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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's experience in a small country school

Coy recalls her early schooling experiences, especially one teacher's secret romance. She also tells several anecdotes about being taught in a small country school.

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 Do you remember that school that you went to, the first one?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Oh, yes, Miss Berry was the teacher. And I was her pet. And she came from a family in Reidsville. And Miss Berry would teach me to read. She'd take me up on her lap and teach me to read. And then every summer I would go to Miss Berry's house and stay a month, and Miss Berry had her sister and some brothers, and they called me "Little Mil." And they were always very sweet to me, but they were very reactionary people. But I didn't know they were reactionary, because I was myself, I guess. [Laughter] Anyway, they were very kind to me when we lived in Wentworth. MARY FREDERICKSON How old was this teacher?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I guess she was in her twenties. I don't know. MARY FREDERICKSON She was a young woman, then.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. And she had a boyfriend there in Reidsville, Mr. Hutchinson. And she had to sneak around and go out with Mr. Hutchinson, because her family didn't like him I'm not sure. And one day I was out with her and Mr. Hutchinson. Then she said, "Now, Mil, when we go back, if they ask you if I was with Mr. Hutchinson, you say no." So they did. They got hold of me right away. They said, "Was Mary with Mr. Hutchinson?" I said, "No, she wasn't." And it didn't hurt me at all [laughter] to tell the lie, because Miss Berry was so good to me. I'd do anything for her. She had a Bible, and it had this verse in it: "Holy Bible, book divine, Precious treasure, thou art mine.* [Laughter] I remember that. MARY FREDERICKSON Did she read the Bible in school?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Oh, yes. Everybody read the Bible. They were Methodists. MARY FREDERICKSON Did you like the school that you went to in Wentworth?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
It was a one-room school. And after Miss Berry left we had a teacher, and we had to sing "The Old North State." You know that song "The Old North State"? MARY FREDERICKSON No.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
We had to sing that every morning. It's "Carolina, Carolina, Heaven's blessings attend thee." And I was just a little thing, and I didn't know the words. So Miss Crossen said, "Mildred, you'll have to sing." And I was a timid little beggar. I said, "I don't know the words." She said, "Well, you open your mouth. Just keep your mouth open then." So then I went home and told my mother, and so [laughter] everybody had a big to-do over it, that I should have to stand there with my mouth open. I don't know what ever happened. MARY FREDERICKSON Were any of your sisters or brothers in school with you at that school?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
All of them were. My father sent Ruth to the Reidsville Seminary. And my brother Tom, my oldest one, I think he sent him to Oakridge very early. MARY FREDERICKSON But the others were in this school with you.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, everybody was in the same room, just one room. MARY FREDERICKSON But you were still timid, even though your sisters and brothers were there?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, I was timid. I'd just cry at the drop of a hat. [Laughter] MARY FREDERICKSON That's hard to imagine. [Laughter] You went to school there, and then did you finish grade school when you went back to the farm? Or did you finish grade school in Wentworth?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, I didn't finish it in Wentworth. We went back to the farm. We didn't have a school to go to. Miss Berry came and taught us, and we had a little office building out in the yard, and she taught us for a while. MARY FREDERICKSON And your father arranged this, that she would come back with you?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. She'd already gone back to Reidsville, but she did come down there and live with us, I think maybe for a year, and taught us. MARY FREDERICKSON So it was like having a tutor.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. One thing I learned there, she taught us this; all of us would say it together. "The night has a thousand eyes, and the day but one, Yet the light of a whole life dies, when day is done." [Laughter] I remember that. MARY FREDERICKSON You'd learned these lessons well.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. [Laughter] MARY FREDERICKSON Did you ever keep up with her? Do you know what happened to her?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. I got a letter from her; I wish I had kept it. She's dead. But she did write me the sweetest letter not so terribly long ago. She taught in Roxboro, North Carolina. And our school didn't begin until long after other schools began. And so she let me come to her room, and I'd sit there while she was teaching. And in this last letter I ever got from her, she said, "Mil, you were the sweetest little girl." And so many people have told me that. [Laughter] "You were such a sweet little girl." And I don't believe I ever answered Miss Berry's letter. MARY FREDERICKSON Did she have the same kind of influence on you perhaps that your mother did? Was she a kind person?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
She was very kind, and she didn't have any children of her own. No, she didn't know anything. But she was sweet. MARY FREDERICKSON Was she ever interested in hearing about what you went on to do?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No. I never would tell them. I never told any of them. I never said anything to them about it.