Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mary Turner Lane, September 9 and 16, 1986; May 21, 1987; October 1 and 28, 1987. Interview L-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Extracurricular life at Salem College

Though she loved her classes, Lane was also very active in non-academic activities. She describes the atmosphere of life on campus and how various daily routines such as the meals were planned. She ends the passage by describing the students' relationship to the cleaning, janitorial and maintenance staff. She continues returning to these topics throughout the next several minutes of the interview.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mary Turner Lane, September 9 and 16, 1986; May 21, 1987; October 1 and 28, 1987. Interview L-0039. 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

How about the non-academic environment?
MARY TURNER LANE:
The non-academic was significant for me. I think I'm probably a joiner, in that I like to be involved in whatever is going on. So I wrote for the newspaper; I wrote for the annual. I was in sports on the teams. We had a wonderful old tradition at Salem, which all colleges had at that time, which was a May Day Festival in the spring. I was active in that, in the planning and the operation of that. In my senior year I was chairman of May Day. So I was involved in many aspects of it—life.
PAMELA DEAN:
What was the residence situation; did they have dormitories or rooming houses?
MARY TURNER LANE:
Well, we all lived on campus. There were a few day students, as they were called. Young women who lived in town who came to Salem. Lovely, young women who added a very nice dimension to our lives in that they took us home with them, and we met young men through them. We could go to their homes—if we double-dated, we had a home to go to with a friend, so they added a great deal to our pleasure. And we became very good friends. I'm still in touch with some of those day students who were very much a part of Salem.
PAMELA DEAN:
So they were very much integrated into the social life. In some cases they aren't.
MARY TURNER LANE:
In some cases they aren't. But I think they were at Salem. The dormitories were very comfortable. When you were a senior, you could move into something that was called a senior dormitory that was set up with suites for people, two rooms and a bath. Suites are very common today, but that was just a very special treat then. The campus was very small and easy too. The food was wonderful. I'm painting a very glossy picture of it.
PAMELA DEAN:
Yes. Before your senior year, how was the physical set-up of the dormitories? How many people to a room?
MARY TURNER LANE:
Oh, they were small as you compare them with dormitories here at Carolina. Maybe there would not be more than 150 people in a dormitory. Well, there were about 100 people in the freshman class, and 53 students graduated as seniors. So for the people who were there for four years, maybe there wouldn't be more than 350 people in the college.
PAMELA DEAN:
How were the rooms set up—two people to a room?
MARY TURNER LANE:
Two people to a room.
PAMELA DEAN:
Bathrooms down the hall.
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes, you had a lavatory in your room, but your showers and all other facilities were down the hall. One dining room. All of us could be seated at one time.
PAMELA DEAN:
For the whole college?
MARY TURNER LANE:
For the whole college. You were seated at tables of either ten or twelve. Moravian blessing was said at lunch and at dinner. Members of the faculty would eat at a faculty table. A senior would be seated at each table to be in charge, to serve the plates. Everything was served by them. The food was on the table and then the seniors served the plates and passed those.
PAMELA DEAN:
There was nobody who waited on tables or that kind of arrangement?
MARY TURNER LANE:
No, I think that all of the maintenance and kitchen staff and the dining room staff were all hired help. Students did not work in the dining room. The way that students could earn money, I believe, was in an office or at the desk in dormitories, because there was no coming and going in dormitories from people on the outside. Somebody was always on the telephone desk and students were paid so much per hour that would be applied to their tuition.
PAMELA DEAN:
Let me go back for a moment to the staff; I'm just curious: was most of the staff black?
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes.
PAMELA DEAN:
How about the dormitories, did you have to keep your rooms clean yourself or was there someone who did that?
MARY TURNER LANE:
No, they were cleaned weekly. And the staff for that was black.
PAMELA DEAN:
Were these people that you got to know at all or were they…?
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes. You had favorites and they had favorites. Yes, and they had been there for years.
PAMELA DEAN:
I was just this afternoon looking through Educate A Woman, about Greensboro, and there were photographs in there of some of the black staff who had been there for years. It indicated that they had a very proprietary attitude toward the student. These were their, sort of their students.
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes, I think that that would be true.
PAMELA DEAN:
I don't think that there is ever that sort of feeling these days. I mean there is the sort of janitorial staff, and so seldom do you even notice them, really.
MARY TURNER LANE:
That's an interesting question on your part, because I think we thought of these people as very much a part of Salem. And I think they saw themselves as very much a part of Salem. Now that may be a white southern women speaking, and that might not have been the case at all.