College and Clinton Jr. College...there were two junior colleges in Rock Hill.

RVW: And Winthrop...

RC: And Winthrop. So, some of the library services I believe were provided through whatever collections those junior colleges had... particularly to a certain age of people.

RVW: Those were both black colleges?

RC: Those were both black colleges. Friendship Jr. College was under the auspices of the Baptist Church and Clinton, I believe, was an AMEZ- sponsored institution. So, you had some educational outlets in that community, but the children -- and the children were not very library- minded -- but always you have some children who want to look up things and the purpose of the library was to give them an opportunity to look up things. At this time we had not organized any... we didn't have an organized way of teaching the use of the library... we didn't have a library to teach use of... not very much.

RVW: Not much in the way of reference.

RC: Very little. We still had that encyclopedia -- set of encyclopedias -- and helping them to look up things in encyclopedias, as I recall, and trying to get them to read some stories.

RVW: Was there much teacher-use of the library? Assignments, that kind of thing?

RC: Not much. Not much, but they did look up -- as I say -- they looked up things in the encyclopedia and followed the curriculum that required their doing a little research. All right now, that went on for 3 years. I stayed in Rock Hill for 3 years.

RVW: I have '39 to '42.

RC: '39 to '42...and I was supposed to really return to Rock Hill, but I had a break in my life at that sister died [Mrs Caldwell adds: During that summer of 1942 I was librarian for a SC State College summer session in Darlington.] She had been married for about six years and I was offered work in Orangeburg.

RVW: She was living in Orangeburg, also?

RC: She was living in Orangeburg, and was the wife of a school principal. And my mother... by that time we had helped her to be situated in a home in Orangeburg – and in her own home. But we were a family, and by that time I was about to be married, and the war had begun. So I went on to Orangeburg... stayed in Orangeburg... primarily to help my mother, and I began working with this nice Principal, J.C. Parler, as a teacher-librarian. Still teaching two classes of French -- no English at this time. I had "graduated" to four periods in the library.

RVW: Slow progress.

RC: Slow progress. Four periods in the library. And, let's see...I believe I had started doing some typing of catalog cards... and typing in the accession record. And if you could find that accession record, I imagine that would be a miracle, because the situation has changed so in Orangeburg. But 1942-1943, that was the year... my first year at Wilkinson High School [Mrs. Caldwell adds: During this year President J.B. Randolph of Claflin College hired me to teach a Freshman College "zero" French class to students who had not taken high school French courses -- this after my high school work day.]. And that year brought changes... at the end of that year I changed because my fiancé had been inducted into the Army, and we decided to be married, and there was a law in Orangeburg that no married teachers could work. So I went down to Tuskeegee Army Airfield, and my husband was sent overseas as a dental officer in the Southwest Pacific. And there he remained for thirty months. And I worked at the Tuskeegee Army Airfield as a clerk-typist, and clerk-stenographer from 1943 to 1945.

RVW: You met your husband here?

RC: Oh, we grew up together from first grade. We were in the same school. He was one of the people at Claflin from kindergarten to college, but we were just friends, and his family... his sisters and I were playmates. It wasn't until college -- and a little bit after college -- that we became serious.

RVW: Where did he go to dental school?

RC: Meharry Medical College at Nashville, Tennessee [Mrs. Caldwell adds: He interned as a Guggenheim Fellow in New York City]. In 1945, of course, the war ended, and there was a change in the system, and my former principal said, "We don't have that law about married teachers now, and we need you to come back." So it was that fall -- the fall of 1945 -- that I came back to Orangeburg. By 1946, I believe we had enough enrollment, which was about five hundred in the high school, to require a full-time librarian, and that was when I stopped with the teacher-librarian aspect, and began to work in full-time fashion.

RVW: Six hundred students?

RC: Five hundred. Five hundred students.

RVW: To rate a full-time librarian?

RC: A full-time librarian. So, that was one librarian for five hundred students.

RVW: Who had been librarian in between?

