[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Kasper: Good afternoon, Vivian Castleberry. We're here going to pick up where we left off yesterday on your journalism career. And we both talked a little bit at lunch about the ethics of journalism and you wanted to say a few things on that.
Castleberry: Yes. I think I lived through a dramatic change in the ethics of journalism. When I first went with the Times Herald back in the late 50's, it was something of a given that newspaper people would have bonuses and that was that there would be a lot of free tickets, there would be a lot of free gifts along the way, and those were not only accepted as a part of what you did, but they were expected. And the interesting thing was, as I look back over it, that Christmas gifts that would come to us every year were numerous. The major companies in town would send candy or liquor or whatever they thought the reporter was most accepting of; the major department stores sent gifts. I still have an umbrella that Stanley Marcus sent me that I'm carrying after about thirty years, and it's oddly enough the only one in my house that I can keep—everybody else borrows all the other umbrellas, but that one seems to stay. There were other things that came to us—small pieces of jewelry that were sent along at that time.
And the newspaper itself, the management of the newspaper, also accepted gratuities, of much greater value than those that were given to reporters. And they even went so far as to say the job that you are taking with the newspaper, there will be gifts coming to you and that it's something of the bonus that you get for working for a newspaper. So that not only was it accepted, it was condoned. And I lived through the changing of that time when not only were we not allowed to accept gratuities, but we'd be fired on the spot if indeed we took them.
And after the Los Angeles Times bought the Times Herald, that's when the dramatic change came and I served on the Ethics Committee at the Times Herald after Tom Johnson came that changed the rules. It was a very difficult period of time for many of the old timers because I guess I was fortunate in clearly understanding right off that this was not a correct thing for a newspaper person to accept, but that it had been wrong from the beginning and that we should be paid in dollars and cents for the value that we were giving to the community and should be reimbursed by the newspaper that was hiring us rather than by the community that did its dole, its handout of gifts. It's almost as—I can equate it with the politicos of old, the politicians who accepted—it was sort of accepted that they would be able to make appointments according to their own political persuasion, and this, of course, is still going on in our world, but is no longer—it's done more undercover. It is not accepted today openly as it was back in the old days.
So the ethics of journalism has changed dramatically and it is a good thing, although it was a very difficult thing for those of us who had been there to walk through. For instance, I mentioned to you yesterday that when Six Flags Over Texas, which is an amusement park in our area, when it opened, it opened with a press day and every year then it would open with a press day and we were encouraged to take our children, and that was with free passes and free rides everywhere and all of those things. And I used to get free tickets to the State Fair of Texas. I used to get free tickets to practically every musical that opened in town and the opera and the symphony and all of those things were a part of the given that was—
Kasper: Do you think it may not necessarily, or maybe in your department too, but do you think it made a difference at the newspaper that the gratuities let's say that came from certain businesses in town or certain influential people in town made a difference in how the Herald reported the news?
Castleberry: How we reported? No. It never made a difference in how I reported and I was always so cautious about that. In fact, I would bend over backward to see that the person who had not sent me a gift, would probably get the better end of the
deal because I was so careful not to let it be persuasive. I don't know about other people. I don't know how other people dealt with it or how they felt about it. I do know that advertising had a large impact on what we published, although at the time I never knew it. I, you know, never knew that the person who was buying the big ad was the one that I should give consideration to when it came time to fill the news hole. And I don't think most of the people in my—I don't think anybody in my department ever knew that. I think perhaps, in a way, that was a bit naive on our parts, that we—the kind of milieu and the kind of conditions under which we existed in that period of time was not making an impact on how the news was reported. But if it did, I was not aware of it, and even in looking back, I can honestly say to you that it never made one iota of difference in the way I reported it except that I was so cautious not to give newspaper credibility in any way to the person who had been extra nice to me. So I don't think it had that.
But when Watergate came and we suddenly—newspapers started looking at themselves and saying, "We cannot accept what we do not condone in other people in public places, feeding themselves from the public dole." That's when the ethics committees were set up by newspapers across the country and when things began to change and when it was difficult for the old timers to change. For instance, for years after that rule was changed, there was one company in town that still sent liquor every year to everybody in the newspaper and so I'm sure that there were a lot of public charities that benefited from some of these gifts that were sent. And I personally wrote letters to a number of people that had always sent me gifts and said to them that, "I am now on the Ethics Committee of the Times Herald; that we have a new era here, and I appreciate so much the kindnesses that you have shown to me in the past, and will no longer be able to accept gifts that are given." And it did, for the most part, stop it. It's a very interesting thing, though, because by that time I had accumulated so many wonderful personal friends, that it was hard to know which gift to send back and which gift not to send.
Kasper: When was this transformation taking place? Do you remember?
Castleberry: In the early '70s. And then, even today, I still accept, almost every year, a gift from the mayor of Dallas, who is a close personal friend and has been for years and who almost always sends me a turkey at Christmas time.
Kasper: That's different. If she weren't mayor of Dallas, she'd still send you the turkey and you'd still be happy to have it.
Castleberry: It's different. Yes, it's true. But it was difficult for me, and I know it was difficult for a few other people, to realize which were the gifts that they were being given because they worked for a paper and the gifts that they were being given because of the kind of influence that they could have with, you know, it was just—
Kasper: Sure. And which gifts were even just plain old friendship.
Castleberry: Friendship things. So it's been an interesting period of time to live through, but I think that leads us directly into another thing and that is that you cannot work for a newspaper, you cannot work in any career or any profession, without ingesting, just taking in as a part of you, some of the values that it holds out for you. And I suppose that the greatest personal gift that my years with the newspaper gave me was a learning mode and how I lived my own life. And back from the very early days, I used to cover child care and early childhood education speeches and just about anybody in the country or anybody in the world who was anybody at all, eventually would come to Dallas to do a lecture or to do a series of programs. And I used that as a tool for learning how to rear my own children and used it as a springboard for what would work and what wouldn't work. And I found some of the things worked ideally and some of them didn't work at all.
In fact, I remember vividly one time one of the women's groups here that specialized—or one of the things that it funded was a study in early childhood education and they were bringing a keynote speaker here and they were so pleased with themselves that they had signed Haim Ginnot to come and make a speech. So they asked me—unfortunately they didn't tell me they had signed him up, and they said to me, "What do you think of Haim Ginnot?" And I said, "He's the most dangerous person in America today!" And she went, "Agghh," you know, "what has happened?!"
And what had happened was that I had just been trying out his theories of child rearing in my own house and had found that they were devastatingly negative. [Laughter.]
Kasper: I remember when he was touted as the next Doctor Spock and I got so excited because his books came out about the time my daughter was born. And I read them and I decided that this guy was a fascist and I was appalled.
Castleberry: Well, it is amazing how many things you and I have in common because that's what happened to me. And, again, I was just naive enough that I would say to myself, "Where there's so much smoke, there's got to be some fire. And if this person is all this wonderful, then I'm going to try out some of these things and see how they work."
So at that stage I had a young daughter, and I mean, she was young. My youngest daughter was a new person in our home and in our lives. And Catherine Castleberry would have been a dedicated hypochondriac if I would have let her. She absolutely loved being ill and she loved the attention she got from it. And so I had just read Ginnot's chapter on how you relate to a child and how you condone first what they want to do before you even try to put in anything that you want from them. And he had said if your child says, "I am sick," of course you pat the child on the head and you say, "Oh, I am so sorry you are ill." And you begin to listen to what's underneath all that.
So we got up one morning and Cathy was not eager to get off to day care, didn't want to go at all, and was lying on the couch and had a stomach ache and had a headache. And so I tried out Ginnot and I said to her, "You poor dear little thing. Isn't it awful that you don't feel well and what can Mother do to help?" And within the next twenty minutes I had this kid lying on the couch begging for a hot water bottle and asking me when I was going to take her to the doctor, at which stage, I swatted her gently on the rear and said, "See how quickly you can get yourself dressed." And she got well quickly.
And so, anyway, there were those people along the way that I met whose advice would not work in our house. And I recognized that very quickly. This may be well and good for other people, but it will not work in our house and I am not going to entertain fools, gladly.
Kasper: There's a larger piece to this too. We're going kind of step-wise and I was going to take it to yet another point which is kind of related to ethics and morality and so forth. It seems to me from having talked to you over these couple of days here that one of the things that you've developed along the lines, across the years of this career as a journalist and your career as a mother, was a kind of personal morality of your own. Would you talk about that a little bit?
Castleberry: Exactly. Exactly. I developed very early on, and it was a growing kind of thing, that a personal morality of what would work in my life that might not work in other peoples' lives and how I had to take these experts that I listened to in my work life and evaluate them in my personal life.
At the same time I was doing this, I was very involved in my church, First Community Church of Dallas, was rearing the children in that church and working with a program called The Character Research Project, which is a program that is based on Christ's teachings as revealed in the Beatitudes. And from that—the material is written and rewritten for children age two to age eighteen. It was a wonderful learning experience for me because it required not only that we keep reports on what our children did, but that we set goals for them. And then, to guide them to where they could set goals for themselves. So it was a practical lesson in living morally and living ethically in the world—living with our own personal ethics. And I took that into myself as a learning tool. So these things were going on simultaneously. I was having at the paper access to all of the world's experts in these different fields. Then I was having the ability to try these out on a personal level to see if they worked for me and to develop my own personal code of ethics that would guide me through life.
Kasper: Can you kind of refer to some of what you feel are the tenets of that code that you live by, that you have lived by these years?
Castleberry: Yes, I think I can. I guess the one basic, and it comes out in every religion in the world that I've ever had anything to do with in some way or other, it's boiled down to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." And so never as a reporter did I intrude into other peoples' lives. I always took there with me the total of who I was and in trying to elicit from them the story that they had, I did it with the idea that we are co-human beings existing in a world that is as much yours as it is mine and I will not intrude into your space. And I always said that to people. I always found along the way that people were dying to tell you anything in the world you wanted to know, as long as they did not think that you were going to be—what is the word I'm looking for—that you were not going to try to destroy any of who they were in the process. Exploitive. That's the word I'm looking for.
Kasper: Exploit them or even use it for some other purposes.
Castleberry: I never wanted to exploit anything or anybody. So that was one of my basic moral codes. That as a reporter I remember that you are as important as I am, which doesn't mean any more important, but we are co-human beings in this world. And this then carries over into all of the work I've done. It carries over, and in a few minutes I will get into the peace movement and the peacemakers movement, and my real concern that we do not impose our Western set of morality and our code of our living and our lifestyles on people who are from other cultures. That we learn to live in this world as sisters and brothers sharing the universe that was given to us without imposing how we ought to.
In fact, at one stage in my life, I said if I could just completely eliminate from my vocabulary, "you ought to," it would be a whole lot easier to live in this world, because I don't know how anybody else ought to live. I have trouble enough with how I ought to. And that probably is a part of what you were asking me, I don't know that it addresses the entire thing, but it did give me—all of these things that I was doing—gave me a wonderful background for the kinds of things I was going to do with my life after the Times Herald—during the Times Herald, but also after the Times Herald.
Kasper: Well, your personal code of ethics is an integrated one, and what I mean by that is that it had application not only to your career as a journalist, but to your life as a wife and mother, and to your life as a change agent. So there's a cohesion to your life, Vivian, in which this code of ethics plays a central role. It's not as if you behaved in one fashion while you were at the Times Herald and came home and applied a different set of standards in the home, or yet a different set of standards when you went out to be a community activist. What makes such grand sense about your life is that this code of ethics, this morality, this sense of who you are as a person, has a cohesion to all the parts of your life that's really quite an example for others to hear about and to attempt to live by.
Castleberry: It's interesting that you should say that because I remember way back there setting down in words on a piece of paper, for my own benefit more than for anybody else's, and it went something like this: I am not a wife, and a mother, and a community volunteer, and women's editor of the Times Herald. I am Vivian Castleberry. All of these other things are roles that I play or investments in the lives of other human beings that I honor and treasure, but they are not me. And I put that down for myself because I wanted to remember it. It is interesting how the world will try to pull you apart.
And it's also interesting, especially in the framework from which I come where a woman's place is in the home and we were told by all of the media that we would listen to, we were told, "Go home and find your have-all and your be-all within the four walls you call home and you will be a complete woman." Thank God I never bought into that. And I know in the days when I first started my career, we were still being told that you should be—well, just to boil it down, that after the day is done, then you go home and put on your black negligee and you're a sexy sexpot. Well that just never worked for me. I could never splice myself up and be all of these things that I was supposed to be at any given time.
So I had to remember that I was an integrated whole and operate from that integration rather than from being shredded and pulled apart. And the world will
pull you apart if you let it. The world is all full of expectation levels from every person that gets born into it, what you, as I said a moment ago, what you ought to be doing.
Kasper: Don't you feel, too, and again I don't want to put words into your mouth, but is there also not a place in this personal code of ethics for you that applies to home and career and community that says something along the lines of an obligation to work for change, to not just to report the news—
Castleberry: Exactly. Exactly.
Kasper: —Just raise the children, but that you are here also in part to make a difference. Did you feel that that was—
Castleberry: Always. I have felt that and it is, as the years go on and the birthdays come, I really—I can't say that I feel like I'm running out of time. I think one thing that cancer gave me as a gift is that I now have time to do everything that is significant, that God intended me to do, but that I must do it with care and deliberation and not waste a lot of it. That is a gift that came to me because I do think that every human being born is born with a God-given entity of their own and that most of us do not find it. And I think that I am one of the world's fortunate people and I say this with great humility, I am one of the people who found it and who knew very early on that I must be a change agent for the good, and most of my friends, and especially my male friends that I would dare broach this to, say that I am naive and at age sixty-seven I told them if I want to be naive I very well will be, but I still feel that my destiny is to make as many changes for the good as possible and when I get around to the peace—talking about my peace work in a few minutes, I will then dwell on that a little more, if you will help me remember to do that. But all of these things that I was doing all along the way, you wanted me to talk a little about the community actions that I got involved in—
Kasper: Before we do that, what I wanted to do was put a little closure on your career at the Herald. Let's back up to say about 1983, '84.
Castleberry: About 1982.
Kasper: Can you tell us about the conditions that began to lead to your retirement?
Castleberry: Yes. The conditions that led to it, it was a very clear path although as I look back it was clear at the time, but it seemed quite garbled and quite muddy, but I knew, I felt in my heart and soul that I had done at the Times Herald all of the (quote) "good things" (unquote) that I was called there to do. That my role as a reporter was coming to a close.
Kasper: What were those good things that you would point to that were the highlights that you would have completed?
Castleberry: Well, the highlights of my life, that I had been able to report on almost all of the changing social issues of the time. That I had opened the door—when I went to the Times Herald, we could not publish on the Living page, the front page of the women's section, the words "planned parenthood." And I didn't know that until I did it and I found out I could do that. And so it had already been done and then I could do it. Also, the fact that when the feminist movement first came along, I started using the word "Ms." immediately. And I didn't know I couldn't do that for five years until one day "Editor and Publisher" picked up a speech that I was making and said that we had been using Ms. at the Times Herald for five years and the next day I got a written edict from my management that we would no longer do this, that it was either Mrs. or Miss and that the word Ms. had no significance and we could not use it. And that was news to me because I had been doing it for five years and nobody had noticed.
So from that then, there was an interesting evolution there that I have to tell you about real quickly, and that was that this went on for about I would say three or four years that I was back to what I thought square one and that the progress that I had made was suddenly just wiped out and erased, and of course, it never is. You always feel like that at the time, but of course it never is. So I had not made a big issue of it and when I was told absolutely to do things, I simply
probably licked my wounds and felt real bad about it and then went back and saw what else I could do.
So, after Tom Johnson came here, the LA Times bought the Times Herald, and that was the first real changing of the guard and will lead up to what you asked me about leading down to my deciding to take early retirement. But when Tom came here, I was most impressed with him as a young tiger and young journalist and his journalistic ability. But more important than that for me was his ability to honor women and what they did, and his inclusiveness, and his going into the community and opening up options with the black people in the community and the Hispanics that had never been done before for a newspaper that I knew anything about. And all of these things that I had pioneered all these years—suddenly I had an editor, a boss, who not only understood, but who probably would have been there ahead of me if he had been available at that time. And although he was younger, probably not quite young enough to be my son, but almost, I felt a keen sense of being able to walk with him through the changing times.
And so, early on, I believe it was Women in Communication, asked him to come out and make a speech to them and I, who had been a member of Women in Communication forever in this community and had reactivated the SMU chapter for Theta Sigma Phi before it became Women in Communication years before, and had been interested in beginning the chapter of Women in Communication in Dallas as a professional group, all of this—when Tom went out to make the speech, I was asked to introduce him that night, and it was a pleasure.
Kasper: This was in the early eighties?
Castleberry: In the early eighties, un huh. Probably the late seventies, I don't remember time exactly when the LA Times bought the Times Herald, but it's been a good ten years. So it had to probably have been in the late seventies. And so at this program, he did a wonderful talk for the women, it was a wonderful inclusive talk, and they were all applauding. And then one of my young friends in the audience, and believe me I didn't plant this although I would have if I had thought about it, asked him why the Times Herald declined to use Ms. as an honorarium for women. And Tom said, "I don't know." And turned to me and said, "Would you like to share that question?" [Laughter.] "Would you like to answer for us?" And so I told them the story that I have just told you and the next day I got the directive from the front office that the term Ms. was from henceforth and forevermore applicable to any woman who so wanted to use it in the community.
So, anyway, that was one of the little things that happened along the way and made me feel quite good for that brief span of time that this, too, shall pass. It seems like forever when you're going through those changing times, but it's really not all that long and I have seen dramatic changes take place. But throughout all of this, then, I was realizing the Los Angeles Times sold the paper then. Tom left to go to LA after he put me on the editorial board, he left to go to LA as an editor there and eventually as publisher of the Times Herald and the Times Herald started to sell.
Jim Chambers had sold the Times Herald to the Los Angeles Times. That eliminated the total connectedness with the community—it had always been a community-owned newspaper and it had been the largest newspaper circulation-wise in this area. It blanketed Dallas. And during the days when I was there was the voice that Dallasites listened to—not the elite, it was not the elite newspaper, it was a newspaper of the people. And it was the newspaper that the people could expect to get a balance of the news in, and I was proud to be a part of it, even though it did not ever have the aura of prestige that other morning newspapers in this country have. And it was wonderful in that there were two, large, competitive newspapers in the city. That was rare, even in my time.
Kasper: The Dallas Times Herald and the Dallas Morning News?
Castleberry: The Dallas Times Herald and the Dallas Morning News, which was the morning paper and also family owned as our paper was family owned, and both of them were centered here. That did two things for us. It, one, made us sufficiently independent that we could do just about anything we wanted to, and, on the other hand, made us a bit slow in reporting what was going on in the nation.
We had very little national news and almost no international news. And even though those of us who were journalists, even way back when, would read other newspapers to be sure that we knew what was going on in the world. And also, I did have access, as the head of the department, to pull in wire stories off the wire as they came in, so I was constantly being able to keep up with what was going on in Baghdad and what was going on in Cairo and what was going on in New York City as well as what was going on in the confines of Dallas.
So it was a really rich experience from that point of view and gave me a world view that I couldn't have had if I had worked say for a smaller newspaper that didn't have access to the wire services. Also, our library, even at that time, subscribed to the leading newspapers throughout the country so I did have an opportunity to run through those from time to time.
But as the paper sold, when Tom left here and another editor came, the editor that was brought in after him, Tom Johnson, who—he was partly responsible, I think, for hiring—was a totally different kind of human being. Not Tom Johnson—Tom Johnson and—I can't remember the name. But we had a revolving door then of management. First one, and then the other. Everybody that came in, we would have a called meeting of the department heads and the top managers of the paper, and we would be told in words that this was God's gift to humanity and we were going to have a wonderful new day under these people, and with every changing management, we lost prestige, we lost readership, we lost our foot in the community. In trying to be all things to all people, we did not know who we were. And at that stage we were neither fish nor fowl nor some days quite human, and the morale was at rock bottom in the paper.
