J. WILSON: Peace Corps Oral History Project, October 27, 19--- 2004.Interview with Angene H. Wilson. Would you please give me your full name? 1:00
A. WILSON: Angene Hopkins Wilson.
J. WILSON: And where were you born, Angene?
A. WILSON: I was born on January 3, 1939 in Cleveland, Ohio.
J. WILSON: And tell me something about your family and your growing up.
A. WILSON: Well, I was the oldest of five children and I grew up until Iwent away to college in Lakewood, Ohio which is a western suburb.
J. WILSON: Of Cleveland?
A. WILSON: Of Cleveland, right. And my father was an attorney and mymother was a homemaker. I was active in--on the newspaper--and in choir and those kinds of things when I was in high school, but I also was part of a, oh I think there were other students beside me who went 2:00downtown and worked at settlement houses so I had some interaction with kids that were coming from a different socio-economic class and kids who had moved in from Appalachia from example. And then summer after I was in, I graduated from high school and at least two maybe three other summers I was a camp counselor and water safety instructor at Hiram House Camp which is a settlement camp and which drew on kids from the Cleveland area who otherwise wouldn't have had an opportunity to go to camp including quite a number of African Americans. We also had always 3:00had international counselors at that camp, particularly counselors from Germany who were part of the Cleveland International Program which had been started after World War II as an exchange with Germany.
J. WILSON: And where did you go to college and what did you study?
A. WILSON: I went to the College of Wooster where my parents had goneto school and where my grandparents and cousins still lived, so Wooster was a very familiar place to me.
J. WILSON: And that is located where?
A. WILSON: That's about 65 miles south of Cleveland.
J. WILSON: In Ohio.
A. WILSON: In Ohio, right. And I majored in history and tried to do4:00something different in history. I was interested in sort of the rest of the world and at one point thought maybe I would do my independent study, which is required in junior and senior year at the College of Wooster, on something in India or something more exotic than Western Europe or the US. I never took any US history in college until I was a senior and I knew I had to have it in order to get a teaching certificate. But because I was just interested in other places, but I ended up doing my independent study on France and England anyway because there were many more sources at that time. My, between my junior year and my senior year my father asked me if I would like to go to Europe with Fran Guille who was the French professor and was also a classmate of his. And that was his idea not mine though, 5:00but I was gone for six weeks in the summertime, studied in Paris for four weeks where we couldn't speak anything but French until 10:00 at night and then we were too tired to speak English, and also traveled in Switzerland and Italy and Holland. And that was a real important experience. I remember saying to my father that that was worth at least a semester in college and I knew that he had set a precedent by doing that because he was going to have to do that for my four younger siblings as well, which my parents in fact did do. So that was a highlight I guess of my time in college.
J. WILSON: And you graduated when and--?
A. WILSON: In June of 1961.6:00
J. WILSON: And what kind of jobs or activities did you engage in aftercollege and before Peace Corps?
A. WILSON: Well I started trying to get a job in teaching. I came toteaching late, I mean I knew I had to have something to do and so I did get a teacher certificate with courses and by correspondence and did my student teaching in a little town outside of Wooster. But I did try to get a job while my husband Jack was going to go to graduate school in East Lansing and so I was trying to get some kind of a teaching job and there weren't a whole lot of jobs for social studies teachers. And I was offered a job teaching Latin and I'd had two years 7:00of high school Latin; I certainly didn't want to do that. But finally and I don't remember exactly when it came through but sometime in August right before we were married on the 26th, I got a job teaching social studies, teaching American history and American government, and psychology and sociology, and 8th grade US history at Perry which is a small school outside of East Lansing. Interesting, one of the interesting things about that was that there was a home there for kids whose parents were missionaries in Nigeria who came back to go to high school in Perry. So that I learned some things about Nigeria from those kids; you wouldn't have found in a small rural high school I wouldn't have had that opportunity I guess.
J. WILSON: This was Perry, Michigan?
A. WILSON: This was Perry, Michigan, correct, right.8:00
J. WILSON: Okay, so how did you find out about the Peace Corps and whydid you want to join?
A. WILSON: Well I, we knew about the Peace Corps because of John Kennedyeven though I voted for Nixon because he had more experience which was-- I remember arguing with a high school boyfriend about that the summer before that and because he was a Democrat but my parents were Republicans. And so I made the mistake of voting for Nixon. But when there began to be some information about what the Peace Corps was going to be like and of course it started in March 1, 1961. We somehow, Jack 9:00and I somehow got applications; they were very long to fill out as I recall. We did have some other friends who were thinking about Peace Corps too but we got those applications off fairly early and were, we understand among the first 100 or so people to apply. We stapled our applications together so they'd take us even though we were not married yet because we were planning on getting married in August. And I think that I mean certainly the summer before having gone to France I could see that traveling was going to be real exciting. We did not put down a particular country; I don't think you could do that at that time. We just thought it would be a really exciting thing to do. I think that, and I don't remember the both of us had read that book and how we read The Ugly American, but The Ugly American had been out within the year 10:00before. And so we knew about issues of how we ought to be helping or working with the rest of the world I guess in different ways. And it was sort of an exciting time in terms of things that were happening. I mean the civil rights movement was beginning and we were interested in that and so we applied to the Peace Corps.
J. WILSON: And tell me something about that process and when you went?
A. WILSON: Well we got married on August 26, we went on our honeymoonin Michigan, we came back and we had a telegram that said that we were to report for training in for the Philippines. And but we decided we 11:00couldn't do that; my husband was starting graduate school and I had a job that was starting the next week in Perry, Michigan and we just, we couldn't do that. So we asked if we could be, if we could, our admittance could be delayed, and then we heard in April that we had been chosen to go to Liberia.