RC: In between, when I left in 1943, at the end of the 1942-43 school term, there was a Miss Smiley, Miss Mattie Smiley. I don't... I can't say right now, what she did. I believe she may have married, and may have moved on... which opened that position again.

RVW: Now your husband came back to a practice here in town?

RC: In town. Since he was due to be back (in the Spring of 1946), I came back to Orangeburg (in the fall of 1945), and from 1946 until he died in 1983, he did his dental work here. All right... so, the full-time hassle of librarian, by that time... the requirements I believe, had... they were moving toward certification at thirty hours. Twenty-four semester hours. And six... you needed twenty-four semester hours and six internship. Six clinical... whatever you call it.

RVW: You had never had that?

RC: No.

RVW: After ten years experience?

RC: No, but I... what did they do? They made an accommodation on that, and there was a special workshop... I believe it was during the summer of 1948 -- my mother had just died -- and in 1948 there was a special workshop -- a six-hour workshop -- and I got my six hours. And I believe I had picked up . they accommodated me for that. And I did not go into a clinical experience under other librarians. I remember that they gave me... I was given one of the librarians (there were other systems which did require some of us who had been in that core to come back to State College) to go into a practical set-up, and I think I had one of those librarians just to get that practical experience. But 1948 was the year I cleared my clinical experience requirement, and I had picked up three other hours in-service, which gave me a total of twenty-four semester hours. So that's the way it remained until (as I said, I was married then, and I was living here in Orangeburg) I decided that I would not pursue the library science degree at that time. Now, the urge towards going into a Master's program was promoted here in Orangeburg by the graduate school at the state college. So, I decided that I would work on the Master's degree that was offered at State College, because this was a rather positive step. You had your thirty hours in library science... although they were undergraduate hours, they were in-service hours. They gave you the requirement for full-time library work. The Master's degree, of course, gave you the prestige and the knowledge you needed working in schools, so I went for the Master's degree here at State College, and in 1952, I received that degree. By this time someone had said, "Now you need that Master's degree in library science," so I thought about it...

RVW: The degree that you did get was in education, education and library science?

RC: Well, actually here at State College, I don't believe I had that much more library science...

RVW: It was all education?

RC: It was education and there was a concentration of English. And there weren't any... there were very few library science offerings built into that Master's program. Probably your children's literature... and perhaps a course in writing... and with the course in writing being built in, my writing was done on or in those subjects on library science, but the degree was a Master of Science in Education. And the concentration was English with one or two choices in library science. So that was in 1952, and then the emphasis turned to the fact that I needed my degree in library science, and I decided... I chose the University of Illinois for that. And so, by 1959, I earned an M.S.L.S. By that time, I had been offered work at State College, and had been on the SC State Faculty since 1957.

RVW: I didn't know that you had a Master's from Illinois.

RC: Yes. In library science.

RVW: 1959?

RC: 1959.

RVW: How did you leave the kids behind and all of that?

RC: I didn't have kids [as such]. I had all my things moving well organized, with my husband's cooperation, and my daughter, Laverne Jenkins, was a little girl (my husband's niece) that we adopted. When she was eight years old, we legally adopted her, and at that time, she had been living with her grandmother. Her mother had left town when she was probably three or four years old. We were interested in her, but she lived with her grandmother; her grandmother died in 1956, and that's when we adopted Laverne. Laverne is now a woman, 42 years old. All right, so you see, how I managed to leave this home situation was that there were sisters -- aunts -- in the family who, when I went away to school, kept Laverne. And then, when I came back, we were all together again. But...

RVW: There is a son here someplace too, right?

RC: No.

RVW: Oh, it's Laverne's husband who is in the military?

RC: Laverne is married to a man in the military; he acts like a real son so the only child, Laverne, acts like my real daughter. So, all right, by 1957, I had begun my work at the University of Illinois while I was still at Wilkinson High School. It was in 1954 that I went out to Illinois.

RVW: So you did this summers?

