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Growing Up Colored

Life in rural Virginia in the '50s, '60s and '70s

Next Time I’ll Know

When I awoke my surroundings were completely unfamiliar to me. From what I could tell I was being held in a small, dimly lit room. The room was practically empty except for a table sitting in the corner to my left and on that table there appeared to be a tool box. Many years of training and experience told me to make mental notes of everything, familiarize myself with the room, carefully study each item in it. I knew I should be particularly cognizant of the sounds I hear and the people that I come into contact with.
The second thing I noticed was that I was seated on a small folding chair in the center of that room and that my hands were tied behind my back. My feet were tied, as well and there was a rope firmly anchored around my waist and that rope was Bound to the chair. This scene had become all too common to me, in my line of work it really wasn’t that uncommon but it seemed as if it were happening on an almost nightly basis.
Listen. Off in the distance I could hear music playing. It was The Zombies…

“But it’s too late to say you’re sorry
How would I know, why should I care?
Please don’t bother trying to find her,
she’s not there.
Well, let me tell you ’bout the way she looks,
the way she acts and the color of her hair.
Her voice is soft and cool, her eyes are clear and bright,
but she’s not there”.

In any other situation, I would have been singing along, but not this time. That wasn’t why I was there, I still didn’t know why I was there. To my far right, the TV was on, it was the Ed Sullivan show. I hadn’t noticed it before because the volume was turned down. This was a good reference for time, Ed Sullivan always aired at 8 pm on Sunday nights on CBS, at least I had a day and an approximate time. Great, Topo Gigio was on, I hated that stupid mouse and was glad that the screen was out my line of sight when I looked straight ahead. I made sure I stared straight ahead.


This was starting to become a habit.

Watch and Listen. My senses were keen, my skills of observation were operating at maximum capacity. In the distance I could hear the soothing coo of a mourning dove and even further off could be heard the soft call of a Whip-poor-will. Wow, whoever had kidnapped me was making it far too easy. I was obviously somewhere in Virginia, in Fauquier County, in fact. To be more specific, I was somewhere in the deep woods of the Piney Ridge forest of Remington, Virginia. Piney Ridge is the only known natural habitat of both the Mourning Dove and the Whip-poor-Will. “The indigenous birds of Remington”, as they had come to be known. My captors would be in for a shock if I told them that I knew exactly where I was. I was back in my home town, how weird was that? I had to figure this out, something wasn’t right, I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

Suddenly the door to my left flew open and light came flooding in, the brightness of which scorched my eyes. A man stood in the entrance, he had something in his hand. No, there were two men, my eyes were coming back into focus. The first man walked directly in front of me and stood, I could see that the object in his right hand was moving, it was alive. The second man walked over and took up a position directly behind me. The man in back of me grabbed my head and tilted it backwards. If I do say so my myself, I’ve always considered myself to be pretty good at being able to talk my way out of sticky situations. This was definitely a sticky situation, so I decide to give it try. “What’s going on? What am I doing here?”, I was staring straight up at the ceiling, the man braced my head against his frame so I couldn’t move it, “Why…”, just at that moment the man behind me grabbed my jaw with one hand and the top of my mouth with the other and pried my mouth open. The other man quickly held up the object he had been holding and dropped it into my mouth. My mouth was forced shut, then covered with duct tape. A scorpion! They had dropped a scorpion in my mouth and exited the room, laughing. Trying not to panic, I immediately bit down on the thing and began chewing it as its pincer-like claws sliced into my tongue. The pungent tinge of its bodily functions flooded my taste buds. I felt the stinger between my teeth and moved it up against my cheek and gum where it could do no harm. The hard segmented body was reduced to bits and pieces, I swallowed them, trying to ignore the gag reflex that overwhelmed me. I made sure to save the stinger intact, it might come in useful, it was still wedged between my cheek and gum.