J. WILSON: This is April of?
A. WILSON: Of '62. And it was right before I was going to have tosign a contract for the next year and I know the people at the school thought I was kind of crazy. And the same things were, my husband was in the middle of a master's degree and they thought he was crazy. And actually we had to break a contract that we had signed with a camp, I don't even remember where the camp was--someplace in the east--where we were going to be camp counselors for the summer. And they weren't very 12:00happy with us about that either. But anyway we said yes we would do that and went to training in Pittsburgh in June and by right before our anniversary in late August we were in Liberia.
J. WILSON: Can you tell me something about your Peace Corps training?What was that like?
A. WILSON: Well in those days the Peace Corps training was prettyacademic and it was in terms of a teaching style it was stand and deliver. I mean we had lots and lots of speakers, many good ones, we had-- I think the person who was at that point secretary of education for Liberia came; we had anthropologists like James Gibbs and Warren D'Azevedo who had done field work in Liberia and talked to us about 13:00culture. We had classes in educational techniques; I had already taught and that was an advantage. I remember distinctly them telling us and showing us a new technology which was the overhead projector, of course we couldn't use the overhead projector in Liberia. Our, the education folks were pretty-- There was one at least Pappas, who was pretty creative and had some creative ideas I think. And we also had, you know, physical training; we were supposed to do the exercises in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or I don't know something like that handbook. And then we also were evaluated by psychologists who thought 14:00that having twelve couples in this group of 100 trainees was kind of strange. They hadn't had that many couples before and one of the famous things that we did was they wanted to interview us separately and the couples all decided that was a, you know, ploy to find out something about us, you know, about each other from each spouse. And we decided we wouldn't do that. At that point the psychologists had quite a bit to do with who got selected and who got deselected. And I don't remember; there were some people who were deselected; I don't remember the details about that. But we also had kind of a good time; we played lots of hearts, we got to know people in our group pretty well and we were proud of being the first group to go to Liberia. We 15:00went on a prop plane 23 hour flight with one stop to Monrovia, we took a white chicken with us and when we got off the plane we presented that, that was the thing to do, to present a white chicken to I think the secretary of education came to meet the plane as I recall. And that was, that was exciting.
J. WILSON: And so you were the first group into Liberia. How large wasthe group and when did you actually arrive there?
A. WILSON: Oh in late August, the group was not quite 100; I think wewere maybe 95 or something like that. I don't remember the exact--
J. WILSON: Of 1962?
A. WILSON: Yeah the group one, right.
J. WILSON: And when you arrived in country, what happened? Where did youserve and--? 16:00
A. WILSON: Yeah we went to BWI for some in country training a little bitand that was--
J. WILSON: BWI?
A. WILSON: Booker Washington Institute in Kalata which is maybe 30miles from Monrovia, we were sleeping on army cots and that was-- And it was pretty much camping out. Then we were assigned to a National Convention Baptist boarding school about 25 miles northwest of Monrovia on the way to Bopolu. The village of Suehn itself was a Gola village; the boarding school had been started by a missionary by the name of Mother Mae and that was in the 1930s. She was a superintendent and at 17:00that point was also mostly working with the clinic. I think at that point she may have been as old as 65 and we saw her as being very old but then we were very young. There was, not when we got there, but soon after Gladys East came back from leave and she was the principal and had grown up actually in South Africa. And then there were two other missionaries from the US and the school was boarding school but was essentially kindergarten through 12th grade. There were a number of Liberian teachers who had college education. Esther Roberts did 18:00the kindergarten and had, oh I don't know, several hundred children in that. Then Florence Davis who was one of the-- And I think probably, I think Esther maybe was also an adopted child of Mother Mae. Mother Mae had not just girls but was particularly interested in girls getting an education and to talk to the Gola chiefs about wanting girls to get education. And Florence was not the first, I think Shirley Davis who was before our time was another girl that she got educated. But Florence actually went to the United States to go to college and she had recently come back when we were there and she was a real important person in terms of being a, I think helping Mother Mae understand 19:00our foibles and probably helping us understand Liberia. I think you always have to have somebody who you can, who sort of you can talk to who knows a little bit about the culture but also knows something about your culture. And there were no other Americans or no other white people there at that time; we were it. And we were obviously different from the missionaries. I think we--both of us--have pointed out to ourselves in reflecting upon that experience that we really had two cross cultural experiences in Liberia. One was with African Americans and the other was with Liberians. And although there are 20:00some commonalities there were also differences and so we were learning about these African American missionaries and their particular take on things. We were also learning about so called "Americo Liberians" who were descendents of settlers and who'd come from the United States. And then we were learning about kids whose background was growing up in a Gola village and so maybe we even had three cross cultural experiences.
J. WILSON: So your students were from more than the local village?
A. WILSON: Oh yeah, our students were from lots of different placesand lots of different ethnic backgrounds, particularly the high school 21:00students. And there were some that were from Monrovia because their parents thought it was safer and better for them to be out in the bush than in Monrovia. So we had a diversity of kids with, I mean some of our-- One of our high school students who later came to the United States to go to college had actually lived in the United States when her mother had been going to school in the US. And another student in the same class as Dorothy, Hawa Sherman came from a family that was very politically involved at that point and later and would have been classified as Americo Liberian. On the other hand, one of the students that we helped go to school in Liberia and later college education and 22:00have kept in contact since then and is our Liberian son as it were, came from a village and was the son of one of the wives of his father. And there were other kids who came from similar backgrounds.