It was at rock bottom in all departments and those of us who were still trying to hold our heads up and do a credible job were having to reinvent the wheel every morning when we came to work. And it was like walking into a place and being able to cut the atmosphere with a knife. It was so terrible that I think anybody who lived through those days, whether or not it was Charlie Dameron or Bert Holmes, and whoever it may have been that you may have talked to, would tell you that those were not pleasant times.
And, I guess, all of us in a sense saw ourselves as the saviour of the whole thing and I kept holding onto that and I kept saying to my staff, "I don't care what is being done outside this building, what we do inside—to be able to report on what is going on in this world to our readers—is the imperative. Therefore, we cannot shirk our duties or our responsibility." It was hard. It was really hard.
So I began to think in terms of what next. All of those years, every story I had ever written, every place I had ever been, every option I had ever picked up, had been a personal journey in what you want to do with the next stage in your life and setting goals—literally setting goals. I used to think everybody set goals. I learned that they don't and all of my life, from the time I started rearing children and learned that goal setting was important, I have not only set goals for myself, but I have set them down on paper.
And I have what I call my ten-year goal and I have my out-there goal, two years from now, three years from now, four years from now, and I have my immediate goals, which are my self-gratification goals because if you work only for long-range goals, they look so impossible that you can't get there, and especially when you're young. Now that I'm reaching old age, I find that things are entirely different. Out there seems like tomorrow. And I probably could set ten-year goals and not be dissuaded at all that I'm not going to reach those. But when I was thirty and forty, that seemed like an eternity away and I couldn't do that. So I would set what I call my self-gratification goals—such as next week I will allow myself to go shopping for an afternoon; or, you know, in six months I will take a week's vacation with the family or I'll take a weekend trip to thus and so.
I did that all along the way. And those are set down on paper. And what I learned very early on is that you never set anything in stone, you don't carve it in stone or set it in concrete, because life does things to you that you least expect, and sometimes the goals that you set for yourself are impossible and so you have to be flexible. And a newspaper is a wonderful place to learn that because—
Kasper: It's always changing.
Castleberry: —everyday I walked in I would almost have to tear up what I had planned to do today and do something more important. So it's a good learning experience that nothing is ever, ever set that you can't change or alter or make better. And my optimistic nature is that for the most part we made it better by changing it. And I still feel that way. That change can be for the better. If you hold on to the basic tap root of who you are, that is the morality, the ethics, that are set for you as a human being. That's the tap root. And anything else that happens—and I used to say, I used to say in words to my many bosses at the Times Herald, and I'll never forget what I said this one time to a young male boss way back when. I said, "Listen, you can do things to me. You can bend me to the ground, but I will be just like a tree with a tap root that is extremely deep. I will stand up tomorrow and I will still be there fighting for what I believe." And so, that's kind of where I come from.
So I began to think in terms of how I am going to retire. I knew that I existed in a world that many men exist in, and that I had lived a public life. My name had been in the newspaper almost every day for years and years and years. I knew that who I was was very critically wrapped up in what I did. And I knew that in order to change that, I was going to have to plan carefully for turning the page. So I started thinking in terms of, what am I going to retire to? Not what am I going to retire from.
And I knew that it would not be wise at all for me to walk out from the paper overnight. I made a bond with myself that I will never walk out in a huff and that I will leave behind me friends, and that the things that have happened to me along the way are a product of the times and not a product of any individual. That nobody has been out to get me and nobody has been out to stop me. That they, too, are products of who they are and from where they came. And that it wasn't one of those things that was done with vengeance or with venom and that when I leave, I will leave with joy and appreciation for what I had been given.
And what I had been given, and I don't think I've said this before, but this, to me, is the crux of the matter. What I had been given was a platform from which to do what my life was intended to do, and that was to write for the public. I had to write. And all of those years when I would be at my lowest ebb and I would do a pro/con with myself about where I could be doing more good than I'm doing here, or what I could be doing that would be more important than what I'm doing here, and I would boil it down to—it would always come down to, I have a vehicle to do what I must do with my life. Therefore, I can put up with all kinds of things to make this happen.
And so when I started to decide that it was time for me to turn the page and go to do something else, and I was coping with all these different things, these givens, and that going to work was not fun anymore because for all of those years that I worked, for the most part, whatever I was dealing with intimately and personally that might be a negative, I was also dealing with that unlimited possibility. That when I walk into my desk this morning, God only knows what gifts are going to come to me during the day. When I pick up the phone, who's going to be on the other end of the line that will change my life? All of those—that was a gift and it was a gift that because of where I was and what I got to do with my life, I treasured. And I didn't want to make a mess of that in any way.
So, as I began to think in—when it got to the point where it was no fun anymore and where going to work was a drag instead of a pleasure, that's when I knew it's time to turn the page. And the revolving door of management at the Times Herald helped to make that time come sooner. And I said to my husband, I have no doubt that I could win management over again and again and again, because I'm good at what I do and that goes back to liking what I did. Enjoying the life that I was living. I would say to my children, and I would say to my staff members, and then I would say to myself, "Remember, you are making a life, you are not making a living." And that was the basic ethic from which I worked. And when it got to the point that I realized that I was no longer making a life, but it was simply a matter of a weekly paycheck, it was time to do something else.
And I didn't know how I was going to do it. Quite honestly we could not economically afford it because my husband had, in the very early years of our lives, been a businessman and I had said to him, "Listen, my dear, I want you to do with your life what I'm going to do with mine, and that is to make your life. So you go do what you want to do with your life and I'm going to help you support this family. And we're going to do this together." And so that's when he got out of business and went back to teaching. And when one is being a newspaper woman and a public school teacher for all the productive years of their lives, and one retires, there's not much money there.
We had also invested in college education for our five daughters. We had said to them, we owe you one college education, and to the limit of our ability, one wedding, and after that you're on your own. It meant that there was not very much savings and what I think we did was invest in the thing that was imperative to me, and that was education. And although our children did not get the kind of education from the standpoint of scholastic education that I would like to have afforded for them, they did get the best that we could financially and physically and, well—economically, physically and spiritually support, and so I have no regrets.
Kasper: You mean, you would like to have sent them to better institutions or private schools?
Castleberry: I would like to have sent them either to better institutions or along the way there were one or two of them that would have thrived in a private school for a period of time. I think you can never go back and do that over so you don't know. I also think we invested in summer camp for the children as they were growing up and I considered that an educational investment that was imperative. And it was something at some periods of time we could not afford and I borrowed money to send them to camp, but it was imperative that they have that as an educational part of their growing up. We also sent two of the children to youth camp, that is connected with the United Church of Christ at Union College for a summer period of time to explore their options in their growing-up years. And those I considered investments in education and have absolutely no regrets that I wish I could have done more, but I couldn't. I did it to the limit of my abilities so I will not chide myself over what has not been.
For myself, then, it became a need to explore options. At that stage—we'll go back in a few minutes and talk about as the years went on how I led up through some of the learning in these different volunteer activities to what I wanted to do, but let me put closure on this now. In retiring, or in leading up to what the world calls retirement, what I did was take a summer place in Colorado. We had a young friend who owned a summer home, or owned a home in Colorado, and she and her friends mostly liked to use it in the winter time to ski and so I rented it one summer for five weeks. She gave me a wonderful deal, and I rented it for five weeks and it's the only five-week vacation I ever had in my working life. I had then worked myself up to where I deserved and got five weeks of vacation during the year. And so Curt and I took the house for five weeks. Our children came and went. We were in residence for the full five weeks.
And that period of time, this is in 1982, and I walked the mountains and walked by the clear streams and sat by myself and wore jeans and tennis shoes and didn't put on makeup and didn't wash my hair until I needed to, and didn't do anything that was required. I didn't put on heels or hose, that I had to do everyday in my work life, and I talked to myself and my maker about what I wanted to do, what the next calling of my life would be. And something became very clear to me—that the frustration that had been existing, of needing to make a change, was indeed imminent.
So I came back and I didn't want to do anything hasty and I first said to my husband, then I said to my daughters, that in two years I'm going to retire from the Times Herald. And nobody believed it. So I waited a full year before I told anybody else, you know, tell a friend, close personal friend, I'm leading up to retirement, I'm going to do something else. I didn't know what I was going to do, I just knew that, very honestly, I knew that I was being called to something, but I didn't know what. And I don't want to be one of those people that sounds like I'm looking for the next chapter of my life that's written out into the clouds
somewhere, but I guess when it comes right down to it, that's what I really was looking for—where is my next calling.
Kasper: Someone to hand you the next chapter.
Castleberry: Um hum. Right. What is the next thing I do. And as things happened—
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Castleberry: —knowing that I was going to retire and not knowing what I was going to do, I came down with an illness in the winter time. I was out in the boonies reporting a story and one of my beloved black friends, Edwina Cox, and she runs an organization in this community called the Bethlehem Foundation. It is an organization that literally takes care of people that fall through the cracks everywhere else. And when you are in her offices—I was in her office that day, there was a young family there—Edwina is black and I am white, but we've been soul mates for years, and in her office that day was a young white family that had started out from the valley to her family in Illinois for Christmas time with two babies, and their car had broken down in Dallas and there were no resources at all. And Edwina was on the phone trying to get them home for Christmas, it was just before Christmas.
But I was feeling extremely terrible that day and I looked worse than I felt. I was physically at the bottom of my barrel, but I knew that Edwina—it was Christmas time and I knew that's when the call on her resources were at the greatest, and I wanted to do some kind of story to help her to get funding to handle some of this mess that she was going to be caught up in at Christmas time. And I'll never forget it. Edwina, after she and I had had a few words of conversation, she looked at me and she said, "Vivian Castleberry, you are not well and I want you to get to your doctor and I want you to get there now because," she said, "I had a good friend who looked just like you do, and the next morning she woke up dead." And she said, "So you get to your doctor." [Laughter.]
So I left Edwina's office and drove across town to Seth Cowan's office without stopping and I walked in there and told him what was going in my life. And he'd been through an awful lot of stuff with me, cancer and a lot of other stuff, and he knew I didn't come when there wasn't a real need, and so he took me seriously. And he did some tests and he said, "I don't see anything really physically wrong, but if you feel like that, well I want to see you tomorrow." I got up the next morning and looked in the mirror, I was as yellow as cheese, I had hepatitis. And the only thing that we can figure out that happened—in fact one of my daughters, who is the world's dedicated wit, called me up and said, "Mother, I have been telling you not to shoot up with those dirty needles." [Laughter.] And my child, who is a nurse, came by and looked at me and said, "Mother, you really are going to survive."
So it was a terrible period of time, and at the same time one of those negative gifts that comes to you, because what happened was that we had one of the world's worst cold spells shortly after Christmas and literally this town was immobile for a period of one week. Well, I was already sick and I was beginning to recuperate, so all I did was sit in the chair in front of the television and write and think and meditate and ponder—by that time I was feeling better. The hepatitis that I had was a pretty serious kind, but it was not the contagious kind. And so, I didn't have to back track and have all those people get shots to immunize themselves from me. All I had to do was get well.
And during that period of time, my good friend, Sharon Tennison, came from California and when she is in town—she and I go way back. She's like a younger sister or an older daughter, and we had done a lot of things together. I had met her in church way back and she's always been on the cutting edge of change and probably sang "We Shall Overcome" in her living room before anybody else in Dallas knew the song. Her kids and my kids have been friends for years, and although she is much younger, our children are approximately the same age. We are just close. And when Sharon was in town for any reason—she is by profession a nurse, and by persuasion from way back, a dedicated activist, and she had gotten into peace work.
And what had happened was that, as a nurse, she had started flying to Mexico with a medical team—a doctor and another nurse and some other people—flying into Mexico to immunize children in zones of poverty-ridden areas of Mexico. That was her volunteer work. And one weekend, she was scheduled to go and she had a patient who was dying that she felt compelled to stay with so she got someone else to take her place. That weekend, the young doctor who was flying the plane into Mexico crashed the plane and killed all of them. And from that, Sharon felt that God had called her, or the powers that be in the universe had called her, to do something significant with her life. That she had not—
Kasper: She had not recognized before.
Castleberry: —she, too, was exploring what the options were. So, as a result of that, she joined the Physicians for Social Responsibility and she began to do programs throughout California and then called into other areas on what we're doing to ourselves and our environment with the nuclear thing. And Sharon said everywhere she went people, when the question and answer session came, they would say, "Okay, that's all right for us, but what about the Russians?" And finally Sharon got to the point to where she said, "I knew I had to go see the enemy for myself." So she organized and put together in the summer of '83 the first citizen diplomat trip to the Soviet Union, took a group of mostly people out of the medical field from California with her, and in doing this, she had—I'm leading up now to some other things, so I'll try to make it brief.
Kasper: This is '83. But isn't this '85?
Castleberry: No, this is '83. This is '83 that she's doing this. And, so anyway, she did that and then she was in my house this next year when I was—in eighty—well, wait a minute—yeah, in '83 that she did this because she's in my house then while I'm recovering from hepatitis; she is in my house planning her second trip. And she says to me, "Why don't you go to the Soviet Union with me?" And I said, "Because I don't want to. I've never had any inclination to go to the Soviet Union. That is not what I want to do. I am going to the country for a year with my husband. I am going down there, I'm going to write, and I'm going to give myself time to decide what I want to do with my life next. And the first thing I'm going to do in 1984, I am going to retire from the Times Herald, and then I'm going to spend a year deciding what next."
She didn't push it. But I just heard her talking to people in my house, she was talking to people all over the country, as she planned this second citizen diplomat trip to the Soviet Union. The day before she left my house, I walked into her bedroom and gave her a check for a hundred dollars and I said to her, "I am going with you. I do not know how I am going." The trip was $2,300. I did not have the money. I said, "I do not know how I'm going to do this at all, but some way, if I am supposed to do this, it will come." And so that was the year that my women friends after I had—
Kasper: Passed the hat.
Castleberry: —passed the hat. They gave me the trip to the Soviet Union.
Kasper: When I heard that, I mean, I was just really amazed.
Castleberry: It was astonishing.
Kasper: I mean, you are so beloved in this town—
Castleberry: I know.
Kasper: —that your women friends passed the hat and collected the money which sent you to the Soviet Union. That's very impressive.
Castleberry: I know. And I have a scroll that they all signed that will go around this room three times. I mean, it came in—it came, of course, and I'm sure there were many of them that gave a hundred dollars, but they raised and gave me $2,600 just—and it's signed by endless numbers of people.
Kasper: Hundreds and hundreds of people who signed on it.
Castleberry: Yeah. So I walked out of the Times Herald on April the 30th, 1984, and in the meantime, Gerry Beer and I had put together—
Kasper: Who's Gerry Beer?
Castleberry: Gerry Beer. Her community activism came out of the Dallas Section National Council of Jewish Women, but it also came out of my being on her sounding board and planning committee when she opened The Family Place. So I'll get back to that in just a minute. But Gerry had become very dear to me and she had been extremely interested in starting some kind of peace activist movement in Dallas and she pulled together a group of people at the same time I was planning to go to the Soviet Union, we were planning our first major peace move in Dallas, women's peace move. So that the women met—but Gerry and another group of very interested women, mostly in her living room, planned and put together the first women's peace activist program in Dallas and it was held on May the 10th, 1984, and I remember that day exactly because it was held on the day that my plane was flying out of here to the Soviet Union. I said, "I will help you put it together. I will be there for you through all the planning, but I will not be there, because that's when my own personal peace initiative begins to move."
And the meeting itself was held on the grounds of City Hall and Annette Strauss did the opening program for us. We had several young women ministers in town. One a young doctor, Nina Feinstein, who had a babe in arms and was pregnant, all of whom were on the podium together talking about women and peace. We had women liturgical dancers, women who have done church dancing in this community; we had young people involved in the community; there were hundreds of names that were signed on a petition to send to our congress people about women and their desire for peace. But the thing was, what was so fascinating about it was that this whole big event that I had helped to mobilize was taking place while my plane was beginning to fly out from DFW to the Soviet Union.
And that was on May the 10th, it was ten days after I had walked out of the Times Herald. And my walking out of the Times Herald, I think, was very interesting because I had said that I don't want a big hullabaloo made. I appreciate who you are, I have no need of the gold watch. I don't need these things said. And I had told everybody that along the way that I could, and again, my husband had said to me, "Listen, you have to let people have closure in your life as well as you have to have it, so don't try to make all the decisions." He said this to me many times. "This is not your thing to decide. Somebody else can do this." And so I had sort of compromised. I had allowed Mamie Harris, who had worked herself up in the Times Herald from being just a secretary to being assistant to the administrator, and now is still at the Times Herald and still doing good things for women. She had had a front office meeting where management all said neat things and which I all took with a grain of salt simply because people say things at that point in time because it sounds good on their lips, but I knew who was real and who wasn't.
Kasper: Sure. And it makes them feel good about themselves at that moment too.
Castleberry: So, at the same time, the staff that I had put together and hired had suddenly disintegrated through the years because they had brought a features editor who was in over me, and different bosses that I answered to, and different layers of management and I never knew which day who I really was answering to that day. So what I really did was just answer to myself. The last two years that I was there, well I pretty nearly decided what I would do, and when I would do it, and how I would do it.
And as I led down to retirement, I started taking afternoons off, which didn't mean that I wasn't still working for the Times Herald, but it meant that I was out really in the community, I guess, saying goodbye and putting closure on some things because by that time I had friends in every segment of this community and still do. I can walk into the Anita Nañes Martinez Recreation Center in West Dallas and my friends are there; and I can walk into the housing projects in South Dallas and my friends are there; and I can walk into some of the estates of North Dallas and my friends are there. And I value all of these things, but I have never felt that I got them connected the way I wanted them to connect. That's, I guess, what I'm
still working on. That I'm still trying to build these bridges to connect them because we're all in it together.
Kasper: And did you think that the peace issue is one of the ways in which you could all be connected too, or is that separate?
Castleberry: Oh, yeah and besides that—that is not separate. It is an integral part of everything that we're doing. And I'll get to that in a minute. But in walking out, my final day there, my old staff and the people that were still there had got together and planned a small party in the department and they gave me a camera, which I value tremendously, and I told you it was one of those foolproof things because I'm in no way mechanical, and Maggie Kennedy had walked into a place and bought it and said she wanted a camera for a woman that had absolutely no mechanical ability at all. And she's right. And so it winds itself and it unwinds itself and on the days when the battery fails, if it does, well I take it into the camera store and ask him what's wrong because I just—but I had it to take the Soviet Union with me and I have enjoyed it.
The funny thing is that all those years that I was at the Times Herald I never used a camera, but I learned how to take pictures because I can set up any picture. And I have learned that other people don't appreciate that when I walk in, especially at a family reunion when it's my husband's family, and I say, "You stand here and you stand here" and "no, you're not right here," and "you fill in this hole." They've said, "Oh, God, here she is again trying to run things." But I do know how to set up a picture and I've done quite a lot of that. So because of that I also know what to look for through the camera's eye. I can tell a story very well through the camera's eye—unfortunately my mechanical ability is not such that I always capture what I see. But I did get some wonderful pictures in the Soviet Union of children and just— [Tape interruption.]
Kasper: The knock on the door is over.
Castleberry: Well, what I wanted to say just a little bit, is try to put a little closure on my leaving the Times Herald. The afternoon that I left, they had a little party in the middle of the afternoon and presented me with the camera and applauded and whatever. And then I said to Maggie Kennedy, "I'm going to the lounge and I am not coming back." So I picked up my purse and went to the lounge and walked out. On Sunday afternoon I took Curt and a friend back and packed up my things and moved them all out. And I did not go back to the newspaper for a visit for five years. I went back last week. I have been in the building three times since then, all three times to the credit union and that's it. Or I think one time I did go back to give Mamie Harris a hug because she's on the first floor. And I have seen Maggie outside a number of times. She's done some marvelous things for me including a wonderful story on me last year. When I was doing the peace movement, she—
Kasper: I tried reaching her several times before I came down. She's a busy reporter.
Castleberry: She is a busy reporter and she is just so solid and she is the very last one of the group that I hired and trained. Nobody else is there that I hired and trained. And she feels like one of my children because when she married, I kind of eased her young husband through his trauma of having a wife who was a reporter, and I can remember so vividly Don used to call the paper in the early days and say, "Where is Maggie? Where is Maggie?" And it would be maybe fifteen minutes after she was supposed to be home in the evening and I would cajole him and love him through it. And so I've done that for a lot of young husbands, including the young husbands of my reporters, as well as the young sons-in-law that I've had along the way that—that men too need loving, and I'm not such a feminist that I can't be equally loving with the young men as they come along.
