Bernice Dixon Oral History Interview, March 11, 2015

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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00:00:00

TRACI DRUMMOND: This is Traci Drummond, Archivist for the Southern Labor Archives at Georgia State University. I am here today with Miss Bernice Dixon, who is going to be interviewed for the Grady School of Nursing Oral History Project. Also joining us is Judy Clary, who's, who's here to help me ask the right questions and all the good questions. We are at Miss Dixon's house in Lilburn, and today is March 11, 2015. Miss Dixon, thank you so much for letting me come into your ou -- house and ask you lots and lots of questions for this project. Let's get started with where and when were you born?

BERNICE DIXON: I was born in Gwinnett County, [Harbin's?] district, March 6, 1922.

DRUMMOND: Nineteen twenty-two.

DIXON: Six a.m. in the morning. (laughter)

00:01:00

DRUMMOND: Really. And I -- and you just recently celebrated a birthday?

DIXON: That's right.

DRUMMOND: Congratulations.

DIXON: And the doctor came to the house to deliver me.

DRUMMOND: Oh, he did? Okay.

DIXON: And my mother had nothing but aspirin to ease her pain. (laughter)

DRUMMOND: Mm hmm. And was your family a big family? Were you --

DIXON: My grandfather had a lot of property, and he gave -- he had five children, and he gave each of his children a farm. And my dad had a farm. Uh, I am the fourth child of five. I was supposed to be the last. My sister came along eleven years later.

DRUMMOND: Oh, wow. Surprise! (laughter)

00:02:00

DIXON: But my dad owned the farm and he decided to buy a few more acres to make it a bigger farm, and the Depression came along and he lost everything.

DRUMMOND: Well, what was it farming just to sustain the family, or was he -- was it a working farm where he was selling the -- the products.

DIXON: My mother said he lost twenty-seven bales of cotton in one year, and so the bank just foreclosed because he couldn't make the payments on this that he had added. And I was a baby and they took everything Daddy had. They took the farm, they took the mules, they took the tools, everything that he farmed with. So growing up, we moved from one place to another and to begin with, we had to farm on halves, which meant that half of everything Daddy made went to the owner 00:03:00of the house. Eventually he was able to get two mules and then it was third and fourths, you'd give a third or a fourth of everything you made to the owner of the house. I lived in ten different places, all in Georgia, before I finished high school. I started high school -- I mean I started grammar school in Lawrenceville. And uh, walked to school. I -- as a matter of fact, we were living there when they paved Highway 29 through Lawrenceville. I graduated from [Grayson?] High School. I went to school in Newborn, Georgia. I went to school in Covington. I went to school in Rocky Branch. Rocky Branch was something else. 00:04:00My brother and I walked at -- about a mile through the mud to a two-room schoolhouse. And uh --

DRUMMOND: How old were you at that time?

DIXON: How old was I? I was in the, uh -- I guess I was probably twelve or thirteen. And I graduated from high school. We finally moved to a place next door to an Indian. Uncle Willis. Uncle Willis Leatherwood. He meant so much to me because he took time with this teenage girl, he taught me so many things. So 00:05:00many things. We grew our own syrup cane. He had a syrup mill. It was interesting to go out there and watch him, the mule walking round and round and grinding the cane and the juice running down and the syrup, he made it just right. I had to work on the farm. I had to plow. I had to take care of the mules at the house and in the barn. I had to learn to milk a cow, I had to do all the things on the farm that most people (laughs) didn't have to do. But we had to because we, we raised everything that we ate except -- and drank except coffee. And Daddy bought coffee on the credit at the store till the crop came in, and then he'd pay for it.

00:06:00

DRUMMOND: And so, did all the kids have their own chores that they did every day?

DIXON: My brother and I exchanged times about going to school when -- it was planting time. I stayed home one day and worked out in the field, and he would stay home the next day. All the children -- my oldest sister was the one that liked to stay at the house and learn to cook and keep the house. My second sister was very healthy until she was ten years old and then she took rheumatoid arthritis and she was an invalid from then on, the rest of her life. She died in 1962. But my brother and I, we were the ones that worked on the farm and helped 00:07:00Mother and Daddy raise the crop. We moved to this house, as I said, by Uncle Willis, and they started a school bus going to Grayson. It came by the house and that's how I managed to get to Grayson High School. And I spent my tenth and eleventh grades -- back then you only had eleven grades -- and I spent my tenth and eleventh grades at Grayson High School and graduated in 1939.

DRUMMOND: So it sounds like even though there was a lot to do at home, your parents still really valued education and wanted you and your brother to get an education. Would you say that's true?

DIXON: Would you say that again?

DRUMMOND: That even though there was a lot of work to do at the farm, your 00:08:00parents really valued education and really wanted you to have an education?

DIXON: They insisted that all of us finish high school. My mother and daddy did not. They, I think they finished about the eighth grade. Uh. And they taught us that the world did not owe us anything, that we needed to set the goals that we wanted to achieve and then we needed to work to achieve them. And that has stuck with me all my life.

DRUMMOND: Well --

DIXON: We went to church when we could, of course at the church they only had 00:09:00services like every other Sunday. And we would go and if there was a revival meeting somewhere around we'd go, we'd have to go in the wagon because we didn't have a car until, oh my goodness, I cant remember when. But uh, we walked or else sometimes we rode a mule, I rode a mule bareback (laughs). I did a lot of things out on the farm. Daddy killed hogs, I'd crawl under the bed because I, it'd break my heart to hear those hogs squealing (laughter). Isn't that awful? But I had to help with the, uh, cleaning everything. And then we -- well -- I don't need to go into that. But actually--

DRUMMOND: Well, no, actually, I mean, if you want to talk more about that, I 00:10:00think that's very interesting.

DIXON: Actually, when I was about four years old, Mother had to get out in the field and work with Daddy, and she let me go to school. I took a Sears Roebuck catalog (laughs), sat there, the teacher said I was the best student she had (laughter). No, it was a -- we raised our own hogs. Got pigs, we raised them to hogs, and Daddy killed them every year. And he either hit it in the head with an ax or else he'd shoot it in the -- oh my, I can hear it now squealing, you know, crying? I cried too. But we had to do that to eat. I helped Daddy and Mother hill potatoes. Folks probably don't know what hilling potatoes is now, but the 00:11:00sweet potatoes, we would place -- collect them and then we'd place them and we'd place straw over them and then another layer of potatoes and straw and then dirt over them, "hill" them, make a hill out of it, and that -- we had potatoes then to eat, because it kept the potatoes, they didn't rot or anything. And uh, with apples -- we lived at a place once where they had an apple orchard. And we would collect the apples and Mother had a quilt box, box that she kept her quilts in, and we would collect apples and lay them out in that quilt box between the quilts and then we'd have apples to eat all year because they'd preserve them. We did a lot of things on the farm. We raised our own peanuts. And that -- what 00:12:00we did when it was raining, they would be under the wagon shelter, we'd pick -- pull them up and put them on the wagon shelter. And we'd sit out there and pick off peanuts. And then when the sun would come out we'd put them out to dry. So we had peanuts to eat all year, so. We just raised everything we ate.

