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Title: Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Durr, Virginia Foster, interviewee
Interview conducted by Thrasher, Sue Hall, Jacquelyn
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 532 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
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The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-10-25, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0023-1)
Author: Sue Thrasher and Jacquelyn Hall
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0023-1)
Author: Virginia Foster Durr
Description: 689 Mb
Description: 164 p.
Note: Interview conducted on March 13, 14, 15, 1975, by Sue Thrasher and Jacquelyn Hall; recorded in Wetumpka, Alabama.
Note: Transcribed by Joe Jaros.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series G. Southern Women, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975.
Interview G-0023-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Durr, Virginia Foster, interviewee


Interview Participants

    VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR, interviewee
    CLIFFORD DURR, interviewee
    SUE THRASHER, interviewer
    JACQUELYN HALL, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
SUE THRASHER:
Can you tell me something about your family and where they come from, what county in Alabama, how you grew up, where your father and mother came from?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh certainly. I'm like most southerners, I'm very interested in family history. Of course, you never are interested until you get old, when you are young, you don't pay any attention to it much. But as you get older, you are always very much interested in it, at least I am, and I think that most people are. But the trouble is, that the old people that could tell you the most about your family are dead by that time, so you have to depend on recollection or what family papers there are or family letters. As far as I know, my father's family were English and the name Foster comes from "forester", you know, the king's forester. Probably they were woodchoppers, but they arrived in this country way back yonder, about 1700 or thereabouts. The story was that one brother settled in Massachusetts and one brother settled in Virginia. They settled around South Boston in Virginia and there are a lot of Fosters still around there and there are a lot of black Fosters. You know, Dr. Luther Foster over here at Tuskegee is named Foster and he came from that area. We can't claim kin, but the fact is that there are a lot of black and white Fosters in that area still. But my great grandfather came south, you see, with Gen. Greene's army in the Revolutionary War and he fought at Cowpens and Kings Mountain under General Greene and then after the war was over, the newly formed United States of America gave General Greene a tremendous lot of land in Georgia to settle his soldiers on, it's called Greene County. As I recollect, Madison is the

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county seat of Greene County.
My great grandfather married a girl named Hannah Johnston. They met in a stockade because of the Indian wars. Of course, they were taking the land away from the Indians. They were married and had, I think, thirteen children, twelve sons and one daughter. My grandfather was one of them and they prospered and did very well, because my grandfather was sent to Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia and became a doctor. Then, he came back to Georgia and about the 1840's he met my grandmother. She was a Heard and her mother was a MacGruder. Now, these are all Scotch names, all Presbyterians. They also met in a stockade, the last flicker of the Indian wars. She was only fifteen when they married, a very young girl. But they married and came over to Alabama and settled in Union Springs. Evidently, they brought some slaves with them. Union Springs at that time was a very rich part of the country. You see, this was the migration from the old worn out lands in the east to the west, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana and finally to Texas. They would come over because they didn't know how to conserve the land and to fertilize it and they would have to get fresh land. The land around Union Springs was enormously rich and there was a great big spring there. There are all kinds of tales about Union Springs, it has quite a history because there was a terrible kind of competition between slave traders selling slaves. At Union Springs, one man poisoned the spring and killed all the slaves that the other trader was selling. Horrible things like that come out of the past that chill your blood. Whatever the glamour of the society was, it was based on this terrible slave system. Anyway, my family established themselves in Union Springs and my grandfather was a doctor and also they acquired a lot of land.
Outside of Union Springs, there is a sort of a ridge that they call Chunnunugee Ridge, which is above the lowlands where the slaves worked, and cotton was grown. My family settled on that.

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The high land was [unknown] considered to be immune to malaria, I don't think that it was, [unknown] but that was the idea. The plantation owners lived up on the ridge, Chunnunugee Ridge that was supposed to be above the malaria belt. Of course, they really didn't know what caused malaria then. They thought it was the miasma of the swamps, they didn't know it was mosquitos. My grandmother had fifteen children, but a lot of them died. The Foster graveyard [unknown] down in Union Springs is just full of little bitty graves, "So and So child that died of summer complaint at the age of nine months or two years." So, out of the fifteen children only four lived to be old. Two of the boys were killed in the Civil War.
Now my grandfather opposed the Civil War. He was a Whig and by that time he had become quite prosperous and he thought they should settle the slave issue the way that they had in England, by the government buying up the slaves and recompensing the owners. He hated William Loundes Yancey who he thought was a firebrand and was plunging the South into war. So, he was opposed to the Civil War and he found a substitute, he didn't go to the war, which was a great disgrace in those days. I never heard that until I was older. He bought a substitute and sent him to the war because he didn't believe in the war. But two sons died in the war, so I was told.
SUE THRASHER:
Now, how old was your father during the war?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
He was born, I think, either the last year of the war or right after the war. Not only did my grandfather not go to the war, he didn't buy Confederate bonds. You see, in those days, they shipped their cotton through Mobile to Liverpool and the factors in Liverpool were the ones that would make the settlements. So, he told them in Liverpool to keep the money. When the war was over, he was one of the few men in that part of Alabama [unknown] that had any money, any gold. The Confederate money had gone

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to absolutely nothing. So, he prospered considerably after the Civil War and they lived in great style and he bought up all the lands of these poor fellows that had invested in Confederate bonds. My recollection is that when I first remember the plantation, they owned about 35,000 acres of land, which was a lot of land.
SUE THRASHER:
Did your grandfather have slaves?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh heavens, yes.
SUE THRASHER:
What happened to them?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, all I ever heard was that the slaves were so loyal that "old Mose" hid the silver and [unknown] took the horses into the swamps and [unknown] all loved him dearly. I was brought up, you see, on the romantic tradition of the slave system being benevolent.
And I remember my grandmother. She died when I was about eight, so I remember her very well; I was named for her. My grandfather had died, so I never knew him, but my grandmother, I was named for her, Virginia Heard Foster, and I had kind of reddish hair and she had reddish hair. Very red, in fact. She was the most delightful person. She had married when she was fifteen and she was like a queen bee.
She had always been surrounded by servants or slaves and she had never had to do anything in her life but be charming and everybody loved her dearly and called her "Miss Ginny." Her husband adored her and he would go down to New Orleans and send her back fine dresses. She was really like a child. She had that sort of . . . do you remember Dora in David Copperfield? I'm reading David Copperfield now. She was like Dora, she was childlike. She was full of laughter and everybody loved her and she loved everybody.
The person that I remember best was Old Easter. She was a black woman who

Page 5
had been a slave. You asked what happened after the Reconstruction, they all said that the slaves never would leave or else they came back and when I was a child, the whole back yard was still full of these slave cabins that were [unknown] full of old men and old women who had been slaves and still lived on the plantation. You see, they were scared of freedom maybe. I don't imagine they had any money, I suppose they may have gotten a little bit, but they still were there and were fed. I remember sitting in their laps. I think that this was one reason that it was hard for me to swallow the prevailing theory about blacks being so inferior. Because as I recall, certainly in the case of Easter, she ran the plantation . . . she was a little sharp black woman who wore [unknown] white aprons and dresses and a white starched bandana on her head, she ran the plantation. She wore the keys. You couldn't get a cookie unless you asked Easter. She put the food out for every meal and I'm sure that she even planned the meals. She may have asked my grandmother about some things, but she was in charge of everything and she was always in charge of us children. We did exactly what she told us to do. She had a very great dignity. One thing that I always remember about her was that she never laughed. I think that a sense of humor is very hard on a dictator because she was always dignified and autocratic. She couldn't punish us, I mean by any physical punishment, but she could punish us by saying, "You're not going to get your morning cookie." We used to have cookies in the middle of the morning or lemonade in the middle of the afternoon. But she was absolutely the law and there was no appeal. Neither to your mother or your grandmother or whomever you complained to about Easter. That was just too bad, because they always thought that Easter knew best and she really did. She was a very wise woman and she really was a woman of tremendous achievements, because she

Page 6
ran that whole place.
I don't know how many people there were on the plantation. [unknown] They [unknown] raised their own sheep and cattle and the chickens and the eggs and the milk and the clabber and the butter, everything was raised on the place. There was an enormous orchard and a tremendous big [unknown] scuppernong arbor. Most everything came off the place except sugar and . . . . well, salt, sugar, I think, and coffee [unknown] and flour, I suppose.
SUE THRASHER:
Where were you living? Were you living on the plantation?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, we would go down there every Christmas and every summer and at Christmas, we would stay about a week, but in the summer, we would stay weeks and weeks at a time. I am just giving you an idea of the plantation. To me, it was absolutely the Garden of Eden, because there was this lavishness, you see. Every meal to me was [unknown] a delight. I always have liked to eat, unfortunately, and the meals were perfectly delicious and they were so abundant. For breakfast they would have a baked apple, of course, they didn't have many oranges and grapefruit in those days, then they would have oatmeal and then there would be broiled chicken and fried sweet potatoes and steak sometimes and batty cakes and waffles and grits. You never saw such a huge breakfast as there was. And then dinner, they raised their own sheep and you would have lamb or beef or fried chicken. In the winter, there would be [unknown] great huge platters of birds, quail and oh, they were just drowned in butter and everything was . . . the butter was churned every morning. Ice cream was made, that was a great treat, though, and happened once a week, but the meals had [unknown] endless vegetables and all kinds of fruit. The fruit was picked just when it was ripe so they would have these delicious figs just bursting with juice and peaches. To me, it was [unknown] a Garden of Eden and I thought that it was [unknown] the most perfect place in the

Page 7
world and I never saw anything wrong with it at all. And my grandmother, since she had no work to do at all, she would play with us. She would play Flinch with us, that was a card game and she would always cheat. She thought that was a great joke. She would laugh and enjoy it so much when she could cheat and get by with it and thought that was so much fun. The aunts, all they ever did was sit on the front porch and rock and do fancy work. I had one aunt that didn't do anything, she never even did fancy work, she just rocked. She never even talked. She just ate and rocked and slept and had some children.
Then my grandmother would take us to town, the little town of Union Springs. [unknown] I got the idea at that time that she owned the town. She wouldn't even go into the stores, whoever ran the store would come out to the carriage. [unknown] She had two carriages besides two or three buggies and one carriage was an open carriage, a Victoria and she had [unknown] matched horses, bays, sort of reddish horses. And there was a coachman with a high silk hat, named Washington. I [unknown] knew as a little girl that she owned the town. She was the biggest, richest person in town. If you go through all those clippings about when she died, you'll see all the tributes to her. Then, as I said, the people that ran the stores, she never had to get out and come in, they would always come out to the buggy or the carriage and ask her what she wanted and bring out the things. And she would buy us the most beautiful material, real linen and real lace and all of our underwear was made out of real linen and lace, made by Miss Paulk, who lived next door. They had fallen, on evil times, I suppose that they had gone to the war and lost their lands. Anyway, they had a big beautiful house too, but they had lost all their money, so Miss Katie Paulk sewed for my grandmother. Our dresses would be embroidered with a lot of scollops, hand embroidered. Well, I got the idea that this was bliss. Just lavish

Page 8
bliss. And I adored it, I was absolutely entranced by it. Granny Foster would go to church and in the winter, she [unknown] would go in her carriage, which was lined with red satin and she would wear a little bonnet and a little fur cape and when you went to the church with her, Wash would get out and open the door and then she would have her royal progress into the church. You knew that she owned the church. I'm sure that she kept it up mostly. The preacher was named Dr. Bell. I was conscious that Dr. Bell was obligated to my grandmother. So, once again, grandmother owned the church and she owned the town and owned the great big house with white pillars and owned the plantation and she was the queen bee. And that was what I wanted to be when I was little. I wanted to be like my grandmother and have everybody love me and everybody obligated to me. When Christmas came, it was marvelous. They would have a great big tree. In the morning, it would be just the family, you know, with [unknown] presents and then in the afternoon, she would have in the black children first, and they would get their presents and then she would have in the Sunday School children. I don't think that she had them together, I think that they came at different times, but I do remember that one little black child got a toy piano, a little bitty piano and one of us wanted it and we tried to snatch it away. She wouldn't allow that, she was very fair minded about things like that.
In the summertime, in the back yard, they would let us barbeque. I will have to take that up because that is when the great trauma came in my life. But my father, you see, was raised in this atmosphere of [unknown] wealth and abundance and servants.
SUE THRASHER:
How many brothers and sisters did your father have?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, Uncle Hugh and Uncle Robert and Aunt May [unknown] and Daddy. There were only four when I grew up. The rest of them had either died or

Page 9
been killed in the war. My Uncle Hugh lived [unknown] across the street from my grandmother, and my Uncle Robert [unknown] lived in St. Louis and Aunt May, who was the aunt that was so fashionable and so unpleasant, too lived in New York. And then my father. You see, Uncle Robert was destined for the bar, so he was a lawyer. My father was destined for the church, so he became a Presbyterian preacher and Uncle Hugh was destined for business, so he went into the bank. And Aunt May was destined to be a great southern belle, which I suppose she was in a way. She married twice, but I'll get to her later, because she was the cause of the downfall of the whole Garden of Eden. You see, my nurse would go down with me from Birmingham and she liked it too. She would bring her little girl down and we would all play in the back yard and it was really just absolute sheer unadulterated joy, as far as I was concerned. I can remember the smell of it now, everything smelled so good. [unknown] And the sound of cowbells in the morning going to pasture. But anyway, my father was brought up in that atmosphere of the old South. Nothing had changed, these people on the plantation were free, but they were still there and they were paid something, but there was still that old abundance and everybody was welcome for dinner. No matter how many people you had, you could have more. [unknown] He [unknown] went off to school and then he went to Southwestern, which was a Presbyterian school. At that time, it was in Tennessee, it's in Memphis now, but it wasn't in Memphis when he went there. It was a Presbyterian school and then he went to Hampton Sydney in Virginia, which was another Presbyterian school. Then he went to the Princeton Theological Seminary. But since his family was so well off, he also went to Edinburgh; in Edinburgh, there is a big Presbyterian seminary. [unknown] I went to see it when I went to Edinburgh and it looked like a great big sort of dungeon, not a dungeon, but a big fortress on the side of

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hill, very dark and stark, made of dark stones. I found his registration and his history there, the history that he had attended. From there, he went to Germany and studied at Heidelberg and the University of Berlin. That was his undoing, we'll come to that later, but that was where he got the new theology, that not every word in the Bible was literal truth, but that a lot of it was myth.
SUE THRASHER:
About what years were those?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, let's see, Daddy was born right at the end of the war and this would have been about in the 80's and 90's. I've [unknown] pictures of him and all kinds of things that he brought back from the Holy Land. For a long time, we had his theological library, but that got to be too heavy to carry around. Nobody ever wanted it, those old books. They were just so out of date and foolish, it seems. But my father did have an excellent education and he read a great deal. He had a passion for books. He would buy books and loved sets of books, beautiful sets of books. He [unknown] had a passion for books. He was brought up to do absolutely nothing for himself. He never did one single thing. He always had somebody to wait on him. He would ride up on a horse and all he had to do was just throw the reins and yell, "Jim" or "Joe" and somebody would come and take his horse. Or his clothes were washed and laid out for him and the fires were built and food was prepared. And Daddy just thought that all that just came about by magic. He never did do one single thing in his life. He never washed a dish or cooked a meal or washed his clothes or curried a horse. He [unknown] could hardly learn to drive an automobile, because he was just so used to somebody doing everything. But that's the way that he was brought up. He was a very honorable man, but he was brought up to think that he was the

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Lord of Creation. Everybody else seemed inferior. He was very kind about it, but black people were just so far down the scale that you just never thought of them except as somebody to wait on you. He thought Easter was a fine woman and he treated them all with great respect, but Daddy was a child of his time. But he was a child of his times not really, because although freedom had come, they had maintained this system as it was before the war. When my grandmother died, the system at the plantation there was just the same as before the slaves were freed. except that they were paid a little something. But Granny Foster still had the same number of servants, she still had them living in the back yard, she still had Easter, who slept at the foot of her bed. And Easter would bathe her every morning, even. She didn't have to bathe herself. And when my father went off, he had a body servant, you see, that went to school with him for awhile. A Negro boy that waited on him when he was on the plantation, but I think that he sent him home from school. [unknown] But [unknown] he really had a very fine education. He met my mother in Memphis. He got to be the pastor of the Idlewild Presbyterian Church. Now, coming to my mother's family . . . .
SUE THRASHER:
Did your father come . . . he went to Heidelberg and Edinburgh and came back to Memphis?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, he went to Heidleberg and Edinburgh and the University of Berlin and then he took the Grand Tour and went to the Holy Land and all the sacred places. No, he came back and the first church, I think, was in Tennessee at Mt. Pleasant. Then from there, he went to Memphis and became the pastor of the Idlewild Presbyterian Church and that's where he met my mother. Now, do you want me to tell you about my mother? Her [unknown] mother was Josephine Rice and they lived in the Tennessee Valley at a place

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called Somerville. And I was brought up on the tale about this huge brick house in the Tennessee Valley1 and the huge plantation and all the luxury and wealth. My great grandfather was named Green Pryor Rice. Green P. Rice. That's his silhoutte there and I have a portrait of him too. He had been a Presbyterian preacher himself, I believe, but he got into the legislature of Alabama and there is a lot about him in Alabama history because he was in the legislature of Alabama and the Senate for a long time and in one of those books, it goes on about his distinguished appearance and great oratorical ability and his brilliant mind. Then, it ends up by saying, "Mr. Rice had all the attributes of a great man and no doubt he would have achieved far more fame than he did except for an unfortunate weakness for the bottle." " [Laughter] That's in the book. I was brought up on this idea that he was a great planter, hundreds of slaves.
SUE THRASHER:
He was originally from Alabama?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, I think he came from Kentucky. Turner Rice, he's a cousin and is a nut on the subject of genealogy and he has studied the Rice family until he knows every person in every generation and if there is anybody that really wants to know about the Rice family, they can get it from those papers that he sent me, because he has made a life study of the Rice family. And he had gone back to England and of course, like all of them, they came over here because they couldn't get on in England, they were poor.
Everybody wants to carry on like they came from some great noble family, but it is a matter of fact that they all came over because they were poor and they weren't doing so well. If they had done well, they would have stayed. It's like the people in Virginia, you can [unknown] tell them that your people were from Virginia, but [unknown] they always look at you like there is something peculiar there, because nobody would have left Virginia if they were doing,

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well, because of course, Virginia is Paradise. Well, we felt the same way in Alabama about the people that went to Texas. I know that I used to tease Lyndon Johnson about going from Alabama to Texas, his family, because we felt like anybody that went to Texas had the sheriff after them. [Laughter] This was always the big joke you know, if you went to Texas, you got out mighty quick. [Laughter] The point is that nobody moves if they are doing well. They all stay where they are if they are doing very well. In any case, my grandmother on my Mother's side was named Josephine Rice and I heard that when she married, the slaves were lined up in two ranks from the house to the gate and her father gave her fifteen slaves when she married. All of which was a total and complete myth because my father and I went up to the TVA for the dedication of a dam, the Wheeler Dam, so it was not far from Somerville and we decided that we would go and see it and this great plantation and great big house [Laughter] and this is the kind of myth, you see, that southerners are brought up on. Everybody has an old plantation and [unknown] the houses get bigger and bigger. So, we turned aside on to a country road and found Somerville, which is an old decaying village that has a great deal of charm, but it was just moulding in the ground. It was built around a square like old New England towns and you could see that at one time before the Civil War, it must have been a charming little place. We asked about the Rice place and they knew about it, so we went out. And sure enough, there was a brick house and it consisted of two rooms with a dogtrot in between and a loft up above. That was all the brick house there was. It was brick all right. But it had two rooms and a dogtrot in the middle and upstairs was this loft. And then in the back, of course, they had the kitchen. There wasn't any great plantation at all. There was a boy here in Montgomery who was doing his Ph.D. thesis on the effect of slave ownership

Page 14
on the votes in the legislature before the war. So, I asked him if he would look up my grandfather whom I had heard had hundreds of slaves. So, he looked him up and found that he had twelve slaves. The [unknown] great plantation and the great brick mansion and the hundreds of slaves just turned out to be a perfect myth. I think that they were fairly well off and he was in the legislature and he was a public man and they probably lived very comfortably.
But my Grandfather Patterson, Josiah Patterson, [unknown] came down [unknown] as a poor boy . . . and now, there is a great big genealogy on the Pattersons. They were Scotch people, Presbyterian too, but I don't know how close the relationship is, the names are all the same, Malcolm and other Scotch names. But my grandfather Patterson came down to the Tennessee Valley as a poor boy out of the mountains and was a school teacher.
SUE THRASHER:
Josiah Patterson is your mother's father?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Josiah Patterson was my mother's father. And he met my grandmother, Josephine Rice and they married. She married him when he was just a poor young school teacher. So, this was not supposed to be a great marriage on her part. Her sister, Miss Molly Rice, married one of the Weakleys, which was supposed to be a great catch. He was very rich and had a lot of land, but unfortunately, I was always told, he died in the gutter as a drunkard. I remember that I used to look in the gutters all the time . . . I had heard so often that he died in the gutter and that seemed to be the fate of a great many people, they died in the gutter, a drunkard. So, I was always looking in the gutters thinking that I would find somebody lying there. But poor Aunt Molly had a very hard time. She is part of the story too, about my father and her sons. But in any case, my grandmother married Josiah Patterson and when the war broke out, he went off and he was a captain in the 20th Alabama Cavalry and he fought under Nathan Bedford Forrest

Page 15
and I was told he was a dashing cavalryman and a very attractive man. I was always told about how when the war was over, he was caught in Selma at the last battle of the Confederacy. He had promised some young ladies, the Wilkinsons, that he would come back for Sunday dinner. Well, of course, the army was all captured in the Battle of Selma and they were being marched to Montgomery and when the dark came, he fell in a ditch by the wayside that had a lot of water in it and lay there for hours with his nose above the water while the columns marched by, all the captured soldiers. And then he went on back to Selma and the Misses Wilkinsons dried him out and cleaned up his clothes and he was there for Sunday dinner. He died before I was born, too, but the picture I had of him was one of this dashing young man, you know, and he was the one that we always though was such a great Confederate soldier and we were always brought up to think that he was just the grandest thing in the world. He didn't send any substitute for the war. After the Civil War, he moved to Memphis to be near Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was there. And he became a lawyer. You know, Forrest was a slave trader, he wasn't supposed to be an aristocrat at all. I don't know what happened to him after the war, but I know that he had a lot of power in that section of Tennessee I think he started the KKK. So, my grandfather became a lawyer and then he was elected to Congress and he was in Congress a long time, a very conservative man. He [unknown] is all written up in Vann Woodward's book, The Origins of the New South. He was a gold bug, you see, he was a conservative man and believed in the gold standard and fought William Jennings Bryan. [unknown] He got beat because Bryan came down to Memphis and spoke against him and nailed him to the cross of gold, as they said. But then he became . . . not only was he a lawyer, but he also became the custodian of Shiloh, you know, the great park, the Confederate Shiloh memorial park.
SUE THRASHER:
That's where I'm from.

Page 16
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Shiloh, Mississippi?
SUE THRASHER:
No, Savannah, but it's right near there, about ten miles from Shiloh.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
You mean it is in Tennessee? Well, he became the custodian of that, that was just a sort of a, you know, he was an old Confederate soldier and this was just kind of a sinecure. I don't think that he had to do anything but ride around it a couple of times a year and look it over. But he was honored, you see, by having been a Confederate soldier.
I always used to think that it was funny when we were being accused of trying to overthrow the government by violence or force or something, because we were trying to get the vote or get some rights for people, [unknown] we were constantly being accused of being part of a conspiracy to overthrow the government by force or violence, [unknown] particularly in the Eastland hearings. I often thought that it was [unknown] strange that here was my grandfather who spent four years trying to overthrow the government by force, fought in the cavalry and he was honored and got elected to Congress and became a very honored man and he was head of the Shiloh Cemetery. I've often thought how strange it was because those who actually did it became great honored figures whereas us grandchildren were reviled because we were trying to get the vote. Well, the South is a peculiar place.
Well, anyway, he did live and was a very honored man and did well in his law practice and he had a son named Malcolm Patterson who also went to Congress and became the governor of Tennessee. That was my mother's brother. Now, my uncle Malcolm Patterson, I used to see him. He was a great orator and he had three wives and he was also accused, fairly or unfairly, of being too fond of the bottle, but in any case he got

Page 17
beat by . . . he had a very tragic thing happen to him which ruined his career. He was the governor of Tennessee and was married to his third wife. The first wife committed suicide, the second wife died. He was married to his third wife. I can't remember all the children, but he had a lot of them, but there was a big fight in Nashville and one of his enemies was named Edward Carmack he was the editor of the Nashville Tennesseean, Carmack, and he had a series of very bitter editorials against my uncle who was the governor. Now, what they were about, I still don't know. To this day and hour, I've tried to inquire, but I still don't know what the political situation was that made him so bitter, but he was a very bitter enemy of my uncle. Maybe you can find that out, because I never was able to find it out. So, his third wife told me the following story. She said that they were sitting at breakfast . . . she was much younger than he was and they hadn't been married very long, and she said that the Coopers came by. The Coopers were great supporters of my uncle and they were [unknown] son and father. They came by and they told my uncle that they were going down and kill Carmack because he had been so vicious in his attacks on my uncle. And so, she said my uncle remonstrated with them and they said that no, they were determined to kill him. And so, they went off and my uncle said to my aunt, "Do you suppose that they could possibly kill Carmack?" She said, "Oh, Malcolm, don't go, you would be involved in it and they might kill you." She said that she threw her arms around him and held him, but he broke away and went down and they had already killed Carmack. He was lying in a pool of blood down there in the center of Nashville. So, the two Coopers were convicted of the murder and were to be hanged, [unknown] and [unknown] Uncle Malcolm [unknown] pardoned them and that absolutely ruined his political life. He was at that time considered to be sort of the rising

Page 18
star.
SUE THRASHER:
Do you remember what year that was?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, that was in the early 1900's.
SUE THRASHER:
And your mother was married to your father and living in Birmingham at the time?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes. But my uncle ruined his political career completely. I think that he was elected in his later life to a judgeship or given one in Memphis. But he knew that it would, he told my mother, "Annie, of course, this is going to ruin my political life and I will never be elected to political office again, but I cannot let my friends hang. I know that they did it for me, as unwise as it was and I can't let them hang." Now, whether that was noble or silly depends on your point of view. After that, Uncle Malcolm practiced law in Memphis and then he became a great . . . (you know that he had been accused of drinking so much) and he became a great prohibition advocate. He used to go all over making prohibition speeches and he was a wonderful orator and used to attract thousands of people to the cause of prohibition. I remember him coming to our house and having a meeting in the city auditorium or some theater and speaking on prohibition. That [unknown] was a great political cause in the South for years, you know, the fight against prohibition. I never knew him well at all, he was a very self-absorbed man.
Even my mother never got on too well with him, because she always said that Malcolm was a very self-absorbed man and he was. He was a man that led his own life and his own career. A brilliant man, but a very self-absorbed man. Her [unknown] sister married a Mr. Edward LeMaster and they did extremely well in the real estate business. But my grandfather died, that's Josiah Patterson, but not until my mother had married my father, you see. All the Pattersons went to the Idlewild

Page 19
Presbyterian Church. So, my mother married my father and my sister and brother were born in Memphis. My sister, Josephine, married Hugo Black, and Sterling Foster married a girl from North Carolina name Alma Kalbfleisch.
SUE THRASHER:
This is your sister-in-law?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes. In any case, my father moved into Memphis and he became the minister of the Idelwild Presbyterian Chirch. You see, this was the southern Presbyterian Church . . .
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
which had withdrawn from the U.S. Presbyterian Church in the Civil War. Then he came to Birmingham and became the pastor of the South Highland Presbyterian church, which is on the corner of 20th Street and Highland Avenue. And we had a rectory or . . . they didn't call it a rectory but a parsonage on Rose Avenue, which was several blocks from it. And oh, I also look on that life as just sheer unequalled bliss.
SUE THRASHER:
And that's where you were living when you were born?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, I was born when we were living in a house nearer the church. There was a parsonage there then off of Highland Avenue and
I can remember that mother said when I was born, I was redfaced and hungry all the time. She was nursing me for months and months and she said that if she was fifteen minutes late, I'd scream and the whole neighborhood would be

Page 20
upset because I screamed so loud. I always wanted what I wanted and I always wanted something to eat. Evidently, I was a very lusty, redfaced, loudmouthed child. But I was a terrible disappointment because I wasn't a son. You see, they had picked out a name. They had named my brother for Daddy's father, Sterling Johnson Foster and they were going to name another boy for her father, Josiah Patterson Foster. So, I came along you see, and I was a disappointment because I was a girl. So, I used to spend hours trying to kiss my elbow because they told me that if I kissed my elbow, I'd turn into a boy. And I suppose that I spent hours of my life trying to kiss my elbow, which of course, you can't do. Did you ever try it? You never heard that, that if you kissed your elbow, you would turn into a boy? Well, they told me and I believed most anything that I heard. [Laughter] Daddy used to say that if I broke my arm, I could kiss my elbow and I never was able to do it. [Laughter] But I was brought up with this feeling that I had disappointed my father by not being a boy. But my mother championed me, so my mother was my champion in the family and my father was the one that I always felt hadn't been so delighted when I came along. And my sister was his great favorite anyway. I was more like him. He talked a lot and I talked a lot and he had a lot of curiousity and I had a lot of curiousity and he lost his temper, I lost my temper. And I defied him, you know. And then, I was scared of him in a way, because he would spank us with folded newspapers, which didn't hurt a bit, [unknown] but it frightened us because it was so noisy and he was so noisy. He had a very powerful personality. Then, he used to give us "Pluto Water." He had a feeling that he could cure anything with "Pluto

