[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Ritchie: Well, first I'd like to say, Betty, that I'm delighted to be here and have an opportunity to meet you and thank you for participating in this project.
Carter: Nice statement, Anne Ritchie. I'm happy to be here and do it for you all and with you. Thank you.
Ritchie: Why don't we start at your beginning and tell me about your early childhood.
Carter: You know there's nothing anybody would rather talk about than their early childhood. So I'm going to go back to two very important people, my father and my mother.
Now, my mother was born and brought up in Bay City, Michigan, and her father was a dynamite manufacturer. Her name was Elizebeth Thomas—Elizebeth spelled by them E-l-i-z-e-b-e-t-h. When she was in high school in Bay City, they all called her Bessie. Mother had a good voice. She went through the Bay City public schools and then went to the Liggett School for a brief time, and her voice teacher said—the Liggett School is in Detroit, still going—her voice teacher said she should go to Europe to study voice. Well, in those days that was a wonderful idea, and her father had the money and they sent her to Paris. She studied at Miss White's and had a dame de compagnie as chaperone. I think Mother just became part of the jet set. But she did study voice. She was engaged to the Earl of Hardwick and she was a big balloonist, hot air balloonist, and her father said she could not get married until she knew America, her home country.
So she came home. She had met a girl in Paris from New Orleans, so she went to New Orleans to see New Orleans. There was a dinner going to be given for her and she had the list of who the guests were going to be. She thought the most interesting-sounding person on the list was Philip Werlein. He had a music store. She said, "Well, I have to have some sheet music because I want to sing." So a friend took her over to Philip Werlein, Limited and there was a man helping—a good-looking young man, he was—whatever age he was, about thirty, I guess—and he was helping someone push a piano, and it was a hot June day. But when he saw the lady, he put on his jacket, which I'm sure was a seersucker jacket, and he went over to meet the girl. The man she was with said that this was Elizebeth Thomas, "we're so sorry you can't come to dinner tonight"—because my father had said he had another engagement. Well, the actual fact was that whether he did or he didn't, what he said then was: "I've changed my plans, I will be there."
So they walked—the friend left and Mother and my father walked down Chartres Street to the cathedral, sat there for two hours, according to Mother's story, without saying a word, just side by side. They were married six weeks later in Bay City, Michigan. She sent a cable to Charles that said, "I'm breaking it all off." This next part I think is a part of the family story. He cabled back, "Do nothing, I'm on my way on the next ship." And then the story is that my father sent a cable that said, "Too late, we're already married." Well, all that's sort of a fun story, but they were married in August in Bay City, Michigan.
Mother came back to New Orleans. Here was a girl who had spent three or four years in Europe, she smoked, and she married into a family of conservative uptown New Orleans people. The family home was on the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Nashville. It's still there, it's a raised cottage. You know, with the steps, a beautiful old house. And it was very difficult for my grandmother, I'm sure, and her name was Betty. I really feel that the two of them were remarkable women to be so different and to have kept—never to have come to an open break. I think it was a measure of both of those women.
I was born in a raised cottage down in the lower Garden District on the corner of Felicity and Coliseum. Race Street intersects right there. And I've always felt that that was a very interesting omen of my future, Felicity, into the Coliseum, and Race, those were all aspects of the thing.
Very soon thereafter they bought a house on St. Charles Avenue, also a raised cottage, right above Jackson Avenue. And I grew up, then until I was about eleven years old we lived there. My father died when I was six and a half. Mother had four children. I was the oldest, and he was thirty-nine when he died. He had been—or he was then or had been president of the American Music Merchants Association. He had been the president of the Progressive League that became the Chamber of Commerce. He was the most active of the young businessmen in New Orleans. He was in everything, and when he died he had to be buried by the Elks and by the Shrine and by God knows who all.
And what did he die of? Probably some form of pneumonia. We have always said the flu but the flu epidemic came the following year. Mother kept us home from school that year, me and the three younger ones, because it was safer. But I don't think they had influenza back then, I think it was just pneumonia. The one thing I remember that I think sort of helps to date part of my life is that my father received a telegram, delivered, and he opened it in the hall and he looked at it with my mother and he said, "This means war." I think that it was the declaration that someone from Washington or New York had cabled, telegraphed it, about unrestricted submarine warfare. I just think the dating figures out that that was probably it, but then he died.
Ritchie: So by the age of 39, he had done quite a bit.
Carter: He was very, very prominent. He was very prominent. The family music company, Werlein's, had been established in 1852 in New Orleans; in 1842 in Vicksburg, and then they'd moved down to New Orleans. The first member of the family in America was a German from Bavaria and he went to Clinton, Mississippi. His name was Philip Peter Werlein and he went to Clinton, Mississippi, taught music, had his violin under his arm. I read something somewhere but I have never researched this that he was the head of a little college there, and there is a little college there but now it's a Baptist college. He married a woman named Margaret Halsey who was from Long Island and she was teaching at the same school. So my German ancestry is Philip—everything else that I can find is Anglo-Saxon, Scots or Welsh.
So Philip Werlein, the first Philip—in our family we have to say Philip first, second, third, fourth, my nephew is fifth—how else would you characterize them? The first Philip composed several pieces, one was a Jefferson Davis march, and right immediately before the Civil War he was, we have always said, the original publisher of Dixie. This is a question now. There is no question but what they published it, somewhere in the first year of the life of Dixie. But my brother says that he thinks he pirated this. Another legend is that he sent a check for $5 to Dan Emmett, but somebody else gave him $10 before the five arrived. I don't know. But we did publish Dixie and I have the Werlein version that was used at Jefferson Davis's inauguration.
My grandmother, who married the second Philip, was a Parham—Bettie Parham—and they had settled in Warren County, Mississippi, coming from Virginia. And her father was Dr. Greenway Parham.
So Mamoo—that was Bettie Parham—married the second Philip but he was much older; he was fifteen or twenty years older than she was. At the end of the Civil War—no, during the Civil War, the second Philip had volunteered for the—we've always said the St. Mary's Rifles—he was in school up near Shreveport in the earliest form of the Louisiana State University. I don't know what the name of it was. We can't find the St. Mary's Rifles today. In the family we know that this man, eighteen or nineteen, went to Avery Island where each of the southern states sent its own small contingent to protect its vested interests in the salt mines because they had to have salt. And, of course, I used to think this was simply because you had to have salt in your food. Well, of course, now I know that was the way you pickled your ham and you preserved the cabbage and whatever you were going to do. So that's where he spent those war years.
The first Philip was true to his American citizenship. He had married Margaret Halsey and he was very much an American. He had been a Catholic. He didn't want to be a priest, back in Bavaria. With his wife, he was now a Methodist, very big in the Methodist church in New Orleans. And his son was a top Methodist Sunday school superintendent for many years.
Ritchie: And his son was serving in the Confederate army.
Carter: Well, the first Philip—I don't know what he did. He was definitely in the church, in the Methodist church. It was the second Philip who was the big Sunday school superintendent at Rayne Memorial. Conservative, good, fine, upright people.
Mother comes in, you see, with all the pizzazz. When she got to New Orleans, she tried to be a real New Orleans type and the big thing to do, they were just getting Kingsley House started, sort of a settlement school in a poor section of New Orleans, and Mother volunteered to teach sewing, of which she knew nothing. So she had her sewing teacher come and teach her in the afternoon so she could teach the children in the morning.
Then our father died, that was in 1917. And shortly after that we got into the war and our home was sort of a headquarters for the French officers' wives and the French officers. During those war years the United States army began to think about airplanes and they wanted to find landing fields for their little airplanes, and Mother had been up in a balloon so she was an expert. The army officers had her going around with them to look at where they could put landing fields.
Then she helped put on the Liberty Loan drive. She headed the women's branch and she made speeches and did everything and she also helped organize the canteen corps. The canteen corps would go down with coffee and doughnuts for the troop trains at night as they went through.
She was very much involved with theosophy which she had learned about from Annie Besant over in England—I don't know if she knew her but that was an interest of her crowd. So here we've been baptized in the Episcopal church and my father's first cousin was an Episcopal minister in Baton Rouge but he would come and christen us whenever the proper time came. His name was Philip, too—Philip Werlein also.
So then we have that and we have the Methodist grandmother who I would go and spend the weekends with, because I was the oldest grandchild, in the house up on St. Charles. Mother was tender, she was absolutely great, there isn't a girl of my generation or our group in New Orleans that didn't just adore her. With us she was absolutely open, she'd talk to you about anything. But she had very firm and strict rules about what you did. And she had no objections about smoking but as we grew up she said absolutely no drinking. She said you have too much trouble handling your hormones anyway. So until you have a husband to change it, who says something different, no drinking.
So we didn't. And there were three of us —Lorraine, Evelyn, and the fourth child was Philip—Philip the fourth.
Ritchie: How close in age were you?
Carter: Well, four of us under six and a half, so she was busy—trying to get a boy. And the story about that is that the first baby was born—me—and she said, "Boy or girl?" and the nurse said, "A darling little girl, Mrs. Werlein," and she said, "Thank you, very much." And before that she had gone to a doctor and she said, "Do you think that smoking could hurt my baby?" And he said, "We don't know but we think so." So she quit smoking, not for her mother-in-law but for her children. So she didn't smoke while she was carrying me.
Then she had the second child and she said to the nurse—of course, everything was done at home in those days, there was a doctor but he'd left—but anyway, "Boy or girl?" and the nurse said, "A darling little girl, Mrs. Werlein." "Thank you, very much."
The third child, "Boy or girl?" "A darling little girl." "Thank you very much." Still not smoking.
Fourth child, a little boy, "A beautiful little boy, Mrs. Werlein." "Thank you, very much, give me a cigarette." And she went back to smoking. But she was a woman of great discipline because if she wanted to not smoke, she didn't smoke. And she had a very good rule which made it possible for her to achieve a great deal—the rule was to do for yourself what nobody else can do for you, and by that she meant rest, eat properly, get recreation, go to the bathroom, the things that you have to do for yourself. After that you can organize and deputize, and she did it.
Ritchie: First you take care of yourself.
Carter: You take care of yourself.
So I had those two influences, my mother with the theosophy—Lorraine, the second child, and I went to the theosophy Sunday school for at least a year down in the Maison Blanche building where we learned about auras and transmigration and reincarnation, I guess. And my grandmother, with her very strong Bible teachings and "Do not read the comics on Sunday" but finally she let us do it.
And for the third strong influence—but not really—was the governess that we had, the nurse, because Mother was so active and thank God she had Mamadee. Mamadee was Elise Wagner, a German woman who came to Mother as her personal maid when she was first married and then she had me. But by the time she had the second child she put Mamadee in charge of the children. And Mamadee was a wonderful woman but really a rather ignorant woman. And she talked French to us because she had been a ladies' maid in Paris. So it was not the best French accent, whatever French accent I got was later at Newcomb, from the point of view of correct.
So I would come in and start teaching Lorraine the creed which Mamoo had taught me, "and I believe in the holy Catholic church." And Mamadee was a Roman Catholic and coming from Germany, where the fight between the Protestants and the Catholics was still going on strongly, and say, "You have no right to teach a child that, you are not a Catholic." And I said, "But it's not the same."
So anyway, I learned from those three women that you do not accept the first thing you hear. You have got to hear the other side of the story because there was always another side of the story. However, Mother's rule was, if you differed with her, you could differ, but when she gave an order, you did it immediately and you could discuss it later. And she was right. If she had four little creatures all rising up, saying, "No, no, no," she could never have gotten through it.
Well, after she was so active with the war, then she became active in the French Quarter in New Orleans, helping to establish the little theater, Le Petit Théâtre. And something else down there.
And in the meantime, early in the 20's, she bought property in the French Quarter—I'm telling you too much about Mother, but it's very important—
Ritchie: She was an influence?
Carter: Oh, Mother was the person. In fact, you should be interviewing her. Ah-ha, but you can't! Unfortunately.
Mother at one point decided she would take the foreign service examination, which she did. Judge Pierre Crabites, the head of the International Court in Alexandria, Egypt, was in New Orleans, and he helped her; he was home on sabbatical. He helped her with her international law. And she had French but she went for the examination and when she saw how awful the man was who gave the oral examination, she just went on and offered Italian which she knew from Italian songs, and Russian. You know, she was a devil, from that point of view.
Well, she didn't pass. We don't know exactly what year it is and the State Department does not have a record of her taking the examination but she took it. And I think it was about '23 or '24, and they certainly didn't want a woman—any woman—but they did take one about the next year. And they certainly didn't want a widow with four children. So she didn't get it.
I went to McGehee's, a private school, Miss Louise McGehee's school where there were no boys. My father came home one day, when I'd been going to Newman, which—well, in those days we called it Manual Training [Isidore Newman Manual Training School]. But I went up there to kindergarten and in the beginning of first grade, he came home and there were boys in the yard and he said he wasn't going to have his little girls in school with boys.
Now also—I have heard this from Bill Hogan. Bill Hogan was the head of the history department at Tulane—you may have known William Ransom Hogan. He was a wonderful guy. Bill says that he heard that why I went to McGehee's is not because there were boys but because there were Jewish boys that I was playing with. My father didn't want his little girls playing with those Jewish boys.
Well, I think he probably had the prejudices of his period. Probably couldn't have a mention of it with being in business on Canal Street and very active in everything. But he didn't want his little girls playing with boys. So I went to McGehee's [Miss Louise S. McGehee's School]. Sylvanus Morley, an archaeologist, spoke at McGehee's. So the first thing I ever wanted to be was to be an archaeologist and go to Mexico.
Then I was supposed to go to Barnard but I got a scholarship for the highest grades in the senior class at McGehee's. And it was 1927 and the times were inflated, and Mother had all her children and she said, "Well, go to Newcomb for a year." But of course, by the time you get to Newcomb for a year, the freshman class president, involved with your sorority, Pi Beta Phi—I never was a big sorority girl, though, I was always out on campus. I made a terrible mistake going to Newcomb from a school where there were twenty-two girls that graduated and here there were six hundred girls, and I figured I could never know all those people by name. So I just went down the halls, aisles, streets and paths saying "Hi!" So everybody said, "Isn't she friendly!" She was friendly but she trained herself not to remember a name, not to try. It was terrible.
Ritchie: Did your sisters also go to the all-girls school?
Carter: Yes, they did.
Ritchie: And where would your brother have gone?
Carter: Well, now, by the time that we got to that—Mother sold the house down on St. Charles, I think in '22 or '23, and for a year we lived in my grandmother's house while we were building a house on Nashville Avenue within that first block where the family had had a pecan orchard, back of the big house. So Aunt Ethel May [Werlein Felder] built one house, Aunt Fred [Werlein] built another house (and my grandmother lived with her) and my mother built another house.
We were in New York one winter, in New York, and I think it's '22, and we went to the Montessori school, which was fascinating. Mother was always ahead. I remember she had all three little girls gather on
her bed one day, and by invitation we came in, and that's where she gave us the facts of life. Nobody does it that way any more, but she was so far ahead to have done it at all. I don't know how I got on to that.
