Conducted by Logan Wilson
April 4, 2012
Mr. Wilson: This is Logan Wilson, it is April 4th, 2012. I am in the home of Mrs. Mary Shelby in Mexia, Texas. The next voice you hear, will be that of Mrs. Shelby.
Mrs. Shelby: Alright, my name is Mary Shelby and I was born in Groesbeck, Texas to Lester and Ada Sanders Raglin on September 16, 1921. My grandmother was Anne Raglin, she was a mid wife, and she delivered me at 730 N. Grayson Street in Groesbeck. Now that sounds like a big town, but in those days it was called Groesbeck, North Grayson ??? Street, but now it’s on a route. And I want you to know that I’m the oldest of 6 children. There were 2 girls and 4 boys. Only 2 siblings live now; my baby brother, who is now in Mexia, lives now, and we are the only 2 that are left. And his birthday is coming up and he will be 81, I am 10 years older. I graduated from Blackshear High School, May of 1938. There were 6 of us; 3 girls and 3 boys. Nelson Washington was the principal then. My classmates were Edward Washington, Willie James Hart, J.D Jones, Willie Graham, and Virginia Ross and Mary Marsha Raglin. I attended St. Phillips Junior College in San Antonio, Texas in the fall of 1938. I finished 2 years in 1941 with a 6 year certificate to teach school. And because of members of my family, most of them were employed in the Blackshear school that I graduated from, and there were a lot of families, sisters and brothers, and husbands and all teaching there. So my dad thought it was best for me to try someplace else. I never tried at home because of that. It got to be so many people in the county, my first school was Sims Colony. It was a 6 month school and Dr. E.E Sims was the superintendent. And I’ve always been interested in music, so, I had relatives here and I knew a lot of people who were interested in ? but I had been very sheltered about going places but I had to be involved in something in order to go. I don’t have any years, they didn’t give me any for the 6 years that I was at Sims Colony, because a cousin of mine called me and said that they needed someone who could play. And I have had music and I just loved that and they needed somebody here in Mexia that was a subject at the elementary school. And I taught there at Douglas until integration had moved to ????and most of us moved someplace because they had a place for us to go. I went to Ross in 1976 and let’s see, I sure am glad that I didn’t have to finish those 6 years, those 6 months at Sims Colony because they were going to insist that I stay out there in that country. And I did not like that. But I do remember I still have the first student that I taught, I remember 2 of their names. I know Charlie Baker is one and I think it’s Estecurl Mims. Now, Charlie Baker still lives. I went back to school in the summer time and I got my bachelors degree from Sam Houston in Austin, Texas. That’s where I wanted to go first, and I would go to school every summer because we had to keep up integration. Everybody had his ideas about how it was going to be and what it was going to do. While doing my work there at Douglas, I can remember that I coached girls basketball over at the Dunbar at the high school there. I spent little time there, it was Dunbar ?? For Girls. And would you believe, I coached girls basketball, but we didn’t have a gym here in Mexia for blacks, but they did at Woodland. I had the nerve, I wouldn’t do it now if you noticed, but back then cause I couldn’t, I had the nerve to drive those children, those girls, to Woodland to practice for our basketball. And in a bus that I had to punch- pump the brakes. And we just had fun and enjoyed it and it ruined all of my Christmas holidays because we were in a tournament at Woodland. And we finally went to use the gym at Groesbeck because we didn’t have one here at Mexia.
Mr. Wilson: I might ask Mrs. Shelby, which Woodlands is that?
Mrs. Shelby: The one out here, it’s there in the Woodland Community out here where you turn off of highway 84.
Mr. Wilson: Oh okay.
Mrs. Shelby: You know that turn?
Mr. Wilson: Yeah, okay.
Mrs. Shelby: That was Woodland school zone there.
Mr. Wilson: Okay!
