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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Johnnie Jones, August 27, 1976. Interview H-0273. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Regret for dropping out of school

Jones shares his regret that he left school after the first grade. Without a diploma, he does not think that he has been given enough opportunities to apply his quick mind.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Johnnie Jones, August 27, 1976. Interview H-0273. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

BRENT GLASS:
How about school? How far did you go in school?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Well, I went to the sixth grade, yes. Then after I quit school I seed my mistake. Well, in fact, I run away from school. I was a mean little rascal.
BRENT GLASS:
Why? You didn't like it there?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Yes, I liked it; but I didn't like for nobody to mess with me, see. And then we'd get to fighting, and then the teacher'd jump into it. Then we'd fall out and they'd run me away from school.
BRENT GLASS:
I see. You'd be fighting with some of your classmates, you mean?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
Where was the school?
JOHNNIE JONES:
It was right over there in the pines. When we first started off we started off in the church down there; had school in the church. Then they built a big school out over yonder, right over there on the hill.
BRENT GLASS:
Who built it?
JOHNNIE JONES:
The county, I reckon.
BRENT GLASS:
The county, not the company?
JOHNNIE JONES:
No, not the company, the county built it. That was a nice place over there. Then they turned around and tore it down after so many years. A good place too, a nice school; I figured they need it now.
BRENT GLASS:
I'll ask you just a couple of more questions about your home, and then we can talk about Pomona. OK? You've said that you ran off from school. Did you think your teachers… ? How did they treat you over there?
JOHNNIE JONES:
The teachers? They'd treat you nice; yes, they were nice to us. Well, what was the cause of it, what was the biggest thing that caused it: somebody done something, and she had a switch and hit him. Instead of hitting him she hit me. Then we got to arguing, and I run to the door and held it to keep the other teacher from coming in there. Then that's where we fell out at. She told me to go home, and I went home and didn't go back no more. Went over to the plant and went to work.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you regret that later on?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Yes I did. Now sometimes I think, "Now if I'd of went on to school, what kind of job I could have had today." I was a smart guy—not bragging also, but I was a smart guy.
BRENT GLASS:
Well let me ask you: when you were growing up like that did you dream about becoming some particular job? Did you ever play like you were somebody? Or what did you want to be when you were growing up?
JOHNNIE JONES:
No, I'll tell you about me: I wanted to be everything. I wanted to do this and I wanted to do that and I wanted to do that. My mother would come out and ask me, "Now what are you doing out there?" And I'd tell her "Nothing." I never would tell nobody what I was doing.
BRENT GLASS:
But you were always tinkering with something?
JOHNNIE JONES:
That's right, always tinkering with something.
BRENT GLASS:
But you didn't think to yourself, "Well, I think I'd like to be an engineer, or I'd like to be a mechanic," or something like that. Did you ever think about a certain job that you wanted to be?
JOHNNIE JONES:
No I didn't, to tell you the truth. But I'll tell you, I didn't study about that too much, 'cause anything that I'd see you do, I may ask you two or three questions, I'd turn around and do it myself. I was just that smart in the head. I didn't have no particular job: just anything that I wanted to do, I could do it … if I wanted to do it. I'm that a'way yet. I've seen people sitting messing with something, messing with something; I'd walk up and stand there and look and wouldn't say a word. I'd tell them, "Give me your wrench;" I'll sit down and I'll fix it.
BRENT GLASS:
I see. Well that takes a certain kind of talent; I mean, you've got to be able to observe pretty closely, right?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
And be able to concentrate?
JOHNNIE JONES:
All I need now is that little piece of paper; that's all I need now.
BRENT GLASS:
What piece of paper?
JOHNNIE JONES:
You know, from the school; that little piece of paper from the school is all you get. That's all you need.
BRENT GLASS:
Do you think that would have made a difference?
JOHNNIE JONES:
It would have made a big difference with me.
BRENT GLASS:
Why?
JOHNNIE JONES:
'Cause I knows what to do.
BRENT GLASS:
But what would you have done differently? Would you have taken a different kind of job if you had graduated from high school?
JOHNNIE JONES:
That's right.
BRENT GLASS:
Where might you have taken it?
JOHNNIE JONES:
I might have been setting in somebody's office. I've done some of everything.
BRENT GLASS:
Did your parents discourage you from quitting school, or did they say anything about it?
JOHNNIE JONES:
No, they didn't say a word about it; didn't make me go back or nothing. Well, I might have could have got back; they expelled me from school. I might have went on somewhere else and went to school, but I didn't have it on my mind. See, you don't never know what's in front of you; all you know's what's behind you. That was my biggest thing: I didn't know what was in front of me.