DRUMMOND: You were taught to be very resourceful.

DIXON: Yeah.Absolutely. And then when my sister was born, we were having a really really difficult time, and uh, I would go down to the creek and pull [creasy?] salad. Mother was not able to do all the work that she had to do, which she did.

00:13:00

DRUMMOND: Did she -- was she sick?

DIXON: Hmm?

DRUMMOND: Was your mother sick?

DIXON: She nearly lost the baby because she developed -- uh, she developed pellagra then. We didn't know what it was at the time. And uh, I claimed that -- my sister's my child (laughs). I feel like I raised her. As a matter of fact, I helped her get through college before I ever got a college degree.

DRUMMOND: Really.

DIXON: Uh huh. Yeah. But she's a -- she and I are the only two living now. My brother and I, we did everything together. I had a banjo and he had a guitar 00:14:00(laughs). We sang all the western songs, I tell you, we were something else.

DRUMMOND: Do you remember any of your favorite songs?

DIXON: Right now I'm blanking on them, but. And we would uh, well we just did a lot of things together. He was a wonderful, wonderful brother.

DRUMMOND: What was his name?

DIXON: Hmm?

DRUMMOND: What was his name?

DIXON: John Alton.

DRUMMOND: John Alton. And your younger sister?

DIXON: My oldest sister was Allene, Frances Allene. The next one was Mary Monteen.

DRUMMOND: Monteen?

DIXON: M-O-N-T-double E-N. Monteen.

DRUMMOND: Oh I've never heard that name, that's beautiful.

DIXON: And my brother was John Alton. My daddy's name was James Russell. And my 00:15:00-- his daddy's name was James Alton, so. I -- and Mother's daddy's name was John Hall, so. My brother was named for both the grandfathers. And my uh, sister is named Jimmie. Jimmie Opal. She was supposed to be a boy. I was supposed to be a boy too (laughter), but it didn't work out that way. And she came along eleven years, three months, and eleven days after I was born (laughter). And I was an ignorant little girl at that time.

DRUMMOND: What do you mean by that?

DIXON: On the facts of life.

DRUMMOND: Well. As you should be at eleven, I think.

JUDY CLARY: I was ignorant at sixteen, not even eleven.

00:16:00

DIXON: But anyway, it was interesting. I never -- we had dogs, we had cats, but they always stayed outside. One time Mother gave me three baby chicks, chickens. I was going in the house one day, and I acc -- acc - - accidentally closed the door and killed one of them (laughter). I stepped back and killed the other two. So I never had another -- I never had another pet. (laughter) I cried and I cried. Oh my. Folks aren't interested in all that.

DRUMMOND: No --

CLARY: It's great.

DRUMMOND: Yeah, it is -- um, I imagine that your mother expected at some point those chickens would be dinner. Those little baby chicks would become a dinner.

DIXON: As a matter of fact though, I never cooked a meal until after I got married. And I didn't get married till I was thirty years old.

DRUMMOND: Okay, okay.

00:17:00

DIXON: I really didn't.

CLARY: Someone else was doing the cooking.

DIXON: My sister did all that. And the first meal I -- breakfast I cooked I burned the toast (laughter). And my husband said, "Ooh, I just love burned toast." But he cooked breakfast from then on (laughter).

DRUMMOND: Umm. Well let me go back to your, to Uncle Willis Leatherwood. Can you talk a little bit more about --

DIXON: Oh, yes.

DRUMMOND: About him. I think it must have been very interesting (dogs barking) for you to have um, that sort of influence.

DIXON: Oh he was wonderful. He took us possum hunting.

DRUMMOND: Did you eat possum?

DIXON: Oh, yeah. Oh goodness (laughter). After he, uh -- after we'd go out and the dogs'd chase the possum, you'd look up in the tree and there's an old possum 00:18:00up there with his eyes just shining. And he'd catch the possum and he'd take it home and we called his wife Miss Alma. And she would cook possum and taters. Of course we ate them. It was not my favorite food (laughter). But I ate it. He spent time with me, he, uh -- I spent time with him, all that I could. And when we cut our syrup cane and took it out to his syrup mill, I was out there watching him, oh my goodness I -- I -- every minute I could find I tried to be somewhere close to him. Because he was just wonderful. Of course I had a wonderful daddy too. We went out into the woods every Christmas and cut our Christmas tree, and ah -- came home and just decorated it. And in high school when I was at Grayson I was on the NYA: National Youth Administration. I think I 00:19:00made five dollars a month, and I went in early and I built the fire in the stove in the classroom so we'd have heat. And I washed the board and dusted the erasers. I did all the things that kept the classroom clean, and uh. Then I, that five dollars, I bought everybody a Christmas present and bought decorations for the Christmas tree for the first time. (laughter) It was -- oh my.

DRUMMOND: Do you remember the decorations? Were they, were they just traditional balls, or little dolls, or --

DIXON: Well, what we had been doing is, is uh, taking crepe paper and making 00:20:00little chains to go around the tree. And no, we didn't -- there were not balls or dolls or anything. Right now I cant remember what they were. But back then you didn't have very -- you didn't have Christmas decorations like we have today (laughs).

DRUMMOND: Right.

DIXON: But um, but we always had a live tree, up until I guess we didn't have a tree. My daddy died on Christmas morning in 1946. And I -- I guess I -- no, 1945, excuse me. He died four months after I wrote the state board. He had cancer, and he was so sick we didn't have a Christmas tree that year.

00:21:00

DRUMMOND: That's understandable. Um. So tell me about -- a little more about your school experiences. What did you en-- what kinds of thing-- because I would imagine some of these schools were pretty small schools. You mentioned one only had two rooms in it.

DIXON: Well when we were at Newborn, Mother and Daddy moved back up to a house between Porterbelt -- Porterdale and Covington. And my sister -- he -- Daddy took her in a wagon to go to school until they moved, and they left us down there in an apartment, my sister and my brother and me. And my brother would go home every weekend and bring food back for us to have to eat. And the principal would come by and take my sister, pick her up and take her to school. And she graduated from high school. She started a business course, but she was not -- 00:22:00she finished it but she was never able to work. And she was, in 1942 she was placed in the hospital and they straightened her leg, they did it gradually by putting casts on. And she was never -- well she -- could walk a little bit with help. And uh, after that. And she had every kind of treatment that they knew then. And I sat with her one time. And I was about four years old, that's when she first got so sick. She couldn't even stand the covers. Mother and Daddy would be out in the field and I'd stay there and take care of her. The schools I attended, ah --

00:23:00

DRUMMOND: Let's -- let's go back -- that's a big responsibility for such a young girl.

