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Interview with: Richard L. Card
Date: July 23, 1974
Archive Number: OH 045.1 and 045.2
I: (00:01) Good morning, Mr. Card. This is an interview with Mr. Richard L. Card, July 23, 1974. Mr. Card, we would like to hear a little bit about your background. Where did you get your education and your early experiences in teaching and being the principal?
RC: I was born and reared on a farm up by the way of the county two miles south of Lufkin. I went to the public schools. I went through the eighth grade. They didn’t have many high schools at that time. In 1913 I took the examination for a college certificate, and I taught in the rural schools for a number of years on a second-grade county certificate. At a one-teacher school I started out at $50 a month, and before that certificate expired, I said I would not wear it out, that I would get a college education before I taught anymore. So in 1915—in the summer of 1916, rather—I went to Sam Houston Normal Institute, which was in Huntsville at that time, and then went the regular year of 1916 and 1917 and I got certificates—eight certificates from that school—and I continued going to school there in the summers and teaching at one-teacher country schools and two-teacher country schools. Finally, in 1918, I went into the service and served time in France and Germany and worked at the Army of Occupation in Germany. I returned back to the United States in the spring of 1919, and I was back in school within 3 weeks after I got back in the States. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the Sam Houston State Teacher’s College in June of 1923. I settled in the little town of Harleton in East Texas. I was principal of the high school in Willis, and by 1923, 1924, and 1925, I had charge of the Odd Fellows Orphaned Home School in Corsicana, Texas. Then in 1925, I came to Houston and opened the Edison Junior High School, which at that time was not a part of the Houston Independent School District. It was part of the Harrisburg School District under the direction J. O. Webb, who was superintendent. In 1926, the municipality out of Harrisburg voted—of Central Park, rather—voted to disband this municipality and join the City of Houston. And that’s how we became a part of the Houston Independent School District, by becoming a part of the City of Houston.
I opened the Edison school in 1925, and I stayed there as its only principal just 30 years. The school had 252 students and 13 teachers when I opened it. When I left, I had an assistant principal, Mrs. Leela McCurdy, and I had 1630 students. Superintendent Moreland of the Houston School system at that time asked me if I was going to come to the school and open that new school, and after about 3 weeks’ deliberation and conferences with him, I agreed to go to Cullen and opened the Cullen Junior High School. I opened the Cullen Junior High School with about 955 students in September of 1955 and was assistant principal. I stayed there 9 years until June 1964, and when I left it was 2500 students and 2 assistant principals.
I: (05:17) Can I ask you, Mr. Card, why did you decide to come to Harrisburg from what you were doing? I believe it was from Willis, did you say, that you came to?
RC: I was in Corsicana, and I had to live in the dormitory. I was not allowed—could not have a home, and we lived in the dormitory, and I felt the prospects from Houston, for me, were much better than in Corsicana, which proved to be true before the Corsicana school later closed up and became very, very small. It was only about 450 students when I was there, and at this time they had just a few students, and they were often home-schooled and they were transported in the Corsicana public schools. The Edison School was a new school at that time; however, its name was Park Junior High School, and we became confused with Park Place School. I finally got the Board of Education—the Houston Board of Education—to agree to a change of name, and we submitted names to the community and they voted on them; and Thomas A. Edison won out, and that’s the reason that we changed to Thomas A. Edison School. Now I came from Corsicana because I thought there would be better opportunities in the field of education for me in this area than there would be in an institution. However, as I said a while ago about not being a Rotarian, I got a nice platform. I also applied from the Masonic Lodge. I was not a member of the Odd Fellows Lodge, yet I had charge of the Odd Fellows School for two years in Corsicana.
I: How was the changeover from the Harrisburg School District to the Houston District accomplished? Was that very difficult as far as—did all of the employees go to the Houston from Harrisburg? Was it just annexed whole?
