Mrs. Stillman

Erma J. Stillman

Erma Stillman with family members.Erma J. Stillman was born in 1920 of African American/Cherokee ancestry. She grew up in northeast Kansas and was trained as a psychiatric nurse while working in Menninger's famous Ward H, which has been featured in several books. She lived in Lawrence most of her adult life. She retired in 1972 and has been active in her church and community since then. Mrs. Stillman and her late husband, Lewis, have two daughters and a son.

January 24, 2004
Interviewed by Alice Fowler and Sherrie Tucker

Alice: This is January 24, 2004, and we are interviewing Erma J. Stillman, Lawrence, Kansas.

Alice: Mrs. Stillman will you tell us where you were born and something about your parents?

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, I was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, 5/17/20.

Alice: On May 17, 1920?

MRS. STILLMAN: Uh-huh. And my parents names, my father is Herman H. Brown, mother was Bertha Lee Brown, and born in Texas.

Alice: What about your grandparents? Did you know your grandparents?

MRS. STILLMAN: No. I heard of them. Their names were, my grandparents, great grandparents were the Hendersons, and they lived somewhere in Oklahoma.

Alice: Were they on your mother's side or your father's?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yes, on my mother's side, because Grandma Henderson raised my mother. Her mother was from Houston.

Alice: Houston, Texas?

MRS. STILLMAN: And she wasn't the type of lady that a grandmother wanted to raise, my mother.

Alice: What about on your father's side? Do you know the grandparents' names?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah. Warren Brown.

Alice: Warren Brown?

MRS. STILLMAN: Warren Brown.

Alice: And your grandmother on this side?

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, his mother, my father's mother, I don't know what her name was, but she was a Cherokee Indian, full-blood Cherokee.

Alice: And they lived where?


Alice: Down in Texas?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah. I don't know what town, because Dad's dad moved around.

Alice: Did you ever get to see your grandmother and your grandfather?

MRS. STILLMAN: No. I did see my grandfather, Dad's father.

Alice: But not his mother?

MRS. STILLMAN: No, I didn't get to see his mother. At the time he lived in Oklahoma. My aunts, Dad's sisters, wanted him to come there. We lived on the farm. We've always lived on the farm. And when I married, I lived on the farm.

Alice: You said your grandmother was Cherokee. Did you ever have any contact with Cherokee reservations, or...?

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, the only place I've been around was White Cloud, where my husband was from and that was the White Cloud that is named after Chief White Cloud.

Alice: And so you were there, and that was considered a reservation?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yes. He was born and my cousin was born on an Indian reservation.

Alice: Okay. All right. Now can you tell us a little something about your earlier years growing up, your childhood years?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yes. My father moved around quite a lot. But after we left Oklahoma, well he came up this way, where I was born in St. Joseph. And then that's where he worked at Farmer's Packing House in St. Joseph. Then I think they moved from there when I was nine months old, and they went to Elwood, Kansas. And, of course, my dad and mom lived there for 27 years in Elwood.

Alice: Twenty-seven years! So did you have brothers or sisters?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, I had two brothers and five sisters.

Alice: Six girls and two boys?

MRS. STILLMAN: Six girls, uh-huh, and two boys.

Alice: You went to school Elwood, did you?

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, no. I was too young I guess, I can't remember. The school that I went to was, first was in Donovan, Kansas, about 7 miles off from Atchison.

Alice: All right. And you went all through school there in Donovan?

MRS. STILLMAN: No, I went to school in Highland, Kansas, and I graduated from Highland eighth grade. Then we went from there to White Cloud. Of course, at that time Dad worked for Kerford from Atchison. You know the Kerfords? In that area.

Alice: Oh, uh-huh. Right.

MRS. STILLMAN: And I went to school there in White Cloud for...

Alice: Until you got to the eighth grade?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah. Well, the eighth grade was in Highland, then the high school was in White Cloud.

Alice: It was in White Cloud? Okay.


Alice: All right. What did your parents' families do for a living? You mom, your grandparents, were they all farmers?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, they were farmers. They lived among the Indians in Oklahoma, my grandparents.

Alice: Okay. Do you have any memories of that that you'd like to share with us, of being there around your grandparents and farming? Did you have to help?

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh, I didn't... I didn't...

Alice: You were too young?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, I was too young.

Sherrie: Do you know what they farmed? Do you know what kind of farm they had?

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh, just a regular farm, cows and hogs, chickens, everything. We had horses, and mother, she worked a garden. She had a garden as big as that back there, with our help (laughter)! I swore, if I ever got big, I'd never work in it. But after I got older, I enjoyed working out in the garden, watching things grow.

Alice: Did they do a lot of canning and preserving?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yes, uh-huh. Mother canned corn and beans, green beans, peas, and just about everything.

Alice: How did they preserve their meats?

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh! They had a house... Well, I don't know what they called them houses there, and you butcher. And then they had this salt, this curing salt that they put on these hogs or any of the meat that they butchered. And it stayed in this house and we'd have to go out and get what we wanted.

Alice: You remember the smoke house and going in there...?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, and going in there.

Alice: ...and they'd go in and cut off the...?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, what they wanted.

Alice: Did your family keep records, like in the bible?

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, I think Ida did. My second oldest sister, she did because Annie, that's Ida's daughter, well, she said that she stored Ida's things. Because I asked her about the bible, because they wanted me to have it. But I didn't get it. I got Ida's bible, but I didn't get the family bible.

Alice: So you don't have the family bible with all the records in it?


Alice: That's unfortunate. But do you have a family bible of your own that you started and recorded in it?

MRS. STILLMAN: I started it and mine got lost in the flood in '51.

Alice: Right. Right.

MRS. STILLMAN: Sure did.

Sherrie: Do you want to talk about what you remember from school? What are your school memories, what did you like to do, what were your schools like?

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, yes. It was when I first started to school in Donovan, they allowed us first graders to go to school, to get acquainted with the teachers and the children. So I'd go to school and sit with my sister in these old-fashion seats. Oh, I guess about three or four times a year we'd go to the school and visit. And I can remember there was a little boy that would tease me all time, he'd pull my hair. And then we'd have recess and I would go out with my sister, and we had this... Oh, the thing that they had at the side of school that, if they had a fire, they slid down.

Alice: Oh!

Alice: Uh-huh!