Page 21
Water" and castor oil. Have you ever tasted "Pluto Water?"
SUE THRASHER:
No, I don't even know what it is.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, you know what castor oil is, well, "Pluto Water" came from some springs (French Lick Springs) up in Indiana and it had a red devil on the outside of the bottle, so when we got sick, whatever we had, he would put us in the tub and give us orange juice laced with castor oil, the most horrible combination I could think of. Then, to get rid of the castor oil, we would have to drink a big glass of "Pluto Water." Well, we would usually throw it up, that's why he did it in the tub, you see. But he would keep on doing it until we finally got it down. Of course, the next day we were purged of everything in us. Well, maybe it did cure us, anyway, we were all fairly healthy. But it was a drastic means, I must say.
We [unknown] would go to Sunday School on Sunday and church and being the preacher's family, we had to go to Sunday School and church and then in the afternoon, we had to go to Christian Endeavor or whatever the young people's thing was and then we had to go to night service. Four times on Sunday. On Wednesday, we had to go to prayer meeting. And of course, Mother had to go to ladies meetings, too and of course, Daddy had meetings with the session. So, the church absorbed our life. Then, we would have prayers in the morning. We would come down and have morning prayer before breakfast. At that time, we had two servants, my nurse, who was named Alice, we called her Nursey, and then a cook who was a wonderful cook, and her name was Sally.
SUE THRASHER:
Were both of the servants black?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh yes. And oh, Sally used to cook wonderful breakfasts too, like grits and gravy and broiled chicken and sweet potatoes. She never would

Page 22
come to the prayer service because she was cooking breakfast and so, we would have to have about a half hour, kneel down and pray and Daddy would pray and read the Bible and this was part of being a preacher's child. Of course, we were always in agony with impatience to get to the table and eat breakfast. We always thought that breakfast was the reward for the prayer effort, this was what God blessed you with.
SUE THRASHER:
Now, how much older were Sterling and Josephine than you?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, my sister was about four years older and he was about five or six years older.
SUE THRASHER:
Sterling was the oldest?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
He was the oldest and he was a very handsome boy. He adored my mother, absolutely worshipped her. He was kind of scared of Daddy, too. Daddy expected him to be very brilliant and he wasn't. My poor brother was always being fussed at and held in shame because he wasn't brilliant in school. Daddy lavished most of his devotion on . . . I'm sure that he was fond of us, but the love of his life was my sister, Josephine. He absolutely adored [unknown] her. [unknown] I never saw such a worship in my life. She could do no wrong and he excused her from everything and she was an unusally sweet, beautiful child and everyone adored her. She was delicate sort of and I was supposed to be the bad child and she was the good child and I was the ugly child and she was the pretty child and I was the mean child and had a high temper and she was the sweet child. Now, I know that this is just all exaggeration, because I was loved by my mother and I remember that I was told by her that I was a sweet, beautiful child; I could be if I wanted to and didn't lose my temper. [Laughter] Which I did. I had a nurse and she was devoted to me. So, really, my early life

Page 23
was joyful. You know, I never went to bed . . . it shows how spoiled I was, but I never went that either my mother or my nurse didn't lie by me and pat me to sleep. I was a terribly privileged child and I was brought up in a little cocoon of love and devotion and care and I was always surrounded by somebody looking after me. I was just adored by my mother and my nurse, anyway. [unknown] I even liked going to church. Mother would let me go to sleep and put my head in her lap and I loved Sunday School, I thought that was lots of fun. We'd sing, "Bright [unknown] the Corner Where You Are" and get little presents and pictures of Jesus.
SUE THRASHER:
Was this church a status church?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes. It was one of the leading churches and it was very fundamentalist. Now, the first great trauma of my life, and that must have happened when I was about six or seven, I suppose. I think that it was my seventh birthday and we were down in Union Springs and everything was glorious and happy and I told you about my sister being called, "Miss Sis" . . . . did I get that on tape?
SUE THRASHER:
No.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, as for that, . . . . I was all of seven, so she must have been ten or eleven and [unknown] Aunt May from New York was down there and she had her daughter.
Aunt May had married a great friend of my father's from Memphis, named Mr. Johnston and she had divorced him, which was almost unheard of in those days. And Aunt May was there with her daughter, she had divorced Mr. Johnston and had married another man who was an Irishman . . . what was his name? It'll come to me.
SUE THRASHER:
She lived in New York?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
She lived in New York and she was very fashionable. She dressed in great style, you know, and spent a lot of money and went abroad a lot. Her daughter Elizabeth, married very rich men. The last

Page 24
one was Count von Furstenberg, who was a German count. And they had a daughter named Betsy von Furstenberg who is an actress now in New York. She was and still is quite a well known actress. Aunt May was determined to live the . . . she would be a jet setter now. It was all kept up, of course, by the money from the plantation.
SUE THRASHER:
Not by her husband's money?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No. She married a rather poor man and the family looked down on him because he was Catholic and Irish and didn't have any money. I think that he had a lot of charm, but he didn't know how to hunt or shoot and he was always sort of looked down on as though Aunt May had made a very serious mistake, which I'm sure must have irritated her very much, because her brothers were not very kind about Mr . . . . what was his name? Leary, Mr. Leary, an Irish name. Well, poor Mr. Leary had a pretty hard time, too, because he came down at Christmas time and all the men went hunting, you know, and he was left behind or else he was taken out and made fun of because he couldn't shoot. He didn't know anything about horses and was a city boy and they all thought that he had married Aunt May for her money and that she was always getting more than her share out of grandmother and there was always friction there. I was conscious of it. Anyway, she came this summer and she heard the little black children in the back yard calling my sister, "Sis." And my brother called her, "Sis," and I called her, "Sister." Now, although she was the angel of the family and I was supposed to be the devil, I adored her. The fact that I was not supposed to be up to her didn't keep me from loving her. She was [unknown] just such a sweet spirited person. I really adored her. She was one of the loves of my life. This episode was so typical of her, because Aunt May sent Easter out to tell the little

Page 25
black children that they couldn't call her, "Sis." They had to call her "Miss Josephine." So, that was sort of a warning of thing you know. Our idyllic days were over. So, when they were told this, they were all sort of astonished and hurt and we were all kind of hurt and didn't know what it was about. Here, Sister who had been playing with them all of her life had to be called "Miss Josephine" all of a sudden.' So, Sister said to them, "Now, you don't have to call me ‘Miss Josephine,’ you just call me ‘Miss Sis.' " So, everybody after that called her Miss Sis and that got to be her nickname. The white children and the black children all called her "Miss Sis." She solved the issue by not hurting anybody's feelings. She spent her life doing that.
But in any case, the great trauma was that when my birthday came along, I had always had my birthday celebrations in Union Springs because it was in August and we were usually down there in August. This time, I was seven years old and I was going to school the next fall. I always had my birthday in the back yard with the black children and we would have barbeque and they would let us barbeque over a little pit that they would dig for us. So, this time, my mother and grandmother and aunts and all said that I had to have it in the front yard and with just the white children, no black children could come to the party. Well, I got very angry about that and the main thing was that I wanted the barbeque. [Laughter] You see, they would dig a pit in the back yard, which was sandy, and then the cook would give us chickens and we would build a grill over the hole and build a fire and then we were allowed to baste the chickens and turn them over and of course, by the time that we got through, they were full of sand, but to me, (this had been my usual birthday party) and to me, this was a great event. Here I was presiding over the chickens, you know. Well, anyway, I had a tantrum at breakfast and made strong protest about

Page 26
the party in the afternoon and no barbeque. So, they agreed that I could have the barbeque in the morning and the party in the afternoon. This was the compromise that they reached.
SUE THRASHER:
The barbeque was in the backyard?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
With the black children and the party would be in the front yard with the white children. Well, Elizabeth, Aunt May's daughter was there and Aunt May would bring a French maid with her when she came, if you can imagine. You can imagine how happy the French maid was. [Laughter] Aunt May, as you could say, really put on airs. Anyway, Elizabeth was always dressed up in these beautiful dresses with sashes and everything matching and her hair curled . . . .
SUE THRASHER:
Was Elizabeth your age or about your age?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
She was a little older than I was, about my sister's age. So, we had the barbeque and everything was going on fine and we were dividing up the chicken and one of the little black girls was tearing up the chicken and she offered a piece to Elizabeth and Elizabeth, who must have felt like an outcast in this group anyway, she all of a sudden said, "Don't you give me any chicken out of that black hand of yours. I'm not going to eat any chicken that your black hand has touched, you little nigger."
SUE THRASHER:
So, how did you respond when your cousin said that?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, you see, the little girl that did it was my nurse's little girl. You see, I was brought up with her. My nurse had a little girl just about my age and I was brought up with her, she and I played together all the time. Now, Nursey didn't live on the place. She had a husband or a beau who would come and get her every night. I forget his name, we just called him Nursey's beau or whatever. He was a tall yellow man and he would come every night and take her home. My mother resented this because she wanted her to stay on the place. So that she would get up

Page 27
with us in the night, I reckon. But anyway, mother liked the servants to live on the place and Nursey refused to live on the place, she went home every night with this tall yellow man. Sarah wasn't his daughter, she was the daughter of the first husband. Sarah and I were just raised together there in the kitchen and played together and I was very fond of her. So, it was Sarah that offered Elizabeth a piece of chicken and she said, "I'm not going to take anything from your black hand, you little nigger." Well, I got furious with her and threw the chicken at her and also tried to throw a knife at her, which got me to bed very promptly, because she said that I had tried to kill her or something. And I was furious. They put me to bed for being so bad. I called her a damn fool, too. Now, how I heard that, I don't know. [Laughter]
But you know, the curious thing is and this is a true story that you won't hardly believe, but this is an absolutely true story. Years and years later, I was in Washington working against the poll tax and I was working with a Mrs. Spraggs, who was a black woman, a very light woman, from Birmingham, Alabama, who wrote for the Chicago Defender. So, she and I got to be very friendly, we would kid each other about being from Birmingham, you know. And I would always call her Mrs. Spraggs and she would call me Mrs. Durr. We were being formal, but we were being . . . if I had called her Venice and she called me Virginia, that would have been fine, but she couldn't call me Mrs. Durr and I call her Venice, you see, and she never would call me Virginia. We were working toward a new relationship, if you know what I mean. So, she called me Mrs. Durr and I called her Mrs. Spraggs. She was a very handsome woman, very smart indeed. She worked in the NYA with Aubrey Williams and then she had come to Washington and was a correspondent for the Chicago Defender, which was a big Negro newspaper. One of the

Page 28
largest in the country and she was supporting the anti-poll tax fight and we were quite friendly. So, she came up to me one day and said, "Mrs. Durr, my mother-in-law is visiting me from Birmingham. She wants to see you." I said, "Who is that?" She said, "Her name is Mrs. Spraggs." I didn't know who in the world it could be, I had never heard of a Mrs. Spraggs. She said, "She knows you." I said, "I'm sorry, but I don't have the least recollection in my entire life of knowing anybody named Mrs. Spraggs." So, about a year later, she came up to me again and said, "Now, Mrs. Durr, my mother-in-law is visiting with me and she wants to see you. Her name is Mrs. Spraggs." And I said, "Mrs. Spraggs? I would like to see her. Bring her down to the office, but I have no recollection of Mrs. Spraggs at all." Well, the third year, she came to me and said, "Mrs. Durr, my sister-in-law would like to see you, she's visiting me and she knew you as a little girl." I said, "What is her name, and at that point, she said, "Sarah Spraggs." Well, you see, I had never known Nursey by her name at all.
SUE THRASHER:
So, the mother-in-law was . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Was my old nurse and I had never known her name. Here she was, the love of my life and she raised me from a baby for all those seven years and I adored her, but I never knew her name. She was either Nursey or Alice. You see, her daughter-in-law would not call her by her old name, she kept telling me that she was "Mrs. Spraggs," and I didn't know who Mrs. Spraggs was. I had never heard of Nursey being called Mrs. Spraggs. It just shows you just how completely backwards I was. But she did say, "Sarah Spraggs." So, I immediately recognized Sarah. Well, Sarah came and she was a handsome woman then and we were both then in our thirties and I said to Venice Spraggs, "Bring her down to the

Page 29
office and we'll have lunch together." Well, the problem then was where in the name of God to have lunch with two black women. At that time, the only place that you could have lunch in Washington was at the YWCA, that was the only place that you could go that was integrated, black and white together. But there was a Chinese restaurant right near the office. So, I called up this Chinese restaurant and asked them if they would take us . . . . well, anyway we went there and they did take us and put us in a sort of a little private room. So, it was Sarah and we had a wonderful time talking about our childhood and our early life and Nursey by that time had died, you see. So, I missed seeing her because I didn't know her name. But the thing that Sarah remembered about me was when I threw the knife at my cousin because she called her a little nigger and wouldn't eat the chicken out of her hand. She had remembered that all her life, and I [unknown] remembered it too. And that was the thing that she remembered most about me. We tried to stay in touch with each other, but then I think [unknown] she finally went to Chicago and finally faded out. I can't find her. I think that she got to be a school teacher. This is the difficulty, here I was, just as intimate with Sarah and Nursey and the tall yellow man, it was as though they were members of my family, and yet, I literally never knew what their name was.
But anyway, going back to the barbeque, I was acting badly. So, when I came down to dinner, one o'clock dinner, you see, there was always dinner in the middle of the day. Oh, my Aunt May and all of them were out to get me in trouble, "Oh, Annie, You've got the wors child. She said, ‘Goddamn.’ " I was the real villain and of course, I began to cry because I felt that everybody was against me, so I went out on the backporch and sat in Nursey's lap and she hugged me and kissed me and comforted me. Then, the party came on, this was the white party. They

Page 30
had a summerhouse on the front lawn. I had had typhoid fever the year before, very severe typhoid fever and they starved you in those days, they literally gave you nothing to eat. They gave you ice baths to keep your fever down and all that you could eat was water and white of egg or something beaten up in it. They gave you absolutely no food at all and I was just in a state of starvation. I don't know how many pounds I lost. I was so weak when it was over that I couldn't walk, I learned how to walk all over again. That's how I got curly hair, though, that's one thing that happened, my hair got curly from the high fever or something. That really is true, I never had very curly hair when I was younger and after I had typhoid fever, I got very curly hair. Have you ever heard of that before? I never heard of it either, but that's what my mother always said happened. But in any case, all during my convelesence, I would be planning my birthday party. I was going to have a pink dress, a pink sash . . . I loved pink, and pink slippers and pink socks and a pink birthday cake and pink ice cream. Well, I did. I had a pair of pink kid slippers and pair of pink socks and a pink organdy dress and all embroidered and ruffled and laced and I had a pink sash and a pink bow in my hair and I had a pink cake and pink ice cream. And you would have thought that I would have been the happiest thing in the world, I had everything just as I wanted, presents and all. But the other little white children, they were just gathered from the town, you know, little girls and boys that I should know, but I didn't and none of the little black children could come, and I was in disgrace from calling my cousin a damn fool and throwing a knife at her. So, all of a sudden, I had a tantrum. I lay down on the ground and yelled and screamed and kicked and was put to bed again. The party went on without me. I was again in

Page 31
disgrace and so, when I went down to the table that night for supper, my mother by this time was quite worried about me because this was the second time that I had been put to bed on my birthday.
And the whole family thought that I was just the most vicious child in the whole world. I had said, "Goddamn," and thrown a knife at my cousin. I don't think that they thought about my taking up for Sarah, it was my action toward my cousin. Well, bless God if they didn't all start after me again at the dinner table. "Annie, you've got the worst child that I've ever known, you've got to do something about her." Well, I got mad again and threw a glass of water at my cousin or my aunt, I don't know which. I had another tantrum and I was banished. I went on the back porch again, crying and sat in Nursey's lap and I could hear, it was right outside the dining room door and I heard my aunt say, "Annie, you've got to do something about that child." This was my Aunt May, the fashionable New Yorker, "She is the worst child that I have ever known in my life." She said, "Now, I do think that you have got to do something about that nurse of hers that spoils her so badly. She kisses and hugs that woman all the time. And you know, all those black women have disease and you don't know what she'll catch." Here I was sitting in Nursey's lap and of course, Nursey heard all of this. My mother didn't take up for Nursey but she took up for me.
She did try to take up for her daughter, but she didn't try to take up for her nurse and neither did my grandmother. You see, the nurse had been coming down there for seven years of my life and spending almost every summer and they knew her and they knew what a good woman she was and knew how kind she had been to us and what a faithful servant she was and yet, they did not defend her from this charge of being . . . of course, it was venereal disease that they were talking about. So, Nursey put me to bed that night and lay down by me until I went to sleep and the next morning,

Page 32
she was gone. She had taken her daughter and left and she never came back.
SUE THRASHER:
She left on her own?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
She left on her own. She had been insulted and she left. She just up and left. And oh, the shock, to wake up in the morning and find Nursey gone! And Sarah gone. Everybody wondered what in the world had happened. Nobody could imagine why she had gone and I thought I knew, but of course, nobody was paying any attention to me. Maybe Mother had some suspicion of it, I don't know. Well, this was the first really great trauma of my life, because I lost this woman whom I had loved and who had looked after me for seven years. So, when we got back to Birmingham, she had gotten a job in the neighborhood with one of the neighbors and I used to go over and sit in the kitchen and just beg her to come back. Of course, she wouldn't do it. And Mother begged her to come back but she wouldn't do it. And that winter or spring, my grandmother died and I remember that I ran up to tell her that my grandmother had died and somehow I thought that if my grandmother had died, maybe she would come back to us. I associated the whole plantation with my grandmother. But she never came, wouldn't come. The strange thing was, she never lost her fondness for me. She would call occasionally and come to see us occasionally and as I said, years and years later in Washington, she remembered me. That's a curious story isn't it? It is absolutely a true story. But as you can see, between Nursey and Easter, I had a mighty hard time believing in the natural inferiority of the black race. Also, you see, I got accustomed to being looked after by blacks. They were my refuge in times of trouble and that was really the basis of my relationship with Mrs. Bethune, because Mrs. Bethune became translated into the black woman who looked after me and became my protector. But in any case, that was the first great trauma of my life and

Page 33
it was a trauma and it really did upset me terribly and it upset my mother.
Then, the next thing that happened was that my father was thrown out of the church.
SUE THRASHER:
And how old were you when that happened?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, I must have been seven or eight, maybe eight years old. It was shortly after this first trauma. The way that happened was, as I said, he had been to Germany and studied at Berlin and Heidelberg and he had gotten the new theology, which was that the Bible was not literally true, that every word was not dictated by God, but that a lot of it was symbolic. Now, the leading members of the church were my mother's two first cousins, Sam Weakley and John Weakley, who were Aunt Molly's sons. Aunt Molly was my grandmother's sister, she married the rich Mr. Weakley who died, they said, in the gutter from drink. My Grandfather Patterson had taken these two [unknown] and brought them over to Memphis and they lived in the house with my mother and they went into his office and they both became lawyers and very good lawyers. My mother felt more like they were brothers than first cousins because they had been raised in the house with her. Sam and John Weakley were very devoted and they came back over to Birmingham and Cousin Sam became quite well off as a lawyer and so did Cousin John. They made a lot of money and I think that Cousin Sam was on the Supreme Court for awhile, but maybe just as an appointed judge. He was a great prohibitionist. His father had been a drunkard and he was a great supporter of Uncle Malcolm Patterson, when he became a great prohibitionist. It made everybody most uncomfortable, even over a glass of wine. Wine couldn't be served at the church, you see, you had to have grape juice. I don't think that Uncle John was as conservative as Cousin Sam was, but they were both strict fundamentalist Presbyterians. Then, there

Page 34
was Mr. Barron who was head of one of the steel companies. He had a great big beard and looked like Jehovah.
SUE THRASHER:
So, the church was full of fine, upstanding citizens?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Fine, upstanding citizens.
SUE THRASHER:
Monied citizens.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Monied citizens and although some of them were working convicts in the mines but they were considered the leading citizens of Birmingham. Of course, you know that in a southern town, the Episcopal church is the most fashionable, the Presbyterian church is next and then come the Methodists and then the Baptists and after that you know . . . of course, the Catholics at that time were hardly considered, there were so few of them . . . but after that would come the evangelical groups, you know. But there was always that rank so that being a Presbyterian, I knew that the Episcopalians . . . it was the same thing as Jacob's Ladder, there was always somebody above you and somebody beneath you. [Laughter] So, the Presbyterian church was highly thought of, but I knew that St. Mary's, the Episcopal church which was not far from us, was the most fashionable church. That was just something that I learned by osmosis. Nobody told me, I just knew it. Anyway, the church people began to suspect that my father was heretical and particularly Cousin John and Cousin Sam. So, he was called up several times and they noticed things that showed that he didn't believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. So, finally, it got to a decisive point and they called him in and asked if he knew these were heretical sermons that he was giving, in which he did not seem to think that every word of the Bible was literally true. So, he was faced with the problem that he had to declare on oath before the session that he believed that the whale swallowed Jonah and Jonah stayed in the whale's belly for three days and was spewed up alive. And he had

Page 35
to swear to that as the literal truth, God given. Well, they gave him a week to make up his mind and they told him that if he didn't make up his mind, he would be denounced as a heretic. Of course, this was done by my mother's two cousins. And Cousin Sam lived right above us in a great big red house, I was devoted to his daughter and to Cousin Sam, they were part of the family, you know. This created quite a terrible breach in the family and Daddy just walked up and down that whole week, I can hear him now, just walking up and down in his study. He had a study upstairs and we were all just terrified, Sister and Brother and I and Mother was crying and the servants were upset. Sally was still there, but of course, Nursey had gone and I forget who else was there. And Mother was always trying to take in Daddy some coffee or buttermilk, to try to get him to eat something and he was up all night. And he would say, "Oh, God. Oh, God." And it wasn't blasphemy, he was really praying. Well anyway, at the end of the week, he went back and told them that he didn't believe it and he was dismissed from the church as a heretic and brought up before . . . let's see, they have a presbytery in each district and then a synod. I believe that he was brought up before the presbytery and the synod as a heretic. Anyway, he never did get another church.
SUE THRASHER:
Do you remember how old you were then? You were about seven or eight?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yeah, I was about seven or eight. I was just starting school, I remember and you see, I had had these two traumas all within the same year or the same few months, it seems to me. Of course, I didn't understand what all the theology was about and Daddy had a nervous breakdown. He just couldn't sleep or eat or anything. He was a very high strung man and he went off to French Lick Springs and at French Lick Springs, this is where

Page 36
"Pluto Water" came from. This was a great watering place, where you drank "Pluto Water", they bottled it. So, Daddy went off to French Lick Springs to drink "Pluto Water" and Mother was left there with us three children, you see. And I don't know what we lived on, I suppose that my grandmother helped us out. She was prosperous at the time, she hadn't died yet, I know. But I remember going up to Uncle Sam's for Sunday dinner and Mother crying and having an argument with Uncle Sam and she cried and oh, how distressed I was! About that time, I got the idea that the Devil . . . I had been hearing about the Devil, you see. At that time, Hell wasn't something remote, it was right down there underneath [unknown] you and you burned eternally and the Devil took you and turned you over on the hot coals and let you fry and sizzle. So, I did something that I knew was wrong, maybe I stole a piece of pie out of the icebox or something. I always had a passion for food and for lemon pie. [Laughter] I remember being terrified that the Devil was going to get me and fry me forever, you know, and I was sitting on the stairs crying. Well, this must have been before Daddy got thrown out of the church, it was just about this time, I know. Mother sat by me and put her arm around me and said, "What in the world is the matter?" I was almost hysterical and I said that the Devil was going to send me to hell and fry me forever because I had stolen the pie. She said, "Oh, don't believe a word of that. I don't care what you hear in Sunday School or church, just don't believe a word of that. It is the silliest thing in the wide world. Just don't believe a word of it, there's not a word of truth in it. God is your father and you know that your father does spank you sometimes with a folded newspaper, but that is as much as God would ever do. You know that your father is a very good kind man, so God is a good kind man. Just don't believe it." I said, "But Mother, I hear it every Sunday." She said,

Page 37
"Well, just don't believe it. I'm telling you that there is not a word of truth in it." Well, Mother just banished the Devil and Hell right out of my life right then and there. [Laughter] She got rid of them. I might have been a better woman if it . . . [Laughter] It was my permissive raising.
Anyway, we moved to Memphis then, you see, her sister married Mr. LeMaster. who was a real estate man and he had a little cottage back of his own home on Union Avenue and so we lived there. I can remember how delighted I was, because they had snow and I never had snow before. We went to Idlewild Presbyterian Church and my aunt, Aunt Louise, who we called Oo-Oo, was so sweet to us. She had a great big house and a lot of children and a lot of daughters and everybody there was laughing and gay and she would make waffles for breakfast every morning and I would stop by after my own breakfast and she would give me waffles. She was a very gay, laughing person. And her husband just adored her, Uncle Edward. He never said a word. He made a lot of money and was a good provider and he was a fine man, but a very quiet man.
SUE THRASHER:
Now, was your father in disgrace at Idlewild Presbyterian Church for having been . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, apparently not. At least, the LeMasters were so prominent in the church and Uncle Edward had done so well and had a big real estate business, and are still a prominent family there, the LeMasters. So, they were just as sweet to us as they could be. But it was hard on my mother, here she had come back home and her husband had been thrown out of the church as a heretic and he was having a nervous breakdown and I remember that he came home for Christmas and went back to French Lick Springs. But then when the spring came on, he got better and in some way, and I don't quite know how this happened, we went back to the parsonage on Rose Avenue. I think that my grandmother had bought it for us, or

Page 38
something, because we went back to that same place. Then Daddy went to work for a Mr. Orr, who had been in the church and had a big insurance company. But he sold insurance to black people and I think that Daddy felt rather disgraced selling insurance to black people. He never was much of a business man, but after that, he was in the insurance business for various companies.
Mr. Orr was a lovely man and so was his wife. She was the daughter of John T. Milner, who started Birmingham and they had a lot of children. They were lovely people, just as kind and sweet to my mother and father as they could be and to my brother and sister and me too.
Then, my grandmother died, I think, shortly after that and Father inherited quite a lot of money. He inherited part of the plantation, which was about 35,000 or 40,000 acres and when it was divided up, he still had a big lot of land, 9,000 or 10,000 acres of land, or however much it was, it was a lot of land. And you see, the boll weevil hadn't come then and the tenants were still on the land and the bank still handled it, so we got an income from that I'm sure. Then, grandmother left some money. I know that we moved shortly after she died. We sold the house on Rose Avenue and built a big house on Niazuma, a big brick house and we bought a Packard automobile. So, I'm sure we . . . we also joined the country club, so I'm sure that some money came in at that time. My mother began to lead a much more fashionable life. She would go to tea parties and I can see her now all dressed up . . . . my grandmother had given her a set of furs and Mother would wear a great big hat with plumes on it and then she would wear her furs and pin violets to her furs and she would smell like violet cologne, Richard Hudnutt's Violet Toilet Water was what she always smelled like. I thought that she was the most beautiful creature in the world and smelled the best. She was a pretty woman. She never learned to play bridge, but she used to go to a lot of luncheons and

Page 39
teas and she had a friend named Mrs. Maben, who was a very fashionable woman, and a friend named Mrs. Catniss, who was very fashionable. She belonged to a literary club called the Cadmean Circle where all the leading ladies belonged. Well, the Cadmean Circle was a great institution in Birmingham and was supposed to be just the ultimate of all the proper ladies. But they had to have papers, so they had to have some sense, they couldn't be just fashionable, a group of frivolous ladies. It was both social and literary and Miss Willie Allen, who had a private school, was [unknown] the leader. You know who Cadmeus is, he sowed teeth, didn't he, and that's where warriors sprang up. It's Greek mythology, as I recall, he was a Greek and sowed teeth and warriors sprang up. Well anyway, it met every Friday afternoon and everybody, at least my mother and I think that most other ladies did the same thing, before the Cadmean Circle met, every window was washed, every bit of woodwork was washed, upstairs and down. Every floor was polished and . . . .
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
the china was washed, the silver was polished, the sandwiches and oh, you know, the delicate little sandwiches and the mints and the nuts and the coffee and the tea and everything was perfect. And the flowers, because this was the day that you were judged, all your contemporaries came in and judged you. If there was dust underneath the rug or anything was dirty, then you were slipping and all the rugs were cleaned. Everything was cleaned. It was like the great spring cleaning all rolled into one and just everything was cleaned. I loved it, because they would always have salted almonds and mints and mother would bring

Page 40
them to me in the corner of her handkerchief. You could see that I was always looking out for something to eat. [Laughter] That was one of my troubles. So, Mother used to come home from the Cadmean and tie them up in the corner of her handkerchief [unknown] And the ladies in those days were dressy [unknown] and everybody wore big hats and chiffons and pearls and white gloves and they would discuss literary subjects. Mother had to write papers and it was a terrible time, everybody had to stop everything an Mother would go to the library and do a tremendous research job and she did very good papers, I understand. The ultimate of Birmingham, or at least of the Birmingham that I grew up in was the Cadmean Circle. I even began to get . . . you see, we belonged to the country club and we lived in this neighborhood, it's no longer fashionable but it was then, on Niazuma Avenue, which is right at the edge of Red Mountain and we had a Packard automobile and we must have had more money than we had later. So, I went to public school but I was beginning to be conscious of social distinctions.
My best friend at that time, (I had had a lot of friends around Rose Avenue,) but I made new friends whose mothers were sort of fashionable ladies and Pauline Mabin was one that lived in my neighborhood and she and I were great friends. Pauline was a very timid child and she was always scared of dogs; was always just terrified of dogs. So, my mother said that if we would bend down and look at dogs through our legs, they would run away. So, we would and you know, they would run away. [Laughter] I'll tell you that in case you ever get caught by a dog, if you bend down and look at them through your legs, they will run away. You see, in those days, you would have an answer for everything, this was a great time when nothing was

Page 41
left undecided, there were always answers - whether right or wrong. You talk about the homemade bread.
Well, I had a cousin, that was one of the Weakley's too, I forget which, but he married a lady from Minnesota, a Yankee lady. They had a little daughter about my age and she had a birthday party and I remember going to it and we played drop the handkerchief and had ice cream and cake and she was sort of a pale, blue-eyed child and the wife was a kind of a pale, blue-eyed woman. And the cousin, one day he just disappeared. Nobody ever knew what happened to him and nobody to this day I think, [unknown] knows what happened to him. He just disappeared. At that time, that happened rather often, you know, husbands just disappeared rather than get a divorce or kill their wives or whatever, they just disappeared. [Laughter] One of them here in our County stayed away for thirty years and then he came back. He went to the depot in a hack and then he wasn't in it when it got there and nobody heard of him for thirty years until he finally came back. And his wife took him back after thirty years. [Laughter] Well, anyway, my cousin disappeared, this Mr. Weakley, whichever he was, there were so many Weakleys that I never could keep them straight. I was very much puzzled by this, because he had been at the birthday party, you know. There was lots of talk about it and where he was and how they couldn't find him. So, I said to my father, "Why in the world did he leave?" And Daddy said in a patronizing way, "Well darling, that Yankee wife of his never fed him anything but cold store-bought light bread and that was enough to make a man leave a woman, to feed him cold, store-bought light bread." I just took it for the truth. [Laughter] Well, on the plantation, I used to ask my father why the black people were such different colors, almost white and cream and tan and brown and black. It puzzled me, because they were all supposed to be black, but they weren't black. And I used to just ask Daddy, I was always a curious child. And Daddy got

Page 42
tired of listening to me or hearing me, I guess and so finally one day he said to me, "Dear, that was all due to the Union Army." [Laughter] Well, I just accepted it, I didn't know what it meant, but I just took it for granted that the Union Army caused them to be different colors. There was always an answer to everything, they didn't always make any sense, but there . . . .
SUE THRASHER:
And you always made homemade bread for Cliff?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh yes, not always, but a great deal of the time. [Laughter] Commercial bread, you have to admit, is pretty bad. I can't always make biscuits and cornbread at every meal, so I started making bread so that I don't have to make biscuits and cornbread. But he never had a slice of store-bought bread at his house in his entire life, I mean, when he lived with his mother. And with me, he would sometimes eat Pepperidge Farm bread, but if I ever served him a commercial loaf of bread, you know, that sort of really . . . well, he just refused to eat it, absolutely refused. Said that it was just made out of blotting paper.
But the point that I'm getting at is that while the structure of society was changing all around us, you see, Birmingham was a new town and people were coming in from all over and there were strikes and labor and capital and racial troubles, I was completely immune to all of it. It was as though I had never even broken the shell. I lived on the South Side. Now we did have the big break with the Presbyterian church. The preacher that came after my father was named Dr. Edmunds, well, it was Dr. Plunkett first and he just up and died in the pulpit, he was an old man. Then the next one that came on was Dr. Henry Edmunds and he was a young man who had been the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church here and in Montgomery.
SUE THRASHER:
You continued going to your father's church after he was kicked out of the pulpit?

