Remembering teachers at Lincoln
Like many former Lincoln and Chapel Hill High School students, Norwood remembers Coach Peerman and Principal McDougle. And like many former students, Norwood remembers their strictness. While he lost his position when he came to Chapel Hill High School, McDougle's approach at Lincoln earned him a reputation as a disciplinarian, but also as an administrator who was concerned with his students as people. The connection between students, administrators, and teachers that existed at Lincoln evaporated once they made the transition to Chapel Hill High.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Raney Norwood, January 9, 2001. Interview K-0556. 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
BG: Are there any other things that you find stick out in your mind, that you haven’t talked about at Lincoln?
RN: I got the teaching back in. Going back to Mr. McDougle, as the principal. Coach Peerman. Like I said they were strict. They were almost like they were second parents and stuff. And if you got in trouble they had what we called the “coal mine.” Where they got the coal to keep the furnace going. When you got in trouble, that’s where you went. I mean, you got down with your little white tennis on and when you came out you dirty because you’re going to shovel that coal. That’s one of the ways they disciplined.
Another way was Coach Peerman. He believed in fitness. He would take you to the outer limit zone, a hundred push-ups in the middle of the floor. He had a big palette—he would tell you to bend over and Coach Peerman was a big man. These things stick out. But at the same time, in today’s time, they would say, “abuse.” To us, it got our attention. I think it kept a lot of us out of jail. I think that’s the reason a lot of us a still alive because they cared.
When I used to go down there—I remember one day, my shoulder was hurting, I couldn’t shovel no more coal. And Coach Peerman said, “Well, let me get you cleaned up and I’ll take you over to the hospital.” And I’m thinking, ( ) [phone rings; tape stops].
OK, we’re going back to the high school where we’re talking about Mr. McDougle. Like I said at the beginning, seeing his office was so small, seeing his only duty was ( ) coffee, also we knew as students that his life was being drawn out of his body, that he had no play. He didn’t even really have contact with the students like he had at Lincoln, you know. We could talk to him, but the conversation was all like, Miss Marshbanks stepped out and he got to go do his duty. That’s the way we looked at it. When you talk to other students and they seem like they’re seeing the same thing, it really makes you begin to think, whether than really happened.
BG: What about the teachers at the new school? Did you feel that you had an adequate number of black teachers at the new Chapel Hill High School?
RN: Absolutely not. I can’t even remember the ratio, but there was not that many blacks. But what ( ), they had a lot of good white teachers, too. I can’t sit here and say that all the white teachers were bad. As a matter of fact, the good outweighed the bad. My chemistry teacher, Mr. ( ), he was really into his students, black or white. Miss ( ), my English teacher in my junior year, she made sure that we were doing our work and bring it in. It wasn’t no thing, just enough to get by. Like Miss ( ), I was telling you about. There was a lot of good teachers and stuff, but not that many blacks.
BG: What were the courses that the black teachers were teaching?
RN: Well, like I said, Miss Clemens she taught typing. I think there was another class but I can’t remember. Then, Miss Pope, she taught home economics. Mr. Smith, he taught auto mechanics in shop. My memory escapes me on the black teachers that were there.
BG: What were the things that Principal C.A. McDougle did at Lincoln that made him so loved by the students and the community?
RN: First thing, when you first entered the building in the morning when you came to school. He would greet you at the door. He welcomed you, you know, “Good morning.” He stayed there until the late bell rung. Then, when you came into the school, he’d greet you—and this was the ( ) all of us learned—“You’re too late for today and too soon for tomorrow. Go back home but be here tomorrow.” Also, he’d ask you about your grades and how you’re doing, how’s your teacher doing. He was genuine with this. He really wanted to know what was going on. He would joke with you, stand there in the hall and joke with you. You better not come to school with your shirttail out or a hat on. The dress code was strict: shirttails in, no hats in the building. Also, in the classroom, he’d come and sit there. And then when he called you into the office, he’d blow into the mike on the intercom system, and everybody in the school knew you was in trouble. It wasn’t like he was calling you into the office to congratulate you on something when he blew into that mike. You were going to be disciplined. Everyone in the whole school, even the teachers, knew you was in trouble. You tried to make that walk to his office as slow as possible. And when you got there, he chewed you out, but like I said it was out of love and he wanted to make sure you were doing the right thing.