MRS. STILLMAN: That was fun. They finally threw that out and one day the teacher came out and, of course, I came sliding down and run right into her (laughter). She just looked at me, but she didn't say anything. But after we got back in school, why of course then I had started to school, and when we got back in, well she let us know that we wasn't supposed to play on that. We had outside toilets at school. Of course, it was a country school. We played baseball. I liked baseball, but I didn't participate until I got to Highland, I played basketball.

Sherrie: You mentioned that your school in Donovan was an all-White school. Is that right?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, it was all White. Uh-huh, it was an all-White school.

Sherrie: And what was that like?

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, I didn't have any problems. Of course, after I got older, I stayed off to myself quite a lot.

Alice: While you were at school you did?

MRS. STILLMAN: Uh-huh. When they had recess, why I either went... Well, they did let us go to the music room and play, because I played the piano for a while in the music room. And then pretty soon a bunch of kids would start coming, so they had to lock the music room. They didn't want everybody in there playing.

Alice: Do you remember, in your childhood years, family stories about your Cherokee heritage or did they tell any stories about the Cherokee Nation?

MRS. STILLMAN: I can remember Dad talking about it, but I guess I didn't pay too much attention to it. Because I know he said he followed his dad quite a bit. But I don't know what happened to his mother. I guess she just let him go or whatever. They, evidently they wasn't married, I don't know. He had some sisters, and when we left Kansas and went to Oklahoma, why his dad's sister, Alitha, she wanted us to come visit. But I didn't like her. No! No! Because she talked about Aunt Ida terrible. And Aunt Ida, I think I told you that she would talk to herself and she stayed to herself quite a bit. She had her own room and everything at Aunt Alitha's house and it seems as though her house had caught afire and her son and her husband got burnt up in it. So that's why she talked to herself. And they just said she was "silly." But she was, she was the sweetest little lady. She was really nice. And, well, they didn't allow us to go where she was, but I'd sneak off and go to her room. And I never will forget she gave me a little "deer" with perfume in it, and my sister broke it. Oh, I was so angry (laughter). Yeah. But she was really nice. I really liked her.

Sherrie: I was going to ask about high school. What kinds of things you liked to do in high school and what your high school experiences were?

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, they had typing and... Of course, I went back to school when I was nursing at the state hospital. I went to night school and I took classes at night school. Me and Mrs. Steel, I would ride with her. We went about three nights a week. And the subject I took was Algebra. And this guy was..., you probably remember him, Tidwell at KU?

Alice: Uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: He was my teacher, and I took Algebra. And I would work that Algebra and then after a while, after it got cold, work it on the board. And after it got cold, I'd just get half way and I'd get stumped. And he showed me, he said "now," he said, "Erma," he said, "you're doing fine, just keep going." But I would pull a block and just block it out. And he would show me. And when he got through, I could work it just fine. But when it got cold (laughter). I guess I had too many things on my mind too, I think.

Sherrie: I'm getting a little confused as to the timing. So, when did you start working at the state hospital?

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh, that was in the '50's.

Sherrie: In the '50's? Okay.

MRS. STILLMAN: Yes. I was looking through my book over there, and it was in the '50's.

Alice: And that was when you went to night school. Because up until that time, you had only finished the eighth grade, is that right?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, I had finished the eighth grade, but I went back. I went to high school in White Cloud. But still I went back to school to do something, because many of the doctors was going to school too.

Sherrie: Um!

Alice: Uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: And, then I... after I graduated from school..., 'Cause Tidwell, they gave us a test and he told me "I don't know why you're working at the state hospital," he said, "because you have graduated to the 18th grade." And I said "Really?" Yeah, I said "Well that's past." He said, "Well yeah," he said, "You're in the wrong place."

Alice: Eighteenth being?

MRS. STILLMAN: At college level.

Alice: Yeah.

MRS. STILLMAN: He said, "Well you're working in the wrong place, Mrs. Stillman." But I continued on to go to school. Because a lot of them went to school, them older ladies would go to school to help others. Of course, we had one lady, she was 60-something years old and they said she would just go to school and every year she would go back to school so, she said, she could help someone else that was unfortunate.

Alice: That's wonderful.

MRS. STILLMAN: And the doctors, they went to school too. A lot of them would take, oh, like they wanted to play cards or different things. And I even went to dance school. Arthur Murray?

Alice: Oh yeah (laughter)!

MRS. STILLMAN: (Laughter) That was supposed to be exercise. And we went for quite a while, and we were just having a ball. And two of the doctors, they was from Canada, Formby and McNaught. And they started taking classes and they told us we had to go back to the hospital, we couldn't stay because they didn't want us to see them dancing and learning (laughter). Oh, it was kind of funny (laughter).

Alice: And this was after your had married and started a family and everything?

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh yeah. I had raised my children.

Alice: That's right.

MRS. STILLMAN: I worked at KU for years, until they folded up and went into KU Med Center in Kansas City.

Alice: Right. You worked for a fraternity?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, a doctor's fraternity.

Alice: Nu Sigma Nu?


Alice: They called it "Nu Sig," huh?


Alice: But it wasn't the old one, it was way back over there?

MRS. STILLMAN: No, this was a new one.

Alice: Yeah.

MRS. STILLMAN: Of course, they didn't have a house mother and I substituted as the house mother. And they would have their parties and they would call me, sometimes 2:00 in the morning, "Erma! We got trouble! Be on your way. Come over." But really you didn't have to come over, they'd say I was there. You know boys (laughter)?

Alice: Yeah (laughter). So, these classes that you took were just kind of like classes to help you all around...

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, just to be involved.

Alice: ...with the patients that you came in contact with at the state hospital?

MRS. STILLMAN: You see, two or three of them, they started to going to classes. Of course, they hadn't finished or anything, but they were going on.

Alice: So how did you like working for the state hospital?

MRS. STILLMAN: I loved it. But they told me I was crazy because I enjoyed working with the patients. 'Cause I told you about how we had these groups and we broke all the rules, and...

Alice: And that ended up in a project, right?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, that was the Ward "H."

Alice: Ward "H." Right! Okay. And, there is a book written about Ward "H?"

MRS. STILLMAN: Yes, there are three books.

Alice: Three books?

MRS. STILLMAN: Uh-huh-hum, three books.

Alice: Three volumes?

MRS. STILLMAN: Uh-huh. Yeah. This is the first one.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: But the second one, they strictly talked about Esther Watts. She passed while we was on this project.

Alice: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: And one of her patients that was in her group sang a solo and wrote something about her.

Alice: In the Obituary?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah. And Beverly Wash... You remember her?

