[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Kasper: Well, this is Day 2 and I'd like to pick up and run with your career in journalism and really for most of today, if you will, see how much of that we can cover. And, of course, we have covered most of your life in a life historical—
Castleberry: School and marriage and—
Kasper: Sure. And all of that does intervene. It's not to say that as we cover your journalism career there aren't going to be lots of other things, family and personal and so forth that aren't going to intervene, but this is the day that I'd like to capture the material on your career. Where we left off on that score, is yesterday we talked a bit about your first job. You were an editorial assistant at the Petroleum Engineers Publishing Company. And then when you all moved and Curt went back to school, to Texas A&M, you were the first women's editor of the Texas A&M Battalion. So I'd like you to talk a little bit about that, but then let's get heavy into your—
Castleberry: Well, really, there's not a great deal to say about that. That went on for a little better than a year and it was something that I worked myself into because at the time, as I said yesterday, the A&M Daily Battalion was also the official voice of the city of College Station, so that made it interesting. And there were just a lot of things to be covered that were not being covered because the newspaper, of course, was being run by the boys who were students, and they were students first and didn't have time to cover all that material.
So, I really can't remember my first trip there, but I do remember that I pretty much shadowed—I would go by the Battalion office and then I started writing a column for them on the—the school was just running over with student wives and they had no voice whatsoever. So the first thing I did was talk them into letting me do a column on student wives and student wife activities. And from that it grew and finally they just hired me. They put me on the payroll, gave me a title, and also it was wonderful for them because I was there all of the time. I could keep regular office hours and nobody else could because they would run off to class. And that meant that I became the caretaker of all of the telephone calls that came in, the communication, that sort of thing and did almost all of the communicating.
Kasper: So you knew what was happening not only on campus but in town and everywhere.
Castleberry: Everywhere. Everywhere. And including, of course, the chancellor's office, and the board of directors, and everything that was going on. It was just a fun job. And during the time then that Curtis was in the Corps and getting ready when he graduated to go for advanced training for the military, we didn't know where we would be living because the Korean War was still going on. And the interesting thing was that we did not for one moment think that we would be doing anything except going back into the military. It was just a given because when you graduate with a second lieutenant's degree and you—
Kasper: You become almost a career officer.
Castleberry: You are a career officer until you choose otherwise. And although that was not Curt's first choice, as I said yesterday, he said, with him, at that point in his life, it was a matter of whether or not he would be able to support his family and that a foot soldier or a marine sergeant certainly didn't have this good an opportunity.
But when we graduated—also at that time, after we lost the baby, I was agitating to have another child. I was older than most women at my stage in life
when I had my first one. I was twenty-seven when Carol was born and had had a difficult time getting pregnant. And so she was a rare and wonderful gift. And then after we lost Kenneth, I wanted to have another baby right away and my husband convinced me that I was totally out of my mind. But he promised me that as soon as he got out of school and got settled, we would do this. And we did.
So we graduated and then he went to El Paso for advanced training in the military. I stayed on at A&M, kept my job, continued to work for the Battalion, had Carol, kept our apartment there. And suddenly overnight we found out we were not going to be in the military. The Korean War was winding down and they didn't need him. And here we were rudderless without a—but what we did, another thing that we did for ourselves that was so glorious, when Curt graduated we did take two weeks and we took what we called a pilgrimage through the Old South. We went back to Alabama where his ancestors and mine both originated, and we also went to Florida and we went on down to Miami, as far down, and then zipped back up and Curt's mother, his family kept Carol, so we were just a couple. And I got pregnant. And it was certainly planned. As it turned out, Curt wound up teaching school in a little tiny town in deep East Texas called Burkeville.
Kasper: And where in Texas?
Castleberry: Deep East Texas. It's five or ten miles from the Louisiana line. And it was a little town that had not come into the twentieth century. It had a large and wonderful consolidated school so he enjoyed his teaching, but my experience there was less than tremendous. I had a baby. I also had a very small house to keep and I was pregnant. And by nine o'clock in the morning, I would have had my day all ready to go and nowhere to go. And so that was the year that I really learned to adore my husband's mother. She lived twenty miles from us and almost every day I would tool over to her house and get her and we'd go and get into something, you know, do something. Also, I started writing again and I must admit—my husband will tell you that a great lot of my writing was sad letters to him that you've got to get me out of here or I'm going to die, especially when he went on a convention, an agricultural convention to Houston, and I think I tucked about four letters into his suitcase, love letters saying, "Get me out of here before I collapse 'cause I can't stand it."
The postmistress there, whose name I can't remember, but she was out of the last century. Literally, a little maiden lady who wore horn-rimmed glasses and piled her hair on top of her head and wore long skirts. And she knew everything that was going on in town and she knew that I was a writer and when I would send off a story, I'd walk in the post office and she'd hold up an envelope and say, "Well, something else came back." [Laughter.] So she was not terribly good for my morale. And then at the end of that year with a baby, Chanda, who was born in Jasper, Texas—I don't think she will ever forgive me for that.
Kasper: Why? She just doesn't like the name?
Castleberry: Well, she doesn't like the name. And she doesn't really like the town. But that's where she was born. And that also was a different century kind of hospitalization. She was the only baby in the nursery. Tiny little hospital, tiny little town. And the day that I discovered—the second day of her life and a woman came into my room and said, "Well, I've been in the nursery loving your baby." I just went out into orbit and I insisted on rooming in. I had the baby brought to my room. They'd never heard of a thing like that, but they didn't know what to do with this woman who was insisting on changing their hospital rules. So Curt brought the bassinet and we brought her into my room. And then when Chanda was about ten days old, I had a very bad case of bronchitis that went almost into pneumonia and I was sick for probably about three or four weeks. Curt finally took us to my mother's, both of the babies and me, because he was working.
I've teased Curt. I told him he had to have a fourth child before he had a baby because the infancy of the first three—of course, the infancy of Carol with her in the hospital and us at home, we didn't have at all; and then we lost the second one; and then Chanda I took to my mother's when she was ten days old and kept her until she was almost a month old. So Curt really didn't get into babies until our fourth daughter. Anyway, that's too much of that. He did bring me back to Dallas at the end of the school year in—
Kasper: So this was 1952-53?
Castleberry: It was—let's see, no it was '52. Chanda was born in March of '52 and we came back when school was out. So we came back in June of '52, moved back to Dallas. We didn't know what we were going to do. We had no immediate means of livelihood, no nothin'. But it was a matter of my sanity and I think the survival of the family relationship to get somewhere where I could speak—find somebody to speak a language that I spoke. So he spent a year then—well, he spent several years, working as a businessman. He opened a picture framing and gift business. But he always wanted to go back to teaching.
In the meantime, my life went back to Petroleum Engineer. I had not been back in town probably three weeks until they called me and asked me if I would come and relieve the woman who had taken my place while she went on vacation. And I said, "I don't want to work at this. This is not what I want to do." But I went back for that interim period of time. We needed the money, I needed something to do, and it was an easy way out. I went back for two weeks and stayed two years. And I was on leave of absence from the Petroleum Engineer Publishing Company for Keeta's birth when I was on pregnancy leave. At that time, they didn't—no companies here gave you paid pregnancy leave or offered you your job back after pregnancy, I mean, you were just terminated because you were with child. But my boss at that time, the woman I mentioned yesterday, Ernestine Adams, had assured me in confidence that anytime I wanted to work and she had a job, it would be my job. So in the meantime, for a brief period of time in there, after Curt and I were married, I had worked for Cosmetics Magazine, which was a new magazine that had started in town. I worked for them for one year. And that job was terminated because Cosmetics Magazine just did not make it. It was a glorious dream of a man who really didn't have the finances to make it go. And I really was so grateful because that certainly wasn't my thing to do either.
Kasper: What did you do for them? Write articles?
Castleberry: I wrote. I wrote. I did everything for them. I wrote, I edited, I did layout pages, I learned to bleed pages. You know, everything.
Kasper: What's bleeding pages?
Castleberry: Bleed it means to take your picture to the entire outer cover of the magazine. And anytime you see an ad that bleeds to the cover, the entire rim, including the rim, that costs more money to get that.
Kasper: So it covers the whole page is what bleeding means.
Castleberry: It covers the whole page, there's no margin. And so I learned a great lot, again, about magazines and how you put them out in sixteen-page sections, print in sixteen-page sections. A lot of it I have forgotten, but I could pick it up again in no time at all.
Kasper: So the material wasn't interesting to you, but you learned a lot of mechanics.
Castleberry: The material was not interesting at all because it was superficial. Cosmetics are superficial. And one of the things that I learned, interestingly enough, about cosmetics is that almost all cosmetics come out of the same vat. They're perfumed differently and colored differently and packaged differently and that's how you get your different prices. But that's where I learned to go to the dimestore and buy my lipstick because it's just as good—
Kasper: The same as the ten dollar lipstick.
Castleberry: Exactly. The M.E Moses [dime store] is exactly the same product, very often, as the Neiman Marcus product except that it looks prettier when you get it in a package. But that's one of the things I learned, a very practical thing. So, anyway, I again was working for Petroleum Engineer and at that time then I had three babies. Well, no, I was on leave from Petroleum Engineer for Keeta when the Times Herald called me.
Kasper: When was Keeta born?
Castleberry: Keeta was born in November of 1955.
Kasper: And in '55 the Times Herald called you.
Castleberry: The Times Herald called me.
Kasper: How did they know to call you?
Castleberry: Because one of the woman that had been on my staff, Doris Allen Dowell, who had been on my staff at the Campus at SMU was their society editor. And she had no idea that I was interested in going to work for a newspaper, she just knew that my background was newspapering and they needed a home furnishings editor. The home furnishings market was just opening in Dallas. The home interiors were going great guns here. Trammell Crow had just built the Apparel Mart and the Dallas Trade Mart. And Dallas became, I don't know where it stands now, but it was the second furniture sales city in the nation. But I knew nothing about this particular subject. I was a journalist. And the first thing that I did when I went in there to the Times Herald—I took the job, of course, immediately. I called Ernestine Adams and told her what had happened, and that's where, I guess, we really became friends because she said to me, "That's where you need to be. Take the job," although I was on leave of absence from her company, "take the job, it's your kind of job. You need to get your hand into newspapering." And I went to work for them the first time the 12th day of March 1956. I waited until I got my baby launched and I went to work for them for $75.00 a week. And it looked like good money at the time. And I can't say that I loved the job, but I can say again that I learned a great deal. On the way home from interviewing for that job, I went by the library and picked up about twenty home furnishings books, furniture books, and did a crash course in home furnishings, learned the difference in Heppelwhite and Adam and Sheraton and—
Kasper: Louis XIV, XV and XVI. I can never tell the difference.
Castleberry: Un huh. Right. And I still can't a lot of times. But what I learned there immediately was that people are so willing to help you. So I found a couple of excellent interior decorators in town that I could trust and I called them on everything. I credited them when I could, but I didn't even have to credit them to use their expertise in doing the writing. And then the first thing that I also did was try to humanize the story.
Kasper: What do you mean by humanize?
Castleberry: I cannot stand to write a story that doesn't have people in it. So I learned right off that the way that people generally write home furnishings is just not readable. People don't care.
Kasper: Because they're writing about chairs and—
Castleberry: They're writing about things. And so, I would go out with the idea when I did a house to find out what kind of background made this particular woman want to furnish this house in this fashion. What did she bring to her home life that made her want to choose pictures of a certain kind or pillows of a certain kind. I also learned in that job a great deal about photographing because, although I did not use a camera, it was my responsibility to tell the photographer what I wanted. And home furnishings, if you will check magazines, you will find that home furnishings are the hardest thing in the world to photograph. Because, as you say, it's just a chair.
Kasper: It's not lively. It has no animation.
Castleberry: It has no vitality of its own at all and you have to enliven it to bring it into your work life. And you have to work real hard at that like putting a vase of flowers on a carpet and setting a bee, or whatever, or a butterfly, even an artificial butterfly that looks like the real thing, to give it liveliness to give it vitality, and to make people interested in it. I worked in that job—the hours were not bad.
I had a woman boss at the time. Her name was Gail Pitts. She was a career journalist and a single woman who had no home responsibilities. I liked her. I still like her. She and I are still friends. She went from Dallas to the Denver Post and we still see each other occasionally. I found that I loved working for women. I much prefer working for women to men and this, at the time, was not a popular notion because men hired me. It was the men that hired me. And I still to this day would like to know the difference in the pay scales of the men that went to work for the paper at the same time that I did and my pay scale, because at that time there was no way of knowing that. It wasn't common knowledge.
Kasper: They didn't publish it.
Castleberry: No. Not back in those days. It was a deep dark secret what you made.
Kasper: Who were the men who hired you in management?
Castleberry: Felix McKnight and Bert Holmes.
Kasper: And Bert Holmes is still there.
Castleberry: Bert Holmes is still there and I will tell you a little more about Bert as I go along. If they had not passed Bert up as the top manager of that paper, it would today be one of the top papers in the country. He is a gentle man—
Kasper: I spoke to him. He's a charmer.
Castleberry: But knows his business from the inside out and is tuned into this community as nobody else I have ever worked for in my life. And the other thing that Bert had going for him was that his entire staff would have walked through hell, fire and brimstone to please him. As I have said a number of times, the Times Herald lost its soul when they passed Bert up for a promotion and when they started selling the paper instead of putting him in charge of things.
Kasper: Why did they pass him up?
