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An Interview with
Mrs. Anna B. Phillips
September 27, 1977
Interviewed by Mrs. Frances M. Oberschmidt
Transcribed by Rebecca Nations
Oral History Project
Mississippi Department of Archives and History
And the Lincoln-Lawrence-Franklin Regional Library
[Mrs. Phillips was a retired school teacher at the time of this interview. She had attended Whitworth College, graduating in 1925 with a B.A. in Home Economics. Mrs. Phillips passed away on August 22, 1996.]
OBERSCHMIDT: Mrs. Phillips, do you remember anything that your father or mother told about or was told by their parents during or around the Civil War days? Anything that would be of interest?
PHILLIPS: Well, I heard my grandfather tell more about it than my father did. He recalled seeing the horse-drawn, no, mule-drawn ambulances that came from Vicksburg - the Seige of Vicksburg - when they brought them to Margaret Hallv at Whitworth for hospitalization.
OBERSCHMIDT: Now, was that the brick building that's standing now there on the campus?
PHILLIPS: It's there today, the same building.
OBERSCHMIDT: When was Whitworth established?
PHILLIPS: 1858, I believe is right.
OBERSCHMIDT: And these two (2) brick buildings, Margaret Hall and Johnson Institutevi?
PHILLIPS: They were not the original buildings and Mary Flower had that original picture, but these were built after the college had been established - Margaret Hall Dormitory and I guess Cafeteria is altogether and the institute - Johnson Institute is a school building,
OBERSCHMIDT: Do you remember anything else that they told about in those days? Anything about the City of Brookhaven?
PHILLIPS: Well, I recall my father talking about how the front of the street there with Whitworth, those two buildings behind it, had the first barbershop and shoe shop, shoe and harness repair, shops were along on that street that faces what we now call Jackson Street.
OBERSCHMIDT: Now that would be what we called the "front street" of Whitworth College?
PHILLIPS: That's right.
OBERSCHMIDT: Now, were these girls, did all the students that came here were they all boarding students or were town students allowed to go?
PHILLIPS: Well, those first students were boarding students, most all of them. Few day students, but most of them were boarding students then.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well, did they come from a very far distance or was it just in the vicinity around in the trading area?
PHILLIPS: Well, as I recall some of my father's family from out around Lucien and McCall and them came in and boarded. And I recall at that time to pay part of the board, they brought potatoes and molasses and what-have-you to help pay for board. I remember hearing them tell about coming in the wagon and bringing all of those things because....
OBERSCHMIDT: Then they were given credit for that on their board.
PHILLIPS: That's right. And that was way back in the early 1900's.
OBERSCHMIDT: They were anxious to get an education.
PHILLIPS: That's right.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well do you remember any of the changes on the campus?
PHILLIPS: Well of course I don't remember Whitworth except as it was today or is today. But the buildings having been placed there later and then I didn't have much contact with Whitworth until I went there in '21. But the buildings are the same as they have today and I know at the time what is the president's home today was the Home Economics building – we called it Elizabeth Cottage - and I believe at the time I was taking Home Economics there, the vice president had an apartment downstairs and the Home Economics teacher had an apartment upstairs and it was upstairs that we had our sewing classes and other classes. Then we used the kitchen and dining room for food work.
OBERSCHMIDT: What was in the place of the "Y-Hut"vii and when was it built or do you know?
PHILLIPS: Well, the "Y-Hut" was built as a space for club meetings and for get-togethers and what-have-you. I know some of the clubs would make funds by selling sandwiches over there because the girls had no way of getting to town. They couldn't go to town when they wanted to like they could today. They'd get a coke or some kind of a drink and a sandwich over at the "Y-Hut."
OBERSCHMIDT: You say clubs, now, what was there - literary?
PHILLIPS: Well we had literary clubs... [Pause in tape.]
OBERSCHMIDT: You said the name of the club was what?
PHILLIPS: Well, one of the first clubs I think of in the "Y-Hut" was the YWCA that we had there; cabinet members and all that took an active part in it. And then of course we had Student Government then and athletic clubs of different types met in there. We had Home Economics clubs and what-have-you and then we had the Literary Society.