J. WILSON: So more specifically what was your job?
A. WILSON: I was teaching social studies and I taught as I recall, Ithink I only taught five classes. So I'm not sure which of the grades 7-12 I didn't teach because I remember teaching a 7th grade. So maybe I didn't teach the 8th grade, I'm not sure. But I was teaching social studies; so I was teaching world history, Liberian history, social 23:00studies in general. I was very lucky; I know that very quickly in a few years after Peace Corps started there were--nobody was teaching social studies because social studies was about a country's history and government and its relationship with the rest of the world typically. And that's not something most countries want to put in the hands of someone who's not a citizen of the country. So I was incredibly lucky to get to teach social studies and therefore have to learn a lot about African history. And that was probably the most exciting part of my teaching because I went down to Monrovia looking for things and I bought West Africa Magazine when it came out and at that point they had regular features on history written by the eminent British historian Basil Davidson. I found in a Muslim bookstore two books by 24:00him, one about West Africa and one about the slave trade which I mined for information. And I also tried to learn Liberian history; there were textbooks about Liberian history. Pretty much slanted toward the settler, Americo Liberia perspective, but we did do in class-- For example I think the 7th graders wrote a book about Suehn history and went and interviewed people about history. So it was really lots of fun to teach history and to look for materials. We didn't have much besides the blackboard and we got some newsprint and so we--I put that 25:00up. I don't even remember whether that was on kind of an easel or how we put that up. But I made a map of Africa, the students all had to learn all the countries of Africa and the capitals, and we did role plays. We have a slide of one of the students acting as President Tubman, one acting as Sekou Toure, and one acting as Kwame Nkumah because this was also a very exciting time in African history. All the countries were getting their independence; of course Liberia had been independent like Ethiopia. But Ghana had gotten independence recently and Nigeria got its independence in 1960 and then others followed. So we learned a lot together.
J. WILSON: What about your living conditions?26:00
A. WILSON: We lived on the second floor of a building that lookedlike it belonged in the southern part of the United States--had a porch up and down, two rooms, three rooms downstairs. One was the clinic, one was something we turned into the library, and another was the classroom. Upstairs we had a bedroom with two iron single beds that we pushed together that had straw mattresses that weren't real comfortable. And then we had sort of an interior room that sometimes we used as a classroom, and a porch on the front, and a porch on the side. And on the porch on the side we put a table and chairs and that's where we usually did most of our grading papers and where we ate meals. And then on the porch, the porch we used for hanging 27:00our laundry, for ironing. I was ironing with a charcoal iron, and sometimes if it was rainy season you could stick--or I could stick my head out over the porch and wash my hair in the rain. And we had a small kitchen; we actually had a kerosene stove. And we had a bathroom with a toilet and a sink but no running water. We did have a barrel at the top of the stairs that little boys brought buckets of water and filled the barrel. And then sometimes they would heat up water and bring it up for a smoky bath in about two inches of water maybe. And we had a refrigerator--that was a kerosene refrigerator. That was a big, good sized refrigerator that we-- I don't remember exactly what 28:00we did put in the refrigerator. I guess we had water. We had to boil our water and filter our water and that was a big job. We had to get up there and you got up in the morning you had to put on a big pot with water and boil it for 20 minutes and then put it through the filter and then we would get Log Cabin syrup bottles and fill them water and put them in the fridge so we had cold water. And one of the things that we didn't keep that tradition when we came back to the States, but I know that Liberian friends who've come here, you know, I'm often asked, "Well where's your water in the refrigerator?" because that was a tradition at the school too and with people who had a refrigerator and could have boiled filtered water.
J. WILSON: What would you say was the most difficult thing to adjust to29:00in Liberia?
A. WILSON: Well I don't know what the most difficult thing to adjust toactually. The--
J. WILSON: You adjusted easily?
A. WILSON: I think, well I think we were lucky because we were marriedand we could talk to each other and we also had jobs to do teaching. And so while we might occasionally be frustrated by differences with the way we saw what ought to happen in teaching and what was required. I mean we caused a big fuss at one point because we got really--I got 30:00really upset because when the kids-- And I don't remember now whether this was for discipline or whether it was bad grades. It seems to me it was bad grades; they got rapped on the knuckles with a rattan by Mother Mae and I thought that was just awful. Maybe Miss East did it, I don't remember. And we complained about that and I think about that now because teaching a course on cross cultural education for students who student teach overseas, I am aware of differences in how discipline is done in other countries and so forth. But we were very idealistic and naive and I think, I mean one can only imagine the kinds of discussions that Mother Mae and Miss East must have had about us because the Peace Corps required that we have a stove and I 31:00think they provided the refrigerator. But we found out much, much, much later probably when we went home I think that the stove that the mission brought down for us was the one they were using to boil the water for the bottles for the babies. I mean you know Mother Mae was still running an orphanage up the hill. I think, I think the Peace Corps was-- Well I know the Peace Corps gave us more in those early days than people got later. They were concerned about what we were going to do so they gave us a book locker that had, I don't know 50, 75 books in it and I think we got a desk that was in pieces that we had to put together that they ordered from Sears or something. Is that right? 32:00I can't remember. And I don't know why we needed that; I mean we had a table. But I guess all of that to say that I was not by myself so I think that made a big difference. We were at a boarding school where we had jobs to do and that made a big difference. And we had wonderful Liberian colleagues as teachers, several of whom were college educated, four or five of them. And so we had people that we could talk with and in that, I mean host country nationals, and that made a big difference too. So I guess what I'm saying is there were a lot of reasons why our 33:00adjustment was not so difficult.
J. WILSON: And so you feel you were well prepared to go to Liberia?
A. WILSON: I think so in terms of the culture. I think we were fairlywell prepared. Looking back, there are things that we didn't know but then at that point anthropologists weren't focusing so much on the fact that women did farming and some of those things that I've learned since I guess. We knew about the secret societies and we were smart enough that when the kids well say, "Well you could go down to Suehn Town because the bush devils are out but they won't both you." To think, "Well no, you know maybe that's not such a smart thing to do." I mean I 34:00think we had a healthy respect for what the culture was and my husband found out that when a couple of his basketball players had-- I don't even remember whether they were sprained ankles or were there broken bones or whatever, there were specialists in a village--a neighboring village--who were bone specialists essentially and were very good at setting bones. And so I think that those are examples of the fact that we had learned something about the culture and we respected that.