Castleberry: He was on his way up and nobody tells you, so I only know what I think. And what I think was that we had a guild vote—
Kasper: The guild? You mean the union?
Castleberry: The union. And that management, the management of the paper at that time blamed Bert for the fact that the news room voted—we voted it down.
Kasper: Voted his promotion down?
Castleberry: No, no. No we voted union down. But the management at that time was such that I feel sure that they blamed him for that vote.
Kasper: For bringing the union in at all?
Castleberry: For bringing the union in at all. And, as a result of that, passed him by, did a lateral promotion and then just moved him out of management entirely, slowly. Interestingly enough, everybody that did that is now gone from the paper and Bert is still there. And he is still doing good things for this community and has continued to all these years.
Kasper: Now, he writes editorials for the paper.
Castleberry: He's in the editorial department, un huh. And really has maintained the integrity and the quality of the editorial department all of these years. And I was not the only one that felt that way. I think that I probably was a little closer to him than some of his other staff heads for a number of different reasons, principally because he valued women. And he always valued women. I don't know that I would call Bert a feminist, I would just call him someone who is a very kind and tuned-in human being who treats everybody with respect and dignity.
Kasper: Well, he certainly thinks the world of you. He said you are the pioneer woman journalist in Dallas. That's quote/unquote.
Castleberry: That's nice to hear, but it is a mutual admiration society so you will take that into account. I had known Bert briefly. He was at SMU ahead of me and I had known him briefly there and knew his first wife who died with cancer. In fact, as I recall, and I'm not real sure about this, but she—I know she had a melanoma, and I think she was having a physical examination for a trip abroad that they were going to take and they discovered the melanoma and she died just very, very fast and left two little boys. And then Bert and Helen were married probably about a year later. It was the best thing that ever happened to both of them. Helen is a gorgeous woman who has her own public relations outfit. She recently sold it to a big outfit. But she has handled some of the outstanding events in this community including, she did all of the planning for the Kennedy visit here and was in charge during the assassination. And then she did the public relations for the Republican Convention when it was in town. And she's low key—she's not low key when you look at her, she's a dynamo, she's a human dynamo. But, she had two little boys and he had the two little bigger boys, and they blended these two families in such a way that is probably the best blended family that I've ever known anything about. But Bert worked side by side with us and he was extremely interested in anything that went on.
Kasper: Now when you were still in home furnishings here, you were working with Bert.
Castleberry: I was still in home furnishings at that time. Right. Gail was my boss. But Bert was her boss. And so he kept his hand in very much what our—at the time it was called the women's section, what the women's section was doing. And it was pretty much a women's section. We did fashions, home furnishings, food. We had a huge food section once a week that sometimes ran as many as forty-eight pages.
Castleberry: That's right.
Kasper: Each week?
Castleberry: Each week. Every week it ran as many as forty-eight pages. All the grocery ads were in there at that time and it just, you know, was volume. It was one of the biggest food sections in the country. And we did brides—endlessly we did brides. I mean, morning, noon and night, we did brides. And one of the things that I did right away, I not only did my job, but offered to help out in other fields and this surprised my boss to death because she had never had, say a fashion editor, who would also write brides or do other things. But I could never stand idleness. And so I moved right in to—when my stories were written, I would do anything in the department that was there to be done.
Kasper: So Gail was actually the editor of the women's section. And while you were assigned to home furnishings, you began to do this.
Castleberry: And I began to volunteer. And I'd tell her, anything that you have that you want me to do that you think I can do for you, I'm here to do it. I want the experience of learning the other departments. And one of the things that I did right away was do a series of ten stories called—they were feature stories called "The Good Home." No, wait, I take that back. The first one was "Homemaking Under Handicap." And I chose people in the community who had real handicaps of one kind or another and continued to run their homes. For instance, I did a woman who operated her home from her wheelchair. I did a woman who had three children, one of them completely mentally and physically retarded. Oh, let's see, there were ten of them. And that series of articles won me quite early recognition because it was the human touch that the section had not had much of. When you write brides and that's just a rote matter and you turn it out, just grind it out, or you write home furnishings, or you write fashions, there's not a great deal of flavor and personality to that. So this series of feature stories made me recognized in the community and people began to call me and want me to do other things. So, immediately, almost immediately, I was handling the home job and covering—the first business trip I went on for the Times Herald was to the Chicago Furniture Market
in January. I nearly died. My clothes were not adequate for that. It was one of the worst cold spells that Chicago had ever had. I took my Dallas wardrobe to Chicago and I thought I would freeze to death before I got back. My hotel room was right across the lake.
Kasper: I've had the same experience. Even with a heavy wool coat in Chicago one winter, I nearly died.
Castleberry: It was horrible. It was so cold.
Kasper: It was awful. And I'm a Connecticut Yankee.
Castleberry: But that also told me how to wire stories home and I learned that end of it. At that time all of the stories were sent by Western Union. We did not have computers and so I had to find a Western Union office and wire my story home and that sort of thing. And then the next thing that happened to me, the job was interesting, exciting, I liked it, and I probably—I think at that time, I was simply so busy that I didn't think of it as a career, per se, because I had a huge load at home at that time. I had three children.
And I'll never forget one funny story that happened. At that time Curt really had learned to father. And he was wonderful at it. And he could do things with the babies because of his calm nature that I never could. He could walk in and take a crying child and just have that child soothed in no time at all. And so, one night I came home from work—and far be it from me to let one thing go because I'm doing something else, so what I was doing was rearing three children, working full time, and making Easter dresses for my three little girls. Now, I not only was making Easter dresses, but I was handpainting the organdy collars with textile paints.
And Curt came in one night about ten o'clock at night, he worked late, and he came in and he found the baby screaming. He found the two other little girls crying. He found a wife in tears, and he sat down with me and he said—after he calmed the baby and got her to bed, and after he got the other two little girls to bed, he came and sat down with me and he said, "Now, honey, it seems to me that something around here may have to go." He said, "You can either give up your job, or you can give up the sewing that you do, or you can give up the children. Now, you have a choice." [Laughter.]
And it was that wonderful, calm nature that at times I was ready to spit when he would come in and be so calm when I was climbing the ceiling. But it was the foundation and the bedrock that kept us focused. And so I gave up the sewing and I did an enumeration of what I was doing with my life, and some of the other things that I could let go and it was simply a matter of enumerating what was significant to me, what I could turn loose and what I couldn't.
Kasper: Who took care of the baby or the children while you were gone all day and Curt was working?
Castleberry: At that time, we always had someone who was with us most of the time. I had a woman who was coming in at that time by the day. And she was good, she was extremely good with the children, and we kept her until we found out she was alcoholic. And the way we found out she was alcoholic was really interesting. At that time, we just didn't keep liquor in our house at all. We just didn't have any there. So one night she babysat for friends of ours and she drank up all their liquor. And so it was extremely embarrassing. But I knew at that stage—then it began to dawn on me that sometimes when I would come in she would seem a bit happy. And it turned out that she was lacing her coffee with rum. She was having lots of coffee during the day, but she was lacing it with rum. She was, and I still say, she was marvelous to the children. I never found one thing wrong with the kids except that she didn't change the baby's diapers as often as I would have liked. But, otherwise, she was lovely to them and I don't think she ever did anything that harmed them in any way.
But it was at that stage that I knew that we had to do something else, and we started looking for a full-time, live-in housekeeper. At the time we lived in a fairly small house and we knew that it was going to take some real adjustment to make it work for us. So the first thing we did was enclose the garage of our house.
And also, at the same time, we gutted the kitchen and Curt put a new kitchen in designed to my needs. And what it turned out was, for those days, we had a $10,000 kitchen in a $15,000 house. [Laughter.] Really. But it was a marvelous kitchen. It had an island. It was glorious. It was a wonderful place to work. And we hired a woman whose name was Vallie Bush and the children called her Granny. And she was with us seven years in full charge of all of us. She was with us longer than that, but she was with us for seven years, and she loved my children. She took Kim—to back up a little bit on my career, I found myself pregnant again.
Kasper: This was unexpected.
Castleberry: Well, it was and it wasn't. Curt and I had planned to have four children. But we had not planned to have the fourth one right at that time. I was just getting started in my job and we did not intend—so it was really a failed birth control. I'm good at that. I'd had it happen once before and I mean, literally, because I was using a diaphragm and it literally was a failed birth control. I guess I was very productive because I managed to get pregnant in spite of. So I was pregnant and when I went in and I told Bert Holmes that I was pregnant and I would like—I said, "I am going to resign." I had got bought into the conditioning of those days that a woman cannot rear four children and work full time. It just cannot be done.
Kasper: You believed it at the time.
Castleberry: I believed it. Society had so indoctrinated me that I really believed it and I wanted to be a good mother and I wanted to have good kids. And I was not getting that pressure from my husband. I was not getting that pressure from my mother. But I was getting that pressure from my own inner being.
Kasper: And society at large.
Castleberry: And society. So I resigned my job and I worked until—
Kasper: This was 19—?
Castleberry: 1956. It was early '57 that I resigned because Kim was born in August of '57. And I was not unhappy that I was pregnant because I had planned the four children and it seemed like something that we needed to do. And Curt could support us, albeit he had to work two jobs to do it, but it was still easy enough in those days to do and we had bought our house and we were in it and it was okay. And so I went home then, I guess it must have been in probably the late spring of '57 because I worked pregnant for a good long while. But I went home determined to be a happy homemaker. I was going to do the best job with home and family that you have ever seen in your life. Kim was born August 19, 1957, and I brought her home from the hospital. It was a wonderful experience because by that time everybody at Baylor Hospital knew me and my room was a party. All the nurses knew me and all of the staff that I had worked with brought presents and we had parties. And so I had a four-day vacation in the hospital with my new child.
Kasper: I've always felt that being in the hospital with childbirth is wonderful. All your responsibilities are gone and everybody's taking care of you.
Castleberry: And I loved it, I loved every minute of it and I loved the attention I was getting. I loved the big boxes of gifts that I was getting. And then I brought Kim home and it still, it was working. Granny was still there. She didn't really have at that point in her life anywhere to go, so she was still living with us, and that made it so nice. And I had told her, she wanted to go on vacation, she said, "I will stay with you until the baby is old enough for you, about six weeks, and then I'm going to go on vacation for a little while, travel a little while, and then we'll see what happens. I may come back." And at that time we were really an extended family. Even if I hadn't gone back to work I would have welcomed her back. I would have found some way to have made her life easy enough for her to come back. It was an ideal situation.
Kasper: She was living in the converted garage?
Castleberry: Well, no. No, no. We had enclosed the garage and turned it into a kind of dormitory for the girls. And she had the other little bedroom. And then, when we brought the baby home, she insisted that I put the baby in her room. Wow! I mean, like, WOW! So it was just glorious. And also at that time, as I said to you yesterday, she was taking care of Curt and me. She adored my husband and she pointed out to me every hour on the hour, "Honey, you don't know what a jewel you have." I did, but it was nice to have it affirmed. And also, at the hospital when Kim was born, the young nurse who attended me in the delivery room came in and said, "Your husband is the first man I have ever seen who acted like he had hung the moon when we told him he had a fourth daughter." So, you know, we planned for girls and it was just—so, anyway, Granny was there. I had been home from the hospital five days when Bert Holmes called me and said, "The top job has opened up at the Times Herald or is going to open up. Gail is going to the Denver Post. Would you like the job?" And I said, "No, Bert. I can't do all this and heaven, too. There is no way I can do this. And I just can't do it. I just mustn't try."
Kasper: Now this is the offer of being women's page editor?
Castleberry: Women's page editor. So he waited a week and called me back, and he said, "Have you reconsidered?" I said, "No, I haven't. There is no way that any human being can do all of this. It's just not possible." So I can't remember what the chain of events was, but in about six weeks he called a third time and said, "The job is still open, come talk to me." And I went down to the Times Herald and I will never forget it because I drove our new red and white Ford and put a dent in it that day. [Laughter.] But I came back to the house and I said, "Curt, that is a glorious job. I want that job so badly. I know I would be real good at it. I don't see how on earth I can do it. What do you think?" And my husband said, "If you think you have talents that somebody will pay you for, I wish you would go out and do it because we don't intend to fit into your neat little cubbyholes." Which was the first inkling that I had that I was running them crazy. With all of the energy that I had, I was running that family, as my husband put it, "You're more of a top sergeant than I am in the way you're running this family."
Kasper: I know exactly what you're saying.
Castleberry: Yeah. It was I had so much energy—
Kasper: You had so much energy and it was directed all at the family.
Castleberry: It was directed wherever there was to direct it. I mean, I had to have something to do and I was so busy doing it that I was driving them nuts of having them fit my schedule, and he recognized that.
Kasper: Curt recognized this. And he probably also even envisioned that as the children grew older that you would be terribly involved in their lives, they probably wouldn't have quite the independence and freedom that as parents you probably wanted them to have.
Castleberry: Probably so. I don't know whether he recognized that or not, but he also recalled to me that we had made ourselves a promise that we would have two careers each, one at home and one in the workplace. And he said, you know, I'm still committed to that.
Kasper: Wasn't that pretty revolutionary for that time?
Castleberry: It was extremely revolutionary and he also said, "You take the job and we will do whatever is necessary to make it work."
Kasper: Let's stop for a moment on that revolutionary concept. This is not something Curt dreamed up or you dreamed up, you did this together.
Castleberry: We did this together.
Kasper: Where do you think that came from and how is that you vocalized it.