RC: Actually, the Harrisburg Independent School District was made up of two municipalities. Magnolia Park was one municipality, Park Place was another municipality, and the schools of those areas were under the jurisdiction of the Harrisburg Independent School District. The late G.S. Bracewell was president of the board and his son, Searcy Bracewell, was our senator. First, the municipality of Magnolia Park was dissolved, and that automatically put those schools within in that area in the Houston District. Then later on, the municipality of Harrisburg was dissolved, and the municipality of Park Place was dissolved, and that automatically put the schools in those municipalities under the jurisdiction of the Houston schools. And the transfer was very, very smooth—that is for about six months. The Harrisburg School System exercised little or no jurisdiction over us, and the Houston Independent School District exercised little or no jurisdiction over us, but they gradually took over and began to exercise jurisdiction over the—at that time, in the Magnolia Park was a Franklin Elementary School and the J. Davila Elementary School and Edison Junior High School. Those were the first three schools that were taken over by the Houston District from the Magnolia Park municipality. Later on, as I said a moment ago, the Deady School and the Harrisburg Elementary School were taken over when Harrisburg dissolved its municipality, and the Park Place School was taken over by Houston when the municipality of Park Place dissolved its municipality.
I: (10:08) When you came to Houston, or became a part of Houston Independent School District, and the Depression came on in the 1930s, what sort of problems did you as a principal have during those Depression years? What sort of effect did the Depression have on you?
RC: We had many problems because the Depression was on, and we had many students from the industrial area from the Ship Channel and the Hughes Tool Company. Many of those students were disturbed because they knew that their families were in financial straits, and many of those parents had no possessions—had no jobs—and really the children didn’t know how their parents were going to pay the rent or how they were going to pay their grocery bill. And it did have—the Depression had quite an effect on the students at that time. Of course, all our students were very touched and sorry. I came to the Edison School on $1800 a year as principal, and it was a long time before I got up to $3000 a year. And then we were going to get cut backs. My wife was a teacher, and the school board the put the wives of principals on half-time. They were not allowed to teach the whole year. They were allowed to teach just one semester out of each year during the Depression. There was considerable effect on the student body as well as the teachers during the years of the Depression.
I: Did the school district have problems as far as getting materials for your school? Did you ever have problems as far textbooks and things like this during the Depression?
RC: We had no problem with textbooks because they were furnished through the state. But we could have shortages of school supplies because of the lack of finances in the school system. However, we managed get along and weather it very well.
I: What were some of the things other than pay cuts and personnel did the schools attempt to do to handle the problems that you confronted in the Depression? Did the school have a role in the community to alleviating this problem that you faced—as far as your students faced—or anything like this?
RC: No, the school had no role in the communities as far as alleviating the problems of the effect that the Depression had on children.
I: (13:11) Okay, fine.
I2: Well, let’s move on and talk about World War II period. Was there any change in the curriculum, for instance, during the war years? Did your school, for instance, take part in any of the efforts to sell war stamps and things like that?
RC: Oh yes, we did, and we did a lot with the rationing too, of course. I remember we had a metal drive, and we had scrap metal packed up in the back yard of Edison School that was a stack that was as large as this house, you might say—a very, very large amount of scrap metal that students brought in during the war years. Our teachers and our staff did help out in the rationing and the stamps program of World War II. We took an active part, of course, in cooperation with the government during World War II. It took many, many of our younger teachers. I know it took the coaches from our schools. For a while, we had abandoned basketball, and I myself as principal coached the basketball team for a while, along with my early years as principal. We still had some games with other schools. I remember we had a game with Marshall Junior High School. Our coaches had been called to the service during World War II, and it did have quite an effect on the male population out of all of our schools.
I: Well, after the war, the tremendous growth, of course—the post war boom and so. What sort of problems did this present to you? Did you have any crowding—a crowded situation at your particular school as far the children were concerned—you know—tremendous growth problems?
RC: Yes, the school suddenly grew. Like I said, it grew from 252 in 1925 to 1680 in 1955, when I left. The area that was the school was very, very small, and we had temporary buildings—or shacks, as we called—all over the campus and not room for an official-sized football field. But we did use it as a practice field after World War II, and we played our teams on the Jefferson Stadium after it was constructed.
I: But you did have to add the temporary buildings?
RC: Oh yes, and there are still a number of temporary buildings on the campus of Edison School, and they still do not have a regulation-size football field. The people of that community and the people of that area and that are of that school are trying to get the school board to buy the whole block in back of Edison School. I also tried to get our school board to do that for years, but was never successful. But the people there—the people of Edison School in the community are still trying to get the school board, maybe with the cooperation of the city, to buy other areas because the campus of Edison School is extremely small.
I: (17:17) Did you ever have to go to half-day sessions?
RC: No sir. We never did go to half-day sessions.
I: Did the schools have any role after the war in such things as the vaccination programs that were going on? Did your particular school or school district assist with the polio drives and so forth?
