Interview with John Dixon, 2014 October 24

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Interview with John Dixon, 2014 October 24
Dixon,John ( Interviewee )
Daglaris, Patrick ( Interviewer )
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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Oral history interview


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Tidewater Main Street Development Project
Country stores
Spatial Coverage:
United States of America -- Virginia -- Mathews


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UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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TMP 056A John Dixon 10-24-2014 ( SPOHP )


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The Foundation for The Gator Nation An Equal Opportunity Institution Samuel Proctor Oral History Program College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Program Director : Dr. Paul Ortiz Office Manager : Tamarra Jenkins 241 Pugh Hall Digital Humanities Coordinator : Deborah Hendrix PO Box 115215 Gainesville, FL 32611 352 392 7168 35 2 846 1983 Fax The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) was founded by Dr. Samuel Proctor at the University of Florida in 1967. Its original projects were collections centered around Florida history with the purpose of preserving eyewitness acc ounts of economic, social, political, religious and intellectual life in Florida and the South. In the 45 years since its inception, SPOHP has collected over 5,000 interviews in its archives. Transcribed interviews are available through SPOHP for use by research scholars, students, journalists, and other interested groups. Material is frequently used for theses, dissertations, articles, books, documentaries, museum displays, and a variety of other public uses. As standard oral history practice dictates, S POHP recommends that researchers refer to both the transcript and audio of an interview when conducting their work. A selection of interviews are available online here through the UF Digital Collections and the UF Smathers Library system. Suggested corrections to transcripts will be reviewed and processed on a case by case basis. Oral history int erview t ranscripts available on the UF Digital Collections may be in draft or final format. SPOHP transcribers create interview transcripts by listen ing to the ori ginal oral history interview recording and typing a verbatim d ocument of it. The transcript i s written with careful attention to reflect original grammar and word choice of each interviewee; s ubjective or editorial changes are not made to their speech. The draft trans cript can also later undergo a final edit to ensure accuracy in spelling and form at I nterviewees can also provide their own spelli ng corrections SPOHP transcribers refer to the Merriam program specific transcribing style guide, accessible For more information abo ut SPOHP, visit or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168. May 2015


TMP 056 Interviewee: John Dixon Interviewer: Patrick Daglaris Date: October 24, 2014 PD: This is Patrick Daglaris. where you were born J D: Okay, I just had my eighty third birthday October the fifth PD: Happy Birthday. J D: I was born here in Mathews County in of course 1931. PD: Okay. How far back does your family date? J D: My family? Well historically the Dixons w ere here before the Civil War. T hey were involved in that. I have a little bit of a comp lexity in the family in the fact that my father was born in Gloucester, Virginia. He was a Sears but at one year old his parents died and John W. Dixon, Sr. adopted my father, so he took the name of Bo yd Sears Dixon From that of course I got my name, Jo hn W. Dixon, but the interesting thing is believe, great granddad that adopted my dad. So the Dixon name is pretty much county. She went away to Mary Washington College and she taught school for one year in Mathews. It was the year that she married my dad, and of course getting married to my dad she had to give up school teaching. With that she went into a business o n her own. She ran a restaurant . anyway, I grew up in that environment. She died I was a senior in high school in 1950 when she


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 2 died. So from that time on, of course, I moved in with my Uncle Buck Dillehay chief here. PD: Okay. J D: ea but [L aughter] PD: J D: We all kind of grew up here in Mathews together. In fact, Uncle John Robert and myself and two others from Mathews County, we went to Georgia T an engineer. So generally speaking being an engineer all my life I know that we a lot of research on the Gwynn s Island primarily, not Mathews County. But a little bit of the Mathews County has rubbed off on me overall, but Gwynn s Island being part of the county. I basically studied the black population and a lot of other events that took place on the island includin g the British invasion of Gwynn s Island. Lord Dun more who had been the last royal governor of Virginia and then 1776 and he remained there for several months until the Declaration of Independence was signed. The American for ces that were on the mainland had heard that about the ninth or so of July and they invaded the island and chased