So I left the Times Herald and then I, ten days later, as I said, was on a plane to the Soviet Union and now, at this time, with your permission, I want to go back and explore some of the things that I explored along the way that led me to going to the Soviet Union.
Kasper: Yes. Indeed. Because there are some threads that tie your work life with your personal life with your activist life and they all run through the story of your life.
Castleberry: And the very first one is, as we were talking about yesterday, the Times Herald Homemaking Panels that became the Women's Panels. That was the opening thing. That was even before Explore. And the reason that I did that, as I pointed out yesterday, I started it as a way to connect with the community and to get news in the horrible summertime when there was no news going on and to find issues that women were interested in that needed reporting on. And that I set it up as a selfish reason to explore what women in the community were thinking and what they needed and how we, as a newspaper, could best help cover the kinds of things that were important to them. As a result of that, it certainly gave me an opportunity to explore for myself because I've never reported on anything that I didn't learn from and I've always said, even the most mundane story that I did, if I went at it with an open mind, I always came away with something good. Now there were stories that in later years I was assigned to cover that I didn't want to cover and I went with a negative attitude and I didn't learn much. But for the most part, all of it was a learning experience. And if I could remember that here, too, there is something for me to take home with me as a person, then it made doing the story a lot more fun.
So it began with the Times Herald Women's Panels and with that I not only ensured friendships that have endured through the years and have become dearer to me at each stage of my life and have allowed me to know women in a way that not many people have a chance to know. It has given me story material that I wouldn't have otherwise had, but it has also enriched my life in ways that nothing else would have been able to do.
So one day I was sitting at the paper, kind of minding my own business, and perhaps, although I can't be specific about this, wondering what next, you know, what option do I pick up next, and the phone rang and it was a young woman whose name was Jean Swenson. And she had come here as the wife of a young physician, I don't remember where from, but one of the large and wonderful medical schools in the country. And I am sure that Jean must have felt that she had come to neanderthal land because a great many young women who came out of Boston and New York and other parts of the country where the women's issues were much more acceptable felt when they came to Dallas that the clock had turned back a hundred years. But Jean and her husband had gotten involved in North Haven Methodist Church, which at that time was one of the most dynamic young groups of people in the community. It was being led by a young minister who was very forward thinking and very open to change. And in their young Sunday school classes—
Kasper: Was that Jim Holmes? Was that his church? Was that his name?
Castleberry: Well, at that time, it was McElvaney, Bill McElvaney. It probably was Holmes' church at one time. I can't remember, very honestly, I can't remember. I know who you're talking about. The man who figured so prominently during the Kennedy assassination. But out of that it seems that the young couples' class there, the women in the young couples' class, they were talking about issues that they needed to explore to enrich their lives. And Jean Swenson and Gail Smith and a couple of other young women—Fran McElvaney, the minister's wife, was one of them, and there was one other one whose name I can't remember at the time [Note added by V. Castleberry: It was Jeanette Ivy]—decided that what they most needed was a women's program that would give young mothers especially, who felt for the most part cut off from the real world at that time, credibility and support. And so they founded a course that is called Explore. It is still going on in this community.
Kasper: It's in it's twenty-fifth year or something like that?
Castleberry: It's twenty-fifth year. Explore is a course that is designed for women and taught by women. It is a course that helps a woman to evaluate who she is, where she is in her life, where she wants to go, how she is going to get there, and the specific ways in which she will travel to open up those options. It has been taught and re-taught through twenty-five years. At the end of every session, the group of very bright people who teach it, all of whom are graduates of Explore,
every year they get together and evaluate what they have done, what they need to change, what kind of course material they need to bring into it.
And Jean said to me, "We are starting this course. We don't know how it's going to work out in Dallas, and would you come out and talk to me about it?" And I said—it just sounded like my thing. It sounded like something I wish I had done. And it sounded like something that I would do if only I had time. So I went out and spent an afternoon with her in her home, by herself; that was my first opening to it. And I want you to know that I was so impressed at the depth of planning that they were going to and—I can't say that I didn't know other people were feeling just like I did, but what I can say is that I thought, here is somebody who is going to bring in ideas from other parts of the country and other parts of the world that will help us to become where I have had the vision that we need to travel. So, it was exceedingly exciting and they taught it that year.
I did a little story on what they were trying to do, it was kind of an insignificant story at the time because they still hadn't done anything. You know, what you're going to do and what happens, sometimes they're miles apart. So I did a little story on what this group of young women were planning and it was just kind of an insignificant story as I recall and [I don't know] whether I even saved it or not. But, then they taught it that fall for their own few people at the church. It was a very small class, a very controlled group, that they just wanted to see, they wanted to explore what they were doing.
The next fall they opened it up to the community and they had twenty-four people in it and I walked into that room. They told me that I could audit the course. And I guess I'm the only one they have ever let audit it. Because, as a reporter, I did not know whether or not I could be free to attend all of the classes. As it turned out, I attended five of the six classes. Would have, I mean, turned heaven and earth to do it and remanaged my schedule in every way possible because it was so significant. Walked into that, it was taught at North Haven Methodist Church, I walked—
Kasper: On Saturday mornings or something, is that what it was?
Castleberry: I think it was Saturday morning and I walked into that classroom and I want you to know that it blew my mind. They had boxes extended from the ceiling and pictures of women in every role that you can imagine pasted on these boxes. So the first—before anybody ever opened their mouths, you walked in and you immediately got the idea that women are living in boxed communities. And this was a message that hung from the ceiling, it was pasted and plastered on every place of the wall that you looked. That they had set up this—the setting was just marvelous.
Kasper: Women were everywhere.
Castleberry: Women were everywhere, but they all were in defined roles. And they were roles that were defined by others, not by themselves and they were leading boxed-in lives. So that was the message that came through loud and clear. And then we started exploring, and very honestly I still have to say, even in looking back, I didn't learn a lot from that that I hadn't already known. It simply affirmed who I was. But it, again, blew my mind in how many women were involved in the course that didn't know where they were.
Kasper: Now, didn't you also follow two women who were taking the course and then write an article for the paper about the Explore course?
Castleberry: Yes. Oh, yeah. From the minute. From the minute—
Kasper: Because Gail told me they felt that straight from the beginning that you began to participate in the Explore course and wrote this article that the course—she said at one point, the phone just didn't stop ringing. She said after you published the article in the Herald the phone rang off the hook because there were so many women in Dallas who responded.
Castleberry: Right. It blew the lid off.
Kasper: She said, "It blew the lid off," that's right.
Castleberry: It just blew the lid off and that was what was so fascinating because I didn't write that article until I was far enough into the course that I really knew what it was. And by that time, some very fascinating things had happened. One of them, Maura McNiel, who is now kind of known as the godmother of the women's movement in Dallas, we point to her—
Kasper: No, no, no. You're the godmother of the women's movement in Dallas, at least according to Liz Carpenter.
Castleberry: No. She is. And Maura is really—and the reason she is is that Maura has never worked for pay. She's always been a volunteer. And when we have needed things put together, she's always been there to put them together. And she's done this year in and year out. She's Ginny Whitehill's closest friend and together they have been the volunteer women that have been available to keep things moving when it would have fallen apart at the seams. But Maura was in that class. And Maura had come from Minnesota, had graduated from the University of Minnesota, had worked in New York, had a background that certainly was not Dallas, but she had come here, and at that stage I remember hearing her say so many times, "I always thought that women could wait"; "there were so many things in the world that needed to be done that we women were conditioned to waiting our turn so that the success of our husbands was the most important"; "rearing the children was the most important"; and then she had gotten involved in environmental activities, and saving the universe was certainly more important. And so it had never occurred to her that if she didn't take care of herself, she wouldn't be here to take care of the rest of it. So, from Explore, that's when Maura learned that she had to put women first and that's when she became a feminist and like many feminists, it was like, as I say, blowing the lid off. She was a dedicated feminist from that time on.
And so, as you said, that we mentioned just previously, toward the end of that first session, I wrote this article explaining what Explore really was and what it did. And it did blow the lid off in this community. There were people that were just clamoring to get into classes. They couldn't provide enough trained teachers to teach what needed to be taught. And I couldn't—for several days, I couldn't even communicate with them because the phone was so busy that I couldn't get through to talk to them about follow-up material.
Kasper: The response to the article.
Castleberry: The response was just absolutely mind boggling. And as a result, that was the beginning, and I think as a result of that, I've written several stories on Explore since then using different angles to try to tell its story as it has evolved. But there is no way that I could top that one.
Kasper: Now, Explore and the graduates of Explore became a nucleus of women—
Castleberry: Formed the Women's Center of Dallas. That, together with the symposium. At exactly the same time that Explore was starting—in fact, it was at a symposium that Gail Smith first approached me and said, "We're trying to do something that will be a continuum for the women's symposium." And it was Ann Chud who said, "Gee, they give us a crash course at SMU in what the possibilities are for women, and then they leave us for a full year without anything to feed on. And we've got to set up something in this community that will be a place to feed on." So out of that, then, Explore got—it was already beginning to start and it got started. And then out of the symposium, which is a program that is held for two days once a year at SMU for women with different themes that evolved through the years as the changes of women, but it is the longest continuing university-sponsored program for women in the country. For twenty-five years it has flourished. For one period of time when it looked like the women's movement was sort of going into the dark ages, it sort of floundered there for a few years, but last year it came back just full force.
Kasper: How many people attended last year, for instance?
Castleberry: About five hundred. And they're from all over the country, that is, they bring representative people here who are young women in colleges and universities from throughout the country, but they also bring a lot of Texas women
and Dallas women. The backbone of the whole thing is the volunteer community of Dallas.
Kasper: What is the full name of the seminar? It's the SMU seminar for women or—?
Castleberry: The SMU Symposium on the Education of Women for Social and Political Leadership. And through the years it has brought three keynote speakers annually: One who opens the conference, one who does a major lecture the first night of the conference, and then one who closes the conference. And through the years we have had such outstanding speakers as John Kenneth Galbraith, Margaret Mead, Yvonne Braithwaite Burke, Carl Degler, Mary—who was the president of Vassar. [Note added by V. Castleberry: It was Mary Bunting, president of Radcliffe.] I have every one of those programs if you'd like to see some of them. And the woman who started it was Emmie Baine, who was dean of women.
And last year it was turned over to a young woman whose name is Dr. Sandra Tinkham and Sandy is a fascinating person in that she participated in the first conference that was ever held at SMU as a student. Then, later was assistant to the dean of women and worked on the planning of it. And then, later, as a community volunteer was drawn in as a person who knew the community. She has been president of the YWCA Board; she has been president of the Women's Council of Dallas County. And then, lately now, is the executive director of the program. So she's been through every step in every phase of it, is brilliant and is open to all kinds of changes. Not only that, has a daughter of her own who's growing up and needs this kind of opening thing.
But the symposium and Explore then we—a few of us realized that what we were having was only a bite out of the, let's say, the chocolate cake, and that there was so much more that we needed to do for ourselves that was not done. So we started thinking what we could do to put together the kind of thing that would be ongoing, that would be a support system for the women of Dallas who wanted to be involved in feminism and in options for women. And we recognized that at that time Dallas was not ready to support a NOW chapter. We knew that the reputation that NOW had in the East would not go here. And so we needed to do it ourselves. So we were back to a do-it-yourself project.
So one evening in the fall of 19—I can't remember. It was in the early seventies, a group of fifteen of us met in Ann Chud's living room—she gave us dinner—to see what we wanted to do to form an organization that would explore options for women, affirm women, and give women a springboard for greater realization of their own potential in the community. And we formed Women for Change Incorporated. It was a name that I didn't like because it sounded too much like menopause to me, but I didn't get my way every time. [Laughter.] So, anyway, that was what we organized and it went through a period of, like everything, a new baby, it's birthing was tough. We would have Saturday morning board meetings in—mostly, the Zale Center that gave us space.
Castleberry: Zale Foundation, which is a nationally, or was, a nationally recognized jewelry outfit at the time. I don't know where Zale is now on a scale of one to ten, but it was an outstanding one in the community. But we were fortunate in that one of founders was a woman whose name was Dr. Caroline (I can't remember what her name was at the time, and the reason that I can't—she's Caroline Galerstein, Dr. Caroline Galerstein). Busch was her name. She was married to a physician who died with a brain tumor, a malignant brain tumor, and then she remarried, and that's the reason it's Dr. Caroline Busch. But Caroline was a Zale and she had an entrée into the space that we took over and she was our first president. No, Maura McNiel was our first president, and then Caroline took over and kind of grew us up. Our board meetings would last all morning. It was an incredible waste of time, but it was simply a process of trying to get our act together so we could be helpful to other people.
Kasper: Sure. It's an inevitable process. We've all been through it.
Castleberry: It's an inevitable process and it's one thing I have to learn over and over and over as I do different things, that you never start where you want to be.
Kasper: And you can never short circuit that process, even if you go through it a hundred times.
Castleberry: You cannot. And if you do, you ruin your organization. But we would meet endless hours and some of the women who came from the academic community—Johnny-Marie Grimes comes to mind as a specific—would be so annoyed with the amount of time that it took for some of us younger tigers to work our way through these different things to consensus. And Johnny-Marie would say, every time we'd get together, "We are going to stay here until something happens. We will not leave this room until we have a work agenda."
And I learned from that, from those experiences. I don't want to sound provincial, and I don't want to sound too chamber of commerce, but I also believe this emphatically—Dallas women do things as well or better than any women in the country. Because I have been to conferences at Columbia; I have been to conferences at major universities all over this world; and when Dallas women decide to do things, they are well done. And I remember one time in an interview Gloria Steinem saying to me, "I am not at all certain that the women's movement in Dallas, Texas, and it's foundation, is not one of the best in the country."
Kasper: I'm impressed. I've never seen anything like this. From what you have told me, and we're not talking tape, we're talking conversations we've now had over lunch and dinner, and from meeting Ginny and Janie the other day, and just the myriad of details that I have picked up on on the telephone calls that I've made down here, I haven't seen a better one myself, anywhere, and I've done a fair amount of travel.
Castleberry: It is solid. And I've been to women's conventions in foreign countries. I have been to women's conventions at major universities throughout this country, and believe me, when we decide to do something, we know how to do it. It's because we've done our homework.
Kasper: Well, the other day, I was thinking how envious I was of the network of women you all have here.
Castleberry: Well, thank you. But it's marvelous. It really is. And it has been our survival because we have survived in a macho community. And we have excelled in a macho community. So, anyway, from Explore—
Kasper: Tell me, what did Women for Change Incorporated actually do?
Castleberry: Women for Change Incorporated—I wish I had our—it took us probably three months to write our—
Kasper: By-laws or proclamation or whatever.
Castleberry: Well, not only the by-laws, but exactly who we were. To define in finite words who we are and I will look that up—a statement of purpose—and add that to it. But we started working in several different areas and one of them was child care. First we started in kind of the safe areas for women so that we didn't scare the rest of them off.
One of the very first things we did, though, and we did this almost by osmosis because it was thrust upon us, was to organize a rape center because one of our women was raped and had no resources and nowhere to go. And it became our assignment to start to work with the police department and the medical school to establish a base where women who were sexually assaulted could be safe in this community. And at that stage, as a reporter, I can tell you, because I called, many times, the police department to try to find out, any kind of rape that was reported or any kind of sexual assault that was reported, was a domestic disturbance. And they didn't keep separate records on it. And it was just awful.
So I was working both as a reporter, from the end of a reporter, trying to unearth this information and to tell the story to the world, and at the same time,
on the other side, being a community activist who was involved in trying to make change for it to happen.
And let me tell you, I never saw myself as being divided in that role. My management, my men, from time to time, would try to impress upon me the fact that as a reporter I could not be intimately involved with these social changes. And I would point out to them that I was a human being before I was a reporter and that I had to keep it together as a human being and I could not divide myself. It was tough. Because I did want to be honest. I did want to hear all of the voices, and at the same time, I knew that there were things that were being perpetrated against women in this community as well as the world that were unforgivable and I could not sit still as a human being and allow this kind of thing to continue.
So, in the early days of Women for Change we worked in trying to provide adequate child care; we did a child referral service that was the background for the child referral service that we still have going in the community; we did a rape crisis center that as a spin-off now stands on its own.
Kasper: Was it actually a physical location that women who were raped could go to and a hotline?
Castleberry: Yes, it was a physical location and there was a hotline. And we also worked very early on with the medical school so that women who were sexually assaulted could be taken to a safe place at the medical school for examination, and that has continued to improve through the years, that I dare say now is probably as good as any one in the nation. And worked with the police department until we got them to understand that these were crimes that needed to be reported separately.
I can't remember what the other things were—and oh, education. We worked in the field of education from the very beginning trying to insist that our grade schools and our high schools provide equal opportunity for girls and for boys in the field of athletics, as well as in academic circles. And we did a large task force to check out primary and grade school textbooks to see what kind of sexism pervaded our textbook systems. Worked with and lectured to any group of teachers that would listen to us on how you train boys differently from the way you train girls. Became, through Barbara Reagan, who is a professor at SMU, very interested and involved in higher education, the kind of things that are offered on the university level that separate the boys from the girls and do not give the girls equal opportunity. There are other things that we did. Those are the things that come to my mind immediately.
Kasper: And Women for Change was just the beginning. It is no longer—
Castleberry: Women for Change evolved into the Women's Center of Dallas. And we evolved into the Women's Center of Dallas when it became clear to us that it wasn't only that we needed to make change, we needed to have a safe place for women of all persuasions to come. And one of the early things that we did was set up a law referral service for women, a legal referral service, and the Women's Law Center, which was an outgrowth of Women for Change Incorporated, was headed by a woman who put herself in touch with almost every attorney in the community, female attorney in the community, and we did things for women like provide legal service for divorce and child custody. And those things were not offered in this community at the time at all. There was just nowhere—and when the Women's Law Center, which was short-lived because the funding dried up for it, you know, as the Republicans came into power and the—
[End Tape 1, Side B; Begin Tape 2, Side A]
Castleberry: —thing that we had to be concerned with, that women who were on the cutting edge of change were troublemakers. And so, as a result of that, the woman who headed the Women's Law Center, was almost indicted, not quite, but almost indicted for illegal use of funds. And very honestly, what happened was that she had a lot of young volunteers working for her, some of whom were black and some of whom would go out into some of the plusher neighborhoods of town and have their picnic lunches and who were not welcome there. There were other things that were going on at the same time, but believe me, I had interviewed this woman enough, and had been there at the Center enough to know that what was going on was wonderful.
But she left town under a cloud, just about to be indicted for misuse of federal funding to run the Women's Law Center. So that was a project that lasted at best only about eighteen months.
But one of the times that I was down there at the Center, I walked into the Center and there was a little child sitting on the steps and I sat down with the little child and started talking to the child, and it turned out that this young woman had escaped from the East with her child, literally had kidnapped her child and had escaped here and was living under an assumed name and living under the cloud of a federal indictment to come home to deliver this child to an abusive father.
Kasper: Was this the same woman who was heading the Law Center?
Castleberry: No, no, it wasn't the same woman. The woman who was heading the law center was helping her.
Kasper: Oh, I see.
Castleberry: I mean, all of the stuff that we were doing was just—
Kasper: It was real life.
Castleberry: It was real life. We were on the cutting edge of being just right on the other side of the law, you know. And so when you're living in that kind of milieu, you're always leaving yourself open for people to find blame and to call you the meddling female, which they were inclined to do anyway, and that they wanted to put a stop to these uppity women who were doing nothing but burning bras, you know—
Kasper: And making trouble.
Castleberry: And making trouble. We were trouble makers and we were troublemakers.
Kasper: Well, you were disrupting the status quo of Dallas.
Castleberry: We were disrupting the status quo and we were not very welcome. As long as we did things that condoned the power structure that existed, everything was well and good, but the moment we began to ask questions, we were certainly not welcome in those crowds. Another thing that we started to do—we did a lot of things that were—we didn't advertise and we didn't make a part of public issues—such as taking note of how many questions were asked at public meetings of politicians, and we trained women on how to ask questions of people who were running for office so that women's issues would be a part of those things. Then we began, openly, to hold meetings of all candidates. Under our own women's auspices we would hold meetings of candidates that were running for all public offices and publicly ask them questions about how they stood on women and the issues that were critical to our needs.