I closed my eyes and waited. After what seemed like an hour, one of the men came back into the room. He probably expected to find me dead from multiple bites from the poisonous arachnid, so I played along. He knelt down in front of me and untied my feet. Once my feet were free he leaned over my shoulders to undo my hands, that’s when I knew I had to act. With my tongue I moved the scorpion stinger up against the duct tape over my mouth and pushed as hard as I could until the razor sharp point punched a small hole in the tape. The man’s neck was almost touching my cheek as he struggled to loosen the knots, he was probably planning to dump me somewhere out in the woods of Remington, Virginia. How ironic that this is where I started and, apparently, this is where I would end. In one svelte swoop I turned my head and pushed the protruding stinger into his carotid artery, I bit down on the tail and bulbous orb to allow as much venom to enter his bloodstream as possible. The man winced, grabbed his neck with his left hand and collapsed in a heap on the floor.

It’s a good thing kidnappers still used frail, wooden folding chairs to hold their captives. They were making this too easy. I stood, though bent forward because my waist was still bound to the chair. Then I squatted and sprang up, jumping as high as I could. I leaned backwards in mid-air and allowed gravity to take over. I fell atop the chair, what gravity could not accomplish on its own my massive hulk completed, the chair smashed into a million pieces. When I stood, the ropes that had once kept me bound, fell harmlessly to the floor. All of a sudden I heard the echo of distant footsteps coming in the direction of this room. I dropped to the floor and laid behind the crumpled body of my captor. It was almost pitch black, but I rummaged through the pockets of the man and found a gun. I put it up to my face and could see that it was a Ruger PPK. I checked the clip, reloaded it and waited for the door to open, when the door opened I opened fire. Two shots to the torso, one shot to the head. The man died instantly and when he died, my eyes opened. I looked around the room, my wife was lying beside me on the bed as beautiful as ever. I’d been dreaming, AGAIN! This was the third night in a row I’d had this dream. I just couldn’t figure why I didn’t know I was dreaming. I should have known, for one thing, Whip-poor-wills and mourning doves are not exclusive to Remington. Those birds inhabit every state on the east coast. But more importantly, why didn’t I catch that I was holding Ruger PPK, everyone knows Walther makes the PPK, it’s James Bond’s weapon of choice. Well I may not have caught it this time, but I have the information I need for next time. I’ll definitely know it’s a dream when they kidnap me again tonight.

The Mourning Dove

Historic Schools of Fauquier County, Virginia


Watching
Remington Colored School class picture, taken @1900.
Photo courtesy of the Brown/ Gibson family archives

Historic Schools of Fauquier County, Virginia
Name USGS Topo Map
Bethel School Marshall
Blackwell Town School Midland
Cherry Hill School Linden
Crest Hill School Flint Hill
Fenny Hill School Upperville
Foster Hill School Marshall
Goldvein School Goldvein
Good Hope School Somerville
Hitch School Flint Hill
Hume School Flint Hill
Hurleytown School Warrenton
John Barton Payne High School Remington
Lake Field School Rectortown
Landmark School Middleburg
Litchfield School Remington
Merry School Midland
Midland School Midland
Morgantown School Orlean
Pilgrim Rest School Thoroughfare Gap
Piney Mountain School Jeffersonton
Piney Ridge School Remington
Public School Number 18 Marshall
Rosenwald School Catlett
Rosenwald School Warrenton
Saint Stephens School Catlett
Turkey Run School Catlett
Waterloo School Jeffersonton

Watching
Warrenton Training Center (aka Rosenwald).

Rosenwald Schools (may also be listed above as historic)

Name USGS Topo Map
Rectortown School Rectortown
Routts Hill School Opal
Crest Hill School Flint Hill
Greenville School Greenville
Piney Ridge School Remington
Rosenwald School Catlett
Rosenwald School(Warrenton Training Center) Warrenton
Morgantown School Orlean
All Rosenwald Schools in Fauquier

Watching
Catlett School.