Castleberry: Well, I think where it probably came from was that, as I said, my mother had always been involved in the workplace, and his mother had always been
involved in the workplace, and that was our basic role modeling and I feel like that even though society was telling us differently both in ways and in words and modeling a difference, I feel like that, again, we were evaluating by the most basic role model that we had and that we were calling our own destiny in the direction that—had almost been put in with the pablum and the milk that we were fed from infancy up.
Kasper: I've always called that kind of a personal manifest destiny.
Castleberry: I think that you're exactly right.
Kasper: And I think that's what we're talking about.
Castleberry: Exactly. And I've never put it in those words but that's a wonderful wording. A personal manifesto of what you want to do with your life.
Kasper: It's almost as if there's a kind of unconscious drive based on how you were socialized or what you learned as a child, the values you acquired from home, that sets a direction and a tone to your life that you almost are powerless to change. And it's a focus and a drive that just kind of sets the direction in which you will go, and you will go.
Castleberry: That's right. Also, at the same time, what I did, I told Bert that day, Bert and Felix McKnight interviewed me, and I knew when I came away that I had the job if I wanted it. I also knew that I needed to talk to Curt and I needed to work through my own hang-ups.
Kasper: What do you mean by hang-ups?
Castleberry: I mean I had to get rid of this conditioning that society was handing me that you can't do it. There's no way you can do it. So what I had to say—I had to re-psych myself out. I had to get to the point to where I knew that I could do anything I wanted badly enough to do.
Kasper: How did you do that?
Castleberry: First, it was talking with Curt and having his feedback. Then the next thing I knew that I had to have my children well taken care of. So that's where Granny came in. Will you come back? Will you do this for me? Will you be my balance wheel? And to work out so that we are an extended family and although we cannot pay you the amount of money that you require and deserve for doing this tremendous job, you will be a part of this family, we will pay you what we can, and we will—it was an agreeing on all of these things. Then the next hurdle was going back to the paper and getting them to agree to some of the things I had to get them to agree to.
Kasper: Which were?
Castleberry: And here is what I said to them. When I walked in, I said, "I want the job. I can do the job. I will do you a fantastic job. I cannot afford to foul up at home and you cannot afford to have a women's editor who does. So I have to do both jobs." And I said, "I will do the job for you. I promise you unlimited time. But I will have to do it on my own hours. There are going to be times when I'm going to be required to do things for my family and my children. And, as a result of that, you're going to get more out of me than you would otherwise get—
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Castleberry: —out of the average employee because I'm going to do the job for you. And I'm going to do a better job for you than anybody else would do. And the way I'm going to do it is sometimes I'm going to be working nights when my husband's home with the children and after I get them to bed and there's something to do, I'll be down here doing it. I will work on week-ends if I need to. I will not watch a time clock. I will do the job." Now, they bought this wholesale, but I had to recondition bosses along the way. Every time I would get a new head of department, I would have to restructure this kind of thinking. And what it amounted to was a
retraining of male employees endlessly because I kept getting new bosses who didn't understand my concept.
Kasper: And you never had this in writing in a written contract, this was all a verbal agreement.
Castleberry: No. If I had it to do over, it would be a written contract. But, in those days, we didn't know to do that. And I worked endless hours. I loved what I did. From the very word go, I went in with the idea that women are whole people who are interested in everything in the world that there is out there to be interested in if it is presented in the right fashion. So I was not going to do a women's news, I was going to do a people news. And we were going to be strong and heavy on features. We were going to eliminate as much as we could the social end of things. At the time we had a society editor, we had a home furnishings editor, a food editor, a fashion editor, a features editor, which had been a new thing that had been brought in fairly recently, and I think that came in after I wrote the series of stories that were such good features they decided that would be a good thing to put in. And then we had three or four general reporters. What I inherited was a staff of ten people, to begin with. That increased only to twelve in the years that I was there. I never headed a staff of more than twelve. And for the most part it was mostly women.
Kasper: Now when you inherited this staff, were you happy with this staff? Because you had high ambitions for this paper. Were you going to change staff too?
Castleberry: I was very happy with most of the staff. The first thing I did, and the hardest thing I ever did, was fire one. It is not any fun to fire someone. Well, from the minute I had taken the job of home furnishings editor, I read and evaluated everything that went into that paper. So I knew where the strength was and I knew where the weakness was; and I knew what needed to be shored up and I knew where the deadweight was. I knew precisely what I could work with and make better and what I was going to have to eliminate. So the first thing I did after I took over was fire the person who was just deadweight. It was the greatest thing I ever did for her because she went out and got another job and became quite good at the other job that she did. [Laughter.]
Kasper: Better than what she had been.
Castleberry: She was lazy and she had been allowed to be lazy. And also, Gail had gone by that time. Gail had been gone about three months by the time I went in and took over. So people were already volleying for position at that time.
Kasper: And this is 1958 that you became—
Castleberry: This is 1958. Un huh. I went back to work for the paper on 1/20/58. And I can't even remember what I made at that time, but it wasn't a lot of money. I did get a raise, but it wasn't a lot of money. Probably $125 a week. And I was, you know, paying a housekeeper and rearing children and the whole bit. And also it was interesting in that the paper in those days was so different. They encouraged us to take gratuities, and by that I mean that there were a lot—they said, in words, there are a lot of sideline gifts that come to reporters, you know, such as tickets to Six Flags Over Texas and free dinners and whatever.
Castleberry: Trips. And those things were just accepted and acceptable. And I lived through the changing of all of that and that's one of the ways that Watergate changed a newspaper. But I totally and absolutely agree that reporters should not take anything for free, ever. But in those days, it was built into the conditioning and I did, I very honestly did enjoy it. I took my children to Six Flags every time it opened every year on press day. And I got to take them to a lot of things. I took my children with me when it was okay to do so. I took them with me at night to Miss America Pageant. I took them at night with me when I was covering the circus. I took them with me for a lot of lectures that I thought they might be interested in. And that was understood. That, too, was a part of the agreement that I made with the paper, that there were going to be times that my children will accompany me to places.
Kasper: There shouldn't be these rigid divisions between work and home.
Castleberry: Right. And I also did other wonderful things. I learned to do things that nobody else could do. For instance, one Saturday I was going to cover some VIP coming in, I can't remember who it was, but it was somebody very important, came in at eleven o'clock on Saturday morning. I had arranged for a babysitter. At the last minute the babysitter fell through. Somebody was sick, I couldn't get a babysitter, I had a plane to meet. What I did was pack a car picnic and take it in my station wagon to the airport. And I put Carol in charge of the car picnic for the children and they had a car picnic while mother went and met the VIP and did the interview. And I came back, they were having a glorious time at the car picnic, and they wanted to know from then on why we didn't have more car picnics! I mean, that was so much fun. "We should drive to the airport for a car picnic. You forgot to do that mother." But we did all sorts of things of that kind.
I took them with me on Sunday afternoon endlessly to work. I would go down on Sunday afternoon and plan my week ahead for the staff. And what I would do would be to take my two older children with me who were schoolchildren and their books, their homework. I would give them a desk and let them work on their homework. That way, they always knew where mother was and they had a direct line to me. Our understanding was that any time they had a real problem, they were free to call me. They were never free to call to chit-chat on the phone or to settle arguments or this sort of thing. They learned responsibility very early on.
And one day they called me at work and Chanda was on the phone. Chanda was usually the one they put on the phone if I was to be conned into anything. And I said, "Chanda, what is it?" Well, it had to be some kind of semi-emergency. "Well, Mother," she said, "it's about this little dog." And I said, "Unh unh. No way. No dog." [Laughter.] She said, "But Mother you don't understand. We went to the library—" (The kids had walked to the library. That's another thing we did. When we bought our house, we situated to where they could walk to Girl Scouts, walk to school, walk to the library, walk to the shopping center. And in those days, it was safe for kids to do that. So they did a lot of walking. To walk to the swimming pool. And I gave them swimming lessons and knew who was in charge of this sort of thing and knew they were safe.) And so they had gone to the library and this little dog, quote, "had followed them home." Well when I got home, the little black Cocker spaniel had been bathed and had a red ribbon in it's hair. So we became the proud possessors of a little dog.
But my job, I always combined the two. And I was always critically aware that I was combining them. And I did things like weekly planning at home and weekly planning at work. And fairly early on—recently I found some of the schedules that we worked with.
Kasper: Now what you're saying is weekly planning for home life as well as your weekly planning for your work life.
Castleberry: Right. We had a family council meeting every Saturday morning around the breakfast table. And as the children grew up, we let them chair the family council meeting because we wanted them to learn how to do this. And one morning that there was a note on our bedroom door that said, "The family council meeting has been called off this morning due to general lack of interest." It was signed "Chanda, Chair." [Laughter.] We decided that we would take the veto power from then on. We had a family council meeting and we outlined what the responsibilities were for the week.
Kasper: Who had to be where when. Whose chores were what.
Castleberry: And we went around and each person chose a chore and every week this changed. Like this week Carol had first choice, next week Chanda had first choice, next week Keeta had first choice, and on. And then the responsibilities for the babies as they began to move into this, and they almost moved into it by the time they were at high chair age, because it was a kind of a given that we would do this. And I shall never forget one wonderful story. Cathy literally was still in her high chair
and she was just barely talking good. The family had been in upheaval that week. Things never work the way you plan for them to work. There are always pieces that fall out. So things had been in pretty much of a shambles and Curt started the family council meeting by saying that things had not worked well this week, and we're all aware of that. So he said, "I'm going to start out today asking each one of you, in turn, what you personally can do to improve this situation. I don't want to know what she can do. I don't want to know what I can do or what mother can do, but what can each of us do." And we got to the baby, and he gave her a turn, and she said, "I don't know. I could pway about it I guess." [Laughter.]
Kasper: And did she mean play or pray?
Castleberry: Pray. She'd been to Sunday school and she learned to pray. [Laughter.] So it was a very charming little happening. Another thing that happened to me along that way that was so fun, just a sideline. She, still in her high chair, and I had a crˆche set and I bought them at the dimestore so the children could handle them and play with them. I didn't want anything that they couldn't handle and play with. And Cathy dropped one of the camels one morning and broke its leg. And when I came in with the scrambled eggs, she said, "Mommy, him walked too fast to Bethlehem." [Laughter.] So, you know, there are always charming stories in every family that children have a hand in.
Kasper: Now, you said you also organized your work life.
Castleberry: I organized my work life on Sunday afternoon.
Kasper: On Sunday afternoon you'd go to the office?
Castleberry: I would go to the office. Or sometimes I would bring it home and do it. But I knew exactly what the assignments—I mean, you can never project in a newspaper what the assignments are going to be, but you know what the routine is going to be.
Kasper: And some of the features you could plan.
Castleberry: And I could plan those. And I also knew what club meetings or beats had to be covered. Starting right away, several things, I hardly know where to begin to tell you how we covered news. But I knew right away that there were about eight or ten. We kept records on two thousand organized clubs in Dallas County that admitted women to full membership. That was our criteria. PTA's, for instance, had both men and women. But we kept records on those. And every September we had a Times Herald forum where we began the club year literally by having an open forum at the Times Herald where we had a keynote speaker and where we gave cash awards. It was silver trays until I took over, and I decided that silver trays were to be polished and that these women who were doing community service needed money to go into their projects so we started doing cash awards in three categories. And the reason there were three categories was that some clubs were bigger than others and can do more than others. So we divided by size, by quantity, in that way. And then we had five community leaders who would vote on—each forum presented their own entry, whoever wanted to enter entered. And then we gave the cash awards.
It generally fell the second Monday of September, the club forum, and it was at a hotel, grand ballroom, and I ran and managed everything. I did not start this, Gail started this. It was something that I inherited, but we made it big. And we invited the president, public relations director and secretary of every organized women's clubs in Dallas County. And individual, engraved invitations went out to these people. I handled and coordinated all of that, very often—in later years, I made them let me hire extra help, but in those early years, we addressed those things and stamped them and mailed them. And this was up to as many as five thousand 'cause you couldn't find everybody, but generally we sent out around five thousand invitations to these things. And they were beautiful invitations, well done, and the Times Herald traditionally began the club year for women in the community. That was the kick-off, and after that they were free to do whatever they wanted to, but they came to this big—it was a big morning coffee and we served all kinds of goodies in the foyer of the hotel and coffee and juice.
Kasper: Now at the same time that you're managing this, you're managing the women's pages, you're also reporting. Now, tell me some of the things that you were covering as a reporter for the women's pages as well.
Castleberry: I was covering those things that I considered to be cutting edge of change, stories that I didn't have anybody yet to assign to, such as wife battering, child abuse. When people would call me, as happened, the first story that was ever done on child abuse done in this community, I did it. And the reason that I did it was that a woman at the medical school that I trusted called me and told me that child abuse was going on in Dallas. And in those days it was very difficult to get my male editors eager to publish stories of that kind. So the way I managed was to warm them up a bit. I would pull stories off the wire.
Kasper: How did you warm them up a little bit?
Castleberry: That's the way I did it. I'd pull stories off the wire that came out of New York or Chicago or some other city and run three or four of those on a subject, and then suddenly we'd find that it was happening in Dallas, Texas, too.
Kasper: So they couldn't say no because other papers had been reporting it.
Castleberry: They couldn't say it's not happening in the world because other papers had been reporting it already. And so, then, another thing that happened along the way that I consider a real breakthrough for us was that our women's pages pioneered, opened up, practically every human interest story that was done in this community for as long as ten years. And as soon as that subject would become credible, city side would take it over.