And I remember one man who was running for office that we did just adore and still adore. His name is Sid Stahl and he was running for mayor. And he's married to a young woman who is a feminist. And at the meeting that night that we held, Sid came off being less than feminist. And I remember we said to Susan, because we knew he was our best bet—Susan's his wife, and we said to Susan later, "Go home and give Sid a crash course in feminism because in order to represent us in public places, we are going to need him." And then Wes Wise, who was also elected mayor at one time, is an enigma in this community in that he was elected to one term, resigned before the term was out to run for Congress and was defeated. And Wes, well, people will tell you in this community that Wes was a lightweight mayor and a real, you know—he was the one, really, that broke the chain of the old boys network being in control. And he was the one who appointed the first women's commission in Dallas.
Ken Johnson was the boss' name that I was trying to remember. At the time that I had worked—I had now worked through with Women for Change and with the Women's Center of Dallas, and through the symposium, and I was ready for the next step, and the next step was appointment to the Women's Commission of Dallas. And, at that time, Ken Johnson was my top editor and I knew that he did not really want
his reporters involved in community activism. So I went to him ahead of time. I knew that my name was going to be placed for appointment, and I knew that my city council person who had the right to appoint me probably would, and so I—because he didn't know me very well—and so I went to my boss and said, "This is something that I know I'm going to be asked to do, and I want to do, and under what conditions would you allow me to do this." And he said, "If you won't take a really front active part, if you will, you know, just be a part of the commission, you won't take a chairmanship, you won't be a leader, it will be fine." So it was a compromise that I was willing to accept because, of course, what happened was that Idelle Rabin ran our committee and I backed her up, and together we did the first Women and Work Symposium that was ever held in Dallas.
Kasper: Who was the woman you did it with?
Castleberry: Idelle Rabin. Owner of Del Anns. She is an entrepreneur. She is very rich in her own right. She is self made. She is a human dynamo. And she would call me, she's one of those people who will call you and state what she wants to say and then hang up. Almost like I am. I don't like to talk on the phone. So we worked real well together. But my kids got tired of answering the phone and they said to me one time, "Mother, can we tell Idelle next time she calls that you died?" [Laughter.] And she would call me at all hours and she just said, you know, "So and so's going on. What do you think we ought to do about it?" I would tell her. And we'd hang up.
But we rented—the Dallas Commission on the Status of Women held a series of open hearings at City Hall at night to hear the women's issues in the community and what women wanted to tell us about what their needs were. And we set this up for two evenings because we thought we would need two evenings to hear. The reception was so great that it expanded into four evenings. And although we limited the amount of time that they could speak, I was just overwhelmed at the number of issues that came out. That's the first time I heard the term phrased "displaced homemaker." And from that—
Kasper: Do you remember what year this was vaguely?
Castleberry: No, I don't.
Kasper: Early seventies.
Castleberry: Yeah. But I can't remember. But I will have to—I'll need to look up those dates. But the interesting thing was from it—also, at the same time, that these things were hitting me, they were providing avenues for better reporting because I'd never done a story on displaced homemakers. And the next morning I was on the phone with Charlotte Stewart, and I said, "Tell me about displaced homemakers. What is it? What do I need to do?" It was through this same process that I learned about the very beginning of the Older Women's League and interviewed Tish Sommer, right off, because I learned that the needs for older women were not being met and that this, too, was a part of the need that was not being addressed.
So here we went from the cradle to the grave. We were talking about child care, and then we were talking about the disenfranchised older woman who was the poorest person in the community, as well as the world. The woman without any resources at all who suddenly finds herself widowed and alone. So I was garnering material for stories at the same time that I was being a community activist—
Kasper: And you were very much aware of this, weren't you?
Castleberry: Oh, I was—I began to look forward to it. Listening to a public hearing is not always fun, but my note pad was full of stuff to follow up and names of people to call and contact, and how—
Kasper: Do you think that your management knew that or that it was serendipitous for them?
Castleberry: I think it was serendipitous for them. I don't think they had any idea and I think they probably would have discouraged it had they had an idea.
Kasper: Even though it was wonderful for the paper in the long run.
Castleberry: Even though it was wonderful for the paper, I think it was women's feminism and activism that they [would] just as soon not have encroached. I think. You know, who knows. And they may tell you something different.
Kasper: Well, no, other reporters, like Molly Ivins said to me that the Dallas Times Herald didn't know how wonderful you were for the paper. And the combination of your innate curiosity and your wonderful intelligence and so forth, plus your community activism, created feature stories and news stories that were just wonderful. So that, literally, the bottom line, it sold papers.
Castleberry: It sold papers, it really did. And I still have people, I still have women out there today, say to me, "Why don't you go back and report on some of those things we're interested in reading because the features sections now has evolved almost entirely into reporting on television shows and movies that are showing, and that's a part of it, and it's a part that I probably left out too much, but it's not the whole of it. And what the people are doing out there is not being covered and it seems—all of the reporting—most of the reporting in the Living section today or what now they call the Style section, almost all of it seems so sterile to me and so without that human touch.
Kasper: In the Washington Post, one of the other places hidden in the paper where you can get that human touch is—it's kind of all wrong to have papers cut up this way, I think—is in the Metro section. You know, you really get a sense of the community in which you belong. There are articles in there about people who have retired or a woman who lost her husband or someone who's started a business or, you know, a drug problem in a community, and so forth and so on. And it seems to me that instead of being tucked away, next to the classifieds or next to the used cars, this is the stuff that should be up front. I mean, that's kind of what you're saying you were able to do during your tenure.
Castleberry: It's exactly what I was able to do and I would really get annoyed, and I couldn't keep from getting annoyed at my friends, my good friends, along the way that would say to me, "Well, we don't want this in the Women's section." When the Women's section, very honestly, was pioneering, or the Living section was literally pioneering every human interest story, every human dimension in this community, we were opening the gate for it to become credible. And as I said yesterday, we would watch it. Within six months, within a year, city side would take over that beat. And I used to say to my reporters, "That's okay. If city side has taken over that beat, it gives us the freedom to do something else."
Kasper: To do some more.
Castleberry: And so we would go out and explore another option that we could open up too. And at that stage, although I still had a society editor, and I still had a fashion editor, and I still had all these other things, we were meddling a whole lot in each other's playgrounds. And the society editor, for instance, was doing feature stories. It was the society editor that wrote the series of feature stories on the Dallas County Home for Children. It was the society editor that won the top state writing award for that series.
Kasper: The home for children that was so dilapidated.
Castleberry: So we were meddling in each other's playgrounds even when we still had, traditionally, these titles.
Kasper: So that unlike a lot of other women journalists at the time, you were not opposed to the women's pages transforming itself into Living or Style?
Castleberry: No. No.
Kasper: A lot of people got kind of upset about that whole transformation.
Castleberry: Oh, I led it. I led the transformation. I was the one who was trying to get rid of the brides, and as I said yesterday, I've rethought that and I'm not altogether sure that that is true.
Kasper: Oh, no. I don't mean not getting rid of the brides, I think what people like Dorothy Jurney hoped to see was that as substantive news took over and became the core of the women's pages, that it should have stayed women's pages with all of this news about women so that women had a rightful place somewhere in the center of the newspaper. What Gloria Steinem and others argued for, and which Dorothy Jurney was opposed to, was that women's news then became disbursed throughout the paper. Yes, some of it was in the new so-called living or style section, some of it was in the news section, some of it was in metro, you know, here, there and around. Dorothy, I think, wanted to see the transformation coalesce into one solid section of news on women called the women's pages and that did not abide.
Castleberry: Yes. What I really wanted to see was it evolve into a section that would be a section for people. And I think that's what many good feature sections in the country have done. I do know that increasingly I had lots of men reading my section. And even today, I will meet them out in the community and the kinds of dimensions that we were able to report on that now are totally left out of the paper, were where a lot of the men who are on the cutting edge of human issues in town got their meat and potatoes too.
For instance, there's one young man in town whose name is Anderson who still calls me every Christmas. And he calls me and leaves messages on my machine just to say thank you because he is in early childhood education and he is—they're still struggling with many of the things that we struggled with way back there. And sometimes I know he feels like he's right back at the starting gate, but he also knows that I became, probably just by having it dropped on me, the early childhood education reporter in the community. And I cared about what was happening to kids.
And also, I learned a long time ago that too often when people in their own lives grow beyond a certain stage, then they leave that stage. I've never left that. I still realize to this very day that the care, nurturing and education of young children is the crux of where humanity is going. And as a grandmother and eventually I hope, if I live long enough to be a great grandmother, I will never leave that because if we do not love our children, and it still appalls me that we are one of the very few so-called forward-thinking nations in the world that does not have a child care policy—
Kasper: A national child care policy. Absolutely.
Castleberry: —that we do not have a national child care policy is appalling. And believe me, they do a better job in the Soviet Union with early children than they do here in this country.
Kasper: They do in most western European countries too, and have for years.
Castleberry: They do in the Soviet Union what we give lip service to. They love their children and they consider them the landmark of the future. And unless we can get around to doing that—one of these days we're going to lose it.
Kasper: We're going to lose the race to the countries that love their children better than we love ours.
Castleberry: That's right. Exactly. So, anyway, let's see, now where are we. We have just—
Kasper: Well, my next question for you is, now The Family Place grew out of the Center, did it not? Tell me about The Family Place.
Castleberry: The Family Place grew really out of Gerry Beer. And the way that happened, Gerry Beer had done a lot of work at The Childhood Center in South Dallas and the South Dallas housing projects under the auspices of the National Council of Jewish Women. Gerry is from New York City and she had come here as a bride and her husband was working in retail sales, a young executive in retail sales, worked his way up, is now one of the outstanding realtors in this community. Gerry has had a situation where she could afford financially to give herself as a volunteer to the community. But, in New York, she had been a fashion buyer to begin with.
So one day she said to me, "I have now done practically everything I want to do in the way of working in the volunteer community, and so I'm going back and really see if I can make money—like the world is putting emphasis on money." And Annette Strauss said the same thing to me one time. "Since the world evaluates you by your financial worth, I'm going to see if I can hack it in that real world." So when Lord & Taylor came here, Gerry went to work for them and she worked for them for, oh, a limited period of time, maybe a year and a half, maybe two years. One day she called me up at the paper and said, "I want to take you to lunch, I want to talk to you." And she said, "I have come to the conclusion that I am going to resign my job and go back to volunteer work because I think I can do more good in this community as a volunteer than I can for pay." And she said, "What I want to explore with you are the unmet needs in the community—the things that need to be met that are not being met."
And I'll never forget it because we went to lunch—at the time the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts was at State Fair Park, and we went to lunch at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts and we sat there over lunch and explored options of what it was that Gerry needed to do with her life next. And I pointed out to her, just in the many things that we talked about, I said, "To me the great need that is not being met is that women who are abused, women and children who are abused, have no place to go, at all, there is no resource in this community for women who are victims of physical and/or emotional abuse."
And I had been called at the paper, I had done a couple of stories on it, and one young woman that I still follow who has been bruised and battered by her husband for years, and she's still with him, which doesn't say a lot for her. But anyway, I had just had a session with her and it was fresh on my mind. She had come down to see me with a black eye and it was fresh on my mind. So I said this to Gerry. And Gerry has told me later, "That wasn't an option I wanted to pick up. It wasn't something I wanted to do it all. I wanted to do something that was a lot more pleasant than that."
But Gerry, being the kind of person that she is, began to explore the need. She talked to other people. She talked to people at the Women's Center. She talked to people at the Rape Crisis Center. She talked to some social workers. And Carol Madison is one of them, a social worker who is assistant director of the Mental Health Association and a good friend of mine, a good mutual friend. And from this, Gerry decided that was the option she would pick up.
So she began carefully, as most women in this community who have done a good job do, putting together the coalition that would make this thing a success. And it started very slowly. It seemed to me like it took forever. We were in sessions again, endlessly, talking about—
Kasper: Meeting after meeting.
Castleberry: Yes, meeting after meeting after meeting. And talking to the men; and listening to the men tell us it couldn't be done and that there was no need for it; and going to ministers of the different churches and finding out that some of them believed that a woman's place was with the husband no matter what was happening to her. It's just, you know, you know the story, it was just gawd awful. But Gerry persevered and she kept on.
And I, as a reporter, had pretty much of a peripheral input into that because I was interested, but I also was involved in so many other things and I wanted to see it go, and I knew that Gerry could do it. And so one day she called me up and she said, "We're going to rent this old house down in Oak Lawn and we're going to try a shelter." And so with volunteer help they totally turned that thing around, they refurbished the house, they put in the correct kind of plumbing, they put in the correct kind of lighting. They had a board of directors. I was on the advisory committee, but not the board. And they had a board of directors that included some of the leading ministers in town and some of the leading social workers in town and the community, a real microcosm of the community movers and shakers were on her board. And she opened for business. And we were run over. There were so many calls—
Kasper: Do you remember what year this was that it opened?
Castleberry: Oh, gosh no, I don't.
Kasper: Mid-seventies was it?
Castleberry: Mid-seventies. It was a ramshackle old house that was totally inadequate and, of course, we had to keep the address secret. And one of my funny stories, personal stories, was that they kept trying to name the place. And they kept trying to name the place. And I kept listening to them. And they had named—the organization that set it up was DVIA. It was an awful name.
Kasper: Dallas Volunteer something or other?
Castleberry: Dallas Intervention Alliance Association. D-I—well, anyway, I would start to print that in the paper and I just couldn't get it out. And of course you're not supposed to say in the—you can't use a headline that doesn't tell what it is you're talking about, and you've got to get the whole idea of what it is in the first sentence. And so I was constantly trying to explain what these people were doing and finding it just revoltingly difficult. So I said to Gerry, "If I had been there, you sure wouldn't have named it that."
I was back to the Women for Change Incorporated because I always think in terms of headlines and how is it going to look to the public. So I was dismayed by that. So when they got around to naming the house that they had set up, I said, "It has to be something simple. It has to be something that everybody will understand. It has to be something that will not divide the community—it can't be divisive." So I said, "Why don't we call it The Family Place?" Well, they explored that indefinitely and they finally decided to call it The Family Place and the first story I wrote on it, I called it The Home Place throughout. And Gerry called me up and said, "Did I miss something along the way? Did you name our organization The Family Place or did you name it The Home Place?" And I had really blown it that time. But, anyway, it is The Family Place and The Family Place it remains and it has become—
Kasper: Is it still in Oak Lawn?
Castleberry: No. They moved it to Oak Cliff which is just across the river and they were instrumental as a group of people, with a lot of financial backing, of community volunteers they were and a credit to Gerry's careful way of putting it together and the cross section she got of board members in this community, they bought an old hospital in Oak Cliff, a fourteen-room hospital, and converted it into a shelter for women and children that is now on a wood-shaded lot in Oak Cliff, has a marvelous playground out back for children, and they do three different kinds of service. They provide in-house shelter for women and children; they provide out-service counseling for women who need help but do not need shelter, where women can get shelter otherwise; and they provide a continuing program for battering men who want to learn how to stop this violent behavior. They also provide a tremendous program for the education of children; to try to intervene at a very young age the pattern of battering that has erupted in the country.
Kasper: That's wonderful.
Castleberry: It is a wonderful organization. I just wish you had time to see everything here that we have in the way of these facilities. And what has happened there—The Family Place has become one of the places in the community that is socially acceptable for people to go and work. It is one of the outreaches for Junior League; it's one of the places that Junior League places its volunteers; it's one of places that all of the large church groups in Dallas support; it is one of the places that through this economic down period has not suffered a great deal because the volunteer community has simply not let it drop through the nets.
Kasper: So does the money that supports The Family Place come from the Dallas community or do they go for grants and money beyond Dallas?
Castleberry: They go for grants and for money beyond. But principally, it is supported—the bedrock foundation—is that it is a Dallas-area- supported institution.
Kasper: And the money comes from a cross-section of Dallas?
Castleberry: It comes from a cross-section of Dallas including some black churches; including some—
Kasper: White conservative folks too?
Castleberry: Yes. And not only do they give money, but there's just a—well, for instance, people who have used clothing, they have a used clothing store that's just wonderful that, you know, can go; and canned goods and any kind of foods and bakeries that will send rolls and dairies that send milk. And it has caught on in this community as an okay place to support. And it has been a godsend to those of us who are community activists because we know where to send people who are desperate.
The last Christmas that I was at the Times Herald before I retired the first of May, that was Christmas of '83, on the day before Christmas, in the morning on the 24th, I had gone to work and was going to clear up my desk for the day and then be at home with my children and family for Christmas Eve and so on. I had a call from a woman in South Dallas who was calling me from a telephone booth and who had spent the night out on the street because her husband had battered her and thrown her out. And just to listen to her talk, with a small child by the hand, she was just desperate and she didn't know where to go. And I said, "You stay right there. I will send somebody to pick you up in a little while." And I called The Family Place and they went and got her and looked after her and saw her through.
So, for those of us who know how to work the system, there is this place. And one time, my son-in-law called me. He is a lawyer, and he was working with a case of a woman who had been battered by her husband in Dallas, and she had slipped off and gone to California. He had come to get her and had beat her up again on the way home. And my son-in-law calls me from Central Texas and said, "Where do I tell this woman to look? What is there available?" Send her to The Family Place. And they will look after anybody that's in desperate straits. They will find a way to take care of them. The press a few times had tried to denigrate them. They look for things that haven't been done, that should have been done; things they've missed that they should have seen. And there's one instance, and I can't remember the specifics, but there's one instance in the community where a woman was killed by a battering husband after being refused entry to The Family Place.
Kasper: They had no room for her?
Castleberry: They had no room for her. And I don't remember details because I remember at the moment I was irate because the press didn't tell the whole story. They just grabbed the idea that here's somewhere The Family Place is not doing its job. But it is wonderful. So, The Family Place was another one that I felt like I was on the periphery of helping to get started and Gerry, I think, to this day, credits me with saying to her that this is where you need to be. But, very honestly, what I was exploring were the different options for her. And she's the one that did it.
Kasper: Well, a lot of people in town also feel that you were much more instrumental than that. I mean that your ideas and your consistent—sticking with the meetings and with the folks who were—and staying with the folks who were putting the ideas together and part of that in sharing with them the determination to see this done was real instrumental.
Castleberry: Well, thank you, but Gerry did it. Really, she did it. And there was another instance in town of the same type that I get credit for that I didn't do. I simply planted the seed. And that was the group called, and I'll make this real brief, but it was called "A Taste of Dallas." And what happened there was that the Restaurant Wives Association was being headed up by Anita Martinez, who later became the first Hispanic council person in Dallas. But Anita Martinez was president of
the Restaurant Wives Association and she called me up one day and said, "The Restaurant Wives Association has never done anything for the community and we are—I'm thinking in terms of, I don't want just to have a meeting for the husbands and have a dance, I want to do something for the community. Would you come down and just talk with me and see what kind of needs that are not being met that we can do?"
So I went down to El Fenix Restaurant, the family owns a chain called the El Fenix chain and there are several of the Martinez people. Irene Martinez Garcia is the president of the corporation and I keep hoping that she will really become a feminist. She's such a neat lady. But she's, you know, of this Hispanic background, kind of defers to her brothers, I think they just named her the president of the corporation. But, anyway, there's a large family and they own a large chain of locally situated restaurants and Anita is the wife of the oldest surviving son and as such has—she's a beautiful woman who would have been allowed just to play at life if she wanted to. But she has four children, three sons and a daughter, and somehow she became a community activist.
So when she became president of the Restaurant Wives Association, she wanted to do something important for them, so we went to the El Fenix Restaurant that her husband owns and had lunch together. And we talked about, and I don't remember whether she brought it up or I brought it up, but one of us brought it up that one of the great unmet needs in this community was breakfast for hungry children. And it seemed to me that the Restaurant Association would be an ideal place for this to start. So somehow or other it evolved in our talking that what we needed to have was one big blast a year called "A Taste of Dallas" where all the restaurants would bring the best that they had to offer to a major hotel and for one evening there would be music and dancing, but the people of Dallas would get to sample the best from every restaurant in the community, for a price.
