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Interview with Rev. Philip Price

Date of Interview: 1 February 1996; Rev. Price's home, Blacksburg, VA
Interviewer: Tamara Kennelly
Transcriber: Cindy Hurd

{ Tape 1, Side 1 - Tape 1, Side 2 - Tape 2, Side 1 - Tape 2, Side 2 }

Begin Side 2

Kennelly: You were in the band, you said?

Price: Yes. If you were into any of the extracurricular activities, you basically had to find your own way home after school. So if you were in the band or played football or baseball or did any of that kind of stuff, then you'd end up thumbing home or walking home from Christiansburg.

Kennelly: Walking home?

Price: Yes, some of us did it.

Kennelly: Did you ever walk?

Price: Yes. If that was the only way. If nobody would pick you up, you'd have to walk.

Kennelly: That's quite a walk.

Price: Yes.

Kennelly: What did you play in the band?

Price: I was trombone.

Kennelly: How far is that for a walk?

Price: It's about 12, 13 miles, something like that. It's not real far I don't think.

Kennelly: I think to kids today they couldn't even imagine walking home from Christiansburg.

Price: A lot of times people would pick you up if you're thumbing. It was pretty good. I didn't have to do that many time though.

Kennelly: Was the band pretty good that you were in?

Price: Oh yeah. I used to love it. We'd play for the Christmas parade here in Blacksburg and the Christmas parade over in Christiansburg and places like that. And for the football games.

Kennelly: What did you think of the education you were getting over there at the Christiansburg Institute?

Price: I thought it was great. At the time education really wasn't one of my high priorities. But I thought it was pretty good. Basically, I don't too much remember how I got picked for Blacksburg High. But just that summer they were looking for, were asking some people if they wanted to go. I said, “Yeah, I'll go.” Didn't realize what I was getting into.

Kennelly: Who was asking people to go?

Price: I don't remember who. I think it was just part of the community, the teachers. I think they were asking all the parents if they wanted to send us.

Kennelly: So was it coming, do you think, from the school itself, or was if from the community?

Price: I think it was coming from probably the School Board.

Kennelly: So somebody asked you if you wanted to go, and you said...

Price: Yeah.

Kennelly: Was it something that was on your mind. Like, “Why am I going 13 miles to school when there's a school right here in town?” Was it something you had thought about much before?

Price: No. It was just a chance to cut out that ride in the morning and the afternoon. I don't think I thought in those terms at the time. It was basically just, I guess, they had decided it was time to do it. The atmosphere in Blacksburg was probably more conducive than anywhere else because of your community makeup at the time. All the people coming in for Tech and all like that. So basically, here I am supposing again, but I think probably....

Kennelly: I wanted to ask you about that thing of Tech. Were you conscious much of Tech when you were growing up? Did you go to games? Did you go over and hang around the university, ride your bike around there?

Price: Yeah, we did. As kids we'd go play down in the duckpond and over at the dairy farm and all. I used to like to go over there and watch them.

Kennelly: Because they had animals there?

Price: The cows, watch them milk and all. Basically we were just being kids seeing what was over there.

Kennelly: Did you know anyone working in the dairy farm?

Price: No, I didn't.

Kennelly: It was just kind of checking out what was going on in that way that kids like to do?

Price: Right.

Kennelly: Someone asked, and you don't exactly recall how it was asked, but you were asked if you wanted to and you said you'd go. Your sister, was she a younger or older sister?

Price: She was my younger sister. Both my sisters were younger.

Kennelly: What about your friends? Were any of them going to go?

Price: There was a girl from down what we call the McDonald[?] Country, down the mountain. She wanted to go. They turned her down. They would only let me and my sister go the first year.

Kennelly: Was her name Jacquelyn.

Price: Yeah. Jacquelyn. Jacquelyn Eaves now.

Kennelly: I wondered about her. Jacquelyn, I wrote Lewis, I don't know if that's right. Do you know why she was turned down?

Price: No, I don't.

Kennelly: Did you say Jacquelyn Eaves?

Price: Right. That's her married name.

Kennelly: Did your parents talk to you about going or what was going to happen? Did they prepare you?

Price: No. I don't remember them saying anything. I guess at the time I didn't have sense enough to be afraid. Plus, most the kids down on Roanoke street, we played together anyway. A couple of kids like I was saying would come up and walk with us to school and all.

Kennelly: Right from the start. Other white kids would be walking you to school, kids that you had probably had played ball with or played with for years.

Price: On Roanoke Street there yeah.

Kennelly: Can you take us back to that time when you first went in there? Talk a little bit about what's your experience was like, how you felt, and what you experienced? Did you have any problems when you went in or did it go smoothly?