DIXON: I know. I know. But she was the greatest inspiration I ever had.

DRUMMOND: Really?

DIXON: And she uh, she never complained. And she was always there for me. And she's smartest one in the family. And the prettiest. She was a beautiful woman -- girl. And uh, she did a lot for my children too. Because they came along and Mother had to take care of her, and she took care of my children so I could work. And I worked so I could take care of them and my family too, so. It was -- I don't know what I would have done without her. And uh. But my sister was always there for me. She was extremely intelligent. And she -- she knew me 00:24:00better than I guess anybody in this world. When I was learning to drive she'd sit there in the car with me, and I'd (laughs), I did some crazy things learning to drive (phone ringing). But -- Seattle Washington. But anyway, she was an inspiration. She really was. So. My life was crazy.

DRUMMOND: It sounds like you had a great life.

DIXON: It was. It was great.

DRUMMOND: So back to the schools. What were the kind of subjects you were taking, andwhat did you enjoy learning in school?

00:25:00

DIXON: I -- I guess I enjoyed it all. I can't -- I cant remember a course I took that I didn't really enjoy. And I was always, I was very popular to help folks. I was not a very popular young woman, but I, I -- except when they needed some help with their math or their chemistry or whatever we were taking.

DRUMMOND: Well when you say "popular," what do you mean, exactly?

DIXON: Well most young girls go out on dates all the time, you know, and they've got everybody -- of course right now, I mean after fifty years I got all my class back together, all that were living, and they just thought I was the most wonderful thi-- person in the world. Maybe they thought more of me than I knew, but I thought --

DRUMMOND: Do you think maybe you intimidated them?

00:26:00

DIXON: Hmm. I prob-- I don't know. I don't know.

DRUMMOND: You almost said it. You probably did.

DIXON: I don't know. Never intended to. I really didn't have a lot of time either. I do remember one night (laughs) when I decided I wanted to have a party and Mother said "Okay, go down and pick me two gallons of blackberries, then you go invite people." So I went down the pasture and literally picked her two gallons of blackberries. And then I got on my mule. We had two mules, [Rhody?] and Ida. And Ida was mine. She was a big black mule. Bareback, and I took Rhody down and got a friend, she went with me and we went around and invited people to 00:27:00come. And they were already arriving when I got back home (laughter). Of course we did not have indoor plumbing. I never had indoor plumbing until 1942, when we moved to Atlanta. And uh. We didn't -- I was sitting in there by the -- we did in the summertime, we'd sit a tub of water out, get it warm, and take a bath in that. And I was trying to wash the mule smell off of me (laughter) before everybody got there.

CLARY: Before the party?

DIXON: When they all got there. Oh my. But that's enough about all --

DRUMMOND: Aww. No, I like -- I liked that story.

DIXON: I -- someday you ought to read my history.

DRUMMOND: I look forward to it. So, um, you've already said that your parents 00:28:00valued education and wanted everybody to go to school. So as you were getting closer to graduation, were you encouraged?

DIXON: Oh yes. Oh, yes. And -- I was valedictorian of the class, and Kenneth Nix, he and I are the only two still living in our class. He was the salutatorian. And our subjects were Out of School Life, Into Life's School. And I did Into Life's School. Knew every word of it, I had one of the best instructors, Miss Robertson. And I knew it perfectly.

DRUMMOND: And what is that exactly?

DIXON: What?

CLARY: Your speech?

DIXON: That's the speech I gave --

DRUMMOND: Oh, it's your speech --

DIXON: At graduation.

DRUMMOND: Oh, I see, okay. I understand, okay.

DIXON: And I got up there and I -- we had a robe, you know. I looked out and I 00:29:00saw people. People! Pulled [the robe up?] and I stood there and I looked, and my sister Monteen was sitting down there, trying to prompt me. I couldn't even see her. I just stood there for, I don't know how long, and then all of a sudden I started, didn't miss a word. My whole speech, Into Life's School. I could've -- I wanted to go through the floor, I felt so bad about doing that (laughter). But seeing all those people out there just, all of a sudden just got to me.

DRUMMOND: You weren't prepared.

DIXON: I knew the speech.

DRUMMOND: You were prepared for the speech, but not the --

DIXON: I had not spoken in public like that before.

CLARY: Just a little stage fright, huh.

00:30:00

DIXON: It was something. So I got through high school. And I worked. And I got all my bills -- by the way, when I had my appendectomy, I came down with measles. The doctor did too. (laughter)

DRUMMOND: Really?

DIXON: We couldn't figure who gave it to whom.

DRUMMOND: Well, um. You said though, that you -- right out of high school, you had applied for --

DIXON: To Grady.

DRUMMOND: To Grady -- to the Grady School of Nursing. So what was the influence that made you want to be a nurse?

DIXON: The -- I always, I always wanted to be a nurse, and I even helped everybody in school if they had a scratch or something they'd come to me and I'd help them with it. And this nurse, Alice, I think her name was Mauldin, she came to the school and gave us our immunizations. I looked at her, she had on this white uniform, this cap, and I said, "I have to be a nurse. I have to be a 00:31:00nurse." And that's all I ever wanted. All I ever wanted.

DRUMMOND: Well, and how did you hear about Grady? Do you remember how you -- while you were still in high school, how you heard about -- ?

DIXON: Well, um. I'm not sure. Oh, she -- she was a Grady graduate. She was a Grady graduate, excuse me, yes she was. And that's why that cap just -- it just got to me. She was the finest lady, oh my goodness. Just wonderful.

DRUMMOND: And but of course the story goes that you applied and were accepted, but --

DIXON: I had to work.

DRUMMOND: You ran into some -- some trouble.

00:32:00

DIXON: And what -- (coughs). This is kind of a funny incident. I had my tonsils out. I went up to Hoschton and uh, well, at that time we moved to Atlanta in 1942. The reason being my brother and sister and I had bought a farm out here in the Tucker area, and --

DRUMMOND: How old were you when you bought that farm?

DIXON: I was working at the ten-cent -- I was manager of the ten-cent store before I went into nursing. I was in my teens.

DRUMMOND: Okay.

DIXON: And uh, after we paid down on it we discovered the man didn't have a clear title. So we had to leave that and we bought, my brother and sister and I bought this house in Atlanta. It was in DeKalb County but it was in Atlanta. And 00:33:00it's on what they call Oakdale Road now. It was Whitefoord Avenue at that particular point, at that time. Excuse me, I've got to go --

DRUMMOND: Sure. (break in audio) Okay, so you're talking about your tonsillectomy.