Page 43
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes we did. This was a matter of pride, you see.
SUE THRASHER:
Your father went too?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, this was a matter of pride. My father wasn't going to let them think that he had been run out of the church. They didn't take away his membership, they just made it impossible for him to get a church. As I say, this was a matter of pride, not letting people know that they had hurt you. Then, when Dr. Edmunds came along, they began on him about the literal interpretation of the Bible and he was a younger man than my father and a very fine preacher, (my father was too, I understand,) but Dr. Edmonds broke the church in two. It divided and my father went with Dr. Edmunds across the street. The Weakleys, of course, and the Barrons all stayed in the old church. But we went across the street and started worshipping in the Temple, the Jewish Temple, the Temple Emmanuel. You see, they had their services on Saturday and we used the Temple Emmanuel on Sunday. At that time, I was going to school at the Lakeview School and my best friends were a group of Jewish boys and I must say [unknown] in all modesty, the reasons that we got to be such good friends was because we were the smartest ones in the school. We made the best grades and we were interested in it. I just loved school.
SUE THRASHER:
Now, is this in the 'teens, or . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, this was . . . let's see, I must have been about ten when we left Rose Avenue and went over to Niazuma, I must have been about ten maybe and this was when I was eleven or twelve and thirteen. It was barely the beginning of the 'teens.
SUE THRASHER:
And you were born in 1903?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes. So, this was before the war. The war came on in 1918, or we got into it, of course, it started in 1914.
In 1918, I was fifteen,

Page 44
so you see this was about, oh, 1913, 14 or 15, right about there. These Jewish boys and I were devoted friends; there was Morris Cohen whose father owned a big department store, and Adolph Lobin whose father owned a big department store, and Godfrey Goldman—I don't know what his family did—and Adolph—I can't remember his name, somebody or other—oh, I adored him. He was beautiful.
SUE THRASHER:
You were friends with them in school . . . did you socialize with them at all?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, that's what I'm getting to. We could play, you see, in those days you played outdoors under the lights at night. Children don't do that anymore, they watch television, I think. After supper we'd all go out—that was on Rose Avenue and Niazuma too—and we'd all meet, the children would. We'd play under the street lights, games and such, and nobody did have television and we only went to the movies very rarely and that was our amusement, we amused ourselves. The older people would sit on the porch and rock, you know, and it was a neighborhood. You see, neighborhoods then were very important because that was were you amused each other and yourself, was to sit on the porch, the neighbors would drop in and children go out to play . . . Beck, Adolph Beck, his father was a great friend of Hugo Black's it turned out later. Anyway, these Jewish boys I was just devoted to, and they were devoted to me and we'd call up and do our lessons with each other over the phone, you know, and compare our grades. And the smartest one was Isadore Besitch—you know, that's the great big department store—and he always made just a few more marks than anybody did, but he wasn't a member of the group he was sort of an ‘outsider.’ See, even in the Jewish community there was a great deal of social . . . there were Eastern Jews who originally went to the synagogue, but the German Jews who went to the

Page 45
Temple were much more upper class. There was a great deal of social division in the Jewish community between the people that . . . .
SUE THRASHER:
Was there a large Jewish community in Birmingham?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Pretty big. You see, there were a lot of mercantile establishments that they owned.
SUE THRASHER:
When did they settle there, after the war?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh yes, Birmingham was formed after the war. It was just a little village called Elyton and then the L&N and the Southern crossed there and it became a great commercial center and then they discovered the iron ore and the coal and the limestone all right there in that valley and so it became a great center of coal, pig iron and United States Steel and Tennessee Iron, Coal and Railway Company and then the Woodward Iron Company and Republic Iron and all the great big steel companies. When I was growing up, people didn't think about pollution then. The air was so full of dirt that you couldn't go out without having your nose and throat stop up and your white gloves get dirty. Birmingham was prosperous. If the air was clean then everybody was down and out. Now, I knew that much, but it was as distant from me as though it was another country. I never even went to those places. My life consisted entirely of downtown Birmingham, Highland Avenue and the South Side and what lay beyond that was just a foreign country as far as I was concerned. The people that lived in it might as well not have existed. My whole life was concentrated in this social group in this neighborhood. The first shock that I got was . . . you see, we went to the Temple, the Presbyterian church went over there and so often on Saturdays, some of these boys would ask me to go to the Temple with them and I would go to the Temple with them on Saturday and I remember looking at the various things connected with the Jewish religion which I thought were very interesting.

Page 46
But I never could get them to go to church with me on Sunday. I used to invite them but they never did go. Well, we were devoted friends, but the point was that when we started dating, as long as we were just playing outdoors under the lights, that was fine, we could have our Jewish friends and everything was fine, just like the black children in the backyard. But when we started dating, when I was about thirteen or fourteen, when you started going to parties, then the axe fell. Well, their mamas didn't want them to date us either and our mamas didn't want us to date them. So, it was a very sad thing for me because these had been my best friends and these were the boys that I would have naturally started going out with. But because they were Jewish, it wasn't possible. We were completely divided. There was a country club called The Standard Club which they went to and we went to the Birmingham South Highland Country Club. But it was a very sad thing because we were just literally cut in two, if you can imagine.
But about this time, this is later, I went to the high school. I had been to South Highland Public School when I was little and then when we moved, I went to the Lakeview Public School and I always found school an absolute joy. Now, this sounds silly I know, but I just adored school. I was good at school, I loved to read, I was curious, I wanted to know about the world and I had wonderful teachers. This is what nobody seems to have anymore, but in my first grade, I had a Miss Taylor who was a marvelous teacher. She [unknown] made the world come alive to you and all through my career at public schools, I [unknown] had marvelous teachers, really wonderful. So, learning was a joy, if you know what I mean. So, when I went to the high school in Birmingham, it burned down and then I went to the Paul Haynes School. That was sort of patchwork, you know, the public school turned into a high school and we then met over at the old medical school.
I remember that

Page 47
up until this point, sex was entirely foreign. We never discussed it. It didn't exist as far as we knew. Only thing that I knew was that something happened in the basement because Mother was always worried about the cooks having men in the basement. They lived on the place, in the basement of the house on Niazuma, there were two servants rooms and a bath and so, the cook always lived on the place. This was because they wanted them there in time to cook breakfast. Of course, they weren't paid at that time but about five or six dollars a week and having a room and board was supposed to be part of the wages, I suppose. But I remember that we had a succession of cooks and I remember the terrific anxiety about the men in the basement. I didn't know what they did in the basement, but if Mother or Daddy knew that there was a man in the basement, there was always a big row and sometimes the cook would leave. The men would creep out early in the morning and Mother would say, "I see a man going down the alley and I bet that he spent the night here." I realized that there was something going on in the basement that was just terrible, but I didn't know what it was. [unknown] You cannot imagine the barrier that was built up in us about sex. It really was something that black people did in the basement. I remember that when . . . this is just something, no one ever told me about the menstrual period. When it happened to me, I was absolutely terrified. It happened in school and I thought that I was dying, you know. What did I know about it? I had no idea. So, I was just in a state of perfect terror. So, I remember that I called up and Mother came or sent for me and I went home and she said, "Well, that's just something that women have to do." She never told me why or what it was about and I remember that I said, "Mother, do black women do this too?" She said, "Yes, all women do, it is the curse of women." Of course, I always had terrible cramps after that. It was just insane. We were brought up as though

Page 48
sex didn't exist. And I began very early, you see, I was a full grown woman when I was about twelve. So, I began to feel these pangs about young boys, thinking that they were so attractive and I always felt sort of guilty about it. I thought that I must be some sort of a fiend. [unknown] Of course, they were just awful old boys, I suppose, but I was just crazy about them. [Laughter]
Every summer, we went to Mentone, which was up in the north, the mountains of north Alabama. There was a young boy up there named Carlton Wright, who was just about my age. He came from Rome, Georgia. He was about thirteen or fourteen. Well, we fell in love and nobody objected to us kissing and hugging, which we did. It was very pleasant indeed. But you see, he was not regarded as a sexual threat and of course, he wasn't. He just kissed you good night. We would sit in the hammock sometimes, but that was my first intimation of any real kind of sexual feeling. I didn't know what went on except that it was nice and I enjoyed the kissing and hugging with Carlton. We were all brought up that way, we didn't even discuss sex. Maybe some of the girls did, but as far as I know, it was just completely a verboten subject, nobody even discussed it. We began to say that some girls were "fast" because they were the girls that kissed all the boys goodnight. But we noticed that they were more popular than we were. [Laughter]
SUE THRASHER:
You weren't fast?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, no. My goodness, heavens! Kissing Carlton was about as far as I went until I was sixteen or seventeen. Oh no, indeed, I was one of the nicest girls in Birmingham, you know. [unknown] If a strange boy had tried to kiss me, I would have been terrified. But the point was that by Mother not taking Carlton with any seriousness, I did have a period of young love, [unknown] which was totally with no sin attached to it.

Page 49
SUE THRASHER:
No guilt.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No guilt and no sin attached to it. So, I really knew that there was such a thing as warm loving feelings without any sin or guilt attached to it. But then about this time, . . . this was the beginning of . . . my sister had been to Sweet Briar College. By that time, I was going to dancing school and I began to date and have boyfriends that would come to see me.
SUE THRASHER:
And you were still going to public schools in Birmingham?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, still going to public schools in Birmingham.
I must have gotten up to about fifteen, but as I said, I had begun then to be aware of all the social distinctions, you know, the Jews you couldn't go with and the Negroes, of course, you couldn't go with and the people who lived in these outlying districts, that worked in the steel mills, they just didn't exist. Then even on the South Side, there were social distinctions. The people who belonged to the country club and the people that didn't belong to the country club, people who were Baptists and Methodists and you know, the Presbyterians and the Episcopalians. I had some Methodist friends, because I remember that during that period, I went to Bob Jones's revival in a Methodist church. [unknown] He asked that anyone stand up who was on the side of the Lord. Well, of course, my father having been a Presbyterian preacher, I just assumed that not only was I on the side of the Lord, I was one of the chosen. So, I stood up. [Laughter] And in no time at all, I was down on the mourners bench and they were all praying over me and singing that I had come through and was saved. It embarassed me very much, because I thought, "This is just like those Methodists. They're not like us Presbyterians or the Episcopalians. All of this is common." "Common" was a great word. If anything was "common", it

Page 50
was just terrible. Mother would use that word very often and she would say, "Well, dear, I think that is extremely common." Well, that meant that it was just vulgar. You felt very guilty if you did anything that was common. If you ate too much and your mouth got full and if you didn't use the right fork, whatever you did that wasn't right, it was "common." I just accepted it, of course. Anyway, I remember that I escaped from the Methodist Church as quick as possible, but all my friends thought that I had gotten so much attention that they went down and they got saved all week long.
SUE THRASHER:
What did your father and mother do when you got saved?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, I didn't even tell them because I hadn't really been saved, I had just stood up because they asked who was on the side of the Lord and I was terribly embarassed by all of this.
SUE THRASHER:
So, this was something that they didn't know about.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, I didn't even tell them about it because I knew that they wouldn't have approved of it. They would have thought that it was common. To be sung over, you know and prayed over and all. Revivals were considered to be common, it was just ordinary, common people that did that kind of thing.
Then, my father had . . . there was a woman in New York that we called Aunt Mamie. She had been married to my father's best friend, Mr. Patterson, no kin, who had been the pastor of a church down here in Montgomery. And Aunt Mamie had come from Tennessee and Daddy had known her when he lived at Mt. Pleasant. She had been a very fashionable girl, she was brought up by her sister since her mother had died and her sister was very well off. She was fashionable, used to champagne and four in hand coaches and they all lived in Nashville on Pike Road . . . or some Pike that everybody lived on. Nashville, you know, was a seat of fashion and still is in large measure. You had race meetings, you know. Well, Aunt Mamie was very fashionable. She

Page 51
wore the biggest hats and the most pearls and [unknown] chiffon dresses and she even rouged, which was supposed to be rather fast. [Laughter] And her husband died, Mr. Patterson, and left her with a son and a daughter and didn't leave her with very much money, I [unknown] think. Then, [unknown] she did something that was just considered to be awful: She married a man named Mr. Winchester who was a shoe clerk. Oh! That was considered to be absolutely beyond the Pale. "Who was Mr. Winchester?" Nobody could place Mr. Winchester. He was like Mr. Leary, he just didn't exist. He had no roots at all. [Laughter] People would say, "Well, I never heard of anybody that knew Mr. Winchester. " [Laughter] You see, you had to be placed, this was very important. They would always say, "Now, is he kin to the Smiths who lived in Eufala? Is he related to the Walkers who lived in this place?" You had to place people to be sure that they were respectable and your kind of folks or something. So, Mr. Winchester never got placed. So, Aunt Mamie took him up to New York and she began to take girls. This was a thing that southern ladies did to make a living. They would go to New York and get a big house or apartment and they would take girls. This sounds like they were running a whore house, but [Laughter] they would take young southern girls who would come up and they would go to the opera and to the theater and they would take music or French.
SUE THRASHER:
They would live with her.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
They would live with her and they would be exposed, to culture you see, and Aunt Mamie would get them introduced to boys or an invitation to Annapolis or to West Point or she would introduce them to somebody. She was very big in the Presbyterian church up there. They would get polished, you see.
SUE THRASHER:
How did she maintain that kind of image, having married a

52A page
shoe clerk? Did she have money of her own?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, she must have had some money, but she had this great big apartment. I'll tell you how it worked. My sister had been to Sweet Briar and Daddy was the guardian of Aunt Mamie's children in some way. And she would come to visit us for long periods of time and she would always get handsome presents out of Daddy. In those days, ladies used to wear french puffs. Do you know what they were?
SUE THRASHER:
No.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, they were kind of big sausage rolls that they would put on top of their hair. Their hair was always up, and on top of that they would pin these artificial french puffs. They were very expensive. And Mother got furious at Daddy because he bought Aunt Mamie these very expensive french puffs that must have cost fifty dollars. But she had a way of getting things out of people. She was a very pretty woman and very sexy with a great big bosom and a tiny little waist and swelling hips. She was not a bad woman in any way, she was very virtuous. I'm sure that she would not have married Mr. Winchester if she hadn't been. He was an extremely handsome man. Anyway, my sister had been to Sweet Briar and Aunt Mamie persuaded Daddy to send Sister to her in New York because her daughter, Ella Vaughan Patterson, had visited us a great deal and she and sister were friends. She was one of the most beautiful creatures that I have ever seen. She put every other southern belle that I have ever known into the shade. She was absolutely gorgeous. She had red-gold hair that was all curly and great big blue eyes and marvelous complexion, just beautiful. You see, girls didn't use much make-up in those days, and she had a marvelous figure. And she [unknown] wore the prettiest dresses that you have ever seen, satin slippers and chiffon and georgette crepe and she would wake up in the morning and I would go to watch her because she was so beautiful even in the mornings. She

52B page
was just absolutely gorgeous. I can't remember anybody in my life that was prettier than Ella Vaughan Patterson. And Mother and Daddy were devoted to her. She was the daughter of his best friend. Aunt Mamie, of course, was very anxious for her to marry a rich man. I can't tell you how many beaus she had. When she came to visit us, the telephone would ring and the doorbell would ring and five pound boxes of Nunallys would come in and great long boxes of American Beauty roses and violets in little square boxes and gardenias. She would have late dates and an early date to go out for dinner at six or seven o'clock and then have another date at nine o'clock and a late date at eleven o'clock. She could only stay with him for a little while. And all day long, the men were calling up. You see, they became kind of institutions, if you know what I mean, these great southern belles. A man was very proud to be seen with them even. It gave him sort of a status to be seen with one of these beautiful girls and they became kind of institutions. Their cities were proud of them and their families were proud of them. Zelda was that way, but of course she was younger. Then there was another girl named Willie Gale and Margaret Thorington from Montgomery and a lot of them that came on with me that were just . . . Mary Allen Northington, they were just really authentic southern belles. Oh, and Blanche Divine and Sarah Orme from Atlanta. I can remember a lot of them and when they came to town, there was a lot of excitement and they were almost like visiting movie stars. They were not on the stage, but they were playing a part all the time. They were [unknown] the epitome of Success and oh, I wanted to be like them so badly. But I knew that I wasn't. This was the ideal that was held up to me, to be a belle. My sister was extremely popular, too. Boys would come on Sunday afternoon and a crowd of them would come together, say eight or ten together and then when one crowd would come, the other crowd would have to leave. So, Sister would sometimes on Sunday afternoons, have as many as fifty or sixty callers, in one Sunday afternoon.

Page 53
SUE THRASHER:
All boys?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
All boys, sure. You see, she was extremely pretty and the boys were crazy about her and she was one of the very popular girls. Sister was never sort of an institution like Ella Vaughan Patterson or Blanche Divine, but she was a very pretty girl and the boys were crazy about her. She never said much, she was just so sweet and pretty and they just fell in love with her, you know. But Aunt Mamie, I suppose that she wanted her to board, and she persuaded Daddy to send her to New York, so she did go to New York to live with Aunt Mamie. She stayed there for 2 years and in the course of those years, she took a business course, of all things, and became a secretary. Now, when the war broke out in 1918, she was still in New York and she and Ella Vaughan Patterson joined the Navy as Yeomanetts.
You [unknown] should have seen them in their uniforms. They had dark blue suits and dark blue capes lined with red and little caps and they were so beautiful that people would stand in the street and look at them. And of course, that romantic costume with the flowing cape and all . . . so, Aunt Mamie at that point persuaded my father to send me up there to be polished off.
SUE THRASHER:
And where did your sister Josephine go when she joined the Navy?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, she lived with Aunt Mamie.
SUE THRASHER:
She stayed in New York?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, she and Ella Vaughan lived with Aunt Mamie but they worked in some Naval office. They were secretaries. So, Aunt Mamie persuaded my father to send me up there. She came down to visit, we never got on too well, Aunt Mamie and I and she told my mother and I heard her say it, "Virginia is absolutely impossible. She is really impossible. She talks too much, she

Page 54
talks too loud. Her voice is too high, she asks too many questions and she is very raw boned and near sighted. Annie, she will never marry well unless you do something to get Virginia polished off."
[interruption on tape. Original reel-to-reel recording changed at this point.]
SUE THRASHER:
This is a continuation of an interview with Virginia Durr at her home in Wetumpka, Alabama on March 14, 1975. Yesterday, we took Virginia up through her childhood until the time that she left to go to Aunt Mamie's [unknown] in New York City . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
It wasn't a school, it was just, she used to keep girls in her apartment to give them a taste of New York life and some culture and some social life. This was something that southern women did quite a lot. Miss Semple had a famous school called Miss Semple's School, where the girls would go to be polished off. I think that there was always a vague hope that they would meet some rich millionaire Yankee and marry him and bring him home and save the South or the family plantation, the old home or something. That was about the best investment that you could make, to have your daughter marry a rich millionaire. It is very difficult to realize in 1975 how poor the South was then.
It is almost impossible for you younger people to realize the terrible poverty of the South before 1932 when the New Deal came in. We can try to express it to you, but since you didn't see it or experience it . . . now, we never suffered from actual poverty, it was always genteel poverty where you were trying to keep your best foot forward on very little money. But we were surrounded by absolutely abject poverty. The poor whites that lived over the mountain, you see, we lived on Red Mountain and over the mountain was where the mines were, the coal mines and the ore mines. And on Saturday mornings, these families would come into Birmingham, walking, there

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was no paved road and nobody had a car, they were all poor people and no one had a car. They would walk in, these great large families and they were the most miserable looking people that you have ever seen. They were pale and stunted and almost deformed because the thing that was so prevalent among the poor whites in the South at that time was pellagra and worms and maleria. Pellagra was the dietary disease and the Negroes and whites would break out in these white splotches. Of course, it was purely a dietary disease, they just didn't have the right kind of food to eat. Then, these same families would come home late in the afternoon on Saturday falling and drunken, all of them drunk, the men and women. I don't know whether the children were, but the children were hollering. We lived right on the edge of the mountain and they would come down our street from off the mountain and of course, I was concerned about them too, but the only explanation that I got was that they were just poor white trash, that's just the way they are, you couldn't do a thing with them, no matter how much you tried, they would still be the way they are because that's the way they liked to be.
SUE THRASHER:
Did these people work in the steel mills, or were they farmers?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh no, these people worked in the iron ore mines and in the coal mines. These were the people that lived over the mountain and worked in the mines, at least the men did. They lived in company houses and they were paid with company script, mostly. Every time they tried to form a union, it was broken up. You see, they had replaced the convicts. There had been a terrible struggle to get the convicts out of the mines and these poor whites had replaced the convicts. I don't mean to be so rambling, but the struggle between the poor whites and the Negroes for jobs was terrible. Most of the convicts were blacks, you had all that in your magazine, the story

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story of the convicts in the mines in Tennessee, but what I am trying to explain to you is the contrast between the life I led, which was a fairly secure life, although as I said, we were genteely poor, the life that I led and the view that I had of life and the actuality of it which was before my eyes and which I didn't even comprehend. Because as I say, I was told by my mother and father and everybody that I respected and loved, that these people were just that way. They were just poor white trash and if they had pellagra and worms and maloria and if they were thin and hungry and immoral, it was just because that was the way they were. It was in the blood. They were just born to be poor white trash. They dipped snuff and tobacco juice and if they smelt bad and were dirty, well, they liked being that way. This was they way that they liked to live. And you got the same thing about the black people. Now, they had pellagra too, and you cannot imagine the change in the children. The poor white children were very pale and thin little children and had stringy hair and it seemed to me that the textile mill children always had pale white hair and pale white eyebrows and eyelashes and were thin and pale looking. And the black children always looked ashen, not always, but the poor ones had an ashen look to them. They used to wear flour sacks as clothes with nothing under them either, just flour sacks. And they always had two great streams of snot hanging down them from their nose and they were very unattractive looking. You know, you would feel sorry for them and ask your family about them and then there again, "this is just the way they are. They are born this way. They don't have any pride or ambition. If you gave them anything, they would just get drunk or spend it on something. They are immoral and spend their money unwisely." And here they were living on five and six dollars a week, if they were employed. This was the average wage, which was supposed

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to be a pretty good wage. What I'm trying to say is that the South was so poor. The land itself was so poor. Soil erosion, terrible gullies in the land and the fact that the soil itself was washing away.
You never read Mike Ross's poem about the Tennessee Valley?
SUE THRASHER:
No.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, you see, all of this was not Mike Ross in Tennessee who was Don West's brother-in-law, this was another Mike Ross who was head of the FEPC, the Fair Employment Practices Commission. He is dead now, but he wrote a really remarkable poem about the Tennessee Valley. We were brought up, or at least I was brought up, in the view that this was ordained by God. It was in the blood. You were [unknown] born to be either wealthy or wise or rich or powerful or beautiful or healthy or you were born to be poor and downtrodden and sick and miserable and drunken and immoral and there was very little you could do to change it because it was in the blood. It was a very comforting thought, you see, because when you saw people starving and poor and miserable, you thought, "Well, it wasn't my fault. I didn't do anything about it. God just ordained it this way." But anyway, the point was that there were also always a great many genteely poor and a lot of the poor ladies went to New York and got a house or apartment and took girls and gave them a . . . you see, you were supposed to be their guest, but the fact that you paid was never mentioned and that was arranged between Aunt Mamie and your father or your mother, but you never actually paid out any board. But you see, you were paying guests but you had to remember that you were a guest. If you ever would remind her even inadvertantly that you were also paying, she would get perfectly furious and make it very plain that you were her guest and that you were enjoying the privilege of being her guest. That was to save her pride.
SUE THRASHER:
How did people hit upon New York?