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 3 and studied. PD: You said blacks on Gwynns I sland or? JD: Blacks on the island. The island was fifty percent black for many, many years. Slaves, there were a few free folks on the island. But anyway, I have a lot of black friends. I grew up in the neighborhood of Hudgins in my later years. I would say probably h alf of my friends were black people that I grew up with. Of course , things have changed a lot. Y ou know, I remember going to Lee Jackson School and being there in the schoolyard at some time of the day or the morning, evening I see the school bus about that and I think a lot of that has turned ar ound terrifically. PD: I was wondering, did you experience integration at all when you were going to school or was that after you? J D: I did not. M y children did, we lived in Newport News at the time. They did experience that. I never got involved in any o f it, but I think Newport News, I think in Mathews. I had very, very close my best friend who had been in the military and became postmaster in Hudgins, and he also ran the pool room. He wa s right in the middle of all of that and he, like myself, had a lot of black friends. So I think he did fine with it. But there were people in the county I think that were unhappy with it. Now,


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 4 I researched to fi nd out, I ther e had been occasion for some outside white people coming into Mathews County and trying to move anywhere. PD: JD: I think there was but it real active about it. F or example, the church that I grew up in, Hudgins Baptist Church Mathews Baptist Church it was called, created the black Mathews Baptist Church now. All of that has been fine. Funerals, weddings, and those kinds of things, I have been to the black church many times and I feel welcome there. I just feel r eal welcome in the black community in Mathews County today. PD: Do you think race relations from integr ation have continued like that? D o you JD: Our relationship is a lot better today. Antioch Church, which is in the community lved with the Gwynns Island M useum quite a bi t. In fact, I have a book writte n on the black history of Gwynns Island; ata in there all of the wa y from 1800s and beyond. I have listed in there families that were slave families and I deal everyday at least with a black friend of mine, seventy five of course younger than I am. She is a black girl


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 5 that when she was about ten or twelve years old she read the Mathews County newspape r, The Gazette Journal Gloucester, Mat hews p aper. She cut out every article she ever article she ever saw about black weddings, black funerals, and family back into the slavery, who owned some of the early slave worked on. I recently found when Lord Dunmore came to the island in 1776, when he left I found that he had took two women slaves off the island and they en ded up in Nova Scotia. I think there probably were more. B ut in the list of people that Dunmore had taken up there years after the war had a lot of black folks in it. B But I di d find two that came from Gwynn s Island. After the war of course the blacks were actually at one point basically taken, all the blacks were taken off by the Yankee forces. I think taken to Gloucester where there was sort of a safe haven for them. Following the war many of them came back to the island, and I back owned their own p roperty. T he census records of 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930 were showing ownership and so on. PD: Is this on Gwynn s Island? JD: Gwynn s Island, talking strictly Gwynn s Island. I think this had been going in other places in the county similarly. About 1910 the Newport News S hipyard black people into some of the trades


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 6 think that, plus the fact that Gwynn They had what we call a dock, a fish center where people brought their fish, sters, crabs, or whatever, and the bay steamers would come by and pick those up once or twice a week and take them to Norfolk, Newport News, Baltimore, wherever. But there was no ice on the island. They had one town t hey did build an ice plant b ut it was too late I think where they could actually preserve the seafood and to have it shipped. Prior to that it had to be shipped fresh; you know, it had to be moved that day. With the state of the art fish packing plants in Norfolk and other places I think the p eople on the island were basically put out of business. With that population white and black, and many of them moving to Newport News area and I was able to find some of t hem in Newport News, some in Norfolk, some in Richmond. I actually found a number in Baltimore and I found two brothers in New York City. It was interesting because one of those in New York City had been to what is now Hampton University or Hampt on Institu te; I forget what it was called. So he had a trade, he was sort of a but he had a nice job working with the people that were taking care of trees and things of that nature around th just s ome of my perception, and those bo oks are available at the museum. b ook on a brief history of Gwynn s Island, which I donate to I only give them two or three hundred copies every year.