In New York Mother was with this crowd—big financier types—and they were investing in German marks, so she invested in German marks, which was nothing for a widow to do. So by the time that Philip came along, she decided it was more important for the girls to go to the girls' school, the private school, because the boy needed to know how to carry on in the world with everybody, so she sent him to the public school. He also went to camp, to get away from all the girls because, you see, there was Mother, Mamadee still with us, just adoring the little boy and doing everything for him, and the three girls. So it was a way of getting Philip away from all those women.
Ritchie: Was that unusual to have a German governess?
Carter: It's interesting. I've thought about that. Of course, Mother considered her French because she talked French to us. Down in the Garden District, thinking back to it, most of those families had white nurses. They had Irish girls. And I have one cousin who has the most horrible accent to this day—she's about two years younger than I am—and it goes right straight back to the Irish nurse, Nellie. The Whitneys lived across the street, they had white servants. The Bucks had white servants. And an interesting thing, thinking back to it, I don't know anybody in the Garden District who had colored nurses, but maybe there were some, and maybe the white nurses had to sit together so you only knew the children who had white nurses. Maybe.
Ritchie: You went out with them.
Carter: Yes. So Mamadee stayed on and was supposed to be the housekeeper when we were older and she was wonderful.
Ritchie: Your mother was fortunate, then, after your father died not to have to worry about working.
Carter: That's right, she didn't. But she did lose a lot of money. After that she had to worry somewhat. She bought a house in the French Quarter, in about '23, I'm making it up. And she later became—this had nothing to do with the French Quarter—the Sainger Theater phoned her and asked if she would be head of the movies in the South under Will Hays, to do censorship within the industry.
And so for six years she had that title and traveled all over the South because they were putting in—a lot of states wanted to put in—censorship because the movies were so terrible. Looking back on them, they were pretty bad. But also, were they any worse than they are now? Probably not.
Mother was level-headed. She understood what could be done and what couldn't. And she traveled all over. She came to Greenville once—I'll get to that later. Mother had that paid job until about '32, I guess it was, or '31, and then after that she devoted all of her time to the French Quarter. Even earlier, she helped to get the amendment to the state constitution passed by which that section of the city is set up as an historic district. And in the book called Preservation Comes of Age put out by the National Trust and published by the University of Virginia—in the first chapter there's the statement that the most prominent of the early conservationists/preservationists was Elizebeth T. Werlein.
Ritchie: I believe I read in one of the travel books—is there a home in the French Quarter where she owned or lived?
Carter: Yes, yes, right.
Ritchie: And they recognize her as an early pioneer.
Carter: Definitely. And there wouldn't be any French Quarter today if she hadn't worked when she did. She was on the phone every day. She didn't get out of bed until about 11:30 but she had the phone going, to the mayor, to—everybody. She was terrific—and saved the French Quarter, there's no question about it. Today they give a medallion annually in New Orleans, the Elizebeth T. Werlein Preservation Medal, recognizing the outstanding preservationist of the year.
Ritchie: Oh, how nice.
Carter: Yes, that is nice.
Ritchie: So her active involvement in the community had a definite influence on you.
Carter: Well, there's no way to say what it did to me. I think that the Methodist grandmother had a very strong influence, too. I remember that when we were children, sitting around the table at 2228 St. Charles, the house down on the Avenue, and we were discussing what we wanted to do or be, and I said, well, what I wanted to have was an orphanage. Now, I really think that was my grandmother's influence—and I was thinking I would take her house and make it into an orphanage.
Ritchie: The Methodist home approach.
Carter: Yes, probably. And Lorraine said she wanted to have rubies and diamonds, and Evelyn said she wanted a bubble bath. Well, you know, just a bunch full of girls sitting and talking. But in a way, we didn't get exactly what we wanted—Lorraine certainly didn't, but she's a wonderful woman. And Evelyn was a darling woman; and Evelyn never got as involved in the community as Lorraine did, the middle girl, and she still does things. She does things, but she has other problems.
Ritchie: Does she live in New Orleans?
Carter: Out from New Orleans near Pass Christian.
Ritchie: After describing your mother and grandmother, I can see how they would have been very different but you said they never—
Carter: They never had the open clash. I think that after we came back from New York, Mother was really hard up and she had to come to a different understanding with Philip Werlein, Limited, as to her pension and what she was going to get. And my grandmother—no matter who was president of the company—she knew what was going on and she was really the little gray lady in the company. She was sweet and dear and I adored her but she was rather hated, not hated but not loved, by my younger sisters. Maybe they felt that she was unfair to Mother, they had heard that through Mother's sister. But I think she probably was as fair within her standards as she could be.
So anyway, I think that when we came back from New York, my grandmother may have made a very strong pitch that we had to go to Sunday school, no more of this theosophy. So we went around the corner to Trinity Episcopal where we were baptized and went to Sunday school. And I said when I was sixteen, I've had enough of this. I know more than they do, thanks to my grandmother. So I said I would teach but I will not go to Sunday School.
Well, Mother had to get me there. So she phoned the minister and he said I could teach. So I taught and I enjoyed it.
Well, anyway, I did not get to be an archaeologist, and in French—at Newcomb I majored in French, minored in history and Spanish and was going to translate when I was graduated. Monsieur Durel thought that I would be a good translator. But he didn't know that Hodding Carter was in the wings.
Ritchie: In high school and in college did you do any writing? Did you have any journalism?
Carter: No. In high school I sold ads for the Spectator—that came out twice a year. You went to the family, to the father of girls in the school, and sold the ads. Big to-do. But it was a learning thing. And at Newcomb, I was the Newcomb correspondent for the Tulane Hullabaloo so I had to get in a column occasionally about what was going on. No journalism training. And my English training consisted of freshman English, which was required, and I think maybe sophomore English. But I was so busy with French, history and Spanish that I didn't do any more than that.
Ritchie: Did your sisters follow you to Newcomb?
Carter: Lorraine went to New York to study sculpture and Evelyn made her debut.
Ritchie: So all three of you had different—
Carter: Different interests and ways of looking at life.
Ritchie: Do you think your mother favored any one of the three paths that you took?
Carter: No, I do not. If she did, we didn't know anything except that she loved us all and we loved her. And we would go in the summers to Amite, Louisiana, while she had the paid job. We couldn't go anywhere else, it had to be close. Mother would come and we'd be—in college then, not too young—in fact the summer that I met Hodding still—on the dark porch, listening to the frogs and the night sounds, and Mother would sit with us and we'd take turns sitting on her lap! You know? Just sweet, wonderful. But the whole time she was very much in charge of the situation.
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Ritchie: Was there ever any thought that any of the girls would go into the family business?
Carter: No, no. None of us showed any interest in that. And then, of course, it was dedicated, it was understood from the beginning, that my little brother would, which, of course, he did. So he grew up and he was president. Shortly before he died he became chairman of the board. And his son is not interested in that sort of thing at all; he's into Zen and nutrition. He's absolutely marvelous on health foods. He did not go [into the family business]. But his sister, Philip's sister and my niece, is now president of Werlein's.
Ritchie: Is she the first woman to do this?
Carter: Yes, yes. The first overtly because I feel that my grandmother was there all along. Certainly she controlled that while she was there.
Ritchie: Tell me about when you first met Hodding.
Carter: Whee-e-e! Well, when I was rushed Pi [Beta] Phi there was a girl [Corinne Carter] who came down from Hammond and she was rushed Pi Phi and Kappa [Kappa Gamma]. She was very pretty, big blue eyes. And she went Kappa and I went Pi Phi. But when we got to physics, freshman year, you had to have a laboratory mate. So we chose each other. We were the only people who knew each other. She was extremely
good with the experiments. Each had to do her experiment but you could take the better figures, so it was always her figures that we took. I understood the principles, so I would try to explain the principles and she was doing the experiments and between us we did very well.
But she had a brother who was graduated from Bowdoin and he was at Columbia in the journalism school and his name was Hodding. She says that she telegraphed him "Wire simple ballad collect." So he wrote her a simple ballad, which she only got a "C" on, and she said she could have gotten a "C" without the cost of the telegram, and she also had to knit him a sweater because he'd done it.
He sounded fascinating. He had been head of everything literary or writing at Bowdoin—the yearbook, the literary magazine, the newspapers, the poetry review—everything. So he was at Columbia with the idea that he was doing journalism.
Ritchie: That was quite a distance for him to go.
Carter: Well, the family, the Carters, had gone to Maine, I think since 1908, for the summer. And that was all done by Grandmother's daughter Lillian [Carter Beit] who had married a very, very wealthy Englishman, Otto Beit. So he took a house for Grandmother, Hodding's grandmother, up in Maine and the family would go up and stay there for a visit. And one aunt, one of Mr. [Will] Carter's sisters, as a second husband married an Army officer who when he retired moved to Camden, Maine, and bought the little weekly paper there to have something to do. And Toto [Robbins], his wife, Hodding's aunt—Toto's son was Hamilton Hall by her first husband. And Ham went to Bowdoin, and Hodding adored Hamilton, they were best friends. And Hodding went to Bowdoin instead of the University of Virginia. And Uncle Otto would put up the money for twenty-two of his nieces and nephews to go to the college of their choice.
Ritchie: How nice.
Carter: Wonderful. Very, very rich.
He went to Bowdoin and then the year he graduated from Bowdoin he went to England—he did a bicycle tour. So he was at Bowdoin and then he went to Columbia after he graduated, with the idea of going into journalism. But the summer that he graduated from Bowdoin before he was in New York, he was in London for the wedding of a cousin. I was in London because when I graduated from McGehee's in '27, that's my year, Mother gave me a trip to Europe, with the Bureau of International Travel, which was a very good group to go with, you had excellent lecturers.
Ritchie: So it was an organized group.
Carter: Oh, yes, and there were only four young people in the group, and the rest were college professors or college-oriented people. But we had wonderful lecturers, the tops, Dr. Lord from Oberlin and Dr. somebody-else from somewhere.
But when I got to London, Mother had told me to get in touch with Marguerite Carter. Well, I did, but she said that she could not receive me because she had a wedding of a daughter but if I would contact her five days later she would like it so much if I would come out but I was not going to be there. Thank God I didn't go then, didn't meet Hodding who would have been right there. I, rather pudgy, braces across my teeth, a very innocent high school private school type, not even a dating type. I went to the junior dancing group, what do you call it, the Junior Dancing Club. About once a month I went to the dance. I certainly was never popular. So I didn't meet him, thank God.
Then he went to Columbia. So then I had my freshman year at Newcomb, and I knew Corinne [Carter]. That next summer we were in Amite, and I telephoned her at Hammond, which was fifteen miles away.
Amite was where we used to go for the summer while Mother had her paid job. An antebellum house with the drop cord light and the bats would come down the middle of the hall, and we'd try to get them with our tennis racquets, never did.
So I told Corinne I was having a birthday party, and to try to come and to bring some men. And she said, well, she couldn't come, she was going to Portland, Oregon, to visit her relatives but that she would try to send her brothers. Only one brother came, Hodding, who was the one that I wanted to have come. Her younger brother was very much dating a girl whom he later married, so he didn't come but Hodding brought another man with him.
I had seen Hodding by then because—my teeth were being straightened—I had to go to New Orleans during the summer to have them tighten the braces. And one day coming back on the train—Corinne was on the train, and she said, "Hodding's going to meet us." So I looked out the window and I saw him. And he saw me. And he asked Corinne, "Now who is that cute girl?" And she said, "Oh, that's Betty Werlein, but there are a lot of girls who are cuter who are Kappas."
He liked me when he met me. And I thought he was very attractive but the trouble is that he sat on the front porch talking to Mother all evening, except he came in and danced with me three times. And then we had a date and he took me to the Deke [Delta Epsilon Kappa] boat ride. And that was so wonderful because it got cool. And he took his sweater off and put it on me. I could have swooned, it was so marvelous.
But that had taken a long time, from July until September, for him to phone me for a date. But he was busy with all these more sophisticated girls.
Ritchie: You were a bit younger than he was.
Carter: Yes, I was three and a half years younger, but very much younger in some ways. The kind of girl whose mother had told her everything so scientifically that when I heard a dirty joke I didn't understand it. And my good friend Virginia had to interpret the jokes for me under the chinaberry tree at McGehee's. They would tell these stories and I would ask the other girls, "What does that mean?" I didn't understand a thing. If they'd used good words like penis, I could have understood, but with dirty jokes, you've got to understand the jargon which I wasn't old enough to do.
So that's how I met Hodding and he dated me all my sophomore year and my junior year and my senior year. And by my junior year I was very popular and dated up three weeks ahead. And I just realized that Hodding Carter wasn't going to wait around for me. If I wanted him I'd better quit all this foolishness. So I quit having dates with other people.
And then my senior year he was working—he taught first at Tulane, thinking he wanted a Rhodes scholarship which he didn't get from Bowdoin because they didn't realize he was as serious as he was, I think that's what they said. So now you had to have an academic connection if you did that. And Cleanth Brooks and he roomed together at Mrs. [Paul] Capdevielle's, she had a place where Tulane students, post-graduates could room. And he and Cleanth were both accepted to come for the orals, to be interviewed for the Rhodes. But by then, Hodding had heard that you couldn't be married if you had a Rhodes. And he had decided, he said, that I would never wait for him.
Ritchie: If he went off for—
Carter: Yes, for two years. Cleanth's girl was Virginia "Tinkum" Blanchard. Cleanth said, well, "Tinkum" would wait. So Hodding drove him up to Baton Rouge and Cleanth got it. So Cleanth has always said that he had me to thank for his Rhodes scholarship.
Ritchie: For Hodding withdrawing from the contest.
Carter: I think Cleanth would have gotten it anyway because Cleanth was the Rhodes type.
So then Hodding and I wanted to get married but there was no question of it, we never even thought of getting married because I was in college and after his year at Tulane as a teaching fellow—
Ritchie: What was he teaching?
Carter: He was teaching English. And he was supposed to be writing his master's on Emily Dickinson; he never finished it. And by then he decided, well, he was going to go into newspapers. So he got a job at the New Orleans Item and the first paycheck—which was pay, not check but money—he went to get it from the paymaster and he said, "I think there's some mistake." Here he had four years of college and a year at Columbia and a year at Tulane and he had twelve dollars and a half, that was his pay for the week.
Ritchie: But it didn't tear him away from the field, did it?
Carter: No, it didn't. That's a good point. He loved it. He loved it.
Ritchie: What type of work was he doing?
Carter: Oh, he was a reporter. And it wasn't actually for the Item, it was for the [New Orleans] Tribune which was the morning paper that the Item put in to compete with the [New Orleans] Times-Picayune. New Orleans newspapers were all in terrible straits.
So he did that. That was my junior year and by then he'd bought an automobile. He was working for the United Press and the United Press had a world service that they would send to the ships at sea, a condensation of the outstanding news. So he had to take that out to some radio shortwave that sent it out to all the ships at sea.
So he would come by and pick me up and drive me out, I'd drive with him. So I'd always have to get home from a date in time to go with Hodding. Mother didn't really approve but she didn't stop me because it was so innocent.