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VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Because New York has always been the great center of everything, and still is.
CLIFFORD DURR:
That's where all the rich Yankees lived.
SUE THRASHER:
But people didn't go to Richmond or Washington?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, they wanted to see the theater and the opera and New York was always the center of everything, sophistication and all. If you wanted to get polished off and learn to be cultured, the opera was the great thing, whether you enjoyed it or not. And the theater and the ballet and plays and movies and Times Square and the night clubs and the big hotels and Fifth Avenue. It was a perfectly thrilling city. So, they did decide to send me there and when I got there, Aunt Mamie lived in an apartment on upper Park Avenue, which was in between the very fashionable Park Avenue and the poor . . . Madison Avenue, I believe it was. Anyway, it was kind of in between, it was not quite fashionable and not quite slum, it was between. But she had an enormous apartment and it was all filled with antique furniture that she had brought up from the South, gold pier mirrors and red velvet curtains and mahogany furniture. So, she lived in some style when I first got there. She had a maid come in for dinner.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I went to Miss Finch's finishing school, which wasn't nearly as fashionable as Miss Spence's school, but anyway, I had gotten there kind of late in the year and I got in Miss Finch's finishing school. But I just adored New York. You cannot imagine what New York was in those days, I mean compared to today, you can't believe that it would be the same city. You could go anywhere and it was perfectly safe. I would walk in Central Park and I would walk up and down Fifth Avenue and I would walk back and forth

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from school. I would go to school from about nine to three and Miss Finch's finishing school was an extremely good school, I mean as far as the teaching was concerned. I had marvelous teachers and wonderful literature. I think that you said you read some of my reports. Well, they were very good teachers, they were marvelous teachers and they took a great deal of interest in you, but in addition to getting a very good education, we were also trained in the social graces. We took something called the Mesendieck Exercises, which was supposed to make us graceful. Mesendieck . . . you never heard of it before. [Laughter] Anyway, you lie on the ground and wear a sort of a leotard and learn to enter a room and cross your legs and you would be graceful. The whole thing was not to be strong, but to be graceful. Then, on Friday afternoons, we would have tea and every girl would in turn have to take her turn at the tea table. You would learn to pour tea, you see, and put in the sugar and cream and be graceful and not spill the tea. We were always being given lectures on how to deal with a staff. Which, you see, meant our servants, because it was always assumed that we were going to have a large home and a staff of servants. It was all ridiculous. Then, the voice. We had long sessions on voice training.
SUE THRASHER:
Well, where did most of the girls come from? Were any of them from the South?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
They came from all around. Oh yeah, a few came from the South and all up through the Middle West and a lot of them from New York. It was a fairly new school, so it was a kind of . . . the most aristocratic and the richest girls didn't come there because if they came to New York, they went to Miss Spence's school, that was the most fashionable school. But it was a very good school and it built itself up. It was a very ridiculous thing in a way, because they were educating these girls as though they were all

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going to be mistresses of huge mansions with a large staff of servants. The assumption was that everybody that went to that school was going to be rich.
SUE THRASHER:
Did you ever question that assumption about yourself?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, I certainly felt that I hadn't been rich. Nor with a staff of servants when my staff of servants consisted of one poor Negro woman and someone coming in to fire the furnace or cut the grass. But I accepted it. I suppose that I thought maybe I would get a rich husband and have a large mansion and a staff of servants. [Laughter] This was the ideal, to be a popular, beautiful southern belle and get a rich Yankee husband and this was supposed to be sort of the fairy tale.
SUE THRASHER:
Why did southern belles think of getting Yankee husbands?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Because the southerners were just too poor. You see, that's what I was saying, the . . . .
SUE THRASHER:
The international travelers were . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
The South was so poor. We were and still are, in my opinion, a colony of the North. After we got beat in the Civil War, they bought us up for a nickel on the dollar or whatever it was and they still own us. You know, when I lived in Birmingham, it was completely a company town, just completely owned by northern corporations and they would come down in their private cars. It was just like being visited by a king or something. Everybody would bow and scrape, you know. The South was defeated. The whole atmosphere of the South at that time was that it was a colony, it was defeated. The northern money and the northern energy and people like Mr. Smith of L&N Railroad were the great heroes. Or the guy over in Atlanta who was preaching industralization, what was his name, the editor?
SUE THRASHER:
Grady?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Henry Grady and of course, there was Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee preaching the same thing: northern money, industralize and bring

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in the money. Otherwise, you see, it was just poor tenant farming and the tenant farming was just about as low as you could get in the human scale, moving around from place to place and living in these wretched hovels and eating fatback and cornbread and working in the cotton fields all day. You can't get much lower in the human scale than being a tenant farmer, at least in those days. But in spite of the fact that all of you younger people, and you see, (we are separated by nearly a gap of forty years,) were in the Civil Rights fight and the anti-war fight, I think that the great thing that separates us is the Depression. I've had Civil Rights workers here to stay and they have been living on very little money, but they have no more concept of what poverty is, because they have never actually been hungry and they have denied themselves and lived off hamburger, but they have never just had nothing to eat. Then, they take things so for granted. They take buses and airplanes and automobiles and MacDonald's hamburgers and they may live on a very simple scale, but they have no concept of real poverty. Do you think that's correct in saying that, Cliff?
CLIFFORD DURR:
I think so.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
And I really think that it is the thing that has separated the generations more than anything else, the poverty. Although, I think that you young people have been very brave.
SUE THRASHER:
Now, right then, in the pre-World War I period and the twenties, my concept of that is, at least, that it wasn't as bad as it became in the Depression.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, but my point is that this was the South, the South. The Depression in the South started very much before the Depression in the rest of the country. It has always been poor since the Civil War. They still had the price of cotton fluctuate and the tenant farmer system had started

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up and it was always poor. The great mass of southern people were extremely poor. They had been poor during the Civil War, but there had been this rich planter class that gave a sort of a feeling of richness somewhere. But after the Civil War was over, all that was swept away. I don't think that Gone With The Wind is the greatest book ever written, as you people in Atlanta think it is, but I do think that it gives a very good picture of the South after the Civil War. The decline of the plantation system and the little girl in there, whatever her name is, I forget, the heroine, her avariciousness, her desire for money, her terrific desire for money, money, money. You see, she was . . . what was her name?
SUE THRASHER:
Scarlett.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Scarlett. Well, she was very typical of the fact that the South was so damn poor.
SUE THRASHER:
Were you hostile toward Yankees? Did you have a feeling that you were a southerner and . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh my, yes. Yes.
SUE THRASHER:
And did you have feeling toward other girls in the school?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, I just remember one, which is a perfectly absurd story, but this happened. I was brought up, you know, to think that a Yankee was a very bad thing. I remember as a little girl that we would go out and visit some people in Birmingham named Stevens, I think. Anyway, they were in my father's church and he had been an old Confederate veteran and he was a darling man, just as cute as he could be. They had a sort of a farm on the edge of town and I used to love to go out there and visit. So, I remember talking to him and I would say, "Oh, Mr. Stevens, I'll never marry a Yankee." "Oh," he'd say, "Don't you marry one of those scoudrels." So, I grew up thinking that Yankees were bad people and I was a southerner you know and all about the slave system before the war. And I had seen it in

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its most benevolent aspects on my grandmother's plantation, which was a holdover. There was this tremendous abundance, you know, and as far as I could see, an extremely loving relationship between the blacks and the whites. So, I really thought that it was great. But I can remember so well when my grandmother died and everything in Union Springs kind of collapsed, what happened to old Easter. This was to me one of the tragic things. You see, Easter had been really the mistress of the plantation because my grandmother, as sweet and kind as she was, was like a child. Easter ran everything for her. Of course, I suppose that the bank and her sons did too, but Easter actually did the day by day, hour by hour, running of the house and the plantation. So, after grandmother died, Easter came up to Birmingham to live with her daughter. I never knew she had a daughter, but she had one who was married to a miner who lived across the mountain. He was a black man and worked in the red ore mines. Well, she had no sooner gotten settled with her daughter than she called up my mother some way and she came in brought her daughter and son-in-law, they brought her in. And she came in to see my mother. Well, she looked like she had always looked. She had on a spotless white starched dress and she used to wear a straw hat over her head handkerchief and her head handkerchief was as white as ever. She looked a little thinner, because she had lived very well. But she wanted to come in and live with Mother, with "Miss Annie." I know that she hated living out there in that red ore miners house. Well, Mother knew that she was coming and we fixed ice cream or cake or cookies, anyway we had refreshments. We did that much so that we would have done our duty. Of course, they went into the breakfast room. You had to observe all the mores, and they went into the breakfast room to eat their refreshments, of course. So, when they came back, and even then, I was about ten or twelve, I could feel that Easter was terribly anxious and Mother

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was terribly embarassed, because we couldn't just take on Easter. We didn't have the money to pay her or even for her to just live with us. Mother knew that she couldn't possibly live up to Easter's standards of abundance and yet, she was so sorry for the old woman living over the mountain in some iron ore miner's shack. It was a terrible, emotional period because here was the old faithful servant that had been a slave, belonged to the family, and who wanted to come back to the family and had always been used to living in the utmost ease. We knew what a wonderful woman she was and what a smart woman she was and it was a terrible feeling of not living up to your obligations and letting her down. And what happened was that Mother said that she just couldn't take on Easter. I think that she thought that we just didn't have the money and so Easter went back to her daughter's shack and she died. I think that she died very shortly thereafter. I'm sure that she just decided to die and died, because life to her was just over. This living in a miserable shack across the mountain and all that dirt and everything. So you see, we were poor too. then my Grandfather Patterson had had a body servant during the war named Reuben, Old Reuben, and he followed him off to the war and been his body servant. Every time that we had a Confederate reunion . . . you won't believe this, but every time that they had a Confederate reunion, the bodyservants, the Negroes that had been body servants for the officers, would come, the ones that were left . . . of course, they were very old men by the time that I knew them, but Reuben would always come. He was way in his eighties, I'm sure, terribly bowlegged and he would always arrive at the house at the most inconvienent time. We would never know when he was coming and he would be expecting money, food and whiskey. And there again, my mother would have this awful feeling that if we

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couldn't supply Reuben with a good meal and whiskey and plenty of money, she felt like she was neglecting her duties. I can remember rushing to the store to buy cake and it was hard to get whiskey then, but Daddy would manage someway to get him a drink and he would usually bring some old black fellow with him. Then, he would talk about the Colonel, you know, Mother's father. "Colonel Josiah," and "Colonel Patterson," what a great man he was and then he told us a story one time which may chill your blood, but he thought it was a great story. Although he was bowlegged, he could run fast and the Colonel once had him race against a horse and he won. He was proud of it, he thought that was wonderful. "I tell you, I beat that horse," he would say. And you know, he never had come out of the slavery period. But you see, because he hadn't, he expected us to provide for him. He was living on a pension, I think that he got a little pension from the Confederate Army even. You see, we lived in this halfway stage between being benevolent despots or benevolent plantation owners and trying to make a living. It was that awful inbetween stage of being genteel but poor, where you were supposed to have all these obligations to the poor blacks and so on and then you didn't have the money to do it with.
SUE THRASHER:
Now, you were going to tell me the story about school.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, well, I was brought up as a southerner, completely as a southerner. I had never been North until I went up to New York. Well, the crazy thing about the school was that all these Yankee girls were there and there was only one other southerner and she was from Montgomery, Alabama. I won't give you her name because somebody might recognize it. She was a very beautiful girl and we had to take these Mesendieck Exercises which were these floating, graceful, learning to walk in and sit down and lie down and always be graceful. You were supposed to take a shower beforehand

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and put on your leotard and then take your exercises and then take a shower afterwards. The water was usually pretty cold, so it was rather disagreeable. Well, this girl from Montgomery, she would arrive in her leotard. She was a boarder, I was a day pupil. She had a room in the school, Miss Finch's finishing school. So, she would arrive at class in her leotard and say that she had taken a shower before she came and then she would insist on going back to take a shower in her own private room. Well, one day, whether the girls were jealous of her or they thought she was cheating or whether they thought she was taking a hot shower and we were getting a cold shower, I never knew what started it, but I do remember going into the shower room and this girl was being surrounded by all these others saying, "You are just a dirty southerner, you don't want to take baths anyway. You don't want to take baths because you are just a dirty southerner. I am surprised that you even wear shoes." Just direct insults. I was absolutely furious and as shocked as I could be. And the girl was crying and mad and she had a wet towel and began to hit at these girls, who were really persecuting her terribly and telling her that she was a dirty southerner and never took baths and probably didn't even have a bathroom in her house at home. Just direct, personal, vicious insults. So, I took up a wet towel and began to defend the southern girl against the Yankee girls. It was the most absurd, ridiculous thing that you could imagine. [Laughter] But we were furious. I wasn't being directly insulted because I always took my showers but she was being directly insulted on the basis that she was a southerner. And I realized in New York that the South was looked down upon, it was a poor section of the country and we were looked down on. Now, Aunt Mamie's pretensions, I could see how hollow they were, because how she lived, I don't know, on what little money she had. Poor Mr. Winchester must have had some

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little job, because he went off and came back, but I never did know what it was. I don't know whether he was still selling shoes or what, but it wasn't much. But you see, Aunt Mamie was keeping up all this pretense of the southern aristocracy and these girls were her guests and all that.
When we first lived there, she had a maid that would come in and do and dinner was quite formal. We would have a glass of sherry in the parlor and she would have guests in and the dinner would be a real good dinner and we would have coffee afterwards in the parlor and it was all very kind of formal and rather grand. But as the year wore on, this was 1918, when the war ended. When the year wore on, the maid left and didn't come in anymore and Aunt Mamie did something that I found extremely embarassing and I'm sure Sister and Ella Vaughan did too. You see, men were just streaming back and forth through New York going abroad for the war, you see. When did the war end?
CLIFFORD DURR:
It ended in 1918, November 11, 1918.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, they were all coming back. Anyway, I can just remember a procession going through the apartment. Sister and Ella Vaughan had lots of beaus, you see and so, we were always having the whole icebox . . . like the Gabor Sisters, you see, except that Sister and Elivon were not that kind, but it was full of flowers and candy and so forth. But at the same time, Aunt Mamie was having an awfully hard time, I'm sure, paying the bills of any kind. So, all of these adoring young men that were worshiping Sister or Ella Vaughan would invite them out to dinner and Aunt Mamie would say in her high society manner, "How sweet of you to invite us all to dinner." And so, she would take us all out to dinner with these men. Well, I am sure that it embarrased Sister and Ella Vaughan terribly and I know that it embarrassed me,

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because I was only fifteen then, but I could be aware that they really didn't want me along. But not only would they take us all out to dinner, Aunt Mamie would say, "Now, I really think that the Waldorf has the best food. Or maybe the Ritz is a little better. Of course, the Plaza is quite delightful." Here these poor men were being held up, they couldn't embarrass themselves in front of their beloved and they were trying to make a big hit on Sister or Ella Vaughan, so they would end up taking Mr. Winchester and Aunt Mamie and Ella Vaughan and Sister and me, Sister usually had a date, but whoever did, they would take us all on. It was terribly embarassing to me, but it must have cost them a fortune. Of course, we got a mighty good dinner, but it was terrible. [Laughter] But you see, Aunt Mamie was desperate and this was one way of saving the money for dinner. She was always on a very marginal basis, if you know what I mean.
SUE THRASHER:
Did you have beaus them, too?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, no, I didn't. I'll tell you what she finally did with me. She still thought that I was impossible, I was so tall and thin and nearsighted. So, what she did was, the Presbyterian church, in which she was extremely active, the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, they had a soldier's center, a center where soldiers and sailors of all nations could come. So, she got me to be a hostess at this center and all of a sudden, I was plunged into millions of men and very few girls. You couldn't help but be popular, because you danced and danced. They were lined up waiting to dance with you. There again, it was the scarcity value. So, I learned to be quite easy with men. I can't remember them all now, but I think that one of them was a Norwegian. He couldn't speak English very much . . . [Laughter] But I remember that he was a good-looking fellow. But you know, it was all

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supervised and chaperoned. But I did learn to be easy and oh, I got a few bars and stripes. But you see, Cliff always says, he claims that I didn't feel inferior. I always laugh at that, that I've got conceit . . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
You've got a superiority complex.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
[Laughter] Well, I've acquired it since I married you. Because actually, I did feel terribly inferior to Sister and Ella Vaughan. You see, they were very beautiful and extremely popular and all the candy and flowers were coming and the young men were beseeching them all the time. It was extremely . . . I did feel inferior. Then, Aunt Mamie arranged for me once to go to West Point with one of the Hills from here and that was very nice, too, but as I say, I got practice on these soliders and sailors and marines and foreign characters and I realized that if you just smiled and were pleasant and learned how to dance and relaxe, you see, I was always terribly nervous with men, because I didn't think that I was very attractive and I was trying to impress them.
SUE THRASHER:
You had gone to New York straight out of public schools in Birmingham.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I had gone to New York straight out of the public schools, but I did very well in the school, as you can see. I had no trouble with the work, except that some of it bored me, but mostly I adored the work at the school. The thing that interested me the most was New York itself, because you see, I would get home about three o'clock and I could do anything I wanted to. So what I would do, I would explore New York. Above us was a Jewish section and I would walk all over the section. They had wedding shops where these big [unknown] Jewish women with black wigs would always be standing in the door and say, "Come in honey," or whatever they called you, "Lovey, come and try on." Well, I would go in and try on wedding veils [Laughter] but of course,

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I never bought anything, but I was just fascinated with the Jewish section. Then, the delicatessens. You see, I always adored food and I would go into the Jewish delicatessen and for 25¢, you could get a roll and a piece of salami and a dill pickle and oh, it was just marvelous and delicious. Then, they had an Italian section sort of back of us. That was fascinating and all the smells and the grocery stores there were all wonderful. You would buy a little bit of cheese or something, but the smells were delicious. You see, they would speak Yiddish in the Jewish section and Italian in the Italian section and down below that was a German section and that was cabbage and . . . all these were designated by the food and they all spoke German. But you see, I got these great vignettes of foreign life and it was different from anything that I had been used to. I never got down as far as Chinatown, I'm sorry to say. Then, I would take rides on the Fifth Avenue bus and sit on top. New York was so beautiful then, and it was so clean. It smelled good. You know, it smells so bad now that I can't bear to go in it. It smells like garbage all the time, summer and winter. And it is so dirty and you can be scared to death. I never had a moment's fear. I was allowed to go anywhere. I could go to the movies and walk home in the dark.
[interruption by telephone. Clifford Durr talks to Sue Thrasher]
CLIFFORD DURR:
Virginia was telling you about the economy of this part of the South during the pre-World War I period. The economic base was cotton. I know that my father, although he was in the wholesale drug business, the first thing that he did in the morning was to look at the cotton exchange report because that meant the difference as to whether the business failed or prospered. The complaint of the South was that we sell our cotton on a free market and we buy our goods on a protected market.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Tariff, you see.

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CLIFFORD DURR:
And of course, the tariff. So, when the price of cotton would go down and down, the farmers would have to borrow money to make that crop, they always did that. They would try to make up for it by putting new and more land into cotton.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Which was the only cash crop, really.
CLIFFORD DURR:
It was the only cash crop that we had. And cotton takes a heavy toll on the land, you really have to put the fertilizer in there and they didn't have the money for the fertilizer. So, as a result, you began to get poorer and poorer land in the South and you would have the erosion from the cultivation of this poor land. Before the New Deal, one of the things that I noticed about the landscape of the South, driving down these roads, you saw these gullied farms and you never saw a farm house with any paint or fences that weren't down. It looked miserable and then the New Deal started out with the soil conservation programs and paid farmers money to get out of these row crops and put more land into pastures and timber and things of that sort. So, the beauty of the landscape began to . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
To come up again.
CLIFFORD DURR:
But cotton was just a desperate means of existence. You were really mining the land, which was the expression that we used. I can remember that even during World War I, trying to do something about it, it became a patriotic duty of the businessmen to do it, to buy bale cotton at 10¢ a pound, the price was around 6¢ or 8¢, something like that, so they were trying to bring up the price artificially by buying it at 10¢ a pound.
SUE THRASHER:
A patriotic duty.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Yes, that was a patriotic duty.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, my father, you see, even if he had his 9,000 or 10,000 acres, however much it was, he had to furnish the tenants, who were all

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black, but he just had a terrible time borrowing enough money to furnish them. Cotton kept going down and down and then the boll weevil began to come in and they would eat up the crops. So, I was conscious of this all the time, that everything I did was connected to the price of cotton, whether I went to school or didn't go to school. For instance, I never could go off to summer camp. All my other friends went off to summer camp but I never could afford to do that. I do think that the great mark of change to me is not only the landscape, and I suppose that this is one reason that sometimes we are more hopeful than the younger people, that we have seen things so much worse which will make us settle for less, but the thing that makes me realize the change is the appearance of the children, both the black and white children. I observe them very closely and the contrast is absolutely amazing. Their teeth are so much better and their complexions and their hair and their clothes. You hardly ever see a child look the way that I remember the poor children looking when I was growing up. It is an absolutely amazing change. Don't you think so, Cliff?
CLIFFORD DURR:
Oh, yes.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
You know, they get supplements in school, are fed in school, and it is just remarkable.
SUE THRASHER:
Did your father continue to take an interest and oversee the acreage that he had?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, no. That was one of the things that I'm sure he . . . no, he left it all to the bank manager, whoever it was.
SUE THRASHER:
So, he really didn't . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, he would go down there . . . .
SUE THRASHER:
After your grandmother died, he didn't go down there much?

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VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
He'd go down there but he never ran the plantation. Daddy was never a businessman at all. He was a scholar and a preacher and then he sold insurance, which he always hated to do. Poor man, he just felt that it was terribly beneath him to try to get some poor black or white to buy insurance. But he did it because he had to support his family.
SUE THRASHER:
But he couldn't be a gentleman farmer and make a living?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh no, no. Never, never, never.
I don't suppose that Daddy ever pulled up a weed in his life. He never did anything with his hands that I can recall. Daddy would sit by a fire like that and if it started going out, he was just used to yelling, "Jim! Joe!" You know, and some black boy would come in and put a log on, or some black woman. So, when he didn't have any more black persons to call, my mother or even I would come in and put the wood on the fire. It never occurred to him to just reach over and put the wood on the fire. [Laughter] One day during the war, he was visiting us up in Washington and this is so typical, this was during the Second World War and we didn't have very much oil and you had to cut your temperature down to just above freezing and just keep your pipes from freezing. So, we had a fireplace in one of the small rooms and we really lived in there with this little fireplace. And so, Daddy came up to visit us and he was sitting by the fire and I made him some hot coffee and the fire began to die down and we didn't have any wood. So, I went out and it was snowing and cold and I took an axe or a hatchet, I never was very good at it, Cliff usually had some wood already cut. But I had to chop up some wood and bring it in and start up the fire again. And it never occured to Daddy to go out and chop some wood and bring it in, he was an old man then, but he was fairly active still. So, he looked at me and said, "Dear, I declare, it distresses me terribly to see your hands. You know, my mother

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had the most beautiful white hands and your mother had such beautiful white hands. I really think that hands are the mark of a lady. Since you have to do all this work, couldn't you wear gloves?" [Laughter] It never occurred to him to do it himself. Well, I think that is one of the reasons that I was a feminist, you see, and a woman's libber, because my mother spoiled my father terribly and she never expected him to do anything. She never expected him to wash a dish or fix a meal or do anything around the house and he never did. He hardly learned to drive an automobile.
SUE THRASHER:
Okay, let's go back to New York now. You were there for a year?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, yes, I went up there and was there about a year. It was a fascinating experience for me, because as I say, I explored all of New York. Then, I got to see some of the plays, I remember Fred and Adele Astair. I thought they were the most marvelous things that I had ever seen. And Marilyn Miller, you don't remember her, I'm sure, but well were the great stars of the musical comedy stage and they were absolutely marvelous. So, it was really quite an experience for me, but I wasn't very happy at Aunt Mamie's. Aunt Mamie never did come to terms with me because I was really, I suppose, an obnoxious child. I was always wanting to know why and Aunt Mamie used to read the society columns all the time. She had a passion for New York society, which she was hardly a member of although she always claimed that she could have been if only Mr. Winchester had been a millionaire. But he wasn't. But through Ella Vaughan, some of the young men that came to the house were very rich young men, so Aunt Mamie had a passion for reading the society columns and Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, you know, and Town and Country and finding out where the Vanderbilts and the Rockefellers and so on were going. So, I remember saying to her one day, "Aunt Mamie, why

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in the world are you so interested in all those people if you don't even know them?" She got perfectly furious with me, you see, I broke the myth, if you know what I mean. I opposed the myth that I was supposed to swallow, which was that she was just an aristocratic southern lady that had a few guests in her house and because she was kind to these poor girls up from the South. My sister had sense enough to be aware of Aunt Mamie's needs and she didn't play up to it, but she just accepted it and went along with it, but I was always asking questions.
SUE THRASHER:
What was your relationship like with your sister then?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, very devoted, I just adored my sister. It's a strange thing, I say so often that I thought she was prettier and more popular and my father loved her to death and all, but I never was jealous of her. Maybe unconsciously I was, but I have no conscious memory of it. In fact, I always felt sorry for her. Now, that's a strange thing, but don't you think that I always felt sorry for Sister?
CLIFFORD DURR:
Yes. Ever since I was in the family.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, Sister was a very sensitive person. She had pride and her feelings got hurt very easily and she was very sensitive and just every little thing hurt her. She was very happy in New York and she loved it, she was independent and making her own money and she was with the Navy and having a wonderful time and as I remember, she was just as happy and healthy as she could be. She just adored it. So, it really was a very good year for me, because I did learn a lot. I wasn't particularly happy in my relationship to Aunt Mamie, but I adored Ella Vaughan, her daughter and thought she was beautiful and sweet. It was a very interesting year. But I came home in the summer. Now, Sister stayed on until she was released from the Navy and then she wanted to stay on in New York, she wanted to come home for a visit and then go on back, because she loved, I think, being independent.

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But that's where my father just used all the emotional blackmail . . . I know that there is a letter somewhere, one of his letters or one of her letters, maybe it has been lost now, where he just put the screws on her. "If you don't come home, I'll know that you don't love me any more. You are the light of my life and I have always adored you and if you don't come home, I'll know that you think I'm a failure, that you think I can't support you." He just used every possible emotional blackmail that he could to get her to come home. Finally, she gave in and came home, which was too bad in a way, because I think that she never was independent after that, because you see, she met Hugo that summer. While he was certainly a great man and adored her, she never was independent after that, she was his wife and she never had a moment of independence after that. He was one of the most powerful characters that she could have married and that's the way it happened. It was very interesting. You see, she came home and she still had on her uniform and he was just out of the Army, you see, he had been a major. And he was [unknown] a lawyer and a very successful lawyer, a labor lawyer. Then, he [unknown] made a lot of money and was in the country club and was a very attractive man. He was about twelve years older than she was. He was thirty-five and she was about . . . let's see, I was sixteen, so she must have been twenty-one or twenty-two.
CLIFFORD DURR:
She was about four and a half years older than you, almost my age.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, let's see, if I was sixteen, she would then have been twenty, twenty-one. She was very young still and he was about thirty-five. Anyway, he had just come back from the Army and had been a major and he lived up the street from us in a house with a lot of other bachelors and he would walk by the house every day. He was a great believer in exercise

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and would walk by the house every day going to his office and would walk back. He always whistled and would bounce when he walked, he had a very bouncy walk and I thought he was [unknown] good looking. Sister did too, I think. And whether she did it designedly or whether it was by chance, one day he saw her and she had on this uniform, this Naval uniform and I must say, she did look absolutely enchanting in it, so he just couldn't wait to get introduced to her. He belonged to the country club and he met her the following Saturday night at the country club dance. That was always the great weekly event, you know. Well, he never stopped until they married. Good God, I never saw a man work so hard in my life. This was the summer of 1919 and he married her in the winter of 1920 . . . wasn't that it? It took him about a year and a half to get her. She was terribly attracted to him, but he was so dynamic and so different from everybody in her family, you know and so different from her and then, he was considered to be a Bolshevik. All the family friends came to Daddy and said, "Oh, Dr. Foster, you wouldn't let your daughter marry a Bolshevik?" You see, he was a labor lawyer and he represented the unions, so all the corportion people, Mr. Forney Johnston, who was the main corporation lawyer and whose wife was a great friend of my mother's, they were both in the Cadmean Circle, oh, Mr. Forney Johnston, and Mrs . . . I know that Mr. Forney Johnston warned Daddy and Mother against having anything to do with this Bolshevik. You see, the Russian Revolution had just taken place and they didn't have the word, "Communist" then, it was "Bolshevik." Which meant anything radical or particularly connected with labor. In those days, if you belonged to a union, you were a Bolshevik. It was a very general term, you see, and nobody . . . it is almost impossible to realize what a struggle the unions had.

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Now, Cliff's father, when I met Mr. John L. Lewis the first time, you know that he lived in Alexandria, he knew the name immediately. He said, "Durr. From Alabama?" I said, "Yes." He said, "I knew your father-in-law very well." I said, "How in the world did you know my father-in-law?" He said, "Your father-in-law was on Governor Kilby's committee." They had a big United Mine Workers strike under Governor Kilby, I forget what year it was, but anyway, Governor Kilby appointed a committee, one of whom was Cliff's father. He came up to Birmingham and examined the causes for the strike and came to the conclusion that the mine companies were the most benevolent, paternalistic, high-minded, splendid organizations in the world. They even built churches for their people, you know, and they had a hospital for them. So, they immediately declared that the strike was no good and it was broken and so Mr. Lewis remembered Mr. Durr very well. Well, you see, he was one of the best men in the world, but he thought that the coal companies were just wonderful.
CLIFFORD DURR:
He did. He thought George Gordon Crawford was one of the greatest men alive.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
That was the head of the Tennessee Coal and Iron and Railroad Company. So, these southern men, you see, had a great admiration for the southern men who had succeeded with the Yankee corporations. They had made it in the big time, they had really made it with the Wall Street Yankees, you see. It is all impossible for you to realize at your age, the power that Mr. Smith of the L&N Railroad had. You'll have to read The Origins of the New South by Vann Woodward or my son-in-law, Sheldon Hackney's book called From Populism to Progressiveism. You will see, the power that these corporations had in the South and the way that they were looked up to as the salvation of the South. Well, anyway, I came back from New York and Sister came back and then I went to the public high school again for another year. That was when Hugo was courting Sister. He never missed a

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day to come by. Now, he was dating other people all the time, because they hadn't gotten engaged at all. But he was just there all the time and he cultivated me and he cultivated Mother and he cultivated Daddy and he cultivated Sister and he cultivated anybody . . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
When he started out to do something, he did it.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, he was a wonderful influence on me because he would bring me books to read and he thought I had some brains. He brought me the Beard's books, I remember, Mary and Charles Beard's books and he brought me Parrington, The Main Currents of American Thought, books that I was astonished to read, I was amazed that he would bring them to me, but he really did. He brought me all kinds of books to read and he would talk to me like I was an equal and he would explain things to me and all about labor unions. He really had a tremendous influence on me and I just adored him. I was his great champion, I thought that he was wonderful. He was an extraordinarily attractive man. He was very lively and very bright and terribly energetic. I went, as I said, that year to the high school in Birmingham and then that following summer, Sister went up to Mentone, we would go up to Mentone every summer and I can remember Hugo going up to see her and taking Mother and me with him, you know and he was pursuing her up there. she had some beaus up on the mountain, too. He never left off one single minute. Then, that following fall, that must have been 1920, I imagine, I went to the Cathedral School in Washington. I don't know what happened then, Daddy must have sold something but a lot of my friends were going up to the Cathedral School in Washington and it was supposed to be a very fine, fashionable and good school and all the nicest girls went. So, I

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went off to the National Cathedral School and there again, I had absolutely marvelous teachers and I got a [unknown] great desire to go to college because they really did affect me and make me want to learn and go to college. I had excellent teachers, but it was the most snobbish school. The lady that was the head of it was named Miss McDonald or Miss McDougal, I can't remember which, and she was always telling us that she could have been principal of Westover or Foxcroft or even more fashionable schools that this was, she made us feel that she had really come down in the world by being the head of the National Cathedral School because the Westover School and the Foxcroft School were even richer and more fashionable. But by that time, I could always recognize that there was always a rung ahead, no matter what position you achieved, there was always someone richer and grander up above that you were supposed to aspire to. But the Cathedral School, the teaching was splendid and I met all kinds of girls from all over the South, the nicest kinds of girls and all of them had no idea in the world of becoming anything but debutantes and marrying well and being popular.
SUE THRASHER:
What was the attitude toward college? You sister, Josephine, never considered going to college?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, she would have gone to college, but we were poor then. You see, she did go off to Sweet Briar for a year or so, but you see, we varied so. Sometimes we had money and sometimes we didn't. I don't know whether it was the cotton going up or down or Daddy would sell something or what happened, maybe he would sell more insurance. You see, I was never told anything. Mother and Daddy never would discuss money. It was considered common to talk about money.