Literary Society was one of them and a second was the Harvey Johnson Society and of course we had - music was such a popular course at Whitworth and such a good department we had the Vernon Spencer clubs and the Charbonnet clubs and of course, Whitworth being a Methodist school we had a preacher's daughters' club and we even had an "Only Daughter Club" that was a rather large club, but all of these clubs that in the - we had a sisters club too because there was so many sisters there.
OBERSCHMIDT: Did they have a "Town Girls Club"?
PHILLIPS: No, we never did. I think about it now and wonder why somebody didn't but I guess I didn't take the initiative and no one else did either. Later they did have one. Now I've heard Ruby Larkin say that when she was there that they had a "Town Girls Club" and they had a room down in the basement of Cooper Hall that was for town students. But now when I was there that was not.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well, they had that when I was there. They called it the "Sedarmoc Club" - it's "comrades" spelled backwards. It wasn't very active.
PHILLIPS: They didn't have one at the time I was there.
OBERSCHMIDT: Then when, let's see I finished in 1930, and in '29 I believe was when they had changed it from a four (4) year college to a two (2) year and they, that year, they got the Phi Theta Kappa Club in and you had to have a certain average and the year the group that graduated the year ahead of me was the first members of it, but it was installed at the end of school so my class was the first active workers in the Phi Theta Kappa. And then we had a history – I’ve even forgotten the name of the history club - but it was very active. Now back to the Y Building, was that a YWCA connected with the national YWCA?
PHILLIPS: Yes, it was.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well, did they help build that?
PHILLIPS: They sent a representative to Ridgecrest and all. It was an active club at the time I was there. I do not recall when the "Y-Hut" was built but it was in operation when I was there.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well, now the YWCA is so active in athletics, did it have anything to do with the athletic building they later built? You know there was an indoor swimming pool and basketball and all court upstairs.
PHILLIPS: No, that was all wrong. Then the gym, “gymnasium” when I was there, there was a good athletic program. Miss Cain from down here at Summit was head of the department and several girls were assistants and had tennis clubs and volley ball clubs and of course it was not playing another school, just intramural.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well, I just started to ask you if it was intramural or varsity.
PHILLIPS: It was intramural but always had lots of fun and there was always... You see at the time I was there, there was a high school department - junior and senior year of high school - and so much of high school played the college division some and there was always a lot of friction in there - what I mean, rivalry, maybe that's what I want to say - but there was all the time one or the other at outs about who won and who was going to win and lot of rivalry.
PHILLIPS: Yes, lot of rivalry.
OBERSCHMIDT: How many dormitories did we have then?
PHILLIPS: How many what?
OBERSCHMIDT: How many dormitories did we have then?
PHILLIPS: Well, there was just Cooper and Margaret and Enoch -the upstairs part of Enoch. I really had more experience in going up to Enoch's dormitories than the others. I know when I finished high school I didn't take the third year of Latin, Virgil. I wasn't going to take a B.A. degree at Whitworth. I was just going to go there three years and get my Home Economics diploma but my daddy changed my mind. Said that I had to stay four (4) years, that was young enough to turn me loose then. And I had to make up this, coach this Virgil and the language teacher lived in Enoch's and I'd go up there for the Virgil classes and then so many girls who were in my class that I was especially good friends to lived in Enoch and would visit up there a lot.
OBERSCHMIDT: How about the discipline there at the school? Were they very strict on the girls then?
PHILLIPS: Well, yes and no I would say. Course when the boarding students wanted to go out they had to sign out and usually had to have a chaperone. I remember that four (4) girls could go together but they had to sign out and they had to stay together and of course I don't recall they had many dates. I don't remember seeing many boys on the campus and I know the first boy who got a degree from Whitworth was in our class. Henry Decelle, was the first one to...
OBERSCHMIDT: He was allowed to go into the class.
PHILLIPS: Yes, as a day student you see. [Lived] Just across the street there from the college and was the first graduate.
OBERSCHMIDT: What all did they have that they could offer to boys on the campus? Was there any kind of business?
PHILLIPS: Well, there was just liberal arts class.
OBERSCHMIDT: Liberal Arts?