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 7 PD: I and then I want to jump back to you. JD: Sure. PD: have all these records. W hat is the current status on Gwynn s Island, like black and white ownership of property or like people living on the island? JD: There are no black families living on the island right now. We did have one bad whether she had it seemed to me she had five children, it might h ave been three children, school whether she had trou ble making payments or whether the realtor came down and wanted to charge her more money. I never really got involved in it, stayed away from it. But that was a bad incident and as a result, I think it was sort of a dirty trick in a way, but the island mus eum, which I work with, and Jean Tanner who created the museum and so on. We got a call from the Norfolk Virginia Pilot Newspaper; they would like to send someone down and interview us about the island museum. So a guy came down, he was a reporter for the newspaper. We spent several hours with him describing Gwynns Island altogether. T we talked about. He did ask questions about the black families and so on, which I gave him what I had. He also interviewed an old sea captain, the oldest living retired. He was nearly a hundred years old at that time. Asked him some question s about his growing up on Gwynns Island. H e


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 8 grew up on Gwynn stories were. Anyway, this guy went back and the headli nes of the newspaper whack. PD: That was going to be my next question. So do you think that FD: I was just going to say: a no ther part of it was, they had just hired a writer from a newspaper who had gotten a Pulitzer Prize. Young lady. She came over and interviewed with us an d she wanted to take pictures and all this. She was nice, she really did a great job and we hooked her up with a coupl e of the old fishermen and boat builders on the island and so on. We took her to the island Civic L eague where they were having a bridge e very week they were playing bridge there. She took all these nice pictures and she went back home. Well that online, up a lot of people, particular ly PD: Do you believe that there was any truth in that or you think they were just skewing it? JD: They skewed it. T r too about any of the bad things. There was one incident that we researched and it was in 1915 I believe. Christmas Eve. There was a black guy had been drinking, he went into one of the local stores and created some problems. There was


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 9 another black couple in there, which is one of my family trees that I had worked this particular family. It was a man and a woman and his wife and a baby. Brand new baby. Apparently the stor y that we got was this black guy fisherman, or to the counter and she had the little baby. Anyway, somehow a couple of young white kids in this store, probably eighteen, ninete en years old, started a fight. Of course, the black guy ran from the store, went to the nearby post office and the postman took his gun out and said, look, all you white guys you back off. He called the sheriff and the sheriff came over, locked him up in the county jail back over here Apparently was trialed, a two day trial. Twelve man jury. He was I think thirty days in jail and so many dollars fined. That was the only incident that I ever really found. I heard, within writing because I found the case in the courthouse. I think it was a PD: not trying to interrupt you JD: Sure. No. PD: But I do want to kind of deviate back to JD: You can get back with me sometime and I can PD: Absolutely. JD: Give you what kind of information we have. I would like for you to come over to the museum I


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 10 now. [Laughter] like that at all. I curtailed all out of it. and so on initially and I do my exercises every day. They sent me the four weeks of training right next door, or just up the way. I enjoy that little bit of training. I PD: So I wanted to ask you, can you talk a little bit about j ust growing up in Mathews? JD: Ye s interesting. Tompkins Cottage is one of the oldest homes here in the county, you probably know about it. When I was born, probably a year old or so, my mother and father and myself and my si ster Jackie, and another couple, the Murra y family and their two daughters, we lived in that of that. But right next door, my mother had a restaurant called The Tea Room and my dad had the poolroom, Di olroom. They were side by side. Unbeknownst to a lot of people here good. This was something missing great book. But someh ow she talked about the fires in Mathews ; she forgot about these two buildings. Anyway, I brought this today to show the people in the museum that I disc overed that. So anyway, we lived there and later we moved we got funeral homes just as you come into th e county. But there was a different house there at the time we lived in that funeral home. So I grew up in the county


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 11 and I rem ember my birthday was October. Y ou had to be six years old by August to start the school. So I do remember going t o school, and a nother kid, his d ad ran a five and dime store here in Mathews, Cla Store The two of us and one other girl, who I ended up going to high school with, we went to school for about a week and it was discovered that we were not six years old yet. So we got kicked out of school. I remember Miss Nelly the principal, we were all crying and everything else. So I had to come back so I went one year to kindergarten where the old courthouse is located. What I remember about that is going out, we used to have a s ewage treatment plant along Put In Creek right behind us. I removed now thank goodness. In that time so on when the kids, when we were let out of kindergarten to go play, we would go play. They had some benche s along the water there and they had horseshoes and the old men would come out and pitch horseshoes and sit on the benches and those kinds of things. I remember that really quite well. I remember going in there and cutting sticks and trying to make bows an d arrows and a couple of the old man coming out and started telling us how to do this sort of thing. So I remember all of that and then in about at the ages. I could figure this all out but I think in 1939 my mothe r and father my dad basically gave the poolroom away and my mothe building; we owned the tables and so on, to a fellow that had worked for him for years, a young guy. My dad went to work for the navy at that time. My mother m oved her business up to Hudgins. Hudgins is three miles up the road. PD: What was her business?