RC: Summers. I did my going back and forth in the summers... 1954, 1955, 1956. And then when I was invited to come to State College -- to the library science faculty -- I did this the second semester, 1956-1957, 1st of February, and from then on at State College until 1983, then I retired. Those... what... twelve years... twelve consecutive years, at Wilkinson, from 1945 to 1957, were some of, really, the most rewarding years... because there I had a chance to do full-time work with high school students -- to put into place a program of library service. And there was where we had the student assistants program -- the full-time co-operation between teachers and librarian -- and we could develop a collection... we could develop associations within the school. We moved with the school from the... we had moved back in the late 1940's from the one-room type -- the small-room type -- to a larger room type... to a building which was a combination of services between the public library and the school library. Again, you see, a second time to collaborate with the public library.

RVW: That's right. The library said to ask you about the Sunlight Club, because that's what we are talking about... that was sharing the school library.

RC: No, that was not the Sunlight Club.

RVW: That's still separate, isn't it?

RC: That Sunlight Club is a community organization [a building on Treadwell Street] that provided an opportunity to develop story hour programs. But the experience here when we all collaborated with the public library came about because the Orangeburg system -- the Orangeburg Library System -- was still segregated at that time (in the 40's). What we had here, was a branch of the Public library and the school library being housed together in a building provided by the county. And that building right today is a part of State College's system. Remember, they bought the high school area on Goff Avenue in Orangeburg, and that consisted of the original Wilkinson High School building and this combination public and school library building.

RVW: Were you running both, or was there somebody from the public library?

RC: There was somebody, just like in Rock Hill. This time, of course, you were in a situation that was totally library. With workroom, office space... and I had the office space. The school librarian had the office space because the persons who worked in the building of the library were library workers; they were not professionals, as we know the word professional. Two women did the workroom type of operation plus the circulation of the books. But the main librarian was the white librarian, who was located downtown. She did all of the office operations for that public library building, and we collaborated where we needed to, but actually there were two separate operations in that building.

RVW: Who was in charge of the public library side?

RC: This was the woman downtown, but the assistant on the spot was one of the two people who worked in the library.

RVW: The library downtown hired those two folks as assistants?

RC: That's right... as assistants in the building.

RVW: Was the collection shared between the two of you?

RC: They were shared. They were shelved together, they were processed separately. The school librarian processed the school materials, and the public librarian processed the branch library materials. Now, yes, we had some differences. The mechanical work... we had some differences about that. We were bound to whatever training we had as school librarians, and the librarian -- the public librarian -- had certain innovations which were slightly different. However, the work... in retrospect, the situation worked out very well.

RVW: Were the two folks from the public library trained?

RC: They had taken some library science hours, but there, you see, you had a difference in that the school librarian had gone on with more. And the workers... the only way that it could be workable was that we be flexible with each other.

RVW: How were relations with them, from your perspective? Were you better educated than the white women?

I... right now I can't remember what kind of hours Mrs. Adams -- that was her name -- what kind of hours she had. She was a very practical woman, a very capable woman, very opinionated. And I was very young, and opinionated, too. So we didn't have the best of relations, but they weren't the worst of relations either. The situation worked, but...

RVW: Anybody could check out books?

Anybody could check out any material. And so the circulation of the things in the library, there was not a problem.

RVW: Who got to do selection?

I selected for the school, and they selected for the public. And I believe our selection tools were standard both ways. So that made a very good collection in that building. And I was able to work with small children sometimes because the elementary school was located... was a neighboring building, and the children stopped by. We had story hours sometimes. Sometimes in working out a program, we had pre-school story hours. But basically speaking, my operation was with the high school. All right... we moved from that situation into a brand new school over on Belleville Road. And the Belleville School, which is a middle school now, started as the new Wilkinson High School, and that was where we had the whole library situation -- whole school library situation -- with office and workroom space, and enough shelving for the... whatever the school population was. And it was still moving very well with the school curriculum... with the school program.

RVW: What kind of use were you able to get of the library by teachers?

Oh, we had...

RVW: Was it increasing all the time?