Price: It went smoothly but there was time when we may hear “the word,” you know, “nigger” or something like that. I think, by and large, it was not used. Most of the kids were not that way. Then I think I was an introvert so that right there increased probably my separation. But my sister, she was in the eighth grade. So the only time I would see her would be at lunch time for thirty minutes. The rest of the day we were by ourselves. So that created a little tension. I didn't know what to expect, especially with all the stuff going on down on the East Coast. Campbell County or one of them at the time, they were having real problems down there. It was worse trying to get in school _______________ (1451) That was in the paper at the time. But none of that happened here. I guess that even in the school, the derogatory remarks and all was probably no more than what you would normally hear in a community this size. At the time you only had four thousand cadets, and so we only had twelve thousand or so people in Blacksburg. There was always maybe one or two. But most of the time we had a pretty good relationship like I was saying before. May have tension once in awhile. I can only remember one time when maybe my brothers got in a fight, or something like that, because of it. But other than that it was a pretty good atmosphere.

Kennelly: You mean the town as a whole?

Price: Yes, the people.

Kennelly: You didn't feel, in the general town, that you were having racial slurs or people mistreating you?

Price: Yeah. Well, I was afraid the first couple of weeks and all not knowing what to expect. Just knowing there was going to be difference and the separation I think was the main fear, being isolated.

Kennelly: Being all by yourself in the school?

Price: Yes.

Kennelly: At lunchtime did you just sit with your sister?

Price: Right.

Kennelly: Did anyone sit with you two?

Price: Yes they did. Some kids did. Like the ones that would walk us to school and all like that.

Kennelly: They would sit with you?

Price: At the time my aunt worked there in the cafeteria too . There was I guess about four ladies that worked there from the black community so I knew them. I guess just being there was uncomfortable, not knowing what to expect. That's where all the tension came from I think, day in and day out. Listening to the TV and all, what's going on in Arkansas and other places, in Alabama and all. There was always something in the back of my mind, just added stress. It basically didn't come from....Maybe once or twice somebody would say something. I think the stress just came from anticipation of what might or could happen.

Kennelly: Wasn't there some sort of cross burning incident around the time before you went in? Was that directed at you did you feel?

Price: No.

Kennelly: There was some kind of incident. I read about it in the paper, in the old papers. That wasn't something that particularly you remember?

Price: No.

Kennelly: As being--.Were there any black teachers in the school at that point?

Price: No.

Kennelly: That might have helped. Did the principle make you feel welcomed?

Price: Yes he did. Mr. Gray. All of them were in acceptance of it. I don't remember too many bad experiences with the teachers.

Kennelly: Were there some bad experiences?

Price: Well at the time I thought it was, with one teacher.

Kennelly: What kind of thing happened?

Price: It's...Okay. She just had things that she called her students when they weren't doing their best, or she thought they weren't doing their best. The thing of it was she just wasn't sensitive to what she was saying at the time.

Kennelly: What would she say?

Price: Something about my black dog. Referring to me as her black dog.

Kennelly: That wasn't very sensitive.

Price: No.

Kennelly: That must have been painful.

Price: Yeah, it was. I had heard her talk to some of the other students too and several times. It made me uneasy. I was the only black there.

Kennelly: She might say something sort of insulting to somebody else?

Price: Right. That was her way of, I guess, trying to inspire you or get you to come up to where she's thing you ought to be. I think at the time it was just an insensitivity, that's all. I don't think she meant it in a harmful way.

Kennelly: Did you feel comfortable speaking in class?

Price: That was rough. Like I said I was an introvert. When I was spoken to I answered but I pretty much just sat back I think, as I remember now. Just tried to do my work. At the time too I was surprised to find that I was in the advanced class where they had students that were attending Tech I think at that time. Some of the seniors and juniors were, I think they called them the accelerated students, so that was the category I was put in. I didn't even know that such programs existed. Maybe it was my lack of enthusiasm for school. Maybe they had offered them over at Christiansburg Institute, but I don't remember.

Kennelly: Did you have the opportunity to take classes at Tech then?

Price: No, I think it was the very--honor students and all. I wasn't an honor student at the time.

Kennelly: But they put you in the classes with those students?

Price: Yes.

Kennelly: So they must have thought your education to that point was on some kind of level, do you think? Is that why they put you in that group?

Price: It could have been. I don't know. I ended up spending my last summer taking...I had to retake English. So I took that, and then I joined the service. I didn't stick around to graduate.

Kennelly: So you finished your work but you didn't go to graduation? Did you graduate actually from Blacksburg High School?

Price: Yes, I graduated. I graduated in summer school.

Kennelly: I see. Why did you think you had to retake the English? Do you think that had anything to do with your education before or do you think it was anything about being expected to fit into a sort of way of doing things that was different from what you were used to doing?

Price: I think it was probably due to my preparation. I didn't have any special preparation to go to school. I think on my part I hadn't taken school seriously up until that point. It just caught up with me. It's what I'd like to think anyway. Not that I was picked out not to graduate, but that it was because of my not pushing myself as hard as I could've.