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SUE THRASHER:
Had she gone to Sweet Briar before she was a Yeomanette?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes.
SUE THRASHER:
She had had a year.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes.
SUE THRASHER:
But by and large, the attitude was that young ladies would go to finishing school and not go to college?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, sure. You were just a bluestocking intellectual if you went to college. But the Cathedral School, some of the girls did go to college and they were encouraged to go to college. But of course, the great majority of them didn't. They came home and made their debut and then married well. Now, when I came home that summer, I had passed most of my college boards and finally, my father was the one that . . . I wasn't his favorite, but he was the one that was convinced that I had brains enough to go to college . . . . [interruption while original reel to reel recording changed] . . . . Well, anyway, the school was a splendid school as far as the teaching was concerned. And by that time, I pretty well accepted their values myself. Now, I did have an intellectual curiousity. I loved to read and I wanted to go to college, but I had just about that time accepted the fact that the world was divided into stratifications and that the important thing was to stay where you were or get on the higher rung, but that actually, the poor people, the blacks and the poor whites were that way because they were born that way, it was in the blood. I was lucky because I had been born to a higher strata and I wasn't quite sure that I was going to stay there. [Laughter] You see, I always had this conflict with not being as rich as the other girls that I went with. Everybody that I went with, all my friends in Birmingham and even the girls at the Cathedral School were richer than I was. For instance, I remember that at the

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spring vacation, I didn't go home because they just didn't have the money and didn't want to send the money to get me back and forth. I stayed with the Johnston's, that was the Forney Johnston's who were the friends of my family who had warned my mother and father against Hugo Black, he was in Washington at that time, representing, I believe, the Southern Railroad, I forget which, but it was some big case. I was just always conscious of not having the money that the other girls did. Their mothers would go to New York, for instance, every fall, to buy their clothes. Of course, I always had somebody come in for three dollars a day and make them, you know. Mother did have good taste, but we were keeping up with the Joneses at a great effort, if you know what I mean. There was always an effort, trying to look like you had on a hundred dollar dress and it didn't cost but fifteen or something. [Laughter]
But anyway, I came home for Christmas vacation and at that time, Sister had I can't tell you how many beaus trying to marry her. She just was surrounded by young men trying to marry her. And instead of making her conceited, it made her very sorrowful. She couldn't marry all of them, you know, and she was terribly weepy over the [unknown] ones that she couldn't marry and you know, she felt that she couldn't bear to hurt their feelings. So, I remember that that Christmas [unknown] feather fans and beaded pocket books and boxes of candy and flowers just rolled in. I think that I got a few modest things . . . [Laughter] I think that one of them was a hammer that somebody had made in school. [Laughter] But the thing was that Sister was just besieged at that point by young men trying to marry her and Hugo was still in there every minute. He never wasted a second, you know. So finally, when I got . . . and she was very undecided still, she couldn't make up her mind whether to marry him or not. My mother

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liked Hugo and Daddy liked him and they realized that he was a very successful lawyer and was involved in the country club and had very lovely manners, but of course, he came from Clay County and they couldn't quite place him. They never had heard of the Blacks from Clay County. They found that the Blacks ran a store, his father was quite a prosperous merchant in Ashland and . . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
A prosperous merchant for Ashland.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
For Ashland. [unknown] But you know, as I say, all the word came to them that he was a Bolshevik, so they were kind of undecided, too.
SUE THRASHER:
How much of a reputation as a radical did he have?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
A terrific reputation as a radical.
SUE THRASHER:
It didn't seem to bother them too much?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, Mother and Daddy didn't know what a Bolshevik was, I don't think, really. They were not part of this group, they were not part of the group that controlled the town. They weren't part of the corporate group, you see.
SUE THRASHER:
And even though he was considered Bolshevik, he was in the country club and . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
He was very popular and he had other lady friends. He had had them before he went with Sister. He was considered quite eligible, as a catch. If you weren't part of the corporate fight that was going on . . . you see, there was terrible warfare, class warfare in Birmingham between the corporations and the labor unions, they were just crushing the labor unions generally. Hugo represented the carpenters and the mineworkers and the railway unions and the thing that he did, as I told you before, he got these tremendous verdicts for them before these juries . . . you see,

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one of the reasons that the Ku Klux Klan arose, and this is something that the books that have been written about him never make very plain, don't make plain at all. When he came back from the war in 1919, 1918, whenever he got back, the soldiers came back by the thousands from the war. They had been drafted. Well, two things happened. One was that these soldiers that came back from the war were determined that they were going to be rewarded. They weren't going back and work for nothing. So, there was a tremendous effort at that point to form unions and get higher pay.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Also, you were exempt from poll tax if you had been in the Army.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yeah, you were exempt, so you could vote. So, they were determined that they were not going to be paid the way that they were and live the way that they were. There was a radical feeling in the air. Then, the other opposite end of the pole was that a great many black men had been in the army and they had been in France and the word came back that they had been sleeping with white women. Well, these two things worked against each other, because the white men wouldn't let the blacks into the unions and they wouldn't organize on an integrated basis. On the other hand, the word was spread by the corporations that the blacks were going to organize; they arous all the southern passions by saying that these blacks had come back after sleeping with white women in France and they were going to try to sleep with white women in the South. And all the old passions of sexual . . . the dreadful sexual cesspool, I call it, came to the surface. There were terrible things done then, you know, lynchings and dreadful things done to the black soldiers. It was designed to make them go back in their place and not think that because you were in the United States Army, you can get

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by with this. Horrible oppressions took place. Well, Hugo was right in the middle of trying to get the unions organized. He belonged to the Baptist Church and he taught Sunday School and he belonged to I can't tell you how many fraternal organizations and he got elected city judge, didn't he?
CLIFFORD DURR:
That was before the war.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, anyway, he knew Birmingham inside out and upside down and the poor folks, the black folks, the white folks, the labor folks and he had become quite a figure, but anti-corporation, you see. The corporation people absolutely hated him because he encouraged unions and then, he got these verdicts in the courts. But the unions were broken, they were helped as I said, by Cliff's father and the National Guard was called out. So, the Ku Klux Klan was formed at that point as a kind of underground union and unless you were there and knew it, nobody will believe it. They will say, "Oh, but the Klan was against the unions." Well, it wasn't. They had tried to form unions. They had tried to make themselves politically effective and they were defeated, so that's when they flocked into the Klan. And all over the South, you see, these returning soldiers flocked into the Klan, these white soldiers. They flocked in because one, they had been determined to get more money and they were determined to be politically effective and they felt that they could only do this by a secret organization. The bad part of it was that they were determined that these black soldiers would not be able to think that they were going to sleep with white women. And not only that, they were against the Catholics and against the Jews, too, but not nearly so much. I don't think that it was so much anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic feeling as it was anti-black.
SUE THRASHER:
So, at the Klan meetings then, did they talk about unions and . . . .

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VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I never went to one, but I've been to many a Klan parade. I just took it for granted, I never thought anything of it. You see, my grandfather had been in the Klan. I told you that he fought for Nathan Bedford Forrest, who formed the Klan, so my grandfather had been in the Klan and I always thought of it as something noble and grand and patriotic that had saved the white women of the South. I remember seeing the horrible movie called The Klansman . . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
Birth of A Nation.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Birth of A Nation. Oh, I thought that it was the most thrilling, dramatic and marvelous thing in the world when the Klan rode in there and rescued the poor white girl from the black soldier and all. You see, you can't imagine the contradictions in my life, the total contradictions. I had been surrounded by black men all my life. The old men at the plantation, I sat on their laps, you know and thought they were sweet, lovely old men. You know, the mailman, the yard man, the furnace man, I had been surrounded by black men all my life. Not one of them had ever been anything but kind and decent to me. I had never been afraid of a single one of them, it never crossed my mind that a black man would make an indecent attempts, or a white man either, for that point. I didn't know what they would do. I didn't know what rape was, I kept hearing about it, but I didn't know what rape was. I was scared to ask. These terrible inhibitions had been driven into me on sex and I was frightened to ask what rape was and I was scared that it would be revealed to be something that I didn't want to know. But then at the same time, I would go to see the Birth of A Nation and believe that the Klan was a great organization, very noble and wonderful and proud that my grandfather had been a member of it. So, the fact that they said Hugo Black was a member of the Klan, it didn't affect

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me at all. I used to go to Klan parades, they took place all the time. But I do remember one thing, I remember that they were all robed and booded but I also remember looking at the shoes and I thought to myself, "I wonder why they all have such worn-out, old, miserable-looking shoes on?" I had always thought of the Klan as the aristocrats riding off on white horses to save the pure white southern woman. I was surprised that the Klansmen that I saw looked so poor and their shoes were so terrible looking. You see, the Confederacy then was still very much alive. I would have to go to the Confederate reunions. They would meet in Birmingham usually and all the nice girls, from the age of about twelve to twenty were pages for the Confederate reunion. You would get all dressed up and all the old soldiers by that time were pretty old. They all had beards, it seemed to me, and they all had bushy mustaches and they all chewed tobacco and spit. You see, they were put up free in the nicest homes and hotels and these ladies that ran the UDC, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, were always great big stout ladies or very thin ladies, they had banners and flowers and big hats and we were all dressed up and were pages. All that I could see that we did was to let the old soldiers kiss us. Well, that was pretty horrible, because not only did they chew tobacco, but they were always given liquor to keep them going and so, they smelled and the wet tobacco juice, oh! It was disgusting. Well, I came home and told Mother that I wasn't going back and she said, "Well darling, they are heroes, they are old Confederate veterans." If some old lecherous man had kissed me, she would have thought it was terrible, but she thought it was perfectly all right to send me down there with these lecherous old men and let twenty of them hug me and kiss me.
CLIFFORD DURR:
They were heroes.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
They were heroes. Well, I got a terrible distaste for kissing,

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tobacco flavored and whiskey flavored. Oh, it was dreadful. But then, you know, we would ride in the parade and they would make speeches, the politicians would, about pure white southern womanhood and I believed it. I was pure white southern womanhood and all these men had died for me and the Confederate flag was flying just to save me. I got to thinking I was pretty hot stuff, to have all the war fought for me and this was a general theme, you see, that the war really was fought to save pure white southern womanhood.
SUE THRASHER:
And did you have any trouble with that attitude when you were at the Cathedral School?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, all the other girls believed it too, all the southern girls did.
SUE THRASHER:
All of the girls were from the South?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Most of them were, not all of them, but the ones that were from the South all believed it, too. There was never any discussion of it. The thing that I think is so hard for this age to remember was that there was never any discussion of these things. Nobody told you these things, nobody ever sat down and said, "Now, you've got to believe that the War Between the States was . . . ", you just automatically did believe that the slave system had been a benevolent system. I can remember my grandmother telling me, "Well, honey, I just feel so sorry for those poor people. When they lived with us " . . . she never said, "When we owned them . . . " "When they lived with us, they were so happy and we looked after them and took care of them when they were sick and looked after them when they were old." Of course, there they were in the back yard, beirg fed and living in those little clean houses and I imagine they were being looked after when they were sick and they did look happy to me. She would say, "Oh, it's not us,

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it's them." "Oh," she said, "the terrible thing for them was when they were freed and had to go back on their own resources and they couldn't make a living." That was the view that I got of slavery. Nothing was ever discussed, everything was assumed. You just assumed all these things. No one said, "Now, you are a poor genteel aristocrat and you've got to . . . " It was always just assumed. I can't tell you that anything was ever discussed. If anybody fell by the wayside, I remember that a girl had a baby and it was whispered around that she had a baby. Well, she was banished and nobody ever knew where she went. Somebody said that she was sent off to New Jersey, but she died as though she had never existed. Nobody ever spoke her name and she was gone and never came back, her mother and father left town. It was as though the whole family had just died and nobody ever told you that this was the fate that would happen to you if you had a baby, but you knew it. You were aware of it. We knew that she was a fast girl and she had done something that we knew if we did it, we would be banished, too. Nobody explained it to us, but we knew it alright, we knew that she was a fast girl and she had done something that had brought on that baby. New, what it was, we didn't quite know. We knew that if we stayed in the car and kissed too much that we might do it, too. [Laughter] But nothing was ever discussed, the explanations that you got, you just accepted. Nobody ever told you that you had to believe this, it was just assumed that you did believe. And all about ladies and gentlemen. Mother divided the world into the nice people, they lived on the South Side and they were the Presbyterians and Episcopalians and they lived in nice houses and had servants and had automobiles and belonged to the country club and they were the people that you associated with. They were the nice people. Well, underneath the nice people were a group that she strongly resented and which she called "the climbers," the new

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rich, the people that came into Birmingham and money would get to their head. Well, they were rich and they might get in the country club finally, and of course, they always did eventually, if they got rich enough. But they were the new rich, they were the climbers. It was always said, "Well, nobody knows who they are or where they came from. Nobody has ever heard of them before and I have never been able to place who they were." [Laughter] Then, beneath them came the "good plain people." These were the people who might arise eventually into the nice people, but they were respectable and they were good, plain people and they did the work of the world and kept things going. But beyond them were the "common people." Now, these people were mostly Baptists. [Laughter] The fact that Hugo was a Baptist was one of the things that they held against him. [Laughter] They were mostly Baptists and they did work, but inferior work and they were, I suppose, the working class. They were "common people" and then, the worst, far beyond them, were the poor white trash. When you got down there, you had gotten to the bottom of the heap on the white side. They dipped sunff and they were like the people that came over the mountain and they were just born that way.
SUE THRASHER:
They were uncouth?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Totally uncouth, but also very miserable people and always with either tobacco or snuff dripping down. They were always yellow somehow, I think that it must have been malaria. And they had pellagra and hookworms and they bred like rabbits. I remember that phrase that was used a great deal, "they breed like rabbits." They were just beyond the Fale completely. I'm sure that you were taught the same thing up there in Tennessee. Weren't you taught about poor white trash and didn't your mother and father look

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down on them?
SUE THRASHER:
Yes. They weren't quite that far below us, though. [Laughter]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, then you see, the blacks were completely outside everything. They were just completely another entire group. Of course, we were surrounded by them the entire time, they were in the house all the time, your life depended on them all the time and you loved them dearly, but they were just outside. They were just another whole group. So you see, by the time I got to the Cathedral School, I accepted all this and everybody else in the school accepted it. If there was any protest against it, I never heard it. As I said, the lady that was the head of the school was always making us feel that because we didn't go to Foxcroft or Westover or some other very fashionable schools, where the richest girls went, that she really had come down in the world. You see, it was a class society and we southern girls were just as impressed by it as we could be, because you see, we really were not as rich as the Yankee girls were. Now, a tiny few number of girls finally got to Foxcroft, which Miss Noland ran in Virginia, which was supposed to be the richest school of all and Miss Charlotte Noland ran that and she ran it on the most snobbish lines possible to attract the richest girls there and she succeeded.
Anyway, I was called back from the Cathedral School because Sister finally decided to marry Hugo.
SUE THRASHER:
Now, what year was this?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
This was 1920, February of 1920, as I recall. I was the maid of honor. Well, when I got home, I found that things were all in a great state of excitement because Hugo had said to my mother that they either had to have 10,000 people to the wedding, because he was already then thinking about politics [unknown] or he could just have a very few, a home wedding. So, of course, Mother couldn't afford any 10,000 people at the

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wedding and so, they had a very quiet home wedding and had just the two families and a few friends. I suppose maybe twenty-five or fifty people. But a very small wedding. And another thing that Hugo was, he was a fierce prohibitionist in those days, absolutely fierce prohibitionist. Oh, my God, he was just adamant against liquor. He had a brother who was a doctor, as I recall and who sometimes drank and one night, he was coming home and he had a drink and he drowned, his brother fell over in a stream in the buggy or something. Now, whether he drowned on account of the liquor or on account of the buggy, I don't remember but anyway, Hugo had a terrible, he was a fierce prohibitionist. My sister was so nervous and I had an aunt from Memphis, my Aunt Louise, whom we called "Oo-Oo", she was kind of a gay old lady in those days. She always was, she smoked cigarettes and took a drink and was very amusing and told funny stories and we all adored her. So, Sister was so nervous and really just trembling and shaking all over, so she gave Sister a little drink of whiskey. Well, Hugo always said that here he was, this great prohibitionist and his bride came down and when he leaned over and kissed her, the first thing that he smelled was whiskey on her breath. [Laughter] He just about fell over in a dead faint. But they were finally married and he was the happiest man that I have ever seen in my life. And I think that she was very happy, too.
SUE THRASHER:
And he was what, in his middle thirties by that time?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes. He absolutely worshipped her and I never saw a man love a woman more than he did or work harder to get her. He did everything he could in his power to make her happy, except give her her freedom. He gave her everything that he could think of to give her and there was not a wish of her heart that he didn't satisfy. But she never had one hour's freedom from that time on.

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SUE THRASHER:
She was Mrs. Hugo Black.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
She was Mrs. Hugo Black. And he expected her to subordinate herself to his life and his ambitions and it never occurred to him otherwise. I don't think that he ever realized that she would want to be free and do something that she wanted to occasionally. He was not only terribly kind to her but he was kind to her family. He helped us out a lot and assumed a great deal of obligation when my mother and father lost everything. But she was always in a state of dependence, total dependence. But you know, his daughter, who was entirely different from my sister, she had been to college and was much more independent, but you know where he wanted to send her? Sweet Briar College. He wanted her to be just like her mother. He wanted her to be a sweet southern lady and beuatiful and charming. And Sister was all of those things, she was beautiful and sweet and charming and everybody adored her and he above all. But I don't think that Sister ever was able, after she married, to have a free moment hardly. But that was the way that girls were supposed to be anyway, you see. There was no question about that. The suffrage movement was just starting about then and there was a lady who lived above us in the neighborhood named Mrs. Patty Jacobs who was a leader of the suffrage movement. She was a very handsome woman and I used to see her a lot and I knew her family and all and Mother and Daddy would say, "Oh, poor Mr. Jacobs, think of that wife he's got, running all over the country and the town and getting votes for women, getting votes for women." And Mother would say, "Well, you know, I think that Mrs. Jacobs likes men."
SUE THRASHER:
Mrs. Jacobs was in your neighborhood, though, she was a wealthy class woman?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
She was an upper class woman, I don't know how wealthy she was, but she was well off and a handsome woman.

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SUE THRASHER:
She wasn't one of the common people?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, no. No, no.
SUE THRASHER:
What did you think about Mrs. Jacobs?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I just assumed and believed what Mother said, that she was doing it because she liked men.
You see, liking men was supposed to be quite a sin in those days. Any woman that was considered fast or painted her face or was too . . . there was a very beautiful woman in Birmingham named Mrs. Barrett, who had been married three or four times and was a very handsome woman and the Whisper was that she liked men, which meant that she was a fast woman and that was a terrible sin. I remember that when I was a little older, Zelda Sayre, she was the most beautiful of all, of course, and the most popular, but the whisper was that she liked men. You see, liking men meant that you were fast, that you were . . . you were supposed to be "chased and chaste," if you know what I mean. You were supposed to be totally pure and be terribly attractive to men, but not give them an inch. Because if you did, that might involve your ruin, I suppose and then you would be banished, packed off to New Jersey. [Laughter] Can you see by this time the inhibitions that had been built up in us and the class barriers and the sex barriers and the idea marrying and marrying well was the only fate that you could possibly have.
SUE THRASHER:
You're not talking about any kind of . . . of other . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Any girls in my class or my group, they're the only ones that I knew.
SUE THRASHER:
No, you're not saying anything about your objection to it. I'm surprised that you weren't a little more . . .

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VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Not at this time, not at this time. See, my great fear was that I wouldn't be popular. Cliff says that I had a superiority complex, but he's wrong, I didn't. I had been told from my infancy that I was too big, too raw-boned, near-sighted, that I asked too many questions and I never was given the image, except by my mother who adored me and she always said, "Now dear, if you will just do this or that, you will be beautiful and you will be charming." Then, I wasn't any great belle, you see. I had a few boys that came around, but they . . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, you were certainly no wall flower.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
This was when I was in my teens, not after I got older. Then, I was more popular, but the thing was that in my teens, I really wasn't one of the more popular girls. We had the most awful system then, good God, it was enough to scare you to death. If you got invited to a party or a dance, the hostess even, not just a fraternity or a club, they would put the girls' names on a list at a drugstore and then the boys would check your name. It was a display, the list of girls was on the cigar counter, I think, [Laughter] so, no matter what you were invited to, whether it was a buffet supper or a picnic or anything, the boys would check the names. The boys were totally in control of the social system. So, if you didn't get checked, you never went. Even if it was a private party, you didn't go, because if you weren't checked, then the horrible and frantic efforts of the hostess in trying to make some boy bring you! All the calling around, "Will you bring somebody?" So you see, we were just in a state of absolute terror all the time because you were totally dependent on the will or the popularity of the boys. If they didn't check your name, you were disgraced. There your name was and nobody had checked you. So, what some of the girls did, if they could get a steady

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boyfriend, then they always knew that they had a chance to go. So, a lot of the girls just had one steady boyfriend. Well, I had some times when I wasn't checked. So, my mother had a friend, Mrs. Cataniss, who was a worthy old lady and very fashionable and she knew that my mother was worried about me. This was before I went off to New York and I was only fifteen then, you see, but my mother was worried about me because I wasn't so popular. I had a few beaus, but not enough to make me a belle at all. One of them was much shorter than I was and he wouldn't take me to a dance because he came up to my elbow and the other one couldn't dance. So, Mrs. Cataniss said, "Now Virginia, men are like sheep. If they see a lot of men around a girl, they will always be attracted because they follow the crowd. Now, the thing for you to do if you want to be popular is to be nice to all the drips", the dull boys and the ugly boys and the boys that couldn't dance well and the shy boys and the boys that weren't with it much, "Now, you just start being nice to all the drips and then no matter who they are," the dashing boys, the SAEs, (who were the big drunks, that fraternity that Cliff belonged to,) "and they will see you being surrounded by all these boys and being broken in on and they'll want to know what that girl has got, she must have something, you know, or she wouldn't be so surrounded." So, I made an absolute, desperate effort to be nice to all the drips. So, I collected around myself some of the drippiest drips that you've ever had. [Laughter] As I look back on it, I really blush to think how false and hypocritical I was, the short boys I'd go with and the tall boys I'd go with and the shy boys; some of them were the nicest of course, because if I could make them feel at ease, they were okay. But lots of the boys that were rather dull . . . oh, what I suffered, the boredom that I would have to put up with. But I got to be fairly popular through this means.

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SUE THRASHER:
It worked.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
It worked okay. I would be broken in on at the country club and I would get checked for the dances and so I finally got so where I was okay. But I was always a little anxious, I never had that feeling of being irresistable that the belles had.
SUE THRASHER:
Did the fact that you had gone away to New York and to the Cathedral School give you status?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Honey, nothing gave you status in those days but being popular with the boys. I mean, you could be beautiful, you could be rich, you could go to Paris to school. If you weren't popular with the boys . . . look, I know some of the girls in Birmingham whose families were the richest, who went to Foxcroft, who had thousands of dollars spent on their clothes and they would invite the boys to dinner and give them filet mignon or three or eight courses and they never got checked for the dances. You see, the boys absolutely ruled the social life. They were the ones that determined whether a girl was or was not popular. Because you see, the thing was that marriage being our only outlet or the only thing that we could do, the boys had to ask us. We were totally at their mercy and attracting men and being attractive to men and getting a nice beau and the best marriage that you could was our only ambition and our only future, our only career. So, naturally, the boys were in total command of the situation, they were the ones that asked us. It was only the girls that were so popular that they could play one man off against another who had power. Now there was a girl who lived across the street from me who got engaged, I think, to seven men at the same time. Maybe just only five, I can't remember . . . [Laughter] But she would play one man against the other and they were all angling for her. And the same thing

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was true of my sister, she had all these men trying to marry her and she was totally in control of that situation. Of course, Sister being so tender-hearted, she was always crying because she couldn't marry them all, you know and she was afraid to break their hearts, but that's a hard thing to do, as you may know, to break a man's heart. [Laughter] But she was very tender hearted. The only thing that gave you status, being rich [unknown] and having lovely clothes and giving beautiful parties might help, but the thing that counted was being popular with the boys.
SUE THRASHER:
Now, were you more concerned about being popular and marrying well or were you also concerned about going off to college?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I had a split personality, I wanted to do both. I really think that the reason that my mother finally came over to be willing to send me up to Wellesley . . . Daddy really thought that I had some brains and he wanted to see that I got a college education. Daddy had a splendid library, you see and I [unknown] had the full run of it. By that time, I had read everything in that library. I had read Macauley's History of England, Green's History of England and all of Dickens, all of Scott, most of Eliot and I had read Quizot's History of France even, a good bit of it. And they had The Book of Knowledge, I had gone through that. I was an omnivorous reader. One reason was that I was so near-sighted you see and I was very poor at sports. I never could play tennis or golf, I could swim, but they never would let me wear glasses, you see. I didn't get [unknown] glasses until I was sixteen or seventeen, I reckon. Mother thought like Dorothy Parker, "Men don't make passes at girls that wear glasses." I used to go to the movies and never see a thing on the screen.
CLIFFORD DURR:
When I would date her, her mother would hide the glasses.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yeah, Mother would . . . .

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CLIFFORD DURR:
In the days before talking movies, they would flash these signs up and . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I never did get to read a thing. I could hardly see Margaurite Clark or Mary Pickford or Wallace Reid, who was my hero. No, Mother thought that glasses would just ruin your chances and I could never wear them at dances or parties, you see, when I finally got a pair. And I was terribly near-sighted, I couldn't see the leaves on the trees, even. Everything was a blur, but when I finally got glasses, my God, Mother would hide them if I was going to a party, she was so scared that I would put them on. I know that it all sounds ridiculous, but it was absolutely the truth. So, you see, I was divided. I wanted to be popular more than anything and to be a belle and have a lot of proposals and have everybody adore me and get flowers and candy and beaded bags and plumes . . . the great thing then was fans made out of plumes, oh, that was the great thing, to have a fan made out of plumes that your boyfriend would send you. I'll bet that you never saw one. Well, you saw The Great Gatsby didn't you?
SUE THRASHER:
I haven't seen it.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, you see The Great Gatsby and at least you will know how we looked. Now you see, I never belonged to the Jazz Age. In Birmingham, there was a fast set that drank gin and so on, but I never belonged to that at all, because I was a "nice girl." I went mostly with nice young men and occasionally, I would get caught with a drunk, which was pretty sad. Because you would go to a dance with a body and you would spend all day long getting ready. We would take bubble baths . . . somehow we thought that if you took a bubble bath, you would be irresistible. [Laughter] We'd spend all day fixing ourselves up for the dance that night and . . . .

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VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
. . . your slippers and your stockings and your underwear and your powder and paint and lipstick, rouge and your hair curled and your dress, usually some sort of satin or tulle or chiffon and oh, you really looked like a beautiful flower when you really got it all done. And your mother would be there, you know, powdering your back and then you had to have the right kind of little evening bag and it was really a terrific preparation. And you would go with some boy to a dance and by God, he would get drunk. In those days, you see, the liquor was mostly bootleg liquor and some of the boys got what they called . . . what did they call it, Cliff?
CLIFFORD DURR:
Jake-Leg.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Tell her what Jake-Leg was.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, Jake-Leg, they'd drink wood alcohol which would affect the spinal chord and leave them crippled.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh yeah, they would be crippled. There weren't many that would do that, I've only seen a few, but most of them drank this vile bootleg liquor that looked and tasted as if it had fusel oil on top and they'd throw up. The country club would just be lined with the aristocracy of Birmingham throwing up over the balustrade because they had drunk this horrible liquor. So, there was no temptation for young ladies to take a drink because it tasted so bad. But it was very disappointing to want to be the figure of romance and have your beau turn into a sick young man vomiting and couldn't bring you home and somebody would have to bring you home.
But anyway, that summer, after Sister got married, I had gone to the Cathedral School and came back that summer and I was just dying to go to college. I had passed most of my college boards. I think that I had to take Latin again, never was very good in Latin and although I had a splendid teacher that year, Miss Webster, who was really wonderful and I did get interested in Latin at that point, because she used Latin as a sort of a

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history thing, the whole Roman Empire. Anyway, Daddy finally consented but I think that my mother came around to be willing to spend the money. Now, the tuition and board at Wellesley in those days was $800 for the whole year. You know, that's just ridiculous for these days, I think that it is something like four or five thousand right now, but of course, I had to have my railroad fare back and forth and my clothes and my allowance of $25 a month and it all added up, I reckon, to about $1500 a year, which was a lot of money for my family. But Daddy agreed to my going and I really think that my mother thought, "Well, Virginia has gotten better looking and her rough edges have been smoothed off some and maybe she'll catch a rich beau up there." She never said it, but I'm sure that we were getting steadily poorer in those days and I think that she just in the back of her mind, like most southern mothers that were hard up, [unknown] hoped that I would bring home a Yankee millionaire, maybe. She never said it, but Hugo was doing very well then and I think that he encouraged them to send me off to college. Now whether he helped with the fees or not, I don't know. I know that he helped the family out a lot, but that was always a matter of mystery, what he did. I know what Cliff did and my mother and father finally had to be totally supported by Hugo and my brother and Cliff.
SUE THRASHER:
Now, what about your brother? Was he off?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, my brother was in the war, too. He was a naval aviator and he came back and he went up to Kentucky and worked in the coal mines. They were the Laniers, neighbors and friends of ours who owned them. He was going up to Kentucky and learn to . . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
He was going to be a coal operator.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, a coal operator, not a coal miner but he first had to learn

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the business. I don't know whether he ever dug coal or not, I doubt that. But the Laniers were friends and neighbors of ours and they had big mines up in Kentucky and he went up there and began to work for them. He wasn't at home. My brother had been an SAE at the University with Cliff and all the SAEs were sort of the top dogs in Birmingham society then and they were all the big drunks. [Laughter] My brother never let me go with any of his fraternity brothers. I had a few of them that would ask me for dates, but he said, "No. Jinxie can't go out with that boy." He was his best friend but he knew that he was an old drunk and also that he made passes. So, I was protected by my brother from such indecent behavior. Well, anyway, they finally agreed to send me off to Wellesley. Well, that was a great event because Mother immediately went down and had some very fine ball dresses made. [Laughter] To go off to Wellesley. And she bought me a squirrel coat, that was a great thing in those days, a squirrel coat. I was so proud of it, a fur coat, the first one that I ever had and I just thought that it was the most gorgeous thing in the world. Have you ever seen a squirrel coat? Well, they are grey and very pale. So, my best friend in Birmingham at that time was a girl named Virginia Jemison and she was a sophomore. So, I went off to Wellesley.
SUE THRASHER:
She was a sophomore at Wellesley.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, at Wellesley. She was one of the reasons that I wanted to go so much because I was very devoted to her at the time.
SUE THRASHER:
Now, was this 1921?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
This was 1921, because I was in the class of 1925. Let's see, 20-21 . . . maybe it was the fall of '21.
SUE THRASHER:
No, it would have been '21.