Alice: Right.

MRS. STILLMAN: She was the "afternoon" with Mrs. Esther Watts.

Alice: Oh, uh-huh! Okay. Yes.

MRS. STILLMAN: Until she quit. I don't know what happened to her, but they had to get someone else.

Alice: So, you want to tell us a little bit about Project Ward "H?"

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah. Well, this was... I think I told you about that?

Alice: Yes.

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh, Dr. Reed had gotten me a job here in Lawrence because he said that he didn't like to see me drive back and forth to Topeka every day. And, so he got me a job here working out at Lawrence Memorial. So, when I went back to the hospital and I was working on just a regular ward, that's when I told them that I was leaving and I had gotten a job here in Lawrence through Dr. Ralph Reed. So, they all looked at one another in the group, we was having a group meeting that morning. So, again, they looked at one another and finally they said "Oh, no! You can't go!" "What do you mean I can't go?" And they said "Well, you are one of them that we picked for this project." "What project?" Then they told me what it was all about and I was froze. They told me I couldn't go. And then that's when they put me on the Ward "H" Project...

Alice: Uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: ...through Menningers and the State.

Sherrie: How old were you when you started doing that?

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh, I was in my 30's.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, I was in my 30's.

Alice: During the '50's?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, I was in my 30's. Uh-huh, yeah.

Sherrie: And what was Ward "H?" What did you do?

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, we had formed groups: One, Two, Three, Four, and I had group Three. And they allowed us to put mirrors on the wall, but they were bolted down. And, in each group, they had to stay in their own group. Where group Three had to stay and where Four had to stay, and they just kind of marked it off. And we had to stay in our own groups, and that's where my patients sat in the group where we had mirrors and, oh, all the things that you do to take care of your hygiene and your hair, your comb and all those things. And then they allowed us to teach... we had a kitchen, and they allowed us to teach the patients to cook. First we taught them to groom themselves. And how often to take a bath. And all these things. Wash, we taught them how to wash. And, also... I don't want to forget this, ...we allowed the one that was good in the group, they could carry our keys.

Alice: Hum.

Sherrie: Wow!

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, they could carry our keys. And I told one of my patients that was very good, "If you ever...," I said, "you take my keys," I said, "but if you ever leave this hospital and decide to run away, you better leave my keys with someone that will be sure and give them to me." That they did. I didn't have but just one to do that, but she remembered to give the keys to a better patient so they'd get to me.

Alice: And you said that this project just kind of "flew in the face" of the regular rules, because it went against everything that they normally did?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah. Yeah, everything that they normally do. As I said, we taught them to cook, clean, wash, iron, and all these things. In fact, I have some pictures of my patients in the "kitchen."

Alice: Oh, let us see them.

MRS. STILLMAN: That's in this book?

Alice: Yeah.

MRS. STILLMAN: When I was looking for them I couldn't find them, but I thought I'll find it when I don't want it.

Sherrie: Would it be all right if we took some pictures?

MRS. STILLMAN: See, this is what it looks like when you teach different ones. That's what that looks like.

Sherrie: Oh! Okay.

MRS. STILLMAN: Let me find these pictures in here. They're in the "kitchen." They're old.

Sherrie: Oh, look at that! So, this... is this?

MRS. STILLMAN: That's me.

Sherrie: That's...

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, that's me.

Sherrie: Okay. Yeah, okay. Oh! And this is at... is this at the Menninger Institute?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, this is one of my patients. She is in the "kitchen" I believe.

Sherrie: Uh-huh, uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: And this is the group. It's sort of old, it's kind of faded out.

Sherrie: Yeah. Can you get this picture?

Alice: Yeah. Do you think, because this was a hospital, do you think we'll have any problem with that?

Sherrie: I don't know. Do you think that we shouldn't be taking pictures if it's from the hospital, if they are patients?

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh! Well, I don't think anybody would recognize them, but they didn't allow anyone, until the last on that project they took pictures.

Alice: At the very last?


Sherrie: Yeah. We can certainly take a picture of you.

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, I had a patient... You remember the Sandelius'? She was one of my patients.

Alice: Ooh. Now this is all your staff, right?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, this is where we graduated.

Sherrie: And then this is the...?

Alice: That's their graduating class.

Sherrie: Oh, it's so wonderful. That's wonderful.

MRS. STILLMAN: I don't think they'd mind any picture of me, I know (laughter).

Alice: Yeah. Yeah.

MRS. STILLMAN: I got the Charge on one of the wards and that's where I stayed until just before I had to stop working.

Alice: Yeah. When you retired?

MRS. STILLMAN: I ran one of the wards for 19 years.

Alice: These are your...?

MRS. STILLMAN: The grand baby.

Alice: ...grand baby? And this is...?

MRS. STILLMAN: No, that's just something that I'm saving... one of those things to look at.

Sherrie: So this is the graduating class, and what was the graduation? Was this when you became a Psychiatric Nurse?

MRS. STILLMAN: Right. Uh-huh, uh-huh.

Alice: You might want to... I don't know if you want to take the picture of her holding the book or...

Sherrie: That would be nice. Yeah, that would be real nice.

Alice: Well, I'm going to get out of the way, so...

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, I'm going to put this here.

Alice: Okay. Well, let me get behind you. Okay. Sherrie you get out of the way. Okay. We'll take you.

Sherrie: Okay.


Alice: You should read this book, because Tammy is the Bibliographer in the library for the Psychology...

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh, really?

Alice: Yeah.

MRS. STILLMAN: That should be good?

Alice: Yeah.

MRS. STILLMAN: Okay. Of course, these are all my notes and things that I kept. You know, it's just looking, you're just looking. And these are some of the letters the patients had written me.

Alice: Isn't that wonderful? That's your work notebook then?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah. I have another one too. I just been looking and looking to find that... the class that I taught..., you know the dates...?

Alice: Right.

Sherrie: Yes, yes!

MRS. STILLMAN: But I couldn't find it and I said "Oh, I know it's around here somewhere."

Sherrie: Well, why don't you tell us about it, because I'd like to hear about your studies to become a Psychiatric Nurse too. What you had to learn to do that and...?

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, we ... we gave shots and each week when I was Charge... they called us Charge Aids. Each week on Monday I had to go up to Centerville with one of the doctors and they'd tell us what had happened on the ward, especially the day I was off.

Alice: Like a report?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, uh-huh. The Big report.

Alice: So how did you get to be a Psychiatric Nurse? What kind of studying did you do, go through? Where did you study?