Ritchie: So he was writing the news to be sent out.
Carter: That's right.
Ritchie: So he would do the reading of the different news items and condense them.
Carter: Condense it. Then we would drive out to wherever that was. And what they paid him for delivering it, maybe a dollar or so, that's how he paid for his car.
So he had this job with the United Press. And I was a senior and I was student body president by then. And he used to come and help me do things. And the UP began getting stories that were obviously stolen from the AP. So they tried to figure out where the leak was and the UP manager, as it was finally discovered, had made an arrangement with the switchboard operator at the Times-Picayune. She would hear the stories coming in for the paper and pass the material on to the UP. When he was pinned down, the manager said a reporter at the Times-Picayune, Annette Duchein, whom Hodding had known from Columbia—a girl from Baton Rouge and a terrific woman—the manager said that Annette was giving him the information. He was covering up for his paid informant and Hodding knew Annette wouldn't give AP news to the UP.
So Hodding said, "You are a goddam liar," and he rose up and knocked the manager down. And in the scuffle, the typewriter fell over—oh, and the other man in the office was Hart Bynum from Baton Rouge, also a friend of Annette's whom Hodding had met through Annette. So Hodding knocked down the manager and he ran down the steps saying, "I resign!" And Hart ran down the steps behind him, "I resign!" And the UP manager got up and said, "You're fired!" So we don't know which came first, whether the resignation or the firing, didn't matter, he was out of a job. It was the spring of '31.
So we couldn't get married although I graduated. So then I went to Chunn's Cove Camp near Asheville. I guess that was my second year. And I taught tennis—I never had a tennis lesson but I did play tennis.
Ritchie: Like your mother with the sewing.
Carter: That's right! Only she did take the lessons the night before but I read the book. I would tell the children in my cabin—kiosk, or whatever we called it—I would tell them these stories about my youth, how I had been a Russian princess and how I rode my little pony, God knows what I told them, but they adored it.
And I was in charge of the annual magazine that the school put out. So that was my literary training. And Hodding went out to the farm to visit with Mr. Carter. And he and Hart Bynum were both out of jobs, '31 was the year, a bad year financially for the United States.
So they started writing short stories under the name Carter Bynum. And they would divide the profits. They sold one story which was actually written by Hodding; it appeared in Collier's or one of the magazines. And they got $300 or $500 for it, I think $300.
Ritchie: It was a good price.
Carter: It was very good. And they wanted more stories from Carter Bynum, war stories about Marines in Haiti, but they had gotten materials from an interview with a Marine in Haiti, and there weren't any more materials. So they never were able to write another story about that.
And I was at camp, and we wanted to get married. It was $500, because Mr. Carter and my mother both thought that though it was very, very iffy, we could get married with the $500, live for a year in Taxco, Mexico, where Mother's good friend Natalie Scott was and where Bill Spratling was living. Now, Bill Spratling had been part of Mother's group, much younger than Mother, and he was in the architecture field. Spratling had gone to Taxco, where he revived the old silversmith work and told the Indians to come back to their original designs, not to be making the cheap reproduction stuff.
So they said we could live there for $500 and we were going to do that and Hodding would write. But about that time the Associated Press offered Hodding a job in Jackson, Mississippi, to be their bureau manager. Well, that was a whole lot surer, according to Mr. Carter and my mother. And so the decision was—and that was at $50 a week. Well, that was a lot of money. I mean, a lot of girls I knew were getting married on $25 a week and we were $50 a week. So we were rich.
So we were married on October the 14th, 1931, and we moved to Jackson, Mississippi.
Ritchie: You were married in New Orleans?
Carter: Yes, at my grandmother's house.
Ritchie: A small, family wedding?
Carter: It was supposed to be. By the time we telephoned all the people we simply couldn't not invite, it was about 300. It was ridiculous; we did it all by telephone but we intended it to be just a small family wedding. Mother had too many friends, I had too many friends, Hodding's family had friends.
Ritchie: Was your grandmother living at the time?
Carter: It's a good question. She must have been. I do not remember her that day.
Ritchie: I just wonder what she thought of all the—
Carter: Yes. I'll tell you what. I think that she had built the house back of the old Werlein big family house and maybe by then Uncle Parham [Werlein] was living in that house because he had become president of the company and she felt that he needed the big house. So she was living in this house right behind it with a daughter who had not yet married. So she was with us—I think this is correct, I don't know.
So we were married and drove off into the wild, blue yonder, to Pass Christian, Mississippi, to Bill Weigand's house, he was a New Orleans newspaperman. He lent Hodding the house for our honeymoon. And we were there—I think we were married on a Wednesday but I may be wrong. Maybe we were married on a Thursday, whatever October 14th was, 1931.
Ritchie: Did a minister marry you?
Carter: Oh, yes, Dr. [Robert S.] Coupland from Trinity. It was a pretty wedding. We got to Pass Christian. Well, I'll tell you, I was really the hottest little number before I got married and scared to death when I got married. I don't think honeymoons were made for virgins. You know, they really are scary. And so we were awfully glad on Saturday when the Associated Press notified us that there was going to be a special session of the legislature and Hodding had to get to work immediately. So we went on through Hammond—I don't know why I'm telling you all this.
Ritchie: Well, this is what we want. We want your life story.
Carter: Oh, oh! So anyway, we went through Hammond.
Ritchie: How would you have gone in those days? [Interstate] 55 obviously is new.
Carter: Oh, that's new. Oh, I don't know from Hammond to whatever that highway was, I assure you that the best it could have been would have been macadam, or what do we call that—asphalt. I'm sure it wasn't concrete—maybe even gravel.
And we went through Hammond and then we got up to Jackson on a Saturday, it was the last night of the fair, the State Fair. And we went to that, it was very cold. And before we went to the fair, I think this is correct, if it was not that night, it was Sunday night, and this man I didn't know was having a bath in the bathroom—meaning my husband—and the Robert E. Lee Hotel was very modern and it had piped radio into your room through the transom. So I was listening to that. And here comes Will Rogers and he says America is the only nation in the world that ever went over the hill to the poor house in two Ford automobiles. I wanted to tell this man what I had just heard. But I wouldn't open the door, so I sort of knocked on it. And he said, "What, what what?" And I opened it just a crack and I said, "I've just heard what Will Rogers said that this is the first country in the world to go over the hill in two Ford automobiles."
Well, in a way, looking back on it, that was really the introduction to our lives for the next few years because it was the Depression in a big, big way. And they had this special session of the legislature.
I was terrible; all I did was I went up and would listen, I was introduced on the floor which is something that I'm sure they do in all legislatures, but it's very nice.
Ritchie: You were introduced as a guest?
Carter: Yes, as the wife of the AP correspondent. "There she is, up in the balcony, how do you do?" I went to the—participated in—oh, the Welcome Wagon came to call and they said, "Are you Episcopalian or Presbyterian?" I said, "Well, we aren't going to do much about either church but I'm an Episcopalian and Hodding is Presbyterian." So the Episcopalians came to call and asked me to come to the Guild. They had two Guilds. And one was making a patchwork quilt and the other was playing bridge. So I decided to play bridge which I had done a little of. And with Hodding in the special session, and it was meeting morning, noon and night, in time, sort of near the end of our Jackson period, I was playing bridge morning, noon and night.
And Hodding was covering the terrific session and the major issue was how they were going to pull the state of Mississippi out of absolute bankruptcy. They couldn't sell a bond. The schoolteachers couldn't get paid, nothing. And they were fighting over whether to put in a sales tax. And I believe—and I have not researched this but I've always heard or believed that Mississippi was the first state to put in a sales tax, three percent.
Well, it was a hot, hot issue. A man, a legislator from Natchez, contacted Ralph Wheatley, Hodding's boss in New Orleans, and said that Hodding was writing prejudiced, unbalanced stories. And so Wheatley put on the machine, "Don't file until I get there. Don't send out any stories."
Ritchie: He was coming up from New Orleans?
Carter: Yes. Wheatley used to drink a lot. And several days went by and he didn't come. And here was the UP getting out its stories. And the Commercial Appeal, which was from Memphis, was the big out-of-town newspaper with an agency there—it was filing. The Times-Picayune was filing and here was the AP not filing. So in order to file, there was a man in the office—no, there was a man who had worked for the AP bureau, as a printer, just to punch out the stories. So the issue was so hot Hodding didn't see how he could not file. But Wheatley had said he didn't want that man around the AP office. But he knew how to punch out the story. So Hodding told him to come back and he'd personally pay him to punch out the story so Hodding could cover the committee meetings and the hall talk and all the rest of it.
So Wheatley got there and he said, "You're fired because you filed when I told you not to file and you had this man punch it when I told you not to."
Ritchie: What do you mean by "punch it"?
Carter: That's when you put it on the tape, you know. The story had to be punched onto the tape and then you fed that into the machine and it went to the teletype at the other end.
Ritchie: Oh, I see. So Hodding would write the story and give it to this man to punch it.
Carter: Yes. Yes. Now, Hodding knew how to punch it because if you knew how to type there was very little more to learn. But you did have to know how to do it.
Ritchie: But he was busy covering—
Carter: Covering the committee; he was the AP man.
So, anyway, I don't know if Wheatley came or he sent a telephone call and said, "You're fired." Well, that was all fine and good. On Sunday we went by the post office to see if there was a letter and there was a letter from Kent Cooper. And Kent was the—I don't know what he was, the head of the whole AP or maybe the head of our area of the AP at that time, I don't know. He fired Hodding.
Ritchie: Over this incident?
Carter: Oh, yes. And he said that, the point they were making was that he'd been not balanced in his presentation and with the AP you had to be very careful to make it equal. So Kent Cooper's letter, which nobody can find, said he would never make a newspaperman and that he was fired. But years later Kent couldn't find the letter and neither were we able and he said that he didn't say that, he just said Hodding needed more years to be seasoned.
Well, whatever it was, we were out of a job.
Ritchie: And this was just a short time that he'd been—
Carter: Four or five months after we were married. And it was 1932 and I think that was the bottom of the Depression. And there were no jobs in New Orleans. Because every paper had let off everybody except their top seniority people. They were certainly not rehiring and they were still letting people go.
So we got to Hammond. Hodding said we would park at his father's and not at my mother's. So we parked at his father's and he went into the city but there really wasn't anything there.
Ritchie: And you didn't consider staying in New Orleans?
Carter: No, not with Mother, no. No, but he went in to New Orleans and he talked to all the newspaper people and with Jim Thomson, the publisher-editor of the New Orleans Item, where Hodding had worked. But nobody—everything, the papers didni't know if they were going to make it.
Ritchie: I just wanted to go back one minute to Hodding's first firing or resigning at UP. Don't you think it's interesting that that man blamed a woman, the woman reporter?
Carter: I hadn't thought of that. But it was just the usual thing, I gather. We weren't conscious of our sexism at all.
Ritchie: I wonder if they [women] might have been less able to defend themselves—not as well established.
Carter: Except that Annette was beautifully established, so he chose wrong.
Ritchie: So she survived the ordeal?
Carter: Oh, yes. She did. But the thing that Hodding objected to was that he dared to say a thing like that about Annette, because she wouldn't do that. And he knew she wouldn't do it.
And the UP manager was a friend of hers, too. He was part of this little crowd.
[End Tape 1, Side B; Begin Tape 2, Side A]
Ritchie: So we'll start again talking about your—
Carter: Going to Hammond.
Ritchie: Days going to Hammond, that's right.
Carter: So here we are, out at the Carters. And Hodding goes into New Orleans, he tries to see what in the world he can do. And there really wasn't—there wasn't anything. And we did have $300 or $500 left from our wedding money. My grandmother had given us some money and I bought that Napoleon desk and a sofa, a chair and a coffee table, that's what we got out of it, and had some money left.
Ritchie: Did you buy those in New Orleans? The desk is a beautiful piece.
Carter: Yes, a beautiful piece. Young Hodding says that's what he wants, he's put his name on it.
So what are we going to do? There was a strong, weekly paper in Hammond, the strongest weekly paper in the state, The Vindicatur. George Campbell ran that and his daughter Mildred sold all the ads. And who was Edna? I cannot remember but she was in on it. Maybe she was his wife or his aide. I don't know.
So we couldn't start a weekly paper. And some man, Sidney Williams, had either started or was thinking of starting a mimeograph sheet. And Hodding said no, that it wouldn't be a mimeograph sheet, it would be a paper. So we decided that we would start a paper in Hammond, Louisiana, daily, five days. It was a tabloid. I would be the business manager and he would be the editor/publisher. I can't remember what date we put out the first paper.
Where was our first office? Our first office has to have been around the corner from the theater because I remember that the first dollar we got, we framed, we hung it on the wall, and within days it was stolen. And we pretty well thought we knew who took it.
But nobody had any money. And we started the paper at the height—as the strawberry season was coming in and that community lived on strawberries. And that year, at the strawberry auction, the strawberries were selling at less per pint than the cost of the little cups that they put them in. The town was wiped out that year.
So we started it. And I would get out and sell the ads to whoever we could sell the ads to. It was a community that had been settled—it was on the Illinois-Central and a lot of Sicilians had come in to do crop farming, and that was how the strawberries got their good start.
Ritchie: Had Hodding's family been in the area for some time?
Carter: Yes. Hodding's father had gone to Tulane—he didn't finish, I don't believe; he'd grown up in New Orleans, he went to Rugby Academy, then he went to Tulane briefly, then he went to Natchez where he was in charge of—as a young man either in charge or working with the man who was in charge of an oil mill. An oil mill is where the oil is pressed out of the cotton seed and made into oils later sold as Wesson oil and something like that.
Mr. Carter had been there as a young man and he had met Irma Dutart across the river. And she was very popular in Natchez and was in the Natchez carnival court. And they were married, I suppose, in Vidalia, that's across the river from Natchez. And they bought this property in Hammond because he wanted to be a farmer.
And they started with cattle. And he thought that the milk—that New Orleans was booming and they needed milk for the city of New Orleans for the children. And that cows would be a wonderful thing to do.
So he did cows but the people were used to open fields, no fences, and the only way that you could have cows would be to dip for ticks. So the question was whether you would have fences and dip for ticks or whether you would have an open range and all the cows die from ticks. Mr. Carter was in favor of dipping because he had good cows that produced good milk and they kept cutting his fences, etc.
So he went broke with the milk situation. Then when strawberries began coming up, he went into strawberries and he had all these tenant farmers who were on the place, Italian families. I don't know how many. So he was there as a strawberry farmer. He was also known as a man that could be counted on, in any bad situation.
So we lived out at the Carters. We'd drive into Hammond. I'd find out what they wanted to advertise, draw up the ads, take it back, show it to them, sell it to them, bring it back for proofing, and keep a record of it in the books—lousy books. Kept the record to the best of my ability but thank God Mr. Carter moved in and helped with the books.