Kasper: There's no wonder that you have been called an enabler by Mary Vogelman, the godmother of the women's movement by Liz Carpenter; a catalyst for change. I mean, you modestly say you didn't do it, but without your ideas I don't think a lot of these things would have gotten started.
Castleberry: Well, what happened here that was so fun. I still have the picture. I wish I had showed it to you. Anita said, "What can we do that will make a splash in the newspaper?" I said, "Okay." One of the funny things was that as we sat there in this restaurant, her husband, her mother-in-law, her sister, and her sister-in-law and one of the brothers, sat at a nearby table and eyed us as if, "What on earth are these women—?" Now, Anita would tell you that what they were asking is, "How did Anita get this newspaper woman down here to talk to?" But I will tell you what they were saying is, "What is that meddling woman doing with Anita now?"
So, from that I said to Anita, and I still have the picture and it's glorious, I said, "I'll tell you what you do that will really make a newspaper splash. You go down to West Dallas where the children have no food, you know, where they are really hungry children, and you set up in the street the biggest feast you can imagine, and we will come take a picture. And you have all of these children coming in and sampling all this wonderful food and then we use this as the attention getter for what it is your trying to do." It worked like a charm. It just worked like a charm. I still have that photograph. She set up a banquet in the center of one of these poverty-ridden streets in West Dallas and she had children just coming from everywhere to sample the wares. And it was an absolute photographic image of how badly Dallas needed to feed its hungry children and it gave me the opening right to print the story on how many children were going hungry and the Restaurant Association was doing this big benefit and it was going to support breakfast for hungry children in Dallas.
And they did that for years. And five years after we started that thing, she and I went together to a "Taste of Dallas" meeting one evening and we sat on the stairway at the Fairmont Hotel and said, "Look what we did!" "It's impossible that this could have happened." There were thousands of people who dropped by that evening and for $5.00 a ticket, they had come to sample, and of course many of them paid $1,000, you know, write you a check for a $1,000 for the benefit.
Kasper: You made a fortune. You could support it all year long, breakfast for hungry children.
Castleberry: And then from that, Anita was elected to the Dallas City Council. The Citizens Charter Association, which was then the old macho ruling male political thing in Dallas, called her and asked her to run for city council. And she came down to the Times Herald to talk to me about it. I was just one of many that she talked to of whether or not I thought she should do that. And I pointed out to her, I said, "Anita, they're asking you to run to take care of two minorities—women and Hispanics—and it's an impossible assignment. It is impossible! If you want to do it, I will back you one hundred percent, but I want you to know that you're getting into something that you cannot handle.
And so she was on the city council for two years and she was considered, I expect would be considered in this community as a lightweight city council person. But let me tell you, there were several things—I'd feel real guilty if I were to let myself entertain guilt because we elected her and then we didn't give the network of support she needed as women. We kind of let her do her own thing.
And one of the things that she did that was marvelous was that she expanded the City Park Department into West Dallas and the Anita Nañes Martinez Recreation Center in West Dallas is now one of the prime recreation centers in this community and from it has come an organization that she still supports called the Anita Nañes Martinez Ballet Folklorico that does Mexican dancing that has given children a place for authentication and applause from the Hispanic community that would have never happened without it. And she now is funding that to the extent of just infinite amounts of money.
And there's just been some funny things that have happened along the way. When she was elected to the City Council, her husband gave her a beautiful new Cadillac as a gift and a huge diamond ring. And I said to her, "Anita, you don't need that. What you need, you know, this is the kind of gimmicks that you get from your heritage that's wonderful for you, but that's not the image you want to portray in the community." But anyway, she is such a loving person and all of this comes from that. So, we did that.
Kasper: One of the other things that got going a little bit later in this chronology is the Dallas Women's Foundation. Can you talk about that?
Castleberry: Yes. Yes, I can. The Dallas Women's Foundation is a latecomer. Well, before I do that, let me just briefly mention WIN—Women's Issues Network. It has been really interesting to me to watch the evolvement of women's activities in the community and I've done pretty much of an in-depth study so I can tell you that almost every women's organization that is founded in this community, and so far as I can tell in every community in this country, is organized to meet a specific need and very often the need grows beyond the capacity of the women to handle it, or the needs change. And too often the women who organize it are still there doing the same old thing, so that women's groups reach their peak and very often then, they should dissolve, but don't. And so what happens is that we have a lot of people who are piddling in areas of life that no longer are valid.
So I have watched that especially happen in this community where a lot of women's groups, the two thousand women's groups that I kept records on when I was at the Times Herald, most of them are still piddling away at doing things that were done, that were credible fifty years ago, but certainly there is no need for them now, and I'll give you a specific. One of them is the Dallas Women's Forum which worked in nine different areas and that was in the area of education, arts, and handcrafts, and sewing and this sort of thing. Well, that organization still exists, they still have a wonderful fine building down on Ross Avenue, but the last time I went to speak to these women about ten years ago, there were very few of them left and most of them slept through my speech. They were old and tired. And so what I'm saying to you is that usually daughters do not join organizations that mothers found. Every generation of women has to do it for themselves.
So what has evolved in this community is that many of the things that I helped to found are still there, maybe doing the same thing and some of them certainly doing wonderful and valid things, but as time has gone on, other organizations have
been founded that are on the cutting edge of change. And the Women's Issues Network is on the cutting edge. It came out of a group meeting that was held by the National Council of Jewish Women in cooperation with the Women's Council of Dallas County that addressed what are the unmet needs for women in the community. And out of that, Joy Mankoff became the founder of—or she is the person around which the founding of Women's Issues Network came about.
Kasper: So is WIN a coalition or is it a group?
Castleberry: WIN is a coalition of—it's a group. And it is non-political. It does not ask for tax-exempt status because it wants to meddle in politics. It is on the cutting edge of abortion issues. And it's on the cutting edge of issues for women in the community that no other organization will—
Kasper: But where does it draw its membership from? Is the membership individuals or is it women from other groups?
Castleberry: The membership are individuals. The women are individuals, but most of them are involved in other groups and they come from other groups. And actually the board of WIN is very small and most of the work is done by task forces. That where there will be an interest such as several years ago—well, WIN was founded and I was not on its first board, I was a member of the advisory committee that founded it, and then I withdrew from it and then I went back on the board and served on the board for two years. I have now resigned from that because I'm away. But I still think it is one of the cutting edge of change. It brings suit against people for discrimination against women. It isn't an organization that is very large, but it does very important things.
Kasper: How does it fund itself?
Castleberry: Mostly by the members who are working in it. But it doesn't take a lot of money. It's small.
Kasper: It's a small staff. No. Because you've got an executive director and some secretarial help.
Castleberry: Yes. It's very small and doesn't need a lot of money because we don't—we and I say "we" because I'm still a part of it—we don't need to raise money to publicize ourselves. And some of the lawyers, some of the attorneys have taken cases just because it's the proper thing to do and we don't need to—so, anyway, WIN, as I said, is one of the cutting edge of change organizations.
And then about maybe three years ago, Helen Hunt Hendrix called a small group of us together and pointed out that women are real good at doing almost everything except raising money both for themselves and other women and that what we really needed here, perhaps, and she was very cautious to say you need this. Helen had grown up in Dallas. She now lives in New York City where she, with two sisters, has founded the Hunt Alternatives Fund that gives money to cutting-edge-of-change issues that involve women and children. And that foundation funding goes to organizations in Dallas, New York, and Denver, Colorado, where the other sister lives. And one of the things that's been neat about that is that some of the Hunt money is being used to fund women's and children's issues. And Helen, herself, is a delightful person. I will tell you about her later.
But she was, as I see, certainly the instrument and the catalyst around which the Dallas Women's Foundation was founded. She came down here, after calling us, she called Ginny Whitehill and she called Maura and she called me, and I don't know how many other people she called, but there was a group of women activists in the community that she talked to and she came down and we put together a meeting. And when I say "we," it was the group that she had contacted. I believe our first meeting was held in the building that is on—
[End Tape 2, Side A; Begin Tape 2, Side B]
Castleberry: —so Helen, the first meeting that we held was at Patricia Meadows, D'Art, down on Swiss Avenue and there was not—I don't remember, probably twenty, twenty-five of us. And Helen was extremely cautious in laying out the possibility
of forming a women's foundation. She wasn't sure, she said, that Dallas really needed such a thing or could or would support such a thing, but women in other communities who had founded foundations that would support the grass roots efforts of women, had found that they were—it was a valuable thing to do. And so from her initial, almost reserved, almost saying to us, "Don't do this unless it's really an imperative," it became an imperative right away. There were many of us who recognized right off that the very truth of the matter is that women are good at everything in life except raising and handling money and that we have never recognized that money is power and that until we can get our hands on it and control some of it, we may be left—
Castleberry: Powerless. So it was that beginning that really spoke a message to some of the young women yuppies and entrepreneurs in town that no other message—every other message had left cold.
Kasper: The Family Place or the Center and the Explore course didn't turn them on.
Castleberry: All of these things were nice things for women to do, but they weren't personally turned on by it. Well, believe me, young women were personally turned on by this. And the first, the most brilliant thing that we ever did was to name Pat Sabin to be executive director. Pat had just—she was fairly new in Dallas from the standpoint of long-lived relationships. She had come here with a husband and children; she was newly divorced, or going through a divorce; had been president of the League of Women Voters; her background is in politics in Washington, D.C.; she is the sister of Jack Nicklaus, the golfer. So her family background was fascinating, but she, herself, is an absolutely brilliant, straight-on person. If you interviewed her, you would never find her rambling as I ramble because she's organized, her mind is organized, and she gets from one point to the other with the least amount of effort. And she was exactly the appropriate person to put into the executive leadership of that new project. And it is not very old. Let's see, five years, six years, maybe.
It has been successful in ways that none of our other women's organizations has been successful. I was on its first board. I, at the end of the first year or two, we went on for three-year terms, but we drew straws to see whether or not we would be a one, two or three year person. And also, then, subject to re-election. And at the end of my first term, I think I was on for two years, if I recall correctly, I drew a two-year term, and at the end of that time, I was retiring from the Times Herald and ready to go on to other things, and probably, I think, if I recall correctly, had already really taken official retirement and I was ready for other things, and also could see in the wings the most dynamic young women who were coming up who could do that probably better than I could because their thinking was fresh and new. And so we formed the Women's Foundation of Dallas and it has grown by leaps and bounds.
Kasper: What kinds of issues does the foundation work on, in terms of money—raising money and using money?
Castleberry: Well, the foundation raises its money from other foundations and it raises it from lots of individual contributions. Individual contributions have just been overwhelming. And it funds things that are critical to women and children.
Kasper: For instance?
Castleberry: I can't remember specifically for instance at the moment. I will have to look that up and let you know later.
Kasper: You know I think Pat Sabin may have—Hold on one second. [Tape interruption.]
Castleberry: —big annual fund raising event is the most phenomenal thing I have ever seen happen in this community. We have had three major yearly fundraising events. We bring a leading person from the world into Dallas to lecture at the Loews Anatole Hotel and it's a luncheon and then the grants are announced at that
meeting and the people who have been involved in the results of the grants are introduced. The first year they brought Elizabeth Dole and I chaired that meeting for them and got to sit by Elizabeth and got to introduce her. And I found her a person of wonderful ability and I can't understand exactly what her politics are, but [Laughter.]—
Kasper: That's because they're not like yours.
Castleberry: That, of course, is true, but the interesting thing was, of course, she came out of a very liberal, democratic background and she's never totally forgotten that and I think being married to Bob Dole has shaped her and changed her somewhat. But, anyway, she was wonderful and her talk was marvelous. And then the next year they brought Coretta Scott King. Coretta Scott King is a person that I have always loved and admired. She can't speak and her lectures are—but she was just perfect for the time we had her. And then this past year we had Jihan Sadat who outdid everybody, and, of course, that is in my estimation—
Kasper: She is a wonderful speaker.
Castleberry: She was a marvelous speaker, but more than that, she was a warm and loving person who let her hair down and who told us what her hang-ups had been, and how she had become involved in the feminist movement in Egypt, and how difficult it had been for her as the wife of Anwar Sadat, who really espoused the emancipation and the equality of women, but would have loved to have had a traditional wife. And she told us the kinds of things that she went through in exploring how she opened up to full liberation in that role. So you felt like that you had had a visit with a sister.
And it was so interesting, when I left the meeting that day, the luncheon that day, I walked right behind two young men who looked—I have no idea who they were, but they were vice presidents and CEOs of some major organization, I can promise you, and on the way out they were saying to each other, and I was right behind them, and keeping up and listening on purpose. One of them was saying to the other, "Well, all that's well and good, but I just wonder how her kids feel about the kind of role that she lived when they were little and they needed a mother at home." And so, I said to them, "I beg your pardon? But I can tell you how they feel because I just read an article interview with her daughter in the New York Times and they think it is the most magnificent thing and the most magnificent role model that was ever set." And this young man, "Oh, oh. Oh, oh. Well, I'm so glad to know that." And off he went. So anyway, that's a little bit about the Women's Foundation. [Tape interruption.]
Okay, one of the things that we have been exploring as I have gone through all of my professional career as a journalist is how the activism or community activity both set a pattern for what I did at the Times Herald and at the same time how my Times Herald stories led into my choice of what I would do in the activity area of my life, that is, the extracurricular activity of my life. And the thing that I think that I always was leading toward was that in my so-called retirement years that the option that I would pick up would be in the areas of peace and areas of trying to make the world safe for future generations.
I think that began in my youth by being reared in a home where my father held out the vision that there were always better ways of settling human differences than by killing each other. I think it was set by my mother who set an example in the home that there did not have to be violence and conflict in order to resolve differences. And I think I was one of those fortunate children who grew up in a home where we did not resort to violence of any sort to correct our differences with each other. And I think it was a training that I personally garnered unto myself as I went along.
So that when Sharon Tennison had said to me, "Why don't you go to the Soviet Union with us?" it didn't dawn on me at the time that this was the opening book, or the turning of the leaf, the turning of the page, to a new chapter that would lead to peace work in my so-called retirement years.
Kasper: Hardly retirement years.
Castleberry: But I did. I was on a plane to the Soviet Union ten days after I walked out of the Times Herald on the first of three trips that I have made there as a grassroots citizen diplomat, and by that I mean that we are certainly people, just average run of the mill people from all walks of life, who go without any kind of portfolio from our government or without any kind of agenda or any kind of persuasion and who simply try to go with an open mind to see what was there and to relate to people as human beings, separate and apart from anything that is political that's going on between our countries.
So that first trip that I made was in May of 1984, and it made a tremendous impact on me, although most of the people who went on that trip, there were men and women, and young people and older people, but most of the people who were on that trip went almost in fear and trembling of what they would find in Russia. Most of them—as I explored and examined why my feelings were different from theirs, it occurred to me that I came up during the war years, World War II years, when the Soviet Union was our friend instead of our enemy, and when we were conditioned into a period of time to where we were allies rather than enemies. And that all of the things that went on since then during the Cold War, and during the McCarthy era, and during the other eras of our existence, had never separated me from the innate or ingrained feeling that we're all human under the skin and that most of us, as individuals, have the same kind of dreams and visions and ideas for ourselves and for our families.
And, of course, I think very often when we travel, we unfortunately garner the expectations that we go with. And that's I think what came of the whole era of the ugly American, when the American traveled and demanded the hot running water and the so-called good life for himself at the expense of what there was to learn there.
But, to focus and to bring back, it was a nineteen-day experience in other people and, of course, I concentrated on the women, and I looked for, and was very fortunate to get to have conferences with Soviet women who were activists and who were feminists and I did get to interview the women who were the members of the Soviet Women's Committee in Moscow and in Leningrad and came away from—and not so much—
One of our sideline trips took us to Soviet Georgia where we got to experience Tbilisi, which is the fun part of the Soviet Union and where it occurred to me that in every country I've ever been in, and that's, of course, been a limited exposure, but every experience that I have ever had, the farther one gets away from the seat of government, the more relaxed the people are. And that's certainly what I found in Soviet Georgia. It was a land of fun, a land of excitement—extremely macho, I didn't like that part of it.
We were invited one night, there was a doctor who came to our hotel to look us up, he had heard that we—from friends in Moscow, that we were going to be in Tbilisi. So he came to the hotel and looked us up and invited a group of us to dinner in his home and when we walked in that night, we knew we were in trouble because there were about seventeen bottles of vodka and assorted other drinks on the table along with all the food that you can imagine. But the men were the ones who were the hosts and the ones who were the party givers and the women who had prepared the food were out in the back room. So I was the one, of course, that looked up the women and got to talk with them. And it's perfectly wonderful how women can communicate even with the language barriers across lines with smiles, with handshakes, with embraces and with gestures.
And then, as we were getting ready to wind down our trip to the Soviet Union, I was in Moscow and I was interviewing a woman who was a professor at the University of Moscow, and we were almost tearful. In fact, there were some tears as we were saying goodbye to each other. And she suddenly said to me, "Go home and bring us your women." She said, "Men have been trying to bring peace to our world for hundreds of years and they haven't done such a good job and we women are still sending our sons to war and our husbands to war and our fathers to war and our brothers to war and our friends to war, and we don't want war anymore. We don't want to fight anymore. And men have tried but they haven't done such a good job. So go home and bring us your women." And I was tearful in return, had no
intention of doing it, absolutely none. I mean, who was I to start a women's movement that would cross the border or span the universe?
I came back to the United States and I had hardly—I hadn't gotten over jet lag and I was sitting in my den one day and I was trying to come to grips with some of the things that had happened in the Soviet Union. I had probably been home four or five days. Curt was sitting in his easy chair across from me and the telephone rang and it was Sharon Tennison calling from California. And she said, "Vivian, we have been invited by the Soviet Women's Committee to bring a Women In Leadership Conference to the Soviet Union and would you help me and let's put one together and would you co-lead it with me?" And I said, "No. I don't want to go back to the Soviet Union. I'm tired, I just got home." [Laughter.] Oh, so that seemed to be it. And I went back, finally, after we exchanged a few more pleasantries and said, "What a good time we'd had" and I went back sat down in my chair and I said to Curt, "You know what that crazy Sharon Tennison wants to do? She wants me to help her lead a trip to the Soviet Union? I've been there one time. I don't know the language. I can't speak Russian. I don't know any of the ins and outs of traveling abroad. That's the silliest thing I ever heard," I said. So I kept on exploring and after a while he looked at me and grinned and said, "When are you going to call her and tell her you will do it?" [Laughter.] So I got up and went to the phone and called Sharon in California and said, "Of course, I cannot resist. You bet I'll do this."
And it turned out that I was the one who put it together because Sharon at that time was leading one trip after the other. She led a group of physicians through the Soviet Union and then she would go back to Helsinki and pick up another group and lead them through. And then she'd go back to Helsinki and pick up another group and lead them through because that was just—it was just before Gorbachev came to power but it was at a time when things were beginning already to change. And the first time—I want to put it into focus—the first time I was in the Soviet Union in 1984, just before Gorbachev came to power, it was almost as if there was still a pall kind of hanging over things in that they were playing almost a waiting game. And then, the next time I went, two years later, Gorbachev had come into power in '86 and it was as if the promise were too good. When I went back in '87, it was as if a lid had blown off.
But back to the Women in Leadership trip, it occurred to me that since the Soviet Women's Committee had said bring us your women leaders, I didn't know what that meant simply because to me any women is a leader in her own right, whoever she is and wherever she is. But I interpreted that to mean that I would take whomever wanted to go, but I would also start with the top. So I invited Nancy Reagan, and Maureen Reagan, Sandra Day O'Connor, all the congresswomen, the one congress senator at that time, and all of the women governors—I think there were three or four at that time out of the fifty states—and some of the secretaries of state and that sort of thing, right down to, I sent out probably, I would say, three hundred letters. And I started getting responses. And I just had a wonderful time, mostly with the responses. Of course, not many of those wonderful women went, but it was so marvelous because I now have in my possession letters from most of these women of support for a Women's Leadership Conference in Moscow and whatever.