MRS. STILLMAN: Right there on the grounds.

Alice: On the grounds?


Alice: Like on-the-job training?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah. You worked while you trained, and you got paid while you were trained. But..., Oh, we had to learn to give medication and we had to learn to take urine tests for patients and ... Oh, we did everything that the nurse did. And, of course, there was a few things I did that I... Well... Through the doctors. They knew I could do it. They allowed it.

Alice: How long did you have study? Did this program last before you were considered a qualified Nurse?

MRS. STILLMAN: I think that was about three or four months or so. Because the training... oh they'd really put you through. And they'd give you these tests every so often. And I ended up with a "B," and when I went to class I had to be a "II." First, you're a "I" and then you're "II." When you're a "II," well you can be Charge, you can be ... oh, one of the head staff workers at the Center building.

Alice: Uh-huh. And then what's the highest level you can get?

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh, you can be a "III." But I had to quit before I was "III" because, when I retired, they didn't want to give me my full pay. They argued because they said, even though the doctor had wrote that I wasn't able to work any more, that I had been recommended so high, I could go and be one of the staff workers at the Center building just sitting. Oh, what they call it? Craig was... Oh, well he was a "II"...

Alice: Like the Supervisor?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, yeah, that's what it was. They said I could be a Supervisor. Then I wouldn't have to get out among all the patients. And they said that I was recommended so highly. I could have a been a super ...

Alice: A Supervisor?

MRS. STILLMAN: A Supervisor.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: But they finally had to give up.

Sherrie: You've mentioned that you enjoyed your work. Could you maybe talk a little bit about what you enjoyed about it?

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, I enjoyed mingling with the patients. We would take them to breakfast and lunch and dinner. Well, it was breakfast and lunch because I got off at 3... ten minutes 'til 3, well you were through. That's the day shift, from 7 to 3. And then we went on a strike one year for the benefit of the patients. That was a mess! But Menninger stuck right with us. They even gave us... even though we were out, ...well, they had a kitchen at the church and we cooked and kept things going. And they would come over and had classes with us so we didn't miss anything.

Sherrie: Hmmm!

Alice: Hmmm!

MRS. STILLMAN: And then after the... Some of them was pretty angry with us. But everyone of us that was there could drive a car. And on weekends, if a patient got real sick, well everything was shut down, and you have to wait until Monday to take that patient to... St. Francis,, or them other hospitals. And we just kind of went on a strike. And then when I went back to work after the strike was over, they called they self punishing me again. They put me on 3 to 11 (laughter).

Sherrie: (Laughter).

Alice: Ummm (laughter).

MRS. STILLMAN: And, so I got tired of that because it seemed like I'd no sooner get home and lay down... go through my mail and lay down, it was time to get up and go to work.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: So finally I got tired of that and I told them, I said "Well, Dr. Bay, I'm going to quit." "Oh, no! You can't quit." Oh, yes! I'm going to quit because," I said, "if my car stopped at night coming home, I wouldn't know whether to get out or stay in the car." So they said "Well, we can understand it. But you can't quit." In a few days, they had me back on the day shift (laughter).

Alice: (Laughter). Where did you go with some of your patients? I think you said something about having to take your group with you wherever you went?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, had to take our group with us. And I had this big old car... Do you remember when Chick had that big old car...?

Alice: Uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: ...Green and white? And I would load them all up, then I brought them to Lawrence. And that's when, I guess Daphne was a baby then. And the patients, I took them by the house, and they was just so happy just to see a little baby. And they said, "Well, Mrs. Stillman, why didn't you tell us you had a baby here?" And, of course, I didn't say anything. And they passed the baby around and then we just rode around in Lawrence after that and then went on back toward...

Alice: Just kind of site-seeing?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, yeah.

Alice: Did you have to take them shopping?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah. Oh, yes, we had to take them shopping. Because we'd take them to buy clothes. And you'd go with them and show them how to buy clothes and what price they could afford. Of course, some of the patients, their parents had money, some of them didn't. But we'd furnish and we'd have to take our patients sometime to the "Quontine," that's what they called it, the Quonset Hut there on the grounds. We just had a great time, I did, with them. Only one time (snicker)... that's before they allowed us to go to... I think it was a cafe in Topeka, it was called "Poor Boy's," and they didn't allow blacks to go in there. And my patient had ran off, and they said "Well, you have to go get her." So, the guy that drove the car... I can't think of his name, ... and I told him, and he said "Well...!" And when we got to Poor Boy's, well my patient, we saw her sitting on a stool. He said, "Well, I'll go in the back and you go in the front." I said, "Uh-uh! They don't allow me in there." He said, "Well, if they don't I'll tear this damned place up if you can't go and get your own patient." So, then I went in, no one said anything, and there she said, "Oh....," this bar, "Oh, Mrs. Stillman! Oh! Sit down. You want anything." I'll never forget "Cook." Her name was "Cook."

Alice: Just like there was nothing wrong?

MRS. STILLMAN: Uh-huh, nothing was wrong. So, anyway... Well, he was a policeman out there, that what it was, I can't think of his name. But, anyway, he come on in, "Is everything all right, Stillman?" "Yes." So he told her she had to go back to the hospital for the night "because you just took off and you didn't tell no one."

Alice: Uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: So we took her on back. So one day in the group, we got to talking about how they didn't allow... I let her know, ...they didn't allow me in that place, and she just thought that was terrible. Yeah, and she thought was terrible: "Well, Mrs. Stillman, I never heard of such a thing." But I guess, being that she had..., of course, she had been in there for quite a little while.

Alice: Some areas of Kansas or different states had no blacks in them. So they wouldn't have that experience, they wouldn't know...

MRS. STILLMAN: Uh-huh, right.

Alice: ...about segregation...


Alice: ...or discrimination? How successful do you feel the Ward "H" Project was?

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, I think it was a great success, because I placed many of the patients here. Some here in Lawrence and some at nursing homes, worked, and then they would tell me I could go visit the patients, that you placed in the nursing home. And then they got attached to me and then they told me that I couldn't go visit them because they couldn't do anything with the patient. They'd look forward to the day that I would come and, if they tell them to do something, she said they didn't have to do it. Well, this one I told you about.

Alice: Uh-huh, right.

MRS. STILLMAN: " 'Cause Mrs. Stillman wasn't there to tell them what to do." Oh, boy! So they had to stop me from going. I had at least three patients that way.

Sherrie: How were the doctors to work for?