J. WILSON: Can you tell me what a typical day would be like?
A. WILSON: Well, in Liberia and the tropics near the equator the sun35:00comes up about 6-6:30 and sets about 6-6:30 and so my husband would get up really early, sometimes as early as 5:30 I think to coach basketball. I would get up and I guess probably get breakfast. I don't even remember what we had for breakfast. I mean we had oatmeal sometimes or I-- I don't remember. Or I might be baking bread and boiling water, doing those kinds of things. And then school started about 7:30 and went till about 1:30 so we would be, you know we would be teaching during those hours. And then in the afternoon there were extra curricular activities and I taught cooking to the girls. And so they might come up and be cooking or we would be doing things just to live. Like somebody did wash our clothes in the creek but I did the 36:00ironing and I would-- We had other projects like we developed a library so might be supervising some kids who were working in the library. And we had, we'd eat lunch, we might walk up the road to see some friends. Once we bought the grapefruit on a grapefruit tree from some folks who lived up the road. A number of the teachers lived up the road. I don't think we too often walked as far as Mecca which was the Muslim town that was some miles up the road. But there might be soccer games or basketball games or volleyball games going on. And sometimes the kids would come down to the, students would come down to our house 37:00because we'd let them play ELBC which was the government radio station instead of the mission station. And so they might be able to get away with dancing at our house. And so I think those are about what we did. We did other extra curricular activities. Jack directed a play. I'm trying to think what other kinds of things like that. Yeah, I mentioned the library I think before.
J. WILSON: So what did you do for recreation?
A. WILSON: Well I've already said we've walked up the road. We wentswimming in the creek; we were less than or at 25 miles from the coast so there wasn't supposed to be schistosomaisis and so we did go swimming when it was rainy season. Rainy season's about half the year 38:00in Liberia and that doesn't mean it rains all the time but it rains a lot. Sometimes the road flooded and kids couldn't get to school, couldn't get down to-- Well if they were walking from up the road down to school. We went on hikes with people to-- Once we went on a hike to a village where some of our students were doing a church service. Once we-- A couple of times I think we went on a hike to Alfred Kennedy's village and then sometimes we went to Monrovia with the school truck or the school bus. And then occasionally at one point, occasionally we got rides from somebody up country. And I think we even had access 39:00to a Jeep for a little while so we could get into Monrovia and go to Aboujadi's, the Lebanese supermarket, and buy things there that you could get in the United States. I mean particularly I remember we could get things like pudding cakes which were something out. They don't even have them any more. And brownies and cake mixes, we could buy those. We could buy-- There was no market near where we were really. You could buy oranges from women who sat under the tree and sold things like that. But we could buy oranges in Monrovia. We got pineapples from somebody, one of our teachers who had a pineapple farm up the road. But when we went into Monrovia we might see other volunteers, we might go out to Oscar's which was a Swiss guy who had 40:00a restaurant on the beach and have a steak. And sometimes we went to visit other volunteers. At the school breaks we were supposed to have other projects and one of our friends in Careysburg. I think they were building latrines and we went and helped do that. And another time we went all the way to the far what east of the country. Another time we went up to Gbarnga and we went actually. Well I guess you're going to ask me about travel but we also did some travel outside the country.
J. WILSON: Well go ahead and tell me about your outside Liberia travels.41:00
A. WILSON: Well we did a trip-- We were trying to go to Timbuktu andwe didn't get to Timbuktu but we did go up country in Liberia through Gbarnga, through Voijama and Kolahun, got the train which was still running in Sierra Leone at that point at Pendembu and took the train all the way to Freetown which as I recall was about 18 hours or something--very slow. I think we could go faster probably on the road. We got to Freetown and we took a taxi to Conakry, the capital of Guinea, got to Guinea late at night and went and found somebody who was with the American embassy and I think threw stones at his window or something in order to get his attention. And we were starving and he left us for some reason to go do something and told us to eat what 42:00we-- Find what we could in the refrigerator and eat it, and he was an embassy person and so we figured he had, you know, he had lots of food and he had lots of eggs. So we made Jack Soldate, there were three of us traveling together, and Jack Soldate who was the other person made omelets and we found out that when he got home that those were eggs that had just been flown in from Paris. And so we were totally, well we were very sorry. But that was when Guinea was still suffering because they became independent in 1958 I think and the French just left them and pulled out everything and they tore down all the statues of French generals and so forth and they really didn't have much in stores at all. We got on a train which was a Lumuba train named after 43:00the short lived leader in Congo and went to Kankan by train. And then we took a big truck and sat in the back of that truck and went to Bamako which is the capitol of Mali. And in Bamako discovered that the water was too low in the Niger River and we couldn't go to Timbuktu. So we flew back to Dakar and did we fly back to Dakar or did we take a train? I'm not sure actually. And then flew back to Monrovia. Because I think we took a boat, maybe we took a boat back. But I was thinking we took a boat to Nigeria. Anyway I think maybe we took a plane. 44:00But anyway it was a very interesting trip. Probably the best story from that trip is that we were at the border between Guinea and Mali and the gendarmes stopped us. And I don't remember at that point we were on a truck, and so I don't remember--I guess we had to go through customs. And so Jack Soldate took a picture and the gendarmes had a fit and were going to carry us off to whatever the nearest town was. And luckily for us the Mali ambassador or the Liberian ambassador to Mali or the Mali ambassador to Liberia--that's what it was--was returning from Bamako driving and came through and said, "Oh these 45:00are Peace Corps people. These are all right. These people--" Because there wasn't any Peace Corps in Mali or Guinea at that point and so he vouched for us and we got out of that place. The other thing I remember, I think that was at that border not at the-- It was the border with Sierra Leone I think where we stayed overnight and slept in the customs person's house. But I think that was the place where he was going through everything and the kind of birth control I was using at that point was a diaphragm and you know I couldn't explain what that was to him. Anyway, but that was a really interesting trip because although there were certainly Muslims in Liberia and the school cook was Muslim and it wasn't that we didn't know anything about Muslims, 46:00but Guinea and Mali were really Muslim countries and so they stopped to pray five times a day and they stopped to get water so they would wash before they prayed. And that was a really interesting trip. It's one of those things that you look back on and think, "Oh how did we do that? And was that a good thing to do?" But in West Africa at that point it seemed as though it was safe to travel that way and I don't remember seeing other Europeans as everybody was ----------(??) you really whether you were an American or a European. On that trip except in Conakry with that embassy person, but it was a--
