Mackey Dutton grew up in Chestertown, Maryland from the age of three-weeks-old. She was also a student at Washington College beginning in 1947.
In her interview, Mackey describes how Chestertown changed and developed over the course of the war. She talks about the town as it was in her youth and stories involving her father’s business, the rules of the college, and the veteran post-war experience.
Oh, it was wonderful. It was so small then. There were only about 400 students, and you knew everybody on campus. I started college the fall of 1947 so the veterans from World War II, the second wave, were coming back, and we just had a really good time. I think back now that I should have studied harder and partied less, but that’s the story of college. [laughs] So I laughingly say my misspent youth was at the Blue Bird. Francis Gibson owned it then, and, of course, in those days nobody carded. I mean I went to college at seventeen and began to drink beer and drank it straight on through and was never carded. But in those days there were rules. I mean, Kent County had blue laws so all you could buy anywhere was beer at a bar or anyplace. You had to go a state liquor store to buy a bottle of liquor, and so we never drank liquor, everybody just drank beer. And there were rules. The girls had to be in the dorms. Freshman girls had to be in the dorms by 10:00, and 11 on Friday and Saturday, and the upper classmen could stay out till midnight. You had to sign in and out, and I don’t know what happened if you didn’t come in on time. I lived at home, but I was up on the campus most of the time. The boys had no rules, but we never questioned that. I mean freshman boys came to campus without one rule in this world. The girls had to be in the dorms. in fact, I think they, the freshman girls, had to go to their dorms and stay in their rooms and study from 7 to 9. No rules. The boys could you know do anything they wanted. But none of us questioned that, eh, that was it. Because in those days the college was in parenti locus, where they were the parents. There were rules, and you just abided by them or you left.
Father’s Broker Business and Dolls
Near Wilmer Park there’s a big building that has a KRM sign there, and that was my father and my uncle, his brother, had Metcalfe Brothers Grain and Feed. And that was the building; it’s still standing. And I laugh. Dr. Paul Johnson’s office is there and Dr. Johnson’s office is where my father’s office was. And they bought grain and feed and brokered it. And then they also bought tomatoes. I can remember, a man from Campbell’s Soup came down, and I remember he stayed for dinner. And he gave me a little picture. It hung in my room all the time when I was a child; I don’t know whatever happened to it. And then he gave me little Campbell’s Soup dolls. Do they still have little kind of rosy cheeked people, little people, that are the Campbell’s Soup on the cans or anything at all? They had like Kewpie dolls, you know what I’m saying when I say Kewpie dolls? Okay, they were sort of like Kewpie dolls, there were two of them, a girl and a boy. So he gave me those two dolls, I can remember that. But he’d come down, and my father would buy all the tomatoes from a farmer and then broker it to Campbell’s Soup. And they did the same with grain and the same with feed.
Mrs. Matthews brought a live chicken, and there were kitchen doors, and the kitchen steps went down, and everybody had this—not screening, but a lattice work. And that was a chicken coup. So then Mrs. Matthews would put the chicken in the chicken coup. And then Sunday morning, the maid would kill the chicken, and then we’d have it for Sunday dinner which was about one o’clock on Sunday afternoon. And I hated it when the chicken got killed because when you cut chicken’s head off, it runs around without a head bleeding like mad in the backyard. But I can remember, I didn’t care for that, didn’t think that was very fun. We didn’t have a chicken every week because my father was a beef eater. He liked roast beef. I can remember the chickens being delivered, the chicken being delivered. And almost everybody on the block did that. They all had chicken coups under the back steps. Everybody did in the backyard.
When I was in boarding school, my mother rented the third floor to college guys because after the war there was not enough housing on campus for all of the students. Girls could not live off campus unless like I was a day student. But if you came to college as a boarder, you could not live off campus. The men were allowed to. So especially the veterans all lived off campus. Then they built a little dorm which I don’t know how to tell you where it is. What’s there now? Well, you go to Campus Avenue, and then you take a right to get onto campus. And then there’s Dunning here. G.I. Hall was right down there, and that was built like a quonset hut built for the veterans. But lots of them lived off campus.
Veterans Not Talking about the War
They didn’t talk about [the war] a whole lot, they really didn’t. I dated a guy who had been in the Battle of the Bulge. He didn’t want to talk about it particularly. He mentioned that he had been in the Battle of the Bulge. But it was terrible, and I can remember him saying to younger guys, because you see lots of them went into the service after graduation. Then Korea came, and so it was sort of a drafting. They were recalling people who had served in WWII, then they were called back for Korea. I remember Choddy saying to a friend, “Join the Marines or the Navy. Don’t ever get in the Infantry,” he said. “It’s awful.” He wouldn’t say too much. They didn’t talk too much about it. I remember Bob Bean was a pilot, and he had flown an enormous number of missions — bombing missions over Europe — and they really didn’t talk much about it. It was not something they wanted to talk about, and you didn’t question them that much because you knew it was not pleasant.