Kennelly: You don't think there would be a possibility that they picked you out not to graduate do you?

Price: Well at the time and all. I just knew I wasn't going to take another year of stress. Because it was stress, the pressure of being there and a pressure of not knowing exactly what's happening, and like I said all the other things that were going on in America at the time. I think it was probably my lack of studying and my lack of study techniques. Plus at the time like I said I was working two jobs. I worked at the theatre, at the Lyric, and I worked at Gwin [?] Department Store at the time. I was a janitor there too.

Kennelly: How often did you work at the Lyric then?

Price: Every night.

Kennelly: And you worked at the department store how often? How many hours were you putting in over there?

Price: About three I think, three a day.

Kennelly: So you were doing two jobs a day plus going to school? You didn't have too much time to study. Were you trying to save money or were you helping the family out?

Price: No, that was just part I said, my Mom and Dad always worked and that was part of what they instilled in us. To work. So I, at the time, I didn't think then much about it.

Kennelly: So when you got old enough to get a job, you found a job. It was something that you just kind of expected then to do?

Price: Yeah. Well there were things I wanted. From a large family knowing the only way I'd probably get them is to get out and do it on my own.

Kennelly: How young were you when you started working at the Lyric?

Price: Probably about 15.

Kennelly: Was that about the same on the other job too. The janitor's job at the department store?

Price: Yeah, probably so. My brother he--my third oldest brother had the job at the Lyric Theatre, so when he left I just took it over from him.

Kennelly: You kind of kept it in the family. What was your other brother's name?

Price: Clarence. He's out in Colorado Springs now. That's his home.

Kennelly: Did you join the band in school - at Blacksburg High?

Price: No, I didn't.

Kennelly: Did anyone suggest that you might want to do that?

Price: No, they didn't.

Kennelly: Did you participate in any of the sports activities?

Price: No, I didn't.

Kennelly: Or social?

Price: No, I didn't.

Kennelly: After being in a band, a good band, having all that, I imagine you would feel much more isolated in that situation.

Price: Yes.

Kennelly: That was a big change from what your experiences had been before.

Price: Right. The work and all--I couldn't have been in the band anyway.

Kennelly: Oh, because of your jobs. That makes a difference too.

Price: Plus I don't know why I didn't pursue that. One reason I didn't think I was that good in the band anyway. That wasn't going to be my life's pursuit, playing the trombone.

Kennelly: It was just kind of a fun thing to play. When you walked into school were you harassed or anything by any adults or people outside?

Price: No. I don't remember seeing anybody other than just students.

Kennelly: The first day of school you just walked to school. It all went pretty smoothly then.

Price: Yeah.

Kennelly: Did you feel like you were being expected to pretty much adjust to a white oriented, white based curriculum in school when you went in pretty much.

Price: I think it was probably the same that we had at Christiansburg Institute. The same books and all. The main problem was like I said, I hadn't put that much energy into my school efforts before. When I applied for school, I didn't think they were going to accept me really. I did not. It was a pleasant surprise. I think what added to the education was mostly the stress, not knowing what to expect. Constantly walking on eggshells I guess you can say. Not trying to always do what was expected and not to create any problems. So that took up a lot of my time too.

Kennelly: And a lot of energy. Did you feel that there was any effort made to bring out your own strengths and help you with weak parts? Your strengths and weaknesses. Was there any effort particularly made to take those into account that made the adjustment easier for you?

Price: No, I don't think so. No. I thought in a way that it was probably made harder being in class with like the accelerated group. College prep classes I think they call them. I guess I sort of had the idea that they were throwing me into something that I wasn't prepared for. I hadn't thought of myself as being accelerated or anything like that, so to be thrown into that category, I thought was scary in itself too.

Kennelly: Do you think that was based on your test scores or something that they were doing that?

Price: I don't know.

Kennelly: It's kind of hard to figure. Did people try to talk to you about going to college or counsel you about college? Was there anything like that? You know, talk to you about what you might want to do in your future? Was there any type of counseling or anything like that?

Price: I don't remember. At the time I hadn't planned on going to college.

Kennelly: So it might have been easier if you had been put in a the more average level rather than the accelerated?

Price: Yes. It would have been easier, but I'm sort of glad they didn't.

Kennelly: Why is that?

Price: I think the two years I spent there helped me enormously the rest of my life and career.

Kennelly: Really? In what way would you say?

Price: In dealing with stress and with challenges and all. It's made a lot of other things a lot easier for me.

Kennelly: Could you explain a little bit more?

Price: Yes. Well, being in the military you have situations of extreme stress also. I think being at Blacksburg the high school there helped me to know how to deal with stress in that area. Academic-wise I know that it finally helped me 18 years later when I was forced--not forced-- but when I started college. Realizing...

End Tape 1

{ Tape 1, Side 1 - Tape 1, Side 2 - Tape 2, Side 1 - Tape 2, Side 2 }

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