And we kept going. And we would need money and Herman Deutsch, a newspaperman from New Orleans, lent us some money at one point, which was wonderful. And a man named Dick Stibolt, in Hammond, lent us some money. And Mother didn't have any money but she had one bond from the city of Shreveport which she said she would give me. And I could use that. So, it was a thousand dollar bond but it was only selling for $810. Well, we sold it and got that.
Then we had to borrow money. So I went into the New Orleans to the Whitney Bank to borrow money and I told Mr. [Victor] Leovy that we were putting the Vindicatur out of business, that there was no question that they would go out of business. And he said, "Well, Betty, I have seen the New Orleans Item about to go out of business for fifteen years." He said, "Newspapers seem to have a life of their own which defies all known rules for why you should go broke, when you should go broke." He said, "I don't think you're going to put the Vindicatur out of business." But he lent us some small amount, a thousand or whatever.
So I learned something about borrowing money at that point. And then—and also we had no columns, we couldn't afford columns, of course. So I wrote "Yum-Yum," and I knew nothing about cooking but I would get recipes from different women and would give one recipe on the Yum-Yum day for a strawberry shortcake or a biscuit or whatever it was, that the lady was supposed to be so good with.
And also I wrote the beauty column. Mother believed in salt. She said if you took a bath and you rubbed salt all over your body, that would make you very soft and nice. So I put that in. And soda was a good thing to have, too, so somehow I had a column on soda. I don't remember what we called that.
So we were struggling. We made it pretty well. And then Mr. [Franklin D.] Roosevelt closed the banks. That would be in 1933. So nobody had any money. But for some reason we had a very small amount of money and it was enough so that we could—oh, the reason we had money was that we only had $5, so in those days we would go in and spend the weekend at Mother's because if you had a tank of gas you could drive to New Orleans.
And another wonderful thing: For twenty-five cents apiece, stopping at Laplace, Louisiana, you could get a martini. And that was the break. Between all the pressures of Hammond and the weekend, where we didn't have money to do anything but we could visit Mother.
Ritchie: So you worked Monday until Saturday noon and then took off.
Carter: That's right. And we wrote checks on Saturday after the—how did that work? I think the banks were open Saturday morning, I think we didn't write the checks, didn't give them until after the banks had closed because they weren't any good, you had to get home to Hammond in time to collect from people who promised you that after the weekend they'd have some money. So then you had to get to the bank at 9:00 a.m. Monday to deposit quickly.
Ritchie: You mentioned that the office was around the corner from the theater. What was the office like?
Carter: Well, that first office and I believe this had to have been the first office. It was, because we had no press and we had no linotype. Now, how did that work? Where did we print it? The first issues may have been printed in Ponchatoula, at the Ponchatoula Enterprise. Certainly they were—how did that work? So, we had a room which was off of the side street and that was our office.
Then what did we do? Then we moved into a little tiny room, smaller than the other, right in the lobby of the Columbia theater, one side had candy and things like that for sale and over here was—it's on the main street, whatever the name of the street was. And that was more prominent. And we went and moved. Hodding bought a press and we brought that in and installed it, second-hand, of course.
That was in that building. And then we would have the type set in Ponchatoula. One day we were coming across the railroad tracks, Illinois Central, and the whole page of type pied so that we had nothing for that page, except one tiny ad which was a classified ad for Hodding's uncle's filling station. He was the mayor of Hammond. So here was Uncle Connie's [Charles Congreve Carter] Texaco station ad. So we put that right in the middle of the page and went back by quickly to tell Uncle Connie not to tell anybody that he hadn't paid for the whole page. Ha, ha, ha.
So after we pied that page, we knew we really had to get a linotype but we didn't for a while. And then after that we—how soon after that, I don't know—we began to buy a building on the west side of the tracks. But that's wasn't why we moved there, it was because the building was available. But by shenanigans Hodding figured out how you do this and how you do that.
But the linotype—we had that now and we had a press now and we had the banks closed. We had no money except the five dollars. But Hodding and I went to New Orleans and we went to Old Southport which was right outside of New Orleans, and that's where all the gambling was. And Hodding said, "I'm going to gamble. This five dollars won't do us any good and I might do some good." So he gave me a quarter and I played the slot machines. And he played craps. There was some man who was hot pitching the dice and Hodding stayed with him. He stayed with him and won $300.
So then we had cash—a Godsend because nobody was going to let us buy newsprint on credit, or ink or anything that you had to spend money out of town on. Then we decided that we would print up these little forms—it was ridiculous, it could have been done by bookkeeping—we'd go in and we'd sell the man the ad. We had these little forms and a picture of Mr. Roosevelt and the amount—a dollar, ten dollars, twenty dollars. And it said, "We Bank on Him." And anything that we had to buy in town and pay our salaries with, we'd give them this script and then they could use that at Mr. Loyacono's grocery store or Mr. [John] Graziano's butchery. And when he had to pay us, he had the script there to pay us.
Ritchie: So you invented a little system?
Carter: We did. It was probably illegal. But it doesn't matter. And it could have been done by the bookkeeping. But it was a gimmick. And we didn't look on it as a gimmick, we thought it was very clever and that this was the way to get money to be able to pay our men. "Our men" were probably two, the linotype operator and maybe the pressman, I don't know.
Ritchie: So you and Hodding were doing everything.
Carter: Well, we were doing all the outside work.
Ritchie: And all of the writing—
Carter: Everything. Everything.
Ritchie: Do you remember when you first hired someone else to do writing?
Carter: The first person we hired which was probably the next summer—maybe that first summer—no, it couldn't have been the first summer, the second summer we hired Bert Hyde. And he was a student at Southeastern [Hammond, LA] which was then called Southeastern College, I think, now Southeastern Louisiana University.
And so Bert used to write this column for us, very juvenile column, but everything was juvenile. The only thing that was steaming up was that Huey [Long] was getting more and more powerful. And Hodding began writing these more and more powerful editorials, very much under the influence of Mr. [William H.] Carter, very conservative.
Now, there were things that Huey was doing that looking back on it we would certainly have endorsed, the free schoolbooks, and I don't remember whether we were there for the poll tax, I think that had come earlier. But I said something, which is interesting, I thought when I saw the Ken Burns thing [film]* and I was talking about Huey Long, and I said, "You know, [Benito] Mussolini made the trains run on time but you wouldn't vote for Mussolini for that." Well, I didn't say [Adolf] Hitler because the person we were thinking of in the early '30s was Mussolini.
And so here was Huey promising all these things but he was a dictator. So I think we were perfectly right to fight him because the more important thing was the way that he was taking over the state and the people blindly going with him. And Hodding's editorials were very vicious and strong and intemperate in many cases. And a lot of our advertisers—we didn't have all that many advertisers but our advertisers were pro-Long. So I'd have to go out and sell them an ad when the night before, the morning before, or whatever the morning's paper was in those days, the [Hammond] Daily Courier, I guess it was a morning paper, it had to be a morning paper because it took a whole night to get it out. I'd have to go but they had just read this editorial about how awful Mr. Long was and here I was, selling them ads. And they were afraid that if they looked as though they were supporting the anti-Long situation too much it might mean trouble for them.
Ritchie: So your job getting the advertising was a hard one.
Carter: It was. It was. Though they were always nice to me. You see, I was a nice girl. And so they'd be nice to me. And I got the ads but also they didn't agree with what was going on in the Daily Courier.
Ritchie: How was the competition doing at the time?
Carter: Well, they got their regular ads, their weekly ads. Now, one thing we had, we got some sort of a wonderful ad for some grocery store opening. And they were going to have a drawing and give away five pounds of sugar or something. I do not understand now, I'll have to go back and think about it, but after we got all those papers printed up, we realized that this was a sort of a lottery and it would be stopped in the
* "Huey Long." 1985. Florentine Films.
United States mails. So we had to go through with nail scissors and other scissors and cut out of the paper every one of those little offers for the lottery. Well, that took a while.
Now, another thing is that our press was an old thing that went like this. [Gestures with arms to indicate press movement]
Ritchie: Closed up and down.
Carter: Yes. And I never did learn to use the press but it was very slow. And we printed page 2 and page 3, then the whole thing had to be turned over so that you could see to print page 4 and page 1. And one, of course, was the last page you'd print. So everybody would have to help with the turning of the pages.
Ritchie: And how many copies would you be printing?
Carter: I don't know. And it was small, just remember, it was small. I'm saying a thousand—I'm making that up. I don't know. There aren't any books, not that I know of. They may exist, it would be fun to find some.
Ritchie: Did you save copies of any of the papers?
Carter: Those papers turned up—Southeastern [Louisiana University in Hammond] has the file. After we sold the paper in 1936, somebody saw those files just sitting there and took them over to Southeastern. We didn't have any—at some point, we got some because I've given those to Mississippi State University. When I finally sold the house, I just phoned Mississippi State and I said, "Come over and get everything." So they took everything. So I'm sure, whatever we had, they have.
Where am I, what do you want me to say?
Ritchie: Well, let's talk about Huey Long for a little while.
Carter: Yes. Well, you see, he would come to town. And when he came to town—well, by then we were in town. We went in, we rented a house—darling little cottage, a little cottage, and we didn't have a stove so the Episcopal rector—they'd been given a new stove so they gave us their kerosene stove. And it didn't have an oven, it had a little thing you put over the top of it. And we didn't have a refrigerator so if you opened a can you had to use the whole thing.
We were a block from the railway station. And people would be riding the rails, so we had a lot of people who came by for a sandwich, including Al Friendly and his brother. And they were out of college and decided there wasn't any point in just sitting there, so they were seeing America and they came to the house. And Mr. Carter gave them a job picking strawberries, which is a terrible job, talk about stoop labor!
So, we were fighting Huey and he would come to town and there was a bandstand opposite the old post office. And he would come and give his talk at the bandstand. And there was no other entertainment except movies so everybody went whether you were for Huey or not. But the main thing is that Huey was fun. You know? He was a good speaker. He was wild.
Ritchie: So it was free entertainment.
Carter: It was. So you would go, but hating him with a passion. And everybody would figure how they would kill him. And I had a good one. I said I was going to get a nail and file it very, very thin. Then I was going to get the chair that Huey was going to sit on when he came to the grandstand—bandstand,
and I would drive it up through the bottom and I'd put a little rabies poison on the end of it and then he'd die like the mad dog he was. Awful. But everybody was thinking how they could kill him.
So he would come and we would listen to all that. The first time I'm conscious of the bandstand, we were endorsing the NRA, the National Recovery Act, so I was invited to make a speech which I did, something from the bandstand to the effect that you don't feel like eating spinach, but what's good for you, you have to do. And that was the NRA.
The thing is that there were two sources of cash in the state of Louisiana. And one was the standard oil, they had some money. And the other was the Huey Long regime. And the Huey Long people were the "deducts," everybody had to give the cash to them. "The ducks are flying," that's what they would say when they would come around and collect from every state employee, "the ducks are flying," so everybody who had cash gave over their cash.
Ritchie: How did he build his power through the state?
Carter: By giving them things which they needed. First by bridges. And the condition of the bridges and the roads was terrible. It was true all through the South. But he managed to give them decent roads and decent bridges. And he did it because in his first statewide campaign he was defeated on a rainy day when people couldn't get to the polls because of the bridges and the roads. He learned his lesson; he knew what was good for people.
And you could see it all happening. We've gotten to the banks closing in '33—and what happened in '34? I don't know what happened in '34. But he began having that long session, those special sessions in the winter of '35, just special session after special session, and in each one the people voted away more of their rights. And they did it like lambs to the slaughter. They just came and did it.
And I remember there was one election where all the anti-Longs said they were going to stand together. And we went to the polls that day. And here were all these people, prominent Hammond families, and the men were standing there with sunflowers. Now, that was Huey Long's symbol that year. Nobody remembers that but me. And they were wearing the sunflower.
And Mr. Carter and Hodding thought that was the most awful sell-out, and I agreed except that those men had children in college, their families were going to lose what they had, they were not going to have any money, they weren't going to have anything to eat. And I had compassion, I really don't want to say I had compassion, that sounds sweet and wonderful, but I really found it sad. The thing is you had to be willing to put it on the line and they weren't. And I'm not sure that—I'm not sure—well, of course, the Carters had it on the line. So, maybe—I don't know. But I could understand those people because what else were they going to do, lose their jobs.
Ritchie: You did have friends who were—
Carter: Oh, everybody was anti-Long. The established community was supposed to be anti-Long but on that election morning they toppled. They toppled.
Now, they came up to put—Huey had called—oh, one of the biggest fights was the Miss Lallie [Kemp] one. Mr. Bolivar Kemp was the congressman from our district. And as a child in Amite, Louisiana, I had written his campaign song to the tune of [singing]—It ain't gonna rain no more.
And this man who had been the incumbent—and I don't remember his name—so the song I had written was something like: Mr. something ain't gonna run no more, dee-dee-dee. Mr. Bolivar was going to win by—well, anyway. And I helped stuff the envelopes. Now Mr. Bolivar was dead and his widow [Miss Lallie]—
Huey Long announced that she was the Democratic candidate for his post. And Hodding's position was—although the Carters and Kemps had been friends for generations—Hodding's position was that in those days when the Democratic nomination was tantamount to election you couldn't say that she was the Democratic nominee, you had to have a Democratic primary.
So, the judge in our area, Nat Tycer, announced that there would be no election, that it was illegal, no primary. And then he said, "It's a poor judge who doesn't see that his rulings will be enforced." So he deputized a lot of people, including Hodding and a lot of them.
So now the press of New Orleans, the AP and UP, all come to Hammond for the showdown. And they'd come by the house, and I'd have supper or hors d'oeuvres or something for them. And the time comes—we heard that the ballots were on their way from Baton Rouge by truck to be put around at the different precincts. And all of them had only Miss Lallie's name on them for this special election. And no other name.
The men all went out. And they went to the bridge down the road, between Hammond and Baton Rouge, and I think they got the truck to turn over. And they blocked that election. And for a long time I had some of the ballots that were burned, you know, charred remains and that sort of thing.
Ritchie: So then, the—
Carter: The election was not held.
Ritchie: —Long forces weren't there to—
Carter: The Long forces had come by truck and were defeated. That whole period is well done by Ken Burns [in his film "Huey Long"]. But for all that we were fighting—
Ritchie: Were there other newspapers in the state that took the same stand?
Carter: Yes, there were some but they slowly had disappeared into the moonlight somewhere. And the Literary Digest said that Hodding Carter was the most articulate of the Louisiana editors—we loved that. Hodding was writing pieces—which is a way of getting cash—for the New Republic. He did two about Long. He did one for some other magazine and then he did one for the Review of Reviews—that was a good name. We counted on that to pay for Hodding our son's birth at Touro Infirmary.
Ritchie: What year was he born?
Carter: Born in '35, April '35.
Ritchie: So you were busy then with the newspaper and starting the family.
Carter: Oh, yes. But I'll tell you, I worked, sold advertising up until two months before he was born, and he was born April the 7th. But by then I was pretty big, I kept walking the streets of Hammond. Now, who sold advertising after that, I don't know. Maybe Bert did. But I did until I couldn't.