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 12 JD: She created a new restaurant there It was called Chimney Corner Tea Room. n Chimney Corner and I have my Uncle John s a yea r youn ger than I am, and my friend Bu younger than I am. His dad was a business guy that came here from Hampton in the early [19]70s. So I grew up with that group. We had bicycles, of course. In fact, we even h ad a business: a bicycle shop t hat we had as young kids. Actually, I can remember two occ asions of riding those bicycles and they were big heavy y with our friends and so on. Of course, went to Lee Jackson School and Lee Jackson School, it was the third school. The two previous schools had burned. I did the first grade, second grade of course. Just a little story on the side is we were having a h igh school reunion, I think our twentieth reunion. The girl who I always thought was the smartest girl in class, June Croon we I said, June was the smartest person in our class. I said, I remember in the first grade the teacher put her on the stage at Lee Jackson School and asked her to count to a hundred. And she counted through a hundred. I said, I remember that the rest of us that was the second grade. I was at a diffe rent school in the first grade. [Laughter] Anyway, those little stories come up and there at the school another interesting thing about it was, this is maybe something to do with intelligence of the people in Mathews County, but if you had to go to the bat hroom, and I was there for seven years, you always raised your hand and the teacher says yes. May I go to the


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 13 basement? T that is my friend Bu d and I were in Richmond at one of the big theaters, and his parents dropped us off there, and one of us had to go to the bathroom. They had the little ushers walking up and down the aisles in those days in a little hat. We ing ab out. We said, no, t he basement, we said basement. p so we ended up going in one. W But anyway, we were abou t ten years old. [Laughter] But coming back to that, the reason it was called the basement is the two previous schools, the bathrooms are down on ground level, probably pit toilets. After the school burned the new school was one level and it had more modern bathrooms in it. But people were us ed to calling it the basement. Y ou had to go to the bathroom in the old school. I huge I guess twenty, thirty people in the class. Because we had schools throughout the county. You ha d New Point, Cobbs Creek, Gwynn s Island, all of these places had elementary schools. I happened to be in the first ever what they call the eighth grade, what they added after the seventh grade before high school T hey added an eighth grade. It was at the new Mathews, I call it the new Mathews High School building. A many students in that particular class but about a go od portion they flunked them nevertheless I proceeded all the way through high school there. I was involved with some


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 14 interesting things: we had the first ever football team my sophomore y ear. We have a book that we wrote about the first football team and it shows you the fact Unless they had been to the Bijou Theater, which was here in town in Mathews. The B ijou Theater would have RKO News and it might have a fifteen second just give you a little example, you can look at the book, but Coach Brown required after every practice and every game that you take a shower before you go home. Make sure you take a cold shower to close all your pores before you leave. Looking back on it, and I did the research, I checked seven of my high school classmates there were fifty that gr aduated with me lived on Gwynn s Island. Not one had modern plumbing in their house. So very, very few people on t, telling you to take the shower and to cool off and all this other thing. So most people did. A lot of people had toilets out on the docks if they lived on the wa ter, and many, greater majority lived right on the water or next to th e water at that time. I missed a lot of the fishing and so on because my family were in the retail business. My grandfather also ran a store and was postmaster. We did those kinds of things. As a kid my friend Boyd and I had business es. W e sold Dixie Peac h Hair Pomade and we ordered it through the mail and got these things. We were little entrepreneurs you might say. We sold Tiger Balm sap which came out of Hong Kong. We sold religious pictures. One Christmas we