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VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
The fall of '21, that's right. Well, anyway, I went on up there and I got to Wellesley and I roomed in the Village. You don't know Wellesley, but the freshmen at that time all lived in the Village and the upperclassmen lived on the campus. So, I got to this sort of old fashioned wooden house and found that I had a room on the second floor and this old lady ran it, I forget her name now, but she was a mean old lady. So, I found this beautiful girl sitting on the other bed, it was a double room. Her name was Emmy Bosley and she was from Buffalo. She really was one of the prettiest girls that I ever saw in my life, I haven't seen her for years. She had big brown eyes and brown hair and her skin was sort of clear brown, if you know what I mean. She was very lively and vivacious and terribly attractive. We just adored each other. It was just a mutual meeting of the souls, we just adored each other. It couldn't have been a happier combination. Are you interested in hearing all these details?
SUE THRASHER:
Yes.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I'm not boring you to death?
CLIFFORD DURR:
Is this history you are getting down or sociology or what?
SUE THRASHER:
It doesn't matter.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, she had come from Buffalo and her father was a lawyer. But they weren't very rich, they were like me, they went with all the rich people and the nicest girls and were part of the society group, but her father was not very wealthy, so they were always having to worry about money, too. And her sister was a sophomore and she was a beautiful girl, extremely blond. Emmy was a beautiful brunette and Kay was a beautiful blonde, had beautiful blue eyes and blonde hair. She was kind of like my sister and Emmy's relationship

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with Kay was sort of my relationship with my sister. She thought that Kay was the most beautiful creature in the world and the most popular and she was always sorry for Kay because Kay was so sensitive and wept and cried and was always breaking hearts and then sorry that she couldn't marry them all. And she did have a pretty sad life, she finally died of cancer. Anyway, the point of the story is that Wellesley was just absolutely sheer delight to me. I adored it. I never felt so well in my life, I was never so happy in my life. I just really loved it, just adored it, I couldn't have been happier.
SUE THRASHER:
Did you feel a lot freer there?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh my God, yes. I felt completely free and the thing that was so wonderful . . . in Birmingham, the mothers at the country club would all watch from the back porch. They had big french windows from the ball room to the back porch. So, your mother was always watching to see how many breaks you got and how popular you were and all the other mothers. You know, that was pretty hard. You were watched all the time and if a girl danced too close to a man or a man danced too close to a girl or they saw any kind of hankey-pankey going on, don't think that they didn't come right in and make a scene about it! Oh, no, we were just watched constantly. It wasn't that our mothers thought that we were going to do anything immoral or have a baby or anything, they wanted to see how popular we were. It was like a race, a horse race or something, whether your daughter was coming out ahead and who danced with her. Everybody was involved in it. This was a serious business of life. This wasn't anything frivilous, this was a serious business for the mother to get the daughter married well and for the daughter to marry well. Now, by marrying well, they meant a boy who was white, a Presbyterian or Episcopalian, well off, came from a good family, could be placed and who would

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support you in the style which they wanted you to be supported in. They hoped that you would fall in love with him, too. Romance was the come on part of it, but the point was that they wanted you to be married well. There was no other future for you, what could you do? They hadn't even passed the suffrage amendment in Alabama at that time. Women had gotten the right to vote in 1920, but in Alabama, they hadn't passed the right to vote bill, the suffrage amendment. You could teach school, that was considered respectable, but when you started teaching school, that meant that you had lost all hope of getting a husband and as Daddy would say to me when he would see me putting my glasses on, "I think that you are going to be an old maid school teacher, the way you wear those glasses. You are just going to be an old maid school teacher, that's all the future I see for you." He would really get mad at me if I didn't look pretty and charming and he would look at me and say, "Well, I don't see any future for you but to be an old maid school teacher." That may be the reason that he sent me to Wellesley, he thought that was the only future that I had. I don't know. [Laughter] He never really did like me very much, I mean, he loved me in a way, but he never liked me very much. I irritated him, I was too much like him and I irritated him. I would argue with him.
SUE THRASHER:
He wasn't pleased that you liked his books?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, he may have been pleased that I liked his books, but he really wanted me to be like my sister. He didn't think I was so sweet. And I argued with him, he irritated me, too. We would have terrible arguments about things and he would make Mother cry quite often and I didn't like that. I adored my mother.
Daddy was either very up or down, Mother used to say it was like riding the elevator. He was always very enthusaistic or busy with something,

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he was going to make a million dollars. He was always investing money in oil, for instance, and the oil wells always came out dry.
CLIFFORD DURR:
But whether up or down, he was always articulate.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Always articulate and then if he was down, he was the downest you can imagine.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Everybody else had to be down with him.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, he would say he was a failure and make everybody perfectly miserable and he would just pour out his frustrations and his grief and his disappointments, just drown Mother and all of us in them when he was down. You see, he was such a contradictory man because he was highly educated and he was terribly interested in things, he would read the paper from cover to cover and he was very interested in foreign affairs and interested in what was going on in Washington, he had a really bright mind and read everything in the world. He always waked up about three o'clock and read to about five o'clock. He read a great deal and kept up with things. He took The Literary Digest and he read it from cover to cover, that was kind of the intellectual journal of the day. But at the same time, you see, he was so full of these total contradictions about race and class and women, you know what I mean. So, his mind and his emotions were so totally at variance. Does that make any sense to you at all?
SUE THRASHER:
Yes.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Then, he felt so guilty. You can't imagine how guilty he felt because he wasn't making money and wasn't rich. He felt such a failure. You see, in those days, if a man didn't make money and couldn't support his family in the right style, he was a terrible failure.
SUE THRASHER:
How about his brothers in Union Springs?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, his brothers had done better, you see. His brother Robert, his oldest brother was judge in St. Louis, he made a lot of money in rice and one of his sons got to be head of the Arkansas Power and Light Company

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and so, they were very rich in a way. Then, his other brother, Hugh, was head of the bank and then he got to be on the Federal Reserve, didn't he, in Atlanta?
CLIFFORD DURR:
I think that he was in the Federal Reserve System and pretty high up in it, I can't quite remember.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
So, he did better than Daddy, too, as far as making money was concerned. So, Daddy really had this awful feeling of failure, you see. It was the same thing about being run out of the church, he took a stand for the truth there, he refused to lie and to be a hypocrite and he really did a very noble act by saying that he did not believe that the whale swallowed Jonah. At the same time, the consequences of it, having to go to work selling insurance, just nearly killed him. He thought that it was the most degrading thing to have to go around asking poor white people or blacks or just people to buy insurance from him. He just hated it. He did it, but he didn't like it. He wasn't a good business man, he was always trying to get rich by investing in real estate and of course, Birmingham had booms and busts, you see. A lot of the real estate, if you could have held on to it, he might have been a rich man, but he was very . . . if Mother wanted a big house or a Packard automobile, he got her one whether he had to borrow money for it or borrow on the real estate or the farms or the plantation. Then, he sent me off to Wellesley and he couldn't afford to do that, I'm sure, but he did it. So, he was always doing more than he could afford to do. He just couldn't admit to Mother that he was broke, that he was getting so poor. She knew it, but she couldn't accept it either, really. She would find the bills, she would hide them. Mother would hide bills, stick them behind the cushions of the sofa or the pictures on the wall; she couldn't bear herself to give him the bills, until they started calling up over the telephone. It's kind of like Mr. McCawber in a

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way, but not really as cheerful as Mr. McCawber. You remember him in David Copperfield? Well, anyway, there was always this feeling of the debts never being quite paid, but in any case, they did send me off to Wellesley. You see, I was conscious of all this at the time and it made me somewhat unhappy, but at the same time, I was like most young people, I was only eighteen and I was absorbed with myself.
Then, at Wellesley I really began to bloom as far as boys were concerned, because the first month that I was there, I was invited to the Southern Club. There was a lady in Cambridge named Mrs. Gay, who had several daughters who they called the Gay girls. Now, you've got to understand that "gay" then didn't mean what it does today, these were very nice young southern girls and the lady was a very nice southern lady. But you see, she was indigent too, and she kept up [unknown] by giving Southern Club dances, which you paid to come to. But there again, you were Mrs. Gay's guest. She would hire Brattle Hall or some hotel ballroom and so you would be invited by a young southerner to go to the Southern Club dance and there was Mrs. Gay to receive you. You were her guest, although you may have paid five dollars a couple to come to the dance. The Gay girls were hostesses, too, assistant hostesses and everybody was introduced to everybody else and they would play "Dixie" you know, and we would all stand and cheer.
SUE THRASHER:
All southern?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
All southern. It was the Southern Club. So, there was a girl at the Cathedral School named Sarah Orme from Atlanta. She's now married to Billy Huger. Well, she was one of the greatest southern belles. I forgot to mention Sarah. She was the prominent one. She

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would get forty-five letters a day from boys, she would get fourteen corsages on Sunday or four boxes of candy on Tuesday, special deliveries and telegrams. She visited me one Christmas. She was like Zelda, sort of, except that she always knew where she was going and she was a very sensible, down to earth girl. She wasn't a beautiful girl, she was very attractive, but she was totally at ease and self-assured. I think that made a young man feel comfortable. She must have had a lot of sex appeal. Anyway, she got very popular. I know that when she came to see me one Christmas, all the boys in Birmingham fell for her. So, she had a friend named Clark Foreman, whom she had grown up with in Atlanta and Clark was at Harvard. So, she wrote Clark about me. See, he had been a friend of hers, I don't know whether he was ever a beau of hers or not. We divided boys then into friends, which meant that you were just friends, which wasn't very often and then we had beaus who took us around and we had suitors. Suitors were the ones that were trying to marry us, you see. So, you divided your boys into friends, beaus and suitors. Well, I think that he was just sort of a friend. Anyway, he called me up and said that he wanted to take me to the Southern Club dance and I said that I had this beautiful roommate and didn't he want to get a boy for her. He said yes and that Bill Sibley also came from Atlanta and his father was a federal judge there and he would bring him around, he was in law school. Then, I said that my roommate had a beautiful sister and didn't he want to get a boy for her. He said, "Yes," there was a boy there from VMI named Bill Winston and he would get him. So, we went in and this is the way that you got to a dance at Wellesley. You could be interested in this, it sort of shows you . . . .
SUE THRASHER:
I am.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, you see, the girls today have no idea of how all the

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restrictions were on us. We may have resented them, but they made us feel like we had something that was very precious and valuable and that all the boys wanted and that if we didn't guard it carefully, it was gone. [Laughter] But it did make you feel that you were terribly desirable, that you were irresistible. If a boy was just left alone with you long enough, he couldn't resist you. I don't know if you can understand what I'm trying to say, but the very restrictions that were placed on you; the inhibitions about sex, the fact that it was all a mystery and that you held something within yourself that was so desirable and that the boys wanted so bad that it made you feel that you were pretty desirable you see. Particularly after the boys began to pay you some attention . . . [interruption as original reel to reel recording is changed]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, in any case, to get to Wellesley, to get from Wellesley to a dance, and of course, you could only go on a Saturday night, you couldn't go on a week night, you couldn't go on Friday night. You could go into town on Saturday night and stay overnight, maybe you could go Friday night if you went off for the weekend, but you only had one weekend during the term or something, but there were certain guarranteed houses where you could stay in Boston or Cambridge . . . well, Boston, this was on Commonwealth Avenue and the lady that ran the house was [unknown] an extremely respectable lady and so at that point, you left Wellesley and got on the train and went to the South Station and you got to the lady's house and she became ipso facto your mother, guardian, chaperone, she was responsible for you. So, you signed in and then you would tell the lady what time you would be in that evening and you had to come in by twelve o'clock and she would wait up for you and you would have to sign in. Then, when the young men came in to take you out, she would have to

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meet the young men and know exactly what their names were and place them. [Laughter] She wouldn't say that she had to place them in Virginia or Texas or Georgia, but did they go to MIT and what class were they in and where did they live, or did they go to Harvard Law School or to Harvard or wherever they went, she had to know exactly wherever they were from and of course, if anything happened, they knew exactly how to get a hold of the boy or the people at the college or whatever. Anyway, Emmy and Kay and I all rushed in, thrilled to death about our first dance, just as excited as we could be.
SUE THRASHER:
Now, the Southern Club was in Boston?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
It was in Cambridge. You had to go over to Cambridge for the dances, which would usually be at Brattle Hall, which was kind of an assembly room or something on Brattle Street. And so, at the South Station you . . . have you ever been to Boston?
SUE THRASHER:
Yes.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, everybody would come into the South Station, it was a great big old gloomy place and I just adored it, it smelled so good and I loved it, it always meant for me romance and fun and thrills and so on. Then, you would go over, I don't think that we ever ate supper, if I can remember, we were so excited. So, we would get all dressed up, you know and everybody would fix everbody's hair and powder their backs and then we would come down and meet the young men. Well, here the three were. There was Bill Sibley, who was very tall and very handsome and he was the son of a federal judge and he was crazy about Sarah Orme. He was a suitor, he was just wild about Sarah.
SUE THRASHER:
But he was there to date someone else?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yeah, he dated Emmy, I believe, I forget. I dated Clark Foreman,

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who was also crazy about Sarah, but as I say, he wasn't a suitor, just a friend. He was short and dark and very handsome and very lively. Then, there was this great big tall boy named Bill Winston from VMI and boy, was he a figure of romance. He was about six feet two and had sort of a bulldog jaw and oh boy, I thought that he was the handsomest creature that I ever saw. And he had on a great big swirling VMI cape. It was pale blue and lined with red, can you imagine anything more romantic? Of course, they all had on tuxedos, you see. So, I thought that he was the most thrilling figure of romance that I had ever seen in my life. Tall, beautiful, blonde, even the bulldog jaw I thought was grand, and this swirling cape. Oh, he was so handsome. Anyway, he was dating Kay, I reckon. Well, we got to the Southern Club dance and in those days, they didn't have cars, you went on the subway or the streetcar or you walked. It seems to me that I walked more than I ever walked in my life in Boston. And walking in silver slippers was always rather difficult. [Laughter] But anyway, we finally got there and as I say, you would go in and you would be introduced to Mrs. Gay and then she would place you, "Where are you from?" "Alabama." She usually said that somebody she knew came from Montgomery or Louisiana or Texas or wherever. You would meet the Gay girls, who were pretty young girls and I think that they all got husbands eventually and then she would introduce you around. Then they would have what they called circle dances where you would stop and dance with whomever you stopped with. They used to have those all the time. What were they called? You would form a big circle and the boys and girls would pass each other and then when the music stopped, you would dance with whoever was opposite. What did they call those things? It will come to me in time, I know. This was just a way

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of getting people introduced, you see. So, by the end of the evening, most of . . . and then you see, the boys would break in on the girls and then on occasion, they would have something that we never had in the South, where the girls would break in on the boys. I thought was very new, extremely daring. Of course, I broke in on Bill Winston, you know . . . [Laughter] By that time, I [unknown] thought that I had found the romance of my life. And so, Clark Foreman was a marvelous dancer. He was absolutely divine, as we used to say. I was a pretty good dancer, so we would give exhibitions. So the Southern Club became sort of a fixture in my life and all the southern boys went there. Just last week, when I was down in Texas, I saw St. John Garwood, who had been one of the great beaus of that time. He finally got on the Supreme Court of Texas and a charming fellow, still just as sweet and loving as he can be. I would say that he is just a little to the right of Franco. [Laughter] He was absolutely delightful, though, I never met a more charming gentleman still and just mourning for the fact that the world was going to hell in a bucket, you know and he couldn't stop it.
CLIFFORD DURR:
You might tell how he . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, that's another long story.
SUE THRASHER:
Now, you and Clark were friends? You went with Clark a lot?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, I went with Clark. We were great friends. And Bill Sibley and I were great friends. They took me out a lot. You see, they were in love with Sarah, at least Bill was and Clark began to be as good a friend of mine as he was of Sarah's, because Clark was a friend. They introduced us to everybody and we got launched, if you know what I mean, on

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Cambridge society and then when the University of Georgia came up to play Harvard, I was a sponsor. These were southern boys and these two girls who were from Buffalo, you see, my roommate and her sister, they were launched on southern society, too. One of these boys that St. John was telling me about last week, I forget his name now, Norman somebody, he fell in love with Kay and became a suitor. Oh boy, he was dying to marry her. He is some big rich man now in Houston or Dallas, but she didn't fall for him. These sweet girls like my sister and Kay, they couldn't bear to hurt the boys' feelings, so they never did really turn them down, they were always so sweet that the boys thought that with just a little more effort, they would get them. But anyway, I had a perfectly marvelous time that first year, I just loved every single minute of it. Then, I fell in love, you see, with Bill Winston and so I just . . . I suppose it was love, anyway, I thought it was love. [Laughter] It was thrilling, you know.
SUE THRASHER:
Now, was he from . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
He was from Virginia. But he went to Harvard Law School. He had been to VMI and was first captain at VMI, which meant a great deal in that day and age to this college group. He had been first captain at VMI, that was something wonderful. And then he took me home to his family's house and they had this huge mansion on the Hudson River and raised horses and cows and his father was a contractor and built things like dams and resevoirs. He built the resevoir for New York City. I had gone to school with his sister, I forgot that. Her name was Jacquelyn Winston and she had been at the National Cathedral School with me. She was younger than I was, and we were great [unknown] devoted friends. That was another point, she invited me too to visit. And I remember that I couldn't ride, never did learn to ride a horse, I

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was scared to death all my life and was also scared of cows. So that weekend, I was supposed to ride. Every southern lady was supposed to know how to ride. Well, I didn't know how to ride. I did have sense enough not to get up on a horse to disgrace myself. I remember that when they took me out to see the cattle, I didn't know anything about cattle either. You see, I wasn't a country girl. I said, "What kind of cow is that?" And he said, "It's a young heifer." Not knowing a thing about cows and trying to impress him with how interested I was, I said, "Oh, I think that heifers are so much prettier than Jerseys." [Laughter] I didn't know anything, I had no idea, I was just trying to impress him. Well anyway, when the summer came, I had also had a beau up at Mentone name Carlton Wright and I also adored him. He was younger than I was, a beautiful young man, absolutely gorgeous. I kissed and hugged him and I had since I was about eleven years old, this was my secret joy, I suppose. We started going together when we were children, just about eleven or twelve years old and I adored him and he adored me. Mother and Daddy and his aunts never thought anything about it because we were so young. So, I told Carlton that I had met this other boy named Bill Winston and I had just fallen madly in love with him and there was this great sorrow for awhile. But it did not last long; we went back to kissing again!
Anyway, I went back to Wellesley for my sophomore year and this is the first time anything happened to me to change me at all. You see, I had been surrounded by southern boys, going to the Southern Club dances and in college, there were no Negro girls where I lived and no Negro girls where I ate and so when I went up on campus, for the first time, I came in contact with a Negro girl, who was living in the same house. My roommate and I had a beautiful room. Wellesley had sort of a roulette, you pulled a number and we got a low number and we got this beautiful set of rooms with a study and

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a bedroom on the first floor and then this Negro girl lived in the same dormitory. So, the first night, I went to the dining room and this Negro girl was sitting at my table, My God, I nearly fell over dead. I couldn't believe it, I just absolutely couldn't believe it. Here was a Negro girl, she wasn't very black, sort of pale, but she was sitting there eating at the table with me in college. Well, I just promptly got up and marched out of the room and went upstairs and waited for the head of the house to come and she came up. She was a tall, thin, New England spinster and she wore those kind of glasses that have a little round thing pinned on the bosom, are you pull them up and down with a string or something and they kind of teeter on your nose, you look over them. So, I said to her that I couldn't possibly eat at the table with a Negro girl, I was from Alabama and my father would have a fit. He came from Union Springs, Bullock County and the idea of my eating with a Negro girl, he would die. I couldn't do it, she would just have to move me immediately. So, she looked at me and she said, "Well, Virginia, why do you feel that way?" I said, "Because I'm from Alabama and my father would have a fit. I just couldn't dream of it." I was rather irritated with her for considering that I could do such a thing. She said, "Well, you think then that it is just impossible for you to eat with a Negro girl?" I said, "Why, absolutely. I couldn't think of it. You'll just have to move me." She said, "You know, Virginia, Wellesley College has rules and the rule is that you eat at the table to which you are assigned and that you change your table after a month, but you can't change your table until the month is up. This is the rule, now if you don't want to obey the rule, then that is up to you." I was perfectly amazed. I said, "You mean that I have to eat at a table with a Negro girl?" She said, "Well, you have to obey the rules of Wellesley College." I said, "Well, what happens if I won't do it." She said, "Well, we'll just

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say that you chose to withdraw. We won't expel you or suspend you, you'll have nothing on your record, except that you are through and that you chose to withdraw." There were no threats at all; just calm acceptance but firm insistence in obeying rules! I said, "But my father, he would have a fit." She said, "But he's not our problem. He's your problem, he's not our problem. You are our problem. The rule is that you either abide by the rules or you go home. You can withdraw but you won't be expelled." I couldn't believe it, I was just absolutely amazed that anybody would take this attutude. She said, "Now look, you go to your room and think about it and let me know in the morning what you want to do. And as I say, you can just go home and there will be no trouble, you won't be expelled and nothing on your record except that you have withdrawn." Well, I went to my room and I was just absolutely amazed. This was the first time that my values had been challenged. The things that I had been brought up with, nobody had ever challenged them before. I never even dreamed that anybody could. So, I said to my roommate Emmy, that I was upset and Emmy said, "Well, I don't know what is wrong with you. I just think that you are crazy. Last summer when I was visiting you down there in Alabama, that old black woman that was cooking for you, you kissed and hugged her. I wouldn't have kissed and hugged an old black woman and you did. Why would you kiss and hug them and not eat with them?" Well, it was hard to explain. I said, "Why, I just love the cook, but I don't eat with her." I had a real hard time making any sense out of it. Emmy said, "Well, I just think that you are crazy because you are dated up for the Harvard game and you're dated up for the Yale game and why you want to go home and give all that

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up because you don't want to eat with a Negro girl, I just think you are crazy." Well, she went on to sleep and I stayed awake, I reckon, all night long. It was terrible for me, because I knew that if my father ever heard of it, I could just hear him, "My daughter eating at the table with a Negro girl! I sent her up to Wellesley with the Yankees and they make her eat with Negroes!" He would have had a fit. So, about dawn, I realized that if nobody told Daddy, if I didn't tell him, nobody was likely to tell him. So, that was the only conclusion that I came to. I didn't really have any great feeling of principle, I just said that he never would hear about it and I wouldn't tell him. So, the next morning, I went back to the head of the house and told her that I was going to stay. I thought she was going to give me a lecture or something, but she just said, "Well, I'm very glad." And that was it. So, I did eat with a Negro girl for about a month and I did come to realize in that time that it wasn't the Negro girl I was scared of. She was a perfectly nice girl and just as clean and well-mannered and intelligent and used the right fork and all. She was a southerner too, I forget where from, but I remember that she and I both . . . they used to give us what they called Indian pudding on Saturday night, which was nothing in the world but cold grits with molasses on it. And we both thought that was the most horrible thing we had seen. They served it to us and we both said, "Cold grits! With molasses!" We thought it was the most horrible thing that we had ever tasted. So, I did come to realize that the girl wasn't any problem, it was really the pressures that I had had on me since my infancy and my father, the fact that I knew how he would carry on. So, I got used to having Negro girls . . .
SUE THRASHER:
Was she the only Negro woman at Wellesley?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh no. There were a number of them. I don't know how many

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but there were several there and there were also lots of Chinese girls. You know, all the Shangs went there and I know that . . . .
SUE THRASHER:
How did the other southern girls respond?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, they never said. I remember that it was something . . . I think that we were all a little bit ashamed of breaking the southern taboos and yet we didn't want to leave Wellesley. Again, it was never discussed.
SUE THRASHER:
So, you didn't talk about this with your beaus or with Clark Foreman?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, I was sort of ashamed of it, really. I mean, I was in conflict about it, I didn't know whether I had acted right or wrong, whether I should have stood by southern tradition and gone home. I knew that I had stayed because I didn't want to miss all the good time I was having. No, I didn't discuss it. I remember only one other incident. In the spring . . . Wellesley is on a big lake and I remember that we were all swimming and there was a black girl swimming and I remember that this other southern girl got up by me on the dock and said, "My God, I never thought that I would be swimming with black people." She had evidently accepted the fact that she could eat with them, but not swim with them. But you see, I think that all of us were kind of the same way that I was, a little bit in conflict and we didn't want to repudiate our southern traditions and we didn't want to leave Wellesley, particularly Harvard and Cambridge either. So, we never discussed it. That was one of the things at that time, you didn't discuss things. There was none of all of this soul searching done and you were supposed to have a certain set of values and you just lived by them.
SUE THRASHER:
Well, was your attitude to kind of ignore the black woman or did you become friends with her or . . . .

