Nancy Dick was born in 1940 and lived in Chestertown, Maryland for the duration of the war.
In her interview, she shares her memories of blackout curtains and air raid drills, with Dr. Livinggood, the head of the Psychology Department at Washington College. Additionally, she talks about race relations in the Chestertown community.
Blackout Curtains and Air Raid Drills
We lived on Washington Avenue right across from the college. And two doors up from us lived Dr. Livinggood, who was head of the Psychology Department, and who during the war, was our—I guess he was called a “Block Captain” because we did have air raid warnings at night which I do remember because we had a college student living with us during that time, and she had to study at night. So we put up her blackout curtains, and you thumbtacked them in. Dr. Livinggood would come along and knock on the door, and my dad would open the door, and he would say: “Doctor Dick, there’s a little light coming out. Get some more tacks.” [laughs] So we put them in.
I heard these things; I knew what they were. I had twin brothers who were 17 months younger than I am, and they never heard these. They never heard the air raid thing. But the fire siren would go off; I don’t know how long it lasted, but it was long enough to wake me up. And I remember those very clearly.
Well, I don’t remember really during the war, but certainly subsequent to that—I think they were perfectly cordial, the black people pretty much worked for the white people. Well, actually, the principal of Garnett High School was the only educator in the county, I believe, who had a doctorate, and his wife was a nurse in the public health department, and she was also a midwife. And they were pretty well educated, but I didn’t know who the black teachers were. But certainly they were well educated and highly respected by my parents and by some other people in town, but I would venture to say as is today, we’ve got plenty of rednecks around. But certainly it was racist, I would venture to say. I had no black friends. There were no black children in the elementary school at all. I’m not sure I went to school with a black student until I was in graduate school. That’s just the way it was, but that’s no longer true. It happened that way in boarding school, but at my college, it just happened that way as well, but it changed considerably.
I think that relations have improved to some degree. There’s still problems; it takes time. It has to come, I believe, from the young, except for us older folk who don’t think we are going to be shot dead by anybody who is black, but certainly there continue to be problems with race. I’d be dishonest if I didn’t say that I believed that.