RC: We had excellent use. Particularly in the English and Social Studies Departments. And we had a very progressive school superintendent. Beginning in 1946 -- I believe his picture was in one of those annuals that I showed you -- Dr. Rushton brought the school system, the different parts of the school system together. There were in-service programs. The librarians had an inner kind of circle. And Mrs. Margaret Ehrhardt who... is she still at the State Department?

RVW: No, she left, too. She retired.

RC: She retired. Mrs. Margaret Ehrhardt was high school librarian here in Orangeburg, and she was... she became the supervisory librarian for the school system. And she was over the different schools... elementary and high (she was the Orangeburg High School librarian, and I was the Wilkinson High School librarian). And then we had various elementary schools with somewhat trained librarians. All right, so with Mrs. Ehrhardt as supervisor, and Miss Nancy Jane Day as State supervisor, we had a rather strong system of school libraries in South Carolina.

RVW: You and Mrs. Ehrhardt collaborated?

RC: She was the chairman for the city school librarians.

RVW: Black and white?

RC: Black and white.

RVW: This is a united school district?

RC: At that time it was still a segregated school system, but the in-service operations were unified.

RVW: Well, this brings to mind -- talking about whether there was collaboration with Mrs. Ehrhardt -- what kind of collaboration is taking place in these other two places all along with the white librarians in the high schools, Anderson and Rock Hill? Are you getting collaboration with those folks... co-operation?

RC: You mean out from Orangeburg?

RVW: Particularly where you were, in Anderson and Rock Hill. Were there high school libraries for most schools in those places? Did those folks co-operate with you?

RC: I don't know what they did. At the time I was there, it was totally separate.

RVW: No co-operation?

RC: No co-operation.

RVW: No relationship at all?

RC: No. No co-ordination that I knew about. There was... in those other situations, there was your school superintendent, there was the principal, and I knew nothing about what the white librarians were doing. You were autonomous.

RVW: Did you know anything about their collections...

RC: There was nothing. I knew that... no, there was no sharing. Now, in Orangeburg you had that big high school and Mrs. Ehrhardt. (Her name was Wright at that time. She wasn't married.). Miss Margaret Wright was the librarian. I knew that, as compared with the collection which I had, there was no comparison numerically. But our school, Wilkinson High School, had planned to be an accredited high school, and at that time the high school put on a drive for books and money and became accredited. The appropriation was not large enough to make it accredited. But by putting on a library drive, which was promoted by the principal, then it became accredited. And it maintained its accreditation. But there was no collaboration, there was no pooling of collections. There was no use of collections among the school libraries until later.

RVW: Was this because there was separate supervision of black schools and white schools? When did Mrs. Ehrhardt become your supervisor?

RC: With this superintendent, Dr. Rushton, having his in-service programs. That's when they began a kind of co-operative relationship, with the librarians. But we had our independent collections.

RVW: Could you borrow back and forth?

RC: I don't recall any of that happening. We had so many books for so many students in each school. And with our being the kind of people we were, we used standard selection tools. That's what it was. We didn't think about trying to have more by using each other's materials. We were thinking about having more materials, because we were using up our appropriations. And I think that went on in the school system, and as you know, this school system became integrated in... somewhere in the 1960's... somewhere around 1968. My husband happened to be a member of the board of trustees. He was the first black member in that group in 1968. And he was appointed, and then he was elected. He was re-elected until 1978 [the year he retired from the Board]. And of course, with the 1968 integration of the board of trustees, there came this main move toward a unified system, which they have now. But as long as they had that separate situation, the collections were built separately and used separately.

RVW: We had better talk about South Carolina State and teaching here. It must have been a big switch for you to go from the high school to here. Was it a big choice to make?