BG: You mentioned about dress. Did you have a dress code at Lincoln? Did you have a code about how your hair needed to be done?
RN: You had a C.A. McDougle dress code. It wasn’t in writing, it wasn’t in black and white. But passing down the line, you knew: hair cut tight, shirttail tucked in. It wasn’t like it was a uniform. But everything was neat. He drilled on this.
And also with me, I remember a couple of times I came to school with no lunch money. It seemed like he read me. And he gave me the money. And it wasn’t like, you’re going to pay me back tomorrow. He gave it to me.
He was a man that loved his students. He was a man that believed in his students. He wanted his students to strive to go further. His son and I became great friends. We were running partners. He was another partner of mine in crime. After Mr. McDougle retired, we used to go over to his house, and he used to ask me, “How’s life treating you? How’s you job going?” He still cared. And what amazed me, as the years went by, he still remembered his students by name.
Even Mrs. McDougle, I know we have not talked about her, but she was like a mother. She was a teacher. And she was a strong teacher. That’s another ( ) a lot of love. Like I said, when her son and I started hanging out, it wasn’t like a bad apple turning another apple bad; they gave a lot of respect and I gave it back to them.
BG: You mentioned the teachers caring for you. What about the way you treated the teachers at Lincoln? Did students talk back or was there respect for the teachers?
RN: Well, a few students got out of line, tried to talk back. But it’d take the teachers no time to get us back in line. They had the stick. And I mean, the real stick, corporal punishment. Call it what you want it, but they had a way of quieting us down. And we had a lot of respect for the teachers, I guess because of the way they carried themselves. They were there to teach us.
Then, you got to look at it on the other hand, they were our parents because we were with them more than we were with our parents. But I mean, when we got home from school at three-thirty, we had contact with our parents until eight o’clock and then we was in bed and then we would go to school. But when you got to school at eight, you were there until three-thirty in contact with the teachers. So they became really substitute parents, the teachers. Friends. We loved them.
BG: I’d like you to contact several things at Lincoln High School and the new high school. You talked about dress, you talked about hair, you talked about how you interacted with the teachers with respect. Was it different at Chapel Hill High School?
RN: A whole lot of different. It came—seemed like the discipline just went away. When we got out to the new high school, we wore our shirttail out; go to the classroom with hats on, caps on; we talked back to the teachers. Ah, man, you could smoke on the school grounds. This was a definite no-no at Lincoln High School. We left the school grounds. At Lincoln, you dared not leave the school grounds. When you were there, you were there for the whole day unless you had a special excuse from your parents. Your parents knew where you were at when you entered the school. When you were not there, playing hooky, your parents knew.
At Chapel Hill High School, that went away. We started smoking and doing anything we wanted. We even got to the place where we started drinking. Coming back on campus, have a beer or two, and go to the classroom. It seemed like no one didn’t care. And then we started doing more crazy things at the high school, like blowing up the commode, putting a cherry bomb in the bathroom and blowing that up. We started getting out of control. It was less contact made with our parents at Chapel Hill High School. ( ). I’m not saying that it was the teachers’ fault because they had a lot of other students to deal with. Our classroom size grew larger. That took away a lot of personal contact.
BG: What was the ratio of student-to-teacher at the two schools?
RN: I’m going to take a shot at it, but you know. It seemed like at Lincoln, if you had fifteen in the classroom, it was large. Once you get to Chapel Hill High School, you start to get twenty-five, thirty. I could be wrong, but it was a lot larger classes and stuff.