Kasper: Oh, the city side of the paper. And when you say human interest stories, what do you mean?
Castleberry: Child battering, child abuse, is a human interest story. Wife battering is a human interest story. Rape. Rape is a human interest story. Child care is a human interest story. We reported on all of them first. Those things were not covered by any newspaper in town. Anything. And they were not covered much in the nation. What I was doing was watching what was going on in New York, in Washington, in Los Angeles, in Florida, which had some really good women's pages at the time.
Kasper: Were you reading the Miami Herald and what Marie Anderson was doing at that time?
Castleberry: Sure. Oh, yeah. Oh, sure. Every day. They came to our library and every day I found a few minutes to scan it. I can't say I read it, but I sure knew what was going on. And I also knew that whatever was going on in other parts of the world was going on right here, and all I had to do was look for it. And so I had this call from—I wish I could remember her name. I cannot remember her name because she isn't here anymore, but she called me from the medical school and she and a male physician had been aware that there was child abuse coming through their department. And it wasn't being reported on. I don't know who she had called first, maybe she called me first. But anyway, I went out and that was a very careful story that we did on that very first one—that there is child abuse in Dallas, Texas.
Kasper: How did management of the paper react to that story?
Castleberry: Ahh, they didn't quite know what to do with me. I would meet one of the top male editors in the hallway and he would look at me like, "Where did I get you?" And then one day Felix literally said to me, he blurted out, he said, "What happened to that little girl that we hired who believes, that really believed in all the—" Well, as he put it—I can't remember exactly what he said, but my words later were "really believed in God, country, motherhood and apple pie."
Kasper: And what he was referring to were the fashion pages, and the club notices.
Castleberry: He was referring to the things that traditionally women enjoy that in his framework of reference that are women's news. And I said to him, "Felix,
you hired me and you sent me out to see what the real world was like. And I found out that the stories do not happen at the Petroleum Club and the Dallas Country Club. That's what happened."
Kasper: They also happen in the homes where children are being abused and wives are being battered.
Castleberry: Un huh. And also another thing that I did was I pioneered going into parts of town that had never been covered before.
Kasper: For instance?
Castleberry: I went to South Dallas where the black people live. And I went to children's centers there. And also, I have to tell you that I learned very early on which clubs to watch, what they were doing. I used to say that what the Dallas section National Council of Jewish Women is doing will be acceptable in this city ten years from now.
Kasper: So, in other words, there were some clubs that were on the cutting edge and others that were dull.
Castleberry: Some clubs on the cutting edge. And there were individuals in those clubs that were doing it.
Kasper: And what were they doing? What was, for instance, the Jewish Women's Council doing?
Castleberry: Well, for instance, one of the first things that I became aware of that they were doing, they were sending groups of people into the poverty pockets of South Dallas and other parts of Dallas to shop in grocery stores to see what kinds of foods were available in those grocery stores as opposed to what they could buy in their North Dallas and doing a study on that. They were also exploring health care at the Dallas City County Hospital to find out what kinds of services were available to the mother who brought her child in, and how long she had to sit and wait. They were doing in-depth research studies. And these women, for the most part, were credentialed to do that.
Kasper: Credentialed in what sense?
Castleberry: Many of them were graduates of the Seven Sisters schools. Many of them had degrees in sociology. Many of them knew exactly what they were doing and how to do it and how to evaluate it. And I learned real early who I could trust.
Kasper: Who were some of these groups?
Castleberry: I used to could tick them off. There were ten of them and I could tick them off on my fingers, but I can still do most of them. First and foremost, was the Dallas section National Council of Jewish Women, they were ahead of everybody. League of Women Voters. If you wanted to find somebody that knew what was happening in politics, very early on, Ann Richards was a president of the Dallas League of Women Voters. At that time, the Women's Council of Dallas County, which was a fairly new organization in town. The Women's Council of Dallas County came out of the Dallas Women's Club, which is a venerable, very elite club.
But one day, Willie Lewis and three other women were sitting in their club—this is according to Willie's story—playing bridge. And she doesn't remember who slapped their cards down first, but one of these women slapped her cards down and said, "This is ridiculous. We have to pay the price for the citizenship we are enjoying. We have got, if we can't get this club off first base, dead center, to do something for the community, then we have to organize something else." So they organized the Women's Council of Dallas County and it is a still going, gung-ho group. Every year they study the issues that are the most pressing for women and children in this community and they do something about it.
I found that the Junior League was something that I should watch because it was something more than social. The kind of service that they did for the community, the in-depth service that they did for the community was second to none.
Because what they did when they took their initiates, the young women, into the group for one year, these young women have to do in-depth service in the community. It was a requirement. So I watched what they were doing. I watched what they chose to do. And I watched where they put their money.
I went to the Children's Medical Center and I watched what was going on out there in medicine. I went to the Hispanic community where only Spanish was spoken in West Dallas. I went to their recreation center and learned that both in Black Dallas and in Hispanic-speaking Dallas, the churches were the center of their existence. So I watched what their church groups were doing. That's where I found them and that's how I found them.
Kasper: And what you did, which is quite extraordinary, is that you forged a link between your newspaper and what was happening in the community.
Castleberry: I did.
Kasper: So that it wasn't just that you were seeking out news, you were also working in conjunction with these groups to identify what the issues were of the time that then needed to be reported in the paper.
Castleberry: I was. And I cared deeply about all these things. I have taken tears into many meetings. And, you know, a reporter is supposed to be objective. I was never objective. For instance, again, back to the National Council of Jewish Women started the first preschool in South Dallas and it was a cooperative venture. They went down and provided the money and the expertise, but they worked with the mothers to set up the school and Hortense Sanger and Gerry Beer were extremely important in getting that job done. That was a link between Temple Emmanuel which is in North Dallas and the South Dallas housing projects.
Kasper: So that The Children's Center was set up in South Dallas—
Castleberry: It was set up in South Dallas, it was set up in the housing center.
Kasper: This was not for upper middle class Jewish families, this was for poor black children.
Castleberry: Oh, no. This was for poor black children. And they also took their women in and taught people how to mother and how to parent. And it was a hard job. And there were many days that I'm sure they wanted to throw up their hands and walk out because you can't begin at grassroots to teach people something and have it happen overnight. So they went in with the idea of staying there until it worked. And did it ever work. Now this center that they started is a part of the Greater Dallas Child Care Program. And what they did, and what a great many other women's groups have done, is initiate change that needs to take place and get it on its feet and then they turn it over, and then they go do something else, such as, paired housing.
Kasper: What is paired housing?
Castleberry: Well, when you go into a community where their houses are in a shambles and need painting and you go down and you offer a cooperative, a hand-up to, you know, we'll help you paint this and we will help you clean up the rubbish and we'll help you. Teaching women in the poverty areas how to cook, how to manage on a low income. And as the social issues have reared their ugly heads, there have been women's groups who have been there to do it. For instance, now, a great many of the women's clubs are working in teenage pregnancy. And every issue that comes along, women are there first to answer the needs. And those things were not being reported.
Kasper: What you're saying is that back in the 1950's not only was this not being reported on the news pages, it was not even being reported in the women's pages. Anywhere in the paper.
Castleberry: It wasn't being reported anywhere. And I also had to bite my tongue in two different areas because the women's pages had a stigma attached to them and a women's editor had a stigma attached to her.
Kasper: What was that?
Castleberry: That was that if you're any good at all, you don't stay in women's news. If you're any good at all, you want to cover politics or you want to get out and cover the—
Kasper: Foreign affairs.
Castleberry: Or you want to chase the cops and robbers.
Kasper: To really prove yourself as a journalist.
Castleberry: Yeah. To prove your mettle as a journalist. You cannot stay in the "soft side" of the news, you've got to get into hard news to be a reporter. And I kept refuting that and I kept saying I'm where I want to be. I don't want to be doing anything else. This is where the heart and soul of humanity is. These are the kinds of stories that must be reported and that must be held up as pictures to the community so that something can be done about them. So, anyway, we did it, and we did it over and over and over and over, and some of the things that we did, did not get done. For instance, I have one page which I will show you here if I can find it that we covered on teenage sexuality. We did that in a Sunday paper and we were right ready to go to press when our male bosses looked at that and said, "Whoa! Wait a minute, you can't print this story." And so, we didn't.
Kasper: Because they were afraid that it would raise hackles in the community and so forth.
Castleberry: They were afraid. Oh, yeah. It would raise hackles.
Kasper: You mentioned to me yesterday that there was also an article on wife abuse that you wrote at one point that went unpublished.
Castleberry: Oh, yeah. Yeah, that was fairly late in my career that I went out to this hotel room and interviewed this woman who was black and blue and bruised and wearing colored glasses when I saw her and whose husband's former wife had died under very unusual circumstances. She fell from a moving car on one of the main streets in this community. And my paper still would not let me print that article because I did not get his side of the story. They wanted me to call him up and interview him, find out what he had to say about all this. As if I didn't know.
Kasper: And did you refuse?
Castleberry: Well, no, I didn't exactly refuse. I very honestly just never got around to doing it. I wasn't about to talk to that man. I had talked to other people in the community, I knew what he was like. I knew who he was. I had also talked—at that time, at one stage, he had allowed her to enroll in one of the junior colleges, and he would follow her to class and check her out through binoculars. So I checked that out for myself. I followed him one day and saw that he was doing it. When you see things with your own eyes and you still have call up somebody to get the—
Let me go back and just fill you in on a couple of other things. Before I get just totally inundated with loving my job and loving to tell you about the kinds of things we did and the fun. Another thing that happened along the way is that I got pregnant again. And that was an unplanned pregnancy and I told Cathy from the first day of her life that she was unplanned but most wanted, because I knew in fact the kids are going to tell 'em. And I'll never forget the day I came home and Cathy was in tears because she was not a wanted child. Her older sisters had told her so. But I had already told her, but like most bonuses she was the best thing that ever happened to us. It was again, a failed birth control, and I was in tears that time. I had just got started on my new job.
Kasper: What year is this?
Castleberry: It was January of '60 that she was born. I was just going good with this new job. I had things moving. I had my staff in hand. They were working for me.
They were not any longer working against me. I had put together a staff. I had fired one and one had resigned. My society editor, who was responsible for my going to the Times Herald had resigned to get married and to follow the tradition of—
Kasper: Who was this?
Castleberry: Doris Allen Dowell. And she had resigned to follow the traditional patterns of women and has continued to do so all of these years. She found her niche in that way. But she loved covering society and she was born into Dallas society and she loved covering it and she was a beautiful, wonderful person that I just adored. But I never again hired a society editor that covered society like she did. I wanted someone that, to me, I looked at society with a small "s" instead of capital "S" which didn't always please my bosses.
Kasper: So what you meant by the small "s" is sort of anything in the culture out there that was of human interest.
Castleberry: Anything that people do that was of human interest is a part of the social milieu that makes up the whole of society. So I covered things and I got my hand slapped a few times. They really didn't enjoy my going to the—in those days, going to a campground and covering what the black people were doing at a picnic, you know, that wasn't our cup of tea. But it was what the community was doing. Also along about that time, constantly and consistently from the word go, from the day I walked in, I said, we must publish black brides. We were not publishing black brides, the black women who were marrying, we were not putting those in our paper.
Kasper: So at this juncture, around 1960, the transformation of women's pages from what Molly Ivins called its old incarnation of fluff and drivel to its new incarnation of substantive news is taking place. So at the same time that you're reporting on news of the community, and I'm talking about child abuse and rape and the abortion issue and so forth, you're still—you've got your food editor. You've still got your so-called society editor. You've still got people who are reporting on the brides, although this time you're including black brides—
Castleberry: Not yet.
Kasper: Not yet. You're just beginning to.
Castleberry: No, I'm trying.
Kasper: You're trying to. What happened when you tried that?
Castleberry: From the word go, I kept telling management we had to do this. We have to do this. We have to do this. I don't know how long it took.
Kasper: And what is management saying?
Castleberry: Management is saying, "No." I mean, in a word, "no." The word that comes back to me is "no."
Kasper: Well, as Bert Holmes said to me, if you remember that this—or maybe it was Charlie Dameron, it was one of the two men that I spoke to, who said, you have to remember that Dallas is an old southern town and we had a lot of no-no's and shibboleths and one of them was that no black person's picture appeared in the paper. So was that part of the problem?
Castleberry: Oh, it was the problem. It was the problem.
Kasper: They didn't want news of black people, they didn't want black peoples' pictures in the paper in the 1950's.
Castleberry: That's right.
Kasper: So what happened with that issue?
Castleberry: So, what happened was that I just kept on and kept on and kept on dribbling away, and I don't know why they didn't fire me, because I probably asked at least once a month—at least. And finally, when I did it, when it finally happened, I was at SMU covering a conference and there was one of the black women, I can't remember who she was, I wish I could, she was a fine, outstanding person in this community, came up to me and said, "I want you to explain something to me. How do you explain that you published one white debutante's picture in the paper twelve different times in her debut season, a period of three months, and would not publish my daughter's picture when she got married." And I said to her, "I cannot explain that to you. If I could, I would. I am not going to stand here and try to tell you that, that it is justified in any way."
Kasper: So, for your newspaper, it was all right that you reported on, let's say, the Council of Jewish Women going into South Dallas and working with poor mothers and helping them and maybe setting up a child care center and doing something for poor black families, but the fact that black families might be making good on their own in Dallas was not reportable news in this newspaper.