J. WILSON: Side two of interview with Angene Wilson. Angene, you were47:00talking about you travel.
A. WILSON: Travel, and that that was a very interesting trip. We endedup in Dakar. And I should say about Dakar that one of the things we did was we went out to Goree Island and that was our first experience seeing something that had to do with the slave trade and that certainly made an impression on us. Our other big trip was going to Nigeria in January of 1964. We went to Nigeria and spent a month traveling around by train. We took the train from Lagos to Ibadan; we spent a wonderful time in the University of Abaddon bookstore getting all 48:00kinds of Nigerian literature, African literature, history. We went to Oshogbo and got, bought current poetry and plays. I mean Wole Soyinka was writing at that point, Chinua Achebe. It was just fantastically exciting. Black Orpheus was a magazine that was being printed. We brought back a huge box of books. And then we went on up to, went north to Kano to the Hausa/Fulani region and saw the big mosque in Kano and came back by train through Jos down to Enugu, visited the University of Nigeria there. Went across from Enugu into Cameroon, 49:00went up from Mamfe to Batibo and Bamenda on the road that was up on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and was down on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and visited good friends of ours from college who were Peace Corps volunteers in Batibo at a boarding school there teaching and who had had a baby during Peace Corps. And so that was really exciting to see them. And came back then through Enugu and stopped in Onitsha, stopped in Benin, saw the-- A lot of, for me I think one of the exciting things about being in Nigeria was all the history and I was beginning to learn about what the Benin Empire was and we got to go and see that and see-- Actually buy and have to take to the museum in Lagos a couple 50:00of bronze statues that were made by the lost wax process; we had to take the statues to the museum to be sure that we could take them out of the country, that they weren't that old. And so that was a very exciting trip. We had some-- We stayed with friends, I don't remember now whether they were in Kano or Kaduna, a volunteer who had been in our group and then married a staff person and they were--he was then a Peace Corps person for the north and we stayed with them. We stayed in an awful hotel in Jos. We stayed with some, I don't know how we found those people, some people who were associated with the church someplace and I have a picture of that church someplace in eastern Nigeria. And 51:00so anyway that was a great trip. Then on our way back we were flying I think and stopped in Abidjan and spent a day or two in Abidjan. It was interesting to see the difference with Dakar and Abidjan particularly and what a francophone--a country that had been under the French colonial rule--how that differed from say Nigeria and Sierra Leone, and then how those all differed from Liberia which was the closest thing to an American colony.
J. WILSON: You mentioned earlier something about boiling water foryour drinking at your assignment and about shopping in the capital for things like brownies and cake mixes and so forth. But can you tell me something more about what you actually ate or what your food was and 52:00how you ate and drank--what you drank in your travels?
A. WILSON: Well that's a good question. And I don't know how-- Wellthere was no bottled water then that was safe, and so really what you drank was soft drinks. You drank coke and fanta--orange fanta and we drank boiled water. We sometimes tried to make milk with -- Carnation had some dried milk that would make milk that you could drink if it had some chocolate in it or if-- Or you could use for cereal. We got can-- We ate a lot of rice. I don't know how many times a week we would have had rice but probably four or five I would think. We didn't 53:00eat it absolutely every day or for every meal like Liberians do but we ate it a lot. We occasionally had meat or chicken because the mission had a farm and had cows and had chickens. I made bread regularly. I suppose we probably bought peanut butter but I don't remember. I don't remember that but I think we could probably get peanut butter. And we didn't eat a lot-- I didn't fix a lot of Liberian food. We ate Liberian food, we ate palm butter with chicken, we ate-- I didn't really like cassava leaf but potato greens --it was okay. Because what 54:00most Liberians eat is rice with some kind of soup on it with dried fish which I wasn't fond of either. And one of the funny things was that Mother Mae sent us some liver once when they killed a calf. Now I like liver actually, I grew up eating liver but Jack didn't think that was really that exciting. So does that answer your question about food?
J. WILSON: You also mentioned earlier something about some of yourfellow teachers. But can you expand on your relationships with host nationals? Did you actually consider those teachers your counterparts?
A. WILSON: Yeah I think we were extremely lucky in having wonderfulwhat Peace Corps would call counterparts--people who had college 55:00educations and were definitely our peers. I know that sometimes Peace Corps volunteers were in situations if they were doing say community development where they wouldn't be in situations where they would have a lot maybe to-- The people wouldn't be at the same, wouldn't have the same kinds of education and so that meant that it was-- You had to go maybe to expatriates to find people to talk to about certain kinds of things. But that was not true for us and besides Florence who I've mentioned and who then went to live in England and actually we went to see her, stayed with her and her husband on our way home from Peace Corps in 1964. She's somebody we've kept in contact ever 56:00since and spent a week with us last spring when she was back here. And Bibi Roberts who was the biology teacher and the farm manager again is somebody that we have kept contact with over all these years and who visited us when he was doing his master's work in Virginia in the 1980s and then whose son came and went to Berea College here and lived with us for a year and his mother came and stayed with us at one point when he was getting married. And now they're back here because their son has just become a citizen and they can stay and those kinds of connections have just been wonderful. I've mentioned Alfred Kennedy; those kinds of friendships have been wonderful. I mentioned Alfred 57:00Kennedy earlier; he lives in London now. We speak, you know, every month or so and he did his master's here in the United States at the University of Kentucky, as a matter of fact. So, and they're not the only ones. We went to a Suehn Academy Reunion several years ago.
