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