Castleberry: Right. Exactly. It was not reported yet. In anything in this country, or in Texas, for that matter. So anyway, I came back that day and I sat down and I wrote a five-page letter to my top boss. It was Jim Chambers when he still owned the paper, owned the chief stock in it. And I started out by saying, "This is a love letter to you and before it is over you're not going to think it is a love letter." And I pointed out a number of different things. One of them was—the first I started with was the black bride issue and I just told him the story. I said, I would tell you this in person except that getting an appointment with you is very difficult because you're very busy. I worded it differently. I always went at all of this with the idea that I do not have a problem I have a challenge, now let's work together to see if we can work it out. What we're going to do about this. And that was the vein in which I wrote this letter. And I said, because you're a very busy person, I want to set this down on paper for you to think about. And I also asked in that for more emphasis on people news and for—I said, we strongly need support in our department from management. We feel like stepchildren, and it's very difficult for me to come in every day and get my staff all enthusiastic about what they are going to do when I do not feel the enthusiasm from the top. And we need your support. We need to know that we are a part of this family and that we are cared about. And we need to be paid for what we're doing, which we are not. And we know that our salary levels are lesser than they are in almost every other department. We need to know that we matter. I reread that letter the other day when I went in, and it was so funny because he had scribbled at the bottom of the letter to my boss, "Do you think we need to talk to her about this?" And no talk ever came of it, I mean—
Kasper: Nothing ever came of that letter.
Castleberry: What came of it was that I did get a little note from him saying it's okay to publish black brides.
Kasper: That's all that came of that letter.
Castleberry: That's all that came from that letter.
Kasper: But, it was a challenge, and you got a little piece of it.
Castleberry: That's it. And so I was driving home that afternoon and I thought about the note and I thought, why don't I feel better because I have really won a major breakthrough. And my answer to that was, we shouldn't be publishing brides at all. Here I have just gotten a whole, you know, another thing to do, and we shouldn't be doing this at all. So, anyway, I was handling at that time up to two hundred brides a week and to keep each one of these people straight, and their names straight, and the spelling of everything straight—
Kasper: Yes. Marie Anderson talked about that. She said it's just a huge nuisance and it takes up staff time and money and photography time.
Castleberry: But, let me also tell you, I've rethought this a little bit. That is the one time in life that a woman remembers how the paper treated her.
She will clip it and keep it for the rest of her life. And I think there should be a place in our world for that. I have rethought it. Now, in my own daughters, I never tried to get any of them—there was only one of them that we published in the paper. I mean, it wasn't a personal thing with me. I wasn't interested in that, but believe me, people are interested in that.
Kasper: It is community news, there's no question about it.
Castleberry: It's community news and as I say, it builds goodwill for the paper that nothing else builds.
Kasper: But it should not be at the expense of more substantive news.
Castleberry: Never. Never.
Kasper: That was your problem right there.
Castleberry: There are two times in life that if you are good to people they never forget you. And one of them is when they get married and the other one is when they die. And as I stayed with the paper, I began to get obituaries, too, because people knew me and they would call me and say, you know, my aunt died or my mother died. Well, I had one time, one night, one of the most poignant things that I ever had was a woman that I had worked with, she was German-Jewish, and she had come here escaping from the Holocaust, and she had started in our community the literacy program, teaching people to read and write. So I had worked with her very closely. And I just adored her. She never learned to speak English very well, but I would spend hours listening to her because—and she was so good with people who couldn't read and write. And every Christmas she would make me marzipan and bring it to me. But I adored her.
And one night—I hadn't heard from her in some time and I knew she wasn't very well—and one night about nine o'clock I got a call, at home, from her husband. And he said to me, (what was her name? Not Rosie), but he called her name, they had no children, he said, "She is dying, and she asked me to give you a call and tell you good-bye and to tell you that she had enjoyed working with you and to tell you that she had given her body to medical science and that there will not be a memorial or that there will not be anything, but there are a few people that she wanted me to call and thank them for being alive." You know, once you're committed like that, you get all these different kinds of calls. Margaret was her name. Margaret was her name. Margaret Hirsch. She was absolutely one more gorgeous individual. And those are the kinds of things that happen to you when you get into peoples' lives. And I got into a lot of peoples' lives in all parts of this community.
Back to, turning back a little bit, with my pregnancy and leave, that time they gave me a leave, but it was unpaid.
Kasper: This was 1960.
Castleberry: It was late in '59 because Cathy was born January the 20th of '60. They gave me a leave to come back to work, but it was unpaid. My boss, Felix McKnight and I, had worked out that I would work part time at home, keep my hand in, write feature stories from home and go down maybe once a week. I had to take care of myself because again I was having a kidney infection, even though by that time we had antibiotics to help and I didn't go crazy with it, it still was not fun. You know, any woman that has six children with a kidney infection is crazy. I categorically will say that. And I was nuts. So, of course, I did have a tubal ligation immediately after Cathy was born. My doctor wasn't sure. He said I was still, quote, "a young woman." He wanted to be sure that I wanted to do this and he wasn't real sure that this was what I wanted. I guess, in a sense, I was fortunate. Cathy was born from a split placenta and if she had not been born really fast, she wouldn't have made it. But she came really fast and so the doctor didn't quibble with me and they went on and did the tubal ligation and so I haven't been pregnant again and that's wonderful. [Laughter.]
But, the period of time that I took off, from probably it was November before I really left the paper, suddenly they were not going to let me work at home, and I
never knew why until the other day when I went through my employee files. And the men that I was working for, Bert and Felix, both wanted me to have a leave and work at home, and Jim Chambers wrote "no" at the bottom of their request. And so Felix wrote back and asked for special compensation. He wanted me to keep my hand in. He wanted me to keep my byline in the paper. He thought it was good for the paper. Jim Chambers wrote back, "Don't push me on this. The answer is no."
Kasper: What do you think his reasoning was?
Castleberry: I have no idea. I have no idea. None.
Kasper: You still, to this day, do not know. Do you think he was trying to get rid of you?
Castleberry: Probably. My feeling is that the kinds of things that I was doing for the paper—I do know that along the way I had several male bosses come in and one of them finally admitted to me that his whole job was to handle me.
Kasper: Who was this?
Castleberry: His name was Lou Harris. He was ineffective, and he was put into this position and one day I was pushing him on something and he just thrashed out, he couldn't hold it any longer, he lashed out and said, "I was given this job to handle you."
Kasper: Oh my goodness. Apparently you were unhandleable.
Castleberry: And I said to him, "Well, good luck. Better people than you have tried it." [Laughter.]
Kasper: Did you?
Castleberry: I did.
Kasper: Good for you. That's wonderful.
Castleberry: And I also did some other things along the way. I had one boss—when the paper would come out every day, one of the things that I loved about the paper at that time was that we were handling it just like it was a news section—it had turned into a news section, which meant that we replated it for second edition and third edition.
Kasper: Your section had turned into a news section or what are you saying?
Castleberry: Well, it was really—it was more than—we had named it "Living." We had gone down—
Kasper: Okay, it had already gone through the transformation.
Castleberry: It had gone through the transition and we were behaving like newspaper people. When the paper came out everyday, we stopped everything, read our section out, replated it, made our corrections, put in new stories as they were breaking, breaking news stories. I've had reporters call me from all over town with breaking stories.
Kasper: What year was this that that transition came from women's pages to "Living"?
Castleberry: Oh, '60, '61, '62. It was shortly after I went back after Cathy was born. I don't remember exactly. I could be wrong on that. We had, at that time, made the transition and with the blessings of Bert and other people who were running things—
[End Tape 1, Side B; Begin Tape 2, Side A]
Kasper: —going on in the American Press Institute, it was a conference on women's pages, women's editors, or editors of women's pages, I should say.
Castleberry: Now that was an extremely significant conference for me because I was just beginning to take over and to begin to try to get a new direction for the women's news department which I was already pressing to change the name to something else so that it would really reflect what it was that we were trying to do, and that was that we were not going to be a traditional women's page in the sense of doing just the surface, frivolous things, but getting to some kind of depth reporting.
Kasper: Which you had already started.
Castleberry: Yeah, I'd already started it.
Kasper: But now you wanted to institutionalize it.
Castleberry: I wanted to institutionalize it. In addition, I needed some direction and some clout. I needed to feel that I wasn't all by myself out there in never, never land. So I credit Felix McKnight for doing that for me. He really was wonderful to push that through and at the very first conference that was ever held for women's editors at Columbia University by the American Press Institute was in June of '59 and I attended that. I was one of twenty-four or twenty-six participants and out of that group came some of the really outstanding journalists who later developed into nationally and internationally known journalists such as Dorothy Jurney was there, Gloria Biggs, Marie Anderson, Maggie Savoy, who is now deceased. She was the, I believe, features editor of the Los Angeles Times. She held a prominent post at the LA Times following that. Jean Otto, who later went on to edit the op ed page, I believe with the Milwaukee Journal, some of this will bear checking out. Marge Paxson, who then went on to edit her own newspaper, and be publisher of a newspaper. So it was really a remarkably fine group of people that I got to be with and try to check out my ideas against theirs and listen to some of the women who at that time were older than I and had been in it a lot longer than I and to find out that the needs were—and, what we wanted to do was kind of universal, that we were all journalists who were eager to move our particular sections of the paper into the real world and to report on what was going on in the real world.
Kasper: So you were like-minded. You came with the same kind of focus of purpose in mind, which is wonderful.
Castleberry: And there were very few people in that session that didn't feel that way. There were a few. There were a few who couldn't catch the vision, didn't get the dream and probably went home and did the same old thing, including the two men who were there. That was funny, because there were two men, and I have to tell you a funny story here because one of the two men who was there gave me a terrible time all the time that I was there.
Kasper: Would you like to name a name here?
Castleberry: I wish I could remember it. I would tell you if I could remember. But I think—I have a real tendency to forget those people that bug me the worst. And I mean I honestly do. And I think that is probably a gift that I have been given by something higher than I am because people tell me sometimes I should remember my enemies better, but I don't. I remember my friends, but I forget my enemies. And also, I think for the most part, at this stage of my life, I have learned to love the person and forgive what they do. It's a very hard leap to make. But this man was just—he was just tacky. That's the best word I know to put it in. He wanted to know repeatedly, bugged me repeatedly throughout the whole week about what my husband and poor little children were doing at home without me. At that stage I had four little children that I had left at home and it didn't matter that their father was here and that he was very capable of running things and quite a grown-up person and could handle this situation and that the full-time housekeeper was there handling all of the mechanical needs. But anyway, it was just out of his framework of thinking that a woman could have a career and also be a mother. And you will remember that I also was newly pregnant at that stage. I didn't ever tell him that I was pregnant too. [Laughter.]
Kasper: That would have really swung him for a loop.
Castleberry: But, it was so funny. I put up with this all week. And we would be in an informal session, we would be at a lunch, maybe, and he would think of a way to jive. And so finally on the last day that we were there, he had pushed for so long and I had taken about all I wanted to take. And when he came up then at the last day and said, "Well one thing you have never told me is how does your husband feel about the way you're living your life?" And I looked him straight, and I said, "Well, I want you to know that my husband is so grown-up and so mature and so capable of handling life that he doesn't think anything about this, and I so wish that your wife had the same kind of gift." [Laughter.] And I never heard from him again.
So, anyway, that was a tremendous experience, the API, the American Press Institute gathering. And then, of course, we corresponded later.
Kasper: How many days did this conference go on?
Castleberry: It was a week.
Kasper: And you had workshops?
Castleberry: We had workshops every day.
Kasper: And what were they on?
Castleberry: They were on news reporting, headline writing, page layout, topics for women's pages, what kinds of things are being covered, what is not being covered in this country. Also there were outstanding critiques that were given on the way your section looked. We all sent our sections ahead of time and they critiqued those and had experts in the different fields to critique them. And you came away not only with a global view of what should be happening, but you came away with specific help on how you were doing things right and what you might be able to help with.
And some of the things I didn't agree with, and that was the fascinating experience for me. For instance, I had written an article and I had the district attorney here, Henry Wade, to write the other article on Mother's Day. We had come out with a page called "What I Most Hope for My Child." And I had written the article from a mother's point of view and I had asked Henry Wade to write it from a father's point of view on what we wanted our children to grow up to become. And the page was laid out with photographs all the way around the border so that the type, then, I put in the center like it was a framed picture. And it was a conglomerate of photographs around the outside edge and it was the oval type in the center of this thing made it look like the framed picture. And we got extremely positive comment, not only on the content of that story, but also on the way it looked. It just kind of slapped you in the face. This was really before color so it was all black and white. But at Columbia, they thought that this looked really a little bit juvenile and that it was much too packed and that the eye could not really capture what was going on. I disagreed with that, and I didn't say so, but I just came back and continued to do the things that I knew were right for me, my paper, and my community. So it wasn't that I absorbed wholly everything they were saying. Critique, to me, is to help you to improve the best you can do rather than to change the direction and shape and what it is your trying to do. So I got just a tremendous amount out of that experience.
Kasper: Did you come away feeling that you got the support that you were looking for? That what you were doing was right, covering women's news in a whole new way?
Castleberry: Oh, I knew it. I knew the direction. I came away affirmed completely that where I was headed was exactly right and that that was the direction that we inevitably would go in.
Kasper: Did you find that these other women editors were doing the same kinds of things that you were doing?
Castleberry: Yeah. For the most part, yes.
Kasper: They were covering substantive news.