PHILLIPS: Liberal Arts. It was just a B.A. degree is what he worked for.
OBERSCHMIDT: No business?
PHILLIPS: No, there was no business at all then.
OBERSCHMIDT: That was added later.
PHILLIPS: There was music - that was the specialty then – and languages and all that with a B.A. degree was what it was. Just a Liberal Arts program.
OBERSCHMIDT: In other words when you came out from there with a degree all you could do was teach.
PHILLIPS: That's right.
OBERSCHMIDT: Either music...
PHILLIPS: Music department or expression. It was just those fine arts, those liberal arts and the fine arts was all. You either had to be a teacher or homemaker.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well, now, the culture there - you say it was an excellent music department.
PHILLIPS: Miss McVoy and Miss Mutton, of course, who came and…
OBERSCHMIDT: Miss Mutton followed McVoy?
PHILLIPS: Yes. And that was just - and you see Miss Lois Cooper had been there earlier.
OBERSCHMIDT: Now who established the culture programs that they had? I believe they called them "lyceum" then, didn't they? What was it they called it?
PHILLIPS: Yes. I guess it was the administration at the time. Dr. Cooper was the president as far as I would know.
OBERSCHMIDT: I know when Miss McVoy was there...
PHILLIPS: Of course, I'm sure Miss McVoy would be back of it.
OBERSCHMIDT: We had quite a number of famous artists that came then.
PHILLIPS: Oh yes, I know the year I was a senior in high school, one of the choicest gifts of that year, my grandfather gave me a ticket to the "Artists Course" we called it then and I cherish that so much.
OBERSCHMIDT: That was an expensive thing then.
PHILLIPS: Yes it was. I don't recall how much it cost or anything but I know it was expensive and the thing that I remember so much --and I still think about it when I go to a music association or affair today - they had Fritz Kreisler who came and they also had the Cincinnati (I believe it was) Symphony Orchestra that I remember both of them so well. But the violinist was one that just was outstanding. Of course, they didn't have ballet and all of that type that they have today.
OBERSCHMIDT: Stage wasn't large enough.
PHILLIPS: That's right. But I think the most of us, I think I could even go back, dig back and find an old program –a year's program of it in my high school yearbook. But I know Fritz Kreisler was one of our artists there and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and I don't recall the others.
OBERSCHMIDT: And both of these went into famous things.
OBERSCHMIDT: Famous artists.
PHILLIPS: I think with the restoring Whitworth today, that we could with clubs that we have in Brookhaven, could go into something like that. Of course we'd have to have a bigger auditorium space for that sort of thing, but I don't see why we couldn't afford it today instead of going to Jackson to the Jackson Music Association or something like that.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well, it could develop if there were enough Interested to do that.
PHILLIPS: That's right. Of course today so many people want to go to those things; they don't want to stay at home and go.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well now, in my studying this, Whitworth changed hands awhile, I understood, in about 1930. Whitworth was almost ready to go under and it was affiliated with Millsaps. I know I finished in 1930 and I got an associate degree from Millsaps and Whitworth College and do you know how long it stayed that way?
PHILLIPS: Two years, I think I'm right.
OBERSCHMIDT: And then who took over then?
PHILLIPS: Wasn't it Dr.—was from Meridian, what was his name? Whitfield?i
OBERSCHMIDT: I believe so. And he stayed, do you know how long he stayed here?
PHILLIPS: I don't recall because I was gone away teaching at the time and I don't recall that.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well now. Dr. Whitfieldii was president the two (2) years that I was there. I know Ruth taught tap and ballet and I took that as a health builder and I remember how I enjoyed her course. She was real good in it. And then we had another teacher that taught - we had varsity athletic program and we had a tennis teacher and a swimming teacher and volleyball and everything, but you had to have four (4) different activities before you could graduate. Had to participate in some of that. And I thought that was good because it made the girls active enough to do something
PHILLIPS: Well, did the town students have to participate?
OBERSCHMIDT: Oh yes. Town students had to.
PHILLIPS: Well now, when I was there we didn't participate in the athletic programs. That was just for the boarding students.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well, we used to have the “Zoo-og,” you remember that?