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VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, I didn't become friends with her, but I was pleasant, I was polite. But the thing was that there were not only a number of Negro girls in the college, but there were Chinese and Indian girls, too and I had to get used to that too. And of course, one of the Chinese girls was named Lillian Chen, I believe and she was one of the famous Chen family of China, immensely rich with jewels and she was a rather special kind of a girl because she was so rich and had just such beautiful jewels. She would wear these beautiful embroidered brocades and the Indian girls would wear these beautiful embroidered saris and they had jewels. They must have been awfully rich girls. But I never made any friends with them either. We were all polite and pleasant, but I never made friends. My friends were the southern girls and my roommate and her sister.
But that winter, through my roommate, she was invited up to a dance at some school, by some friend from Buffalo . . . I think it was at Exeter. And she took me along as an extra. At that school, I met a boy named Corliss Lamont. Now, he was at Harvard but he had gone to Exeter . . . I think it was Exeter, mybe it was Andover. Anyway, I met him and he was a wonderful dancer. Now, this boy that I was crazy about at the time, named Bill Winston, wasn't such a good dancer, it was just that he was so handsome. See, I really wasn't engaged to him, I was just dating him and had this romantic feeling toward him. It hadn't come at that point to anything, really an affair of any kind. I never kissed him, Oh, my God, no. [Laughter] Well, you know, kissing was supposed to be awfully fast.
SUE THRASHER:
But you would kiss Carlton Wright during the summer?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh yeah, I had just gotten used to that, I reckon. [Laughter] At least that gave me . . . .
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Anyway, Corliss Lamont was a marvelous dancer and so he drove us back to Wellesley and he became a beau of mine, he began coming up. I never any more heard of the Lamonts than the man in the moon. I didn't know who he was and he had a kind of a thin overcoat and a raggedy collar and the rich boys in those days, you see, had these big old coonskin coats and great big red Stuz automobiles. He didn't have anything like that at all and I thought that he was just a poor boy. When we would go out, I would always look on the right side and take the 50¢ lunch and 35¢ drink or something that was cheap, because I thought that the poor boy was just a poor Harvard student, you know, and barely getting along. So, one night, he called me up and said that he had two friends that he wanted to bring out and would I get Emmy and Kay Bosley to go along on this date. So, he came out with these boys named Rockefeller and Vanderbilt. Well, of course, we thought that it was a huge joke, we didn't believe a minute that they were. We thought that they were playing a joke on us. So, we called Mr. Rockefeller "Mr. Rockebilt" and Mr. Vanderbilt "Mr. Vanderfeller." [Laughter] We thought that he was playing a joke on us. It never occured to us that they really were Rockefellers and Vanderbilts, it just literally never crossed our minds. So, we made a great joke of it, you know. They never came back, that was the end of the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts. [Laughter] But Corliss kept on coming back. I used to go with him a great deal and he was the most marvelous dancer. He became a beau, but not a suitor.
SUE THRASHER:
And you didn't go to the Southern Club with him?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, no, I'd just go out with him. He did take me out on the lake one time and he made some advances toward me, but with the canoe, we were so afraid that we were going to fall that we couldn't do much courting. That was one reason that I think that they had canoes on the

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lake, because it was very dangerous, if you moved, you would tip over. So, we never got up to the courting stage at all. But I was very fond of him and I like him still, I'm devoted to him. You see, I think that I am one of the few people in the world that ever liked Corliss Lamont and didn't know that he was rich. All his life, everybody that has known him has known that he was heir to this immense fortune. So, I was one of the few people in the world that ever liked him and not knowing that he was rich. Thomas Lamont was J.P. Morgan's partner and I didn't know who J.P. Morgan was. You know, we were just totally ignorant of all this and then romance was the great thing. I had a friend from Birmingham, a beautiful blonde, who had a boy named Jack Pew that fell in love with her, just wild about her. Well, we didn't know who Jack Pew was, we never heard of Pew Oil Company and we thought that he wasn't terribly cute. He was a nice boy, blonde and we would say, "Oh Gusta, are you going out with that Pew, Pew, Pew boy?" [Laughter] He came down to see her and wanted to marry her. Her mother and father had no idea who he was. They never had heard of the Pew Oil Company. He died, I saw, not long ago in the paper, one of the richest men in the United States. Well, I don't know if she would have married him anyway, she was full of romance, too.
[interruption] . . . the story about the black girl may not have been crucial at the time, but it gave me a doubt, if you know what I mean. It hurt my faith, or my solid conviction, what I had been raised to believe.
But not only was it that, and now, this is something that I hope Cliff can listen to without getting mad, but I first realized that women could be something. This was also a great liberation, the real liberation that I got at Wellesley, when I realized that you didn't have to marry to be somebody. You see, I had

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some marvelous teachers at Wellesley, I can't even remember their names. You see, I haven't been back for fifty years, once I stopped by for a few hours just to see the place, but I haven't been back for fifty years to Wellesley. I never went to a Wellesley Club even, and I never have been a good alumnae. But at Wellesley, I really got my first idea that women could amount to something in the world. They didn't just have to marry. I remember the woman that taught us Shakespeare. I think that her name was Miss Bennett or Benedict. She was an old lady with white hair and she was one of the happiest creatures that I have ever seen in my life. She had never had a husband, she taught Shakespeare, I think, all of her life. She adored Shakespeare, she read Shakespeare and it was the only time in my life that I ever liked Shakespeare. She read it with such passion and conviction and I just adored Shakespeare. All of a sudden, I was just transported into Shakespeare and I could see that this lady had never married. She was old and had white hair and she was perfectly happy. She didn't have to have a husband and then I realized that people could get so much pleasure out of their minds.
But let me tell you how they taught sex at Wellesley. This is another thing that makes you realize how these inhibitions extended everywhere. When we were freshmen, we had about four hundred girls in the class and my roommate and I, now, she was extremely popular, but she was just as innocent as I was. She didn't know anything about sex. And she came from Buffalo. Now, she had kissed a few more boys than I had and so, she regarded herself as far more experienced, but she didn't know anything about sex either. She was just as ignorant as I was. So, they had a course for freshmen students and it was supposed to be preparation for marriage, as they called it. So, all the freshman class went to the chapel and we looked at a movie for several

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nights running. Well, the first night that we got there, this young lady and this young man met each other at a party and they carried on a conversation and then he asked her if he could come to see her and then one of the professors gave us a talk about meeting men and manners and the rules of the college about how you couldn't go into Boston without a chaperone and we were taught the proper way to act as a Wellesley student. So then the second night of the preparation for marriage course, the young man and the young lady had met each other and they were taking a walk in the woods somewhere and they sat down in a hammock and the apple blossoms began to fall on them and he leaned over and kissed her and asked if she would marry him and she said yes. So, that was the second lesson. Well, the lady that gave us the lecture that night, she didn't advise us not to sit in hammocks, but she did make it plain that you didn't sit in hammocks with young gentlemen until you were ready to marry them and you certainly didn't kiss them until you were ready to marry them. That was made very plain. So, the third night, [unknown] we found that they had the wedding and it made us all just drool with envy, white veils and white satin and long trains and candles and the Minister officiating in the robes and bridesmaids and flowergirls and the handsome groom in full dress and all. They got married in the most beautiful wedding that you've ever seen, just showers of flowers and they threw shoes at them and rice and oh, we just came back from that just drooling with envy and just delighted. Then, the moral was very plain, that if you conducted yourself properly, that if you didn't sit in the hammock with a young man and kiss him until you got ready to marry him, you would get married and have a beautiful wedding and you would live happily ever after. But we had one more course. And that was when they were leaning over the cradle with the baby. But we never knew how the baby got there. [Laughter] I know that you will

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think this is absolutely insane, but there they were married and this was just bliss. They were both so proud and so happy and they were going to live a life of joy and bliss forever afterwards. But how that baby got there, we couldn't figure out. Well, we discussed it at great length and most girls, including me, thought it was the kiss, that scared us. [Laughter] We had kissed boys.
SUE THRASHER:
You really did not know how the baby got there?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I swear to God and nobody will believe me to this day, but we didn't. I was [unknown] nineteen years old and I had no more idea . . . .
SUE THRASHER:
I thought that you knew but you just didn't discuss it. [Laughter]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, no. I didn't know.
CLIFFORD DURR:
She was a city gal and wasn't raised on the farm and had no idea . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Tell her what you said about the rooster and the hen.
CLIFFORD DURR:
I was just confirming her innocence. We had been married several years and we would occasionally drive down to Montgomery for weekends and we didn't have the super highways then, and we would drive through these country farms and there were the chickens and cows and so on around. So, Virginia made the comment to me, "Why do the roosters treat these hens so bad, jumping on top of them and trying to pull their combs out, why are they so cruel to the hens?" [Laughter]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, I know that I was as stupid as I could be, but you see, I was frightened, you see, I had these inhibitions built up in me.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, going back, I think that some of them said that it was the apple blossoms, didn't they?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh well yes, I think that one girl thought that it might be the apple blossoms, but we laughed at that, we knew that was silly. But

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we knew that hammocks were very dangerous and kissing. We were worried about that, because Emmy had kissed a number of boys, you see and I had kissed Carlton and so, I was a little frightened and I was thinking about kissing Bill Winston. So, Emmy was braver than I was and she went to Kay, her older sister, who did know where babies came from and she came back with the word that kissing didn't do it. That was all she ever said, she never discussed it.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, she thought so, because when I was dating Virginia and we had a football game in Montgomery, so I drove her down to Montgomery and we stayed with Mother and Father and I had been trying to work myself up to proposing for some time. She was babysitting with the Black children . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Hugo and Sister's two boys.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Hugo and Sister, they were out of town. So, the youngest one was then about eight months old and so, I had rehearsed this thing, I was working up to it and so, Virginia was getting rather interested. And all at once in the kitchen, there was the damnedest explosion you ever saw. We rushed into the kitchen and here was milk dripping down from the ceiling, Virginia was warming milk and she put the stopper in the bottle and it had exploded. Well, that set me back for two or three months.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, six weeks, I think. [Laughter]
CLIFFORD DURR:
Was that all? So, I decided that this might be the occasion and I got Father's car and drove Virginia around. I wanted to find a nice place on the side of the road to park, but then I realized that the Ku Klux Klan had taken over the job of policing the highways and they were going to stop this "necking." I thought that it would be very embarrasing after the bottle exploded on me if I got just in the middle

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of it and the Ku Klux came up. So, . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
The Ku Klux was riding around all the country roads then and if anybody was parked . . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
They were very concerned with the morals of the young people. So, finally, I drove on back into Father's garage and I kissed her. I didn't say anything about marriage that night, but the next day, we were driving back to Birmingham and Virginia was very concerned and wanted to know if I was really going to marry her and she didn't know what the consequences of this kissing would be. [Laughter]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, I won't say that . . . you see, the great ideal was to be chaste and be absolutely pure, but also be so attractive that you were also always being chased by the boys. It was kind of a difficult combination, as you can imaging, but still, that was the ideal. Well, anyway, I got relieved of the kissing, I knew that if I kissed, I wouldn't have a baby, that was a big relief.
CLIFFORD DURR:
If you stopped at that.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
If I stopped at that. Well, of course, I didn't know whatever else could happen. Well anyway, this was so typical of Wellesley, you see. Here were these lectures being given on preparation for marriage and how to conduct yourself properly, which was strictly traditional, but also I took zoology and we started out with having to match crayfish, breed crayfish and stick one with another so that they would breed. Well, they did, you know. [Laughter] Then you would cut them up and see all the interior workings and with forgs, you see, you would cut them up and look at them under microscopes and you would watch the development of the egg. But I didn't relate this to humans at all, you see, this was just something that frogs did and crayfish did. We never got beyond the frogs

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and crayfish, as I remember, except that we studied the reproduction system of frogs and crayfish rather extensively. The, in the laboratory they had these horrible objects. There was a little baby, the beginning of the fetus and a curious little creature with a tail like a fish and they were in little bottles of alcohol and the next was a curious little creature all doubled over and the tail had gone. We were being taught, you see, that the development of man corresponded to the ages of mankind. In other words, I was also taking anthropology and all kinds of things, geology, where you went down to the first little fishes that came up out of the sea, you know. So, it was all related in a way, to the development of man. So, the final development of man was these little fetae in the bottles of alcohol and it went right on through to the final bottle which was a big bottle with a real baby in it, dead of course, all in alcohol, pickled. Well, you can't imagine the horror that that thing was to me and to all the other girls. We thought, "My God, imagine." It seemed that nothing was more horrible than having . . . we knew that babies came out the mother's stomachs, we did know that much, we just didn't know where they got in. [Laughter] But the horror of having such a disgusting object inside of you, this thing with a tail on it and these awful little wizened creatuers all doubled over and looking like . . . ohh, and the afterbirth, you know, the whole thing was just vile and disgusting. So, we just promptly ruled it out of our minds, we had a great way like Scarlett in Gone With The Wind, of just forgetting about it, we just pushed it aside. We didn't really believe it or something. I can remember the absolute horror of that awful series of bottles on that shelf with that little fetus finally getting to be a baby and instead of wanting to make you a mother or making you think how wonderful it would be to have a baby,

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it just developed in you a real horror of such a disgusting performance. But that was typical of Wellesley you see, where they would teach you one thing on the scientific basis, but they never did tell you how the baby got in the mother's stomach. We still didn't know about that. Now, I'm sure that there were girls at Wellesley that did know about it, but I am talking about the group that I was with, we really did not know. And I am sure that we had been so inhibited by that time that we didn't want to know, if you know what I mean.
SUE THRASHER:
You just didn't discuss it.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, we didn't discuss things like that. Sex was something that you just didn't talk about. You could talk about romance and beaus and lovers and sweethearts, but sex, no. Then, I'm sure that the southern girls had some feeling like I did that it was something connected with black women and black people, it happened in the basement and was dirty and ugly and smelled bad, with a man leaving in the middle of the night or early in the morning and Mother getting upset and saying, "She's had a man down there all night." Something was ugly and disgusting about it. Well, in any case, the next thing that happened to me at Wellesley was really a good thing, was one, I learned that women could be happy without getting married and they could use their minds and accomplish things. They could be really great teachers and could accomplish a great deal. Then, the next thing was that I had a marvelous teacher named Muzzey who was the professor of economics and I took a course in economics and he was a perfectly marvelous teacher. He was a socialist, he was a Fabian, this was 1920, '22. Anyway, the Russian Revolution had taken place, but I never even heard about that. I mean, it was just something so far

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removed that I never thought about it, except that they had called Hugo a Bolsehvik. But Communism and Russia was just so far removed out of my would that I never thought about it. New, this man was a Fabian, he followed the Webbs, you know. And oh, have you ever tried to read the Webb's book? Well, those great massive volumes, you know and the great detail about how many outhouses were in a certain road in London and the terrible plight of the poor and there were all kinds of tables and statistics. But I did get the idea that the great majority of people in the world had a pretty hard time. Then, he gave me a paper to write. He knew that I came from Birmingham, so he said, "Mrs. Smith is the wife of a steel worker and her husband makes $5 a day . . . "maybe it was less than that.
CLIFFORD DURR:
It was less than that at that time.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, anyway, they made just so much money. "So, now tell me how Mrs. Smith with three children is going to arrange her budget so that she can live." Well of course, I tried to do it and you had to look up the price of food and rent and doctors and it was a real active lesson in economics. Of course, I soon came to the realization that Mrs. Smith couldn't possibly live on that amount of money. You just couldn't do it. So, I remember that I wrote my paper and I wrote and gave all the figures that I looked up and then I wrote at the end, "Now, I've come to the conclusion that Mrs. Smith's husband doesn't get enough money because they can't possibly live on what he is paid as a steelworker in Birmingham, Alabama." Not that I had ever been in a steel mill or knew anything about it, but he gave me an A, because he said that I had finally realized that people can't live on what they are paid. So, that was a great breakthrough. But still, all these things had a delayed effect, but the main thing that

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it taught me was to use my mind and to get pleasure out of using my mind. You see, I had always liked to read, but I got pleasure out of it and joy and I could see that women could have a real good time without having a husband. At the end of my sophomore year, I had to come home and I couldn't come back because the money had run out. So, I had an English teacher . . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
The boll weevil ate up her education.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes. Well, I had an English teacher and she thought that I had some talent in writing and she was a lovely woman too and I can't remember her name. If I could ever get a catalog of that place, maybe I could remember these people's names. But she came to me and said, "Now Virginia, . . . " Oh, I had another great experience, too. That was the Bible being taught as history. You had to take Bible at Wellesley and it was taught as history. So, I knew that my father was right. That was a great breakthrough.
SUE THRASHER:
That was a vindication.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
That was a vindication and a great breakthrough because the Bible was taught as history of the Jews and all and that was a tremendous thing. You can't imagine what that meant to me. I was always uneasy that my father had been thrown out of the church for being a heretic and it was an idea that I didn't want to think about, but at this time, I realized that he was right and I could be comfortable about that. That was a great relief, too. I could be comfortable about the Bible and I could be comfortable that you could make a living and you could be happy if you didn't get a husband. There was sex and economics and religion, I did begin to realize that people had a hard time living and didn't get paid enough. I began to get some inkling of economics.
SUE THRASHER:
Did you make any connection between Mrs. Smith and her not

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being able to live with the profits of . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, none whatever, not at that point.
SUE THRASHER:
Just the fact that she couldn't . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
That she couldn't live on what she was getting. So, sex, there was a tremendous breakthrough on that, although it is hard to realize, and I began to kiss Bill Winston then and enjoyed that thoroughly. [Laughter] Oh, he was so handsome and he used to wrap me in his VMI cape and my goodness, what romance.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, that was more dangerous than a hammock. [Laughter]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, he never got inside the cape, he just wrapped me in it. So, I was liberated to a degree, you see, there was sex, religion, economics and . . . what else. Well, there were those three things particularly and particularly about women, the fact that women could do something and women could achieve. So, my English teacher said, "Now Virginia, I think that you have a certain talent in writing and if will you be willing to come back next year and work in the Self-Help House . . . " you see, Wellesley had a self-help house which meant that the girls did all the work, did the cooking and the cleaning up and everything for themselves and they paid practically nothing, a very little amount . . . "I think that I can arrange for you to get a scholarship." So, I was thrilled, I was dying to come back to Wellesley, but I wrote my father and mother this. And oh, my father! The idea of my going into the Self-Help House! You see, Daddy felt that he was a failure financially and for me to go into the self-help house proved that he was a failure.
SUE THRASHER:
But you weren't at all offended by this?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, I was thrilled. I would have adored to come back to Wellesley and I longed to come back. You see, I was in love with Bill Winston, I thought, and I . . . .

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SUE THRASHER:
And it wouldn't have damaged your status with your friends to have come back and . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, not at all, I think, but it damaged my father's pride, you see. He just laid down the law on that, no indeed, no daughter of his was going to go to Wellesley and go into the Self-Help House. That was just impossible, to do the cooking and the cleaning and washing up and so on, oh no. I don't think that he even wanted to take the scholarship if I had gotten it. You see, it was that southern pride and the fear of being a failure, of being considered a failure. So, I just realized that when I left, I couldn't come back. I didn't see any way to come back at all.
So, when I came back home, the first thing that I got ready to do was to make my debut. I had to make my debut. That was '23. So, all that summer, the great discussion was about making my debut. I did and I had all kinds of fall dresses and I was introduced by the Redstone Club and . . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
I don't think that it was the Redstone Club, I think that came on a little later.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, I was introduced and I went to party, party, party, you know. We would have luncheons and teas, we were the debutantes and everybody was watching you. You were dressed up all the time and going to parties all the time and dances all the time. Then I visited my aunt over in Memphis and I went to lots of parties over there. Well, I had a horrible experience in Memphis. Shall I tell her about being held up by the black boys?
CLIFFORD DURR:
Yes, I think that's . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
That was a really frightening experience. As I say, the Depression hit the South very much sooner than it hit other places, particularly in cotton. So, I went over to visit my aunt, the same aunt in Memphis that I adored so, Aunt Louise. I went to millions of parties over there and I met

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a boy named . . . what was that boy's name . . . Jim Rainer, I think his name was. They had a plantation in Mississippi. He was a big, tall good-looking boy, and a wonderful dancer. I always went with wonderful dancers, except Bill Winston, he wasn't much of one. Oh, when I left Wellesley, I thought that I was engaged to Bill Winston, I forgot that little detail, and I came home and told my mother that I had met this marvelous boy that I was going to marry, named Bill Winston. So, I got two or three letters from him and that was the end. I never heard from him again, he just faded out completely. And then he committed suicide. I don't think that he committed suicide that year, but he committed suicide the year after. That was always one of the great mysteries of my life, I just can't imagine why that boy committed suicide. He was handsome and good looking and smart and I just can't imagine. Well, anyway, he did. By that time, he had ended the affair himself so I didn't have it on my mind.
SUE THRASHER:
Now, did you go back to Wellesley that fall?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No.
SUE THRASHER:
You did not go back, ever, to Wellesley?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, I went back on a visit.
CLIFFORD DURR:
She went back to visit the . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh yes, the following year, I went back to visit but I never went back. We didn't have any money. But that year, I made my debut and then I went over to visit my aunt, but this is just an example. Handy, the famous Handy band . . . what was his name?
SUE THRASHER:
W.C. Handy.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
W.C. Handy, you see, he was playing on Beale Street then, in what they called The Two Bit Bands. The boys would all get together and put in two bits and then they would go down to Beale Street and get a band to come

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and play. I don't believe that Handy was two bit then, he was a regular band.
CLIFFORD DURR:
He was still cheap, because he played for a dance at the University of Alabama and . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, that was the most marvelous music that you can imagine.
CLIFFORD DURR:
. . . . and it was quite a bargain.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, you just can't imagine, the St. Louis Blues and the Beale Street Blues and oh, to dance to Handy's band was one of the most marvelous things in the world. But then they had what they called Two Bit Bands. The boys would put in two bits, which was a quarter, and they would hire a band off of Beale Street, which was then sort of the center of jazz. Of course, New Orleans was too and then they would play and you would have a wonderful dance. So, I just danced, danced, danced. That was my great thing, I could dance by that time quite well. And you see, being nearsighted didn't make any difference in dancing and swimming. I couldn't play tennis or golf or anything because I couldn't see, but I could dance and swim. But this young fellow took me out after one of the dances to this road right near the country club that they called the Lover's Lane or something. By that time, I had gotten used to all the boys wanting to kiss you. This was a game they played and it didn't mean a damn thing, of course, they just wanted to see if they could, I reckon. Anyway, we were having the usual argument about whether to kiss or not to kiss and did I kiss or didn't I kiss . . . the thing that is so funny about this is that this was the Jazz Age, which was supposed to have been such a terrifically gay, drunken, sex age. Well, it really wasn't. I mean, there were some people that might have engaged in all that, but the nice girls didn't. I don't bet that Zelda Sayre . . . I bet that kissing was the limit that she went to, in spite of what they

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all said about her, I'll bet that she never went beyond kissing either. Because you see, if you read his books, they are not as sexy as you would think they were.
CLIFFORD DURR:
I would be willing to bet that Zelda had never had an affair with any man until she and Scott got married. She always did things to shock people, but that was it.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
She used to come up to the dances in Birmingham and she was just gorgeous. She had sort of a golden glow around her and when she would come into a ball room, all the other girls would want to go home because they knew that the boys were going to be concentrating on her. They would line up the whole length of the ball room to dance with her for one minute. She was just pre-eminent. And we recognized it, we just knew that when she came around we might as well go home, because as far as we were concerned, we had had it. But anyway, Jim Rainer and I stopped and all of a sudden, on either side of the car were these two black fellows. One of them with a pistol and one of them with a knife. And they said to this Jim Rainer, "Get out of that car, or we'll cut your heart out, and give us what you've got." You see, he had this plantation in Mississippi and was used to the blacks. So, he got out and stayed very cool and said, "Okay, I'll give you all I've got, I'll bet that you are on your way to Chicago." They said, "We are." He said, "Well, I'm sorry that we don't have anything for you in Mississippi." They were all leaving Mississippi then, a lot of them were going north. He talked with them and kind of joked with them and laughed and gave them the money that he had in his pocket and they went on off. Of course, it scared the hell out of me. I was just terrified. So, of course, I kissed him in gratitude then! I didn't have any debate about that. So, he took me home and he told me, "Please don't tell your aunt, because I will be blamed for it, I'll be in a lot of trouble. So please don't tell your aunt." Honestly, I read the paper the

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next morning and there had been a series of robberies and rapes on the borders of Memphis. So, now whether these boys that held us up were the robbers and rapers or not, I don't know, but anyway it did scare me. So, when I got home, I began having nightmares. I was just terrified. I would wake up in the night screaming and finally I told Mother what it was and after I told her, I got it off my mind. But that was the first time in my life that I had ever been scared of a black person. I had been surrounded by them all my life, they had waited on me and taken care of me and cooked for me and washed for me, but I had never, never been frightened of one before.
That was something new, too. Anyway, I came on back home and I had a good time, I forget the boys' names. I know that they all came around and some of them I can remember.
SUE THRASHER:
Now, did you come back and get a job? Is that when you went to work?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, no. That was the next year. I just spent that whole year making a debut, going to parties and having dates and going to dances and visiting my aunt. I went up to Knoxville and visited a friend of my mother's and that was more dances and more dates.
SUE THRASHER:
All this wasn't as expensive as going to school would have been?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, it may have been, but at least Mother thought that it may have been leading to something more profitable, I don't know. But it wasn't very expensive. You see, the rich girls had big rich balls that cost hundreds of dollars, but I never had any like that. I think that Mother had maybe a buffet supper for me, but that was all. We couldn't afford any big parties. The only funny instance that happened that year that I can remember so well, I had a dear friend named Tinsley Harrison who was a perfectly brilliant boy. He was from Birmingham and he had been at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital as an intern. He graduated from high school when he was fourteen

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and he graduated from college when he was eighteen, I suppose and he had gotten into medical school and there he was at Peter Bent Brigham as an intern and he was known to be one of the most brilliant young doctors. He is today, he is one of the most famous heart men in the world, I reckon. So, you see, the boys fell for all this stuff if you know what I mean, all this sweet talk and acting like we might fall in love with them. Everybody had what they called a line. The idea was to keep as many boys chasing you as you could without ever knocking one of them off or marrying one of them until you got ready to marry one. It was really a game that we were playing on both sides. But the boys fell for it too, they must have had pretty hard licks themselves, because these girls would seem to be just on the brink of falling in love with them and then they didn't really mean a word of it. So, it was a game that was played back and forth. But this boy, Tinsley Harrison was short, he wasn't a handsome boy, but he was a brilliant fellow and I was devoted to him, he was a great friend, we read books and he would lend me books and we would go on picnics and his mother and father were lovely people. So, he was friendly with my friend Virginia Jemison and me. I was very devoted to him. When I was at Wellesley, I used to go over to Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and have tea with him and meet all of his friends. They had no money, they didn't pay the interns then and they could hardly ever come out to see us or take us out. At that time, interns didn't get anything. So, that winter that I made my debut, I began to get this series of letters from this boy and you never read such fervent love letters in your life. They were works of art, page after page about how he had loved me ever since he knew me and I was the ideal of his life and when he went to sleep at night, he could see me on the ceiling and on and on. Just absolutely marvelous letters. I was just terrified. I read them to Mother and Mother got so concerned because she was devoted to his mother and father and his

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father was our doctor, ear, eye nose and throat man. Oh my God, we were terribly concerned. Mother said, "Oh my goodness, that poor boy, his heart will be broken." Oh, I began to write him letters about how much I appreciated this and what it meant to me, but I thought that after all we were just dear friends and oh . . . anyway, he had evidently written his mother and father that he had become a suitor. So, they called me up and said that they were going up when he graduated from Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and would I go as their guest. Well, I was going to Wellesley to see my roommate then and go on to Buffalo. So, I said that I could do that and I would see them and I would go to his graduation. So, when I got to Boston, they met me and took me over to the hospital, they introduced me as Tinsley's friend and they made it very plain that I was his intended and he had the same attitude, in spite of the letters that I had written to him. I was introduced to everybody as Tinsley's "friend" whom he had known so long and so on and so forth. I went to his graduation and I went to the reception and I kept telling my roommate . . . I had come to see my roommate and see my friends at Wellesley and go on to Buffalo to visit her. I kept telling my roommate that I was just absolutely overcome that they kept introducing me like I was going to marry him and I wasn't. She knew that I had been in love with Bill Winston and that he had jilted me, I suppose . . . anyway, he had disappeared from the scene. So, I said, "I am just in a state of panic. What am I going to do?" She said, "Now Jenxie, you've got to be honest with him. You cannot fool him, you've got to be honest with him." I said, "I will really be honest with him." So, the night after he had graduated his mother and father took us out to dinner. Everything was through and he was a doctor now. They said, "Now Virginia, it's up to you what Tinsley does. He can go to Vienna and study or go [unknown] someplace else and study, but it is up to you to decide." He

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had evidently fooled his mother and father. They thought that he was madly in love with me and that I was thinking about marrying him. So, I was terribly embarassed about that. He took me home out to Wellesley. I said, "Tinsley, we have got to have a heart to heart talk. You know that I am devoted to you and you are one of my best friends and I have been a good friend of yours for years, but I am not in love with you and I never will be and I am in love with Bill Winston" whom I was still suffering from, I suppose. And oh, it was the most tearful, painful, honest talk. I thought that he took it rather calmly and from those letters that he had written me, I thought that he would immediately say, "Well, I'll just go and drown myself in the lake." [Laughter] I thought that he would just throw himself over in the lake or kill himself. Those letters of his, I wish that I had kept them, you have never read such beautiful letters in your life. So, I thought that he took it fairly calmly and he understood and that was the painful ending and he went off. So, I went on to visit my roommate in Buffalo and I got home about the middle of July, I reckon. I hadn't walked in the house before the telephone rang and a friend of mine called and said, "Jinxie, I'm having a tea party this afternoon for Tinsley's wife and I wanted you to come." I said, "You are having a tea party for Tinsley's wife?" "Yes, Tinsley is visiting his mother and father and his wife is here with him." I said, "When did he get married?" "Oh, he has been married a year or two." I said, "He's been married a year or two?" "Oh, yes, they've been married a year or two." [Laughter] Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather. So, I went to the tea party and here was this very nice looking girl, Mrs. Tinsley Harrison and she blushed and laughed and said that she had been a nurse in the hospital and they had been married for a year or so. And everybody was congratulating her and all. Then somebody gave them a

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dinner and I went to the dinner party and there was Tinsley. So he danced with me, and I said, "Now Tinsley, I really think that you owe me an explanation, don't you?" He said, "Yes, I do." I said, "Well, let's come out and get this settled." He said, "Well Jinxie, you see, the thing is that I met Betty and we did get married and the rule was in the hospital that if a nurse married an intern, we were both fired, thrown out of the hospital immediately. We kept it secret for quite awhile and then I was afraid that people were getting suspicious, so I just had to do something to throw them off the track." I said, "Do you mean that those letters that you wrote to me were not your letters." He said, "Well actually, they were joint efforts. We all got together and the interns would write a page and we all tried to outdo each other in love letters." I said, "Then there wasn't a word that was true." He said, "Jinxie, I am fond of you, but you know that you never did care a thing for me and I knew that you never would and you couldn't fool me." I said, "Well Tinsley, I never tried to fool you, did I?" "No, you never did." I said, "Why did you pick on me instead of somebody else." "I thought that you had a sense of humor and I was desperate. I had to throw some sort of a screen around our marriage." It was like . . . do you remember Emma? You know, Jane Austen? They were secretly engaged and this young man threw a screen around their engagement by courting Emma. Well, it was the same thing, he used me in the same way. Well, the thing was that he was the only boy that I ever went with that wasn't fooled by this southern sweet talk, if you know what I mean. He realized that there was nothing to it.
SUE THRASHER:
You weren't angry with him?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, I wasn't angry with him. I was shocked, but I did think it was funny. The point was that he was the only one that I ever went with that wasn't fooled by all this southern sweet talk. He was smart enough to

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know that there was nothing to it at all, that it was just completely a sham. And he did turn out to be a famous heart doctor.
[END OF TAPE 4, SIDE A]

[TAPE 4, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 4, SIDE B]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
still in Alabama, but I think that he objects to my political opinions.
SUE THRASHER:
Was he in Birmingham?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes. He says that he doesn't remember this, that it never happened.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, I thought that he did, but . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yeah, well he says that it didn't happen the way I said it did or something.
CLIFFORD DURR:
But when we first came back to Montgomery, Virginia had some trouble and she went up to Birmingham to have an operation and Tinsley was in the this hospital as a heart man and . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, he was a big shot in the hospital.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Tinsley was a big shot there. We were flat broke and didn't know how we were going to pay for all this. They had the room ready, a very lovely room and you never saw anybody get as much attention. So, Virginia was finally leaving and we were going to get the bad news about how much it was going to be and I was trying to figure what I could hock and they said, "Well, Dr. Harrison has taken care of everything." He said, "Well, I think that I owed you that."
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, he did admit that, but then I saw him a year or so ago and he came out here and he said that he doesn't really believe that he went to the length that he did go, but he did, he used me as a . . . .
SUE THRASHER:
Is he still married to his wife?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, yes, he's got five or six children now. He really though, has become extremely conservative. He never was any liberal or radical, but

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he's very conservative now. He thinks that Linus Pauling, for instance, is a mad radical, you know. I invited him to meet Pauling and he said no.
SUE THRASHER:
So, you spent most of that year partying and didn't work?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, I was debutanting and I did have one or two proposals but nothing that appealed to me or amounted to anything. So the next year, we really were [unknown] hard up then, that was '24, I suppose and we really were hard up then. The furnace didn't work well and the roof leaked and the plumbing was going bad. So I said to Mother, "I'm going to get a job." This was unheard of, you see. So, I did. I went out on my own and I got a job at the law library at $25 a month. Mrs. Thach was the law librarian and she hired me to come in half a day and I got $25 a month. Well, $25 a month was a lot of money and I got the furnaced fixed and I got the plumbing fixed and I got the roof fixed and I began to paper some of the rooms in the house where the paper was falling down and poor Mother and Daddy were terribly embarassed over that, they just thought that was a confession of dire failure, a daughter working. I could hear Mother saying to her friends over the telephone, "Well, you know how these girls are, they just can't have enough ball dresses and silver slippers." She had to pretend that I was just working because I was frivolous and wanted more ball dresses. She just couldn't bear to think that I was working because I was . . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
Her Daddy told her she was destroying his credit at the bank.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh yeah, Daddy said, "Well, you realize that with a daughter working downtown, my credit is destroyed, my credit at the bank is completely destroyed." So, it really was tough, I mean it was hard. I did fix the plumbing and the furnace and the roof, but you see, by that time cotton was down to nothing and Daddy was beginning to sell off what he could, I suppose.