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 15 found p plastic; that might be glass. But grandfather was postmaster, he hated me because of all the mail. We or dered these pictures advertised selling was if you bought all twelve disciples you got Jesus in the eight by t en free. We sold for two years Mac Winder was a bachelor in our neighborhood, he bo ught twelve sets one year. He had money. But those are the kinds of things that I grew PD: I was going to ask, do you remember any games you would play or songs or other, more ac tivities? JD: h. I did get my friend Bud and I and maybe Uncle John Robert we were. It was right here in the Court House. One of the girl s father ran the want to play spin the bottle. [L au play. Pretty bad. But in school, in Lee Jackson School we had the concrete pad behind the school that had been there with the original sch ools burned. They let us roller skate and big recess we had little recess and big recess. Little recess about ten minutes, big rec ess about an hour. So we put our skates on and we would skate. Little recess we played marbles. T hat was a big thing. Mumbly peg, which is a game that you play stabbing a knife around your hand, and all these


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 16 kinds of things. I can remember Virginia D are Hudgins, who was one of the richer girls in school. S and we w ore hunting boots, like with red green socks which show above. So we Lee Jackson School, there were ditc hes all around the school. W leak, I put a lot in each and dr leak. So at Christmas time one year for show and tell after Christmas the guys brought their rifles to school. They were generally single shot .22 rifles or somethi ng like that. Well Virginia Dare got an over under, it w as like a German gun. Beautiful, with an engr thing we looking at all the time. Milton Miller who finally graduated in school in bullets as well, and he said, you kn ow, He puts the gun on and shoots a hole through his foot. They take him he re to the Court House to Dr. Gill he goes back at big recess. There he is andaged up. [Laughter] I think it was at we got a letter from Milton. H e reunion. Then we got a note; he well shooting himself I think it was like third grade or something like that We did, we played games at s chool and some were rough games. We played sort of a football


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 17 want to get a big guy like Milton Sears on our team that could stop anyone, that kind of a t hing. In th e summertime, of course swimming was a big thing. W e were at the beach a lot. PD: Did you ever interact with the watermen, go fishing or? JD: Oh Callis Wharf. Junior Callis who was the buy boat He would go out and take oysters or other fish off the boats and load them into this huge boat. He would take us along with him for the day. On a ni ce day when he was feeling good, he might have had extra Coke or Pepsi Cola with h im he might give one to us, and this kind of a thing. So we did that. At one of our high school football games, which we played over on Cape Charles side and we had to cross the bay, well Jimmy Godsey who was one of the biggest guys in my class and one of a buy boat captain and he had a boat named the Beryl Marie. We needed to get over there to play football, so it says, yeah cheerleaders and the football team and a few guests and the coach and so on late getting there. I a rough day. We had this sort of a lit tle mob that went along with us; there were a number of people that wanted to go in the small boats. So we got there and they took us to the school, the school bus picked us up. We lost the gam e twelve to


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 18 nothing. Coming back on the boat of course was late an d it had actually gotten dark. A in of the boat and Coach Brown s off so we can hear the bell to get back into the creek. We all down there, all with the girls and cheerleaders and the whole works. P retty nice situation. [Laughter] We hear bong bong and then you hear the engines start back up and we go back into the h arbor, that kind of a thing. We did go out, we went with my friend father and my father were sports fisherman, a out too muc h but my friend dad did. H was and there and those kinds of things and what not. PD: JD: No. PD: hours. JD: No, w PD: I was going to ask you: growing up do you remember any ghost stories or haunted places? JD: ow old we were but the Baptist c emetery at Hudgins has a grave in it. I t was a doctor buried there many, many years ago. Halloween, we always did something on Halloween, that was the big time.


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 19 Somehow my friend Bud t know if anyone was cracke d all the way across. Big stone stone as big as this table on top of that grave. So we go over there a at nighttime wi t h the flashlight and whatever. A nd we actually get a crowbar like and we pry the it was a brick nothing in there by dust. But we did th at on Halloween. Another story which I guess some of th e things Bud and I built a dummy like probably m ade with eight foot two by fours. And dressed it and put a face on it. We took the thing one of the first thi ngs we did is was the drive in restaurant there. We took him, we set it on one of the doors and went inside and said, Jackie, somebody wants to see you outside. She goes and opens t he door and that thing is there and she passed out. So later on w we go up Moses curve all this stuff. And e very Friday, Saturday night there was one pa rticular guy that drove a Ford c oupe and you can hear the engine running forever and ever and ever. Wide open. He drank a lot. So we decid ed to put the dummy up on the state road, near a cornfield o r it was a wheat field at that time. We put it on the edge of the road and we hear this guy coming, we hear the