And the fun thing of it all was that my husband got involved again because he would be home, he said he really got a little tired during that period of time serving as my secretary because I didn't have an answering service. And I'll never forget walking in one afternoon late and tired and Curt said to me, "Who is Dianne Feinstein?" And I said, "Oh, you don't know her." "Well," I said—and he said, "Well she sounds like a wonderful person. I just had a long conversation with her." So he got to take a lot of my telephone calls and became very—
Kasper: He got to meet a lot of interesting women.
Castleberry: Right. He really did and he enjoyed what I was doing. So the letters, you know, fired back and forth real fast and then the time came almost up for the trip and there were fifty-two of us who signed on to go on the Women in Leadership Conference and we were to have meetings in Moscow and Leningrad and Minsk with the Soviet Women's Committee. And I got to Helsinki and Sharon came in and I met her there—
Well, in the first place, I had led the group out of New York. I had met the group in New York. There was, by that time, another co-leader who also had gotten involved who led the group out of California. And we met in Helsinki and Sharon came in within a couple of hours after our group got there and she was dead tired from having led all these groups through. And she and I were rooming together and so we sat down to try to organize where we were and who we were and what the state of the visas were, and all of the complications that go with leading this. It was the first time I had ever led a group, and to lead a group to the Soviet Union to be your very first travel experience, I do not recommend. But, at the same time, let me tell you sometimes it's better not to know what you're going to be doing than it is to know all of the ins and outs.
But, see, one of the things I think that I'm still caught up in to this very day is that I am still naive to the extent that I expect everybody to be on their best behavior and I expect everybody to do the things that are humanly nice, and they don't always do it. So I'm always shocked and surprised when that group of people doesn't follow through. So we had, for the most part, it was a wonderful group. We had a few reservations, but for the most part it was marvelous.
And what happened was that we got into Helsinki and one of the group came down. We always prepare our groups pretty well, that is, we prepare them ahead of time about what some of the expectations are, not only the travel expectations of the weariness that you have, the bodily discomfort that is likely to develop, and encourage them to rest along with all of the excursions that they're going to be taking and tell—and point out to them that nothing is—that no group that you are supposed to go to is imperative. If you want to stay in the hotel room and rest, that's okay too. But we stress very strongly that we are going, not to evaluate and not to measure our differences, but to find out what our strengths are and what our—
Kasper: Commonalities are.
Castleberry: Commonalities are. And that we are to remember at all times that we are guests in their country and that we are to be good guests and that we are not to take advantage of any kind of host accommodations that could be offered us. So, we do that, and then when we get to Helsinki we have a full evening and some of the next day, if such is allowed, to talk about the psychological—you know, just to psyche ourselves out in preparation for going into this new climate and new country.
Kasper: Now, how much time were you going to be spending in the Soviet Union?
Castleberry: Nineteen days. It's a three-week trip, but there's nineteen days in the Soviet Union in three different cities and that's approximately four days, four to five days in every city.
Kasper: And who were some of these fifty-two women?
Castleberry: Well the person that was the most—that when I kept trying to get Women in Leadership, we had women on that trip—one woman was owner of her own fleet company out of San Francisco. We had a woman who was the head of the—oh, I've forgotten what organization, but a tobacco and alcohol unit of the U.S. Government; and we had women who were entrepreneurs, owners of their retail clothing business; and women who were—several professors. One of them was head of an art department at a small college in Michigan. And one of them was—there were five women from Dallas who went, including Gail Smith and Fran McElvaney and Margaret Loft who is in the art department here; and there were women economists; and the governor of the state of North Dakota. And she was a marvelous woman who died with lung cancer not too long after we returned from the Soviet Union.
But in every instance, again, these were women who—oh, and one of them was a young American Indian woman who was an attorney from New Mexico. And then there was this gorgeous woman who was a Navajo Indian, college professor, from Arizona. And one of them was an Episcopal priest from upper New York State. So it was a wonderful conglomerate of women from many walks of life, both in business and in social service and educators. We got to Helsinki and Coralee Micchelucci—and Coralee is a journalist—
Kasper: An American?
Castleberry: An American. And she came down the first day that we were having sessions to get us ready to go in and said to me, "Something awful is going on in the Soviet Union. I don't know what it is because I can't understand on the television. I had the television on in our room, and I can't understand what's going on, but it's terrible. Something terrible has happened." And I said, "Coralee, if you tell the group this before I have a chance to check it out, I will screw your head off personally." And so, of course, she told everybody that something awful was going on in the Soviet Union. Well, it really was. That's when—
Kasper: Oh, the atomic explosion had taken place at the nuclear plant.
Castleberry: The atomic explosion had taken place at the nuclear plant.
Kasper: Why can't we remember that—
Castleberry: Oh, goodness, it's right on the tip of my tongue. It'll be here in a minute. Anyway, Sharon and I immediately started to reach the American Embassy in Moscow and we spent the entire day checking out what was going on in the Soviet Union. We also spent the entire day, while going on preparing, asking ourselves, "Should we go on in?" And it turned out that night I was in the most dramatic women's session I have ever been in in my life. There were fifty—it turned out that there were fifty-one women and one man on that trip. He is a video cameraman from the state of Washington and he is wonderful. He turned out to be one of the best feminists that we had on the entire trip. And, he went to film us, to film the thing the whole way through.
And so as we were making preparations for this thing, that evening, Sharon and I were still trying to get specific information, it was very hard to come by and we got the best information of all from the Finnish airlines—FinnAir, that flew us in because they were real honest with us and leveled with us and they were not alarmist and they told us where they were still flying their planes because it was safe and where they weren't because it wasn't safe.
And so that night, as I said, we were in the most dramatic session I have ever been in in my life and it started out, we were being led through the evening by the Episcopal priest who started the session, but it wound up that our American Indian delegate was the one who kind of took over. And she's elegant, tall, with this long braid down her back, dressed in her Native American Indian attire, and she stood up and she finally said, "Ladies, I'm going through with the trip. I have been called to do this. This is what I am supposed to be doing at this time. There are guests waiting in the Soviet Union for us. We have checked out every degree of safety that we can. Those of you who want to go home are certainly free to go." (Sharon and I had said that repeatedly to then.) "I, for myself, intend to go through with it."
And at that point, everybody signed on except for two. There was one young woman in her first trimester of pregnancy who came home, and there was one older woman with a heart condition who, the next morning said, I just can't do it, and she turned around and came home. The rest of us, fifty of us, went through with the trip. And in the Soviet Union—Chernobyl is what we've trying to think of, it was the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl—and I have to tell you that as the time went on, that was the only time in my life I was ever embarrassed to introduce myself as a journalist.
Castleberry: My hands were held at one place in Leningrad by a woman with tears streaming down her face who said, "Why is the American press doing to us what they're doing?" She said, "When your Challenger fell from the skies, we stopped in the streets to cry and hold each other and to feel sorry for you. And now that a nuclear disaster, that we have no control over has hit our country, you are blaming us. And we get nothing but recrimination for what we have done." And the first time I had been over there, a Soviet had said to me, "Why does your President hate us so?"
That was right after Reagan had called the Soviet Union the evil empire. So it wasn't easy to go and visit these people under those conditions.
But what we did, we cancelled our trip to Minsk, because that was too near to Chernobyl for safety and we were not foolhardy at all. We were checking all the way through with our American Embassy. We were checking with BBC and with Voice of America and every other avenue that we could think of to check with, but we were still going on with our trip. And, as a result of that, in the Soviet Union, we were perceived as brave and we were—we were not brave, we were not cowards, but we certainly were not brave because we were checking very carefully. But the Soviet women welcomed us with even more open arms than they would have because nearly all the Americans had cancelled their trips and gone home. And we were going through with our itinerary.
Kasper: So you had a very warm reception and a successful trip.
Castleberry: We had an exceedingly warm—and in Moscow at the Soviet Women's Committee, their program for us was set up around a horseshoe table such as exist at the U.N. and the headphones were simultaneous translations of languages. I wish we could have offered that to them when they came here because it was just marvelous to be able to communicate on that level.
And one of the fun things that happened to me—there are ways that we in America do things that are not done in the Soviet Union and I had written ahead and asked for conferences, small conferences, so that the educators could be together, and the lawyers could be together, and the journalists could be together, and the businesswomen could be together, so that we could really communicate on intimate levels about some of the subjects that we were interested in. Well, the Soviet women simply didn't know how to do that, because they are much more formal than we are in their presentations. They speak and then they are spoken to, and everybody gets quiet to listen and the conversation doesn't go a-round table like we do in our country.
So what I did, the day after we were in Moscow, I was privileged to get to do the address of response to the official greeting that we were given and then I gave back our official response for the group. And then, after that, there was some formal question and answer exchange, and then I suggested that maybe we should divide into these small discussion groups.
Well, so they didn't know what I was talking about. They had a little conference in Russian at the front of the room about how they did this. And finally one of them who was sort of in charge turned to me and said, "Would you like to show us how?" in English. And so I was delighted to do this. So I go to the microphone and I say, "Now, this will be where the educators meet over here. And this is where the attorneys meet over here. And this is where—" And I stayed with them until they got together. And they had a wonderful time. For the next two hours they met in small sessions and what came of that was that most of the women were invited into private homes by the people that they had had these brief intimate conversations with. So they got a really good view of what life in the Soviet Union was all about. It was an extremely successful trip.
Kasper: You made a third trip after that too, didn't you, in '87?
Castleberry: Yes. We were there though—yeah, I wanted to say just one other thing about this. We were there during May Day and we got—and one of our group joined the May Day parade and marched two miles in it; she wasn't supposed to, but nobody told her that so she had a great time doing it. And the interesting thing is, the image that Americans have of the May Day parades is of tanks and flags and I've always thought that's what it was. And it isn't it all.
Kasper: It's their workers day.
Castleberry: It's their labor day. And so the floats were all just marvelously colored and there were lots of balloons and lots of flowers and we were handed flowers.
One of the fun things that happened in the street—there was one little kid, as you will find a little kid in every city in the country, had a pin and he was bursting the balloons. And he'd burst a balloon—a little child had been given a balloon and was on his way back with his parents, probably home, and this little boy came up and stuck the pin in the balloon and burst it. And just about the time he did, there was an officer, an armed—who just reached over and took him by the back of the neck and took the pin away from him and turned around and handed it to one of the group that we were with and I was walking with, and says, "Here, souvenir, Soviet Union."
So there were lots of little fun things and our women were—some of the officers on the street were the most generous, open people. We were handed flowers everywhere we went. The Soviets love flowers and they were constantly giving us flowers. And, we were also there during Veterans Day. Veterans Day and the people came to the hotel with their medals that they had gotten during World War II and there are so many women who were just loaded down with medals and these were women who actually had earned these medals during the worst part of World War II. The children are taken care of so beautifully. And it was just exquisite.
So then I came home and then it started really bugging me that I—well, the next thing that happened, some of the Soviets came to Dallas. There were groups of eight that Sharon Tennison and her group were able to get out on official visits, sort of grass roots citizens visits to the United States. And four of them came to Dallas. They divided and went into different cities and four of them came to Dallas. And Curt and I were hosts in our home for these four, two men and two women. And one of them was Ada Kosynkina and Ada is with the Peace Committee in Leningrad and she has really become my Soviet sister. I absolutely adore her. She stayed in our home. They were there for four days.
And one funny story. Just before they got here, they had been visiting in another state, I can't suddenly remember where it was, but I was just on my way to the airport to pick these people up and I got a telephone call from their host in the town that had just put them on the plane, saying, "Please let them rest some. We have just worn them out. They've been in San Francisco, and they've been here, and they've been on non-stop tours and please give them time to rest a little bit."
Well, I had an itinerary planned that wouldn't wait. I had put together here a host committee that we had planned every minute of their stay here for the entire five days from the time we met them at the airport until they left. And from breakfast through evening dinners and whatever. And I had garnered a committee to meet them at the airport. There were over a hundred people met them at the airport with banners that were printed in Russian and with balloons and flowers. And by the time Curt and I got them home that night, our living room looked like a funeral parlor because they had been given so many flowers. And one of the fun things was that Curt had even gone out to the back and resurrected an old goldfish bowl and some other things to put flowers in. We had more flowers than we knew what to do with.
But in the meantime, I had gotten their rooms prepared and I had put the itinerary in their rooms and some of my friends had printed some of the things in Russian for them so there would be—as it turned out, all four of them spoke fluent English, so there was no need of that, but I didn't know it ahead of time. But it dawned on me, I mean after I had this call, "Gosh, I've got them just scheduled right, every minute." And so, I thought, well one thing I can do for them is when I get them home tonight after I meet them at the airport and the press met them there—and one wonderful young woman whose name was Phyllis Watson came from Channel 8 to interview them and she spoke Russian and she really outdid herself in making—
It was so funny though, when the people got off that plane that night, nobody knew that they were traveling with these four Soviet citizens until they got to Dallas and they were just overwhelmed at the welcome they got when the plane landed and they started filing into the airport, and here was all this Russian and all these cheers and everything. So it was really neat. But, I thought, well, I can let them rest when I get home. So as soon as I got them home, I said to them, "Now I understand you've been on this long period of time and you are very tired and
I want you to rest." And so I'm going to—I told them when breakfast was, and I said, "Then I'm going to my room. You're at home here. The living room is yours. We've gotten everything out of it. You can meet here for discussions anytime you want to, and we are going to—I am going to bed and let you rest." So I did. I went upstairs and went to bed and sleep. And two hours later my husband woke me up and said, "Guess what they're doing?" I said, "I don't know." He said, "They're in our den watching dirty movies on the cable channel." [Laughter.]
Kasper: Oh, God.
Castleberry: They did that every night they were there. And I told them, I got to know them well enough that on the last night they were there, I said to them, "Listen, you people can go home and say that you watched dirty movies in the Castleberry house, but you must say that the Castleberrys did not watch the dirty movies with you. [Laughter.] That is your thing, it's not ours." But we loved them.
And then, from that I organized the International Dialogue Group. In talking with the women when they were here and the women that I had correspondence with, it seemed to me that the dimension that was left out was that we were not getting these kids when they were young enough to make an impact on their lives. And I wanted to take mothers and daughters to the Soviet Union. So I organized the Inter-Generational Dialogue Group and, with Ada's help and the help of the Soviet Women's Committee, organized similar kinds of dialogue in Leningrad and Moscow and Kiev.
Kasper: Isn't that beautiful.
Castleberry: And in 1987, I led that group and at the last minute I got my husband to go with me. He said, "But I don't want to go with this group. I'll go with you another time." And I said, "I may never go back. Let's go this time."
So I, fortunately, had some money that had just matured at that time and I took it and bought his ticket and I sent the—so we wound up taking three men with us and one of them was the man who had arranged all these tours for all of us, and his daughter who had just graduated from high school that he wanted to give a gift to, and his wife was physically ill and not able to go. He wanted to send her so he went and took her. And then the husband of one of the women who went with us, went. And there was one young boy, their son, went and the rest of them, there were two college-age girls, two young career women, unmarried; there were five teenagers—teenage girls and their mothers. We, Curt and I, took our grand-daughter who at that time was fourteen; and the rest—there were three babushkas, that is grandmothers, and the rest, you know, it was just a wonderful group.
Kasper: And you took one of your daughters?
Castleberry: I took one of my grand-daughters. Not my daughters, just my grand-daughter.
Kasper: Just Heather.
Castleberry: Right. Just Heather. And when we got to the Soviet Union I didn't know how it would work out because you never know how anything is going to work out when you're planning cross-cultural and cross-language. I just didn't know how it was going to work out. We got to Leningrad and Ada. I had written ahead and asked for the people at the committee, the people at the Women's Committee and the Peace Committee to please bring their children and grandchildren. They had never done that. They didn't know they could do that. When we got there they were there en masse. Grandfathers and grand-daughters and grandmothers and daughters and just—there probably were fifty people there to greet us and it was every generation you can think of, both sexes. And the first thing that happened was that one of the professors of English at one of the Moscow universities took their teenagers and our teenagers off by themselves for a rap session. And my grand-daughter told me later, she said, "Grandmother, I was so embarrassed. They know so much more about geography and history than we do." She said, "They asked us questions we couldn't answer."
But it was such a good—and the next day then, we went to a university and the young people who had been involved in the peace movement at that university came to talk with our kids and their kids. And there was a journalist there who came to cover us, to see what we were up to.
So everywhere we went throughout the Soviet Union, it is as if doors had been opening ahead of us and the groups that we needed to talk to were there, the groups that we needed to meet were there. So we were not seeing the traditional touristy things that people see. We were in their homes, in their shops, in their restaurants, talking with them over coffee late at night.
Kasper: In their minds and hearts.
Castleberry: Our kids were out in their nightclubs—
[End Tape 2, Side B; Begin Tape 3, Side A]
Castleberry: —grand-daughter, let's say, just turn her loose at age 14 in any major city in this country? But I turned her loose in Leningrad and Moscow. I wanted to know where she was and who she was with, but I had no fear whatsoever of her safety. I knew she was going to get home all right and I knew—also, the young men there are so protective. In the first place there is no place that they could go for illicit sex. It's all public. It's all out. And the first time I had been there, we had been in Leningrad during the white nights, so it never got dark and I walked all night. I walked one night three miles by myself between twelve and one o'clock in the morning because I was at a party and I felt like I needed to go home and rest and the rest of them weren't ready to go, so I walked back by myself—three miles. And I would never do that in an American city.
Kasper: Oh my goodness. No.
Castleberry: So, I don't know, to put a closure to my Soviet experience, it was wonderful to have had and I probably will go back one more time. I feel like I have some unfinished business there.
But at the same time, Ada just recently sent me the most beautiful letter and the photograph—I cannot tell you how she has changed. What the example of perestroika and what the example of glasnost and what the example of Raisa Gorbachev herself has been to the Russian women, because Ada, who, when I first met her, she's probably thirty-five, she's single. She was a glowingly beautiful woman, but it came from an inner radiance of intelligence, of that quiet serenity of being in control of her life.
Recently, Louise Raggio, a friend of mine, went to the Soviet Union and by accident met Ada and found out that she was—it wasn't so unusual because Ada moves in those circles, but at the same time it was really unusual that those two should have connected and Ada should have said to her, "Take my love back to Vivian in Dallas." Louise brought me a photograph of her. Ada has slimmed down probably ten or fifteen pounds. Her hair she has colored with a just a little bit more light so that now she is really blonde. She was wearing fashionable long earrings and a neat-looking outfit and she looks—you could not tell her from a very fashionable American woman. So, the examples that are there—
The example also that I had the last time we were there. One night Curt and I and a couple of our kids went and spent the evening with a writer in Moscow and his wife and he was a typical male, macho writer who wanted to talk about the role of women and talk about how—in disparaging terms. But his wife turned out to be an absolutely marvelous person. All I had to do was to get her by herself and she said, "Don't pay any attention to him. You know, he talks a good line. He knows who runs things in this house. I run things in this house. I run things in this house so that he can write," she said. So it's all over and it's universal.
And one woman at the Soviet Women's Committee was telling us about her twin sons, and they're twenty-three years old, and she considers herself the world's outstanding feminist, but she will be glad when these boys marry, she said, so that their wives then will have to look after them and she can go on about her business. And we said, "Hey, wait up. What is this teaching your sons about feminism?"
And well, she said, she was pretty much caught up and she hadn't ever thought about that. She guessed she'd have to think about that. So we gave her something to think about.
Kasper: Now how did your Soviet trips influence the founding of the Peacemakers and the Peace Conference.
Castleberry: Okay. When I came back, and I hope I can make this real brief, but when I came back from that second trip, having been lured there because the woman had insisted that I bring the women, I had the dream then that was real deeply buried in me that if women are going to do something for peace, it must be organized in a better fashion. Just these little trips here and there, as good as they are and as good as they make me feel, are not going to do anything for the lasting peace. And because of my involvement in women's issues—networks from a long period of time—I knew that such an endeavor takes a lot of time and thinking.
So I came back from this second trip with the idea that I really needed to do something more for women to get them organized into peace efforts, but I didn't know what it was. I hadn't been back here any time, before I had a call from a friend of mine in East Texas who said, "I want to come to see you," and after my telling you two or three times that I didn't want to do anything else, well—I said to her, "Listen, I have made up my mind, if it doesn't have something to do with peace in our world, I'm really not interested. That's where I'm going to devote my time." She said, "I'll be there tomorrow." So she came and she had the vision for a peace conference.
