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Elizabeth Vickers Courtney Interview - 1 July 1983

Title

Elizabeth Vickers Courtney Interview - 1 July 1983

Description

Oral history interview of Elizabeth Vickers Courtney at her home at 27 Hillwood Drive

Creator

Mobile Public Library

Publisher

Mobile Public Library

Date

1983

Relation

Descriptions of Oral History Interview Tapes

Language

English

Identifier

Growing-Up-in-Mobile-Elizabeth Courtney Vickers Interview-1983

Interviewer

Lalie Felis

Interviewee

Elizabeth Vickers Courtney

Location

27 Hillwood Drive, Mobile AL

Transcription

Lalie: Today is July 1, 1983. This is Lalie Felis. I'm interviewing Ms. Courtney at her home at 27 Hillwood Drive. This interview is part of the Growing Up in Mobile Oral History Project. (?) is taping this interview today. We're going to be talking about Ms. Courtney's experiences growing up in Mobile during World War II. We'd like to thank you for talking to us about your experiences growing up in Mobile. To begin with, can you state for the record, your full name and when and where you were born?
E.V.C.: Elizabeth Vickers Courtney. I was born in 1930. Do you want the date? February 2nd, 1930. I was born in Mobile.
Lalie: Who were your parents and what did they do for a living?
E.V.C.: My mother was Gene Inmas Vickers; my father was Marion Richard Vickers. My father was an attorney and my mother was a housewife.
Lalie: Did you have any brothers and sisters?
E.V.C.: Yes, I had one brother. His name was Marion Vickers, Jr. He is 5 years younger than me.
Lalie: Where did you live in Mobile when you were growing up?
E.V.C.: Well I was born, when I was born we lived on Houston Street, then we moved to Old Government Street, then we moved to Ashland Place, and then we moved out to Springhill and I lived in this house next door here, my mother's house, when she still lived, we were there since 1936, I was 6 years old when we moved here.
Lalie: Where did you go to school?
E.V.C.: I went to Visitation Academy through the 6th grade, and I went to Springhill School, which was a public school by Mary B. Austen, and then I went to Murphy, and then I went off to school after that. I went to Washington D.C.
Lalie: What was your favorite subject?
E.V.C.: I guess Math.
Lalie: Who were some of your favorite teachers?
E.V.C.: Well, Ms. Mary B. Austen was our teacher in the 7th grade. [...] She died in the middle of the year when we were in 7th grade. She was a great person, she was absolutely one of my favorites. And I had some good teachers at Murphy, Ms. Edith Murphy taught me math and she is also pretty famous in Mobile. She died about 3 or 4 years ago and she loaned me a couple of books and I guess it was her father that Murphy High School was named for, I'm not sure, or her husband, I forgot, anyway she's related to the man that Murphy was named for. Ms. Gay (?) was a Latin teacher at Murphy that I liked, and Ms. Bragg (?) was my Science teacher. I guess that's about, well let's see, that's about all I can think of.
Lalie: What did you want to do when you grew up?
E.V.C.: Um, I guess, I just wanted to get married and have children. We didn't think about having careers as much at that time, you know, girls just kind of [...]
Lalie: What were some fun things that you did when you were growing up?
E.V.C.: We used to climb trees, we used to build pine straw huts. Our favorite thing was to go to the pumping station and go swimming, where the reservoir is over there and they had these big swimming pools that came from a waterfall that came out of the reservoir and that was the big thing.
Lalie: What were the things that your family, that you and your family did for recreation?
E.V.C.: Well, let's see, we used to go over the Bay, sometimes, and...I can't really think of too much that we did as a family. We took a few trips, not too many. We used to go to Chattanooga, we went to Lookout Mountain a couple of times, my grandmother used to live out there.
Lalie: Did you have any hobbies?
E.V.C.: Um, I used to play alot of badminton, that was the big thing when I was a teenager. We had a court up there. And, um, I was one of the Girl Scouts, I did alot of work with them.
Lalie: Who were some of your best friends?
E.V.C.: Um, Sally Title(?) was a good friend of mine, she used to live about 3 or 4 houses up on Hillwood and she's still a good friend of mine. (?)Phillipson (?) in fact she's on the library board [...] and Nettle Grier (?) was a good friend, her name is Simpson(?) now. Nettle was a real good athlete, she still is, she used to have a horse, we used to have a real good time riding her horse, I wasn't that good at it but she was and we used to play alot of baseball and football, we played with the boys alot, there weren't too many girls at Springhill, everybody kind of just got together and we did whatever the boys wanted to do really and...what was your original question?
Lalie: Who were some of your best friends?
E.V.C.: Oh yeah, and Mary Cook was a good friend of mine, she moved out here I think when we in the 7th grade and she was also really good friend of mine, she works for the CIA...and that's about it I guess.