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 20 thing he hits is my Uncle Buck had the gas station there with his signs that swing around, Esso and all this. He ran through the signs and into my bushes in the yard. My grandfather slept above the store. This is like midnight. ng on? A nd this guy he says, Mr. Dillehay I think I killed a man! [Laughter hiding. Anyway, it w as pretty bad. From that we actually took the dummy I think, But we did things like that and that was a bad one which we were never forgiven for. [Laughter] We made it around e verywhere, we were like little hermits fooling stories that go along with these things. Yeah, gh osts and we would sit in my e complex with a coal fired furnace. He had wooden benches on one side with nails inside. At night, he black people would come in, men who lived in the neighborhood, mostly old bachelors, who come in and sit and go to sleep on there. Uncle Buck was Jones They would come in and then eve ntually he would chase them out. I the store, and they would go home. But on the night that Joe Louis was fighting he had his radio so everybody w ould come and listen to Joe Loui s fight, this kind


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 21 of a thing. He would tell ghost stories in there and these guys would go and run to get out of there. There was a lot of th at going on. PD: Do you remember any of them? JD: but I know they talked about seeing ghosts and the horses not coming across a bridge, moving through a gate. Those kinds of stories. Numbers of them we heard t one. I do know Mac Winder who was one of the guys who was a bachelor and lived on a farm, he talked about horses being spooked a lot that kind of a thing. up the horses but that was another stor y and that was after my time. [L aughter] We were all kind of like I was weary about going into a cemetery at nighttime. If I was wit h some of my bu d d ies yeah we would go do that kind of a thing. The other story was from my family, an ut we moved when we moved from the courthouse we moved in a place called Three Harbors, and it was down on the bay, on Chesapeake Bay. I t was called Three Harbors and it later was cal led Windy Oaks, but there were big oak trees around and everything. No electricity there, everything was lamp. So we did have a well, a pump inside the kitchen which was kind of neat. My brother had built a shower thing out with a big drum with a hose on i t which was only used by my sister when she was in college. Drained all this water out, a fifty five gallon oil drum, stuff like that. Down there, and my dad and mom still had the poolroom and the restaurant in the town of Mathews. So I was very small for this, so remember the story myself but my sist ers do. I have a sister, ninety some years


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 22 old in Florida and she likes to tell me a lot of these things. But at night after I guess I was in bed or whatever and we had a black lady that lived there wit h us a lot. So we had gone to bed and according to my sisters my mother and my dad w ere still out. But anyway, they were in the house and it was dark and they heard what sounded like someone coming up the steps and then falling down the steps. They always thought that was truly a gh ost because no one was around. M y mother and dad they were not there, all these. B ut those kinds of stories were around everywhere. I think almost everybody with an imagination in Mathews County would have some stories. This wa s , just like you would find anywhere in America or anywhere in the world, some of these things. PD: I just want to break away for a second. JD: Sure. PD: So you graduated from here and you said you went to Georgia Tech? JD: Mm hm. PD: I was wonde ring, when did you meet your wife? JD: My first wife, I had been in the military for two years. I took a leave of absence from Standard Oil. They hired me out of college and I went up there and worked for a while. Then I ended up going through school, a co uple of schools at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Then I was shipped over initially to my assignment was in Charleroi France. PD: During what time?


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 23 JD: This was 1955. Made it all the way to Charleroi France to find out that that was not where I was supposed to be. So I was shipped back up, I ended up in Landstuhl, Germany. I spent a lot of time there and I also spent about eight months in Morocco. Well, I came back home in 1957 and went back to work at rgest oil refinery at that time: and I just recently found her secret diary. [Laughter] But anyway, I dated her for a month and I asked her to marry me. Of course ally a hick. Which I was. W hen I asked her to marry me she asked me two questio ns: do you have life insurance? A nd I had just gotten out of the military and I just purchased a life insurance policy from m y friend. Is th ere any insanity in your family? A nd I said, no none. So anyway, she never said yes she would marry me. But we did get married in October of that year. This was May Day it was May Day when I asked her. Firs by the way which we just discovered so I can prove that point. Throughout our lives after we were married, every time she got angry with me she would say, you lied, there is insanity in your family. An yway, we lived forty seven years and she died in 2003. I have a home in Newport News. PD: Did you have any children? JD: Four children. I have a son who is another engineer like me, went to Virginia Military. He teaches school in a military school up in Pe nnsylvania. PD: Do you want to just give the names too?


