What is your oldest childhood memory?
I guess walking to high school in Greenville. Walking to Sterling, walking around the corner to my high school. You know previously I’d been riding cause I was in another area. I guess walking to school up to Sterling. I know I loved that. I just thought it was so great. And then with the little boys and all of that. I went to Sterling High School in Greeville [South Carolina]. That’s where I grauated from. I started out in Laurens. I remember I didn’t like down there. So I can’t remember the name of the school.
Describe your parents. What lessons did they teach you?
Everything I guess. Everything I learned about life, I learned from my mom and my dad because they were very close to me. Myfather was such a great man I thought. As much as I loved my daddy and as much as I-, how great I thought he was, I said I’m going to write somethig and send it to the newspaper. That was before Father’s Day. [Shares a tribute she wrote to the Greensboro News and Record for her father
http://www.news-record.com/content/2012/06/08/article/let_s_pool_our_efforts_promote_fatherhood]. I loved my mom too. But I mean daddy-, people talk about black men, black fathers and all, and thought he was just outstanding. Everything they did, they taught me everything that I know really.
What kind of work did they do?
Mom was a school teacher. And daddy did so many things. He farmed, he was a carpenter, he was a painter, and he taught himself everything. In fact he only went to the-, I guess 7th or 8th grade.
And your mom was a teacher, how far did she go in school?
She went-, she finished college. Two or three years of college. You know back in those days how it was. She finished Morris College in Sumter, South Carolina. She went back [home] and you know back in those days that was very unusual.
Who were your childhood heroes?
Ooh Lord, let me see if I remember. I know my parents were. My mom, dad, my mother’s mother. My mother’s mother was Lila. I’m named after her, Lila Woody. I’m trying to think of any other movie stars or anybody. If so I can’t remember them. I cant remember any movie stars back in those days. Maybe Lena Horne or somebody like that, you know. But other than that, as far as I know, I don’t know if there were any heroes back then.
What types of games did you play?
Basketball in the yard, Backyard Basketball. Cause I never played cards and things like that. I couldn’t sit still that long. Everybody was in the yard in those days. We weren’t in no house. In fact I hated that anyway. Being in the house. I loved the yards, I guess that’s what’s wrong with me now. I love to be out. Not in my yard, but I just love to be gone. I like to get in the car and get gone.
How did you spend the holidays?
Probably with my-, with mom in the kitchen, and grandma you know. on the holidays in the kitchen cooking. Just around Christmas time. Looking, watching them cook. Not me. That’s why I can’t cook today.
Is there anything special that they would prepare for the holidays?
Turkey and that type of thing. Cakes and special made pies and things like that. And somewhere in there, put in there how I love coffee. And I don’t like anything in it, I just like plain black coffee. I learned to like that cause my parents kept their coffee cups on the table, and once they’d leave out I’d go drink it. I’ve always been a character, I can tell you that. I used to drink they’re coffee when they’d go leave out of the kitchen or somewhere, leave out from the table. If they have any left, I’d go run to and just-. And you know back in those days they made it hard, that real coffee back then.
What do you remember about schooling?
I loved it. The love of school. I always loved school. And I loved the fact that mom taught me for a long time. Quite a few years. Mother was a teacher and she was real strict on me, I know that. Seemed like I liked English better than all the others. Seem like I wasn’t a Math person.
Where did you live? Where did you grow up?
Two areas. Laurens County, you know down there where Tom [Thomas Weldon Garrett] and those live. And Greenville [both in South Carolina].
Did you live on the land?
Yeah. I lived on the land. That house is still there I guess.
Why did you all move to Greenville?
I don’t know. My dad decided he wanted to just change locations.
Did you have to work growing up?
No, I didn’t have to. No. We helped around the house and all of that. But we didn’t have to work. But now when I was a teenager, I worked. I didn’t have to but I worked. I worked at the hospital, General Hospital in Greenville. I worked at a restaurant, in the kitchen of course. I had to work in a kitchen. I couldn’t keep still now. I never have been the type to keep still.
What event had the greatest impact on your life?
Well marriage I guess. I got married. A great wedding; a big wedding. Planning for a big wedding. And obtaining degrees.
Did this event impact your family?
They caused them to have a lot of pride. They were real proud of me obtaining degrees. Cause when I got my M.A. [Master’s of Art] it was back in the 70’s and that was kind of unusual to get a Master’s from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, UNC. My mom was very proud. My dad had died by then.
What did you get your M.A. in?
Business Education. My doctorate is in education.
What was your profession? How did you choose it?
My profession was a teacher. I was a high school teacher and a college teacher. High School and College. The professions were limited back in those days. The areas of work were limited. We didn’t have many choices back in those days.
What is the one thing you most want people to remember about you?
That I tried to be helpful to people. I tried to be as helpful as possible. And I tried to let everybody know there are unlimited opportunities out here in the world.
July 21, 2012
*Interview by Chaunte` Garrett
*Photography by Chaunte` Garrett
Photographed and compiled by the wife of a great-great-grandson of Wister Lee Garrett.