Lalie: Did young people at this time gather in any certain places?
E.V.C.: Um, no, not at Springhill, we just played in the woods or at somebody's house, some people had little, what they called playhouses, they were kind of like doll houses, you know, they were just a little room that was built separate from the house, alot of people had those, and we would do that but most of the time we really played outside.
Lalie: What were some of your favorite places in Mobile? E.V.C.: Well, we used to go to the Country Club, and swim and hang around up there alot and uh, I thought I had written some other place down here, of we used to go to Weinacker's and get milkshakes and sodas and things like that. Do y'all know where Weinacker's was, it's not called Weinacker's anymore, but it's on the corner of Government and Catherine Street, I think it's a Delchamps now, it was a drugstore and that was kind of a favorite hang out. And also Van Antwerp drugstore downtown, was a big hang out, they used to have a lunch counter, we used to go down there and that's where we would eat.
Lalie: What was your favorite music when you were growing up?
E.V.C.: Well, of course the Jitterbug was popular at that time and the big band [...] big band music, and later we got into show tunes.
Lalie: Who was your favorite sports figure?
E.V.C.: Good question, well, I remember Joe DiMaggio, baseball, Babe Ruth, and Joe Lewis, I remember him real well in boxing, heavyweight champion, um, Bobby Jones I guess, in golf, that's all I can think of off hand.
Lalie: What styles of clothing were popular?
E.V.C.: Well, when you're saying the 30's and 40's, you know, you're taking a large period of time into consideration, so, if you start back in the 30's, uh, you were just coming out of the roaring 20's and just coming out of the Charleston era. In the 30's the skirts went down, you know, and then the new look came along in the 40's, and we wore these full skirts and everybody wore half the petticoats under the full skirts, I mean just daytime clothes, you know, like a wool skirt, real full, with a plaid petticoat, you always had to have a plaid petticoat, something that showed, you know. And the new look was a little short jacket and a scarf and that was not exactly when the new look came out but I think it was like in the middle 40's. The 30's were kind of a dull period, the dresses were very drab, after the 20's you know when they were real short, and then flash to the 30's it was kind of dull.
Lalie: What was your favorite food?
E.V.C.: Spaghetti and meatballs, I guess. We didn't have pizza in those days, I think it was unheard of, I think the first I ever had any was when I went to Europe in 1954, I had some then.
Lalie: Did you have a favorite rest or eating place in Mobile? E.V.C.: Um, the Dew Drop, it's been good all these years, y'all know about the Dew Drop? And, uh let me think, Constantine's was downtown at that time and it was good. We didn't have very many restaurants in those days.
Lalie: What was downtown Mobile like when you were growing up?
E.V.C.: Well, it was just like a small town, you know, that you would go through, I guess. Dauphin Street was the big, the prime property, you know like Fountain Square, and we had 3 or 4 good stores down there, and Constantine's was a good restaurant and Van's was a (?). The Square was alot prettier then than it is now, not so many bums hanging around, it was a nice place to go. It was kind of like any small town.
Lalie: Where did people shop?
E.V.C.: Well downtown we had Gayfer's and Hammel's and Goldstein's, that's a jewelry store, and (?), that was a shoe store, and Cress's (?) was a 5 & 10 cent store, they were all in the same area right on the Square. Madison's (?) was there, it was a men's store. We had, I guess a line of them.
Lalie: Where was the edge of town?
E.V.C.: The edge of town was really I guess you'd say where the Loop is and, uh, I guess maybe Florida Street before you really got into Crichton, Crichton was kind of a separate area.
Lalie: What kind of transportation did you have besides cars?
E.V.C.: When I first moved to Springhill there was a trolley, it came out and tracks ended up there near where Mary B. Austen's School is and it came at kind of an angle from Springhill Avenue, it didn't come by the same route that the roads are on, it just came kind of through the woods. But it wasn't, that didn't operate too long, I can't remember when it stopped but probably in the late 30's and then they put in a bus there. We used to ride the bus to Murphy and back, well we rode it home, my father used to take us to school. We always rode it home, buses were alot safer then than they are now, although they were still crowded, of course there were certain [...]. Most families you know had the one car, I mean it was kind of, I can't remember when we got our second car, it was I guess, I think it was in the 40's when we got our second car, most families just had one.