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 24 JD: Gay Nells my oldest daughter, and the next one was Catherine and then the youngest one is Susan. Susan will be here this we ekend; ied to a lawyer. They live in Newport News. Her tro aughter] She teaches science over in York County. PD: Did they all stay in Virginia? JD: Yeah, pretty much. My son John of course had a military commitment so he was with B 52s and those kinds of I y tried to do fictiona month of my life, a fictional story when I was in the military in Europe. So far I have written eig h ty read, write, spell, or speak just like any other engineer. But nevertheless myself all the way from Georg ia Tech to Standard Oil where I be came an expert in Standard Oil t his is part of my story and being able to identify oil refinery equipment and hydrothalmers all those kinds of things. PD: Is that part the fictional part or JD: finished yesterday taking a tour of Berlin in 1955. I had to wear my pinks and greens, my dress uniform to go into the Russian sector, which we took a bus of that and I met one of my friends who I went to high school with, he was stationed in the Berlin command. He was an enlisted guy and I met


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 25 him there. I just covered all that. But I covered my trip all the way from school in Fort Belvoir up to how I w as deployed overseas and I sent my car overseas and I end up in Ch arleroi the fictional plac where I am. The rest of my story shouldn and it all started when two of my grandkids were plundering through some of my old records and they came up with two identical certificates signed by the Secretary of Defense. They were thank you for participa ting or supporting basically the Cold War. In fact, it is Cold W ar. One is to me being an engineer in the army, air force, I had a strange assignment. I was actually an army guy as signed to the air force which is called a special category, army with air force It was done away with before I got out of the service when Congress passed the allowed to give the ai r force its own engineering corps. But nevertheless from that, and then my son John was with B 52s. So one certificate is to John W. Dixon one is to John I started the book to explain to all my grandkids. A ll my kids all my grandkids ca grand Bubba now I think. Anyway, they wante d to know, what is the Cold War? S I deployed overseas, it was the year the Russians demonstrated that they could explode a nuclear weapon. That was the first year. Also, plane, flight plane, made its first flight in the ned and also the Russians came out with the big bomber. T hey had it much larger than anything we had It was just one thing after other with the Russians and the Americans challenging


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 26 each other. So also the other interesting part about the C I A was pre tty new. They d they had gotten rid of everyone when they did away with the old system of spies and so on. That was gone. So now the military is using some of its people like myself, a young guy, to send on a clandestine mis sion. Sends you a round, you pose yourself as some runaway guy ng into one of their countries. A nd you have enough expertise you can oil refinery here or this is the pipeline to that for another year. PD: I just have a couple more questions for you. I would like to read that though. JD: Well, you have to come over and visit me on the island. Bring your friends over. You are welcome. PD: I believe you said first wife, and you told me about her. JD: Yeah, okay. My second wife wa s married to my best friend growing up, Bud Dunton. He and I were buddies all of our lives and he ended up of course he went into the military before I did. He came back home and became postmaster of Hudgins, the little community of Hudgins, and the opera ting of the pool room there. H here in Mathews today. They were telling that story tod ay when I came in Earl Soles, have you met him yet?


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 27 PD: Not yet. JD: started a part of that . I kind of lost my train of thought. PD: You were talking about your second wife. JD: Yeah She was married t t one time Mathews had a nursing facility down in New Point, as far south as you can go here in the county. She was the head nurse; she operated the nursing home. She stayed there until it was sol d out and moved to Gloucester. A nd she moved it Gloucester and she went with it. Over the years, when Bud my friend died, and she was ma rried again for a short time, her first date she ever had with my friend Bud they came to my home in Newport N ews. She lived close to Newport News, grew up. But her father owned property on Gwynns Island and so she came there quite frequently on like weekends and so on with h er sisters and brother and what not. I got to know them from Bud, when she was married to Bud. In fact, her father sold me the property that I have my little cottage on now. We became quite friends. But anyway, in 2003 after my wife died on the island, I still have a home in Newport News but my grandkids have been living in it si nce before she died. I still have the house and I still got a grandkid in it, which I hope will be settled someday. Penny was by herself, her name is Sony a, eight states and actually could deal with people in all fifty states. She was a pretty advanced