RC: Yes, and especially we used to have a truck come out there and examine children for TB. That was a general thing that the trucks were sent around over the community, and there were free examinations to detect tuberculosis with children.
I2: Was this all over town, or just this area?
RC: It was somewhat city wide.
I: Were you a member of the Houston school administrator’s association?
RC: Oh yes. I was member of the Houston principal’s association the whole time that I was the principal of the Houston schools.
I: What were the aims and purposes of this particular organization?
RC: Well, there were some perks as far as the organization was—of course, the cooperation socially and from the standpoint of managing athletics. It was just an organization that was not—it was not political. It was not a political organization.
I: Did it have any relationship with the Houston teacher’s association or any other teacher’s--?
RC: Very little relationship—you could not be a member of the Houston teachers association and the principals association too. I, personally, always backed the Houston teachers association and encouraged my teachers to become members of the Houston teacher’s association or the Houston Congress of Teachers, after it was organized. Of course, there was no coercion or anything like that. We believed that our teachers should be members of the Texas State Teachers Association, and that they should be members of their local organizations, just like we felt that the principals should be members of the Houston principal’s association.
I: (19:48) Could I ask you what some of your positions as principal of a junior high in Houston and member of the principal’s association—what some of your positions were in some of the questions that arose after the war about the schools? For instance, I believe there was some sort of a textbook controversy that came up after World War II with the Magruder textbook for Civics and things like—some other textbooks controversies—and I believe that United Nations was deleted from the curriculum in some ways, or the United Nations Contest was abandoned. What was your position as a principal during this time—in these two particular areas?
RC: I don’t have any memory of any controversy in particular. It’s been a good, long while ago, and I paid little attention to it. We had members of a textbook committee, and often times I had one or more teachers from my school that served as the members of the textbook committee, and I left it largely to them. As a principal, I was used to the schools. I was not a political principal. I took very, very little interest in—public interest—in politics. I knew several of the board members casually, meeting them at banquets, but from the standpoint of politicking with them, I never did. I carried on my work through the downtown administrative office.
I: Was there—we heard things—that there was a conservative/liberal-type struggle going on in the schools during this time. Was there such a—were you aware of any kind of a tough struggle like this?
RC: I think later on there became a group that were conservatives and a group that were more liberal. I think that’s true. And I think we’ve had—for a good long while we had a conservative group of trustees that had charge of the public schools. Later on it changed and the liberal group—I think that’s true—a more liberal group came to power. It’s my personal opinion that possibly our conservative group lost in the election not many years ago. And I think two factors have quite a bit of influence in the fact that the liberal group won. I think an attempt or talk of abolishing the kindergartens had a great effect on the school board election. I also feel that a good many people opposed the construction of the new administration building, and I feel that those two things had a considerable effect on bringing about a more liberalized school board—the effect of the talk of doing away with pre-kindergartens because of financial difficulties, and then the tremendous amount of money that was put into the new administration building.
I: Now this was the 1970 election?
RC: (23:37) That was during that time, yes.
I2: 1969—right. You don’t think the problem of integration and the steps that were taken to—how do they call it—“all deliberate speed” had anything to do with their defeat?
RC: Yes, I believe probably it did—that the effects of integration might have had something to do with it. I think this personally, that regardless of integration as it is—I believe forced integration was bad. I believe that we just had integration and a lot of children to go to school on a Freedom of Choice basis. But when we had forced busing to bring about integration, and where we had forced children to go to an integrated school whether they wanted to or not, either black or white. I think many of the black students would have preferred, probably, to have stayed in their own schools, just like many of the white children would have preferred to stay in their own schools. And I personally do not believe in forced integration—to force people to go to a school against their will.
I2: Do you think that the schools, at one time, were separate and equal?
RC: That’s true we’re separate, but they were never equal. During the administration of Dr. E. E. Olberholtzer, I feel that for one reason or another that the colored schools did not get fair treatment. It was a trend of the time. I think the white schools received more money and better buildings perhaps. But with the coming of the Superintendent W. E. Moreland and Dr. John McFarland, the situation began to change. However, there were many of the white schools that were overly neglected—in bad condition—along with the black schools. But I do think that Superintendent Moreland and Dr. John McFarland were beginning to change that situation and trying to build up the black schools to where they would be on equal with the whites. And I personally feel that we would have been better off had we had more money poured into the black schools to bring them up to standard, instead of spending millions of dollars on busing to bring children into white schools or white children into black schools. The money could have been better spent in making the black schools more equal to the surrounding white schools, but now I feel that they’re doing a lot for all of the schools.