Below are three links to YouTube videos created by the students of Liberty High School…

Blackwelltown School – AP US History Project

Routt’s Hill School – AP US History Project

Piney Ridge School – AP US History Project

Sources:

Fisk University, 2001, “Fisk University Rosenwald Fund Card File Database”, retrieved 5/22/2015 from http://rosenwald.fisk.edu/

National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2001, “History of the Rosenwald School Program”, retrieved 5/17/2015 from http://www.preservationnation.org/rosenwald/history.html

Place Keeper, 2014, Future Works LLC, retrieved 5/22/2015 from http://www.placekeeper.com/

Virginia Home Town Locator, 2015, “Fauquier County VA Historical Schools”, retrieved 5/22/2015 from http://virginia.hometownlocator.com/features/historical,class,school,scfips,51061.cfm

Wikipedia, 2015, “Julius Rosenwald”, retrieved 5/17/2015 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_Rosenwald

The Association

I’m done, I got nothing left. No more stories. I’ve completely run out of tales about growing up in Remington, Virginia. To some of you, I know this comes as good news. How many childhood stories can one person conjure up anyway? More than 40. That’s right, if you check the pages of this blog you will find that more than 40 stories have been published. That’s enough, it’s more than enough. Yeah I know, I could probably come up with one or two more, but why bother? Sure, there’s the story about how, in 1965, our church received notice that we would be hosting the Northern Virginia Baptist Association’s Baptist Convention in Gainesville, Virginia. Yes, I could write about that, but I won’t. There’s really not much to tell. I must have been no more than 12 or 13 at the time, so my memory is a bit foggy on the hows and what fors that went on. All I know is, as the host church, we would be responsible for providing volunteer workers during the weeklong session. They needed several of our members to stay on site for the week during the day and live overnight in the barracks or bunk houses there. All the other workers could come and go on a daily basis and be available to help during speaking events and conference sessions.

My friend Ferdinand and I jumped at the chance to spend a week at “camp”. We would spend 7 days “roughing it” in the wilderness in Gainesville, VA. But there’s nothing to report, nothing happened. We arrived, cleaned buildings (and there were a lot of buildings), picked up trash, escorted guests from one place to another and kept concession stands filled with supplies and various sundries. That went on every day for an entire week, but it was on the first day when Ferdinand and I rounded the corner of the mess hall/ cafeteria that stopped us dead in our tracks.

There, standing against the building with a Tootsie pop in her mouth, was a pretty freckled faced, red haired girl. I thought she was cute, Ferdinand thought she was beautiful and he proceeded to fall head over heels in love right then and there. She looked to be about his age, he was a year or two younger than me. Unfortunately for me, from that point on he was of no more use to me or the Association, he was hooked. Ferdinand spent every waking hour either following her or looking for her so he could follow her. And that’s all he did, followed her and watched her from afar. Most of that time was spent between working up the nerve to talk to her or trying to figure out if she was black or white. One day He leaned over from behind a tree where he was staked out waiting to see her pass by. I was sweeping the sidewalk when she rounded the corner. He whispered over to me, “She is colored, right?”, he had that crazy, bewildered look on his face that he often had. I looked at her red hair, her freckled face, deep down I could see just the tiniest trace of blackness. I whispered back, “She gotta be colored, else she wouldn’t be here”, and turned back to my sweeping. Ferdinand just stared.


Watching
OK, Ok, this isn’t her, but it’s as close as I could get on short notice.

While I was making sure the ushers had clean kerchiefs for those overcome by the spirit, the pastors had fresh pitchers of water to keep them longer at the pulpit and the guests knew how to locate their next destination, Ferdinand was somewhere hiding behind a rock or a tree, peeping, staring at his newest heart throb. That was what went on during the day, at night we took the time to find ways to get into trouble. I remember one night after our chaperone had fallen off to sleep in his bunk, Ferdinand and I decided we wanted some ice cream. And it just so happened that there was a freezer case full of ice cream sandwiches, fudge pops and popsicles in the chow hall. What else could we do, we sneaked out of the barracks, crept down the hill to the cafeteria, found an unlocked window and edge our way inside. Thirty minutes and ten or fifteen ice cream sandwiches later, to our surprise the lights inside the chow hall switched on and one of the elders who managed the site came in with our chaperone. Luckily, after a few furrowed brows and some stern warnings we got off by agreeing never to try something like that again. They escorted us back up the hill and ushered us back into our bunks.