Mrs. Shelby: And at Blackshear High, the school I graduated from, was on Grayson Street. You know our house, we were not allowed to go to school before the teachers passed by that house, and then we could go. That way our parents knew we were out of trouble, and at least the teachers were there. But that’s the way it was. But I have in 19 years because, I’m repeating myself I think, because I went over to Ross in 1976. I taught second grade and R.Q Sims was our principal then. And we worked in the summers and we just did everything school-wise and we had different programs then and I was given the money then and I worked in the summers after I had gotten my masters degree. I got my masters degree in Houston and I didn’t like Prairie View but I went to Prairie View but that’s because my sister was there and I was helping her do her graduation. But I really did all of my masters work at Texas Southern in Houston, and that’s where I graduated from with a masters degree. But I’d go to school every time we had little black books, and you’re supposed to find out that everybody didn’t like the idea, but you know, if you ever grow up in a community where you don’t know about each other it makes it a little bit hard. But I am so proud and I haven’t ever stopped doing the things that was good for me and helping somebody else, especially my brother’s children, and the children in the community and the children in my church. I belonged to Dennis Chapel United Methodist Church all my life, it hasn’t always been united. But I had taken music and I played for my church, I played for my church and when my teacher taught me how to play “Jesus Loves Me This I Know”, it just thrilled me to death. I didn’t know then that people even got paid for playing for church. And I didn’t know about it, so after I got older, I was a teenager and I still played a couple of times a year, and I said that I found out that pianist got paid. So I just told my mother, I said “you know what, they’re getting paid for playing the piano.” Momma said, “Oh is that right?” she said, “well the people that singing not getting paid, so why should you?” Now that didn’t bother me anymore, that was alright and I played forever for my church, until about 2 or 3 years ago. Without ?????????? I told myself. ??? And I want you to know it is hard for me because I am used to doing things like that you know? You cant hardly get away from the way you have lived. So, I will cut this short to let you know that the things I am engaged in now, and I feel very superior. I retired in ‘85 and since ‘85, I don’t think I had gotten a raise at all. I think social security might did something. I didn’t take out social security cause we were not making enough money. And I didn’t take out any, decided not to take out. My first check here was 50 dollars. And when I was at Sims Colony it was $37.50. And we went to Shiloh to get our checks before going to school. That’s when E.E Sims was our superintendent. I have just been so fortunate and I haven’t stopped, that’s another thing. I had surgery on my foot in ‘05 but age has caught up with me and children used to could sneeze in my face and they could do anything in my face, I was a healthy person really. But now that I’ve gotten aged, everything that comes along I catch it. The only thing I’ve done is just really slowed up, but I am able to keep in mind the things that I can do. I don’t do-the only driving that I do when I go back to Dr. Rettig at Groesbeck. If there’s anything that I think somebody else needs to go, my brother is here and he gladly does it for me. And I don’t go at night. To tell you the truth, I’ve done so much with the United Methodist Union I’ve just been everywhere that I’ve had all kinds of experience and travel because of my church. And I don’t like to ride with anybody else now. You know how it is, one driver just doesn’t suit me, I can do it myself. So I carry myself to the state school which has another name now, for water aerobics on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And on most Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I go to Curves, and I’ve been there this morning. Okay, I’ve engaged in habitats, which is right now, I’ve been through lots of emails and that means I’m engaged with people. When I started teaching school, after integration-after we integrated, I had all kinds of people in mind, and some could accept me and some could not. So the first one I could remember, that’s when I had a half day, but the parent brought the child to register in school and when she saw my color she didn’t even want that, she didn‘t say. And so I had an absentee a half day because I had to keep emailing people and I’m not gonna lie about anything anymore because I don’t think it helps at all, and I’ve always felt that way. But she loves me to death now, she does. I’ve worked with ???? and I’ve worked with Sarah Sims as a story teller. And the Red Hatters, I was on the library board from 1991-2005. I still belong to the Friends of the Library and Retired Teachers, I’ve been president of it 2 different times. And I have all that, and I’m still president of the AARP ???, ????. I am on the board of the Housing Committee now, and work with the Chamber of Commerce Reading program. That’s just something that we ??? And I was there yesterday, I go on Tuesday I go once a week to read to the kindergarten. I thought I knew everything about a child, but they are really teaching me. First place, I’m not doing that to teach that‘s what teachers for, I’m doing it to read stories and explain them to the best. And that’s what we do in the ?? Civil Society. That’s the group we work with at Parkview Hospital and I help the United Methodist women but I belong to St. Luke’s now. The hardest thing I had to do was leave Groesbeck United Methodist Church, but I had to leave because of the convenience, St. Luke’s is just right around the corner. Give me a half day and I can walk it. But I can drive myself where I need to go and I am very careful about what time I’m going to things like Wal-Mart. If I go to Wal-Mart, that’s about all I am going to do that day. And I’ve learned how to live with myself so I that I can keep these things and keep going. And I am just so proud that I’m doing it and can do it.