So then we had the baby in April of '35. And that was the hottest summer you could ever imagine. And looking back through the Daily Courier which Hodding had to do for some reason once, it was very interesting the two themes were the heat and the mounting tension against Huey—just terrific. You could see it going on. And we went on a picnic for the Daily Courier early in August. And it was 105 and we had our linotype operator, Roy Lamus and his wife and child and Hodding and I. And the little girl, who was a fifteen or sixteen-year-old, a retarded little girl who was in charge of our son—oh, I forgot to tell you, I'll go back to that—and the pressman was there, Mills, and Bert Hyde. Now, that was the organization.
Carter: That was it. But when I went in to New Orleans to have Hodding at Touro—I stayed at Mother's until the day Mrs. Carter died. After that the decision was that we would move back to the farm and give up the house with all the rent and that I would keep house for Mr. Carter and sell advertising and take care of the baby, which I did.
And John Carter's wife had developed tuberculosis and she was in Colorado and her little girl [Jane Carter] was out at the farm, so I had that little girl, too. So I put the baby on a three-hour nursing schedule so that I could feed him at just before nine and feed him at noon and have dinner. Then for the three o'clock feeding it was a good idea to have him on a formula, and then I could be home by six.
That was a period of pretty strong pressure. And the Huey Long situation. Finally we got a letter from somebody that said that they were going to kidnap the baby. So we turned that over the United States Post Office.
And going through the cattle gap, one of the pipes broke and it came up and hit against the window. Hodding and I were both positive we'd been shot. You know, you just live that way. You just know you're going to be shot.
Ritchie: Did Long ever take measures to try to suppress you?
Carter: Well, you know what he did. He got his legislature and they passed a bill setting up the State Printing Board. The State Printing Board—you had to get clearance before you could become a printer for the parish. Now, the parish had to publish its minutes and you got good pay for the legal printing, that had been taken care of years before. And all lawyers had to publish their official notices in the official printer. This was a source of cash; this was the good, good, good—your only hope.
So we were made the official printer for Tangipahoa Parish. And then we couldn't get certified by the State Printing Board, that was what he did against us. We couldn't carry it to the state court because he controlled the state court. So we took it to the United States Supreme Court where they said that it was not a federal matter, it was a state matter, and remanded it to the state.
Ritchie: So they would not give it to you?
Carter: So we knew we were lost.
Well, by then, this had been set up during Huey's lifetime and it started during Huey's lifetime. Now he gets shot on the 8th of September. Hodding had always said he would never leave the state until Huey was dead or out of power. So he was shot. And things were mighty, mighty tight for us, mighty tight.
And in April when I was having a baby and was in New Orleans, Hodding had gone to Baton Rouge for the 75th anniversary of the founding of Louisiana State University and he was invited as a writer, probably because Cleanth was up there teaching. And Hodding had had the pieces in the New Republic and he was a writer.
So he got there and he was on the—it was very, very hot and a man from Greenville named David Cohn—David had moved from Greenville to New Orleans. He was a graduate of the University of Virginia. And he was the head—running a big retail store called Feibleman's.
Ritchie: Here in Greenville?
Carter: In New Orleans. And Mother was—Mother knew all these people through the Little Theater and through all of that. And Dave Cohn was one of the young men just like Bill Spratling. And so he had met me through Mother. Now, the rule at Mother's was children should be seen and not heard. So we learned a lot but we couldn't talk. Maybe that's why I talk so much now.
Hodding and Dave got out on the fire escape at the hotel. And Dave told Hodding, "You're just"—this is in April of '35, "You're just knocking your brains out for nothing, you could never beat Huey, and you ought to come to Greenville, Mississippi, which is the bright spot on the Dun and Bradstreet map." The reason it was was because they were building levees, thanks to the 1927 flood, and the Flood Control Act of 1928. So Hodding liked the idea but he says, "I can't leave Louisiana until Huey's out of the picture."
[End Tape 2, Side A; Begin Tape 2, Side B]
Carter: So Huey—Hodding had heard about this place called Greenville and Dave said—so after Huey was out, Hodding and Dave got together and discussed whether we would come to Greenville. And there was a paper here that was 50, 75 years old, whatever it was, so that didn't sound too good. But the idea was that that paper never took a stand on anything and that it would be good to have a strong paper; because of changing times they needed something, that Hodding was a strong man who could do it.
So Hodding and his father came up to Greenville and looked at the situation, stayed at Will Percy's and met people who might be interested in putting up money. But we hadn't sold the paper; we had no money. But to figure how we would manage to come if we ever did want to.
So then we sold the paper. And now we had maybe $15,000, which was fantastic. That was certainly equity capital that had been built with sweat and tears.
So then, the paper sold, we went up to Maine, what else would a good Carter do? And coming back we went through Bennington [College, Vt.] because Mr. Gray—whose first name will come to me—had taught at Bowdoin and he thought that Hodding would make a good English teacher for Bennington. So we went to Bennington, looked at it, and we loved it. But all the little girls sat around at the feet of the master in shorts, very short shorts.
Ritchie: In the '30's.
Carter: I couldn't see my husband doing that. Very avant-garde. If we wore shorts, we wore them on the tennis court, and they were very circumspect, just above our knees. But here were these cute little things all sitting there, how would Hodding handle that? That was 1935, subtract seven. How old was Hodding? Ought-seven to '35. He was 27 years old. Look what he'd done by the time he was 27. Pretty good, huh?
Carter: So anyway, we looked at the Bennington situation and I was not in favor of that at all. Now we have the money, so we could consider the newspaper, so finally we started that in Greenville. So I guess it had to have been in the fall.
Ritchie: In '36?
Carter: Yes, but this is strange because we moved here in the fall of '36. We must have come in the early fall for the final decision—my first visit. Hodding had decided but I hadn't seen Greenville and it had to have been no earlier than September that I came up because I had a cute little outfit. I had a good-looking skirt and a pretty sweater, and a hat with a big pheasant feather on it. And I still have that. And we drove up and spent—were going to visit, did stay with Will Percy.
And on the way up, the whole South was building roads and Louisiana had built its because of Huey Long but Mississippi was just building its roads. And Arkansas was just building its roads. But they said the thing to do was to come up on the Louisiana and Arkansas side, which we did. When we got to Arkansas there was a place where the road went straight ahead and it also turned to the right. And in the rainy dark, we went straight ahead and turned over in the ditch. So we didn't get to Will's until too late for the dinner party he had for us.
We decided that Greenville was where we would settle. And so we did, with my child and John Carter's little girl.
Ritchie: John is?
Carter: Hodding's brother.
Carter: He came up to be the head of something very new. We were going to have a photography department at the paper and do pictures for the paper. It was a new process that was a lot simpler and cheaper to do so that a small paper could afford to do it. So we did that.
Ritchie: And now that you had the money from the other newspaper—who bought the Hammond newspaper?
Carter: Some people who had been connected with the Huey regime. There was nobody else in the state. And they bought it and they put out a paper called—they didn't call it the Daily Courier, they just took the equipment, the building, whatever we had. And they put it out for a while and they went broke and that was the end of them.
There is a Daily Courier, I think they call it that, in Hammond today. They went back to the name. But we came on up here.
Ritchie: Well, do you think Hodding didn't want to leave until Long was dead or gone because he didn't want it said that Long ran him out?
Carter: That's right. He was stubborn, he wasn't going to let them say that. But we obviously couldn't leave until then.
Now, looking back on it, I never thought of myself as a woman. I just thought of myself as doing what I was doing. And maybe that was what Mother put in us. I never thought of it.
Ritchie: But you did a lot of things and you did them well.
Carter: I don't know how well I did them. If you had to do it, you did it, and never thought about it, and didn't stop to say, "Well, is this woman's work?" To heck with it. I didn't even think about it. You just did what had to be done.
Ritchie: You took care of the household.
Ritchie: And you had the responsibilities at the paper.
Carter: That's right. And Mr. Carter was a responsibility because with his wife just dead—such a sweet man. And he wanted you to sit and scratch his arms—well, that would be half an hour or an hour every evening, scratching Mr. Will's arms, sweet guy.
But they were very sweet to me. And I didn't know I was spoiled, I don't really think I was spoiled but I think I just didn't know anything. I remember writing my mother, she had the letter, that I had bought a dress, the first thing I bought after we were married, the first summer or the second summer and I just had to have a dress and I said it cost 98 cents, "which Mrs. Carter, I know, will never believe, because she thinks I'm extravagant." What was I extravagant on? There wasn't anything for me to be extravagant with. Nothing. It was a good dress, a little blue dress with big white buttons.
Ritchie: And you wore it to work?
Carter: Oh, yes. It was a good dress. You could wear it anywhere. It was before anything was wash and drip-dry.
Ritchie: Hodding's father supported the move to Greenville?
Carter: He thought it was the thing to do. Yes.
Now, he didn't have any money. He was on the board of the bank in Hammond so we were able to borrow money once or twice, small amounts to pull us through but not much because they knew too well how awful everything was.
I'll tell you, we never had any money until some time—and I guess it must have been about 1960, and Hodding came in on a hot summer's afternoon and I had not been out that day, I don't know what I'd been doing. He said, "Well, I went by the bank and paid up the last of the note." He meant our personal note. And I said, "I think I'll buy me some bath powder." Bath powder! Why? I don't know, except that bath powder is something that people give you when you are sick. You would never think to buy bath powder.
I remember that is something I said and I remember that Will Rogers thing. And I remember also when my father died and we children had to come to the library the evening after the funeral and Uncle Parham [Werlein], my father's brother, told us that my father had died. I went crying out of the room and I said, "At least there's still a Santa Claus." Well, I think, you know, those are little things that summarize things for you, in a way.
So we got to Hammond, got to Greenville, and we brought Mrs. Fielding with us, she was a white woman, I don't remember how we got her. But she was very good and she stayed until she had to leave, I've forgotten why. And I had Hodding and I had Jane. John Carter had a room or an apartment but he couldn't take care of the little girl.
And I'll tell you, getting a paper started is impossible, absolutely impossible. Three times we had the paper ready, all the ads sold, everything ready, and it was to be printed and going to come out in the morning because the other paper was an afternoon paper, and we'd work all night long, and you just couldn't get it out. You couldn't get it out. Don't ask me why. Three weeks later, the same equipment, the same manpower, you're getting it out. But when you start, you can't do it.
Ritchie: So it was like starting all over when you moved here, setting up—
Carter: Oh, yes.
Ritchie: First time.
Carter: And I can't remember, did we have a reporter? I don't know if we had a reporter. We got one soon, though. We got one very soon because that first winter Hodding had a mastoid and they operated in those days, and took a big chunk out of the back of his ear. By then, we had Bob Brown, who went on and got a Pulitzer later and we desperately needed a reporter. And Hodding read or heard that there was a man over in—I think Meridian, maybe Hattiesburg, and he'd seen his ad maybe in the Mississippi press paper. So he wired him, said would he be interested in coming and what did he want? I don't know whether he said $60 or what it was. And Hodding wired back and said, "Per week or per month?"
So Bob came and he was our reporter. After Hodding had had his operation, I came into the office. And we were in the process of putting out an extra. I said, "What for?" A very prominent man who had the Pepsi-Cola bottling plant had driven his car into Lake Washington. Our extra said, "Eisenberg Commits Suicide," or some awful thing like that. I didn't even take the phone, I ran back to the house—which we had rented, the downstairs of a house. I said, "Hodding, is that correct, do we put out"—he said, "My God, stop it, stop it. You don't say it was suicide, my God."
So I had to run up and down the street and find our one little newsboy and get every copy back that we could get.
Ritchie: Pull them back.
Carter: And that was the end of that edition. Could have been the end of us, too.
Ritchie: That must have been costly, too.
Carter: Well, we'd done the printing, that's all we'd done. Well, when you say you got them back, you mean you ran up Washington Avenue and grabbed them as the boy went into the stores, wherever he'd gone, I tried to get ahead of him so that I would catch him before he got to these [stores] and picked up what I could. And so we stopped that.
And then I had to go over to the family. And Hodding was sick and I had to go and apologize because—you know, that was just terrible. And they were very sweet, to let it go.
Ritchie: Who did the editorial writing when Hodding was ill?
Carter: I don't know. I guess—
Ritchie: Did you do it?
Carter: No, I never did. I only wrote one editorial in all the years that we had the paper, any paper. I did not write editorials. I'll tell you the one I wrote was when they were considering putting in a new hospital. It was before air conditioning and the property that the town was considering was right next to the baseball park. And in the summer, baseball far into the night and all the windows open in the hospital. That was terrible. Those sick people wouldn't be able to stand all that noise. And I said, "I'm going to—what I'm going to do is go down in front of the King's Daughter's Hospital and just sit with my hand on the horn to show you what it's like." Well, that was the end of it.
Ritchie: So you felt strongly enough about that issue to write an editorial?
Carter: Oh, very much so because that was utterly ridiculous. That's a minor thing but believe me, I remember when my father was sick, in New Orleans, they put up signs in those days if there was sickness in the block and you couldn't blow horns and you had to be quiet for a half block ahead, and that block, and half a block below. So I was conscious of that. And to put a hospital with open windows next to a ball park which
had yelling far into the night! Also, I had once had intercostal neuralgia—don't ask me what that is but it hurts like mad. A little boy across the street in New Orleans had a bicycle that squeaked and I have never heard anything like that. So I felt that issue personally.
Ritchie: Do you remember what year this might have been?
Carter: No, I would have to see when they were discussing the new hospital. Then when they did put up the hospital, it was put up later, air conditioned, windows closed, and I think by then the ball park had collapsed.
Ritchie: When you mentioned your news boy delivering papers to the stores, did people subscribe at home then?
Carter: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. The way we did that was that we put on contests for who could sell the most subscriptions. A Mrs. Ely, Ruby Ely, she was the one who got out and sold marvelous subscriptions. And whoever sold the most would get a living room suite. Well, that was a sofa and a chair, that's two pieces. It was sort of canvas—not canvas, sort of straw that would have been very nice on somebody's porch but a little bit less impressive than the advance notice that we put out—because you had to repay for that with advertising in the paper.
We opened in the fall. The first Christmas I worked like a dog to get the principal retailers in town. Tenenbaum was a very nice high-priced women's wear store—they still operate under that name, the son-in-law runs it. I finally got Herb Tenenbaum to give me an ad, a full-page ad for his post-Christmas sale. And I got it in, I laid it out, everything was set. Hodding and I went to Hammond for Christmas. There was still Prohibition in the state of Mississippi. The sheriff had picked up some bottles of whiskey—half pints in cases and he gave some of those to Bob Brown, our reporter, and we gave those to our staff as Christmas presents.
Well, the press man had gotten his present and he was dead drunk when Herb Tenenbaum walked in to check his ad. And the press man threw the bottle at him, threw a second bottle at him, took a broom and said, "Get out of here." The ad ran with whatever errors were in it. But that wasn't important, the important thing was that it took months to get Herb Tenenbaum back into the paper.
Ritchie: And that was your job.