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh, they were real good. Dr. Chediak, right here in Lawrence, he's one of them.

Sherrie: Oh!

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah. Yeah, he... when I was going through P-II class, ...well, he was quite supportive, and he was great because he'd always tell me "Hang in there, Stillman. You can do it." Which I did.

Alice: You taught a class, too, didn't you?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah. Yeah, I taught the Beginners, like when I come in.

Alice: Beginning Nurses?


Alice: Those who were wanting to become Psychiatric Nurses?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, right. Uh-huh. Tell them what it was like in the beginning and how we went about it and all these things.

Alice: Had you been though Project Ward "H" then..., that project?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, I had been through it and was placed on Woodsview. Because, see, this was on Stone H, and then they transferred me to Woodsview, and that's where I worked and was Charge at one of the wards there. Ward East was the ward that I was transferred to. And, of course, I had many a fight. Because there was one little boy that he..., they said he... his mother was pregnant and he would fight his mother, get mad because he was jealous, and he kicked her in the stomach and caused her to lose the baby. And he just had little fits. So when I was there to Charge ..., What's his name? ...Menninger, Karl. ...He came down on the ward one day... Well, anyway I'm getting ahead of myself. This boy, I told him, I said breakfast was ready and he was the type of boy, he'd go down and he had to touch the wall as he walked. And then finally I told him, I said... I forget his name... I said "breakfast is ready. How come you didn't go to church?" Boy! He whirled around, hit me in top of the head...

Alice: Oooh!

MRS. STILLMAN: "ME and Him!" Round and round.

Alice: Ummm!

MRS. STILLMAN: And he said, "Oh, Mrs. Stillman, don't hurt me, don't me, don't hurt me!" And he went on back in his room. I said, "Well, you better stay there." I ain't going to tell you what I did to him though. Of course, Dr. Menninger approved of it. So, they said when he came down on the ward that Monday for a meeting in his office, he asked, he said "Well, where is Stillman?" Everybody was in the office, the doctor and him. "Where is Stillman?" "Oh, she's out there on the ward." "Well, how come she's not in here? She's in charge." So they finally told them "Well, go get her." So, anyway, I went in and they said "they told us what happened." So, he said "Oh, assign that patient to Mrs. Stillman." And I said "Oh! I don't want him! I don't want him!" Because I figured a man should work with him. 'Cause I tell you he hit me in the top of my head and I saw stars.

Alice: Oh! Uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah. And I know when you're not allowed to strike them back. You can control them, but you're not allowed, by rule to hit them.

Alice: I know it gets tough sometimes?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yes it does.

Sherrie: I think I need to turn the tape over.

MRS. STILLMAN: When I quit working, one of the ladies in the administration building for Social Security, when I applied for it, she told, she said "Oh, Mrs. Stillman, you deserve it. You just go in there and ask for everything you're supposed to get (laughter)." She said, "You were out there fighting and carrying on trying to take care. And then someone tells me, say "Stillman...," when I go back on my day off and I go back, they would tell me, say "Stillman, I believe you down there beating the bushes and bringing in the patients (laughter).

Alice: (Laughter) Yeah.
Sherrie: (Laughter) Yeah.

MRS. STILLMAN: (...inaudible) Maybe some of the patients didn't pay any attention to them. But they get a whole lot of pressure when they go have these tests. You know they're getting ready to graduate.

Alice: And under the stress of needing some help?

MRS. STILLMAN: Right, ...some help.

Sherrie: Uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah. But we wasn't supposed to call names, and let them know whenever you see them on the street. I see some of my patients, yeah, on the street now. She was sitting on the bench in the park one day, and she always sat with her feet behind her and she just sat and looked me. But they did say to say "hello." Don't try to...

Alice: Initiate contact?

MRS. STILLMAN: Right, initiate contact. Oh, I'd like to tell you a lot things about this patient because she is so interesting. But...

Alice: But... I can understand.


Alice: In that position, the information is not for public consumption?


Alice: ...And so personal business is not... But the experience is what's so interesting?

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh yeah it was. They'd tell me, "Stillman you must be crazy because you like working here." But I enjoyed it.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: It was a good feeling when you got... Like this patient had been there for years. She had been in the service and then when she had been over in the jungle and she developed this..., what do you call it? ...Elephantitis? It's when you have these great big legs.

Alice: Elephantitis. Yeah, uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: And I enjoyed helping her out.

Alice: Oh great.

MRS. STILLMAN: Of course, she had been in there for years and no one come to see her or anything.

Alice: I bet that has to be heartbreaking?

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh yeah, we had quite a few. And I had a patient, when I worked with the doctors here at KU. He come to visit this patient and he was surprised. And I got the letter that they wrote to me. And he said "Oh, I'm so glad that you're working with this patient," it was a relation to him.

Alice: Oh yes. How nice! How nice! This was very rewarding work.

MRS. STILLMAN: Yes it was, it certainly was.

Alice: Will you tell us about your family? Do you have children?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, three.

Alice: You're married and...? Okay. Your husband's name was?

MRS. STILLMAN: Lewis L. Stillman. And we had three children. The oldest one... Am I supposed to name them?

Alice: Yeah.

Sherrie: Please.

MRS. STILLMAN: Thelma Louise Stillman and Robert Lavern Stillman who is the boy and Winnifred B. Stillman.

Alice: And they are all living and they live where?

MRS. STILLMAN: Thelma Louise, she lives in Lincoln, Nebraska. She comes down often when she can, and she works in nursing also.

Sherrie: Ooh!

Alice: Yeah.

MRS. STILLMAN: And also Winnifred worked in nursing. She went to night school in Topeka.

Alice: I remember that.

MRS. STILLMAN: Yes. Now she is one of the children that she just couldn't get enough school. Now she went to KU for four years, but don't ask me what she studied but she was there for four years just going to school. Even after little Pam was born, she would leave Pam with Dad.

Alice: Right.

MRS. STILLMAN: ...And she would go to school. And Robert, he and your brother, graduated from high school. They started to school together and then they graduated together. And they were going to... went into the service, Navy, and they were going to be together. And they separated because they said if they went in together, then if something would happen to one, well then the other would grieve themselves terribly. So they separated them.

Alice: That's based on the memory of World War II, when all these brothers were in the Navy on one boat, one ship and, Sullivan brothers I think is who was the name that were killed, and so they said they would never do that again. They wouldn't put close people together, brothers or close kin together on the same ship.

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, they separated Robert and...