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Then, this lady, Mrs. Thach got sick and I got the job as law librarian and that paid $150 a month, didn't it, Cliff?
CLIFFORD DURR:
Yes, I thought that with my normal salary combined with hers, we could immediately get married and then she immediately quit.
SUE THRASHER:
Now, you met Cliff while you were at the library?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I met Cliff at the library . . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
You met me first at church.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I met him first at church. You see, I won't go into the various gentlemen that offered themselves . . . [Laughter] The thing was that I didn't care for any of them particularly but I was under terrible pressure to get married. Everybody else was getting married. There were a lot of weddings that year and a lot of my friends were getting married and I was a a lot of weddings. So, I met Cliff at church. My father had been a Presbyterian preacher and his father, they were Presbyterians. My father had known his father when he was a Presbyterian preacher and used to stay at their house. So, he knew Cliff when he was a little boy. Didn't you call him "Dr. Foster went to Gloster?"2
CLIFFORD DURR:
Yeah, we'd stick our head in the door and yell Dr. Foster went to Gloster." [unknown] We thought that he was a lot of fun.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yeah, Daddy was lively.
So, I met him in church, this was Dr. Edmonds' church. By that time, they had joined the northern Presbyterian church, the independent Presybterian church and I taught Sunday School, too. So, I also sang in the choir. I couldn't sing much, but I loved singing. I was in the Wellesley Glee Club and I loved to sing, but I never was a very good singer. But in any case, I met Cliff at church. This young man had been trying to marry me and I finally told him that I wasn't and said for him not to come around any more and that was the end of that. So, my

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mother and brother and father, we were all sitting on the front porch after dark one night and my brother was there and he said, . . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
They were charging her off, she was an old maid and they had given up on her. She was twenty-two years old and . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I wasn't twenty-two until I married, I was twenty-one then.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, they had given up on you.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Or twenty, I can't remember. Anyway, my brother said to me, "Look, nobody would ever suit you. Everybody that comes around, there is something wrong with them. You'll never get married. Nobody suits you, you are just always critical of everybody." Daddy said, "Well, what do you expect, who are you looking for?" Mother was always trying to protect me and she said, "Now, Virginia doesn't want to marry somebody that she's not in love with, you know." So, my brother said to me, "Have you ever seen anybody, any human being that you were in love with, that you wanted to marry? Have you ever even seen anybody that you could think of marrying?" Of course, there was Carlton Wright, whom I still adored, but he was so young and had no money and was impossible from the husband point of view and it was just beautiful and romantic. Then, there was Bill Winston who was certainly eligible in every way, but then he jilted me and then committed suicide. So, I thought real hard and I said, "Well, I'll tell you. I met a young man in church last Sunday and I think that he is the handsomest young man that I have ever seen, or one of them." I really thought that he was handsomer than Bill Winston. And my brother said, "What's his name?" Daddy spoke up then and said, "Oh, that's John W. Durr's son. His name is Clifford Durr." And Brother said, "Oh, my Lord, that's who you want? That's easy, I'll get him around for dinner next Sunday."
SUE THRASHER:
You were being set up. [Laughter]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
You see, they had been fraternity brothers at the University.

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CLIFFORD DURR:
I had never met Virginia.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, you met me at church.
CLIFFORD DURR:
I mean, not before I moved to Birmingham.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
So, tell her what you thought about me.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, I thought that your dress was too short and you had on your glasses and you looked like a typical Sunday School teacher and I . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
He didn't find me very attractive, I don't think. Well anyway, the next Sunday, they invited him to dinner and he came. And Mother, oh my Lord, she got the damask table cloth fixed up and the damask napkins and we had a delicious dinner and the cook was there and they were serving and then she bought this marvelous cake. There was a lady in Birmingham then that charged five dollars for cakes and they were perfectly beautiful and this was a lemon meringue cake about this high with white icing and lemon meringue inbetween. So, when the cake came in, Mother didn't say that I made it, what did she say?
CLIFFORD DURR:
She said, "Well Virginia, this is certainly delicious cake." [Laughter]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Of course, he assumed that I had made the cake. [Laughter]
CLIFFORD DURR:
Now, to be fair to your mother, she never did say you made it. [Laughter]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
She didn't say that, but of course, he assumed that I had. But the thing was that after dinner was over, Mother went to take a nap. Brother and Daddy went out to play golf at the country club and I was left with Cliff. My opportunity. So, we got in the old Studebaker that we had, it was my father's car, Cliff didn't have a car and we promptly ran out of gas.

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CLIFFORD DURR:
We ran out before it ever really started. But fortunately, the car was parked on a hill, they lived on a high hill, and you could coast five or six blocks down the hill to a filling station. I used that car, Dr. Foster's car, all the time that I was courting, but I never got in it that it wasn't out of gas and I would have to fill it up.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, I don't know why you didn't know then that you were marrying a pauper or somebody that didn't have any money. Well anyway, we started going together, but the thing was that he came up to the library . . . tell them about that, because this was the thing that really made me . . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, I asked her for a certain book and she asked me what the problem was and I remember it was something on municipal law. She not only went and got the book but began to look up the law for me and I was very much impressed. She never would do that after she was my legal secretary. [Laughter]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
That was it and that was that summer and then in the fall, he took me down to his family. We went together for quite awhile and that fall he took me down to his mother's and that's when we got engaged. And tell her what the old Negro man said.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Oh yes, one reason that I got engaged was because this old Negro man, George Washington Daniels, he sort of took up with Mother like a stray dog and she fed him. He never would do any work, but he was a personality. So, I think that we had been to a party or something and Virginia was resting and we were out in the yard and he came up to me and said, "You say her name is Miss Foster?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Is she one of them Fosters from over there at Union Springs?" I said, "Yes, her

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people came from over there." He said, "Well, you latch on to her and you'll be getting some sugar. Her folks own the county." Well, of course, I went ahead and married her and inside of six months, the last of the great plantation was gone for taxes. I had grounds for annulling the marriage, I think. [Laughter]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
But he didn't do it. Anyway, we got married in April and I worked up until the time that I got married and they asked us to be the first people married in the new church. You see, the independent Presybterian church and so, we were married on Easter Monday and the whole church was full of lillies.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well you see, the preacher had been Dr. Edmonds, he had been kicked out of the same church that Dr. Foster had. But he had a church in Montgomery. He came right from the seminary to the First Presbyterian Church there.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
He was a great friend of your family's.
CLIFFORD DURR:
And a great friend of the family's and that continued and of course, he had suffered the same fate as Dr. Foster, but he was young and very attractive and when they kicked him out, about 75 percent of the congregation went with him. Well, they moved over to the synagogue just across the corner and then they got busy and started building the church. We were the . . . because of Dr. Foster and Dr. Edmonds and the family connection and all, they asked us to be the first married in it. We had to postpone the wedding. I wanted to go ahead and get it over with, but then I would have to go up and ask the contractor, "When please, could I get married?" Finally, it was dedicated on Easter Sunday and . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
We were engaged in the fall and planned to be married in the spring, but in the meantime, I realized that when I married Cliff, I was marrying somebody different from anybody I had ever known, someone

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who always told the truth, and his family too, because Cliff was just dying to get married, he wanted to get married immediately and I was just thrilled, I just thought he was so besotted with love, you know. So I said, "Why is it that you want to get married so much?" I thought of course, that he was going to say that it was because he loved me so much that he could hardly stand it. He said, "Well, I get awfully tired of coming home from the office every afternoon and having to take a bath and get dressed and come over here and get to bed late. It is just wearing me out. I want to get married and quit all this." So, I should have realized what kind of a family that I was marrying into because his mother came up and we had a tea for his mother. His sister, who was perfectly beautiful, well, his mother came up and my mother said to her in a rather tearful way, "Oh, I hope that your son will be kind to my daughter, she is such an innocent young thing." Mrs. Durr said in a perfectly practical way, "Well, Mrs. Foster, you needn't worry about Cliff. Cliff always looks after what is his. He had a dog named Shiloh and he was the faithfulest thing in the world to that dog. You will never have to worry about Cliff, he will always do what he says that he's going to do and he will always take care of what is his." So you see, I met again this perfect truthfulness, not any romance or imagination there.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, if the showdown came, I liked you better than Shiloh. [Laughter]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
So in any case, my father, I don't know what he did then, I think that he probably sold the last piece of the plantation or something, but I had the biggest wedding that you have ever known in your life. I had it in the new church and the Easter lillies were everywhere. Of course, the church had paid for those. I think I had eight bridesmaids . . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
They left the Easter decorations there.

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VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
We had 1500 invitations and 500 at the reception and I am sure that it cost my father lots of money that he didn't have, but it was really . . . and my mother was just triumphant. Here was a daughter who had married well.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Josephine had the small family wedding and every mother has got to have at least one big wedding.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
And while they were devoted to Hugo, and Hugo was running for the Senate at this time, this was in '26, we were married in April of '26 and Hugo was at that time running for the Senate and it was a very bitter campaign. He was running against Kilby and Bankhead and Musgrove and it was a very bitter campaign indeed.
CLIFFORD DURR:
And Judge Mayfield.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Judge Mayfield.
SUE THRASHER:
Did he win that first time?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes. He won, but it was a very bitter campaign and he was off campaigning all the time. Sister was my maid of honor and I had a lot of bridesmaids. And another thing that I should realize about Cliff's practicality, too, because people gave brides parties before the wedding all the time, showers and luncheons and teas and buffet suppers. So, I had quite a few parties given to me. What did he do? He went and had his wisdom teeth pulled so that he couldn't go to the parties.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, that wasn't the reason that I did it, I had them and I knew that I had to get them out and I wanted to be in good shape when I got married. [Laughter] I didn't know that this was going to be a butcher and my jaw got swollen and all and Virginia got furious with me. [Laughter]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
He couldn't go to any of the parties. His face was swelled out this way and his jaw was all sore and swollen and little bits of teeth

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kept coming out. Oh, he was miserable. I thought that the jaw would never go down and we couldn't even get married, but we did. But even marriage was difficult in a way, because the preacher forgot it and he came late and the organ wouldn't play and they had to get a little black boy to come in and pump the bellows to get the organ to play at all. So, tell them what your brother did when we got down to the gate.
CLIFFORD DURR:
We got married at eight and we were going to have the reception and then take the Pan American for New Orleans that night. I had left my good suit that I was going to change into, we were in full dress for the affair and I was going to change over there right after the reception and go on down to the train. But eight o'clock came and no preacher.
SUE THRASHER:
This is eight o'clock at night?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes.
CLIFFORD DURR:
And Lloyd Bowers was one of my groomsmen, he was very smooth and Mrs. Foster was getting more and more nervous and he kept telling her that it was only two minutes after eight and that it just seemed a long time. And they had visions of Edmonds having run off the road, down the mountain roads there. Finally, he showed up at eight thirty and was the only calm person around the place. I was there in a side room, they left me entirely with my brother, who was my best man. And I gave him the fee, which was twenty-five dollars, for the preacher. That was a lot of money back in those days and I thought that I was making a good capital investment. So, we finally got through it and we rushed to the house for the reception, which was quite an affair and then the time came when we had to make the train. So I go up the stairs to change my clothes where I had left them and my britches were gone. Well, I thought that some of

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the groomsmen were pulling a joke on me and I got furious and said that the damn train was about to leave and we were not going to make it. They swore up and down that they hadn't. So, finally, one of my brothers dashed off to my apartment to get another suit and about that time, the maid came around and said, "You looking for your britches?" I said, "Yes." She said, "This is Miss Josephine's room and I didn't think it was right for no man's britches to be hanging in the closet of Miss Josephine's room, so I took them over and put them in Mr. Sterling's room." So, I finally got the britches and we rushed off and were dashing through the gate at the station and my brother handed me a five dollar bill. I said, "What in the world is this for?" He said, "I docked him for being late." [Laughter] He had withheld five dollars from the preacher.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, we got on the train and we went down to Pass Christian and that was a great place for honeymoons. There was a lovely sort of private hotel on the Gulf and in April, it was just full of blossoms and beautiful things and smelled so good and we had a lovely big room upstairs and we were still rather strangers and particularly me. This was quite an adjustment, getting used to having a man in the room with you. So, we were still rather strangers and then a series of things happened to bring us closer together. [Laughter] One was that we waked up in the middle of the night and there was a hurricane, wind and all and I never heard such wind in my life. We were terrified, the doors flew open and the windows flew open and the water came pouring in and the wind came pouring in and we knew that we were going to die together. So, that brought us closer together, I must say, we were perfectly convinced that we were going to be killed. We couldn't get out of bed, the wind and rain were so terrific and sure enough, the next morning, there was

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a big boat in the yard, it had blown out of the Gulf. We went down to breakfast and we were still just shaking with fear of the terrible night we had been through and everybody in the hotel said, "Well, that was a rather mild blow that we had last night. It didn't get up to but eighty miles an hour." But that did help bring us together. Then, the next thing that happened which really brought us extremely close together was that we were invited out to dinner with a friend that we saw on the beach, to a hotel in Biloxi and they had a menu from which you could chose anything you wanted, and well . . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
American plan, one price.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
So, Cliff always had a very good appetite and he thought that since he could eat it all at the same price, he would just eat it all. So, he started out with oysters and then he ate crab and then he ate clams and then he ate shrimp and then fish and he went right down the menu. The main thing was seafood down there. He ate it all and enjoyed it.
CLIFFORD DURR:
It was delicious, perfectly delicious.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Absolutely delicious. He ate everything, every variety of seafood that was on the menu, each one of them was better than the other. So, the next morning, I looked at my bridegroom and he was green. Just as green as that sofa pillow there, just bright green. So I went rushing downstairs, absolutely terrified, "My husband's turned green!" [Laughter] The lady said, "What did he eat for supper?" "He ate a lot of seafood." She said, "Well, that's it. Just go upstairs and tell him to throw it up." So, I got upstairs and he had already begun to throw it up and he threw it up all day long. He got all right, but of course, that brought

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us closer together and then also, he kept having the teeth come out of his jaw.
CLIFFORD DURR:
It wasn't the teeth, it was the bone. They had fractured my jaw, it was the bone.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
The bone would come up and he had to lie on the bed with his mouth wide open and I would have to pull out his bone. So, by the time we got home, we were really very friendly indeed. I got pregnant when?
CLIFFORD DURR:
We had our friends counting up, but there was a full month to spare.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
A full month to spare. You see, I didn't know any more about birth control than a man in the moon. I didn't know anything and especially about birth control, so naturally, I got pregnant.
CLIFFORD DURR:
We weren't concerned with controlling it, we thought that it was the thing you did, you got married and had babies.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
The thing was that I really thought I was the only human being in the world that had ever had a baby. I was so conceited and the bigger I got, the prouder I was. I had an old doctor and instead of saying, "You must diet and keep the baby small." He would say, "Oh Miss Virginia, you've got to eat for two now, so remember that you are eating for two." I was 120 pounds when I married and when the baby was born, I was 185 pounds. I was absolutely immense, I could hardly walk. But in those days, nobody . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
Doctor Lupton was saying, "Nobody in the world is as healthy as a pregnant woman."
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
We were living with my mother and father, we had a room.
CLIFFORD DURR:
This is part of the myth. Of course, we wanted to

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get a little apartment and be to ourselves, but Mrs. Foster felt that it was just too bad for Virginia to be cooped up in a little apartment and said, "We've got the whole upstairs here and we can fix that up."
SUE THRASHER:
You were living with your mother and father?
CLIFFORD DURR:
This would bring in a little income.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, it brought in some income, but also, Mother didn't want me to leave. She was clinging on to me in those days. She realized that things were just going down the pot and she was holding on to me very hard. Mother didn't know what to do, you know, she just knew that we were owing everybody and that money was leaving and everything was lost. Of course, the big wedding had given her a lot of pleasure but then of course, it had to be paid for. The thing was that of that first year we were married, we were very happy and we had a room and bath and a big sitting room. We turned one of the rooms into a sitting room and we used to have people in and . . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
We had a sort of a portable grill and could cook things.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, we had a lot of things. The thing with having a baby in those days. This is what shows you the difference. In the first place, of course, the eating, the "eating for two." That's old fashioned and the gaining of a tremendous amount of weight, they would think now that it was just suicidal. To have a baby, well, you went to the doctor once every two or three weeks and you were treated not as if you were having an illness exactly, but everybody pampered you, you know. I was awfully sick at my stomach for awhile and I was treated like the queen bee and I felt like the queen bee. I felt like I was just doing something that nobody had ever done before and it was just the most marvelous thing

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in the world, I was just simply thrilled. I engaged a nurse, a trained nurse. I went to the hospital, I waked up one morning and realized that the baby was coming, the water had broken and I called Cliff immediately and he came home and we finally got to the hospital. They had engaged a trained nurse for me, Miss Taylor, who came. A registered nurse. She was on duty twenty-four hours a day. I think that she may have gotten off an hour in the afternoon when you and Mother came in to sit. I had a private room, I delivered the baby and Cliff stayed with me the whole time and Mother until I went in to the actual delivery room. It was all very social and pleasant and the doctor was there and . . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
The only harsh words that I ever received from my mother-in-law, she didn't think I was excited enough when Virginia was in the delivery room. She thought I was too calm and she got furious with me. [Laughter]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I came out and in about an hour, I was sitting up eating breakfast and was feeling wonderful. Here I was, a healthy young girl and I had a trained nurse, I stayed in the hospital about two weeks, didn't I?
CLIFFORD DURR:
I think you did and then the nurse . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Then the nurse came home and stayed with me another two weeks. I wasn't allowed to walk up and down the steps for two weeks. Here I was, a healthy young girl, just as healthy as I could be, a healthy baby and yet I was treated like a terrific invalid. I was made to feel that I had done something just spectacular and this was just something that was marvelous, this was the reward of all my life. The trained nurse was there for one solid month. A trained, registered nurse. Of course, she didn't get paid much in those days. Did you ever hear anything as ridiculous in the days of your life? Now my daughters have

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babies and they are up the next day. It is the most remarkable change that I have ever seen in the days of my life. It is perfectly amazing.
Well, now you have gotten through the marriage, so we will stop the tape. [interruption, tape turned off]
SUE THRASHER:
This is the third session with Virginia Foster Durr, we are on tape number three. This is March 15, 1975.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
So, I told you that I had my first child and Anne, that's my oldest daughter.
So we lived with Mother and Daddy for another year or two and then Cliff was getting awfully impatient to get to himself. He was making more money down at the law firm and had been made a member of the firm, but Mother and Daddy were just harder up than ever. But then Sister and Hugo came home and they were going to stay a year in Birmingham because he had to run for the Senate again in '32.
SUE THRASHER:
He had just completed his first term?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Just completed his first term. So what they did, they gave us a chance to move and then they took over the house on Niazuma where Mother and Daddy were. All of this had to be done with the greatest sort of lack of conversation because both Daddy and Mother hated to admit that they were just getting dead broke. So, it all had to be done as sort of a favor that they were doing for Sister and Hugo to let them stay in their house. Everything always had to be surrounded by all kinds of protection to save their pride because they really both just had this terrible feeling of failure and shame at losing everything that they had. In the meantime, I had had an extremely bad miscarriage. The situation at home worried me and I had had a very difficult miscarriage. I had had the flu and then I had had the miscarriage shortly thereafter. But Cliff and I were just delighted to get on our own and we bought a

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little house not far from my mother's, in the neighborhood, a darling little house. So, I went on over there and we got established. I was leading the life of any sort of young married woman in Birmingham, you know. I was active in the Junior League and in the church and belonged to a bridge club and I belonged to a sewing circle and was making clothes for the children. But more and more, I was aware of the terrible state of the economy. Cliff was with the firm that represented the power companies, so we were comfortably established, fairly comfortably off, but we were helping Mother and Daddy, but we still were fairly well off. But around me was just ruin, ruin and more furnaces shutting up and the town became poorer and poorer and more and more beggars were coming to the door and then this whole fear of being mugged in the night. You didn't want to go from your door to the garage, because there were people lurking in the alley. Just any number of muggings and robberies because people were absolutely desperate. Well, things in the city were getting very bad indeed. Hugo was running for the Senate and he was out all over the state, you know, and finding things bad wherever he went. People were just desperate and he was very much for Roosevelt. And my father was very much for Roosevelt. They hoped that Roosevelt would run and my father had a connection with him through William Fitts Ryan. Well, Judge Fitts, his grandfather, was a great friend of my father's. They had gone through school together, I think, at Southwestern College and they were very devoted friends. Judge Fitts came from Tuscaloosa, the Fitts family there was quite a prominent family. He had married a Miss Smith from Birmingham and they had had a daughter who had married Mr. Ryan, who was a great friend of Roosevelt and one of his political henchmen. So through Mr. Ryan and through Judge Fitts, my father became one of

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President Roosevelt's supporters and he and Judge Fitts went over to Warm Springs and talked to him, begged him to run and became just absolutely eager, passionate Roosevelt supporters. Well, I was aware of all this, but it was still away, I was remote from it. And I was even remote from Hugo's race, although I was devoted to Hugo.
SUE THRASHER:
Was this 1931 or '32?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, this was '31. You see, Hugo got elected in '32, so this was '31 really.
Then I had another terrible miscarriage and nearly died then. I had what they called placenta previa and I nearly bled to death and had a terrible time, but while I was in the hospital, soon thereafter, I was very ill and had to have blood transfusions. I had a nurse, Mrs. Van Markenstine, I believe her name was. She was a very devout Catholic, you see, the big hospital then in Birmingham was St. Vincent's Hospital, and she was married to some man and had I don't know how many children, she was a Catholic and thought that birth control was a sin. But her husband and she were sort of separated, they would come back together, maybe he felt like they had too many children, anyway she had an older son. And at that time, the dairies in Birmingham had a terrible sort of price war and people couldn't buy milk and they were losing money all the time and everybody was just engaged in this cuthroat endeavor to make as much money as they could or at least stay out of bankruptcy. So they had this terrible warfare between these various milk companies and her son, who was at a dairy place called Southern Dairies I think, and he was just getting a milk shake or ice cream cone and another dairy came by and threw a bomb and he was killed. It was the most awful, unnecessary killing and most completely horrible thing for this poor woman, Mrs. Van Markenstine her name was, a very handsome woman, marvelous nurse and a woman who I really felt like had saved my

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life, she was so devoted. Her son just got killed like that. Well this did wake me up as to what was going on, on a personal basis. Here was this unnecessary thing. I found from her that they were pouring the milk in the gutters. So after I got strong enough and well enough and went back in the Junior League and began working with them, I did bring up the idea of what we could do about the milk being poured down the gutters, because another thing that I had seen in the hospital when I had had this terrible miscarriage, was these children with ricketts. There was a whole wing of the hospital that was the children's wing and I would see these children, they had a great big gallery, and I would see these children sort of weaving around. I thought that they had cerebral palsy, but it was ricketts just because they didn't get enough to eat, no protein. That shocked me. Another shock was that after I was well enough, I would be wheeled out on the gallery that surrounded St. Vincent's and there was a woman next to me and by that time, I had had one child and two miscarriages. The last one had been very bad. There was a woman by me, a woman in her thirties, I imagine, late thirties, she was a rather nice looking, comfortable woman and she came from Chicago. I said to her . . . she said that she had just had a baby and I said, "Where is it?" She said, "I've never seen it." I said, "You've never seen your own baby?" She said, "No, I'm going to put her up for adoption and I don't want to see her because I'm afraid that I might get fond of her." I said, "My God, what in the world for?" She said, "The matter of fact is that I don't know who the father is. I worked at the ready to wear at . . . "some big store in Chicago . . . "and we were expected to entertain all the salesmen and customers. They would take you out to dinner and

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ask you to go up to the room. I was always very careful, but somehow I did get pregnant and I found that I was having a baby and didn't really know it for several months and didn't want to have an abortion, I was afraid that something would happen, so I decided to come on down here and have the baby." She took it very calmly and I said that that certainly seemed to me just awful and she said, "Well, how else are you going to make a living." Well, here was a woman that had to make a living not only by selling ready to wear, but also by being ready to wear, as it were. I just thought that was the most horrible thing. Here I had been surrounded with Mother and Sister and Cliff and the nurse and flowers and doctors and everybody acting like having a baby or not having a baby was the most important thing in the world and I was treated like I was a queen bee. Here was this woman having a baby all by herself down in Birmingham and nobody even knew her and she never would see it because she knew that she had to give it away. For the first time, I really became aware of how badly women could be treated and how helpless they were in situations like that. I think that was the first dawn, if you know what I mean, of a feeling of wrath and rage against women's lot. I had nothing at all against my life, the miscarriages, I had no feeling of anybody's fault, it was just something that happened but with her, I just began to have this feeling . . . those two things that happened at that point, seeing those children with ricketts and that woman who had that baby and had to give it away before she could even see it. I mean, that was sort of the beginning and then Mrs. Van Markenstine's son being killed.
CLIFFORD DURR:
She was the one that was called in on an emergency and found that it was her own son.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, she was called in and found that it was her own son.

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So, I began little by little to kind of wake up to the world. So I did start on the milk, I thought that would help the ricketty children anyway. And we did, the Junior League did. I won't go into all of that, it took an immense amount of time, an immense amount of trouble because people were so afraid that if they gave away milk, nobody would buy it. Then, the city made objections about it, they said that they couldn't bottle it, it would have to be delivered in five gallon cans and they made objections to that. The only way that we ever persuaded them to do it was that we said, "Now look, if you give these people a taste of milk . . . "and the Junior League, I think, paid them a little something for the delivery . . . "they will get used to drinking milk and then when they do get jobs and there is some money available, they will buy milk." It had to be put on a perfect commercial basis to get them to do it. They finally did it and they did began to deliver the surplus milk in these five gallon cans to sort of feeding stations, through the Red Cross. I don't know exactly how, I can't remember now exactly how it was handled, but I do know that they stopped pouring it down the gutters. At that time, I still wasn't in contact with the terrible poverty, hunger and distress that was going on. The president of the Junior League at that time was a girl named Rachel London whose husband was a baby doctor and he was our baby doctor and we were very devoted to him. So, Rachel knew more than I did about the suffering that was going on. There was no relief, there was no city relief, no county relief, no state relief and by that time . . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
And no federal relief.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No federal relief. You see, Hoover was the president then and in that idiotic way, he was talking about two chickens in every pot

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and we were going to have prosperity around the corner. But the main thing was that he took the attitude, and most people took this attitude who were well off, that it was the poor's fault. If they had saved their money, if they had been more provident, if they had stored up something like the grasshopper and the ant, they would be okay. And I didn't hear anybody say that this was the system. Now my mother and father, they were losing everything, I mean everything that Daddy had was just going down the drain, all the things that he had mortgaged or borrowed money on were being taken over by the banks and everything was just going down the drain.
SUE THRASHER:
What about the corporations?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I'm just getting to that now. I don't know whether Daddy sold the plantation at that time for taxes or not, but he sold it to Mr. Maytag and for eight dollars and acre. The richest land in Alabama and it is now worth about a thousand dollars an acre. Do you know, Clifford, did he sell it for . . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
I understood that it was about eight dollars an acre and he had a lot of accumulated taxes on it and I don't know how much he got out of it.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I don't know how much he got out of it, but it was about this time that he sold it, everything just went. So then, I began to work with this . . . oh, Rachel London! The only relief was the Red Cross workers and the Red Cross had a policy . . . you see, this was all volunteer money, too. This was benevolence, charity. The Red Cross gave a family of five two dollars and a half a week. But they couldn't get the two dollars and a half a week until they had been certified by a Red Cross worker that they were completely impovrished and that there was no

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money left whatever and that there was nothing they could sell and nothing that they could borrow and nothing that they could do except starve to death . . . .
END OF INTERVIEW
1. This was the first brick house built in the Tennessee Valley.
2. Dr. Foster went to Gloucester all in a shower of rain/Dr. Foster went to Gloucester and never came back again.