Carter: That was mine. And I'll tell you. When I first got to Greenville, Hodding had had a gentlemen's discussion with Mr. Smith, who was the editor of the other paper, the old paper that was there. Mr. Pink Smith, that was Pink Smith. So Mr. Smith very kindly had given Hodding his advertising rate card, which Hodding gave me. So I go out and sell advertising. Well, it was quite obvious that nobody is paying according to the rate card. Well, I've got to compete. I've got to see what is the rate that is the going rate.
So I got to the Goyer Company, which is the big organization that sold to the commissaries out in the countryside and Mr. Edmund Taylor who owned that was one of our supporters, not a major one but an interested one—a very good supporter. In his office was a fine man named Billy McGehee. So I went to Mr. McGehee to sell him an ad and the Goyer Company was supposed to take a nice big ad. So I suggested the price that Mr. Smith had told us was the going price. And he said, "Not at all; we don't pay anything like that."
Well, I talked and I talked and finally I got down to where I heard what the price was, and I came down to that. And he said, "Now, listen, I'm going to give you the ad and I'm going to pay you what we've agreed to. But if you were working for me, I'd fire you. And what's more, I'm going to tell your father on you." He thought Hodding was my father. He'd heard that this new editor had come to town.
Well, I was simply trying to see what the price was. What I discovered was that the card rate was close to twenty-five cents a column inch. In some companies—Buick and Chevrolet not Cadillac—the national advertising agent would pay half the price of the ad and the local man had to pay the other half.
Ritchie: I see what you're saying.
Carter: Yes. So what we would do is we'd find out what the national rate was and then we'd run it for half of that without any local contribution. Well, we got money out of it. Of course, the national people hated it but they probably knew what was going on. You had to sell those ads and if you didn't sell, there wasn't [a paper].
That first winter that we were here, we were here—we came in the fall of '36. And that was the winter, that Christmas was when the press man threw the bottle at Herb Tenenbaum. In January, February and March it rained. It rained perpetually, continually. Very hard to walk from store to store selling ads when nobody's going to be going out in the streets to buy anything.
Also, Greenville had its terrible experience with the 1927 flood which had come after the rain rained, January and February and March and weakened the levee. Now, ten years later we're going through exactly the same thing. Scared everybody to death. So it was hard to sell advertising those months but you did what you could.
On a typical day there would be no less than twenty-one contacts and an average day would probably be twenty-five contacts. On a really exhausting day you'd make about twenty-nine but that was almost more than you could take. And I forgot to say that at the end of that, when spring of '37 came—we came here in '36 and in the spring, Jane Carter went up to Maine to be with a great-aunt up there, Toto [Cora Robbins], a great-aunt that they all loved. So I didn't have her back after that because she went to—her father remarried. When she came back she went to live with her father and stepmother.
Then there was another child. When he married Margaret [Taylor Franks] Jane came back from Maine to her father. But anyway, Margaret—that was the second wife—and John had a little girl named Joan. And Margaret took Joan down to a dance for little girls twelve years old and Margaret had an aneurysm and she was on her bed for twelve years unconscious. And that poor little girl.
So Jane had gone back to Maine by then—I don't remember why she went back but she did.
So then at that point I had Joan in my custody, too, but that was much later. I never had a daughter, but in a way, not Jane so much, but I do feel close to Joan. Her mother didn't die which was so terrible.
Ritchie: So you took care of her.
Carter: More or less. Her father kept an eye on her, too—very much so. I just wanted to have that child be able to lose her mother in a clean break. Not to be able to cry, because her mother wasn't dead, but her mother wasn't living.
Ritchie: For twelve years—that's a long time.
Carter: Yes. At least twelve. And she died.
Ritchie: In addition to selling the advertising, you were writing for the paper?
Carter: I would write stories as they came up, but not in that period. Primarily I was in advertising. I was the only advertising director at first. And then after a number of months we hired Herman Cohn, who was Dave's nephew, and he came to work as my assistant and so we had him for a while.
Then the only thing Hodding ever did, that looking back on it, really hurt. We decided the time had come that we really needed a really good advertising man, that a man could take over and I'd be his assistant, I'd keep on but he would do it. We got this very good man from Bowling Green, Kentucky, and we ran this front page story. And the story was all about the coming of Rodney Defenbaugh, which was simply great. But nowhere in this story did it say he takes over from Mrs. Carter who has done such a beautiful job. [Laughter.] It really hurt me.
Ritchie: Because you're the one who built up the contacts.
Carter: Oh, it really hurt. It really hurt me. Because I'd done it. Neither one of us really thought of it at the time but when it came out in print and no mention of—usually when you put in the new person that takes over you say something about the person who they're taking over from. Well, that's the only time I felt Hodding ever did me a dirty trick but he didn't do it. It just happened. But it was tough.
Ritchie: Did you often read things before they went out?
Carter: Oh, what he wrote, definitely. And if it were really—I had a rule that he had, too. I said, "Look, you've got to make your point but you don't have to make collateral people angry. You can make them angry some other day." So you'd read it carefully to see if some other ox was going to be gored. So I think that was a good thing I could do. Everybody worked very closely together.
Now, I wasn't really the business manager at that point, I was simply the advertising manager. I can't know that I was ever really the business manager because when we came back from the war, I wasn't. But I, in a way, always kept an eye on the thing.
[End Tape 2, Side B; Begin Tape 3, Side A]
Ritchie: I thought we might start now with your telling me a little bit about what the town of Greenville was like when you first arrived.
Carter: Well, I'll tell you in terms not of my first view of it which was coming into Will Percy's house that night after we had turned over in the ditch. He was so nice; he was waiting up for us. We had to ask at the police station how to get to his house, Hodding wasn't positive and at that hour nobody was awake. We went on to his house and he waked up, walked to the door, opened it and said, "Come in, you poor children."
The next morning Adah Williams came over. She was a very good friend of his. She said, "Oh, I'm so glad to meet you," and I said, "I'm so glad to meet you." And she said, "I've heard so much about you," and I said, "I've heard so much—" and Will said, "Come on, now, that's enough of that, let's get on with it." And so we became friends. She was older, considerably than I was, but a nice, very attractive woman.
So what was Greenville like? Well, really, the most important person in that period was Louise Crump because Hodding was about to hire her as—by then, it couldn't have been then, it must have been after we had decided to come and were here and we went to Will Percy's house—now I'm going to tell you what I saw, in those days.
Before the paper got started, Louise would pick me up and take me for a Coke, Coca-Cola, that was the thing to do at about ten o'clock in the morning. This has to have been before I actually went to work because I had time to go have the Coca-Colas. And you would go to Buehler's Fountain Terrace and you'd sit
in your car and the nice girl or nice boy would come out and take your order for a Coca-Cola. And the next car had women you knew, and the next car—it was the rendezvous.
Louise showed me the city and she was very interested. At that time she was going with a man who was the head of the health office here and the big project was to get rid of mosquitoes because Mississippi had malaria so terribly. And she would show me the bad puddles all over.
Another big thing that she showed me was the squirrels in the trees. They were destroying our great oak trees and a lot of people thought the police should get out and shoot the squirrels. That was a major topic—should you or should you not shoot the squirrels?
Then she took me through the streets of Greenville, good and bad areas, and many houses had lean-to's attached to them, about ten—about five by eight, maybe five by ten, with drop windows, the drop wooden panels that were windows. I said, "What is that?" She said, "Well, that's for the person in the family who has tuberculosis." And there was so much tuberculosis in the area and there was no room in the state hospital, so people were in the—they were simply isolated at home.
Ritchie: A form of quarantine.
Carter: It was. It was the quarantine for them. That made a big impression on me.
Mother came up to visit at one point. The train arrived at night from New Orleans; it got here around ten at night—no, it has to have been later, it must have been one. And so she said, "Now, what do we do tomorrow?" And I said, "Well, this is Greenville, so we will go out for a coke at ten; we will go out for lunch at twelve; we're going to tea at four; cocktails at five; and dinner at seven or 6:30." She couldn't believe it. She'd come to a country town to sit on the front porch and rock.
Well, here was a way of life. But that just lasted for me for two or three weeks while things were getting settled in. And interestingly, as we would go by the Goyer Company, which I told you was where the man said he was going to fire me—but as we went by there, every time we went by Louise would say, "And there's the Goyer Company." I couldn't understand why but of course I learned why, it was because Mr. Taylor, every time anybody needed any money for anything, Mr. Taylor gave it to them. It was a wonderful institution.
Ritchie: Small philanthropy.
Carter: Absolutely. They were in business but they gave money for the good causes.
So that's how it was. The girls who would have to go out raising money for this, that and the other. Louise had helped some of the women to organize something called the Junior Auxiliary, patterned after the Junior League. It had been established several years. Eventually she put me up for membership and I became a member.
Now, that couldn't have happened in the very first year because I was much too busy. I have a feeling none of that really happened, none of the—the Junior Auxiliary thing has to have happened later because very soon I was selling the special edition for the opening of the paper and every other edition that came out after that.
But what was Greenville like? You never went home without going up over the levee at Main Street to look at Lake Ferguson which had been the river. In the 1927 flood, people had lived on the levee waiting for the boats to come, boats to come and take the white people to Vicksburg and the black people stayed on the levee, in tents, put up by the Red Cross. And you just went to see—no matter what it was,
like in New Orleans, you used to go to the French Market for coffee before you'd go home. In Greenville you went over the levee to look at the river—well, Lake Ferguson.
What else about Greenville?
Ritchie: What was the political climate like?
Carter: Well, Greenville was very conservative and in Mississippi there was one party, the Democratic party. So it all revolved around the courthouse, with the courthouse crowd trying to—and in the community there were two cliques, there was Will Percy's law firm and Billy Wynn's law firm, and those two were both on our board and the people who put up money. Billy was more the industry side and Will was the old planter side.
So we heard both of those but we were more under the influence of Will Percy because we stayed with him the first four to six weeks when we came to town. Having breakfast in bed at his house, the black man would bring you in a tray, a silver tray with your juice and your coffee. Then that was removed and another silver tray came in with your bacon, eggs and biscuits. And then another tray came in, I don't know what came on that. But you were just getting beautiful tray after—well, that was very much in the old planter tradition, much more glamorous than most planters ever had, I assure you.
Ritchie: Did he live in a family home?
Carter: He lived in the house that his father and mother had built and I think they built it either late in the teens or early twenties. It looked like that to me because it was that style. [It was] torn down later, after he died. He died in '42, it was inherited by his cousin's children, who were his adopted children, and nobody could afford to heat it and cool it and all those things.
What was Greenville like? Well, there was the white part of town and the black part of town, never the twain shall meet, except in your kitchen, where you certainly expected to have a maid or two. And in Jackson, Mississippi, I'd had a maid, when I first moved to Jackson in '31. She came five or six days a week, until after midday dinner. You paid her three dollars a week. I'm sure that I didn't pay much more than that here. But I did have a maid and Mrs. Fielding was there at first with the children.
There were no supermarkets then. There were one or two groceries where everybody knew the family well, and leading citizens, very nice people. And all of downtown was—downtown was where the retail merchants were, many of them Jewish, most of them Jewish, and you could depend on them for supporting community projects which you certainly have none of today. There's nobody on Main Street with any money at all. They're all representatives of something else, bottom-liners.
So, what else do you want to know about Greenville? Later on I learned a lot of things but I didn't know it then. For instance, I didn't realize that five times as much was being spent on the education of the white child as was spent on the education of the black child. I didn't realize that a classroom of third graders might have one teacher and seventy-five children. I don't know how they were supposed to learn anything but we didn't know that. We didn't know any of that.
We came to Greenville in '36 and of course what we were struggling to do was to defeat the old paper and force them to let us buy them. And as time went on, they were either going to put us out of business or we were going to put them out of business. So we kept on struggling with that.
Now I must say this, the race issue had not become the issue in the thirties. I think survival was the principal issue for everybody, just trying to make the wheels turn. They had a lynching over in Duck Hill—I've never been to Duck Hill, I don't even know if that's the correct name but I think it was. It's in one of Hodding's books. Will Percy telephoned Hodding about 6:30 in the morning and said, "My God,
you can withdraw my subscription, what did I put up any money to bring you here for?" And Hodding said, "What are you talking about, Will?" He said, "I got up early in the morning to go out and see what your editorial would be about that lynching." And Hodding said, "It's there, Will." He said, "No, it isn't, I've looked." And Hodding, "Did you look? Look on the front page." Hodding had put it on the front page.
So that was the first editorial we had that had anything—well, it had to do with lynching which was justice. And Hodding's whole pitch all along was equality under the law and getting the vote and at no time did he come out for immediate full integration of the schools.
And at one point, on the jacket of one of his books the publisher had had the publicist say that Hodding was the foremost integrationist in the South and they sent us these copies of the book, advance. Hodding got on the phone and he said, "You recall every one of those or I'll sue you so you don't have a sign of anything to live on, because that will destroy me." And so they had to recall the books they had already sent out and change the book cover or jacket.
Ritchie: So Will Percy and your other friends and backers were in favor of the type of coverage that Hodding—
Carter: Yes, they were, they were. They were in favor of decent relationships, good relationships. Now, I want to say this, that Will Percy died in '42 while we were away at the army, at the war, and I think that by '45 when we came back and the black soldiers were coming back, maybe '46, I don't think Will could have stood it because he was used to dispensing justice and being the decision-maker. If there was a case of—what do they call the thing—I can't think of the word, where two men get together in a back lot, what do you call that? Come on, come on.
Ritchie: I can't answer.
Carter: If you have a homosexual relationship. Well, if the police came in and told Will a thing like that, he would simply say, "Well, just tell so-and-so to get out of town," and that was the way that the justice was taken care of. And Will would see to it that it was done.
By after the war, that kind of thing could not have happened, and I think that it was—from the point of view of his happiness, I'm glad he died when he did. Because the first black soldier who had come in to him and spoken as man to man without saying "please, sir" he would have been very upset by that.
Ritchie: How did the staff of the newspaper change in the early years?
Carter: Well, you see, during those years we were all just putting out a paper. Remember then, we went off—Hodding got the Nieman in the fall and we went off to the Nieman in January 1940. And we didn't in actual fact do much about coming back except the period I'll tell you about, until after the war was over.
As far as my life as a newspaperwoman is concerned, the hardest part of it was right there getting the Delta Star going. And in the summer of—we came in '36—in the summer of 1938 we were about to take over the other paper. I had a miscarriage with twins and I had puerperal fever and I was frightfully sick, right at the time that Hodding had to be negotiating for the takeover of the old Greenville Democrat-Times. And I heard them say I had 107, so I said to the nurse, "Get Hodding here, get him here at once."
So he came out of the meeting and came back to the hospital, hurrying. And I said, "I've got to write a will this minute and leave everything to you." He needed my little stocks that I had to protect the investment of all our time. I don't remember whether we did write a will or not at that point but it was all very touch and go right there. Hodding signed the papers and we took over the Democrat and we put out the first issue of the Delta Democrat-Times on September 1, 1938.