Alice: They were too close.

MRS. STILLMAN: They were. They were brought up together, graduated together, started to school together.

Sherrie: Uh-huh. How did you meet your husband?

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh, I was living in Highland, and I... I think how I met him, they had a... oh it was a picnic at Sparks, Kansas. They'd always have a great big picnic, called "Food, Food, Food!" and then they had the big dance floor. And that's how I met him. And he would come too. He was a baseball player.

Sherrie: Oooh!

Alice: Hmmm!

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, he was a baseball player and he tried out with one of the big leagues.

Alice: This was the Negro League?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah it was, uh-huh. I can't remember of the name of them, I used to, but I can't remember. Because, oh, see there was his oldest brother, Dick, and Chick, and they called the other one Ick (laughter), and they all played baseball. But they played baseball in White Cloud. Oh, they played I'm telling you.

Alice: They worked for that community?

MRS. STILLMAN: Right. Oh, and he was quite a baseball player I'm telling you.

Alice: Kind of captured your eye?

MRS. STILLMAN: And I ended up... Oh, no! He started looking at me because I was quite young, because he was eleven years older than me.

Alice: Oooh.

Sherrie: Ummm.

Alice: And so Winnifred lives here?

MRS. STILLMAN: In Babcock, uh-huh.

Alice: And Robert lives?

MRS. STILLMAN: In, ... well, he lives right now in Elk Grove...

Alice: Elk Grove?

MRS. STILLMAN: Elk Grove, California. He was in Sacramento, but he just moved to a smaller town. And he was in the Navy until he..., Oh, when did he come out? He been in the Navy for many many years. And then they wanted him to be a Border Patrol. At that time I was working in Topeka at the hospital and they couldn't locate me, and he wouldn't take it because he wanted me to know he was going to be a Border Patrol and see if I approved. And so they wouldn't take him, because I had had to approve. Because, see, they went in when they was quite young.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: So, then he came back here, him and his first wife, and lived here for a while. Of course, he didn't like Lawrence after he'd been in the service and so he went back to California, Sacramento. And he stayed there and he got work for the Post Office until he retired.

Alice: How many grandchildren do you have?

MRS. STILLMAN: I know I got ten.

Alice: Ummm! Any great grands?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yes, I think I've got eight.

Sherrie: Ummm! When did you move to Lawrence?

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh, this is my second time in Lawrence.

Sherrie: Ooh! Okay.

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah. We lived on the farm there in White Cloud. Louise and Robert were born in White Cloud, Winnifred was born here in Lawrence out at Memorial. And, let me see. We came here when I was eighteen. We lived in Lawrence and then we stayed on Alabama for a while, then we moved out to Dunn's farm, dairy farm, way out. You where they had the... oh, the... Fort? Way out in the country? No, maybe you don't remember.

Alice: The Fort?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, the Fort of soldiers? Because they used to go pass the house when we lived on the farm.

Sherrie: Huh! Was this during World War II, or after the war, or...?

MRS. STILLMAN: No, that was before the war.

Alice: That was before the war.

Sherrie: Oh, before the war? Okay.

MRS. STILLMAN: Because Robert was in the Korean War wasn't he?

Alice: Well, no, actually he and Sonny [Marshall Tyler], they left for the Navy in 1959. Yeah, the Korean War ended about '58-59. But the remnants of it were still going.

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah. Uh-huh, right. Because I know Robert spent most of his time in Japan.

Alice: And I know Sonny went on to a Sub school, because he had been overseas on a tour to Japan and came back and went to Sub school. But I don't remember the Fort being here, but I remember, during the war, I remember that we had German Prisoners of War here.

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, these were... What do they ...? Well, they were in training.

Alice: Uh-huh. They used a training ground somewhere around here?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah. Way out past us. Uh-huh.

Alice: Now were you out towards Ottawa or out towards Baldwin, or...?

MRS. STILLMAN: I think its out towards Baldwin. Do you remember where the Simpsons came from? The Dowdells?

Alice: Uh-uh, not really. I remember them being here.

MRS. STILLWELL: Well, they had to go past our place to go home, the Dowdells.

Alice: I know there were a lot of black farmers out in the area and they owned most of the land out in that area.

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah they did.

Alice: So then you left Lawrence and then came back.

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, we stayed out there for a long time and I don't know whether Mr. Dunn got sick or she got sick, one of the two, and then we moved to town. And we stayed there at 441...

Alice: Perry?

MRS. STILLMAN: No, no, 441 Arkansas.

Alice: Oh, okay.

MRS. STILLMAN: I know it was a little bitty... we lived in a little two-room house, and then Chick's mother moved down here with her daughter, Margaret. And then she didn't like it very well, and she just wasn't going to let her stay here because she... So we moved back to White Cloud and stayed there for... (cough), oh, I guess that's where Robert was born. He was born there in...(cough) in '40.

Alice: '40?

MRS. STILLMAN: '40. And then we came back to Lawrence, I think when Robert was about eight months old.

Alice: Ummm, uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, because they kept after him to come back. Oh, I tell you what..., we lived at... (cough)

Sherrie: You need a drink of water or something?

MRS. STILLMAN: You remember Sis Green, they had the Green cafe here?

Alice: Uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: Because your dad worked there too.

Alice: The Green Lantern Cafe.

MRS. STILLMAN: Green Lantern, right there on Massachusetts street. Well, we lived on her dad's farm there and that's how we come to come back to Lawrence a second trip. She wanted him..., she went to school with Chick see, so she wanted him to come to Lawrence and work for her.

Sherrie: Ooh!

Alice: Oh.

MRS. STILLMAN: And that's how we came back the second time. And then he worked there for a long time until the plant opened up, and then he went down there and worked.

Sherrie: What plant was that?

MRS. STILLMAN: Sunflower Ordinance.

Sherrie: I see. Right, right!

MRS. STILLMAN: And he worked there until just before they closed it up.

Alice: That first time after the war?

MRS. STILLMAN: No, it was the second.

Alice: The second time. He worked there until they closed it up the second time?

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh, no, until he... I guess the first time, whenever. Uh-huh.

Alice: Yeah, because they re-opened back in 1963 to '65, and I worked there from 1964-65, almost '66, and then went to California. So, it was opened again and it had to be opened for the Korean or Vietnamese-Korean conflict, maybe the Vietnamese conflict.

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, he quit working there because he went to the lumbar yard and worked for the guy there that knew him, until he lost his fingers in an accident.