DIXON: Yes. They took me out to Hoschton, Georgia. And uh, they were, Mother was in there with me. And they, and they cut my tonsil. I felt it. And it -- it came out and a gush of blood came out and Mother fell over on the floor (laughs). So they had to survive [sic] her. (Phone ringing, answering machine noise) And after she got all right --

DRUMMOND: So they didn't give you any anesthesia?

00:34:00

DIXON: No. They said they had deadened my throat but I felt it. Anyway, they took me back home then. And we stopped at this place, they decided they wanted to get them something like a hamburger or something. I couldn't eat a thing, of course. But I sure did have a sore throat after that. But my poor mother, they had to survive her. (laughter) She just fell right over. It wasn't so funny then, but when I think back on it it was right funny.

CLARY: Well isn't that interesting, they allow her to be in the room, so were you just sitting up in like an exam chair when they did it?

DIXON: Yeah. Mm hmm.

CLARY: So they didn't even lie you down and put (overlapping dialogue)

DIXON: Hmm mm. I was sitting in a chair.

CLARY: Well that changed by the fifties, because I had mine out in the fifties and they put you to sleep in the fifties.

DRUMMOND: I had mine out in the seventies, and I remember the last thing they 00:35:00asked is, something about like "Well tell me about that time you went to Disney World" or you know, they were saying like, you know, "Think about Mickey Mouse" or something like that. And then, out.

DIXON: Well, they said that they had put -- deadened my throat you know --

CLARY: But it didn't work.

DIXON: -- supposedly put something in there. But it hurt. It didn't feel like anything -- it hurt when they cut it.

CLARY: I cant imagine!

DIXON: Oh yeah. But the, I forgot about my pain when they had to work on my mother. Anyway.

DRUMMOND: But the thing that we're just talking about, so you were accepted but then you couldn't go right away because you got sick?

DIXON: Mm hmm. And I took two business courses.

DRUMMOND: Okay.

DIXON: Got up to the final exam, and I said "This is not for me." I worked and went to school at night to do that, and so fnally I, I resigned my job -- I 00:36:00applied again. I resigned my job on Saturday, went into nursing school on Monday.

DRUMMOND: So but tell me about your job, I mean, because that was your first real work outside of -- the farm.

DIXON: No. My first job I worked as a waitress one day. (laughter) I made a fifty cent -- honestly, that -- I got a tip of fifty cents that day. But I never could r-- I couldnt remember -- I'd either forget the bread, or I'd forget the drink, I'd forget something. Anyway, that was not for me. So then I went to work at Sears, and I worked in the mail order department. Excuse me. I worked in the mail order department in Sears.

DRUMMOND: At the Sears-Roebuck building in downtown Atlanta -- or, on Ponce de Leon?

DIXON: On Ponce de Leon. And my sister and my brother and I rented an apartment 00:37:00down on Saint Charles, right back of the old ballpark. And uh, I worked there for a while, and then I got me a job at a ten-cent store. Mr. and Ms. Wise had two ten-cent stores. One was right there at Boulevard and -- there was a drugstore on the corner of Boulevard and Ponce de Leon, and Ms. Wise's, and then there was a little eating place, and then there was the ten-cent store. And I was manager of that ten-cent store. And um, it was -- I really worked hard at that, but I enjoyed every minute of it. There was so much to do.

DRUMMOND: What kind of stuff did you sell in a ten-cent store?

00:38:00

DIXON: Everything. And we had -- when we started to take inventory, that was something else. We sold anything that you could get in an ordinary, I don't know what kind of store you'd call it now, they don't call them ten-cent stores -- things didn't, everything didn't cost ten cents. Lot of things did. But we sold, of course we had all kinds of candy, we had all kinds of office kind of things that you needed in an office, you know. To work with. And um --

DRUMMOND: So a store that would be today like a Wal-Mart or a Target, something like that. Okay.

DIXON: Yeah. It would be. And it was a lot of responsibility, but I enjoyed it. I thoroughly enjoyed it. As a matter of fact, I, I've enjoyed all the work that I've ever done. I really have. I might've complained about it at the time, but I 00:39:00really have enjoyed it looking back. Learned so much.

DRUMMOND: So, I want to go back -- so at this point you and your sister and brother are living in Atlanta, but where's your mother, your other sister --

DIXON: They had rented --

DRUMMOND: -- and your [baby sis--?]

DIXON: They had rented a house in Tucker.

DRUMMOND: Okay, so they were still up in Tucker while the -- the other three of you went into Atlanta.

DIXON: The farm we bought was almost at Jimmy Carter Boulevard back -- go -- right back there was nine acres, went all the way back to the Sears railroad track, back over there. The Sears outlet. And uh. Man just didn't have the clear title on it. So we lost. But we, I -- looking back the Lord had a hand in it 00:40:00all. We needed to get into where we were. We needed to do that. We didn't know it at the time, but we did. Course, we were so accustomed to being on the farm, never locking our doors or anything like that, and that's exactly what we did there in Atlanta, and it didn't exactly work.

DRUMMOND: Oh!

DIXON: (chuckling) One night somebody, one night somebody came in front door, walked down the hall, came through Mother and Daddy's room, Mother's room, and came back through my sister's, my room. And I happened to be awake, everybody else was asleep. And my sister was awake too. And then he -- they walked out back out the front door. Now I don't know what, I don't know what they took or 00:41:00whether they took anything or not but it scared me half to death, and I said "Daddy, we've got to lock the door." And from then on we kept our door locked. But we were just so accustomed out in the country, you know.

DRUMMOND: Right, right. Well, you said that you really liked working at the ten-cent store. But there must have been something --

DIXON: Yes --

DRUMMOND: -- that made you go back to nursing. There must have been a turning point.

DIXON: Nursing is what I -- was in my heart. I knew that's what I had to be. You know, a lot of people, and I really think, well I know, I know some people that's like this, they get into nursing for the money. Course I didn't -- there was no money to it back then. But I felt like I was called to be a nurse. I felt like that's what the Lord wanted me to be. And it was. And it was.

00:42:00

DRUMMOND: So you just realized that retail --

DIXON: I just realized that --

DRUMMOND: -- wasn't making you happy.

DIXON: -- that -- oh, I enjoyed ten-cent store. Because I met a lot of people. I had a lot of responsibility. And the couple that ran the little eating spot next door, they were just wonderful. As a matter of fact, that mirror that's hanging in my wall in there, when I got married they took it off their wall and gave it to me, and I have two pictures they gave me. I used to keep them up all the time but the children wanted to put up something else back there. But -- George [Manus?] was his name. And they were just wonderful people. And uh (pause) they had right good hot dogs too (laughter).

