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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mildred Price Coy, April 26, 1976. Interview G-0020. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Coy relates better to her mother; her parents care about her education

Contrasting her mother's childhood with her father's, Coy explains why her relationship to her mother was so much warmer than her father. She also explains her parents' shared commitment to education for all their children.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mildred Price Coy, April 26, 1976. Interview G-0020. 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

MARY FREDERICKSON You said that you were much closer to your mother, and I wondered if you remembered her talking about her life as a child, what she faced as a little girl.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Her father was a really wonderful man. Her mother was all right, too, but her mother was one of these Methodists who believed that Methodism should be spread throughout the world, and how lucky the slaves were to have the influence of Methodism. They were lucky. Wouldn't you say that?
HAROLD COY:
Yes. MARY FREDERICKSON Was her mother an evangelist herself?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, but she did read the Bible every year. If you read three chapters every day and five chapters on Sunday, you could read the Bible in a year. She had it all worked out. MARY FREDERICKSON [Laughter]
MILDRED PRICE COY:
She was a kind woman. She was a schoolteacher. And she was my grandfather's second wife. His first wife had died of tuberculosis. And she was good. But she was very religious, very much of a Methodist. MARY FREDERICKSON What do you think she had planned for your mother?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
People didn't make plans. The southerners didn't make plans. [Laughter] MARY FREDERICKSON Did she see your mother as being what you might call a southern lady?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, she didn't. I don't know what she thought. My grandfather sent my mother to Guilford College for one year, and he wouldn't let her go back. He could have supported her and let her go back and finish, but he said he couldn't give the same education to his other daughters, whose mother had died. So he didn't send my mother back, and so then she married when she was nineteen. MARY FREDERICKSON How did your mother and father meet?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
They lived just seven miles from each other. And when my grandfather's flour mill burned down, my other grandfather, Grandfather Price, sent him a whole wagonload of everything he could find. So they were neighbors, just seven miles. MARY FREDERICKSON Was your father older than your mother?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. MARY FREDERICKSON By much? Do you think that made any difference?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I think he was about seven years older than she was. I think he was around twenty-six or twenty-seven when he married; she was nineteen. MARY FREDERICKSON You said she didn't join in the conversations about politics with the men on the front lawn. Was she interested in politics herself?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
She was very reactionary. She didn't know anything, you see. And everybody was reactionary, so she didn't feel as though she'd lost anything. MARY FREDERICKSON Did she really run the household? She had ten children, did she?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I should say she did. She worked all the time. And as soon as we girls could, we helped in the housework. But she worked all the time. She was a strong woman. My father used to work in Winston-Salem. I've forgotten what he did there. He worked there for a while, and he got a salary. It was something to have a salary. And he'd bring her books from the Winston-Salem Library. He brought her Mark Twain's books, and she just adored Mark Twain. He'd bring her other books. He brought her Woodrow Wilson's history. My father just loved Woodrow Wilson. [Laughter] And so she tried to read at night. But I don't know how she did it, after working all day long as hard as she did, by lamplight. MARY FREDERICKSON How did both of them feel about education for their children?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Oh, that was the prime thing. Had to have education. When my brother Enoch went off to the University, the thing they had to have to enter the University was matriculation fee. And that was a horrible thing in our house. Where is the matriculation fee coming from? So Enoch drove to Reidsville a set of calves, and he got money for them and then he could enter the University. That was his matriculation fee. MARY FREDERICKSON Do you think both of your parents felt the same way about educating the sons and the daughters?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. MARY FREDERICKSON It was as important for the girls to have an education?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. He wanted his girls to be teachers. And one day he was lying when he was sick, not very long before he died. And my mother and my sister Branson were sitting out on the back porch. And my mother thought we should take a business course. There was no money. So he heard us from his bedroom, and he called my mother. He said, "Patty, no daughter of mine shall be a stenographer." So then we had to give up the idea. [Laughter] MARY FREDERICKSON What do you think were the major differences between your parents? They came sort of out of the same background, but they were very, very different people. Why do you think they were so different?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
My mother had a big heart. My mother was loving and kind, and she had some sense, too. She was brought up in a kindly home, and she never argued with my father. I never remember their ever having words. I don't think he was particularly harsh with her, but he was with his children, but she never said anything. But she didn't like him. I know she didn't like him, because she'd make fun of him when I was old enough to realize. He'd make such rules around, and we'd laugh about them behind his back. She wasn't very loyal to him behind his back, and you can't blame her. MARY FREDERICKSON She was much closer to the children and took much more delight in her children than he did, do you think?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Oh, yes. He was proud of his sons, but he didn't think too much of his girls [laughter], I'm afraid. But my sister Ruth, he loved her, the oldest girl, you know. She was so beautiful. And she wouldn't study. But he never tried to make her study. And she'd talk back to him. She was the only one in the family who would talk back to him. And he just adored her, but she would not study. MARY FREDERICKSON Do you think she was sort of like a pet, then?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
He didn't show it too much—he was so cold—but you knew that he loved her. He sent her to Salem College as long as they'd let her go there without paying too much money. And then she got a job teaching. MARY FREDERICKSON How do you think your parents felt about having so many children?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
God only knows. I don't know. I don't know whether they thought that was a good idea or bad. We never talked about problems. There was no such thing as talking over problems.