Well, I had worked by then, you see, for practically two years on that, from the fall of '36 until I got sick. After that I had to stay in bed two months, [then] we decided that the thing to do was to get pregnant as fast as I could. So I did and then promptly began to try to lose the baby, so I had to stay in bed a lot. Then we had the baby, then we went off to the Nieman.
And so who was selling the advertising and running that part of it? Well, the man that we had brought in, Rodney Defenbaugh, who was excellent, really good. I don't think I worked during that period. We went off to the Nieman and we came back for a few months. We were here and Hodding had signed up for the National Guard. He did it when Munich occurred. When he went off with the National Guard to Camp Blanding I stayed here, to keep an eye on the paper and to work as Woman's Page editor because I was too fragile—ha!—to get out and pound the pavements the way I had done. So [I] just had to see that everything went all right.
We had a young man in charge of circulation, John Gibson, and we had an advertising man, Rodney. We had a good staff of young men that Hodding had put together on the editorial side. We went along, we did pretty well that winter.
In June or maybe May, he was taken out of the 114th Field Artillery and taken to Washington to be in army public relations. He said, "I don't care if we lose the paper. You and the boys have got to come." So at that point, off I went to Washington, D.C., with the two boys. That summer [I] did the research for him on a book called Civilian Defense of the United States. Horrible book— patched together, just pieced together.
And the paper was left here for the war years with Hodding's brother theoretically keeping track of it.
Ritchie: The one who had come to be the photographer?
Carter: Yes. Right. And John wrote us these letters—[there was] not so much long distance in those days, and of course you didn't have the airplane flying back and forth, they did but we didn't—he would tell us about how things were in terrible shape. Eventually he was drafted or volunteered, I don't know. John Gibson remained as the circulation manager.
Hodding met a man in Washington who had other newspapers, Don Reynolds, captain in the Army. Don entered into a contract with Hodding that he would take over the paper and run it and own 49% and we'd own 49% and two percent in escrow. His staff, his supervisors would see about it. John Gibson sort of kept an eye on it for us while these other people were in charge of the paper.
Ritchie: They came and ran it?
Ritchie: Well, it must have been a time when other staff members had to leave, too.
Carter: Oh, they did. They did.
Ritchie: So you went on and you couldn't be certain that they would be back.
Carter: You didn't know, you didn't know. John Gibson was wonderful because he kept an eye on the whole thing and when we came back and had to buy the paper back, he put up some money and ended up as a 25% owner, and a very good business manager. So I never was business manager again.
Ritchie: Tell me what types of events you wrote about for the women's page.
Carter: Nothing much—just day-by-day society. The other thing that interested me was, I told the community that we ought to have a water pageant that would be something like—because you see, Lake Ferguson was new and people were beginning to put boats out there. They were putting—floats.
Carter: Pontoons, you know. All right, that's what they were beginning to put. I said we should have a water pageant like a parade in New Orleans and it would celebrate—maybe it was the hundredth birthday of Greenville, I don't know what it was to celebrate. We really were getting it beautifully organized and the material I was putting out had to do with all the wonderful things we were going to have. Hodding said he didn't care, come on, so that was the end of that [but] by then we had it organized. What's more, we had done something that I don't think was all that good. We got the people who had been here to put on the Junior Auxiliary Follies and they came and put on the pageantry and had somebody do the text of the show. And I wasn't here, so I don't know. But that was the principal thing I felt I did for the good of the community.
Ritchie: On the women's page, would you have covered issues like health issues?
Carter: No, no. We didn't cover a thing but the stupidest stuff you ever saw. As Louise said, I left her with all those Baptists, meeting in circles. Well, to broaden the interest in the paper, the important thing was to get names—names, names. The Baptists had circles that met and you'd run the names of everybody who met. You'd have that and you'd have the Methodist circles. Always in writing up a party you'd try to find out what it was that the hostess liked most. If it was her refreshments, you tried to discuss that and give the menu or give some idea of the kind of cake she had served or if flowers were the important thing, you described the arrangements. I must say there was no consciousness of any depth to it at all.
The only thing I had done that I think was fairly good was in the summer before Philip was born, that would be the summer of '39, I was a stringer for the Christian Science Monitor and the Times-Picayune. No depth, just gave them stories that were appearing in the Mississippi papers. And certainly nothing of any depth was appearing in the Mississippi papers. Nobody paid any attention. I don't know where we all were.
Ritchie: But every paper had a women's page.
Carter: Oh, yes. Horrible.
Ritchie: And then Louise carried on?
Carter: She came back after I went off to be with Hodding, she took it back. And you see, whoever had the women's page also sort of pushed the artistic and the little theater. You wrote a lot of publicity for them and tried to stir up the arts and the whatever. Those were women's interests.
Ritchie: So Louise had been on the staff?
Carter: Oh, she was the first person Hodding hired. She set the tone for the women's page and was the—well, I'll tell you, when you think back on it, I don't think we were anything special, one way or the other. But Louise was because she knew the whole community. Together we would put out the stuff about the big little theater production that was coming or some musical event, we'd build that up. We really wrote the publicity.
Ritchie: Now, would the paper at this time have covered any black news?
Carter: Not any at all.
Ritchie: Nothing in the black community?
Carter: Nothing, nothing. And of course we had some Chinese, never would cover anything like that. A very limited—you just didn't cover those things.
Ritchie: But if there was a major issue, say, as the lynching and—
Carter: Well, but that was over—yes, then you'd write the editorial, Hodding would. And I can't think of any major issues we were involved in, in that period before the war. I think that the Nieman fellowship was a very important development in our lives. However, it was after the Nieman fellowship that we came back and I did the woman's page. I was carrying along in the usual way.
So then we went to Washington for the war and I guess whatever the Nieman had done for me and whatever it had done for Hodding—but Hodding was way ahead of me because he had demonstrated for Sacco and Vanzetti—well, I never thought of doing anything like that. But I think that the war sort of opened up a lot of things.
After Pearl Harbor came, I had done that stupid book for Hodding which he had done with Colonel [R. Ernest] Dupuy who was his superior. So the book is by Dupuy and Carter. Hodding had had trouble with his eyes at Camp Blanding, a palm frond did something and he didn't have direct vision in his right eye after that. He was about to be put out of the Army when Pearl Harbor came but he fudged it and was able to stay. We had more notes at the bank than he was making as a second lieutenant so we knew that I had to go to work.
So I went out and got a marvelous job with the Office of Facts and Figures, which a few months later became the Office of War Information. And worked with a fantastic group of people. I was a researcher. The writers were people like Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Milton MacKaye who did a lot of things for the Saturday Evening Post, McGeorge Bundy, William McNeill Lowry who did—is still, I think, alive and was working with the Ford Foundation. The researchers were all great girls. They had come from Time and Life and they were referred to as the [Henry] Luce women. So when I came, they had to call me a Luce woman, too, although I had never worked for Luce, and for fun we changed the spelling to Loose.
Archie MacLeish was the head of the Office of Facts and Figures but they threw him out. Congress thought he was too liberal. They converted it and called it the Office of War Information and Elmer Davis came in.
Ritchie: So you would research—
Carter: I did a lot. I wrote speeches and I did research.
Ritchie: On what was happening with the war?
Carter: Yes. In the Office of Facts and Figures, they assigned you a certain topic and I was assigned to Nations United. My deputy was Chris Herter. In doing some reading to try to find out what to do, I read where the Dutch were the first to salute the American flag. So I said that since that was true, we should salute the Dutch and we should have Princess Julianna come aboard a ship of the line and be piped on as a sign that the Netherlands fight on and they were not alone, that we were all still fighting, together.
So I told that to Chris Herter and he said yes, so he had to get permission. We went down to the Philadelphia Navy Yard and went on board the South Dakota. We got a half column in the New York Times. They had to say "at an eastern port a ship of the line," they couldn't say which, "had saluted Princess Julianna in honor of the fact that the Dutch fight on." We talked to Captain Thomas Leigh Gatch (later Rear Admiral) and he said, "Well, what do you want done on the ship when she comes."
I said, "Well, you have to pipe her on and you have to have all of your seamen up on [deck]." He said, "How many?" I said, "How many do you have?" and I think he said 1400, whatever he said. I said, "Well, I think 1200." So he put them all out on deck and they all saluted but I wasn't there, I was too low in the—you know, it was all arranged but it was very exciting. So I felt that was a pretty good thing to do.
I also did some good work for the Norwegians who were also fighting on. And I did some work for the—you know, brought out little history things that I would find out that we could show how they had helped us and that it isn't helping us but helping a cause that is bigger than us.
Ritchie: So it was a PR type of job.
Carter: It was, it really was. When Ethiopia was going to sign the Declaration by Nations United at the White House, they all signed saying, "We will not withdraw, we will all fight on together." Ethiopia decided to come in on it at the last minute and the writers weren't there, they'd gone for something, some vacation, so I had to write the little blurb about Ethiopia that would go into the little booklet about Nations United. So I enjoyed doing that and years later I saw Ethiopia but it wasn't quite the way I'd described it but I'd gotten it out of every book at the Library of Congress.
And [I] wrote speeches. Never for anybody higher than an assistant secretary of something, Navy or something.
Ritchie: In doing this, was your work ever censored?
Carter: No, no.
Ritchie: Were you aware of censorship?
Carter: You see, we were doing it, we were on the domestic side, that was important. No, it wasn't. I worked along with that and Hodding was doing what he was doing in the War Department. They sent him over to Egypt to start Stars and Stripes. I think they sent him over there to start Yank and when he got there, General [Lewis] Brereton asked him to do an area Stars and Stripes, so he did that, too. So I was just taking care of the two boys and commuting in daily from—not commuting, but from Silver Spring where we were staying.
Ritchie: I would say that was a lot more than "just." It must have kept you busy.
Carter: Oh, it did. It did.
Ritchie: Did you come in contact with any newspaper people then?
Carter: Well, you see, all those writers were the principal people that we saw, not newspaper people so much. When Hodding got back, he was doing psychological warfare and that type thing—and intelligence and propaganda, because he'd had a course in propaganda at Harvard when he was there which looked very good. Propaganda was a brand-new topic at that time.
While Hodding was overseas there was a major breakup. A woman came in to the advertising department, they didn't call it the advertising department, of OWI. She was getting ready to put out all of these posters. She came from either—she didn't come from Saks, she came from one of the other big stores. Her idea was not to tell women to walk because we needed to save the rubber but "walk to be beautiful." The writers really blew up on that. They said that the American people couldn't be fed that pap.
So that was part of the different point of view which led a lot of them to resign. Now, I didn't resign. I went over to see Elmer Davis and I said, "Look, I've done advertising." And I said, "I don't object to getting people to doing the work any way you can do it. But you can't tell them, when the levee is breaking, to fill the sandbags to make your waistline trimmer. You've got to tell them it's to save the levee."
So the upshot of that was that when my group all broke up, then I hate to tell you I was put over in the—I don't know what they called it, the public relations department. I was in on security of information with Ken Beirns. He went on to be a big shot for Revlon and married the sister of one of the big movie actresses, Rosalind Russell.
I enjoyed doing the security of information. Then I did radio programs for children before TV, not programs but fact sheets regarding war work for children—helping with the saving-fat publicity, writing the fact sheets to send out to all the radio stations about that and how the kiddies could help. Saving the fat and we had a big one on—good Lord, what was it?
Well, what had happened was that they couldn't get kapok from Southeast Asia because it was cut off by the Japanese, so how were we going to make our life jackets for our brave soldiers, sailors and marines? They told the kids of the Northeast, to gather milkweed floss because someone in the Department of Agriculture had discovered that milkweed floss made a wonderful substitute for kapok in life jackets.
Ritchie: It had the right consistency.
Carter: So we put on a big campaign. I really learned my lesson because we put on the campaign and the kids gathered the milkweed floss and they had to hang it on fences in summer and over clotheslines to dry.
Ritchie: Because it has that white liquid.
Carter: Yes, and they had to get it to dry. Then school was about to take in and what were they going to do with the milkweed floss. Well, they couldn't do anything with it. All over the Northeast they were telegraphing in, "What do we do with it?" They hadn't made the proper arrangements to gather it in. So that was really a flop.
And about that time—I don't think it was then but I'm not positive when—Mary Lou Mickey had been a researcher. She went to work for Bernard Baruch as a confidential researcher. Her husband was hurt on the Franklin when the Kamikaze came and went right straight down the funnel and blew up the ship and so many were killed and they went limping back to port. And she wanted to be with Bill.
[End Tape 3, Side A; Begin Tape 3, Side B]
Carter: So she wanted to be with Bill when he came in to the West Coast and she recommended me to Mr. Baruch. So I went [and] because that was deemed war service, I was able to resign from OWI and went to work for Mr. Baruch as confidential researcher. Any question that he had, he would never give an answer until he had the facts. And believe me, that makes a difference.
I came to hate Clare Luce with a passion because she would answer, "No, that's globalony." Well, that's a beautiful line but she hadn't gotten any of her facts correct, at least from my point of view. And I thought that—whatever her first name was, Chase Smith, the senator from Maine—
Carter: Margaret. She was wonderful. She always researched and she'd say, "I'll tell you that tonight," or "I'll tell you that tomorrow," and she'd put her staff out to get the facts.
Ritchie: So you were doing this type of thing—
Carter: That's for him, for him. Simply so if he had a letter he could get the facts before he wrote the letter, the answer.
Ritchie: Do you remember any of the issues?
Carter: Well, the principal issue that we got into was post-war aviation, whether it should be—whether America should have a single company that would be like the British Airways, that would be the government-sponsored thing or whether we would have competition. That was fascinating. There were hearings on it and I had to take all that material and reduce it so that he would know who said what.
Then he was in New York and I went on up to New York for a conference with him. Well, he was actually out on Long Island at one of the Guggenheim estates that he had rented because his own place he had already rented to somebody else. We stayed out there for a few days. I went up to stay maybe overnight, so I'd put a nightgown in my purse, and I put a toothbrush and some cold cream [in] and stayed out there. The maid would wash the nightgown and spread it so beautifully over the bed. By golly, you've never seen anything look like that.
We worked on this question and then he decided we'd better go into New York because there were people we had to see. So we went in to New York and we stayed at the Waldorf Towers and we had a talk with all of the big aviation people. But we were waiting for Juan Tripp, who was supposed to fly in from the West Coast. And he never did get there, as far as I'm concerned.
So then—it seems to me my life has always ended before it ended. It was the year of a polio epidemic in Washington and my sister had come and taken the two boys to Florida. We'd put the dog in the kennel and the fleas were attacking Hodding. It might be funny but it wasn't. He'd phone and he'd say, "The fleas are terrible." And I'd say, "Well, get some flea powder and put it around." So the next night he'd phone me and say, "The fleas have taken the place, I've got the whole bed surrounded but they're jumping up." So the next night the fleas were on the bed and he said, "Listen, either you come home and get rid of the fleas or you and I are through."
