[Transcript of interview with Dorothy Boillot Miller, recorded as part of the Springfield-Greene County Library District's 2010 Big Read. For more information contact the Library at 417-883-5366 or visit us on the web.]

We're going to begin a recording this morning as part of the Springfield-Greene County Library District's 2010 Big Read project. Name of the presenter is…

Dorothy Boillot Miller.

OK, Dorothy, thank you so much for coming in today. Today's date is March, the eleventh, 2010 and I'm going to let Dorothy simply start off. We were going to talk about some family memories of the Depression.

OK, I was born in 1932. My father had been an employee of the state Department of Agriculture; and because the politics changed he left that and he built a greenhouse in Columbia, Missouri. He had it full of tomato plants in the winter of '34 -'35. The ground froze, the water lines froze, and so he lost all his tomato plants. He was without a job and had one child and another one on the way, so I remember very clearly being held in his arms at a neighborhood grocery store and the owner said to him, Yuel, I don't want you to let your children, your family, go hungry. I'll run you on credit. Well, before long Dad had a job with the Rural Rehabilitation Administration, which I could say at age three. After that he went to the CCC camps as a civilian employee with the Soil Conservation Corps. So we moved around from Columbia to Fulton to Mexico with that. I don't think anybody realizes what a wonderful program CCC was unless you've talked to one of the people that was employed there. The twenty some dollars that were sent home to the family frequently were the only cash that came in to that family. The young men got to keep five dollars a month and back then five dollars a month would buy an awful lot of Coke and other things. They had good health, they were fed well and they had the opportunity to learn. Let's see, my dad taught first aid and electricity. They could earn a high school diploma. They could learn all kinds of skills.

Fantastic! Now you were living then…kind of in the middle part of the state of Missouri then, in the year, in those early years. What was kind of the feel of the community at the time? I mean, was everyone working together to kind of get through tough times or...

I don't know, but I remember that motto, let's see…use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. My mom wrote to a friend of hers in Rhode Island that she was dressing her children in feed sacks, and he thought burlap. Well, the feed sacks were like chicken feed and they were really rather pretty prints and mom would go into, I don't remember if it was the MFA then, but anyway a feed store and she'd say to the man who was getting ready to load it, well now let's see, I've got two like that one at home, if I had one more I can make a dress. So we… but they were really rather attractive prints. And of course it was free, since the chicken feed came in it.

OK, what do you remember about school days then at that time in your, in your life?

Well, I had a dual experience. I went to city schools in Fulton and Mexico, Missouri. Then we moved out on my grandparents' farm which was near Murray about 12 miles from Columbia, and for two years I went to a one-room school at Judy. And then they changed the district lines and then we went to, we were able to walk to a one-room school at Murray. One-room schools are a thing of their own. If you have a good teacher it's wonderful. If you don't have a very good teacher, you're kind of behind the eight ball. Fortunately I could study on my own so I didn't really have a problem. The neat thing was the older kids tutored the younger ones and when you were all there in one room you kind of absorbed from the other students' classes so you got…sounds like brand new, mentoring, but that was what it was.Played games outside, annie over, and we didn't play kickball but we played kick-the-can, and a kind of round up, I think they called it, where you batted and if your ball got free you got to first base, if it didn't then you went into the outfield. Round up, I think that's what they called it, I don't remember exactly.

When did you meet your husband?

Well, let's see, I met my husband in January of 1953. I was engaged in April of 1953 and married in August of 1953 and that was , let's see, this year that was 57 years ago.

What was your courtship like?

Well, we were both in college; Wesley Foundation at Missouri Methodist Church in Columbia was every Sunday night. We'd have a meal and a program. Sunday morning there was a class for the Wesley Foundation students and then we always went to church; my husband sang in the choir and when we got engaged the choir director said, "Dottie, you want to come sing in the choir?" I said, "Oh Perry, you don't want me in the choir. I sing whatever the person next to me sings." He said, "just be careful who you stand next to." So we were married between my junior and senior year. And then we came…Bob got a job. My mom was hired at Fulton and they mentioned they needed a math teacher. Well Bob hadn't finished but he was majoring in math and education so they gave him an emergency certificate. And he taught one year and I worked. We still lived in Columbia.  Mom would come in and get Bob and they would go to Fulton, then they'd come back. So finally that got a little old so we moved to Fulton to live for a couple of years.

What were some of your first jobs?