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 28 nurse. Anyway, I ha d decided one day four years ago to see if she wanted to go to a movie or something with me. Actually the first real good contact was she has a daughter in northern Virginia who she and her husband bought a big home, they wanted to rebuild a home. They sa id, well Jo and e can come up here and give you some advice. So I took her up there and we had a nice trip. Came back and stopped in a place to get a meal and all this. A couple of weeks later I said I should go see doing nothing. Becoming a bum. W ell with me and about the third date I asked her to marry me and she said sure. PD: W hat year did you get married? JD: a beach in front of our house and she knew some priest. I said well, lucky to see me today with long pants on. It was bad. I look so bad I had to put my pants on. too. So we started to get married and she told one daughter, one of her daughters, and the daughter told a c ousin of hers saying you know calls, when is t he wedding and what do we bring? We said this is not going to work. It turned out I had been to Bedford, Virginia a couple of times to visit her two uncles, ninety seven years old each. One of them owns a two hundred acre farm with cows an d stuff and the other one is a preacher been married seventy years. I said, call your uncle who preaches. We called him, I s aid, can you still marry people? H e said, sure. So we went out there, we ran away and got married and


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 29 go County person but she spent a lot of time with people here and everybody people ask who am I? B T teen years older than I am, ran a gas station. He wa s a veteran of World War II, a Merchant M arine and so on, a couple of ships that went down. But he ran a gas statio n until he died at almost ninety years old. So I said then peop le know. Of course my classmates that are still around know me. PD: My last question for you I think is how different do you see Mathews County and the surrounding area nowadays? JD: e county irees that I would say are well to do retirees with lots of talents, whether it be music, t he county as far as developing the soci al structure and things like a museum, for example, on the island. Some of the t H ouse, the maritime group. They have music concerts, plays at the high schools. I mean real positive thing there. The biggest prob lem in a way in Mathews County although I t hink we like it the way it is w e want to keep out guys who want to come in here and build state of the art housing and affordable yourself a nice home somewhere and you follow all the rules and regulations and e


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 30 county, that kind of a thing. I think the schools are good. know there are some people who say, oh , destroying the county. But you got to advance, and this has been great. PD: I was wondering, could you include that story you told about your first wife, she was a come here? The term you made, I just wanted to make sure we got it down. JD: Okay. me known her, I had been on I think six dates with her and it was one mo nth and it was May Day. May Day, 1957. F B I and she had done all kinds of things, she played ladies baseball. I was very impre ssed with her; she was athletic And I was in better shape than today. [L aughter] Just out of the army, you know, being a cocky ex first lieutenant kind of a guy. So that evening we went to a place called George Diamonds in downtown Chicago, it was a steakhouse, and I pro bably had a couple of high balls. I love her to death. So I said, will you marry me, and she thought for a moment and she said, do you have life insurance? I said, yes I do, and I had just purchased that small life insurance policy from getting out of the army. She said, and do you h ave any insanity in your family? I says, no , going to run away somewhere and g et married. She also said, ho w much money do you have on you? I looked in my billfold and I had seventeen dollars. [Laughter] She terminated the conversation and I took her home. Somehow I got


TMP 056; Dixon; Page 3 1 the word yeah. eah marry y get married until Oct ober the nineteenth that year i n Chicago. So anyway, they called me a country hick and these kinds of things. She had one brother olde r than I am one brother just a year younger than I am. Another younger brother and three sisters. The little siste rs adopted me right off the bat; they were my best friends. PD: What was the term that here o r a from here. What w as JD: PD: Well JD: I PD: I wanted to thank you so much for your time, Mr. Dixon. I t was a pleasure talking to you. JD: You know, I like to talk. [End of interview] Transcribed by: Patrick Daglaris, November 17, 2014 Audit edited by: Jessica Taylor, December 2014 Final edited by: Jessica Taylor