Castleberry: Oh, yes, yes. Some of them ahead of me because they were working for newspapers that were ahead of us.
Kasper: What papers were those?
Castleberry: Oh, those were the—mostly the Los Angeles papers and the Florida papers. The Florida papers were interestingly enough at that time probably the most advanced in women's news.
Kasper: What did you attribute that to?
Castleberry: There being a new area of the country that had a lot of tradition that they had to live down first. New things can be innovative. Things that are set in tradition always have trouble changing.
Kasper: And Dallas is a very traditional place.
Castleberry: And Dallas is a very traditional, very conservative, old south city. And any area of the country that you're in where—such as California, be the first by whom the new are tried, boy, they were going to do it, and some things are not right, but at least they're trying it out. And we couldn't do that. Sometimes it was extremely hard for me to patient and wait. I would push—I used to say that I had this technique. I would take my little canoe out into the waters to see how far I could get it from shore. And if the waves got too high and heavy I would take it back into the shoreline and I would sit there with it in a safe place until the waves subsided, then I'd take it out again to see if those waves are still out there. And sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. But that took its toll on me and I very honestly—
Kasper: How was that?
Castleberry: I very honestly think that one of the reasons that I succumbed to cancer was that I had ingested too much stress and pressure. It really took its toll on me and if I hadn't had a husband who was a marvelous balance wheel, I wouldn't have made it. And I've said to you, I don't think I've said it on tape, I would walk the streets with Curt and he would say to me, "Honey, how can I help? What can I do?" He also would say to me, "Well, it's their paper, why don't you just do it the way they want to do it and don't push so hard." He, I guess, typical of most people that you love, he would have loved to have protected me more. And then I would say to him, "You can't help me because you've never been a woman, you've never lived through this. It's nice that you're there. I'm glad that I feel the support, you're a good foundation. But this is something that I have to do." And I also began then to work out my own women's support system. And I pulled around me twelve women—well there wound up being fourteen of us, but we started out with just twelve, twelve women that I personally chose who were about my age from different walks of life who had been the only criteria in my selecting these people for our support system for each other was that they had been outstandingly successful in what they had chosen to do with their lives.
Kasper: Well now, you're talking about the women's network that was your and their private network.
Castleberry: Private network. Right.
Kasper: And about what time did you start putting this together? The late '60's was it?
Castleberry: Probably the late 60's. Probably the late '60's. I had done it informally with different friends before that time, but it just, it suddenly dawned on me one day that I was doing all of these things for other people. I was planning programs for other people. I was trying to run a staff. I was trying to keep their personal ego and also keep them moving together as a unit, totally, you know, working with newspaper people is hard because each of them is a total individual, has to be, and I respected that.
Kasper: Let me just back up a little bit. About this time, when you had met Dorothy Jurney at the API Conference, didn't you also travel to Florida to see what she was doing down there at the Miami Herald? You spent a week with her or something?
Castleberry: Yes, I did. I spent several days, I think it really was about three or four days that I went down.
Kasper: What did you go down there for? What did you want to see?
Castleberry: Let me see if I can remember exactly what I went for. I can't remember what invitation it was or what gimmick I used to get permission to go.
Kasper: She said you came down because you wanted to see what they were up to.
Castleberry: That's right.
Kasper: And you got permission from management to go on some excuse.
Castleberry: I did. I did. But it was a job of some kind and I can't at the moment recall exactly what excuse allowed me to make the trip, but the purpose of the trip was to find out what she was doing with that paper and how she did it.
Kasper: It was kind of like going to this conference. You wanted the support from other areas of the country to know that what you were doing was being done.
Castleberry: In order to see how they were doing it. I wanted to see how I could do it better. I wanted to find out if there were things and avenues that they were using that I could borrow.
Kasper: That you just hadn't hit upon.
Castleberry: And we had to do a lot of that because there was not—it was a totally do-it-yourself project. When I took the job at the Times Herald, even my beloved Bert Holmes, he said to me—oh, it was Felix McKnight who said to me, "Honey, if you have any problems, you just come to me and we will work them out." Now that was my total management training to take over a staff. And my big hang-up was that I didn't know I was going to have problems. I didn't know what questions to ask. So it was a learn-the-hard-way and of course at the same time that I was doing all this, I was working in the back shop which meant that I—
Kasper: What's the back shop?
Castleberry: The back shop is where they print the newspaper. In those days it was all hand printed. You literally picked the type up and set it into place and you used linotype machines and whatever. And that group of people, they were all men at that time, and it was a totally different group of people from what your reporters are. They were blue collar workers. Some of them absolutely marvelous. And I learned that I had to work with those people, they could make or break you. Because they could follow the exact letter of the law which meant that they had a union contract and we didn't. It meant that when their break times came, they could drop everything they were doing and walk out for a thirty-minute break while you, who had small children at home, who needed you to come home and do dinner, sat there and cooled your heels. And so I had to learn how to work with these men, most of them were old enough to be my father, and none of whom had ever worked with women. And that was an experience.
And there were two or three of them who turned out to be absolutely divine. There's one man, whose name I can't remember, that I still see in this town, that I would like to give a gold star to because he would do things for me that the union didn't allow behind their backs. He would stay with me through his break time because he knew I needed to get home.
And then there was also the sexual harassment that went on. There was one man in particular who was terribly, terribly—saw himself as a real ladies' man and who made all of the nasty innuendos and cutting remarks that he could make.
And I wanted to handle it without slapping his face or otherwise making a scene. I did not want to get down on his level. But it was a hard row to hoe. And I finally handled him—I don't know if I want this to be a part of this or not—but, I finally handled him one night when he had been particularly obnoxious. It was a Friday night and I was trying to get the Sunday pages out and he was dawdling and ogling and making suggestive remarks and putting his hands on me every time he could—if he could get close enough. And I kept avoiding and dodging and moving and not listening and bantering and whatever. And finally, he said to me, "I bet if I could just get you alone you would be just one hunk o' woman." And I dropped what I was doing and I looked at him and I said, "Listen, I want something clearly understood. My husband thinks so and he is the only one who is allowed to think that. And if I hear another remark from you top management is going to hear about it." And I never heard anymore from him. And he was gone soon after. I don't know whether somebody else reported him or what happened. But there was also that angle that we were constantly confronted with.
Kasper: Now, how was your staff at this time which was about the late '60's? Had you made some more changes?
Castleberry: I want to go back just briefly to shortly after I went back to work after Cathy was born. When I went back to work after Cathy was born, I left there in the fall and didn't go back until—well, she was born on the 20th of January and I can't recall exactly when I went back, but it was probably in March. I didn't stay off long that time at all. And I went back and my staff was in a shambles because there were people on the staff who had determined that I was not coming back. They were taking bets on whether or not I would come back. There was one woman that I had hired and trained who had decided that she would like to be women's editor.
Kasper: Who was this?
Castleberry: I can't remember her name. I have a hard time. Her first name was Sarah, and I can't remember who it was. But I do remember, I couldn't get my hand on what was going on. All this was going on behind my back and I was back trying my best to get the job done that needed to be done and not really realizing that I was being sabotaged behind my back. So one afternoon after everybody had gone home I wandered into Bert's office and I said to him, "Listen, I'm having some problems and I don't clearly understand what they are." And he looked at me real straight and he said, "If you want to put your staff back together, fire Sarah." And I didn't have to do it. And I didn't have to do it because I walked in the next morning and I called a staff meeting and I said, "Listen, gang, I clearly understand there were bets being taken about whether or not I was coming back, but I am back and I am taking over."
Also, at the same time, before I called my staff together, I went to the top boss, who at that time was Felix McKnight, and I said to him, "Mr. McKnight, I'm going to do something today and want you to know what it is. I'm going to call my staff together and I'm going to lower the boom." I said, "I understand that people have been running in here one after the other reporting to you about just the different things that are going on and it's been one person doing one thing and somebody—and then," I said, "you're having to listen to all of these sad sob stories of what people are coming in telling you is going on. And I just want you to know that I'm taking over today and you don't have to do that for me anymore." And I said, "From now on, I would appreciate it if they come to you," I said, "I'm going to tell them, and I would appreciate it if they come to you that you tell them to come back and work it out with me so that together we can come to you." And I said, "I'm not trying to usurp any authority that belongs to you or anybody else at this paper, but I know that you have more to do that you don't have time to listen to all these sob stories that are coming to you time after time after time."
Kasper: And he agreed with that. He was pleased.
Castleberry: He was relieved. He was incredibly relieved. So, anyway, that got me back. Another thing that I would like to mention here that I did that I found to be one of the best things I ever did and I still think so. In 1957, way back then, I started what I called at first a Homemaker Panel because that's what would go over at the time. And every year for twenty-five years we changed it;
we changed its form and its shape. We did it every year in July. And I started it very honestly because there was nothing going on in July. The clubs were all dead. Nobody was doing anything. Everybody was on vacation. There was nothing to read. Finding a good story was hard. And I started it with the idea of really having a group of kind of in-house women who would help to give me direction from the community on what it was that they really needed to see in their paper. So I got all of those programs that we did for all of those years.
Kasper: Now these were programs you held on behalf of the paper and you invited women from the community—
Castleberry: Um hum. What I did was to invite twelve women from throughout this community. We chose them cutting across every socio, economic and ethnic line we could. Now, at first we were not allowed to have black people. The first black woman that I ever invited was the wife of one of the Dallas Cowboys. [Laughter.] You use whatever techniques you have to use to get where you want to go. And so we invited the women in and they were all ages from grandmothers down to new brides. At first I didn't have a single woman head of household because that was not a significant thing at the time. But pretty soon we began to look at that too. What we would do, the whole staff got involved in this. After the first one, it was so successful, the whole staff got involved in it and I had a little folder in my desk drawer that said, "I think this woman would be a good panelist," and gave her name and address and a little bit about her. And they would come in from whatever assignments they were on and drop these things in the barrel. And just about six weeks before panel every summer we would lay a city map out on the desk and take out all these pieces of paper and cut across every line we could cut across and invite the women to come participate.
Kasper: And when they came, what did they talk about?
Castleberry: And the letter would say something like this. It would say: "The Dallas Times Herald and its women's news staff considers you an outstanding woman in the community." That was about the first paragraph. "And because of this, we invite you to participate for a full day in a program where we can learn how you manage your life, and maybe help you learn from other women who are equally involved, some of the things that you want to do with your life." So what we would do is start out in the morning. We would talk about—I learned more things from that group of women. We would start out with simple things like how—we would gentle them to begin with. We started out with coffee in the early morning, greeted each other and had them sitting around the board room table and we talked about how you actually manage your day. What do you do when you first get up in the morning? Who gets up first? Who puts the coffee on? How do you get your kids started? What are some of the techniques that you use to make your home a positive place? And then we would go from that, we would spend maybe thirty minutes talking about how you arrange the house for the convenience of the family members.
Two of the things that I learned in those sessions I still do. One of them is that when you do your laundry, you fold all of the sheets that go on a single bed together and put them on your laundry shelf folded together, pillowcases and both sheets folded together so you don't have to search. Another thing that I learned that I used with my children that people thought they were poor little kids because they'd have them, but it was wonderful. I could never keep up with socks. So we bought all white socks and we put them all in a basket. I never mated a sock after they told me at homemaker panel not to. [Laughter.]
Kasper: It sounds like Judith Viorst, you know the writer? Judith Viorst has raised three sons and the way she had her sock strategy in her house was one son wore only blue socks; one wore only brown; and one wore only yellow.
Castleberry: Well, we all wore only white. And if they wanted something else, then they had to buy them out of their own allowance and take care of them themselves. But, you know, I handled the laundry, but I did not mate socks. That was one of the things mother didn't do. And some of my friends thought that my children were poor little kids because I didn't mate their socks for them.
But you asked what else we talked about. As the years went on, we began to talk about—oh, another thing that was so neat about that panel, after that first one, every—
and we made it important for them. We took them to lunch at either a fine hotel or when the Dallas Press Club was exceptional, I took them to the Press Club for lunch. And we would have community leaders meet us there for lunch so that they would get to know who they were. Building bridges, building bridges.
Kasper: Now, the point of this was that women you identified in the community, you wanted them not only to feel that they were important to the community, but you wanted to stimulate their interest in doing more for the community. Was that part of it too?
Castleberry: Yeah. Well, that's part of it, but mostly it was simply a process of learning from each other. There are so many facets to this, and one of them, well, two of them that I want to mention. Shortly after the first one, my management said to me, now this is okay—
Kasper: Why did management underwrite this in the first place? They thought it was good publicity for the paper or something?
Castleberry: Well, I guess so. I did do a pretty good selling job, I think.
Kasper: You got away with murder, basically, at the Dallas Times Herald. That's what Molly Ivins told me.
Castleberry: That's right. But it was so good for them. You see, I had to do something that was good for them. But we royally entertained the women, made them feel good about themselves, and then after that first one, in the afternoon, I would invite back everybody that had ever participated in the one before, so it was cumulative. And it was so wonderful because I had women calling each other for support.
Kasper: So you began the network of women in Dallas with these panels, is what you're saying.
Castleberry: Well, it was one of the things that happened. And one of the fascinating things was how good it was for the paper. I'll give you a specific. One day a plane fell in a schoolyard out in near North Dallas and I remembered instantly that one of my panelists lived right next door to that school. And I was on the telephone to her and she was feeding information to me at the paper about what was going on on that schoolyard before we could get a reporter out there, or before the police could even report on it. And it happened often, not anything else that dramatic, but there were all—I could pick up the phone and call a woman in any section of this community and find out what was going on in that community because I already had built this trust level. And this was particularly significant then as the civil rights movement moved in because I was there the first day the people sat in at H.L Greens when they were trying to integrate the lunch counter.
