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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Leslie Thorbs, May 30, 2001. Interview K-0589. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Educational experiences

Thorbs describes his educational experiences. Thorbs only completed school through the third grade and he recalls that he and other children in the community often skipped their classes to go play or to help on the farm. As an adult, Thorbs explains that he can recognize many letters, but can only write his name. Thorbs's comments here suggest that his education experiences were fairly typical for children in similar socioeconomic circumstances during the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Leslie Thorbs, May 30, 2001. Interview K-0589. 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

LEDA HARTMAN:
Did you go to school? Did you have time?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, I went to school, but back then children didn't think there was going to be any such day like today. Really I didn't get any farther than the third grade. Lots of time we children, instead of going to school, we'd go up there because we had to go through across DuPont up there by the store and go around the woods there and go up. A lot of days we'd go up there and sit down until school was out and come on back home. That's the truth. [We were] bad children, bad. Back along then, I didn't think there would be any days like today. If I had known there were going to be days like today, I'd have been like my mama told me. I'd have been going to school and learned something. I have had chances at some good jobs, just as good as you can get around here, but I just didn't have the learning.
LEDA HARTMAN:
In your day you thought you didn't need to go to school.
LESLIE THORBS:
That's the way it was. That's just the way it was. That's just what it was. There wasn't anything like it is now. Wasn't anything like it is now. I imagine children were finishing school down there, but there wasn't any such thing like college and stuff like that where I came up.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What did they expect you to do, just get a little bit of school and go to farming or what?
LESLIE THORBS:
That's right. Then to my daddy, he gotߞ. My daddy stayed sick about all the time when he was on the farm. Then when I wanted to go to school, we had to come out of school and go to work on the farm. That's just the way it was.
LEDA HARTMAN:
You mean after the school day ended.
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah. I had to come out before school was ended because what happened, our daddy was sick and he couldn't get out. We had to go ahead and help him on the farm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So is that part of the reason you didn't go beyond the third grade?
LESLIE THORBS:
That's it. That's it. Too children bad like children, I look at little children now. I get out and about. But then too, some of themߞ. Well, my grandchildren are just like I was, but I don't tell them that. Just I don't know how, but we were bad aboutߞ. We weren't bad about trying to fight the teachers or nothing like that, but children just out in the street playing, fighting and going on amongst themselves.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Not studying?
BETTY HOWES:
Children haven't changed much, have they?
LEDA HARTMAN:
No they haven't.
LESLIE THORBS:
Uh uh. Not studying any book.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Yeah. So can you read or write a lot or a little orߞ?
LESLIE THORBS:
No, I can't do anything but print my name.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Uh uh.
LESLIE THORBS:
But it's a lot of letters I see now. I can spell, and there's a lot of them I see. I can't spell, but I really believe now, if I had have gone to school, I really believe I would've learned something.