I2: Trying to make it come out evenly.
RC: Yes, yes. But for years and years we had separate but not equal schools. They were not equal for years, and I don’t know if they were ever really equal. But like I say, in the City of Houston, Superintendent Moreland and Superintendent McFarland were making an effort. And I think our boards of education, during those years, were doing more to bring up the black schools to better condition before the 1954 Supreme Court verdict bringing about integration.
I2: (28:04) Did you ever notice this in some of the areas where there was a large Latin American population, Mexican Americans, who--?
RC: The same thing was true somewhat, I think, as was true with the black areas. Edison became more and more Latin American. I think when I started there I had three or four little Latin American children. After that, the percentage was probably 30 or 35 percent Latin American, and now I would estimate that the percentage of Latin Americans at Edison is pretty close to 85—89 percent—at least 85 to 88 percent is Latin American now at Edison School.
I2: What sort of problems did you have as principal of the school that had a mixture of Latin American and I guess you could say—Caucasian, white, Anglo students. What sort of problems did you have with language problems, for instance, in the classrooms?
RC: Well, not too many problems. I personally didn’t speak Spanish. I wish now that I had learned Spanish when I worked at Edison School. I didn’t have too many problems. There was tendency on the part of the Latin American students to congregate together and to speak their language, of course, in school and on the campus. We never made an effort to restrict them from using their language. And in some areas I understood that they tried to restrict the Latin Americans from using their language and to compel them to speak English in the classroom. We never—we encouraged them to speak English, but we never tried to keep them from speaking their own language. And I, as a principal, tried to be just and fair to the Latin Americans, as well as the Anglos. Sometimes we’d have Anglos say that we favored the Latin Americans and sometimes, every now and then, we’d have a Latin American say that we favored the Anglos. But as a general thing, in my particular school, I feel that the Anglos were my friends, and they knew that I was just as fair with them as I was with Anglos.
I2: What about the parents? Was there any community problem with language or cultural gaps?
RC: Not too much in that area. Of course, occasionally as I have said, the parents would feel that there were differences with Anglo Americans. Some Anglo parents would feel that the Latins were unruly and vice versa, just like it is with the black situation now.
I: Did you as principal ever make an effort to hire bilingual teachers? For instance—
RC: (31:24) No. The personnel office did most of the hiring. Of course, at that time usually the personnel office would send a teacher out for a conference before they placed them in the school system. Mr. Richard Jones was personnel manager for many, many years, and Mr. Richard Jones usually would try to send a teacher out that would fit into the community. We had very few—at Edison we had practically no Latin American teachers. We had a number of teachers who spoke Spanish but no Latin American teachers. Now at Cullen School we had a number of Latin American teachers, one who was a former student of mine from Edison—taught with me for a good while at Cullen and is still—I think she is a current counselor at the Jane Long School now. And more and more we had more Latin American teachers come into to the schools, which I think is good. I think certainly in a Latin American community that we ought to have more Latin American teachers and principals.
I: Do you remember a so-called George Ebay III–what that was about—and could we have your reflection on that?
RC: No, I don’t.
I: You don’t recall that at all? Well, from what we understand, this is when the Deputy Superintendent of Schools here. His contract was not renewed after a year because of some sort of controversy about an alleged attachment with some questionable organizations. This is what we understand at any rate. We understand it was a big news story here in town, 1953, I believe it was—in the summer of 1953. Does that help any as far as your reflections at all?
RC: Oh, I don’t recall. I paid little attention to those things.
I: Oh I see. Okay. What about the NEA Investigation of Houston. Do you recall that—a year later?
RC: Yes, personally I was never—for awhile I remember the NEA. But I dropped out, and I don’t think that the Houston teachers association ought to require their members to be members of the NEA. I encouraged my teachers to be members of the Houston Council of Education or the Houston teachers association, and the Texas State Teacher’s Association. I never took an active role in encouraging them to be members of the NEA. I was a member of the NEA for a little while, but personally, I think our local situation gets along just as well without the NEA.
I2: I was going to ask you if you thought the National Education Agency had any business coming into communities.