Well, when he said a thing like that, he was just—he could have meant it, you couldn't tell. Maybe I knuckled under too easily, maybe. But I don't know—I knew that man pretty well. I told Mr. Baruch I had to go back to Washington, even though we were still waiting for Juan Tripp. And I said, "Well, you will see him, so you'll be able to ask him those questions."
I went back to Washington; promptly discovered that I was about three months pregnant which I hadn't known and was in the midst of feeling terrible which I had not realized was going to happen. But on my two gallons of gas, I did ride up to the top of the hill and mentioned at the Gulf station there that the fleas were eating up the house and that my husband was going to leave me and the Gulf man said, "That's easy." He said, "Buy this spray, Gulf Spray." Well, I bought a can of Gulf Spray, sprayed it all over the place, the fleas went away. I think it might have had the earliest DDT. I really think it may have, I don't know. I ought to ask the Gulf people if that was true.
So that was the end of me and Mr. Baruch. I must say I enjoyed that period. I was in OWI one day, went by to see all the crowd and some of those men in the hall out there by Elmer Davis's office, they said, "Look, we're trying to put together an office of something that will be—we're going to have it in Australia, the first one. It will be an office for American information and people will be able to come in and get books—"
They said, "We think you'd be good, would you take it?" And I thought, "Good God, I'd love it." But I also knew that I had a husband and two children. I said, "I'd love it but I can't possibly."
Ritchie: And the war was over at this time?
Carter: The war was not yet over but they were getting ready. Everybody knew in the long run it would be over. And we didn't know anything about the Manhattan Project but Hodding knew about it. But I never knew a word about it. It was over in the War Department. He knew, because he was in intelligence or something like that. But I didn't know anything about it. And the only thing I ever came near it on was that we got a memo that said, "Under no circumstances discuss heavy water." I didn't know what heavy water was and I certainly wasn't going to discuss it. I didn't. But after the Manhattan Project was known, then I began to understand.
So, I didn't go to Australia. I was in bed, I'd just had Tommy—
Ritchie: He was born in Washington?
Carter: Yes. He was born March the 28th, 1945. Mr. Roosevelt had just died. My second sister was up there and she took the children to see the funeral parade. And all of the crowd went out to San Francisco for the founding of the United Nations. So I felt very close to all that although I was not there.
The Army had told Hodding that his eye was in terrible shape and that he had to get out, that he couldn't work any more, and that he should go down and spend his life on the beach in Florida. Well, he didn't like that idea but we went up to Maine and we were up there that summer.
Well, what had happened was that his superior officer, Jack Stanley, who had been his superior at Yank in the Egypt days, wanted to have a vacation and Hodding had said go to Maine and see Ham Hall, Hodding's cousin. And while he was up there he bought a little house from Mrs. Bok, Mary Louise Curtis Bok, who owned a lot of property up there. She owned the Saturday Evening Post, of course. When Hodding's eyes were so terrible, sometime late in that winter of '45, he went up to Maine to see Ham on a vacation. He bought a house, Hodding did. The first house we ever owned was in Rockport, Maine, right next to Camden, and right next to the house that Jack had bought.
So now comes Hodding's being put out of the Army. We don't know if we're coming back to Greenville or not and we didn't know if we could, if his eyes would be good enough. We went on up to Maine and lived in this darling house that was fully furnished, thank God. We certainly couldn't have furnished it. Hodding came on back down to Greenville to see about the paper and how we could get it back and ran into all this to-do. Don Reynolds had bought new presses and lent the money to the paper to buy them, so we would have to buy him out on that in addition to his half of the paper, his 48%—49%.
Ritchie: So while he made it possible for the paper to continue during the war years—
Carter: Yes, he was going to keep it. The only way that Hodding got it back was that Hodding outsmarted him in a poker game. Not actually. What he did was that he—until the last minute the deal was set up, whoever made the offer, I could buy your part, I would offer to sell—how was that, maybe buy or sell, and you either buy me at this price or I'll buy you at this price.
Well, that was fair except that we would still owe Don all this extra money that he had invested. Hodding had to pretend that we weren't coming back so that this man would make the price low enough so that we could come back and could buy him. And Don did. We were able to scrape that money together and come back down. We came in the fall, in time for the beginning of school, and had to buy a house, bought the house there on Arnold and got settled there.
At first Hodding thought that I would be—he didn't want me to work, really. He wanted to be—take over, do it without me. But the way I got back was I began writing things about art and that type thing. We started a book page, which was a lousy book page, but we started it. And that's how I got back to the paper.
Pretty soon I was doing advertising in special editions. The one I really took the greatest pride in was a special edition in—I think it was '48, now you see it's terrible not to know. But it was the beginning of the pesticides and herbicides and the mechanical cotton picker had been invented and in good shape just before the war and they couldn't make it during the war because of the steel shortages. So now the mechanical cotton picker came in. And this whole special edition of the paper—many, many pages—and every single ad and every bit of copy had to do with land use and the proper land use and what were the latest ideas.
Ritchie: That certainly is important in this area.
Carter: Oh, it was. And the man who had the experiment station at Stoneville and later was head of Mississippi State University, he said it was the best piece of agricultural promotion that had ever appeared in the state. Well, that isn't to say much but it was a nice compliment for the little girl. So I consider that the best thing, one of the best things I did.
In the meantime, Hodding was trying to get better pay for the cotton pickers because not everybody had the mechanical cotton pickers yet, they were just coming in. Here were these men coming back from the war and from industry or wherever they had been during the war and they weren't going to work for whatever it was they'd gotten before. At a very period when mechanization was coming into the plantations which made an industrial revolution on the plantation, we had the beginning of the civil rights movement. The people came back and they weren't going to take it the way they had had it before.
Hodding wrote wonderful editorials during that period and he won the Pulitzer for one he'd written up in Maine before he ever actually got back here. Well, he'd been back here but he wasn't in Greenville when he wrote it, the one they cited. I recently reread that group of editorials but the ones that he was writing that I think were far superior and were very long were telling the white leadership to do what they knew was right and to come on and do it. He was saying for the ministers to step out, for people to try to take a stand for greater equality.
Ritchie: And this was in the immediate time following the war.
Carter: Absolutely. And that was in the fall of '46—or when did the war end? '45. All right. In '45, all of that fall and all that time. And he was writing these editorials about—but people weren't getting mad because—white people weren't getting mad because he was saying this is the best, this is what the good people of the South have always believed. Well, he hoped that he could lead them that way and that was what he tried to do throughout.
The big moments of the bad period began with the Supreme Court decision about integration of the schools. And then it began to get hot. Anything he said they absolutely construed as being communistic and wrong and dangerous. "They"—who are "they"? They were the power structure. I'm sure that the poor black people, a lot of them didn't read the paper but they knew who was standing for them.
Ritchie: "They" were the people who would be affected by the changes.
Ritchie: And they saw those changes as adverse ones for their economic situations.
Carter: Oh, yes, a very economic situation. So that went on. And what was I doing at that period? I was president of every organization in town that a woman could be head of. I think the theory was that I would prove that we were home and that we didn't have horns.
Ritchie: And that you were really part of the community.
Carter: Part of the community, very much so. As president of the Junior Auxiliary, I made a stand for what we would have as our major project. I don't know what they wanted but I decided we should have, work for a day nursery and we voted to have it. We had a very good day nursery, all white.
About that same time Ruth Brent—[Tape interruption.]
Now, I learned a lot from the day nursery—and also I want to go back to Ruth Brent. What I learned from the day nursery was that these were all white children from very poor families, they didn't know one thing. They didn't know about toothbrushes, they didn't know washcloths, some of those children came from homes outside the levee, on the river side of the levee, where they went to the bathroom on the floor in their homes and then the mother would just put the food on the floor for them, there's no telling why they didn't have everything in the world. But we taught those kids a great deal, they learned it. And the second year was a lot easier—we had a paid woman in charge, a very good young director.
Now at the same time that we were doing that—well, we got that started by the fall of '46—in about '48, Ruth Brent, a good Methodist over at Trinity, tried to get a day nursery started, or day care center for the children of black families because, she said, "We want those women to work for us but they have to have a place to leave their children." It was a very good, sound, conservative way of putting it.
There was enough money available in the state to have one that would get a little federal subsidy. She went ahead and couldn't get anybody to help with it. First she thought she had her Trinity Methodist crowd—but black children? Then she thought she had the Junior Auxiliary but they showed interest but not to go and work. Finally she got it going and the Greenville Day Care Center was the first nursery for black children in this area.
Now, I had nothing to do with that. But Ruth was my friend, became more and more my friend, we became friends over the years. And she did that. And we went to—there was about that time, there was an organization called—and there is an organization called Church Women United. Have you ever heard of it?
Carter: Have you? Well, at that time it was—it wasn't Church Women United, they twisted the name later to Church Women—it was under the National Council of Churches. Ruth was active in Church Women United. It was a white organization and I was very active in it.
After the '54 Supreme Court decision—the National Council of Churches took positions on things and the organization was ready to collapse in the South from the point of view of the white participation. But we already had a few black people participating and they said they would go right on meeting. And Ruth said she had no objections to meeting for the worship of God with anybody, so she continued and I continued. And I think that Ruth held it together, and I helped. And we kept Church Women United going.
And in those days, the first time in Greenville that I can remember—it was not a Church Women United meeting but Ruth was trying to drum up support for the day care center and we went over to Josephine Haxton's—she's a writer who writes under the name of Ellen Douglas. We went over to her house, a group of
black and white women, and Josephine passed Coca-Colas in bottles. She carried the tray around, and the black woman took the bottle and the white woman took the bottle. Now, the next white woman looked to see whether it was all right to take the bottle of Coca-Cola, and she did. That was the first time that I know of in the city of Greenville that uptown type women sat in a room and had a Coca-Cola with black women. It's unbelievable. We don't remember what steps we've taken since then. We don't realize it.
Ritchie: So some women didn't want to continue in the group because it was becoming integrated?
Carter: Oh, yes, integrated. Definitely. So it became an integrated organization. We would meet and kept right on meeting. Never very strong, really, but we made a big to-do about it, said we were stronger than we were. Two years ago, they organized the Greenville Foundation, the men got it started, with women, too, but the men thought it up. And it's supposed to be balanced—black, white, male, female. And the men say, isn't it wonderful that we are sitting down together for the first time—ha! Ha!
They don't remember back, to about seventy-something, I was on the Chamber of Commerce education committee and a young man who's now on the State Supreme Court, Jimmy Robertson, he and I together put on a big, two-day to-do called "Quality and Equality of Education." By then the Washington School had started. The word the private school white people put out was you couldn't get quality education in the public schools. We put on a big conference. We got a thousand or two thousand dollars from something like the Endowment for the Humanities, if that was then endowed. We met at the library and we still had the paper, and boy, did I write some publicity for that like mad.
That wasn't enough. I made 600 telephone calls and got 150 people to that conference and had it balance, so that we had blacks and whites, male and female, parochial, private and public. It was beautiful. Our Church Women United sat at the registration desk and registered the people. Oh, it was really a great occasion.
Ritchie: So you've seen a lot of changes.
Carter: Yes, definitely.
And you don't know what your part had to do but you know that all the little things that go together help to hold a situation, make it either come through or not come through. And sometimes you just—you know, you don't see where you've done anything but when you see the changes, there's no question but what the federal government had to do it. There was no power on this earth strong enough to break the eggs that had to be broken.
Ritchie: Certainly the newspaper in town could play an important part.
Carter: Oh, it was. It was. And it was, you know, coming out editorially every time for each thing it needed to come out for. Then in '62, I guess it was, that Hodding was in residence at Tulane doing—maybe it was before that because nobody was here, meaning I wasn't here, Hodding wasn't here, and young Hodding wasn't here. He'd gone off on a Nieman fellowship by then and we were down at Tulane where Hodding was in residence doing things for journalism down there.
And so at Christmas we had a family conference. We didn't like the way the young man who was the editor was handling the paper. So they said, "Well, Betty—Mother, you will just have to stay in Greenville and just get the paper back in shape."
So they went back to Harvard or back to New Orleans and left me here. The first thing they told me to do was to get rid of the editor. Well, in the history of the Democrat-Times, nobody had ever been fired. But here I had to do it. Well, I didn't but I told him that I just couldn't keep him as editor, that I would love
to have him as a reporter but that we had to have a different editor. So he resigned. What would you do? So he did.
So then who was my editor? I looked around the newsroom, who would I choose as the editor. So I had to work that one through. And I'll think of his name in a minute. Foster Davis. So I said, "You're the editor." Well, that was like on Saturday. And on Monday morning I came down to the paper early to see how things were going and how my editor was taking over. He wasn't there. And I said to the girl on the desk, "Sally, where is Foster?" She said, "Oh, he's at the air base. There's a group of blacks who have taken over several of the buildings out there."
Well, the air base had been given up as far as being an air base but all those buildings were there. Throughout this section of the country the planters were saying to the tenants on their places, "You either work at the price that we'll pay you or you get off the land, we don't want you on the property, you've lived on the property as a tenant but you're not a tenant, get off."
So they had no place to go. Unita Blackwell had organized a group and they planned the whole thing. On Monday morning in the cold night, dark, they went out, they broke the lock on a gate and they went in and took one of the buildings and they were in that building. So I rushed out there. Well, by then, Foster was getting the story for the Democrat but nobody knew anything. All we knew was that there was a group in there that had taken it over. We put it on the wire and immediately the press of the world converged on Greenville, Mississippi. Bishop Moore arrived, and everybody arrived so it was a big to-do. Then the question was how to get them out of there without bloodshed. It all was worked out finally. They went out and had to find a place to stay and they went down south of town and developed what they call Freedom Village.
But anyway, so my being editor—well, I wasn't editor, I was publisher at that point—started under difficult circumstances, so that was an exciting period.
Now another thing that I did that I think—you're talking about my life as a newspaperwoman—it really had a lot to do with using the paper as a tool. [I] felt that education was so important. Governor [William] Winter had these ideas for improved education. We got out and we put on a mass meeting at the new convention center. We had about a thousand people. The temperature was about five below zero, it was unbelievably cold. We had snow and ice on the ground, Mrs. [Elise] Winter was supposed to come but how would she get here—and she said she'd come by helicopter if she had to. Well, she got here.
And the school band couldn't make it but the Head Start children were put into a bus and they were brought. The band didn't come, how were we going to have any music? And I looked around and I said, "Can you play the piano?" and she said yes, whoever she was. And I said, "What march can you play?" She said, "Oh, I can play the 'Battle Hymn of the Republic.'" So we got two little boys to carry the American flag and the Mississippi flag, took them off of the stage, Mrs. Winter on the arm of the mayor, and all the little Head Start children behind, and we all stood up and marched in to the tune of "Mine eyes have seen the glory."
We had wonderful speakers, which I had rounded up, and we had every legislator from this area. Governor Winter got his program through because he built a groundswell and we were part of the groundswell. The legislators said, "Well, he can call a special session and we have to go, but we can end it without doing anything." But they got there and they couldn't. So we got a good educational reform package.
Ritchie: So once again you used the paper as a tool for community change.
Carter: Right, right.