00:43:00

DRUMMOND: That's good. So in 1942 you finally enter the Grady School of Nursing.

DIXON: September 1942. I entered Grady.

DRUMMOND: And what was -- tell me about your experiences as a new student at the school of nursing. And what it felt like to be starting on this new adventure in your life.

DIXON: Well now remember that World War II, Pearl Harbor was bombed December 7, 1941. So I entered the school of nursing September 1942. The war had -- so many nurses were called into the war, and so as a student nurse, we staffed the 00:44:00hospital. When we first started, we wore our regular print dress, and we were in the pre-clin-- pre-clinical, actually probationary period we called it then, for six months. And we had our basic sciences, our nursing arts, and all that during that period of time. And we would, we had one or two teachers and instructors, nursing instructors, and we, once we learned how to make a bed, how to give a bath, with a patient in the bed or out of the bed, how to fold linen, and all of that, we would go to the area, we had a little tray we carried. And it had the 00:45:00basic things for a bath on the tray. And we would go into the nursing area and, and we would have a patient assigned to us. I remember the first patient I ever had, she had been shot and she had a bullet lodged near her spine. And I -- she was bedfast and I had to give her a bath and make her bed and she was in it. I did it, oh I was so proud of me. And the instructor came to check, and she -- well she had been there you know, but she came back to check and see, and she took her hand and rubbed it underneath the bed, and there was a little bit of dust there. Well I had to go back (laughter). That's what we had to do. We had to dust the beds, everything had to be clean in addition to the patient. And 00:46:00then after the probationary period we got our uniforms and caps. Interesting thing was though, about the first week I was in school they needed fifty cents to buy some paper and stuff that I had to have, and I didn't have fifty cents. So I had to borrow it. But uh --

DRUMMOND: Well did you save money and pay for your own first year of school?

DIXON: Well actually we didn't have much to pay. Because we lived in the dormitory, we had to live in the dormitory. It was all females. And at this point in time my dad had got a job with the federal government guarding a building downtown. And when I needed to go home or when I had an opportunity to 00:47:00go home, he would come by and give me a token, and I could ride the streetcar home. And then he'd give me a token to come back. We didn't have any money. Daddy was working, but he wasn't making a whole lot. And so he'd, he brought me fifty cents though, I paid it back. But we had it, we -- they furnished our, after the first six months -- well, let me tell you about that though. At the end of the six months, probationary period, we met with Miss Feebeck. And she looked at you, she looked at your record, and i she didn't think you'd make a good nurse, you didn't stay in the school. She was the -- she was a stern, strict, and people would think she was really mean. But she was fair, and she 00:48:00was honest, and turned out to be the, the best thing that ever happened to me and nursing. And she expected you to do what ought to be done. She expected you to do the best you could. And if you didn't, well, if you were doing it, and your best was not the highest, that was all right, so long as you were doing your best. And if she did not think you'd make a good nurse, you didn't stay. Okay? So I stayed, and at that point in time most of the nurses had gone to the war. They were either in the army or the navy or something. So as student 00:49:00nurses, we staffed the hospital. And after this probationary period we had three months days, three months evenings, and three months nights. We had two half days off a week. One was on Sunday so we could go to the church of our choice. And we worked a minimum of eight hours a day. And sometimes it was much longer than that. And we staffed the hospital. We had a -- a nurse over the areas, over the hospital at night that we could call on. And we just did what we had to do.

DRUMMOND: So even as you were taking classes you were getting hands-on experience.

00:50:00

DIXON: Our class time was over and above the work hours. And the doctors lectured to us. Then Miss Feebeck and this one instructor I remember, Miss Baston, taught us nursing. But they were educating us to work in the hospital. And nothing else. They stated that clearly in some of the annual reports. The theory was just, satisfy some requirement, not necessary for us.

DRUMMOND: All practice.

DIXON: And we practiced.

DRUMMOND: What surprised you most once you got in there and started learning? Were there any things you didn't expect that surprised you?

DIXON: I guess it was the, the discipline of it. And yet I'd lived a life of 00:51:00discipline. But -- and the expectations. Because there was just not room, not a lot of room for any kind of error. And the respons-- the awesome responsibility of patients' lives. We had such sick patients. And I remember one young boy who came in. He was so sick and he eventually died, we couldn't save him. And his family, I mean -- we were like a big family, the hospital was. And his mother and daddy and his brothers -- well I heard from one of them not too long ago. But we were just -- we were just like a family. It was just like you were losing one of your own family. I had another -- I had another young man, boy, who 00:52:00climbed the telephone pole out on Boulevard. And for all practical purposes he was electrocuted. I forgot how many volts of electricity went to his body, and he fell to the ground. And they brought him to Grady, and he was there for months and months and months and months, I don't remember exactly how long. But when he recovered, I was taking care of him. Of course, I was not the only one taking care of him. But he came back many years later, he was I guess in his fifties, and he came to the reception desk downstairs and he asked the receptionist if Miss Killcrease was still there. And she happened to know me because she had moved over from the old hospital too. And she told, told him 00:53:00"Yes" and she called me and asked me to come down to the receptionist's desk. And I asked could she have him just come on upstairs. I didn't know who he was. She said somebody wanted to see me. And this man came in. He sat down. I have a picture of him, it was in the paper and everything. He had lost an arm somehow or other. He'd been in the army, and now he was a minister. And he said, "I just wanted to thank you for saving my life." I said, "I was not the only one." I said, "I was not the only one that took it." He said, "Yes, you were. You were there. You were there." I was there when he woke up, when he came out from under the -- but uh -- it was wond-- that's the beauty of being a nurse. It's the 00:54:00years later that you have patients who come back and say thank you. And it just does something to you. Don't you agree, Judy?

CLARY: It makes it all worthwhile.

DIXON: It does. It does.

CLARY: You know. The, just one patient like that can make your whole career. And you go, "Okay, I'm doing the right thing."

DIXON: I, well I've had, I had some others too. I had a taxi driver one time that I, I was riding -- I got a taxi for some reason, I don't know why, it was very seldom I did that. But he asked me if I knew a Miss Killcrease (laughter). And I said, "Well I think, I think I do." And he said "Well, I just want to thank her for all that she did," you know, and he went on like that, so. Those 00:55:00are the things that make nursing worthwhile.

DRUMMOND: I really -- so. Let me ask you this. I'm curious as someone who doesn't know a lot about nursing. I've only ever been a patient. Are there courses where they teach you how to handle sensitive situations where maybe you have to -- um -- I don't even -- I'm a grown woman, why can't I even ask you the question -- but like the first time you have to give someone an enema, or do something -- I mean y'all probably just think it's --

CLARY: Bodily functions.