PHILLIPS: Yes, I remember that drill we had.
OBERSCHMIDT: I know we had the State Shriners meeting here one time on the campus and we had to put on a program for them and it was quite a lovely thing. Do you remember who followed Dr. Whitfield?iii
PHILLIPS: I believe Dr. Danielsiv followed Dr. Winfield and I recall that their’s was rather – as we thought of it – as a “leave” type of school because the Christmas holidays they took off for Mexico or down in the Caribbean or someplace of that sort for vacation time and we had – they brought in quite a few students to Brookhaven from Tennessee and from Kentucky and some of these other states around through their teachers or through the students too because they had quite a following of students.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well now, there was a period of time between Winfield and Daniels. Did the school close down?
PHILLIPS: Yes I believe there was.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well now, did anybody try to get that?
PHILLIPS: Yes, I understand that there were several others who tried to get it but it had to remain a school. It couldn’t be for any other purpose – going back to the deed of Whitworth. As long as it remained as in the deed reads “Whitworth Female College,” that it was alright but if it failed to maintain a college, it went back to the Whitworth heirs.
OBERSCHMIDT: Then Brookhaven bought it and rented it to Dr. Daniels?
PHILLIPS: I believe that was when they – after Dr. Winfield left, Millsaps sold it to the city of Brookhaven and then it was in later years that we had to buy it back from the city then to have a long-term lease on the property for accreditation of a school there.
OBERSCHMIDT: Then, that was, it wasn’t because of the deed reverting back to the Whitfield heirs. It was it had to be run by a separate organization other than the city in order to be accredited.
PHILLIPS: In order to be a school there. It could be any, so long as it was a school operated there.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well now, how many different organizations handled that, or do you know, in the period from Winfield on down? There was Dr. Daniels, he was there several years.
PHILLIPS: Well, Dr. Daniels was there several years and then later, instead of it being just a boarding school, they had a veteran’s school there, you remember. Just night classes. For several years veterans from what? Korean War? World War II?
OBERSCHMIDT: World War II and Korea.
PHILLIPS: Went there and were able to get a degree going at night and that was when they had the business courses along with the basic English and math and so on.
OBERSCHMIDT: Then you could finish – when you got a degree here you could do other than just teach.
PHILLIPS: That’s right. And then after Dr. Daniels, the veteran part closed, was when the Methodist-Protestants took it over.
OBERSCHMIDT: And they were not here too long were they?
PHILLIPS: What was it? 1960?
OBERSCHMIDT: I believe it was.
PHILLIPS: I believe it was 1960.
OBERSCHMIDT: And then did they have a very good school there or was there accreditation?
PHILLIPS: Well, there was a time when we had built up to where we had as many as eighteen (18) to twenty (20) to graduate. And there was liberal arts and there was students in their sixties – I’d say sixty-five (65) on in there – that Lincoln County and other counties too are using the teachers that were trained there, today. Enterprise School, West Lincoln School, Mamie Martin School – so many of our teachers – Bogue Chitto School – are graduates of Whitworth at that time.
OBERSCHMIDT: Now, that was following the Depression when they could not go off and board somewhere. It helped those students.
PHILLIPS: Well, that’s right. Well, a good many of those who were there boarded at Whitworth; however, a good many of them were day students too. But we had quite a few ministerial students there who today are pasturing churches in Louisiana and Alabama and Mississippi too.
OBERSCHMIDT: They always had a good academic course and always had well-educated teachers, I understood, at Whitworth.
PHILLIPS: That’s right.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well the, coming from the Methodists – did you say “Methodist-Protestants?” – what followed that?
PHILLIPS: Well, the Methodist-Protestants just did not have the funds to keep a school up; did not have the funds to develop it; they could not get accreditation because of it, and that was when some Presbyterian persons who were interested to come in with us and see if they could establish a school. Restore buildings and…
OBERSCHMIDT: Does that bring us up to date here?
PHILLIPS: I think it does. It brings us up to this present year when we are into our first year under Presbyterian administration.
OBERSCHMIDT: We have big hopes of building this up to former glory.
