- What is your earliest childhood memory?
- I remember hearing on the radio that the war ended in 1945. We were playing across the street. We used to play across the street with the other kids in the trees and swing off the tree limbs. I was swinging on one of the tree limbs and it broke.
- At the time, we just had radio, no television. The radio had murder mysteries acted out by various people.
- Describe the personalities of your family members.
- Father (Melzar Williams)
- My father always worked. I remember him rushing from one job to another.
- He sold the timber off his wife’s property in Quitman, MS without her knowledge.
- Periodically, he told stories about his time in the Merchant Marines. He joined as a cook and used a recipe to make the food – he became a baker doing cakes, pies, etc. If the recipes didn’t turn out there was so much food that the mistakes could be tossed and you could start over until you got it right. The ship could not dock in New Guinea so the supplies had to be transported to shore.
- Daddy Chappy played the trumpet at a lot of the events.
- Father (Melzar Williams)
- Mother (Inell Williams) – My mother was always home keeping us kids. If my Mom and Daddy Chappy went to a dance, Nanny (Alice Coleman) would keep us. My mother was strict, but my father was not.
- Grandmother (Eva Jasper) – Momma Eva was nice, and an excellent cook! She could cook with just a few ingredients and it would taste fantastic! She had a wood burning stove. I remember her cooking salt pork. She would boil the salt pork to remove the excess salt, then cut it and fry it up. It tasted so good! She also was a devout church member and did a lot of fund-raisers. She had a fish fry every Saturday – it was mullet – the cheapest fish you could buy. It cost $.05 per pound. She also made homemade ice cream to sell at $.05 per scoop. The proceeds went to the church.
- Grandfather (Joseph Brown – Momma Eva’s husband) – Daddy Joe wanted to be an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) preacher. When Daddy Joe passed, the AME church did not want to bury him as an ordained minister because the church leadership said he did not have enough members to be buried as a minister. Momma Eva protested, and defended her husband. She threatened to stop doing fund-raisers. Ultimately, the church buried Joe as an ordained minister.
- What was your favorite thing to do for fun (movies, beach, etc.)? We went to the beach a lot. The postmen combined their monies and purchased a beach house on Mon Louis Island. They helped to build various parts of the beach house. There was a kitchen, dressing room, a game room, and a bathroom. The jetty was routinely washed away by the high tides and storms every year.
- Did you have family chores? Yes.
- What were they? My sister and I took turns, every week, making our bed and washing dishes.
- Which was your least favorite? We really didn’t have a lot of chores, but I didn’t like washing dishes the most.
- What was school like for you as a child? I was sick a lot due to my tonsils. My father eventually took me to a doctor because I was missing so much school. The doctor looked at my tonsils and said they needed to come out. My father asked when my tonsils could be removed, and the doctor said, “I can remove them tomorrow!”
- What were your best and worst subjects? All subjects were about the same. I made good grades in all my subjects. I took a lot of science courses. I enjoyed math and french.
- Where did you attend grade school? I attended school at Williamson (still researching this). They had grades 1-7.
- High school? I attended Dunbar High School for 8th grade, and then I went to Central High School for 9th through 11th grade. All students graduated from high school after completing the 11th grade. The school laws required Negroes to graduate from college to teach school, but the White students could start teaching school after graduating from the 11th grade.
- College? I attended Talladega College in Talladega, AL. I was 16 years old when I started. Prior to my acceptance, Talladega had a requirement for you to send a picture with your application. If you were lighter than a paper bag and you met the college requirements, the college accepted your application. If you were darker than the paper bag, the college rejected your application! It was a good thing there was no paper bag test when I applied! The college was on the other side of Birmingham, AL. I took the train from Mobile to Birmingham, then walked around corner to catch a Greyhound bus for an hour drive to the college.
The answers to the above questions can take you in many directions. You can dig as deep as you want to gather what’s needed.
History of Talladega College: The history of Talladega College began on November 20, 1865 when two former slaves, William Savery and Thomas Tarrant, both of Talladega, met in convention with a group of new freedmen in Mobile, Alabama. From this meeting came the commitment: “…We regard the education of our children and youths as vital to the preservation of our liberties, and true religion as the foundation of all real virtue, and shall use our utmost endeavors to promote these blessings in our common country.” Source: http://www.talladega.edu/history.asp The famous Amistad Murals can be found here: Amistad Murals
Between The Dashes