DRUMMOND: Bodily functions. Okay, yeah. So, so I mean, do they, are there special tips on -- because I, because I feel like it's always, even if it's kind of embarrassing, it's always very respectful, and so -- but is there any -- I mean, and I'm really not asking to be silly, but I just feel like that especially maybe if you've had a more reserved upbringing and then you're put 00:56:00into this job where you have to get very close to people.

CLARY: Especially as a young, nave lady.

DIXON: In -- when I was a student nurse, the orderlies took care of the private kind of things for men.

DRUMMOND: Okay.

DIXON: But what you do, we always had to keep patients thoroughly draped. And you had to make the patient as comfortable as possible, even, regardless of how uncomfortable you might be, you had to be sure that the patient was comfortable. I was in -- this is terrible -- this lady had had a spontaneous abortion, and they had her in, I was on the GYN floor. And they had her in the treatment room. They were having to complete it because she was bleeding so. And I was in there, 00:57:00and it was warm, and all of that, and it really got to me. And the doctor turned around and looked at me. And he said, "Miss Killcrease," he said, "I think you need to go out." What he said, "You need to go out and have an herb" (laughter). And I said, "Yes sir." And I, I went out. But then I got myself under control and I went back in and finished the -- another nurse in there helping too. But um, there were so many things, you made the patient feel as comfortable as possible, regardless of how uncomfortable you were. And that's something that the patient was the focus of everything. And -- making that -- you had to think 00:58:00of that patient, what if I was in that position? How would I feel? What would I need? What could they do to make me feel better? And that's the only way I got through, because we had -- we had awesome responsibility during World War II, the students did. And uh, it -- it's something else. We had, we had to check every piece of equipment, we had to check narcotics, we had to check everything at the end of each tour of duty. And that was something too, you had to chart on every patient's chart. On day duty, in the mornings, when you started to go on 00:59:00duty, you were -- had an inspection. And you had to walk by Miss Feebeck or Miss Logan. You had to have a watch with a second hand, you had to have a black pen and a blue pen and a red pen. You had to have your scissors. And you kept your scissors back here in your, the waist of your apron. And no makeup, no perfume, your shoes had to be spotless, your uniform spotless, and if it -- if there was anything out of order, you went back to your room and you got it straight before you could go on duty. And we made rounds with the doctors in the mornings. We carried out all of his orders. We had to chart on the chart every tour of duty. 01:00:00We had to keep the temperature graph up to date. I don't know how we dd it all, I really don't.

CLARY: Tell her why you had to have three different color ink pens.

DIXON: Because you charted in blue during the day. At night you charted in red. And on the temperature graph, I've forgotten which one it is that you charted in red, was it the temperature was in red and the pulse and respiration was in blue?

CLARY: Things were color-coded.

DRUMMOND: Okay. Okay.

DIXON: So you had to have that. And that just -- I still have my scissors. (laughs)

DRUMMOND: Well you mentioned orderlies a minute ago, and said that they would help with some bodily functions for the male patients. But it seems like they 01:01:00would have had mostly very different training from the nurses.

DIXON: Well, they did. But we had some excellent orderlies. One named Squire Benning. I just love that little old man. He helped me so much. He even helped me -- he helped me as a student and he helped me as a graduate nurse. He was there, he knew how to do, he knew what to do, and it was just like, "Squire, I need you Squire," and Squire was right there. He was just wonderful. Wonderful. We had some good orderlies, but what they did, when a patient was going to surgery, we had to shave and prep them. And what the orderly did, he shaved and prepped the male patients. He gave the male patients enemas. He took the urinal 01:02:00to them. You see we had a room where everything was -- the patients did not have personal items. The only thing that was left at the bedside of the patient was the water pitcher and emesis basin. But the bedpans you carried to the patient you took back into the hopper room and you ran it through the so-called sterilizer, and then you set it u-- hung it up on the wall so that bedpans were used by different -- whoever needed them. The washbasins the same way. And uh, so you had to keep them very clean. The thermometers were kept in alcohol, and you used the same thermometer going patient to patient. You know, not from patient to patient. They were sterilized in between. And a sphygmomanometer, 01:03:00your blood pressure apparatus, carried it right along, used it on each patient. But, and we had to keep the areas clean, and the ward had a -- there were twenty-seven bed on the ward, and there was a porch area. Actually the hospital, the original hospital was built in 1892, and in 1912 they opened up a, what we called, it was the Butler Street Hospital, and that's where I did my nursing, my student nursing. And they built it so that there was a porch area, so to actually all patients at some time could be out in the sunshine. But then we had 01:04:00to close the -- we still had windows all the way around, but we had to close it in for patient uses. And we had about six or seven beds out there. And so, and then we had one room, two rooms with two beds in them. So you had a lot of patients. And when the Winecoff fire came along in 19-- 1956, I was in charge of the male surgical floor then. I had graduated. And um -- 1946, excuse me, not fifty-six. And they called me out of bed, went over there and discharged all the patients except the immediate post-operative patients. Put them out on the porch 01:05:00area and we admitted twenty-seven patients. Didn't have time to really make up the charts completely, but I had a chart on every bed with basic things like a nurse's note and doctor's orders sheet. And I went -- made rounds with the doctors, gave whatever medication needed to be given. And one of our greatest problems was the visitors, because everybody, when they heard about the fire, came in looking for their relatives. And it was something else. But the patients in the Winecoff fire were so seriously ill that they died, or they weren't too sick -- smoke inhalation and things like that. And there were so many dead 01:06:00bodies that the morgue was overrun, and they laid them out down in the clinic. And I remember going down there, and I can still see that little child, about two or three years old, all wrapped up in his -- he had on his -- because it was cold weather, it was December the seventh. And his mother had thrown him out the window trying to save him. And he didn't have any injury except right here, where his head had hit. I just walked away crying. I still can cry when I think about him. But there were so many, so many dead patients, 114 I think died, and Grady Hospital was there. We got most of the patients.

CLARY: It was the largest hotel fire in, to date, in the world.

01:07:00

DRUMMOND: Mm. Mm.

DIXON: And the -- I think going back and reading about it, because I've included it in the history, there was a group of young people here, and they were in the upper floors. And it started on the third floor. And the owners were I think on the fifth floor, and they died in the fire. And if I recall correctly, all those young people died too. They couldn't get out.

CLARY: People were jumping out of windows and everything.

DIXON: It was awful. It was awful. Just terrible. But --

DRUMMOND: Were there not -- sort of safety -- you know, like exits in place for them to --

DIXON: All they had was a stairwell to get out.

DRUMMOND: Just the one that serviced -- that was inside --

01:08:00

DIXON: And it started in a stairwell, the fire did. I don't think they ever really found out exactly how it started.

CLARY: National laws, fire safety laws changed because of the Winecoff fire. (laughter)

DIXON: I'm sorry.