Sherrie: What was the Green Lantern? What was that like?

MRS. STILLMAN: It was just a cafe, just a real nice cafe.

Alice: But black people couldn't go in there. I made the mistake one time of going in the front door, because I was on my way home from school and Dad cooked there. And, so I went in to get a malt, because I loved malts. Well, I just was walking down the street, so I thought I'd just turn in, so I went in and went to the counter and asked for my dad. They said, "I think now, Ali, you gotta go 'round to the back door." And I said, "Why, I just want to get my malt?" And so she said, "Go around to the back, go 'round back." So I left there and I never will forget that. I don't know this woman's name, but she had real red hair and she said "Don't make the issue of that, Happy." They called me "Happy". "Don't make a big issue of that, Happy." So I left and went on around. And he said, "Ali, don't you know better? We can't be serving you just because I work here (laughter)." "I don't care if I do work here. Now let me go get your malt." Well, she had already made the malt, made a great big old..., I love chocolate malts. She had already mixed up a big old chocolate malt, and she said, "And, by the way, this is coming out of your dad's pay check." And dad was only getting like, at one time he was getting $7 a week, I don't know how much he was getting when I was in Junior High School. But he cooked all day long, eight hours a day for a dollar. One dollar.

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh, I can remember when I first started working as a kid, and I worked for 10 cents an hour helping my sister.

Alice: I worked cleaning a woman's house for 25 cents (laughter). I moved up in the world a little bit (laughter).

MRS. STILLMAN: (Laughter) Yeah, I worked for... when I was working at KU, at the fraternity, I would go up on the hill and work for Dean Smith, and then in the summer time I would work for Dean Anderson in one of the (cough). At that time they wasn't cooking year-round when school was out. The cooks had very little to do, so I worked for Dean Anderson. I worked for Dean Smith. Of course, he was in the service at the time. And, I never will forget, when I first started working for Mrs. Smith, Malcolm and Winnie was the same age. And Stewart, her oldest boy, and Lou went to school together over at Pinckney, because she started at Pinckney and then we moved on Perry, and then she started down here. Oh, I tell you, a lot of water under the bridge.

Sherrie: You had told us before about Wilt Chamberlain and I was wondering if you could tell that again on the tape?

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh, yes! Well, when I worked at the hospital in Topeka, the Dean of Women would call me and tell me, because I was one of the mothers there at the Alpha boys. And, she called me and tell me when they was going to have a party and I'd chaperon, and Wilt would come over to 441 Perry and pick me up. But he sat out in the car waited for me to come out, and I would chaperon their party for them. Of course, I'd chaperon the Delta girls too for a while. But seem like they didn't... their sorority didn't last too long or something.

Alice: I don't remember how long you worked there?

MRS. STILLMAN: I worked... I chaperoned for quite a few years until I hurt my back at the hospital and then I got to the place I just, couldn't do all these things. Because I was working for Dr. Reed on Saturdays and, of course, I worked for Mrs. Smith nineteen years.

Sherrie: Oh, my goodness!

MRS. STILLMAN: As I said, Malcolm was a baby and Winnie was a baby, both of them was eight months old, and her husband was in the service. He had gone to the service. And even after I went to the hospital, well I would go over and try to help her until I hurt my back.

Alice: And, so back to the Chamberlain story. When you chaperoned your parties, did you have any memorable experiences with him?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yes. This one time that I chaperoned, why they... I don't think I'm supposed to tell this, but I mixed their drinks in my bag. He didn't want me to know what was going on because if they always bring a drink, I asked for a drink of pop or something, and then I said to them "I'd like to drink, what are you drinking?" Knowing that something was up. So, then they looked at one another and then I knew. But they brought me something else. And then he was telling us... He had one girl on his lap and he's on his knees, and then he told me to sit on his knee and, when we sat on his, our feet were dangling (laughter) because he was so tall. But he was a nice person, always real nice and polite. When he picked me up he was real nice. That's about it, I just chaperoned their parties.

Alice: What about your church? Where do you go to church?

MRS. STILLMAN: First Regular Missionary Baptist Church. I was baptized when I was 35, never forget it and the Rev. Parker's wife, which the scholarship is named after him. And they told me that when I was baptized, of course I was baptized over at Ninth Street because we didn't have a pool at that time, and told me after I was baptized, why they come over to our church.

Alice: Right.

MRS. STILLMAN: And, so Mrs. Parker told me, she said "Oh," she said "we couldn't catch you." I said "What do you mean?" She said "After you came back over to the church," she said "I just went on down to the side of the church and they tried to catch you." And I said "oh," which I didn't realize.

Alice: (Laughter) You had to come out from under that water?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah (laughter)! That water was... (laughter).

Alice: (Laughter) Sure!

Sherrie: Yeah. Uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: Of course, I taught... I taught... I did teach my husband's brother, Roy. He was a Holiness and I taught Sunday School for them. He come pick me up and then after I went, me and Louise. And, of course, they dance.

Alice: Yeah.

MRS. STILLMAN: And we would just dance.

Alice: Oh, dance? Uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: She would mock this little old lady who'd been dancing.

Alice: Some kids will do that. They see something going on and then they try it.

MRS. STILLMAN: She'd get up, she'd dance and then she'd go up where her Uncle Roy was, and he said "Uh-uh, don't start coming up here preaching." But, anyway, I participated in just about everything that they had at First Regular Missionary Baptist Church. Sewing Circle and Scholarship and...

Alice: Silver Leaf?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yes, Silver Leaf, uh-huh.

Alice: And the Choir?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, I sang in the Choir for quite a little while, yes I sure did.

Sherrie: What is Silver Leaf?

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh, that was just the name of a club. I think that we sewed, didn't we?

Alice: Uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: We sewed. We did sewing.

Alice: A sewing circle.


Alice: Silver Leaf did some sewing too and the object of the club was to raise money to help the church because the church was very poor.

MRS. STILLMAN: Of course, I can remember they told us to bring dish towels. We didn't have enough dish towels and we made dish towels and everything for the church.

Alice: Right. Uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: So I was quite a church worker even though I didn't get to go all the time, but I went when I could.

Alice: Right, because you were working in Topeka?

MRS. STILLMAN: Right. Yeah.

Alice: And the kids were always there too.

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, for Sunday School. Oh, yeah, they went to Sunday School.

Alice: Involved in the Youth group.

MRS. STILLMAN: Was I involved in the Youth group?

Alice: The kids were?