RC: (34:51) Absolutely not. I think that we ought to have more local control of schools than we do. But anytime you begin to take government money, you’re going to have more government control of the public schools or whatever. Because it stands to reason as a general thing and the government puts money into an institution—an organization—they want to have some control over that money. And I feel that the public schools have been getting way too much from over-control. I feel that we ought to have local control of our schools.
I: Do you recall—why did the NEA come to Houston in the first place to investigate?
RC: I don’t remember—don’t know.
I2: What about the food program, where we began taking finally the food money that was available to feed the free lunch program—this, of course, skipping ahead a few years. Was there a difference at Cullen Junior about this time? Do you recall how that affected the number of people that it fed?
RC: Well, we had quite a good many students who were on the food program at Cullen. I don’t know that it affected them very much. I think there were a number of children who needed it, and in general I think you’ll find people who take advantage of that situation and receive public funds or public food or food stamps that really don’t need it. However, I think there were a number who did need it. Those children, as far as I remember, were not stigmatized in any way. We tried to make it so it would not be an embarrassing situation for them. It was very less—much less than it is now. There’s more money put into free lunches now—very much more—than was before I left Cullen.
I: Did you—sir, did you have much of a relationship with the business managers of the schools for a long time—Mr. H. L. Mills, I believe, was his name?
RC: Yes sir, I did.
I: What sort of—in what way did you work with Mr. Mills—financially and things like this, as far as--?
RC: Well, the only relationship I had was the field of repair, and he had men who did that. Of course, we never had enough money to keep up the buildings in shape that they ought to be kept with from the standpoint of bond issues and things like that. I knew H. L. Mills personally, having known him ever since I came to Houston, and knew the whole Mills family and the whole Elrod family. I knew Mills was business manager, and we had difficulty in getting repairs and supplies, but that was true all over the whole city. That was usually lack of—just not enough money to go around.
I: (38:22) What about Mr. J. O. Webb? Now, what position did Mr. Webb have in the schools?
RC: J.O. Webb was Superintendent of the Harrisburg Independent School District when I came here, and he remained superintendent until after Harrisburg and Park Place municipalities were dissolved, and then he went into the Houston Independent School District. I don’t remember just his exact position, but he was with the school district as a deputy for the time that the Harrisburg District united with the Houston District.
I2: In the late 1920s then?
I2: He was the Deputy Superintendent of something?
RC: Yes, yes—until he retired and passed away a number of years ago.
I: How did the district operate, or what was the setup? We understand it was some sort of—it was called a dual administration setup between the superintendent and the business manager?
RC: Well, to a certain extent I guess it was. They claimed that they were doing administration. I don’t know. The school board, after all, had the responsibility for the business office and the superintendent’s office too. So as far as I know, the business office and the superintendent’s office worked together on most issues and most things. I don’t know just how much effect there was to the situation of the dual administration. It never bothered me. I stayed in my own community. I ran my own school as far as I knew how.
I2: Wasn’t it called the Cullen Independent School District sometimes?
RC: Some friends of mine facetiously referred to me at Cullen as the Cullen Independent School District, because as a general thing I—of course, I conferred with the administrative staff and the superintendent and with others. But after all, I took responsibility for running my school as I felt it should run. And one thing that Dr. John McFarland said on my retirement at a banquet—he made this statement, which I appreciated. He said that, “As long as he had been superintendent of the public schools of Houston that he had never had to reverse a decision that I made. That whenever I made a decision, that it stood. That he had never had to change any of my decisions. One thing I did at the Cullen school—as you know, we were cramped for office space, and at that time we had plenty of room, and I had considerable money in the local school treasury that we had made with school carnivals. I took that room and changed into a nurse’s room and also an attendance office. And Mr. Joe Wile and myself, with the help of Mr. Bob Lofts, one summer converted that room. I personally built the counter that’s in the attendance office at the public school. And we paid for it out of local funds, and I didn’t ask the downtown office anything about it. I just went ahead and converted the room. I knew if I asked them about converting a room into an office space they would probably say no, and I just went ahead and did it and paid for it and said nothing about it and that was it.
I2: (42:40) They were surprised when they came out and saw it!
I: Did most of the principals in the Houston Independent School District have fairly independent position as far as their own particular schools, or were they fairly unique?
RC: Well, they all had a local account that they could use, but I don’t know whether they went ahead and did things on their own as much as I did or not.
I2: Cory Mills over at Jones ran his school rather independently too.
RC: Yes, Cory Mills ran a good school.
I2: You didn’t hear this about too many other people?