Kasper: Who was this?
Castleberry: Her name is Dolores Pevehouse. And she is a lawyer, not practicing, but a lawyer who lives in East Texas and I have known her for quite a long while. So she came to Dallas and she started talking about getting women together and she said, "Now, you're the only person I know that can do it in Dallas, and it ought to be done in Dallas," and I said, "Unh unh, I don't want to do that." So we talked and I ran away from it and I ran away from it. And one night—one night—I don't believe in dreams and visions, but I had one and that had really been bugging me. I went to sleep with it. I woke up with it. I thought about it and I—really, coming from the Christian heritage that I come from, my whole prayer was "let this cup pass from me." I do not want to do this.
And one night, in the night, I had a dream that the women were coming from all parts of the world and I still get goose pimples when I think about it. Women were, in my dream, they were coming from all sections of the world to a central spot and I could see the women in their saris and the women in their turban dress, and the women in all kinds of clothing from all—the women with their faces covered—
Kasper: The chador.
Castleberry: The Arabian—the women from Iran. All of these women, the black women, the white women, the brown women, the yellow women, they were all coming to a central spot. In my dream it faded as they reached this central spot, the women faded, but I could see them as they came just from all different directions. And then, behind them, came the young men to this central spot laying down their arms. It was one after the other after the other of the men, young men, coming and laying down whatever arms they had. It was soldiers from all parts of the world. And when I awoke, I know it had to be a dream, although it seemed like just a vision, I could see it on my bedroom wall. I awoke and I said, "Whatever I need to do, I will do. From this day forward, I will do whatever it is."
The next thing I did that morning was sit down and write a letter to my women friends, the fourteen that are in my support group, and say, "I want to talk to you about something." Got them together for breakfast at my church and I told them what had happened to me, and I said, "I don't expect you to believe this, and I don't expect you to do this because you are all very busy people, but this is something that I feel called to do and I want to feel your support. And if I could feel your support, I will do it." And as a person, I remember Annette Strauss walking out of that meeting saying, "Call me for whatever you need." And Louise Raggio, who is an attorney and was the most skeptical of all of them because
the role of an attorney is to be skeptical, said, "Well, if you want to do it, you have my blessing." So it was that kind of thing right down the line. Not a single negative vote did I get.
And so the next thing I did was invite fifty women to my home for dinner. Dolores came down. She was willing to help me. We prepared spaghetti for fifty, and I had prepared an outline by that time for the conference, what I wanted to see happen. And it was a lengthy outline. And so, after dinner, I divided the women into six different groups and sent them to different bedrooms, or the living room, or the dining room, or different parts of my house, set them around tables with pencil and paper and said, "Take this thing and tear it up and tell me I can't do it." And every one of them came back, some of them were skeptical, but they all came back. They asked the same questions I had already asked and had already worked through. And so from that evening's meeting came the first steering committee of Peacemakers, Incorporated. We could feel, or I could feel, out of that group who was critically interested, who had reservations.
Kasper: And then you chose those who were the most enthusiastic ones.
Castleberry: We chose the most enthusiastic—and able—because I knew we were going to need money. We put on that Peace Conference, it was a phenomenal overwhelming success. And we did it totally out of the way that other people would do things. We were told all the way through, you've got to have this much money, you've got to have that much money—
Kasper: So Peacemakers was formed in order to hold the conference.
Castleberry: Right. And what I wanted to do from the very beginning, I had no intention of organizing a new organization. I didn't want to do that. What I wanted to do was for an organization in town or someone in the country to take us over. So I talked to a number of different groups. We talked to the Women's International Peace Group—
Kasper: Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.
Castleberry: League for Peace and Freedom, I just knew that they would do it. But it turned out with all of their overt enthusiasm—I had met the president of that in Moscow, oddly enough, I had met her in Moscow and had gotten to know her there and it seemed just ideal for them to do it. But it turned out that—what I learned and what I should have known but didn't, is that every organization has its own bureaucracy that builds up and that you can't start something new within that organization without innumerable meetings and lots of votes and a lot of promises.
Kasper: Unless their priority item is the same as yours, you have to start from scratch.
Castleberry: Right. Exactly. So that's what we tried—I floundered for about three months of trying to decide how to go about doing this. The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, as enthusiastic as it was, their enthusiasm soon paled and waned and they wanted me to fly to Geneva and I didn't have the money to fly to Geneva to talk with them. They wanted me to spend so long outlining what it was I wanted to do and why I thought we could do it. And then they started saying, "Well, we've tried to do this for years and we haven't been able to do it and who do you think you are to be able to do it." Not in those words, but that was certainly the message that I was getting. And it was a legitimate message. I clearly understand that. I had read the history of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, had been tremendously impressed by what they were trying to do and who they were.
And so then I turned to some other organizations—the National League for Peace and Arbitration, and they were enthusiastic, but it was going to take too long. So then I turned to the Dallas Peace Center and they were extremely interested and the first time I went and presented it to them, they not only took us on, voted quickly to take us on—
Kasper: The Dallas Peace Center?
Castleberry: Dallas Peace Center. But they voted unanimously to take us on and then they also put me on the board as the liaison between them and us. And then it turned out, we met with their lawyer, and what they wanted was a hundred thousand dollars in escrow, funding in the bank, before they could take on the financial responsibilities for doing such a conference. At that stage, Dolores, who was still working with me at that time and who later withdrew because she became frustrated.
Castleberry: Pevehouse, who later—she withdrew because she could not stand the day-to-day process that you had to go through to make something happen and I knew my Dallas women well enough and I knew the process well enough that I knew you had to let everybody have their negativism and you had to let things fall apart and you had to put it together again. I knew that. It wasn't comfortable living it, I didn't like it, but you have to do it.
So, she was still with me, and she is the one who named us. She got up one morning, she was staying at my house, and she got up one morning and she said, "How does Peacemakers Incorporated strike you?" And I said, "It certainly does ring a bell. Where d'you get that?" And she said, "Well, that's what our name ought to be. And we ought to organize under that name and we ought to do it. Just do it!" So she called our state department in Austin that morning to find out if the name "Peacemakers Incorporated" had been taken and it hadn't. So we grabbed it. She and I went, ourselves, downtown to see how you get tax-exempt status. We had a meeting with Internal Revenue. We walked in that day, just two little Dallas women, minding our own business, and we were turned over to a man whose name was Mr. Hawk.
Kasper: Hawk? Oh no. Oh no. Peacemakers Incorporated?
Castleberry: Mr. Hawk, who was a retired military man.
Kasper: Oh God.
Castleberry: And we didn't want to tell him what we were doing, we just wanted to find out how you go about getting a tax-exempt status. So he told us. He was very generous to share the information with us. It turned out he was just two weeks from retirement. And so, at the end of the conference, he couldn't stand it any longer, and he reached over and patted me on the hand and said, "Now, I've got to know what you little ladies are up to." And I knew there was no use in mincing words, so I said to him, "We're going to try to bring peace to our world." And he looked at me baffled and kind of shook his head and said, "Well don't you think that's going to take a long time?" And I said, "Yes, sir. And don't you think it's time somebody got started." And we got our tax-exempt status in record time. We had it in less than six weeks.
Kasper: You're kidding.
Castleberry: It was incredible. It went right through. I don't know what he did. I don't know what we did. But we had it almost—
Kasper: He probably thought you were so crazy it would never work so he gave it to you.
Castleberry: Everybody thought we were so crazy. Our husbands thought we were so crazy it wouldn't work. Nobody thought it would work. And the people that were already organized, especially didn't think it would work. And so, anyway, we just started doing it. And one of the things, again, I started trying to find fundraisers and I didn't know how to raise money, I'd never raised money in my life. I didn't know how to raise money and I didn't enjoy raising money. Annette Strauss had told me years ago—she's the mayor of Dallas and I've worked with her for years—and she had told me years ago that once you raise money, it's addictive, and then you really know that you can raise money and you will do it. Well I am here to tell you that I raised money for that conference almost singlehandedly. I did have some help, I can't take all the credit, but I don't want to raise money, and I don't want to do that again. That is not my thing to do, but it can be done. And we raised money by quarters and dimes and dollars and twenty-five dollars. The largest grant we got was from the Hunt Alternative Fund—
Kasper: The three Hunt sisters run.
Castleberry: Two Hunt sisters—for five thousand dollars. That's the biggest grant.
Kasper: How much money did you raise nickel and diming it?
Castleberry: Hmmm. Probably—I don't know exactly. I should know exactly, but I imagine around three hundred thousand.
Kasper: Oh my lord. Over how much time?
Castleberry: One year. By the time we got to the point to where I knew nobody else was going to take us on and we had to do it ourselves, it was a do-it-yourself project. We had run out of—so what I did, when I realized this wasn't going to work, I wrote a letter.
Kasper: When what wasn't going to work?
Castleberry: That getting a fundraiser wasn't going to work. Having somebody else fund us wasn't going to work.
Kasper: Oh. Knowing you had to do it yourself. Another do-it-yourself project.
Castleberry: By the time I knew that, I had to move on. So what I did was write letters to a hundred of my women friends in Dallas that I knew could afford it. And I told them what we were doing and I said, "I want you to support us, a thousand dollars each. I want a thousand dollars from you." Well, of course, I didn't get a hundred thousand dollars, but I got about thirty thousand dollars out of that, that got us started. And also in the meantime, I had written a letter to Carolyn Lupton, who is the administrative assistant to Caroline Rose Hunt and her good friend who owns the Crescent Hotel and the Rosewood Enterprises—Carolyn had been in my first planning session, had been not enthusiastic, but she's just a very quiet-natured and very laid back woman and she was absorbing far more than I knew she was absorbing.
Kasper: This was Carolyn Lupton?
Castleberry: Carolyn Lupton, un huh. First I had thought it would be ideal if we could locate our offices at the YWCA because, again, it's one of those things that women should be doing and the YWCA is a perfect place for it, and our central YWCA is close to downtown and they had just built a new auditorium in their building and had opened new office space, and it just seemed ideal. So I wrote to them a letter and the women who were heading it at that time, Sandra Tinkham, and others were sympathetic with what we were doing and empathetic and Dr. Mary Sias, who is the Executive Director of the Y, I knew could be counted on to be supportive. What I hadn't counted on, again, was that you run into bureaucracy. So, while it looked like there for a few days that the YWCA was going to gift us with free space, it turned out that some of their more business-minded board members were asking hard questions about who is this little group of women and who do they think they are and how are they going to be able to pull this off and we don't want to be—see, nobody wanted to be involved with a failure. That's what it really amounted to. We went to SMU, talked to them about space, and they said, no, they didn't have space for such a thing. It wouldn't work.
So I was getting, at that period of time, a lot of negatives, but I was just moving on, I mean, it had to be done and I seem to have been appointed the person to do it and I had an incredible amount of support from friends in this community. Liz Devillet, who had been president of the Women's Council of Dallas County and who had never been involved in anything else, had come on board as a board member. And Margaret Estes, who is on the National Board of the YWCA, had come on board and was enthusiastic. About that time we were fortunate to get a young woman whose name is Carole Trout and whose background is business and who knew a lot about how to raise money and who is with the Bahai faith, which has a plank on peace, had come into our lives and was interested. Dr. Ruth Barnhouse is a psychiatrist and an Episcopal priest and a professor at Perkins School of Theology at SMU had come on board.
I mean the wealth in this community was incredible. I still had the backing of the mayor of Dallas and of a lot of the women's groups and I know that a lot of the organized women's groups were still looking on us askance and saying, "I know they can't do that, but if Vivian Castleberry wants us to try, I guess we'll try." And so it just kept happening. It just kept going. We just kept moving in the direction of the vision.
We were also fortunate enough at that time to bring on board Roseann Naim. She is the executive director of Peacemakers Incorporated and she was born an international child. She's a Dallas girl. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke, has a master's degree from Columbia University, and has taught on three different continents and is formerly married to a Lebanese. Her daughter is half Lebanese. She is a single mother, with a young daughter and she'd gone to the Soviet Union with me. But I had known Roseann a long time and knew her family so I knew what she was and I knew her background. I had nothing to do with the hiring of the executive director. Our personnel committee handled that. I wanted them to, I didn't want anything to do with it. I knew I could work with anybody that they chose, but I also knew there were probably ten people that applied for the job and Roseann had every credential we needed. She had formerly been a top administrator at one of the churches in town. She knew how to work with volunteers and all that kind of stuff. And also had this feeling of an international family.
Kasper: How did you decide—now there were about two thousand people that came to this conference, isn't that right?
Castleberry: That's right. Yeah.
Kasper: From how many, thirty-seven different countries?
Castleberry: There were thirty-seven. Wait a minute, there were fifty-three countries.
Kasper: Fifty-three countries represented?
Castleberry: I believe when we got through with our book, there were fifty-six countries represented and thirty-seven of the fifty states.
Kasper: Now, how did you reach out to these people?
Castleberry: Very carefully. We started with all the organized groups that there are. We started with the YWCA and its list, and Church Women United and its list, and people that we knew had been involved in peace issues and their list. We started immediately writing letters and reaching out to these people and saying we're going to have this conference in Dallas. And people kept saying to us, "How are you going to get the delegates?" Well, very honestly, we didn't know either. But the delegates just happened to us. People who were interested signed up and came. Some of them were sponsored by their countries and some of them came on their own. And we were able, with the money we raised, to co-sponsor about fifteen different delegates who couldn't have gotten here otherwise. We paid their way.
Kasper: Is that right? From different states and countries.
Castleberry: Different countries. We sponsored only the international delegates because we wanted them represented and especially countries that were not well—such as Bangladesh that we wanted them represented. We wanted them here.
Kasper: Let me just say for the record. This conference was held last August.
Castleberry: It was held August the—it was 8/8/88. That was the vision that we had that that was the day to have it and I want you to know that my steering committee scared the living daylights out of me when they said, we'll do it 8/8/88 to 8/12/88 because that gave us only a year and a half from the real start- up to do it. And I said, "It can't be done in that length of time. I need two or three years." And they said, "No. 8/8/88." And I said, "If you say it can be done, we will do it. I don't know how, but we will do it." So they scared me to death when
they said 8/8/88. But it was the appropriate date to do it and it rang a bell with international women. Somehow that date was significant.
Kasper: Why do you think so?
Castleberry: I don't know. I think people who go in for soothsayers and look at the stars and numerologists just think that that was the ideal time. And it turned out to be.
So, anyway, along about that time, we had talked to hotels about hosting the conference. It was going to be terribly costly. We had it set at a hotel and it was going to be costly. So Roseann and I went back to SMU and we walked in and the young woman who had told us no the first time turned out to be a marvelous person to work with. She's just practical, she didn't think it was going to work. It turned out that she was on vacation and her assistant said, "Sure, we'll hold it here." It turned out later she shouldn't have said that. But by that time we were committed and they gave us the best possible price on everything. Literally, all we paid for was just about enough for the electricity, and this sort of thing. We were given so much free space and so much help in doing this. And we had going there—
I cannot begin to tell you what all we had going there. We had an art show throughout the conference. We had women who sent art—women's peace art, from all over the world that was on display there. We had quilts, and we had wallhangings, and we had posters, and we had children's art, and we had one long banner along the wall that was leading to the press room for kids and adults and anybody else who wanted to write peace graffiti, which we still have. And we started every day with what we called a moment of meditation, a quiet moment. We met in McFarlin Auditorium. We had music that led us into the day. We had an ongoing—oh, and some of the glorious things that happened along the way. Can I tell you two or three of them?
Castleberry: One of the things that happened along the way, I had had an early conference with Robert Muller, who is an outstanding peace activist—formerly with the U.N. and just—he's German by nationality and American by choice and has worked for peace efforts all over the world and takes the peace message everywhere that he goes. And I had had an early conference with him and I don't think he had been too terribly impressed but, he again thought, "Well, if these little women want to do that, we will help them do it in whatever way we can." So he started telling everybody that he saw what we were doing in Dallas. See, and that's another way we spread, we told everybody and asked them to tell everybody. And so although there were a lot people who knew—
So, anyway, one day we did—one of the outstanding companies in town called me and offered to do our public service announcement.
Kasper: Oh wonderful.
Castleberry: And so our head musician, Rachel Ford, and her group, the choir that she was putting together and the children's voices got together and did the public service announcement and they used "Let There Be Peace on Earth" as the background music. Perfectly natural. And so then we got this PSA out to all of the television stations and anybody that would take it all over this part of the state and anybody else that would listen to it. And then Rachel walked in on Friday morning and said to me, "Who gave us permission to use that music?" And I said, "Oh."
And so in the meantime, my good friend, Eileen Hall, had volunteered to be our attorney because we knew we were going to run into some legal snags along the way and we had to have some help on those things. So I called Eileen up and told her what had happened and I said, "What do I do now?" And she said, "Well, I don't think you're in trouble because that song is so universally sung and universally known that I don't think you will have any legal hangups at all, but what you should do is find out who owns the copyright to it and write them a letter right away telling them who you are and what you've done and asking for permission."
So it took the weekend for me to find out who owned the copyright to that song. I found out that it was written by a couple in California whose name was Miller. So one thing led to another and I don't remember how I finally found out to write to Jill Jackson Miller and got her address. But I did. And on Monday morning I whipped into the office.
In the meantime, we'd been given this office space by Caroline Rose Hunt, fabulous office space in an elite setting for the entire conference at the Crescent Complex in downtown Dallas. Our office space was just gorgeous. You looked out a picture window onto the skyline of Dallas. And the people who came in there—and we had volunteers by the score, as time went on, endless volunteers. I mean, women in this town who could buy and sell me in dollars and cents a thousand times were there stuffing envelopes. But people caught the vision. And they came and they came and they came and they came and it was black women and white women and women of all colors and Indian women, our American Indian population in Dallas got involved, and our Hispanic population in Dallas got involved. And we knew from the very first that we had to mirror what we were trying to do, and so we made a pact with ourselves that we would resolve our conflicts peacefully and that we would live the message we were trying to teach. And that wasn't always easy. But it was always worthwhile.
So, anyway, I whipped into these gorgeous offices that morning and I whipped a piece of stationery into my typewriter and I wrote Jill Jackson Miller and her address, and I said, "Dear Mrs. Miller," and the phone rang. And this voice said, "This is Jill Jackson Miller calling you from Los Angeles, and I had lunch with Robert Muller yesterday and he told me I ought to get in touch with you and offer you the words and the music to my song for whatever use you wanted to use it for."
Kasper: Isn't that lovely.
Castleberry: It was—you know, blood tingling. It still is when I think about it. It was the most gorgeous conversation I've ever had in my life and I was in tears and she was in tears and not only that, but there is a line—I can't remember exactly how the line goes in her song, but it's a—she suggested as she talked to me that we change the line to read, "women on earth," instead of "men on earth," "and peace on—," you know, "peace to all god's children" or "all humanity" or whatever. So there were two words—two lines in the song that she suggested to make it a feminist kind of song.
And things happened. The conference happened. What we did, we worked, we had a central steering committee, and then we had, under each one of the steering committee, we had groups of volunteers that put it on. It was all done by volunteers and I became real concerned because we had hired Roseann for two thousand dollars a month and we, at the time, I mean the money didn't come in, lots of it, until the last, and I didn't know whether we could pay her or not. And it was looking so bleak and I would lie awake nights and worry. And I walked in one morning about the time Roseann did and I said, "I've been so worried about your salary because I know you're a single mother, head of household, and I know that you have to have an income and I just don't know what we're going do." And she said, "Listen, I want to tell you something. This is my year to do peace. And whether you pay me a cent or not is beside the point. This is my year that I'm going to give to peace. Do not worry about my salary another moment." So, anyway, that really—
Kasper: Another godsend.
Castleberry: Another godsend. And they were just constant, people just constantly—Eileen devoted all of her time as an attorney without a fee. Carole Trout took over the business of fundraising without fee.
Kasper: Did you plan the program for the four days?