Well, my very first job was the summer after I finished high school and I worked at the Missouri Bookstore at the University of Missouri. It's the…it doesn't belong to the university but it's right there on, really on campus. I was behind the counter that had art supplies, and engineering supplies, and I can't remember what all. But, back then the GIs were coming through and every engineering student got a certain number of pages of graph paper so I counted graph paper until it came out my ears. I soon learned what a ship's curve was, which I had had no idea. I was told you dust the tempra in the morning, and if you don't have something to do you dust the tempra in the afternoon so I dusted a lot of tempra that summer. And then, well actually I had worked in the counselor's; I worked in the library and the counselor's office when I was in high school but that wasn't a paid job. So then, I'm trying to think. It was after, well I worked in the office at Christian College for two years when I was there and my advisor was the wife of a professor at MU so she helped me get a job in the Department of Sociology while I was still a student, and then I worked, I believe it was two years after I graduated from MU I worked with them. Oh it's really interesting: When I was a student they could pay me 50 cents an hour, once I graduated they could pay me 75 cents an hour; big, big increase. [laughter] So, then let's see, I didn't work again until after our children were all in, no Ellen wasn't in school. Then I worked for Sears for about…behind the catalog desk, for about seven and a half years. And then fortunately Jewel Smith called me one day, and said "Dottie, I don't usually do this, but I want you to go out and interview with Helen Langston at the Brentwood Library. And I said OK. So then I worked at Brentwood for about a year and a half and after that went to as supervisor, or manager, for the Outreach Department of the Springfield-Greene County Library. During which time we were, I was fortunate to be involved in initiating the Walking Books Program which delivers books to the homebound. And I'm, I am delighted that that program has continued and increased because it's a wonderful service. And well, we operated the bookmobile program; that was interesting too.

Do you remember any kind of fun stories about the bookmobile?

Well, there was one little guy up at Fair Grove. His mother said he didn't talk to anybody. He would come and stand right in front of our checkout desk at the front of the bookmobile and he would talk to me, and I didn't understand a single word of what he said. We had some, sometimes it was kind of interesting if occasionally somebody was ill and we didn't know ahead of time. Let's see, one time, the driver took the bookmobile to Fair Grove – we had two on the road then – took the bookmobile to Fair Grove and I drove my car up. We did that really early in the afternoon. And then he took my car back and drove the other bookmobile over its route and I sat at Fair Grove until he could get through and come back and we would ferry back again. It was fun designing a bookmobile. That was because we all, we all worked together, everybody in the department, worked to put their ideas together. Then we had to run it by the manufacturer and see if any of this would work. So, and that's the one that's been on the road almost nearly twenty years now. I guess we did pretty well.

We did, we have. Tell me a little more about your family.

OK, my mother's family came from Ireland and England. They were called the O'Doone's when they lived in Ireland and then when some of them were naughty and left the Irish and adapted the English they were called Downing. And Downing Street in London is named for their family. Let's see, then Mom's other side is White and they came over and were involved in the revolutionary war. My dad's family is German, Irish, and French they've traced his father's family back to France. We know when they came to the U.S. and they settled at Bonnet's Mill, on the river and there was a, I believe it was Jules Boillot, married Mary Ann Kramer so that's where the German came in and then my Grandmother Boillot was very Irish. She was Rose Ellen Sullens. It was interesting when my dad was tracing his family; her family had lived in Licking and he discovered a baby sister that she had that she'd never heard about. Evidently then if a baby died you buried them, you forgot about it and you went on to the next. And they moved away from that community so she never saw the tombstone. Isn't that sad?

It's very sad.

Mm, hmm.

Fortunately, though it's kind of exciting that families are doing family histories and genealogies and some of these things are coming out…

Coming out, mm, hmm. And then you discover, too, some of the stories that you've heard absolutely have no basis in fact. We were told that, that Boillot married a Kramer and they didn't, she didn't speak French and he didn't speak German. Well, I'm sorry but there's something that had to be in common there to even know will you marry me kind of thing. Yes, the, one of my cousins is doing a lot of tracing. He's really gung-ho about this. He's a bachelor and doesn't have anything else to do, I guess, but, we've been fortunate, I've been very fortunate, to know all four of my grandparents, to really visit with them. My Grandmother Boillot, who was the Sullens, talked with her hands and she loved to work outside. So one day we were coming from the barn to the house and she was carrying a pail of milk and she got ready to tell a story and she set the pail of milk down so she'd have both hands to tell the story. Let's see, my Grandfather Downing and I were really, really close; I was his girl, there wasn't anything I could do that was wrong and back then, when it was so hot in the evenings that you couldn't sleep in the house you'd go out and sit in the yard, or sometimes sleep in the yard, so Granddad and I would sit out under a great big burr oak tree and sing and there was a song that he sang to me that I have found a copy of and have framed it with his picture and my picture. And I have the songbook it came from and so that song's gone down through three generations now because I sang it to our grandchildren as well as our children, so. I think things like that tie you together.

They sure do.

Yeah. Grandmother Boillot was great fun. She'd take us out in the woods and let us wade in the little streams. And she'd take hickory leaves and use twigs to hook the leaves together and make hats for us. Isn't that fun?

Very much.

And then she had a big stump in the corner of the yard, and my cousin and I would visit and she'd send us out with pieces of bread with butter and sugar on it and we had tea parties out on that stump. And then she'd put us on a big wheelbarrow and bounce us across the stepping stones. She was more fun, more fun.

Oh, that's great. We're actually out of time.

Ok, we can quit then.

Recorded as part of the Springfield-Greene County Library District's 2010 Big Read. For more information contact the library at 417-883-5366 or visit us on the web at thelibrary.org.

[Transcript of interview with Dorothy Boillot Miller, recorded as part of the Springfield-Greene County Library District's 2010 Big Read. For more information contact the Library at 417-883-5366 or visit us on the web.]