PHILLIPS: That’s right.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well, I want to ask a few personal things of you. Now where all did you teach?
PHILLIPS: Well, I taught in Jasper County for the first two (2) years; taught in Yazoo County two (2) more (the third and fourth years). Then I went down on the Coast – taught one (1) year and then the beginning of the second year I went on the twelve (12) months program and then from there, experience of the Coast, I went to Panola County – Pleasant Grove School. It was a demonstration home economic school program, was a twelve (12) months, teaching adults and hight school students. And stayed up there for six (6) years and then, that was when I took a year out and went back to the University of Tennessee and validated my home economics degree. I had wanted to stop in between times but my supervisor wouldn’t let me. Said she didn’t have anybody to take my place and I was doing a creditable job so she just kept me until I just finally took off and went back. And was withing nine (9) hours of a Master’s when I left there but I got off into another field of work with the Farm Security Administration and got to the regional office in Little Rock and found my husband and established my home there. After his death, well, at the time he died I was doing a home economics program on the North Little Rock Housing Authority as a home counselor. And stayed there for nine (9) years. When I came home, came back to Brookhaven in 1949 to keep house for my Daddy and take care of him and when I came home in March of ’49 and after Christmas, then, of ’49, I went and finished out a year of home economics down at East Lincoln School. And then they closed that school and the department was moved over to Enterprise and I went to Enterprise and stayed eighteen (18) years – twelve (12) months in a year – and retired in ’68.
OBERSCHMIDT: That was a wonderful experience. Now talking about your twelve (12) months period, did you have a three (3) months period that you taught classes to just about anybody?
PHILLIPS: I taught adult classes. Well now, down at Enterprise I had my high school classes all in the morning and then after lunch one day a week I had an adult class that came into the home economics department and met. I had a class that met down at Topisaw Community – an adult program. I had a class that met down in Wellman Community and then different areas in the community that…
OBERSCHMIDT: In that beat?
PHILLIPS: In what?
OBERSCHMIDT: In that beat? Were you confined to that beat?
PHILLIPS: That’s right. And then if I was teaching upholstery and there were four or five people came into a home and we had as many as eight or ten there, we called it a class and taught them to upholster. They brought a chair, they brought a couch, or they brought whatever needed to be repaired and we did that. Then if it was sewing or if it was food work and then after we got into this surplus commodity program, you know we had classes with some of these people who were getting commodities who didn’t know how to use whole wheat, didn’t know how to use dry milk, how to use this soybeans and what-have-you, and I taught them to make cottage cheese and how to use the whole wheat flour to make biscuits or breads out of it and how to best cook their soybeans so that they liked them because so may would take this stuff off and swap it to somebody because they didn’t like it.
OBERSCHMIDT: Didn’t know how to use it.
PHILLIPS: Because they didn’t know how to do it and, of course, I taught furniture refinishing – all of that. Everything pertaining to homemaking. That was what it was.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well, that sounds most interesting. That is bordering with the home economist program.
PHILLIPS: That’s right. Just located in one big school community. And I turned down county jobs several times in North Mississippi because I had a better thing of it in just that one community.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well, you could live at home, too. Check on your folks.
PHILLIPS: That’s right. Well of course I had to live at home to do anything I did here because that first year I came home…
OBERSCHMIDT: Just a minute, I’m going to stop this. [Pause in tape]
PHILLIPS: The first year I came home in ’50. Mary Wilson, who was head of the Home Economics Department at MSCW [Mississippi State College for Women], tried to get me to come up there to teach in the school, in the Home Economics Department. I could not leave Daddy and he was not the kind who… She tried to say, “Well, come up here and you can have an apartment and he can live up here.” But that was not the thing. He had to be here because this was home for him. He bought this house in 1893 and lived here all that time. He would not be happy to have gone to Carrie’s and stayed. He wanted to be here and that’s why I sold my house in Little Rock, gave up my job, and came home to take care of him. And he could stay home after he retired. I taught him to refinish furniture and cane chairs and he was busy here all day doing that. But it got to the point in ’68 – he was ninety-five (95) – and every time they came over the intercom, “Mrs. Phillips, somebody wants you at the telephone,” I was just sure something had happened to him, you know, until it wasn’t worth it. I just gave up and came home then.