RC: Cory Mills was a good friend of mine, and I’ve known him since he came to Houston as a teacher. I knew him when he became assistant principal. I knew him as principal, and in my judgment, Cory Mills and Jake Waters, along with many others, were extremely good people in running their schools and ran good schools.
I2: There wasn’t too much direction, then? I mean, if you had a school that was operating efficiently and quietly, there wasn’t a lot of direction from the district office.
RC: That’s right.
I2: Did Dr. McFarland know the principals well?
RC: (44:04) I think Dr. McFarland and Dr. Moreland knew the principals very, very well. We used to have meetings with the elementary principals and have meetings with junior principals and have meetings with senior principals. I think Dr. McFarland and Dr. Moreland knew personally every junior principal and every assistant principal. We’d have a meeting in the administrative office. We’d discuss our problems, and many of us would speak out freely. I think I would speak out more freely than some of the other principals. But anytime I disapproved anything, I had the audacity to tell them I didn’t think it was right. And Dr. John McFarland and Dr. W. E. Moreland really knew their principals personally when they met them, and I doubt if that was true with Superintendent Garver.
I2: Perhaps this is the reason that you did have so much freedom in your schools. They knew you. They understood what you were doing—understood your goal well.
RC: Well, the school district was—I wouldn’t say smaller, because it’s really smaller now in population. The enrollment has decreased from what it was a number of years ago, due pretty largely to the exodus of people out of the city. It’s just a natural trend in Houston and in other districts too—other areas too. I think Dr. Oberholtzer served—of course the school system was smaller—he knew his principals quite well. Dr. Oberholtzer was a good superintendent, but in my judgment, Dr. Moreland and Dr. McFarland were just a lot different from Dr. Oberholtzer. I give him credit for his stance to the University of Houston. I know when the junior college was established. I know very well when it was established—when it turned into to the University of Houston when Dr. Oberholtzer became President of the University of Houston. I know that story—that history back of it, and I certainly give Dr. Oberholtzer credit for his foresight in establishing the junior college and then establishing the University of Houston.
I2: This is probably his biggest contribution, I guess.
RC: Yes, that’s right. But personally, from the standpoint of superintendent, I think Dr. Moreland and Dr. McFarland were outstanding in their relationship with the communities and with their principals.
I2: With the needs of the schools at that time.
I: (47:10) With regard to the to the superintendents, I understand that in one year there, between Dr. Moreland and Dr. McFarland, a Mr. Scarborough was the acting superintendent. Is that correct?
RC: Mr. Scarborough was a personal friend of mine. He was a teacher of mine at Edison School. He taught for me at Edison. He was a very, very fine friend of mine and furthermore, Mr. Fletcher was a very, very good friend of mine. I knew Fletcher when he had charge of the Industrial Arts in the Houston School System. I regarded Fletcher as a very, very stable and fine gentleman.
I: Why did Dr. Moreland have quite a bit of trouble with the school board? Do you know as far as he was at one time asked to step back down to become deputy superintendent in the early 1950s? Do you recall anything about that?
RC: I don’t recall. I don’t know. I know Dr. Moreland. I believe that he left. Was Scarborough—did he take his place or did Fletcher take his place? Scarborough took his place for a while, I believe.
I2: Fletcher took his place after McFarland?
RC: Yes, Mr. Fletcher, I think, was acting superintendent after Dr. McFarland left. And Mr. Fletcher, I think, was an extremely fine gentleman, and I think knew the Houston School System well, as I think that Horace Elrod knows it quite well.
I2: A great deal of experience. What kind of positions did Mr. Elrod have?
RC: I don’t know just exactly the position now. They’ve changed the names of them so much. I don’t know the—I don’t many of the old timers, of course. I do know Gordon Cotton, I know Pete Dowland and I know Scarborough—I’ve known them from years and years and years back.
I: Okay, Mr. Card, if we could—this tape is about out, and we’d like, if I could, to take this to short break and then turn this over. And we’d like to ask you, on the second part here, some of your reflections about your own personal philosophies in education and maybe get some of your reflections on a contrast between when you were principal of the schools in the early years, and contrast that with being principal of the schools later on and the differences, if we may—on the next side.
RC: Well, if I can help you, I—
I: (49:48) You sure can. We appreciate this a great deal. Let me turn this over now.