RC: Well, it was. In 1957, or the fall of 1956, Mrs. Kathlyn Moses was over the library science department, and Mrs. Bernice Middleton was working with her. And Mrs. Moses received some kind of different position. I believe it was with... I can't follow that exactly, but it was an upward... she was an upwardly mobile person all the time. And this particular year she went to either the government in Washington, or to some other situation in Chicago, and recommended that I move. She offered me the position to move into the position which was teaching. And Mrs. Moses' position was as administrator. And the main position of Mrs. Middleton at the time was teaching. So Mrs. Middleton moved into the administrative position and I moved into the teaching position. Now, by that time -- by 1957 -- I was deeply involved in my studies at the University of Illinois, and I considered myself very professional. And I loved... I was very much in love with library science, and working with people. And I had been... my library situation had been a main... what is it... a resource for practice teachers, and therefore, I was very familiar with what was going on in the education field. But I was a very active person with Wilkinson High School, and did not really want to take on that position in the fall when it was offered. I thought about it over the first semester, and at the time I had a practice librarian with me, from SC State... from the library science department. She was finishing her work at the end of that first semester, and it looked like a good transition. I was working pretty hard, physically, with the children, and we saw it as a chance to not be so physical in work. When you are working with young high school people, you are very physical. And you lose physical momentum when you come over into the college teaching end [the activity is more mental]. So I felt that it was a time in life when I could make that move. Let me old was I in 1957? What was I?

RVW: Forty?

RC: Forty.

RVW: So, you were just into new courses in Illinois?

RC: Right, right.

RVW: And about to get your degree?

RC: Yes.

RVW: Were you the only teacher in the library science program, or were there others? Were you teaching all the classes?

RC: I taught... well Mrs. Middleton... the administrative position required a certain number of classes, but I, the teacher, had the major number of courses.

RVW: So you taught most everything.

RC: I taught , let's see, how many hours was I teaching? I had administration... Mrs. Middleton taught the cataloging. Reference... we had two courses of reference: book and non-book... books for young people, that is, adolescent literature, and a course in children's literature. And there were at least two segments of children's literature, and Mrs. Middleton taught one section and I taught the other. So those were fundamental courses that I was teaching. And then we had a very active workshop-type program, and we had two government institutes during that time. I believe we had one in 1966, and one in 1970. Then we had short workshops during the summers, and that was the life here at the college. The life at college was regulated. We had, sometimes, connections with the freshmen program, and we, of course, had our own advisees from the department. Then, in addition to that, we developed a charter relationship with a fraternity -- this national fraternity -- the Alpha Beta Alpha... a library science fraternity.

RVW: And you were doing the summer institute for school librarians throughout the state?

RC: Right, right.

RVW: And this was when Mrs. Day would come down?

RC: Miss Day, yes.

RVW: And you would do some things?

RC: We always had our summer school curricula.

RVW: This is when Mrs. Augusta Baker would come down?

RC: And Dr. Frances Henne from Columbia University. In the meantime, I had received a Master's... I had planned to go on for the doctorate, and I went to Columbia University, in 1961, and studied under Dr. Frances Henne.

RVW: How many courses did you finish?

RC: I only did that one course that summer, and then I opted for the doctorate and was approved for the doctorate at Columbia University, but I had to let that go. My husband was not well. And I remember that I explained that I would not go into the doctoral program, so instead I did some short courses. I did some at Duquesne University, in 1965. And that was about all the formal work that I did in library science. I had some good institute experiences, and meetings in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Louisville... back to Illinois for an institute or two, and that was about it [Subject matter -- non-book, media centers, automation].

RVW: The students all this time, in the classes, ranged... what kind of size are we talking about?

RC: To begin with, we had twenty-odd students, usually. I remember that we tried to do something with the male population, and we ended up one year with about eleven football players.

RVW: Well, that's a start...

RC: But we often had one or two male students in the department, and as we went, sometimes... you know how college classes go. Sometimes you have five in a class. The smallness of the enrollment in library science worried some people. We always had good... most of the time we had good students. When the National Examination, NTE, came about, I was one of the first people to take it. (lots of static here) It had just come out... the NTE had just come out. And I was fortunate enough to make the grade -- "A" grade -- and I ended up with a permanent professional certificate after fourteen years of work. And our students, the original set, did well on the NTE. Now, as the technology changed, there was more difficulty in their getting that grade, but we started off very well with it, and you will find... I believe one point to explore might be how many of those students who are out there in the field -- as librarians -- how many of then graduated from this department?