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh, yeah they were involved, because they brought the vans in. Because the vans would come over to our house every Sunday and they let me go to Sunday School with my children. Otis talks about that now.

Alice: Otis is where right now?

MRS. STILLMAN: He's back in Eldorado.

Alice: He works in South Carolina, he has two businesses there.

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh really?

Alice: Two car dealerships. He has one and his son has one.

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh, yeah. I didn't know that.

Alice: What kinds of things have you been linked in the later years, in your retirement?

Sherrie: When did you retire?

MRS. STILLMAN: It was '72, I believe. I had quit and... still different ones of the patients would come and visit me. They'd run off and they'd come and visit me. And, of course, I'd refer them back to the hospital and attempt to call for them to smooth it out while they were here. And then some of them would call themselves and tell them. They would tell them where they were, but they would go back to the hospital.

Alice: Uh-huh.

Sherrie: Hmmm.

MRS. STILLMAN: It wouldn't be quite so hard if they know that they were on their way back. Different ones would call and ask me questions about different things, medications, like that. And I'd tell them that I mostly worked with minds instead of...

Alice/Sherrie: Medications?

MRS. STILLMAN: ...medications daily. But I just prefer not to tell them what to do because they'd be under the doctor's care.

Alice: Right, right. So these were the nurses that would be calling and asking for your advice? Some of the Aides?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, some of the Aides. Of course, I know some of the nurses at the hospital would call me, cause some of them had to go back to college. They'd call and, of course, Mrs. Hardisty, she was a head nurse at the hospital, of course she passed, and she would call and tell me on my day off, say "Stillman, this is the last resort. Could you come in and work the midnight shift?" And I said "Sure." One day she called me, and I said "Because they couldn't find anybody else to work on the M&F Ward but Medical Surgical. Just sit with patients, watch them through the night. And, so I told her, I said "Mrs. Hardisty," I said "Do I have to... when I get through, do I get to come home?" "Oh, no!" I had to work through the next shift, 7 to 3.

Alice: Aah! Um!

MRS. STILLMAN: Then I said "Oh, nah! Uh-uh." I said "I can't handle that."

Alice: You sitting up all night and you get just a little sleep, and then have to get up and work at 7?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, 7 to 3. She said "You have to work your shift too." And I said "Oh, no." I said "I couldn't handle that."

Alice: Uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: But she called me often, tell me "Stillman, you are the last resort, we can't find anyone to do this and do that." And I said "Well, I've got to work my shift too."

Alice: It was a lot?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah. But some of them did, I guess right there in the town. You see I'd have to drive from here up there.

Alice: Then drive back home, then drive back to Topeka?


Alice: That's quite a bit.

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, see I'd have to leave from there and go right on over to my job. I didn't get to come home.

Alice: Oh, boy! Yeah. That's too much I think. Also, were you retired in... You still work with the A.L. Parker Scholarship Committee?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yes, I still work with that, and do whatever I can whenever they have, different things to come up. They ask for a different... so much money to help out on this and that, and I try to do that.

Alice: You have an annual day?

MRS. STILLMAN: Uh-huh, yeah.

Alice: You raise money?

MRS. STILLMAN: Like where they have the ... Oh, I can't think of the... It's when they have to wear all their uniforms, white uniforms?

Alice: Oh, Mission?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, Mission! Mission Day.

Alice: Mission Day. You help with that?


Alice: What does the A.L. Parker Scholarship Fund do?

MRS. STILLMAN: It supports the graduates from high school. Of course, we give money to the ones that graduate and have good grades.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MRS. STILLMAN: It takes so much money to start out in college. Of course, we give to the ones that come out of eight grade too, you know graduate.

Alice: And give different amounts?


Alice: Do you still give to the college students after their first year? There used to be a program there where you gave to... they had to prove they were in school. Is that still in effect?

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, I don't know about that. But I know that we gave money for them to start college.

Alice: Uh-huh. Okay, well maybe that's it.

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah, to start college, uh-huh, yeah. A college fund.

Alice: Your church is not a very big church is it?


Alice: I mean as far as number of members?

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh. Yeah, we have a lot of members, but they don't come. If they would all come, honey, we'd have a church full.

Alice: Uh-huh. Ummm!

MRS. STILLMAN: But they don't all come. But I try to go whenever I can 'cause I... since I have stopped working and haven't felt too good, there are times that I can't go. After I had surgery on my neck, then I had this foot disease, that gout, so I couldn't walk at all.

Sherrie: Ooh!

MRS. STILLMAN: That's the most painful thing ever. I still hurt with my feet some I tell you.

Alice: Well, there is something special you'd like to share with us for this interview? Anything you'd like people to know about you that we haven't talked about so far?

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, I tell you what, I love to cook.

Sherrie: Aaah! (Laughter).

Alice: (Laughter).

MRS. STILLMAN: Yes, I love to cook. And whenever I go to Lincoln, that's my job whether I want it or not.

Sherrie: Ooh!

Alice: Lincoln is where?

MRS. STILLMAN: That's where Louise lives, my oldest daughter. And when I'd always have Christmas dinner, of course, Winnifred comes over and has dinner with us. And when Mr. Red was living, why he always came. Of course, he's no longer living. I used to feed the bachelors and I fed KU students, because some of them don't get to go home.

Alice: Yeah.

MRS. STILLMAN: ...and I've had KU students over for dinner.

Sherrie: Uh-huh. What are your special things that you cook?

MRS. STILLMAN: I like making cakes. I love to make pies and bake chicken, dressing and turkey, all those things.

Sherrie: Ummm!

MRS. STILLMAN: And rolls, fresh. Oh, I love making bread... from scratch (laughter).

Sherrie: Uh-huh, yeah (laughter).

MRS. STILLMAN: After cooking all those years at KU, I think it kind of helps out everything.

Alice: Practicing?

MRS. STILLMAN: Yeah. Well, see they didn't have a house mother and I had to order all their groceries and everything and make out the menu myself: breakfast and lunch and dinner. That's why the doctors told me that I didn't know the color of my house, because when I left early in the morning it was dark and when I come back in the evening it was dark.

Alice: You say you might own your own hill?

MRS. STILLMAN: Well, no (laughter).

Alice: I can't think of anything else right now, but I don't want to close the door to maybe a future interview.

MRS. STILLMAN: Oh, that would be great. Of course, I'll take up more tapes.

Alice: Every time you talk to somebody they come up with some more things. And this would be something that could just be added to this interview. We do thank you.

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