Lalie: What are some of your memories of World War II? E.V.C.: Well I can remember the rationing. Sugar was rationed, shoes were rationed, we got 2 pair a year, which wasn't too bad for the grown people but if you had growing feet, you know, it got bad. And whiskey was rationed, and oh gas, I guess that was the big thing, you know, it didn't bother me too much, because I wasn't driving. It was really though, if you wanted to go somewhere and you had to save up your gas tickets or borrow some from somebody else or get em someway or another. It was hard to have enough to get where you're going.
Lalie: Do you remember any changes in Mobile during this time?
E.V.C.: Brookley Field, you know, was built in Mobile at that time and that was a big thing , you know, because of the big installation it was, they hired alot of people, and they had alot of military personnel.
Lalie: Did more people move to Mobile during this time? E.V.C.: Oh yeah, alot of people. When the shipbuilding industry built up and like I said Brookley hired alot of civilian help, besides the military personnel. We had a big [...]
Lalie: Did you know any of these newcomers?
E.V.C.: Yeah, we knew the General at Brookley, General Molass(?) and his daughter was in my class at school. I guess my parents knew some others, I can't think of any offhand.
Lalie: Were there any newcomers moving into your neighborhood?
E.V.C.: Yes,uh, this is during the War that we're talking about? Housing was kind of hard to get during the war, you know [...] One of our good friends, Carter Smith, I think she's the one that told y'all to contact my mother and probably me too, she has alot to do with the Historical Society and historical thing in Mobile, but they had been living in St. Lewis and they moved back to Mobile at that time and they weren't able to find a house, you know, that they wanted, on this street or anywhere near, they finally bought one over in Springhill, not Springhill Manor but Country Club Village. Springhill Manor and Country Club Village were two of the housing projects that were built during the war and they were supposed to be temporary housing but they're still standing. People have remodeled and added on to them. So they moved in there, I remember that. Oh, we really didn't have too many newcomers on this street, because everybody that lived here had, you know, lived here for a long time, there were not too many people moving and like I said not many houses were available during that time.
Lalie: How did people feel towards these newcomers?
E.V.C.: Um, I don't remember any ill feelings towards the newcomers. Maybe some in the older generation might have had some but me, I've always been glad to meet new people, it was fine with me, I liked it.
Lalie: Did you have alot of new students enrolling in your school?
E.V.C.: I guess we did. I don't remember any crowded situation in the school. I'm sure we had more because there were more people moving in but I don't remember any great crowding.
Lalie: Were the mother and fathers of any of your friends in the military or working out in Brookley Field?
E.V.C.: I would say no. We had met, like I said, the Molasses(?) but they weren't really close to us.
Lalie: Do you recall seeing alot of servicemen or military personnel?
E.V.C.: Some, not much.
Lalie: Do you remember people in Mobile volunteering for war work?
E.V.C.: Oh yeah, I remember we knitted sweaters for the Red Cross at the Mary B. Austen School. We knitted little bitty sweaters, size 4, and size 2 I can remember doing a couple of those, and they were sent to, you know, people overseas that needed supplies. And we knit squares, we knit afghans I think, to send to people in the cold who needed some cover, we knit squares and sweaters. Alot of people did volunteer for the Red Cross and all kinds of things like that.
Lalie: What about women employment? Did they work anywhere?
E.V.C.: Well I'm sure they did, you know, hearing about Rosie the Riveter and everything, but I was too young to really pay that much attention to it and of course my mother didn't work and you know the people that I knew very well did, but you know I'm sure there was alot of that.
Lalie: Do you remember any of the ways in which the war affected everyday life in Mobile?
E.V.C.: Well, of course the rationing, you know, was a big thing and of course I remember each day being so interesting in the news. Well, alot of our friends had sons that were killed, things like that, and of course you were always on edge wondering who was going to be next. My family didn't have anybody that was really in the service directly connected with them so we didn't, we don't have anybody that close to us but we had alot of friends who had loss.
Lalie: Do you remember the blackouts and the air raid drills?
E.V.C.: Yeah, I remember those vaguely. I don't remember how many we had but I do remember them.
Lalie: What were some changes in the appearance of Mobile?