RVW: A bunch of them, I would suspect.

RC: Quite a few.

RVW: We've had, in our place, a lot of folks who have been through this program.

RC: That's right.

RVW: Some of the best students I've had have been...

RC: Thank you. I'm glad to hear that.

RVW: Mary Smalls was one of them...

RC: Thank you. She's a good example. Some librarians down in this library now, at least two... maybe there are three librarians, who are graduates of -- former graduates -- of this department, who have... well, that makes four. [Lillie Walker and Calverta Long are two older ones. I was Dr. Barbara Jenkins' high school librarian.].

RVW: You retired what year?

RC: 1983. [Mrs. Caldwell adds: My husband of 39 years and 9 months died suddenly at the same time -- May 6, 1983. SC State College's Commencement program was May 8th.]

RVW: 1983.

RC: That's right, 1983. I've been retired now... this is my fifth year [after 43 years of educational work].

RVW: Since we are over time, why don't we just close off by asking some general questions. We talked a little bit about segregation, and those kinds of things. As an educated woman, during all these years, what was it like in this kind of society?

RC: Oh, we were quite determined not to let it matter, and not to let it be the final situation. I remember that we had been to the public library up in the... what was it... we met in Greenville, and couldn't live in the hotel. We said, "Oh, that's all right, we'll be back."

RVW: That's to attend SCLA?

RC: That's right. So we were a part of the militancy of the 1960's. I think that explains it. And all our lives of course, we had the race pride because we were not oppressed in our schooling, being in a private school. But in the community we were certainly conditioned, but as far as education is concerned, as you know, this is something which has been on-going, even in the big universities, but I found that in the big university situation, you had to do your work. You did your work. I came out as a member of Beta Phi Mu [was initiated at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC in June, 1959]. If you did your work, that was the most important thing.

RVW: What about by the professional community? By the librarians?

RC: They were just like all the others. The sense of superiority was there, but...

RVW: Did SCLA welcome you during these years?

RC: SCLA? I think I'm going to let you get your answer from what is the situation now. It was evolving. And who is the president now? Isn't it Barbara?

RVW: No, she's the former president.

RC: It was evolving just like the other situations, other racial situations... slowly. But there was separation. That was just it. There was just separation.

RVW: Now, you were active in the Palmetto Education Association.

RC: Yes I was. I picked up something just now... to the editor of the PEA Journal. "Dear Sir, I am enclosing an article which I am submitting in my capacity as the chairman of the public relations committee of the library group of the PEA..." I was active. And I wrote some articles -- tried to write some articles -- and tried to do some professional studies. This [the letter] is from one of the strong librarians [Mrs. Mabel McKissick of Union, now in New London, CT], that I am presenting to you in this profile. She was in Union.

RVW: I want to borrow this from you to copy. I will return it to you.

RC: Sure. How I happen to have it... she had moved on from Union, but this is a letter from Union. She went to New London, Connecticut, but it seems that right now she has come back at this time to Union, just visiting.

RVW: Do you have extensive files that you have collected over the years that I hope you are going to donate to South Carolina State, or plant them as part of your family archives? Have you thought about doing that sort of thing?

RC: I haven't really thought about it. I didn't feel like I had that much, but I certainly would like to see if I had something that would work out, and I imagine...

RVW: I suspect you do, between your papers and your husband's papers there must be a fair amount of archival papers that you can donate to the college so they won't be lost. I'm not saying you're going to die tomorrow, but I hope you will be prepared to do something about them so they won't be lost.

RC: I really need... I have been very down-hearted, and didn't even want to look at these things. I haven't really looked at them. This is... what is this? This recording is a very rewarding experience.

[TAPE RAN OUT] A note from Mrs. Caldwell: "I am very active in organizations -- church, civic, and social -- with some limitations. I feel very keenly the loss of my husband, but I've succeeded in working with 'what I cannot change'."

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