I: (00:01) First of all, Mr. Card, could we ask for you to make some refreshments on the differences that you saw? The comparisons between the early part of your career as a principal here in Houston with the later part and as far as the differences? How different was it to be a principal in the 1930’s and 1920’s and then to be a principal in the late 1950s or early 1960s?
RC: Well, I think that the trend of time had changed considerably. In the old days of 1925 and 1930 and along there we had the different areas, of course, and we had parents who believed in the schools. We had parents who believed that the children should be disciplined in the school, and that the school was usually right in the way it was conducted. Then after World War II—and we had many returning veterans and children in school, I feel that maybe that they thought that their children should be given more freedom. There was a trend—a trend in general—more liberalized education.
I2: What do you mean by more liberalized education?
RC: Well, the children should be allowed to do pretty much as they pleased, that they should run the school. That after all, if they didn’t want to do a thing, why, it was all right. That they were to do things just like they wanted to, and as I result, I believe that there is far less discipline and control of the public schools of today. I think our principals and our teachers have less discipline and control of students than they had formerly. I think it’s a natural—it’s a trend to want the whole area. For instance, my assistant principal, Mr. Joe Rale, who served time in World War II and came back to me to me as a principal—he was telling me about visiting schools in Chicago, and he was very much surprised that they had a policeman on every floor in some of those schools in Chicago during World War II. When he came back to Houston he told me—he said, “Well I’m glad that at least that we, so far, don’t have to have a policeman on every floor.” But it’s come to the place now where we have to have security guards at all the schools, and we have to increase them. A lot of the difficulty came from transients who—dropouts—who come back to schools and give difficulty; but not all of it comes from the dropouts. A lot of the problems come from within. We noticed in the paper the other day that there was a Superintendent Cotton—who is a personal friend of mine—proposes to strengthen the discipline in the public schools of Houston. He proposed to give teachers and principals a stronger hand in disorder, and that no child should be allowed to disrupt the classroom to such an extent, that the other students are deprived of their opportunity to learn.
I: (04:24) Could I ask you? What do you see is as your greatest success as a principal over the years? And is there anything that you would like to have done differently, or something that you didn’t get to do that you wish you would have done?
RC: Well, I don’t regret having been a principal. But if was a do-over with the situation like it is, I would never be a principal again. I would not advise a young person to go into the field of education now. I would not advise a young person to make a teacher. There was a time when I encouraged them to make teachers, but now with a young person coming up, I’d say that there are many other opportunities that are perhaps better than the field of education. With my background and my experience, if I were 20 to 25 years of age now, I would not go into the field of education again. I’m glad I did it at the time, and I don’t regret having served 47 years as a principal and teacher of public schools in Texas; but with the changing time and the trend of time, I would not go into it again.
I: Is there anything that you would have liked to have done, or that you wanted to do as a principal in schools?
RC: No, I think my experience as a teacher and principal were very rewarding. I don’t regret having served as a teacher and principal, and I don’t regret retiring. However, if it were a do-over, I think I probably would retire a little earlier. I waited until the age of 70 to retire, and if it were a do-over, I think I’d retire about 65.
I: Let me ask you this. When you were principal in the early 1950s, a lot of people made accusations that the schools were being interfered with by pressure groups and outsiders and things like this. Did you ever have any kind of--?
RC: No sir, I never felt that.
I2: Did you ever have any political groups that wanted to use your school or introduce speakers or anything political?
RC: No, I didn’t. If they wanted to use the school, we referred them to the downtown office. If they wanted to rent them, they had to pay rent on them and pay custodian fees and the like and so on. If they wanted to use them for political purposes, or any other purpose, they had to make that arrangement through the downtown business office.
I: (07:32) Did you have any personal knowledge or acquaintances with some of the school board members while you were principal—let’s say, after the post war period—after World War II?
RC: I only met those principals—those board members—I only met them at villas, banquets and things like that. I just met them socially, occasionally. I never called them or talked them or invited them to come out and visit my school.
I2: Did some principals do this kind of thing?
RC: As far as I know they may have, but I never did call them up and talk them about any school matters at all. If I had a school problem, I went down through the administrative office with it. I didn’t go directly to the board members. I was not a political principal.
I2: Your curriculum problems were always through the supervisor?
RC: Yes sir.
I2: History supervisor—the English supervisor?