J. WILSON: Suehn Academy was the school?
A. WILSON: Was the school.
J. WILSON: Name of the school.
A. WILSON: Suehn Industrial Academy because everybody worked; that's whyit was an industrial academy sort of modeled after Tuskegee actually. And so several years ago we went to this reunion and saw people that we hadn't seen since we were teaching and that was both a teacher and a number of students. And that was absolutely wonderful to see these folks, and one of the things we were able to do because of the war has meant that some of those folks don't have pictures from 40 years from 58:00when they were in school or in one case pictures of a family. And we were able to give the Suehn Industrial Academy Association--Suehn Association is what it's called. We were able to give the Suehn Association a whole carousel of slides of 1962 to 1964; lots of pictures of students and activities at the--and teachers' activities at the school.
J. WILSON: What about interactions with other Americans, Peace Corpspeople or?
A. WILSON: Yeah, right. Well again the Americans who were AfricanAmericans who were running the school were people that we have kept contact with, particularly Miss East who died just a few years ago. But ironically just this year we discovered that one of the people 59:00who had been there as a missionary for a year when we were there is now living in Kentucky. And so I didn't--wasn't able to go up there but my husband took Bibi and Jemima. Bibi was the biology teacher and Jemima was one of our students whom he later married and who are in the States now. He took them up to see her and that was a real, real reunion. So we had relationships there; we had good relationships with the people who were our Peace Corps staff and kept those relationships for some time. The director, the associate director, the doctor, those folks were terrific. And then the Peace Corps volunteers themselves we had 60:00very good friends, Jack Soldate who lived up the road in Bopolu who later worked for CARE. Our, several couples--two couples that we just saw a summer a year ago when we went out to Portland for the National Peace Corps Association Conference; they weren't there but we stayed with one couple for several days in Nebraska on the way back and saw another couple while we were out there. And so those kinds of again connections and friendships we've kept.
J. WILSON: Are there any particularly memorable stories that you wouldlike to share?
A. WILSON: Well I think the story from being on that trip is a good one.61:00We weren't quite as adventuresome as a couple of our colleagues who became infamous because they went across the Sahara Desert. But we, those trips were really special kinds of things I think. I suppose one thing that one became aware of when one was living in Liberia was that death was not something that was antiseptic and away from you. And that happened because while on occasion we were lucky and our CPR that we had learned saved a person that had almost drowned in the creek, on 62:00another occasion a student who was epileptic we didn't get out of the creek in time. We didn't know to get out in time and he died and was lying on a bench on the first floor of our house before they then took him back to the village to be buried. And also just seeing the sick people come in to Mother Mae's clinic, the babies; you knew that life was a lot less for certain in Liberia, that it was possible for little babies to die because of the measles or the chicken pox. And childhood diseases that we didn't have to worry about and we had to-- We took 63:00our malaria suppressants faithfully and we managed to not get malaria. But again you knew that that was something that people had to live with and suffer through. Just getting to know all kinds of people, one-- I've talked about our colleagues, the teachers that we were good friends with. But I don't want to imply that just because somebody didn't have a college education wasn't somebody we got to know. Ma Becky who was an old woman who lived down the road would come and ask us for some rice and we would give her rice in a Ritz cracker tin that was empty and then she would tell stories. And the little boys would come and sit on our porch and she would tell stories in Gola with the 64:00local language with motions. You know she was, you knew she was a rowing a canoe or whatever else was happening. And we at one point tried as an extra activity to do some teaching of English and we got to know people like Papa Musa who was the cook and who was Muslim. And so there were, there were those kinds of experiences as well. We learned about a different kind of, way of celebrating your religion and that was, that was a challenge. Sometimes I think we would have preferred 65:00to just stay in our house and play a tape--or I would have--of play a tape of Bach organ music on a tape recorder. But we did go to church sometimes; we did occasionally go and see what was going on at the revivals. And those were important kinds of things for our students and that was an education for us too--how to deal with differences in the way people practice their religion. We, one of our choir director who was an African American woman from Philadelphia, wouldn't look at the Club brewery as we went by going into Monrovia, and we just thought 66:00that was kind of silly I guess but anyway we survived.
J. WILSON: So what was it like coming home to the US? You terminatedin 1964.
A. WILSON: And we traveled in Europe. We got our-- We spent our, Ithink our allowance that we got. We got $75 as a month as I recall put in our savings account and we spent one of those, to spent $1500 to buy a Volkswagen bug. We picked it up in Rome, we went to Athens, Greece, met my brother who was staying with my host brother from Greece who had lived with our family for a year. Went to Turkey to visit another Turkish friend, went to Bulgaria and visited a family friend of Jack's 67:00and drove through Yugoslavia, went to Austria, Germany, shipped our car home from Hamburg then went to London and were with this Liberian friend. And then, and that was a good thing to do--to travel before we went home I think. We got home and that would have been late summer I guess, and one of the first things we did was go to Vermont to see my sister who was in training to go to Afghanistan.