Kasper: So how did this network work during the civil rights movement?
Castleberry: Well we had already built a kind of trust system in different parts of the community where—
Kasper: With black women as well as white.
Castleberry: Oh, yeah.
Kasper: So black women knew white women and vice versa so that you were instrumental—
Castleberry: And see, I don't want to be—I want to be very clear about this. I wasn't the only one that was doing it because the National Council of Jewish Women had been doing that for years, had been trying to build these bridges, different ones. And the first time that the Jewish women and the black women got together for dialogue sessions years ago, like some thirty years ago, in this community. And I tried to get them to let me come and they said I couldn't come because my face wasn't black and I—
Kasper: And my religion wasn't Jewish.
Castleberry: —wasn't Jewish and they wouldn't let me come. So one day they were having a meeting at a friend's house and I called her up and I said, "I'm going to come to your house. If I need to paint my face black and change my name to Castleberrystein, I will do it. But I'm going to be there because I want to know what's going on." And so she said, "Sure." She laughed and said sure. And also, along about that time, I became kind of a token white in some meetings I covered. I was the only white at an all black conference at Bishop College, and that's a learning experience that every human being needs.
Kasper: So how do you feel this network impacted on the civil rights movement here in Dallas. Explain when you talk about building bridges and networking and black women knowing white women, what difference did it make?
Castleberry: I will have to say to you, I don't know. I mean, I have to be honest. I don't know what difference it made. I know what I feel and what I think. I know, for instance, that when the first black man, George Allen, who should have been named mayor pro tem and wasn't, that our black community was most unhappy as well they should have been.
Kasper: He was a black man.
Castleberry: He's a black man and he should have been named mayor pro tem and they passed him over for another white male. And a lot of us were on the telephone that night into the wee hours of the next morning talking. And I really think that at that particular moment there could have easily been a civil rights uprising in the community that would have triggered some things that we have seen in other parts of the country, some violence, if we hadn't been on the phone talking to each other and sincerely, because we'd already built the trust level, sincerely making our friends who happened to be black know that they were not alone in their frustration.
Kasper: Not only not alone, but that they had the support—
Castleberry: They had the support of a lot of us.
Kasper: —of white people who believed in them and believed in their rights, their progress.
Castleberry: Believed that this was not the proper and right or appropriate thing to have happen. And I never made apologies for those things we didn't do. As I dealt with the mother of the black bride, I dealt with everything that way. This is not right, it is not just, I never try to qualify or justify, I just said, there are some things out of my control. I'm working on it. And I'll keep on working on it.
And then, also, I did one of the things that was a lot of fun, and that was I learned to bide my time about some things, that I wasn't going to get it all done tomorrow, and I could be patient. And most of the time that meant that you were patient until the big boss went out of town.
Kasper: What did you do when the big boss went out of town?
Castleberry: Well, one thing I did when the big boss went out of town, I covered the first integrated neighborhood in the community. And it was a glorious neighborhood, and I went out and they had worked very hard to make this work. And it was a small pocket of a neighborhood that was bounded on the north by Lovers Lane and on the east by Inwood, and on the south, I believe, by Mockingbird Lane and on the west, by Harry Hines, probably. I'll have to look back in my notes to be sure. But I called it a small postage stamp of Dallas with one corner torn off. And that's exactly what it looked like when you looked on the city map. And the neighborhood in there integrated very quietly. And the white people who were in there they called community, you know, neighborhood meetings and welcomed the black people who moved in.
The people who called me about it were—well, Jody Furnish called me about it. Her husband, Victor, was on the staff at the school of theology at SMU and they had just bought a house in the neighborhood and had learned that some black people were looking at the house next door and started right away making it safe for people
to get together. So they would have meetings in their home with different people and talk about all of the neat things that could come of having their children grow up in blended neighborhoods. So they invited me out to one of their meetings and I went and I just sort of started biding my time to see how long it was going to take before I could do a story on this. Finally came the day that I went out and the children, I shall never forget it—
Kasper: Who had to leave town? Jim Chambers had to leave town? Or Felix McKnight? Or everybody?
Castleberry: Practically the whole crowd left town.
Kasper: Bert Holmes. Everybody left.
Castleberry: No, Bert was there. He wasn't—
Kasper: You haven't mentioned Charlie Dameron. Did he have to leave town too?
Castleberry: No. Well, Charlie would have had to leave town. I don't want to say this on tape.
Kasper: You don't want to say this on tape? I'll turn it off. [Tape interruption.]
Castleberry: So, anyway, I wrote the story called "Neighborhood Power" and it came out on a Sunday with a black hand and a white hand reaching across the top of the page, clasped.
Kasper: Do you remember what year this was approximately?
Castleberry: No, but I've got a copy of it in my file.
Kasper: I'd love to see it.
Castleberry: And the interesting thing was that it won a state writing award later for me. And what was so interesting was that when my management came back to town, they just weren't real sure about that. They didn't know what had hit 'em. And so it was always kind of fun to have someone present me an award for something they hadn't approved of when it was done.
Kasper: That wasn't the only time that happened either was it?
Castleberry: Oh, no, unh unh.
Kasper: Can you think of a few more examples before I move along here?
Castleberry: Yeah, there was one other dramatic example that I don't know why I didn't get fired for. The Dallas County Juvenile Home was on Knight Street and it was overcrowded. I can't remember how many children were in it. It was probably approved for—it was a big old rambling house, and it had been approved for probably, let's say twelve and there was something like twenty in it, I'm not real sure of those numbers at all, but terribly overcrowded. One tired, middle-aged couple as house parents and two lethargic women helping with these children. And all of them were wards of Dallas County and some of them had been through terrible physical abuse and their condition was extremely bad and I did not write that story. I assigned the story and I followed it all the way through and went with the reporter to the house and checked everything out for myself to be sure that we were very—I was very confident that we had all of our facts straight and checked with everybody. We went out to that house on an August afternoon when it was 107. There was no air conditioning. The children's shoes were in a bushel basket in an open closet where they all had to come and fend for them. Their clothing was in a terrible state. The tired, worn-out housemother was in the kitchen rocking a child and sweating all over and just—I mean, the conditions just under—in civilized, affluent Dallas just couldn't be any worse for that particular type of thing.
I started to leave that day and a little boy about four or five followed me out and sat on the end of the porch while I was saying good-bye to the house mother and thanking her for letting us come. He went sat on the end of the porch and I could tell that he was really troubled and I went down and sat by him and he threw his arms around me and clung tight and said, "Don't leave me. Take me with you." He just begged and cried for me to take him with me. And so I talked and I talked and I humored him and did my best to get him to calm down and kept telling him I could not take him, as much as I would like to, I could not take him. And he finally started sobbing, he said, "I want my mother. I want my mommy." And that child had been burned with cigarettes by his mother. So it was that kind of thing that we had walked into. So we came out one Sunday morning with the first of a series of stories which meant that we were committed. And the stories began, "The children are crying on Knight Street, crying for parents who are not there, crying for things that Dallas could give them but hasn't."
Kasper: What a bombshell.
Castleberry: And we went on from there and the commissioners on the Dallas County Commissioners Court that had not been to that place probably ever were there Monday morning before we could get our papers open. And that was another one that almost blew the top off this community. But we got a new juvenile home out of it soon—very soon. It did not take long for them to move those children out of that anguished place.
Kasper: What did management say on Monday morning when this article first appeared? Were you called into anybody's office?
Castleberry: No, I wasn't called into anybody's office at all. They just looked at me like, well, you did it again. What am I going to do with you now? And see, I knew this. I knew it was going on, but I couldn't stop it.
Kasper: You couldn't stop yourself.
Castleberry: I couldn't stop myself. I couldn't stand it. So, anyway, that's two of them.
Kasper: Well, let me move back to where we were a little bit earlier when we talked about staff. I'm kind of interested in your management style and the fact that you had inherited the staff and you kept most of it. Now, what changes did you institute as time went on? Did you change personnel and hire like-minded women like yourself?
Castleberry: I tried not to. I tried constantly to hire people who were gifted and who could take the talents that they had and develop them to their own best. And I tried constantly to hire people who were interested in different things. I didn't want like-minded people. I wanted people who were willing to grow and I hired one young woman one time who now is one of the best medical reporters in the city, works for the medical school.
Kasper: What's her name?
Castleberry: Her name at the time was Susan Michero, she's now Susan Rutherford. And she had graduated from college in art and I very badly needed somebody who could do page layouts because I won some awards for page layout, but I'm not a page layout person. I learned by trial and error and doing, and what type would fit where and which pictures look good here, and whatever. So I don't consider myself an expert and I wanted somebody who had a real inclination for that. Her writing was very lean at the time. She wasn't a writer and didn't even pretend to be, but she was really good in the other area and had the potential of learning to be a writer. And so I hired her with the understanding that she would be a beginning reporter and that she would have to report on all the routine things that came along, start her out just as a neophyte learning how to do things. But then her strong suit would be helping me to really shape the pages into artistic creations. Well Susan hadn't been working for me very long and she came in one day and in utter exasperation she said, "Why do you hire bright, sharp people and then try to immediately turn them into something that's different." And I looked at her and I said, "Susan, every profession has it's vocabulary. Every profession has basic things that one must learn,
and that's what I'm trying to teach you, and I hope that you are going to be willing to learn because you are too bright to give up on." And so now she is one of the best medical reporters that the medical school has and she, I think, did it and she's also had breast cancer. She may be one that would be fascinating for you to talk with because of her medical background.
Kasper: She's at Southwestern?
Castleberry: She's at Southwestern. And she went from there—she married. When Susan left me, she married and she and young husband were going to Europe to bum around—
[End Tape 2, Side A; Begin Tape 2, Side B]
Castleberry: She wanted me to promise her that when she got back if there was a job open, that she could have it. And I said, "Susan, I'm not going to promise you that." I said, "I think it is time that you grew. I think it is time that you took your talents and did something else. I will promise you this, I will give you the best recommendation that you can possibly imagine. And I will bless you on your way." And, I said, "Also, there may be a situation where I would just love to have you back, but I want you to consider that this is your way to greater growth." And sure enough, she never asked for her job back. She went to Europe, bummed around for a year, had a wonderful time, came back, had a child and then went to work for the medical school and she's been there a long, long time.
Kasper: So you had, in terms of management, you had hiring and firing privileges. Did you have any control over the budget and other kinds of things?
Castleberry: Not a lot. The only control that I had over budget was that I could ask for what I thought it was going to take to run the ship for a year. And usually didn't get it.
Kasper: How much less did you get?
Castleberry: Oh, I would say half of what I had asked for and I learned that pretty soon, so I knew how to—I deplore games. I deplore playing games and I despise having to manipulate and I despise padded budgets. But you have to live in the real world so I learned really quickly how to do things that were okay. I also eventually, after a while, I learned to have a great deal of respect for my company's bottom line. At first, I didn't have a lot of that because I was a visionary and a dreamer and I know, and I still know, that anything you want to do is possible and it doesn't require money to do it. I know that because I've done that. But, I realize that I'm not living in other peoples' real world when I say that, so I respect the way they feel about money and I'm very cautious with spending money. I'm too cautious with spending money. I know that my expense accounts were never what, say, the sports editors were, or any other editor for that matter, and I know that my travel expenses were always less than. And I also know several times I was told by people, "Don't make us look bad, you know, turn in more expenses. Don't make us look bad."
Kasper: Did you ever bring your staff salary up to par with the other departments of the paper?
Castleberry: I didn't. It was done probably after I was out. When Tom Johnson came from the Los Angeles Times and bought the paper—
Kasper: What year was that, do you remember?
Castleberry: Gosh, I don't remember. I sure don't.
Kasper: Sixties or seventies?
Castleberry: Seventies. But I don't remember when. When the Los Angeles Times bought the paper, that was the first thing Tom Johnson did was to work on salaries. And you would have to ask him, but I have a suspicion that he found a disgraceful discrepancy in men's salaries and women's.
Kasper: You don't know what they were, but you know they were—
Castleberry: I don't know what they were, but I know that we were all working for less money than we should have. I know that it was a disgrace what we were paid.
Kasper: What the women were paid.
Castleberry: Un huh, what the women were paid. And that was because what we were doing—we were not valued and what we did was not valued, but it was valued by the community, so, you know, I can live with that.
Kasper: As we move on, one of the things I wanted to ask you, too, was so much of all of this that you pioneered—did you feel that you had any mentors, people you could look to? I realize that's probably not an accurate—?
Castleberry: Yeah, it's an accurate thing. But, yes and no. And when I say that, my mentors were not in my field. There were no journalists that I really could look to. I admired and respected the Marie Andersons and those people, but they were too far removed from me physically to be much of mentors. Most of my mentors were from books. First, my mother, who had made it all possible. And then I grew up on Amelia Earhart, and although I never wanted to fly, never desired to fly, what she did just blew me away. And I read everything I could get my hands on on her from the time I was a child and she first started making a mark in the world. Eleanor Roosevelt. I read everything. I used to think when I would read "My Day" in the paper that came to the country where we lived, I would read that and I would think, nothing is going on here, but I could not wait to get my hands on it to read it.
Kasper: "My Day" was her column.