RC: That’s right. The curriculum problem was during the—with the supervisors—we had English supervisors—we had math supervisors—we had supervisors in every field of education—physical education, history—and even when the new math came along. I told my math teachers about the time—one time I had 14 math teachers at Cullen School. I said, “Now I don’t know the new math, and I’m too old to learn it. I’m not going to fool with it, and the math program is up to you. You learn this new math, and you teach it. I’m not going to bother myself about it.” I think for the most part teachers in past years, and even now, are too preoccupied with red tape and paperwork and reports to get out into the classroom like they ought to. We never had the time to actually go into the classroom and see the work that the teacher is doing, because we were too tied down in the office with various administrative problems or discipline problems. There were many and still are. An assistant principal’s hands are pretty well tied down with disciplinary action—disciplinary problems in the schools.
I2: Was there a big development in extracurricular activities, like band and athletics—clubs?
RC: Yes, yes, there certainly was, and I think that was fine. I think we had one of the finest bands and the choral groups at the Cullen School, as you perhaps remember. It was at its best along about 1962, I believe, when you came there. We had a very fine band, and we had a very fine choral group. Our athletic program was not too good at Cullen. It was very, very—we had a good intramural program and had a good program with the school, but we didn’t win too many trophies at Cullen School. We won a good many at Edison in athletics, but I think that was fine. I think that the extracurricular activities in schools are fine.
I: (11:02) I have one more question. What is your particular—do you have a particular philosophy of history? What are your ideas about the role of education for young people and the role that schools should play in society? Did you have any particular reflections on that of your own?
RC: Well, I think children in school ought to—(interruption)
I: Okay, Mr. Card, I believe we were talking about your philosophy of education and what your reflections were on the roles of education in schools, in the community and for young people too.
RC: I believe that education more and more should prepare young people to take their place in life and in society. They should be given opportunities to—I believe that students ought to be prepared to go out and do something in life. Just to give them a formal education and when they get out of high school—they get out of college—what can they do? They ought to—we ought to have more training in our public schools, as well as our colleges, that would fit them to go into some form of work to earn a livelihood so that they will not be just a college graduate and not be able to do any particular thing.
I: What about—do you think the schools have any role to play, as far the community is concerned, in any way other than just educating the young?
RC: Well, I think this distributive education plan that Houston schools as well as others have is very good. The students go to school part-time and work part-time. Now that distribution education came into effect after I left the public schools, but I think it’s good for students to learn while they go to school. I think our programs in the industrial arts—I think our programs in automobile mechanics—I think our programs in electronics are programs that give them an opportunity to—well, when they get out—to become an electrician, to become a plumber or to become a mechanic or to work with computers. In other words, I feel that just a high school education or a college education is not sufficient unless it prepares them for life in other ways.
I2: What about—have the parents given too much—do the parents expect the schools to do too much?
RC: (14:32) I think so. I think they leave too much to the schools. I think they—and yet at the same time, as I said earlier, I believe that the parents have gotten to the point where they want their children to do just about as they please in school. If they want to learn, all right, if they don’t want to learn; why, it’s the school’s fault.
I2: It’s like the ones that want to have the schools tell the daughters their dresses are too short, yet when the schools do, then the mothers are mad. The parents want you to discipline the children, yet if you do discipline them, then they object.
RC: I think that’s true pretty largely, and usually, in the last few years, almost every parent has become dissatisfied, and the first thing they think about is going to the law and suing the schools, suing the teachers, or suing the principal. I believe that, in my judgment, some of our judges have been entirely too liberal in backing the parents and the students instead of backing the schools.
I: One other question, Mr. Card. Did you ever go along or believe that there was a threat after the war that dangerous ideas like socialism or communism were seeping into the school curriculum or that there was a threat of this type thing—of socialistic type influences in the schools and this sort of thing?
RC: Well, personally I never did feel that that was the case; however, and it might have been in some instances, where socialism was creeping into the curriculum. But they—well, I believe the separation of church and state—we might have gone a little bit too far, and our objection to any sort of religious program in the schools. I know in some schools Easter programs were banned because a certain element didn’t believe that we should have them and Christmas programs were tabooed. I think maybe we’re going a little bit too far in that direction.
I: Marty, do you have any other questions?
I2: No, is there anything you’d like to say?
RC: I probably said too much there.
I and I2: [Laugh]
This has been an interview with Mr. Card, who was the principal for many years at the Houston Independent School District. We thank you very much, Mr. Card, for your time and the patience, most of all. We think this has been a very valuable interview, and we appreciate it a great deal.
[end of 045 02]