E.V.C.: Well, I can remember, Springhill was just really in the sticks and when we moved here, this street wasn't paved out here and my mother had you know landscaped her property over here and livestock kept coming in the yard and tearing up and stepping in this new [...] and tore it up so she built a cattle gap, built this fence out here. Y'all know what a cattle gap is? It's iron bars, like see where the driveway is up there, where the opening is in the fence, you put these iron bars and you cement them into the ground and they're about this far and they're about this wide, and the cattle can't go across em because if they step, you know, they would go down in it, and so that was to keep the livestock out. In fact there's a cattle gap right here, between [...] that's what that was too, although that's a draining system now but originally I think it was, we've always called it a cattle gap. So it was quite different out here than it is now. This really went way out in the woods.
Lalie: Did Mobile look different or seem different after the war?
E.V.C.: Well of course it built up, so I'd say we were in the sticks before the war and then, I can remember when Airport Boulevard was called Grant Street and it was just a two way street. There was hardly anything on it between the Loop and out here. At that time, when I first started driving, which was probably about 1946, I guess, my mother always said, "Don't go to Grant Street, it's too lonely." Can you imagine Airport Boulevard being lonely? But it was, there was nothing on there. So we'd always come Old Shell Road, and of course Dauphin Street wasn't there. Old Shell Road was more populated so we felt safer driving out on town, can you believe that?
Lalie: What things seemed to stay the same?
E.V.C.: Oh dear. Some of the buildings downtown, you know, like the Merchant's Bank, that's been there forever. Well you know, the whole plan of the city stayed the same, just built up, some of the old homes, Government Street, in a way, it's the same, in a way, it isn't, it's been so commercialized but still alot of the old homes are still there and the beautiful old trees. Everything else pretty much stayed the same except for the shopping centers and traffic is so much worse and of course South Alabama being built out here, you know, changed it a whole lot. That's all I can think of on that.
Lalie: Did Mobile remain dry after prohibition?
E.V.C.: Um...hmmm, do you mean during prohibition or after it was repealed?
Lalie: During prohibition.
E.V.C.: During prohibition. Well, everybody was kind of, getting it from somewhere. I don't want to incriminate everybody but there was plenty of it around, of course I was too young. I can't remember when prohibition was repealed, but I think it was, I can remember my daddy having kegs in the attic, and that was after we moved down here and that was 1936. I don't remember exactly when it was repealed but it was going around.
Lalie: What were the differences between Mardi Gras now and then?
E.V.C.: Well, of course, they used to have the coronation on the wall on the waterfront, I never did see that, that was before my time, my mother talked to me about that all the time. So that was quite different. And it was just on a much smaller scale than it is now. Basically, you know, everything was still, we'd still have the same coronation.
Lalie: What did you do for Mardi Gras?
E.V.C.: What did I do for Mardi Gras when I was young? Well, we used to go downtown and I remember one of the best times I had was when I went down with just 2 or 3 friends and I had just [...] and my momma let me go by myself. We didn't do a thing, we'd just walk around town and have lunch at Morrison's and you know it was just so much fun being on my own.
Lalie: Did you and your friends ever discuss the war?
E.V.C.: Well, I guess we did, you know, I just don't remember that too well, and like I say, I'm sure we, most every family had somebody that was in the service that was connected [...] get by without being affected by it. I don't remember. I remember when, the day that Roosevelt died and that made a big impression. I remember coming home on the bus that day and finding out. I can't remember exactly which year he died but I was at Murphy then so I guess it was probably early 40's, 43 or 44.
Lalie: How was your family affected by the war?
E.V.C.: Well, not a whole lot, as I said, because we didn't have anybody in the service, but of course we were affected by the rationing and things like that but, you know, it didn't affect my father's business, you know, he was a lawyer. It affected us in some ways because of the transportation, because of the gas rationing, because we did live out here in the sticks and we weren't able to just drive into Mobile anytime we wanted to like y'all can do now, like we all do.
Lalie: Are there any other things from the war you might want to add?
E.V.C.: I can't think of anything.
Lalie: You've been very kind to let us interview you today. We'd like to thank you.
E.V.C.: Well, thank you, I've enjoyed it.
Lalie: This interview will add to our record of this time. Thank you very much.
E.V.C.: Okay.

Original Format

Cassette tape

Duration

27 min. 4 sec.

Files

Citation

Mobile Public Library, “Elizabeth Vickers Courtney Interview - 1 July 1983,” Mobile Public Library Digital Collections, accessed October 18, 2019, http://digital.mobilepubliclibrary.org/items/show/2150.

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