"Mom, I want my history report to be a frame story, like stories within a story. I could see history by looking through the eyes of someone's lifetime."
"That's a good idea, Tanner. If you used the lives of Dallas and Matiel Wicks, you could also be researching wars, segregation, and family life."
"Mom, I like that. I feel like I'd be in Grandpa's attic digging into a history chest."
"Tanner, let's talk about the Wicks. Then, you should ask them for an interview. It will help you to know that Dallas is no talker, but he's observant. Listen closely to what he says and ask good questions. Matiel never calls attention to herself, but she is a valued leader in many organizations. She knows a zillion people, all ages.
"Dallas and Matiel grew up in the South in the 1930's and 1940's-Matiel in Fayette, Mississippi and Dallas in several towns. Being black couldn't be ignored. It affected their opportunities. But, I know that all their lives they have focused upon: What can I do? Not...what have I missed?
"They came from big families. I've heard each say, 'My family was strong and we were happy. When I got out of line, my father talked to me. Mom used the switch. Both ways worked, but sometimes I liked the switch better. After it, nothing more was said.
"Matiel's father was busy as a Baptist minister and he had a separate fulltime job. Matiel told me, 'I remember when he would play games outdoors with us. On his own he learned to draw house plans and build. Several brick homes in Fayette were constructed by him and workers he would hire.'
"Tanner, learn about their childhood education. You'll get a picture of education with segregation. They sat in schoolhouses with old desks and old books already used in schools for white children. They walked to school. No school buses were available for black children. Both graduated from high school. That accomplishment showed Dallas' character, because Fayette High School, where he attended, did not have a twelfth grade. So he moved eighty miles away to Jackson, Mississippi, staying with an auntie and uncle, so he could graduate in 1950.
"Later when he was 23 and an E5 in the military, he took a national exam to see what his grade level was. It was seventh grade. The white woman examiner told him, "You'll never get anywhere without more education. He began taking classes by mail.
"When Dallas and Matiel were children, they did not feel hate or resentment between the whites and blacks. To them segregation simply was the way of life they lived. I asked Dallas, 'Did you have any white friends?'
'No. I didn't communicate with whites.'
"After high school he enlisted in the army. At boot camp in Hawaii he became an infantryman and was sent to fight in the Korean War. Tanner, he doesn't like to talk about it. I know he was a scout getting information about the enemy. He received shrapnel injuries and was awarded the Purple Heart.
"It would help your research if you read about the Korean War. It lasted three years from 1950 to 1953 and thrust American soldiers into a brutal civil war within a foreign culture.
"A challenge Dallas faced in the 1950's was the troops were dealing with integration. Until 1948 black and white soldiers did not fight together. That year President Truman issued an executive order to integrate the United States military. He did that four months before the presidential election. Many people thought his stand for civil rights would cause him to lose the election, but he won."
"Wow, that's something I'd like to learn more about."
"You ask Dallas. I know he felt some of the downsides and upsides.
"He made a career in Army transportation services. He and Matiel were married, and when possible she stayed with him. She got her B.A. in Elementary Education and worked as a dedicated school secretary. He served in the Vietnam War, Lebanon, France, and Germany. When he retired from active duty, he became the Veterans Services' officer for Jefferson County, Mississippi helping veterans to get needed services. Two months ago at age 82 he retired for the second time. In many places Dallas and Matiel are known for their service and faith in God."
From Barbara Steiner with a hug and thank you to my friends Dallas and Matiel.