J. WILSON: With the Peace Corps.
A. WILSON: In Vermont with the Peace Corps, right. And then we wentback to Michigan because Jack wanted to finish his master's, I had just barely started mine and I had gotten an assistantship somehow and so I was able to finish my master's that year. And I think that was probably good. What helped me was that I decided at that point that I was going to do my master's in African studies although it wasn't 68:00really such a thing it was really in history. But I took, I think I only took one course that wasn't--didn't have to do with Africa. I took African geography from Harm DeBlij; I took African Anthropology, several courses from Swartz. I took African History from Hooker, all of whom were very, very good and then I did my master's thesis on the image of Africa in American textbooks from the beginning to 1965. And so I was really able to be learning more about Africa taking off from what I had learned in Liberia and that was really, really nice. I think we were-- One of the reactions that most people have when they come back from a so called developing country is that we just have so 69:00much and that's crazy. You go to a store and why do we need 50 kinds of cereal or whatever. And I think that's something that we felt too.
J. WILSON: What do you think the impact of your Peace Corps service wason the country where you served or for the people?
A. WILSON: I think that the impact on the people was on individuals;there's no question about that. The school where we taught has been, I mean it's-- The war ended the school. So, but you think about the students that you affected and as a teacher later then for the rest of 70:00my life I know that that's one of the real joys of being a teacher is that you know--sometimes you don't know--but lots of times you do find out what an impact you've had on students. So I think for those of us who were teachers it was fairly easy to say that we had an impact on some students.
J. WILSON: And what would you say the impact was on you?
A. WILSON: Well I think both my husband and I would say that it changedour lives. I mean obviously I came back and did a master's in African Studies. We've often talked about, "What would have happened if we had gone to the Philippines?" And I don't know because for me Africa became a real focus intellectually and academically. And so after we had our two children and we went back, of course we also the fact that 71:00we went back with Peace Corps, we went to Sierra Leone. I actually taught African history -- again I was very lucky -- at a teacher training college in Bo and so continued to learn and keep up on African history. And then got a chance to go to, when we went to Fiji and Jack was Director there, why I got a chance to teach in a teacher training college in Fiji again using some of my Africa knowledge and learning more about the South Pacific.
J. WILSON: So you went back with the Peace Corps?
A. WILSON: Yeah, what happened was we came home in '64, my husbandfinished his master's that summer of '65, we moved to Cleveland where 72:00he got a job. Our first child was born there. I actually, that summer before our daughter was born, worked on a world history course and did the Africa unit for that course for my old high school and then that next year did some teaching of that. And that was a pretty good unit actually. There are still things from that that are usable, that are good. Then we went to Sierra Leone from '66 to '68, from '68-'69 we were in Washington D. C.; that's when our second daughter was born. In 1970 we went to Fiji and were there for two years. And one of the things that happened because of my experience in Sierra Leone and Fiji was that I really found I really liked teaching teachers. And so when we ended up after a, well I guess not quite a year, almost 73:00a year in 1972 living in our family farm, then we-- When my husband went to work for the Environmental Protection Agency in Columbus, why I was at a loss what to do next, couldn't really-- I really didn't think at that point that I could go on in African history; it was at a time when African American studies was starting. There was really an emphasis on African Americans in African history. I applied for a job at Denison University to teach and it was clear that they didn't--that 74:00I didn't have, I didn't have what they needed in terms of they were looking for somebody that was African American. And so I began to think about other kinds of things I could do and I went down to Ohio State off the street totally, found out that in order to teach-- I had some strange idea I might teach elementary school and found out that was crazy because I would have to do all kinds of other things, take all kinds of course, and so I walked in, talked to somebody about doing a doctorate in teacher education and that's what I ended up doing. And then I finished that in 1975, again my dissertation was related to how do you teach about Africa. And started at the University of 75:00Kentucky as an assistant professor, or as an instructor and then an assistant professor in 1975-76 and have just retired from teaching for 29 years and teaching about Africa fairly regularly in methods class and occasionally an actual course. And will be teaching history of Africa, the first time the history department has actually offered that next spring. So in terms of professionally that's--Africa--my experience in Liberia started a career that had a lot of connections with Africa. I took teachers to Nigeria on a Fulbright group projects in 1980. I had a Fulbright--I was a Fulbright scholar in Ghana for 76:00six months in 1997 and have had Ghanaian doctoral students. And we've hosted African students, we've hosted students from South Africa, from other African countries--Tanzania and I've been now to--had a chance to go to Zimbabwe and Tanzania and Kenya. So it obviously changed my life and had a big impact on my career.
J. WILSON: What kind of impact do you think the Peace Corps had on yourfamily?
A. WILSON: Well because when we went back to Sierra Leone and then endedup in Fiji we had two young children, it had an impact on them. Our 77:00daughter--older daughter--Miatta has an African name. It was a Gola name which means second daughter and she was the first daughter but we liked Miatta better than Siata which is first daughter. And when we went to Sierra Leone we discovered it was also a Mende name, not only a Gola name but a Mende name which means over there. And so she went to Cameroon for a summer after she was in--when she was in graduate school, and said that she could-- It was interesting to her because she was with another student who had never been to Africa and she said, "I know I was only three when I left Sierra Leone." Of course we had lots of African students in our house over the years, but nevertheless she said she somehow felt comfortable there and I think that's kind of neat and interesting. And then of course both of them were with us when we 78:00were in Fiji and were sort of Peace Corps kids. I think they always felt that was part of their growing up. So I-- And now they, I mean Miatta goes to Guatemala every year with mission trips and Cheryl has- -they've hosted international students. And Cheryl did her master's in anthropology and did her internship in Sweden and so, you know, clearly the fact that they had lived overseas and then we had continued to have lots of international connections has had an impact on them.
