Phyllis Oliver volunteers with East Wake High School band’s booster club and subs at her daughter school but insist she’s not a super mom.
Q: You are dedicated to the East Wake High band boosters and spend most of your weekends during the spring and summer selling drinks at Walnut Creek amphitheater. What drives such a persistent effort?
“Simply, if we didn’t do this, the band would not march. We only get $1,000 from the county and that doesn’t come close to funding what we need. We help repair and replace instruments, uniforms – we pay for their fees and transportation costs to go to competitions. It takes a lot of money. This will begin my fourth season at Walnut Creek doing this. We have five stands out there – we used to have seven. We sell water, soda, alcohol. We are staffed by dedicated parents. It takes at least 20 of us per show to run the stands. We have some adults who come out there and help us who don’t even have kids in the band. We make between $15,000-$17,000 a concert season. Without Walnut Creek, it would just be almost impossible for the band to do all it needs to do. This money moves the band.”
Q: Are there other county high schools out there?
“There are but they don’t have the number of stands like we do.”
Q: So do the volunteers also get a chance to take in the concerts out there?
“It depends on how we are staffed. Of course, we do hear the concerts. I have only missed two concerts in the three years I have been doing this.”
Q: What are your favorite concerts?
“I like the country music concerts. I did want to see Train but that was one of the ones I missed. You know, they have concerts during the week as well so we have a dedicated bunch that comes out there during the week to do this.”
Q: What is your connection to the band – are your children a part of it?
“I have three kids. My oldest, Elizabeth, is a swimmer at ECU and she will be graduating soon. My middle, Jackson, is a senior at East Wake and my youngest, Catherine, is also at East Wake and she is the one in the band. She is in the color guard.”
Q: Were your other two children in the band?
“No, just Catherine. But I started getting involved in band boosters, making connections, before she was in the band. I think when kids join a band, especially when they are new to a school, it is a great way to make friends. If you are walking down the hall and you don’t know anyone, at least you may see a face you know from band.”
Q: When you are not preparing for concerts or selling drinks at Walnut Creek, what occupies your time?
“I like to sleep (laughing). I am a mother of three kids and I am tired. I also like to read. I stay so busy during the week, I try to find time to decompress. I also like to do crossword puzzles and I do Ruzzle on my phone – it is a word game. It keeps my mind stimulated.”
Q: Any favorite books or authors?
“I love Gone with the Wind. I also like fiction mystery. I like Nora Roberts. I also like books based in North Carolina so I like Nicholas Sparks. I like Mary Kay Andrews. Right now, I am reading Arnold Schwarzenegger”s book, Total Recall.”
Q: And you can also be seen at the school during the week, right?
“Yes, I sub at the school but that keeps me busy.”
Q: Why did you begin subbing at East Wake?
“To spy on my kids (laughing). I have to know what is going on in their lives.”
Q: What is your favorite subject to fill-in for?
“I really don’t have a favorite. There is such a variety out there. You can sub one day for one campus, and then be on another campus the next.”
Q: When you were in high school, did you have aspirations of becoming a teacher?
“I grew up off Poole Road and graduated from Enloe. I went one year to N.C. State University but then I fell in love and decided to get married. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to major in – English maybe, or journalism. I just love to edit. When I read things, I am constantly editing.
Q: Any claims to fame because of this?
“I was the school spelling champion in the fourth grade.”
Q: Are you a member of any civic organizations or clubs?
“I was involved with the Zebulon Dolphin swim team for a while and I am a member of Zebulon Baptist but the band takes up most of my time.”
Q: And you have quite the interesting nickname?
“They call me the Witch of Walnut Creek (laughing). They gave me a hat and broom and everything.”
Q: And why do they call you a witch?
“Because I am a force to be reckoned with, I suppose (laughing). I do what I have to do for the band but I do it out of love. I have a fantastic group out there and I let them know it but we are constantly looking for help. Do you know someone who can help us? Let me know because we need them out there.”
Correspondent Dena Coward