CLARY: It was -- it was -- it was a worldwide news event.

DIXON: And in the 1940s a lot of things happened.

DRUMMOND: Well and I wanted -- but let -- before we talk more about that I wanted to ask you, so at Grady, were you accepting both white and black patients at the time?

DIXON: We had a black hospital and we had a white hospital.

DRUMMOND: So Grady actually had two separate --

DIXON: We also had two nursing schools, but they had the same curriculum. I taught both groups.

DRUMMOND: But they were different schools?

01:09:00

DIXON: Well, we -- the white school was chartered in 1898. The black school was chartered in 1917. So it was two schools, a black and a white, but it was one school, if you can understand what I'm saying.

DRUMMOND: It had the same administration, but the students were taught in different places.

DIXON: Curriculum was the same. Miss Feebeck, after Miss Ludie Andrews started the black school, and she left in 1922.

DRUMMOND: But --

DIXON: And Miss Feebeck was the Director of Nursing of all the s-- of all of the nursing schools.

DRUMMOND: But -- were, were African-American students taught at a different school prior to --

DIXON: What?

01:10:00

DRUMMOND: Were they taught at a different school prior to the forties?

CLARY: No. It was all at Grady from 1917 on.

DRUMMOND: Okay.

CLARY: They actually started 1914, but they weren't chartered until 1917 and the first class graduated 1920. But they, before they had the black school, the white students took care of black and white. Grady always accepted charity patients, black and white. And then when they had the two schools, they had two hospitals. They had the black hospital, the white hospital. So the black students took care of the black student-- patients. And the white students took care of the white patients. Correct? So you never took care of a black patient as a student nurse?

DIXON: Never took care of a what?

CLARY: Is that correct? You never took care of a black patient as a student nurse?

DIXON: In the operating room.

CLARY: Yeah, the operating room was shared. That's true.

DRUMMOND: Okay. So it was essentially like, I guess, I'm just trying to 01:11:00understand exactly how you said it -- the same building but sort of separated --

DIXON: No, no.

DRUMMOND: But they were two separate buildings?

DIXON: And the black students were living in the building on Butler Street, which is now something else. And the white students' nurses' residence was built in 1922, Hirsch Hall, they lived in that building. Now, in 1958 the new hospital was built and it was built on an H kind of shape, and the A and B areas faced Butler Street. That was for the white people. There was an E corridor, and on this side they had white patients up to the middle of the building. And then from the middle of the building on over to the other side the C-D areas faced Pratt Street, that was for the black ho-- schools -- black patients. And when 01:12:00the school integrated in 1964, all the patients were integrated, regardless. The blacks were moved to the white side and whites to the black side, according to whatever was wrong with them, the surgical patient, the medical patient, so forth.

DRUMMOND: So patients were integrated, but students were also integrated at that time.

DIXON: In 1964 the students were integrated too. And what I did, I -- when students came in, I assigned them roommates, I assigned them alphabetically. Because I didn't know whether they were black or white. And then after six months I gave them the opportunity of changing roommates if they wanted to.

DRUMMOND: Mm hmm.

DIXON: So. Uh --

DRUMMOND: Okay. Well how did that go, when everything was integrated?

01:13:00

DIXON: No problem. I can't -- I can't recall a single problem the hospital had at that time.

DRUMMOND: Not even with patients who had issues with -- having --

DIXON: I was there.

DRUMMOND: You were there.

DIXON: I was there, and I don't remember any problem -- real problems we had. It was because of the people. You see, we accepted each other. I taught black students from the first day I taught at Grady Hospital. And it just broke my heart that -- and we did sometimes integrate the class. And some people from the city of Atlanta came down, touring classrooms one time and they made us separate them back out. But the people that worked at Grady, they were interested in taking care of patients. They weren't looking at color.

01:14:00

DRUMMOND: But from the patient perspective, there were never any white patients that made a fuss, that didn't want to be taken --

DIXON: Not that I know of.

DRUMMOND: Okay. And I'm sorry that I -- if I'm doting on this, but -- sort of, given other attempts to do that, there was so much re-- to integrate in any situation, whether it be schools or anywhere else, there's always been such a -- at the time, a backlash against such things.

CLARY: You have to think about it: people are sick, they don't care who takes care of them, as long as they're taking good care of them.

DIXON: And actually --

CLARY: And nurses and doctors don't go into it, even back then, to take care of one race. You know?

DRUMMOND: Right. Right right.

DIXON: Patient's sick, you take care of the patient. Black, white, yellow, green or whatever. That's the way I always felt, and in teaching -- they needed to 01:15:00know, and I held them to the same kind -- standards that I held the white students to. What I did in teaching pharmacology, I had to check each student off on the administration of medications three times, and they had to make 95 in my class to pass. Well, never had but one real situation, this student, she could not, any time that I was trying to check her off, she absolutely just messed everything up. And one day, one of my friends, one of my black friends, says, "Ms. Dixon," said, "would you mind letting me check her off on medication?" Said, "I think she's scared of you." (laughter) I said okay, 01:16:00because she had passed the theory part of it. And she checked her off and she just did fine. I said, "Well, that's good." I was really sorry she was so afraid of me.

CLARY: That's funny you mention that, because I went to see one of your black students on Saturday, Barbara Nelson Wise, just delightful person. And she was in the, when the school was segregated, and Ms. Dixon taught her pharmacology. And she told me, she said, "A lot of people were afraid of Ms. Dixon, but I wasn't afraid of her. And she helped me because she taught me a little song to remember the drugs." And she sang the song for me on Saturday!

DRUMMOND: Do you know what song she's talking about?

CLARY: And she said, and I didn't learn the song, you didn't teach me pharmacology so I didn't learn the song. And I looked at her and said, "You remember that to this day?" She says, "I couldn't have gotten in, out of 01:17:00pharmacology if it hadn't been for Ms. Dixon and that song is stuck to me to this day." She was singing, "Digitalis, potassium," and she was just singing different drugs. I said "Barbara, that's the cutest story" and she said, "Ms. Dixon taught me to sing the drugs and that helped me." Isn't that incredible?

DRUMMOND: I want to get this in an interview. I want to hear the song. (laughter)

DIXON: I dont remember because --

CLARY: She didn't remember much of it but she did remember enough that I went -- (gasps)

DIXON: Well I, see I, I did everything I could to help them learn. You know? And, and if they couldn't, if they didn't learn it, and I didn't think they did, they didn't pass. But they -- I don't know of a single person that ever complained when they didn't pass, that I had done anything wrong.