Castleberry: It was her little column and it was just a little nothing, I mean, it was like, "I welcomed the press today," you know, it was so short and brief.
Kasper: But she was symbolic to you.
Castleberry: But she was symbolic. And I thought she was exquisite. I thought she was absolutely beautiful at a time when other people were talking about how ugly that woman is. And to me she personified everything that I thought women ought to become.
Kasper: And what was that?
Castleberry: To do anything in the world that you wanted to do.
Kasper: To be independent, free-minded.
Castleberry: Independent. Free-minded. To combine career and family, to have it all. To have it all.
Kasper: And to be clear on knowing that you want that.
Castleberry: That's right. And then, later on, Margaret Mead. I read her autobiography and cried because—
Kasper: Blackberry Winter?
Castleberry: Blackberry Winter. The things that she said in there, you know, it just struck so home with me. I was a very much wanted first child and that has shaped me for all of my life. And I did have some wonderful experiences with Margaret Mead. She came to speak at one of our Times Herald women's forums in the September club meeting as a keynote speaker back many years ago, came at our invitation to speak. And I got to know her and she was every bit as marvelous as I had anticipated she would be.
And another thing, along the way, of all the wonderful, wonderful, wonderful women that I have met, I have met very few light-weights, very few. There are, and I think all of us know who they are, but most of the women who have made it to where they are today are so generous with their time, generous with themselves.
You mentioned a few minutes ago about seeing the picture of Lily Tomlin in there, and I wanted to tell you that funny story because Lily Tomlin did not want to see me because, again, it's one of those situations where a women's editor, you know, you come over to the great public out there as a little gray-haired busy body. And so she had said, no, that she wouldn't—
Kasper: This was when she was in town performing?
Castleberry: She was in town performing and she wasn't going to see me, but she was going to make a public appearance for one of our women's events in town. And I had asked for an interview with her ahead of time so that I could kind of get a feeling of who she was, what she was going to say. I always went to the person, in the person's setting, if I possibly could because you just don't get the story otherwise. So, I had asked for and it had been declined. It had been declined two or three times and I kept pressing. And finally she said, "Well, tell her," I guess, this is the message that came back to me, "Tell her I'll give her fifteen minutes before I have to leave for the meeting." And I said, "Okay, that's enough. That's just fine. I'll be glad to." So I walked into the room and waited for her and she sailed in like the star that she could be. And I extended both hands and I said, "Thank you so much for coming to Dallas, the women here need you." And she utterly and completely melted. And an hour later, I had to make her leave to go to her assignment, to make her public appearance. She told me everything I ever wanted to know and then some. She was gorgeous. And I have found that is true of most women. I can point out, I had mentioned previously that I never felt that I got the story of Pat Nixon. I think I came close once, and this was in a press conference, just a regular press conference, and I said to her, "Mrs. Nixon, if you could do anything in the world that you wanted to do right now, what would you be doing?" And for just a second the barrier came down and she said, "Oh, if I could be doing anything in the world I wanted to do, I would be home with Julie and Trish." And then that facade came down again and she—
Kasper: Probably only to be raised immediately a few minutes later. No private persona, all public.
Castleberry: And it was like chiseling away at someone who is set in plastic.
Castleberry: And the strange thing is, I don't think she really is. I think there's a woman under there. And it is frustrating—
Kasper: But buried so deeply.
Castleberry: —to the nth degree that you can't find the person who is under there.
Kasper: Tell me, who are, in turn, we talked about some of the women who you feel were mentors or important in one way or another, who do you feel that in turn you as a journalist nurtured, the women who came or who were coming after you in this process? Maybe some that you hired or some that you influenced in other ways?
Castleberry: Gosh, I don't know. I don't think we ever—let me answer that as honestly as I possibly can, and that is, I don't think we ever know where the ripples end. And I have never been concerned with that. What I know because people have told me, I could give you names of some of the people that have said, "You meant a lot to me at a certain time in my life."
Kasper: Well, you can mention those. I think you're just being modest.
Castleberry: No, but it's not—no, it's not modesty. I would be really honest if I could think of it. But what it is is dropping ripples and watching them go out and never knowing where they're going to end. It's like being a journalist. Because when you're sitting there in the quiet silence in front of that computer and you're sending out these words, you don't know where it's going. You don't know what kind of impact it's going to make. But what I have consistently reminded myself of is that it is a self-integrity that I've got to be true to the kernel of who I am. This is something I've got to do. And it's really very selfish.
When you get down to it, it's something I've got to do. And where it ends up I don't know.
I know that along the way such people as Julia Sweeney and Maggie Kennedy and Susan Rutherford and Dorothy Fagg. [Note added by V. Castleberry: Mary Ann Lane was assistant women's editor for much of the time I was there and absolutely perfect as a team. Where I was a visionary, Mary Ann was practical. I dreamed in panavision and technicolor and on the wide-wide screen. And Mary Ann made it all fit onto the page. Or tried to. Sometimes our immortal words hit the cutting room floor.]
Let me think, Graydon Heartsell, who died a couple of weeks ago, was very special to me. Yvonne Saliba Pendleton. All of those people that I hired. Yvonne was fashion editor after Graydon and she had large shoes to fill and just did it magnificently, was a totally different kind of person than what Graydon was, and so professional. And now runs her own public relations outfit in town. I know those people, I've nurtured personally in staff meetings and tried to open the options for them, and I think that they know that. I think they all felt that. And Ann Zimmerman, who I didn't hire, she was hired by someone else, but she has become very, very special to me. Marcia Smith, I didn't hire, but she was on the staff and I respect and admire her writing so much and her ability and I think she knows this and I think it matters. And then there's all that crowd of people who are my wider family, not only my own children, but their friends, and then the Dallas community that has been extremely supportive.
Kasper: I see that kind of as a another section that we'll cover either later today or tomorrow, your outreach and community work. How was the women's panel that you mentioned just a few minutes ago, was that the same thing as Women Newsmakers?
Castleberry: These are different.
Kasper: Can you describe each one of those for me.
Castleberry: I came on to Women Newsmakers later. It suddenly, it had become increasingly clear to me that the women new shapers in the community were—their pictures never got in the paper. There was no way to—except when we put them in, there was no way to really cite these people as being outstanding community people. So we instigated a number of years ago to start the new year by choosing the outstanding women in the community and holding them up to applause.
Kasper: Gail Smith told me that when she was cited by you as a Woman Newsmaker that year that she was cited it was probably the most important confidence builder that she ever had in her life. She said she was a young mother at the time. She was, yes, interested in getting more involved in the community but she had very little self-confidence. And she was at home with a baby. And she always knew that she had more ability, but having been cited that year, she said, was probably the most important propulsion and confidence builder she'd ever had in her life to do more with herself as a person than she could have ever had.
Castleberry: Gee, that's wonderful to know because that was the purpose of the whole thing. What we looked for were people not only who were doing it, but who had the potential for just blossoming out into the community. And it was a hard thing to do because—and that's where I took my men into confidence too.
Kasper: Was it the management?
Castleberry: The management.
Kasper: They supported this, didn't they.
Castleberry: They supported it. And what we would do, we would find them, the women's news staff would find them and give them thumb nail sketches and then we let the men have equal final vote. I don't mean superior final vote, but equal final vote so that—and they kind of enjoyed themselves. They kind of enjoyed this.
Kasper: You're a scream. I mean you're just a scream. You realize you didn't give them veto power and you didn't run it past them either. But you made them look like
they were in cahoots with you so that you probably fooled them into believing that they had some real hand in this when all of you did the selecting, you had an equal vote with them, it was already in place. I mean, Vivian Castleberry, you're something else all together. I love it. You probably just pulled it right past them and they didn't even know what was happening.
Castleberry: Well, what was so funny was that it, you know, as time went on, I have to tell you that, as time went on, all of these programs that I built were torn down, just before I left there.
Kasper: Torn down by whom?
Castleberry: By management. The new management that came in. The Times Herald Newshapers that we did for a long time, several years—
Kasper: The Women's Newshapers?
Castleberry: Women's Newshapers, we called them. And the reason for that was that management decided that the newspaper should not be in a role of picking one person over another, or that's the excuse they gave me.
Kasper: Now, were these the same as the Women Newsmakers or was the Women's Newshapers something else?
Castleberry: I changed them to Newshapers from Newsmakers because there was that shady—
Kasper: But it was basically the same thing.
Castleberry: It's the same thing exactly. And then the Times Herald panel was stopped because new management said that a newspaper should be in the role of reporting the news and not making it. And we were making news by calling the women together and creating a climate in which things took place.
Kasper: What happened in these panels and who were the women that were called together to serve on it? What was the Dallas Times news panel?
Castleberry: The panel was the twelve women that we chose every year to talk about who they are, where they want to go, who they are and how they want to get there, and whatever. And that was the one that I re-invited the last ones who had been there before.
Kasper: So those were the same as the homemaker panel and you just shortened it.
Kasper: I just want to make sure I'm not missing any institutions here that you've managed to build.
Castleberry: No, you're not missing anything. And I think, too, to be very honest with you, I think, too, I had grown tired in pushing. I think I may have won new management over if I had had the energy to go to bat for some of these things. But it seemed to me so obviously clear that it was a good thing, that it should be kept up, that I was really tired. It took enough time and energy to do it.
Kasper: And what you had said to me earlier, too, was that there was with consistency so much inconsistency in management, that it changed hands so often, and with each new influx of management you had to convince all over again that what you were doing was important.
Castleberry: That's right. We started back at the starting gate and we proved our mettle. We started back at the beginning. And also there was this kind of framework of reference in this town, Anne, that was not comfortable to live with, and that was the framework of reference for anybody who came in here, was simply that if it happened in Dallas, Texas, it couldn't be any damn good.
Kasper: Now where did that framework come from?
Castleberry: It came from the Kennedy assassination. And it entrenched everything that went on here.
Kasper: So that when management came in, they believed it too.
Castleberry: When management came in, they believed it and they also believed, there was another facet to that, and they also believed that if you were any good as a reporter you wouldn't still be here. So you had to live that down. And I may be overstating it, but that's my truth as I saw it at the time and it was very difficult to live with that. I not only was running a staff that I had to buoy up and bolster their morale every day of the week to keep them going and enthusiastic about what they were doing, but I was having to reinvent it for myself every day that what I was doing was valuable and valid.
Kasper: About what time period did you begin to feel that this was wearing on you?
Castleberry: When I had cancer, ten years ago, nine years ago.
Kasper: In the late seventies.
Castleberry: As I explored my way through cancer and cancer treatment, it dawned on me—it didn't dawn on me, I had known it all along—but it became clear that it was taking its toll on my physical and emotional health.
Kasper: To keep this battle up at the paper.
Castleberry: To keep the battle up and to—and that at that stage there were more things that were more important for me to do and that on the one hand I was giving up a vehicle where I thought I could do some good for people. And see I also had to remember all of the time—as my husband kept pointing out to me, "Who do you think you are to disturb their comfort?" He kept pointing this out to me and it was a real—
Kasper: Their comfort, meaning management's comfort?
Castleberry: Meaning management, meaning this community. Who do you think you are to disturb their comfort? And that was a hard question for me to answer. The first time he asked that question it had to do with the homemaker panel which later became the women's panel. As my feminism grew, well I stopped calling it a homemaker panel and started calling it a women's panel because it was by women themselves. Also, I want to say one other thing about the women's panel. My management would tell me every year that they would bless and condone what we were doing and some part of management team would come up and make the introductory welcoming address every year, when the women first got there, and this sort of thing, and blessed them on their way. But every year, my management would say to me, "Now, be sure and find—include in this some woman who really is a traditional homemaker who enjoys being at home, who really enjoys the process of just rearing children and whatever. Every year I would very carefully pick her. At least one. Sometimes more than one. Every year we would just her mind. [Laughter.] And she would go away wondering what hit her.
Kasper: And you probably created a new convert every year.
Castleberry: Every year. And everybody came into the women's movement through the Times Herald panel. If they ever participated, they were never the same again because we talked about what our potential is in this world. We talked about where we need to hold power. Where we need to take the power that we have, how we use it, how we increase it, how we include other women. We were always, I always struggled for inclusiveness. And in variety, the great variety—we did things like a mother-daughter panel one year. We changed the format every year to try to keep up with the times. We did not deal with social issues per se because they were being dealt with elsewhere.
Kasper: What do you mean social issues per se?
Castleberry: Well, we didn't have a panel, say, on wife abuse. Or we didn't have a panel on rape.
Kasper: No, you focused on the women themselves and those subjects came up.
Castleberry: We focused on the women themselves and then we allowed them to discuss the issues. And sometimes it really, there were a few occasions where I wished that I had a trained counselor in the session because somebody would say something that would blow a woman's mind and she would wind up in tears. And so I did have an incredible amount of training in how to mother and nurture people where you'd hit a vulnerable spot. And one woman in particular that I remember went away from panel—at the panel, she didn't say much. She didn't say much. She didn't say a lot that day. She was kind of quiet. She was a traditional homemaker. She was at home with four little children. She left the panel and wrote me a long letter saying, "You think you did me a service. You ruined my life." And she went on to outline the kinds of things that had happened to her and so I felt real bad about this until the next year when she showed up again and said, "You started me to thinking like I have never thought before." She wound up divorcing the so and so.
Kasper: That she was married to.
Castleberry: That she was married to who didn't ever, I mean, who was keeping her virtually under emotional lock and key, and declaring her independence and going on to be a very self-supporting, supportive woman.
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