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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Henry Ell Frye, February 18 and 26, 1992. Interview C-0091. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Role models in African American school

Frye discusses role models he had while attending segregated schools in Ellerbe, North Carolina, during the 1930s and 1940s. Frye recalls that he had opportunities to participate in various activities, although earlier he noted that his school did not have a gymnasium, whereas the white school did. In addition, he stresses the importance of the encouragement he received from teachers and the principal. For Frye, his early school years were formative in terms of establishing the drive and determination that shaped the rest of his life and career.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Henry Ell Frye, February 18 and 26, 1992. Interview C-0091. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

AMY E. BOENING:
Did you have a role model when you were in school who encouraged you to pursue higher education?
HENRY ELL FRYE:
I had so many it's hard to name them all. I suppose I would start with my Scout master, Mr. McIntyre. He was, incidentally, my 8th grade teacher. He was very strict, but he was the kind who expected a lot of you and encouraged you but was very hard on you if you really didn't do what you were supposed to do. I admired him a great deal. My agriculture teacher who was almost the opposite. He was the kind that always encouraged you, but he was not strict at all. There was just something about him that impressed me that he was concerned about us, so that's another one. My English teacher I thought was the greatest person in the world in terms of knowledge and things of that nature, and she was also a our class advisor and the wife of the principal. Very different from the principal who was, I thought, in earlier years mean - but I found out later that he wasn't so mean after all. It was just his idea that he was a strict disciplinarian and the kind of person who just would not take no for an answer. I recall that our - this is really unusual, you couldn't do this today - incidentally, we were a small school. There were 300 to 400 people in the entire school, so you are talking about a small number of people in the classes. With our choir, for some reason or other, none of the seniors were in the choir, and he found out about this one day and he had a meeting with us. He said, "Starting tomorrow, I want every senior in the choir." We fussed and complained, but all of us joined the choir. That was his way of doing things. If he decided that something was to be done, you would do it. Some of us didn't sing very well, but that's the way things went. But continuing with Mr. Easterling, that's his name. He is well known throughout that area incidentally. Mr. Easterling was the coach of the girls' basketball team, and they had a great team. They were really good. He worked them hard, but he trained them. They were really, really great. We also started a band, and I wanted to play the saxophone. The band instructor gave me instead a clarinet or trombone or something. Anyway, whatever it was, I didn't like that. So after a few times, I decided to quit, not play in the band. Mr. Easterling called me to the office. Everybody was afraid to go the office. At any rate, I went to the office and he said, "What's this I hear about you quitting the band?" I said, "I don't like that instrument." He said, "Let me tell you something. Winners never quit and quitters never win. Now you go back out there and get that trombone or whatever the instrument was and start back playing." So I did until we had a concert, and I think I must have been off key a lot [laughter] because after that the band instructor suggested that maybe I should concentrate on other things rather than playing in the band. [laughter] But I have never forgotten the lesson that winners never quit and quitters never win.