John D. Bridgers M.D.
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Chapter 6 - Governor Aycock's reforms, my parents' schooling, around the neighborhood, and "Crick" gets his nickname

Charles B. Aycock was elected governor just before the turn of the century and is remembered as the state's "Educational Governor."

What he did and what the General Assembly did were really quite modest, but had profound and lasting reverberations.

While far from his central intentions his stirring of the h(??)s would change the nature of Greenville profoundly.

He championed the cause of public education to the law-makers and in response the legislature made available the princely sum of $4,000.00 to allow him to stump the state and raise public support for his ideas.

He was said to be a "silver-voiced" orator of great persuasive ability.

He apparently kept his vocal capacity well-oiled with whiskey which not only kept him going, but helped him carry along the populace in his plans.

Individual bills were passed to enable various communities to start school systems and in 1903 such a bill passed the Assembly: "An Act to Establish a Grade School in the Town of Greenville."

Between 1902 and 1910 an average of one school a day was completed across the state.

This brought a companion action to supply teachers, and a part of this was legislation in 1907 to establish a facility in the eastern part of the state: "The East Carolina Teacher Training School."

This would radically change the nature of the town of Greenville and have great impact on our family.

But all of this happened after the older Whichard children had started school.

Most of the private academies were for either boys of girls.

However, Hennie and Essie were attending a private school near their home which accepted students of both genders when their brother reached school-age.

This happened in 1901 when Walter Linden was either well on the way or already born.


David was started at this same school by his mother.

Co-educational though it was, the rules were that the boys and girls have separate recess periods when they were out on the grounds relatively unsupervised.

David had always been rather small for his age, so the teachers decided it would be safer if he went to recess with the girls so his sisters could watch over him.

He told me much later in life that he remembered this as the most undeniably humiliating experience of his childhood, and on the next day he refused to go back to that school.

His mother, either expecting or having recently had her fourth baby, took David by the hand, marched him down to The Reflector office and told her husband what had happened.

She also told her husband that the boy could either go to school or he would have to stay with his father during the day, there being no legal school attendance requirements at that time.

So started the newspaper career of David Julian Whichard at the age of six.

He would work at that business and in the office every day in which he was in town for the next 90 years.

Public schools did open in several years and David attended these and was in the first graduating class of what would come to be know as the high school.

So when Walter Linden, the fourth child, came along the Whichard home was his personal domain, unshared with the other children during school hours.

This likely accounted for the rather special status he seemed to enjoy.

In the eyes of sisters, Hennie, then approaching her teens, Walter Linden could do no wrong , although this was far from a universal appraisal of his demeanor.

He, and later the nieces and nephews of Hennie, were the children she never had of her own.


Toward those who were special to her she was overly forgiving, and they were showered with generosity, a general family attribute, but particularly from "Little Hennie."

This lower Evans Street neighborhood was apparently well blessed with children and interesting ones, at that.

Next door was the Wilson family with five boys, four of whom graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and the other of whom became an army surgeon after medical school.

four of these men made a life-ling career of the army, two becoming generals.

Another left the military to become a foreign service officer in the State Department.

He died under mysterious circumstances in China in the 1930's his body finally recovered from a river.

Foul play was suspected, and it was later rumored that his loss might be connected with our trouble with Japan which was just over the horizon.

The Whichard's were also close to the Schultz family, Orthodox Jewish People.

Dr. Alfred Schultz was our family dentist until he died during World War II.

There there was the DuPree's, a family whose French Huguenot ancestor had founded a plantation in the western part of Pitt County in the very early days of colonialism.

Mr. DuPree died relatively young and his widow married Rudolf Hyman, who took the children as his own.

He spent much of his time fishing in the river.


One day he took his step-son, Tom's close friend David Whichard and Dave's younger brother, Walter.

Walter was constantly on the move, up, down and across the boat.

Mr. Hyman said:

"Walter, can't you be still?
"You're just like a cricket."

That story I heard retold many times, but never did I hear what they caught.

However, "Crick," had hooked a new name and he had landed it for life.

When I came along I seldom heard him call by his given names save by his mother.

Years later this same Mr. Tom DuPree and his family were most hospitable to me when I was in naval flight training in Miami before World War II.

He once told me:

"Your grandfather, when he had pen in hand, feared no man.
"He would print whatever he thought would benefit the public in his newspaper.
"But he was a small and almost frail fellow and physically was a coward."

This didn't set well with me, but later I came to acknowledge to myself that Tom DuPree was probably right.

My grandmother unknowingly convinced me.

She said that one night when she was preparing supper she got a call from Grand-daddy.

He was incarcerated in the town jail, and he wanted her to come and bail him out.

It seems that he had been rather constantly receiving threats from the people he had criticized in print.


When he became Postmaster he was allowed to carry a gun for protection, and so he had armed himself with a small pistol -- perhaps 22 caliber and little more than a derringer.

As he was coming home in the twilight a man whom he had assailed editorially stepped from behind a tree and told Grand-daddy that he was going to "get him" for what he had printed.

Grand-daddy blazed away.

However, his bullet hit the fellow on a large metal belt buckle and did him no harm.

Grandmother paid a fine rather than bail and that was the end of the incident.

Having read some of the rebukes in The Eastern Reflector and The Daily Reflector it is was easy to see why his subjects took umbrage at his moralizing and criticism.

Related, but as an aside --

Tom DuPree's sister Mary Lucy, was probably my mother's closed childhood friend.

She married John F. Lynch who ran a "company store: for Erwin Mills near Dunn, N.C., and Mary Lucy was a school teacher.

They had three sons: Jack, Joseph, and Billy, all of whom became clinicians.

Jack and I practiced pediatrics together in High Point for over 20 years -- the other two were dentists.

This is cited here as an example of how circuitous relationships can grow from a small community.

Meanwhile, back at Evans and Ninth.

Grandmother told me that Walter Linden was the quickest of all her children -- that he could learn more from less study that the others.

And apparently less study was what he did.


I fully believe that today "Crick" would be diagnosed and labeled "hyperactive."

Grandmother said that almost every night, when it was study-time, that "Crick" would find some reason to visit a friend, Tom Flanagan down the street -- the usual excuse was to check homework.

He would be beside himself until he could get out, and would return in a short while settled down.

She was sure they were getting together to share a cigarette.

Though this didn't suit the Whichard parents, in the Carolina culture many children -- usually boys -- started smoking early in life.

Grandmother was sure "Crick" started while in the first grade.

My guess is that nicotine was sufficiently stimulating that it worked in "Crick" like stimulant medication did in the children I later treated.

This was likely the problem in the fishing skiff when "Crick" acquired his sobriquet.

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