OBERSCHMIDT: Then was when you retired.
PHILLIPS: And he stayed active then. I came home in July and it was in the – around December when he had a spell of pneumonia and from that he just kept going down. Died then at ninety-seven (97). But I retired a little early because of it. I could have stayed on teaching.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well, he was a remarkable person and you were wonderful to stay, to give all that up to take care of him.
PHILLIPS: Well, he deserved it. He gave the best to me so why not give it back to him?
OBERSCHMIDT: Do you have anything, any anecdotes that you remember your parents telling? Or any kind of medicine or herbs or anything that they used back then in the older days before medicine was quite the thing it is?
PHILLIPS: Well, one of the things I remember about Whitworth so well, I think you’ve read it in the daily news articles, that Aunt Patty Ponds one April… First the girls would get in her room – she had her niece that was in school over there and she’d get in, get Aunt Patty off with something, and the girls would go in and steal her wig and she’d have to stay in her room all day. And she was the study hall teacher and I’ve been interested, she’s listed in the “Leofost.” And I might say that the “Leofost” was the yearbook. It had died out and Gertrude Davis in 1925 revived the “Leofost” as the…
OBERSCHMIDT: Now that was the annual.
PHILLIPS: It was the annual. And she was listed in here as the “Practicing Teacher.”
OBERSCHMIDT: And she later became dean of the women there.
PHILLIPS: She was the one who stayed and kept study hall every night. They had to go up in the auditorium and study hall. And she supervised the study and as I recall, some of them practiced at night in the music rooms. But she was listed as the “Presiding Teacher” but not “Practicing Teacher.”
OBERSCHMIDT: “Presiding Teacher!” They had funny names then, didn’t they?
PHILLIPS: Yes, it was funny names. And some of those earlier courses that they had had such funny names. I wish that I could recall them, but I don’t But they got a “The Arts of Letters” or “The Arts of…” I’ve forgotten some of the others but I remember there was one diploma that was signed “The Arts of Letters.”
OBERSCHMIDT: Now that would be what we call our literary B.S. degree?
PHILLIPS: Yes, that’s right. It must have been in writing or something of that sort, but it was letters. But there are so many things that were back there that as I think about them now I just don’t remember. Some of the funny things I remember too that you know the house where the Roundtable is today, was the hospital = “Infirmary” as we called it – and Dr. Butler was the doctor and I have a lot of times had classmates who were in the infirmary and I’d find out that they were on the pink pills and Dr. Butler always gave you a pink pill when he decided it was homesickness. I had this friend from DeKalb – she was a Stennis girl – who was a good friend of min, home economics classmate – and she’d send word she was in the infirmary to come to see her. Well, I’d find out she was on the pink pills so I’d take her some cake from home or I’d take her something that Mother had here at the house over to see her and we just had a picnic over it. But she got to spend time in the infirmary, even if it was on the pink pills.
OBERSCHMIDT: Time to rest up, I guess. Was she related to our Senator Stennis?
PHILLIPS: Yes, it was very – there was some relation but I’d forgotten what it was.
OBERSCHMIDT: Do you remember anything funny that happened in your younger days that would be of note to tell?
PHILLIPS: Well, I don’t recall that just right now. Someday when I’m thinking back I’ll think of something that I’ll wish I had thought of but I don’t recall a thing right now that would be worth telling.
OBERSCHMIDT: That’s usually the way. Well, I surely thank you for this interview.
i Dr. George Freeman Winfield, President of Whitworth College, 1928-1938.
iv Dr. Robert Sinclair Daniels, Sr., President of Whitworth College, 1938-1960.
Information courtesy of Stewart Angle, President of Whitworth College, 1978.
v Margaret Hall was torn down in the early 1980’s.
vi Johnson Institute is being renovated as of 2003 for use as a classroom building for the new Mississippi School of Fine Arts.
vii The Y-Hut is also being renovated as of 2003 for use as administrative offices for the MS School of Fine Arts.
C2003 Lincoln-Lawrence-Franklin Regional Library