J. WILSON: What about the family you came from?
A. WILSON: Well my sister went into the Peace Corps and she met herhusband there in Afghanistan. He was from Iowa originally and my 79:00brother's-- Two of my brothers came to visit us in Sierra Leone and we sent them off in the Land Rover, took Kabala and they still talk about that because we lived there for a while and we didn't think it was such a big deal but obviously it was to them. And so it's interesting to think about that is an African experience that my youngest brother who now works for the World Bank and flies first class to Ethiopia that I know that he at least was in a Jeep on a road to Kabala and so he does know what some other things were like even though he wasn't a Peace Corps volunteer. And I think it had a big impact on my parents as well; my parents actually came to see us in both Sierra Leone and 80:00in Fiji. And they of course had had family members who had--my mother particularly--who had traveled and so they-- That's why they thought it was important for-- I give them the credit for starting me on traveling when I went to France. So yes I think it had an impact on my extended, my family as well. I should probably also say that I had a cousin who went into the Peace Corps as a volunteer in Peru and met his wife there. And another cousin in that family's son went to Guatemala and met his wife there, and her step-sister is a good friend now and was in Peace 81:00Corps in Fiji. And so there's, there is a culture of international kinds of things in our family that goes beyond, that is Peace Corps but also goes beyond Peace Corps because my oldest younger brother lives in Scotland now and has lived, and is actually a citizen of the United Kingdom and has lived there since 1980. So that's international too.
J. WILSON: You've said a little something about your internationalinvolvement since Peace Corps, but do you still look forward to anything international?
A. WILSON: Oh absolutely. We have a time share in Aruba and I think82:00that was tempting because it was international as opposed to being in Florida or something like that. You have to have a passport to get there. And we have gone there-- Well this will be our fourth year for the first week, this time two weeks in January. We have plans to go visit my brother and his wife in Scotland probably sometime next year, maybe next fall. We just hosted the sister, the wife and her sister of a South African student of mine last week for a week. And we're going to see another South African student for whom we were host family. In a couple of weeks in Washington D. C. and we're planning to go to South Africa in early 2006 and they're just-- We've been to Jamaica, we've 83:00been to Cuba, and some other places in the Caribbean. And there are lots of other places to go. I was talking to a colleague this morning who was telling me about they've had a lot of applications for the trip for teachers for China next summer and I'm jealous -- I would love to go to China sometime. So absolutely we'll definitely be traveling.
J. WILSON: What do you think the impact of Peace Corps service has beenon the way you view the world?
A. WILSON: Well I think it has been very important. One of the waysit has been important is that we were in Peace Corps in Liberia, well and also in Sierra Leone actually, but particularly in Liberia during the March on Washington, during the-- When the four little girls in 84:00Birmingham were murdered, and that had a big impact on us because we saw how the rest of the world was seeing us. And I will never forget Henrietta White whom I saw actually a couple of years ago saying after the four little girls saying, "We've got to pray for those people," meaning those white people, those racist white people. And it impacted us immediately actually when we moved to Cleveland because we didn't 85:00live on the west side. We decided to live in shaker communities on the east side which was an integrated, planned, integrated neighborhood and we got involved there. And I think if we had stayed in Shaker would have stayed there because that was important to us. We had Liberians visiting us and we wanted them to visit us in a place where there were not just-- We wanted to live in a place and bring up our kids in a place but also live in a place where there weren't just white people. And our landlady who lived upstairs was African American. And so it had an impact on our way of looking at the United States too. And that's partly connected to Africa because I agree with Edward Said in 86:00Cultural and Imperialism and Chinua Achebe when he writes about the impact that the, that Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness has had on us as Americans and the way we look at Africa. I'm just-- It also has an impact on us I think because we know so many people, not just Liberians but other people from Africa, we can't be Afro pessimists; we have to be Afro optimists. And beyond that in terms of the wider world, I'm a member and my husband has been a member too of the board of the United Nations Association and we believe in multilateral ways of looking at 87:00the world rather than just unilaterally and has a big influence on our politics. I mean we worked for the McGovern Shriver campaign in 1972 when we campaign when we came back from Fiji, and we're working on the Kerry Edwards campaign right now and that's because we believe that there are-- There's not one way but there are better ways of the United States playing a role in the world than the way we're playing it right now under the Bush administration. So I'd be very political about that.
J. WILSON: What do you think the overall impact of Peace Corps has beenand what should the role be in the future?
A. WILSON: I think that the overall role of, the overall impact ofPeace Corps has been perhaps in some ways more on the third goal and 88:00on the Peace Corps volunteers themselves when they've come back and on us. I think most of us when we're honest say we gained more than we gave. On the other hand, it's always nice to hear about the impact of Peace Corps volunteers on somebody like President Toledo of Peru or the person who was the foreign minister of Thailand whom we heard speak in August. I think that we know that there's been some personal impact on people, on both people in the countries and on ourselves. In terms of the role today I think that Peace Corps obviously still has 89:00an important role to play. It's very frustrating in today's world when we're putting so much money into a war and the budget for Peace Corps is absolutely flat although the President said he wanted to raise the number of Peace Corps volunteers to 10,000. That can't happen when you don't have the money to do that but I think Peace Corps has a-- still has an important future and look forward to being around in 2011 to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
J. WILSON: Before we wind up here is there anything else that youthought of that you'd like to tell us about?
A. WILSON: Well I think I probably ought to mention two events thathappened while we were Peace Corps volunteers. One of them was JFK's assassination and we learned that from-- We had a Jeep at that point 90:00and we learned that from a gas station attendant that was filling our jeep with gas in Monrovia as we were going back to Suehn, he said "Our president has been killed." We had a day of mourning at the school. Jack made a speech that we still have about JFK, then we listened to Voice of America for two days and that was a very important event. The other was the Cuban missile crisis happened while we were gone and I can remember that we seriously thought that if something happened we might still be alive in Liberia but our families in the United States might not be. And that was a really scary time because of course in those days we didn't have any telephone or email or any kind of contact except letters. 91:00
J. WILSON: Okay, thank you for your time.
[End of interview.]