Castleberry: I planned the program for the four days and I planned it with the steering committee, but we set it up and I very honestly can't tell you how much input each one of us had because it became a synthesis. It became, toward the last, such an agreement that this is what needs to happen and we set up—we had a theme for each day. The overriding theme for the conference was an International Women's Conference
and then we subdivided each day into a theme. And day one was reclaiming our feminine voice because we were so sure, and we still are so sure, that women have the voices of peace on earth but they haven't been allowed to speak them. So I took care—it was my particular role to take care of inviting the plenary speakers, the ones who would keynote each day. I assumed that obligation and kept that obligation. And Ruth Barnhouse. I invited Ruth Barnhouse, and Dr. Leah Golden from University of Moscow because I wanted voices from two parts of the world to keynote that first day.
Kasper: Dr. Leah Golden?
Castleberry: Leah, un huh. We call her Lily Golden. And I want you to have a copy of Ruth Barnhouse's speech. She said everything I had ever thought. It capsulated absolutely—it didn't cut off anybody, but it added women to the mix. It was a powerful speech. And the morning that we opened the conference, I had been so busy I had not had time to go into the auditorium to see what was going on. I literally—it's one time in my life that I learned to delegate and walk off from it. And if things didn't work, they just didn't work, but everything worked so well that I can't believe how well it worked. But you had to delegate, you had to turn that piece loose and let it go. You had to let the art show go, let the kids run it, do what they would with it. You had to turn loose the music and let that go. You had to turn loose the informal meetings, you had to turn loose the host committee. We hosted every international delegate that was here in our homes. Made them welcome. Donna Shellhorn took care of that piece of it. She did a fabulous job. She found hosts for everybody, corresponded with them if there was time enough ahead of time. They met them at the airport, they took them to their homes, they brought them to the sessions at SMU, they planned sideline activities for them, they toured them over the city. They were just with them for the whole five days of the conference.
And the morning I walked in, the opening day of the meeting, I walked into that auditorium and it blew me away. It took my breath. The Women's Art Committee of Dallas, the Women's Art Caucus, had made a great white dove. They had turned that whole auditorium into—they had put a blue background over the whole back of the stage of the auditorium, suspended the white dove from the ceiling, and it was flying above the blue background. And on the stage, we had gotten permission from the Dallas area schoolchildren had cut out paperdolls about three feet high representing children of all nations of the world, and they were on stage. And it just was absolutely perfect. So then we did that session.
The next day we did—let's see what was the second day. The second day was Peace Education and Dr. Scott Peck came, volunteered his services, and came to us at the invitation of Ruth Barnhouse, who is a cohort of his, in psychiatry, and did the keynote speech on community and how you put community together. Wait a minute, that was the third day, because the second day was Peace Education and we had a panel of people—Dr. Anima Bose, who is a Ghandian peace professor from India, and Alison Carpenter, who is a youth peace activist from Canada, and Margareta Ingelstam, who is a women's feminist educator from Sweden, and Dr. Nona Cannon from the Peace University in Costa Rica who is a family peace educator. So the four of them did the program on peace education.
Then the next day Scott Peck spoke on Peace and Community Building, which is the theme of his latest book. And what was so neat about that was that he capsuled for us what we had been doing and he talked about every organization—
Kasper: You'd been building peace in your community.
Castleberry: Yes, but he also talked about every organization gets to the point of chaos and that's where we had been that day. And it was so neat to have somebody say, "It's okay for you to be in chaos, and if you stay with it, you will get to community." And that's what we did, we stayed with it and we got to community.
The fourth day was my favorite day, probably because I had worked so hard on the presentations of that day's events. And what I had that day was voices of peace from throughout the world's tension spots. And what I was aiming for, and what we mostly got, were the pockets of peace that exist in the worst areas of the world. And for that period of time, for that panel we had speaking— [Tape interruption.]
—Ruhiyyih Jahanapour from Iran; and Lenor Huper from Nicaragua; and Michael Fanous from Israel, who has worked with children and youth of Arab and Israeli backgrounds in peace efforts in that country; and Sara Kamenshikova from the Soviet Union, from Moscow; and Edith Loane from Ireland and Ann Banks from South Africa. These people spoke about the kinds of peace activities they are continuing in parts of the world where they're shooting each other and where the violence is just erupting everywhere.
And then every session that we had ended with a question and answer, so that people from the audience were able to communicate, not only with the speakers, but with each other. We had microphones set up in the aisles so that people in the audience could come and ask their questions and we had people who were handling the microphones so that nobody could hog a microphone or stay with it for too long. And the turnover was wonderful.
And then, on the last day of the conference, all week we had had going on as a real basic theme of the conference, we had had women from these different countries separated into work sessions that we put together to represent a microcosm of the world. In other words, we were not going to let any one country dominate any one of these sessions so that women anywhere from thirteen to twenty countries were represented in each one of these different ten work sessions. And their charge was to work through to peace planks that each of them could affirm and could bring back on the last day as definite things that women can do in their own countries to create a more peaceful world. When they walked in to the stage on Friday morning to make their reports, Roseann and I were in tears. It was a personification of what we had dreamed. There were, of the ten on stage that had been selected by their own report groups to report, there were nine different countries represented, and that, you know, couldn't have been that way, but it was. And they were every color of the rainbow from the dark, dark, black from Africa, to the American Indian, to the Indian Indian in her sari, Maya Michael from New Delhi, all of these women who had been chosen by their groups to present their peace platforms.
And another thing that was exceedingly moving was that when one of the speakers would stand up on the platform to speak, every person who had been in her group from the audience would stand to be recognized as a part of the plank. And we understand from talking with the leaders of these different groups—there was another thing that was going on all this time. Barbara Middleton, who is on our planning committee, had organized the support groups for all of these different work sessions. She had created, one, workshop leaders who were trained in how to run international workshops and different cultural backgrounds, and at the same time, she had created a place for them to rest and be at peace. She had two rooms with a trained counselor all the time that we called our Peace Center and that was a place just for bringing problems that couldn't be resolved otherwise, for talking through one by one by one.
[End Tape 3, Side A; Begin Tape 3, Side B]
Castleberry: —were for these work stations and the workshops. We also had at the same time going on thirty-three different work groups, and that is, programs that were planned by outstanding leaders throughout the country that had organized all different kinds of sessions that women are involved in. I guess I'm too tired now to speak much to that. But these were workshops that people signed up and went to and they interrelated with each other and also with the international delegates. They did not conflict with the meetings that the international work sessions were having so that we had this constant flow between the organized—the delegates who were here from other parts.
And there were so many wonderful funny things that happened. For instance, one of the young women, got here a full week in advance. She had mixed up her schedule and she—on Sunday morning before the conference was to open the following weekend, I had said to Curtis, "I know I'm going to be busy all this next week and I'm, you know, flowing into this thing, and I'm not going to have time for anything. And today, I'm going to stay home and clean my house." And he said, "Okay, I'll help you." So he was vacuuming the living room floor and I was cleaning
up the kitchen and the phone rang and it was this child at DFW who said, "There's nobody here to meet me." I can't remember where she was from, somewhere in South America. And so, anyway, it was a matter of picking her up and finding a home for her for a week ahead of time and taking care of her. And also, it turned out, she was the last one to leave. Donna Shellhorn decided she wasn't going to leave us at all because she stayed a week after the conference was over. She simply wasn't ready to go home.
Kasper: Donna Shellhorn?
Castleberry: Donna Shellhorn who handled our Dallas's Host Committee who was responsible not only for getting people in and taking care of them, but getting them out again. And Donna decided this child wasn't going to go home at all. She was our youngest delegate and her father had sent her here because he wanted her to be involved in a women's peace conference. We probably could have kept her to this day if we had wanted to badly enough.
Kasper: Is Peacemakers Incorporated still going?
Castleberry: Yes ma'am, it is still going.
Kasper: And what is it doing now?
Castleberry: I have literally turned it over, completely. My vision was the peace conference and we did that. And after the peace conference I stayed with it until October, until all the follow-up letters were written and the offices were closed and I felt comfortable about turning it over. And then I hung on because they asked me to until January, until we had two very in-depth sessions of struggling with new identity and what we wanted to do from here on. And then, we elected new officers and Ruth Barnhouse is president; Roseann remains the administrator of it; Barb Middleton is vice president; Carole Trout has remained as treasurer. Let's see, the secretary is Leslie Lanes. Yes, it is still going on and I am now chairing the advisory committee. That's all I'm doing and right at the moment—Ruth and I were invited by Margareta Ingelstam to come to Sweden to a women's peace conference recently. Ruth got to go. I simply didn't have the money to go and probably, if that had been a priority of mine, I could have found it some way because I generally do for things that I especially want to do. But I have turned a new leaf of my life and I'm now in the country. One of the things—
Kasper: By way of an example here, this is the final chapter.
Castleberry: This is the final chapter. And one of the fun things is that my husband, who had never clearly understood what I was doing—
Kasper: With Peacemakers?
Castleberry: —with Peacemakers, had been lovingly supportive but was puzzled by it all. And about six weeks before the conference took place, he decided to go down to work with me one day and see what was going on down there. I'll never know why he went. I think it was another one of those serendipitous things where he was just led. And he walked into that office and realized that we didn't have anybody on full time to put names of international delegates into the computer. And he started using the computer and doing that and he became so enamored with it that he was the one who would get up in the morning and say to me, "When are we going to work? Hurry up and get up. Let's go because I've got lots to do today." He stayed with us the entire last six weeks, including weekends, Sundays and nights, that we needed to work and put names of international delegates into the computer. And he did fun things, too, like he would make the computer pull out for us how many American Indians were enrolled and how many Hispanics were enrolled. And one day he decided to pull out how many men were enrolled and he found six names. And he thought that was real interesting, so he signed up too that day so there would be seven. And then he decided that he would pull out how many Baptists were enrolled and he found two. [Laughter.] So he did lots of fun things.
And I told him at that stage, my black Baptist friends had not really enrolled yet because they were a whole different ilk. And sure enough they were. They were all—the ones that were involved were marvelous, but they had not yet signed up,
which they did. And one black sorority was just indispensable. They came in and helped us, under the direction of Dr. Barbara Cambridge, who is a geneticist and with the medical school. They came in just en masse. It turned out that most of the members of that organization were educators and as soon as school was out in the first part of June, they turned up nearly every day, some of them, to work. Did anything that came along. I mean, a Ph.D. educator was stuffing envelopes and stamping mail and anything that came along.
We were also fortunate in another sense in that we did have a lot of people who spoke several different languages who were coming into the office. And one day I got a call from Argentina, and fortunately one of my Hispanic friends was there and could talk with her. And Roseann handles French fluently and handles the Arabic language well because she was married to a Lebanese.
Kasper: Well, what does Peacemakers intend to do now?
Castleberry: I don't know. I have turned that over totally. It has been a full year since the conference and they are just now around to prioritizing what they are supposed to be doing next. Whether or not they will do a new conference and when and whether or not—one of the things that we had hoped to do, one of our dreams and visions, was that we would hold other conferences in other countries. And we have been invited, we were invited before the year was out, to come to Chile. And we were invited to go to Canada. And we were invited to go to Sweden. And we were invited to go to the Soviet Union. So I don't know. It is interesting in that I am well aware that one cannot do conferences, across international boundaries and handle everything. So what we would have to have is a strong Peacemakers group—
Kasper: In that country.
Castleberry: In that country, in whatever country was hosting it, to do the work, the hard work that is involved and then we would have to serve—
One of the things I know we were doing that we commissioned ourselves to do before I got out of being intimately involved in the day-to-day procedure, we decided that we would write a book on what we had done. We not only are doing a report on the Peacemakers Conference, but we are also writing a handbook on how you go about doing a peace conference. And Barb Middleton is handling that. She is amazingly qualified. She's a counselor by profession and did a prize-winning video for one of the women's organizations recently, so it will be well done.
Kasper: That's a wonderful idea.
Castleberry: And she's going to be the chair of that particular group. And we are still invited constantly, all of us, to do—we have a wonderful slide show that we show to anybody by invitation. We have a wonderful video that was filmed throughout the conference that we are now going to make available. So there's a lot that's come out of it.
I think the chief thing—well, back to one or two other things, and then I want to tell you the chief thing that has come out of it, and then I'll close this on to my next chapter briefly. For me, the best thing that's come out of it is a personal friend in almost every country of the world. And I never now pick up a newspaper and see a byline out of Sri Lanka or Bangladesh or Argentina or Nicaragua that it doesn't have a first person singular name. And I begin immediately to wonder how this is impacting her. And I know that when the group was here they were rewriting at that time the constitution in Argentina and our young delegate from Brazil was a wonderful young woman who's a Brazilian journalist who had done her high school work in Dallas, Texas, as an American Exchange Student.
And that was a marvelous story because I had gone down to Canton, Texas, which is a small town.
Castleberry: Canton, Texas, in East Texas. I had gone down to make a speech to their leading women's group in town to tell them what we were doing at Peacemakers and to tell them about the conference. Well, these women, most of whom are
the wives of retired executives from Dallas and other places, immediately caught the vision of what we were trying to do and said, "We want to sponsor a delegate. And whatever it requires, we will sponsor a delegate." So it turned out that one of the women who had invited me down that day had been the "mother" of Arcelina Publio Dias when she was a student in Dallas in a Dallas high school. And she is now an outstanding journalist in Brazil and so they determined that they would get her here. [Note added by V. Castleberry: One day the president of their club, the Mathea Club, walked in and handed me $2,647.17. They not only paid Arcelina's way here, but also sponsored another delegate.] And Arcelina had a terrible time making up her mind to come because she'd gotten really involved in politics and was very involved in writing the women's planks for the new constitution in Brazil. So it was terribly difficult for her to decide to come. But, she was also fortunate in that the hearings happened just a week before she left to come here. So she had done that and she could now come here. But every time I read about something that's going awry with the new Brazilian constitution, I worry about her. Because one of the planks that they wrote in was equality of pay in the workplace. And what has happened, I just recently read an article, that what has happened to that is that now employers are not hiring young women for fear that they will get pregnant and leave and so they've got to work through how they're going to handle the spirit of the law along with the new legal implications for this law in their country. And I know that where—
Arcelina turned out to be an absolute dynamo and a young spitfire and I know she's not going to go easily. But she renewed acquaintances in Dallas that she would have never seen again. It was a marvelous, marvelous occasion. She saw all of her family while she was here, her Dallas family, and her friends, and friends that she hadn't seen. And she's in her thirties and had graduated from high school here and then had gone to a university in France for study. It was that kind of thing that kept happening all the way through. I could just tell you endless stories, human interest stories, that took place.
But, you asked what Peacemakers is doing now, and what Peacemakers is doing now is preparing for its next assignment, under new leadership. Most of the old steering committee remained and one or two of them have resigned since then because they're going on to new things. And my vision was to do the conference and I did it.
Kasper: And so you've moved on to something new too. Why don't you briefly tell us about it.
Castleberry: Yes, I've moved on to something else and that's where I was saying that Curt came down and helped us do the conference, the final part of the conference, and was with me every day through the conference. It was really funny because he had been so concerned. His role in life has been to build a house with his own two hands and he has been in the country for five years now doing that, most of the time, since we've been retired. He would come home only when I'd call him and say, "I need you." And then he'd come home and we'd do a few things and he'd go back to the country and sometimes I'd go down for weekends. Well, that last year that I was doing the peace conference, those weekends were few and far between because I was busy hours upon endless hours, and couldn't leave here without something falling apart. And so he had gotten involved. And it was so funny, right there toward the last, we were driving to work one morning and he said to me, "Honey, you can't leave this. You say you're going to go to the country for a year and you can't leave this. You have got to travel extensively and tell other people what you've done here." And I said, "I'm not believing you. Here you have been preaching to me, for five years, to come to the country and stay with you for a year, and now you're trying to tell me that I owe it to the world to go out and tell the world this." But I said, "No, I knew when it was time for me to walk out of the Times Herald and I know when it's time for me to walk out of Peacemakers and let other people do it."
So after I had, as I said, done the correspondence and turned it over, I went to the country on the 30th of October of 1988. I moved to the lake house in the country where I am ensconced in a two-story, four bedroom, three bath, modified Victorian house that is about two-thirds of the way finished. We're now finishing the interior. And where? The address is Chandler, Texas. It is a small, sleepy town in East Texas. It is also the home of Senator Ralph Yarborough.
And the first political campaign I ever worked in in my life when I was a teenager was his running for office the first time. So I find it very interesting that I am in his hometown.
Kasper: That's wonderful. And a wonderful man.
Castleberry: And a wonderful man. And so that is my address at the moment. Curtis, the first thing he did was finish my office for me. And I am now confirming my prejudices. I am writing a book on what Dallas women have contributed to the greater Dallas community. I am telling the Dallas story through the voices of women.
Kasper: The historical story.
Castleberry: The historical story. And it, like other things that I've written, will not be pure history. There's a lot more than names and dates and places. I'm not focusing on things, I am focusing on what people did.
Kasper: But you're attempting to correct the historical record, are you not?
Castleberry: I am attempting to add to the historical record. Again, it's one of those things where the contributions of women in practically all of history have been totally left out. And that's leaving out the contributions of one-half of the human race. And what I'm trying to do is to tell this story exactly the way it happened, with the same historical background, the same dates and the same places, but look at it the way women looked at it. And I am overwhelmed by the number of small graves in all of the cemeteries in early Dallas.
Kasper: Small graves?
Castleberry: Graves. The graves of babies. And I struggle with those women as they came here from other parts of the world and other parts of the country, in wagon trains, across unexplored territory, into an area—and some of these women were fabulously well educated for their times. Some of them were graduates of the seven sisters schools. Some of them were artists and musicians. One of the earliest women here came with her piano lashed to the side of her wagon so that it would not be injured in the trek from Kentucky.
Kasper: This is in the late 19th century, is it not?
Castleberry: It was in the late 19th—the first woman came to Dallas in 1842. So it really is a century and a half that this city has been building and I realize that this is a book that will have a limited readership from the standpoint of how many people are interested in what Dallas women did, but it's really much broader than that because it's going to bring in the flavor of the times. For instance, what women in Dallas were doing during the Civil War will ring true for what women throughout the country were involved in during the Civil War as they gave up their husbands and sons and brothers to—
Kasper: To a terrible battle.
Castleberry: —a terrible battle that was totally unnecessary. And all war has been totally unnecessary. It's amazing, after the war is over, how we can go back and review the times that led up to it and see where we did things incorrectly. And so I see this as a part of the peace movement that I've been in. And I see it as women's contribution to a wider opportunity for total involvement in her world.
Kasper: I love one of the phrases that you've used in conversations we've had off the record here about your—the imperative to see that peace become more profitable than war.
Castleberry: Oh yes. There is no doubt that one of the reasons that we throw ourselves a good war is to increase our economic capabilities. And what we really do is postpone our war debts to future generations and we've done that to the degree and the extent that our kids, probably, and grandchildren and great grandchildren probably will not be able to pay off the folly of our times. But I am absolutely convinced that peace is more profitable than war, and that living together in human
harmony will create a better world that will allow all of us to sample the goodies of life rather than—
I'm not sure how it's going to be done. I am grateful that there are groups in California, in other parts of the country that are working diligently on economic conversion to show how you take your war plants that are now making bombs and turn them into plants that are making pacifiers, as it were. But whatever it is that they can make, they can always increase the quality of life rather than destroy it. And all of us are well aware that the war toys and the war tools that we make do nothing. They're good for only one thing, and that's destruction. And once they destruct, then it has wiped out everything. And we are so confident that these same plants can be used to increase—for profitable enterprises that will enhance rather than destroy life for our entire world population.
We know, for instance, that we—one of the pieces that we sent out during Peacemakers, we got the price of one missile and for the price of one missile, we could have done forty peace conferences on the level that we were doing it. But we said, we are also practical, we know we're not going to get the price of one missile to do this conference, so you have to help us —give your dimes and dollars and quarters.
So I'm at the country working on my book and it's a wonderful experience. I am still probably accepting too many speaking engagements and trying to do too many things where I feel called to do. And trying to remember that I am not in this all by myself and that the sun will come up tomorrow whether I get up or not. And trying to remember that—as when, my husband said to me one time, he said, "When you get the message, 'Here am I Lord, send me,' it doesn't mean you personally every time."