Oxford Orphanage

Stacey and Stephanie Williams

Hear this interview in Real Audio Format

Tell me about when you first came to Oxford. Do you remember when you came, and what it was like when you first got here?

I was scared. It was a big move. I was terrified.

What were you scared about?

Meeting new people, all the people here.

Did it take a long time to get to know people, and move in?

Yes, like, a year or so.

Have you been in this cottage the whole time since you've been here?

No, we went to Baby Cottage first. Then we left, and came back up here, and went to Brown. Then we went to Critcher, then here to Bemis Cottage.

What has your life been like here? What is it like to live here?

It's fun. It's just that the people you live with, you get attitudes with them and stuff like that. It's like a family, except in this cottage there's no boys, only sisters. Some days you might get up on the wrong side of the bed and have attitude and stuff like that. Then the next day you can be as happy as you can be. People say that me and Stacey, we stay happy all the time. We do, everywhere we go, in the morning time, at night time, we always have a smile on our face.

Why do think that is?

That's the way we were raised. We just love life, and that's how we were raised.

What's a typical day like for you here. Describe what happens.

Well first, we get up, put our clothes on, make our beds, and go to breakfast. Then we come back, get ready for school, and wait for the bus. We go to school for eight hours a day, then we come back and have 30, 35, 40 minutes before we have to go to work. Some of us might work at the kitchen or the Print Shop. The boys work in maintenance. I work in the Print Shop. I have to go every day, every weekday. I work every other day, from 3:35-4:45. I work in the kitchen from 4 to 6. But I get thirty minutes to eat supper. She, what she does, is she has to wash pots and stuff, for everybody, because she works at the cafeteria, and they have to wash dishes, wash pots, hand food out to everybody, and they have to be up there at 4. They get from 4 to 4:30 to eat, then from 4:30-6 they have to work.

And you are at the Print Shop. Tell me what you do.

I do Campus Tracks, which is the orphanage's newspaper.

Do you write, or just handle the printing part of it, or?

I make plates. I make a little plate thing, so they can make copies.

And you work with the dishes, do you ever help cook, or do anything like that?

No, I just clean. By the time she gets up there to do it, the food is allready cooked, so she can't cook. I would love to cook sometimes, but... During the summertime she might be able to, but not during school.

Are you guys here, in the summer, too?

Mm hmm, we get two weeks off for vacation from the Orphanage. Unless we're going to, like, to another state, then we'll get three weeks. But we have to get permission from Coach Stewart first, before we can take more than two weeks off. During school time, we get one weekend a month.

Do you feel close to the other students that you live with here?

Some of them. Sometimes. Most of the time, we get in arguments, 'cause most of the time, most of the girls think whenever we say something, we're fussing with them, which we're not.

Tell me about some of the people here at Oxford that mean a lot to you, that help you out.

Well, let's see. There's my friends, I love them dearly, we can talk to them anytime that we need to, and there's my mom. She lives here in Henderson, which is close to Oxford. I can basically talk to her, and she's my favorite person in the whole world. And there's my sister, not her, my other sister.

How about any of the staff people, the administrators, or anyone like that?

We can talk to them when we want to, about anything that goes on. Anything that goes on, that we don't like, and stuff like that.

Is there someone that kind of supervises Bemis Cottage?

Yeah, but she's not here right now. I think she's across the street with her sister or something.

What would you (Stacey) like to do when you graduate?

I would like to be a singer. Probably dance, or pop rock, or something.

Do they have a choir here? Do you sing with them?

I sing with the choir, and with the chorus at school.

Do you travel at all?

Yes, the choir goes to the mountains in the summer time, and the year before last we went to Holden Beach in Wilmington. This past Saturday we went to Cary to sing and ate a steak supper.

Did you go to a restaurant, or somebody's place, or?

We went to a lodge, a Masonic Lodge, because Mr. Lloyd Young, wanted us to sing at his [Ladies' Night].

How many of you are in the choir? Is it boys and girls?

About 40, and there's boys and girls. Donald could tell you.

What kind of music do you do, what kind of songs do you sing?

We're doing Christmas songs right now. It depends on what time of the year it is.

So, you have a Christmas concert?

We have the candlelight service, which is sort of like a concert, except you don't dance and stuff. We just stand there and sing. We're also in the chorus at school.

Tell me about you Stephanie, what would you like to do when you graduate?

I wanna be a singer.

Are you going to sing with your sister?

I don't know.

What kind of singer do you want to be?

Probably a pop/rock, I'm not sure, though.

Do you sing in the choir at school, too?

Yes, chorus. We have a concert this Wednesday at our high school. We have to sing in front of the whole school, and it makes me nervous. This past Tuesday, and this past Friday, we had to go to the younger schools, and I wasn't nervous then, but I'll have to be around a bunch of people that I know, and I'll probably be scared. Hopefully I won't mess up.

What do you do for fun?

Sometimes we'll go places.

Where do you go?