Mr. Wilson: Mrs. Shelby, you have got to be the busiest retired person that I ever knew.
Mrs. Shelby: That’s right. I stay busy because that’s what keeps me going. I tell you what I’ve done today, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I really have. ?????????? I’ve learned to live with it and I’ve learned not to put my tongue in an evil matter, I mean I know how to say no. Because I am handicapped, and I want to be able???? so I can say my prayers and tell God I’ve got things to do God. Now that’s just about the size of it but I am still doing things that I enjoy doing.
Mr. Wilson: Well kiddo, this has really been great. I ask at the conclusion, the same question to everybody, and using different words, so far, I’ve got pretty much the same answer. So I will ask you the question, and I’m anxious to hear what you have to say. Mrs. Shelby, if you, from your experience, if you could give the children of today one bit of advice, what would it be?
Mrs. Shelby: It would be exactly what I would like our children to do. First of all, get an education cause times are getting hard and times have changed so. Children are going to have to have something, they’re going to have to show what they have, they’re going to have to have proof. Word of mouth is not doing it. It’s too easy done and we have too many people who sit around and watch and what they’re getting by with. They’re going to have to have-you can’t go where you don’t know. And you’ve got to have confidence in yourself. So get it-get that education. And then try to help somebody else, some child, let them see it. I had more fun yesterday and I was teaching later on ????? I had a friend and he comes and reads too. I think you should have seen it I have my cart in the car that I carry everywhere. It’s a roller seat ya know, and I can sit and read to the children, be on the floor, and we just have a ball. I think about Here Comes Peter Cottontail hopping down the bunny trail, and hippity-hoppity Easter’s on its way. And I thought Easter will be over when I get back so I decided I went to the library and I found-she found something for me it had pictures, but it was not the one used for being a story teller. I made it, they let me look at the end of the ??? And they were so elated and I said now I want you to get up and this lady, I was working with her for about three years, and she doesn’t teach like I teach but I didn’t go there to teach. You have to know all that, you got to find out who you’re teaching to and why. And this day there was a special kid and here this cripple one was sitting there-(singing) “here comes Peter Cottontail hopping” and I said “I want you to hop when I say hop”. I told ??ever see an old woman hopping sitting down. But even though they don’t know how to use them very much you got to find a way now to get in their head?????. They always want to say he’s bad, a child is what he’s accustomed to doing and people they don’t eat together anymore because something’s going on, they don’t do this and they don’t do things like they used to do. But we got to hang in there with them so we just know how to ??? And we might just be able to do some contact to get something done.
Mr. Wilson: That’s remarkable-that’s marvelous.
Mrs. Shelby: Thank you and I love doing it. That’s just one of my gifts.
Mr. Wilson: You shared that gift.
Mrs. Shelby: I have shared it and I have learned to listened to them, even the young ones. People are not so bad that we can’t get over to them but you’re going to have to see for yourself.
Mr. Wilson: Absolutely.
Mrs. Shelby: Everybody’s watching you-sometimes your eyes can deceive you. But I say well I don’t know anything too much about what’s going to happen and what it is but I will write down some things that I know is of history and I got enough junk here that belongs to nobody but me-itches and all. (laughs)
Mr. Wilson: I want to tell you how much I appreciate this.
Mrs. Shelby: Thank you thank you ????
Mr. Wilson: You did a fine job and I want to tell you how much I appreciate it.
Mrs. Shelby: Thank you and I thank you for doing this.