01:18:00

DRUMMOND: Okay. So, things like that are just always, you know. Looking back, I'm just curious as to how big transitions like that happened. I want to go back to when you were still in school -- we've still got so much to talk about. You know we've been talking for about an hour and twenty minutes, and there's still so so so much to talk about. Although I do see that my battery is getting low, so we might need to wrap this up in ten minutes, because I don't want the recorder to go out on us, because I want it all captured. But I did want to ask, so as you were going through, you've talked about the big responsibility of being a student at the time because of World War II, but you were still taking your regular coursework above your eight or more hours a day. So what classes did you enjoy the most? Do you remember?

DIXON: All of them.

DRUMMOND: Really? Everything?

DIXON: Mm hmm.

DRUMMOND: Okay.

01:19:00

DIXON: Because I was learning. And I was learning something new that I had never been exposed to before. And the awesome responsibility, it just weighed so heavy on my shoulders. I, I can't think of a single course I did not enjoy. Okay? I -- at the moment in time, "enjoy" is not the best word (laughter) to use to express it, you know what I mean? But I appreciated it, I got into it, I wanted to learn. But in the living in the dormitory, now, Miss Moncrief said at 10:30 every night the lights had to go out. But we had four bathtubs, and many of us, 01:20:00many nights sat in that bathtub. She didn't check the bathrooms at night. We'd sit in the bathtub and study. And when it came time for me to be studying for state board, you know, as a senior, I'd wake up many mornings with a book lying right on top of me (laughter). It's true. Because I'd be so tired and I'd lie down on my bed and go study now, wake up in the morning's lying right there. So I must have absorbed some of it (laughter).

DRUMMOND: So were you still able to see your family regularly while you were in school?

DIXON: Was I what?

DRUMMOND: Were you able to see your family regularly while you were in school?

01:21:00

DIXON: When I had a streetcar token. Sometimes I just caught a ride. And I -- you could then, and it was safe. I remember standing at the streetcar stop and this soldier came by in a car. Asked if I wanted a ride and I said yes (laughter). So he took me right to my house. Of course along the way he offered me a drink (laughter), all of this. And when we got to the house he said, "I never have met anybody like you before." He said, "You didn't drink, you dont smoke." I said, "No." He said, "Here, I want to give you some candy." He gave me a box of candy (laughter).

CLARY: He wanted you to have some enjoyment in your life!

DRUMMOND: Right.

01:22:00

DIXON: But seriously, it was safe. We could walk anywhere, and go anywhere, and we -- and in the hospital now, I have to say that the administrator, Mr. Frank Wilson, and later on Mr. Pinkston, we were like one big family. Mr. Wilson knew us by name, and we walked by the room -- door, and he knew what kind of situation we might have at, at home, because if, for example somebody who was employed had real difficulties at home, financially and this sort of thing, he worked it out some way to help them. I mean, he was just a wonderful person. And when my father died, folks were righ there with me. When my sister died, they were there at the funeral. I mean, it was that kind of, it was that kind of 01:23:00feeling you had. We just cared about each other, we were like one great big family then, Grady Hospital was. Some of the most wonderful people I ever met, and I learned from every one of them, you know? I learned something from every one of them.

DRUMMOND: Well before we move on to the next chapter, is there anything else you want to say about your time, um, as a student?

DIXON: It's an experience I'll never forget. I'm amazed at this point in time that I still have a mind.

DRUMMOND: What a mind it is, if I may say so.

CLARY: I can't believe you remembered names and dates so accurately.

01:24:00

DIXON: Well, I had -- I can't -- I don't remember all names, but there are some that just really stick with me. I remember Miss Araminta Downing. She was a model in New York before she came down here. And she did -- spent her life taking care of various family members, and then she was here all alone. And she got sick, and she didn't -- I took her out to my, to Mother's, one time, to eat supper with us. She was so excited about a flowering shrub along the way as I was driving. Just, oh so excited. She was a wonderful, wonderful lady. But she had nobody, and Grady took care of her. Took care of her till she died. Because she got very very sick. And I can see her now, she was she was the model all the 01:25:00way through. Every time I -- so many wonderful people that I met at Grady. Just so many. (long pause)

DRUMMOND: But in 1945 you also mentioned that's the year your father passed away?

DIXON: Beg pardon?

DRUMMOND: In 1945 you mentioned that's the year your father --

DIXON: December 25th.

DRUMMOND: So you had already graduated.

DIXON: I -- well, the day I wrote state board, everybody was going out to celebrate that night, and Mother called and asked me to come home. And I said, "I just don't know how I can come tonight." And I walked all the way down to where Georgia State is now and Hurt Park. And something just told me, "You catch 01:26:00the streetcar and go home." And I did. The rest of them went on. And they told me that Daddy had been diagnosed with cancer. And he had the cancer of the pancreas and cancer of the lungs, and there was not anything they could really do to help him. So four months later he died. And my daddy was -- he was a man that really -- most gentle, most wonderful father anybody could possibly have. Particularly a little girl who was tubby. I -- that was my name, because I was broader than I was tall until I was thirteen. Then I just shot straight up. But, um, I can see him now. He was there for me when I felt like, like every year we 01:27:00got to -- Mother bought material to make us all a dress. One a year. And she let my sisters pick out what they wanted and I got what was left over. And then she left it -- she made mine just hanging on me like a bag. And I'd cry. Dad-- I can remember Daddy holding me on his lap and talking to me: "Don't worry baby, everything's going to be all right." I said, "But she doesn't love me!" But she did. Anyway, he was a wonderful man. It was very heartbreaking because I would go out there at night when I worked all day and -- there were many nights he 01:28:00didn't want me to leave the room. But uh -- things like that happen in life.

DRUMMOND: They do. Um --

DIXON: But my time at Grady as a student nurse taught me so much. Not only did it teach me nursing, but it taught me that there are all kinds of people that you come in contact with. And you can learn from them or you can close your mind and not. And everybody's interesting. They've always got something, something, that will benefit you in some way. And I just, there were so many wonderful 01:29:00people at Grady. I mean, from the orderly, from the maid, all the way up to the superintendent. They really were. And we had so many patients, such sick patients. But they were not just a patient, they were a person. And that's what made the difference. That's what made the difference. And you make friendships. But I went fifty years without -- and then I decided I wanted to get my class together if I could. And I tried. Finally got all those who were living and since then, we would meet once a year. Had the best time. But they've not been 01:30:00able to come the last two three years. And don't have but, in my class, I know of about four or five who are still living. But uh -- none of them as old as I am (laughter).

DRUMMOND: I forget that you're as old as you are. You have such a youthfulness about you. I don't -- it's -- I have to keep reminding myself that you're ninety-three.

DIXON: I am.

DRUMMOND: Yeah. I know, but it's hard to believe.

CLARY: She doesn't look it at all, does she? Look at that head of hair.

DIXON: Some days I feel it (laughter).