To the mall, or Wal-Mart. We have a place called Little Johns, here in Oxford, Little John's Playground, we go there on Friday nights. Or we'll go rent movies and in the summertime we'll go to the beach or swimming here at the pool, or Kings Dominion.

Who takes you to all these places?

Our counselor, basically.

It sounds like you guys have a lot of fun.

We do, especially in the summertime, and around Christmas time.

What happens here at Christmas time?

We get a lot of presents. A lot of Masons come and bring us gifts, and we go a lot of places, and we just have a ball.

Do you have special parties, and things like that, dances, or?

We had one dance so far, at the end of the school year last year, it was on her birthday, I remember that, the 22nd of May. Then this past summer, our cottage went to Flowers, a boys' cottage, and we had a dance. I forgot which day that was on.

Do you guys play sports at all?

We're going to try out for the basketball team, that's my favorite sport. I like swimming, but we have a swim team at Webb which I'm not trying out for, I'm not sure if I want to try out or not because I'm not a fast swimmer, and I can't do all the dives and stuff like that. I can do one dive and that's it. The swim team goes to the YMCA, because we don't have a pool at Webb. They just started it this year.

Do you stay here for Thanksgiving, too?

No, we go home. Either go home with our family, or go home with Masons or something.

Have you gotten to know a lot of Masons, since you've been here?

Yes, we've gotten to know a lot of people. I know everybody on this campus, I've been here long enough to know them. I can tell you everybody's name on campus, and what cottage they're in, but I cannot telly you their birthdays, or ages, or their grades. There's about 150 kids on campus now. When you get to know all of them, they're not that bad.

What do you like best about Oxford?

It's a small town, nothing really happens here. You hardly hear about anything happening, like a killing or something. You hardly hear about something lik that.

What about the Orphanage, what do you like best about that?

You get to know a lot of people. And you have a lot of friends. You can go places, and stuff, you can have fun.

What's the hardest thing about living here?

Not getting to be with your parents, with your mama or daddy or whatever, that's the hardest, I think.

Do you think a lot of people feel that way?

Not a lot of them, well, most of them.

Do you guys talk about it a lot?

I talk about my mom all the time.

Does she come to visit you sometimes?

Yeah, we just saw her on Saturday.

What are some changes or improvements that you would like to see? If there's anything you could change about Oxford, or the Orphanage, what would you like to change?

Get more privileges. People with attitudes, I would try to change them. (You need to change your own before you try to change somebody else's. When I say people, I mean me, too, Stacey, it's commmon sense.)

You've been here, six, seven years? Are there things that have changed about the Orphanage since you've been here?

Yes, lots of things. People, for one thing. The old people that used to be here, we were really close to some of them, but they left.

Is it hard to say goodbye?

Yes, very hard.

The students you go to school with know that you go to the Orphanage, and they probably have some ideas about what it's like to live here, what it's like to grow up in an Orphanage, that may or may not be true, like stereotypes. What are some things that they think when they here "Orphanage?"

That we're trouble makers, or that you do not have any parents, which is not true. This place is for people that need help, or for people that don't have no where to go. This is not because you're a troublemaker, it's not here for that, everybody here has either a mom or dad. Just because they're not with them, that this says Orphanage, people think it means we have no parents at all, which is not true. Some of the people that come up here, they're here because they can't get along with their parents.

[Enter Angie Givens, and Marybeth] Tell me about some things that you've learned since you've been at the Orphanage, just about life.

I've learned how to get along with other people. Especially the people that I don't like up here. Some of the people up here, I don't like. Control your temper. If you have a mean side or a very bad temper, you'll learn how to control it really fast, or there will be consequences. You'll get restriction or a paddling, or sometimes they'll keep you from going home with your parents. It depends on how bad it is, what you did that was really wrong.

What have you learned about yourselves since you've been here?

I've learned to love myself. I learned to like myself better up here.

What about being here has taught you to love yourself, or like yourself better?

'Cause, the grown ups that are here, and some of the kids that are here, they taught me how to keep on trying, to go for your dreams. And some of these people up here don't think that I'm going to be a singer when I grow up, but I'm gonna show them. You should always follow your dreams, and that's what I'm going to do. I'm gonna try to be a singer, or die trying.

Is there anything that we haven't talked about that you guys would like to say, any words of advice or anything else you'd like to tell me about living here?

Strive for your dreams. Not to take stuff for granted, and just be yourself. That's basically what it is. Go for your dreams. And don't think this place is bad. This place is not bad, this place is very good. You might think so when you first get up here because you're not used to it, but it's not, once you get used to it. The first couple of nights, you're gonna be homesick, and you're gonna cry basically all night, all day, because you're not so used to being around a lot of people, unless you got a big family. And you're not so used to being around just all girls, living in one place. You have to get used to it.

Do you guys try to help other students that come here?

Yes, very much.

What do you try to do to make them feel better?

I try to talk to them, and give them advice. Anything that could help. That's what I try. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes people take advice, sometimes people don't.

Is there anything else you guys would like to add, anything else you'd like to say?

Not really.