The next day I was back at my job of weeping and wailing and my friend Ferdinand was back at his job of watching and waiting. All-in-all, it was a great week away from home. We’d never been to any type of camp before, so this was as close as we would get and better than we could have ever imagined. The week came and went, on Friday we left the site and returned home to Remington. No, Ferdinand never said more than a hello to his crush, but he had lots of memories of what might have been to hold him for summers to come. And its because the whole experience was so uneventful that I’ve decided that its not worth the telling of it. The red haired girl never knew how close she’d come to being courted. And the Northern Virginia Baptist Association will never know it’s lasting effect on us, because this one won’t be told, this one stays in the vault.

Hard To Find


Watching
Factory Worker. Photo courtesy: https://commons.wikimedia.org

Stagalee had been working at the gun factory in Midland, Virginia for almost a year by the time Celestia Brentwood Farnsworth was hired there in 1979. Stag ran the CNC machine, milling and boring pistol parts. Having Celestia operating the sanding and grinding tools just across the aisle from him was like a breath of fresh air in the stale environment of the shop. The way the shop was laid out, there was a circular walkway or aisle that cut a path through the rectangle building. Machines were scattered on both sides of the aisle. There were drills, mills, sanders, saws of all types arranged in departments based on the company’s gun making process. Even though you couldn’t tell by looking, there was an actual work flow. There was a method in the madness of noise, dirt and dust. Most folks didn’t bother familiarizing themselves with the whole process, they learned just enough to keep the pay checks coming week to week.

Celestia made sure everyone knew she wasn’t just any ordinary worker, living pay check to pay check. From her first day on the job she told anyone in earshot that her father was very wealthy and that she didn’t really need to work there. Celest drove her father’s Mercedes Benz to work each day from their family home in Middleburg, Virginia. As she had done all of her life, when she wanted something, she simply went to her father and said “Daddy I want…”. Up until this last time, she’d always gotten what she wanted. This time, she’d gone to her father and said “Daddy, I want a car”. For the first time in her life her father bulked at a request she made. “Not this time baby, you think money grows on trees. You need to find out where it really comes from”. According to Celeste, her father told her she would have to get a job, any job, and save the first $500 of the cost of a car. Once she’d earned that amount, he would put the rest to it. And that, she proclaimed was the ONLY reason she was working at that “God-forsaken place”. It was the first job she’d ever had, the only one she could find and she’d only have it long enough to earn the money she needed to get that car, she made no bones about it.


Watching
Factory Worker. Photo courtesy: http://www.seattlelighthouse.org

Stagalee and Celestia hit it off from day one. They met and talked every chance they got. Stag would tell Celest of his aspirations in life, he hoped to some day become a high school Phys. Ed. teacher. She would tell him of her plan of someday becoming a partner in her father’s law firm, but first things first, get that car! They took their two daily 15 minute breaks together, sat outside at the picnic table and ate lunch together. To passersby, they were always laughing at some unheard joke, whispering shoulder to shoulder or just sitting quietly, enjoying each others’ company. They were friends, real friends. Stag had other friends, but she was special, they “got” each other, they had a connection.

After weeks of enjoying Celestia’s company, Stagalee came to the realization that his feelings toward her had begun to stray beyond the realm of friendship, he liked her as more than just a friend and wanted very much to move beyond it. It was during one of their daily breaks that Stag decided to share his feelings with Celest, they were so close, he was sure she must be feeling the same way he did. “Celest, we really get along well don’t we? As far as I’m concerned you’re my best friend”, Stagalee confessed. Celest looked at Stag and smiled, “Sure Stag, you’re really the only person I know here”, Celest took Stagalee’s hand as she spoke. This was going even better than he’d imagined. Even though Stag had never dated a white girl, he didn’t see her in those terms. He didn’t think race would be a problem for them or anyone else, after all, this was 1979 for cripes sake! “Celest, I was thinking that maybe you and I could go out, you know, on a date, maybe to a movie”. Stag held his breath.

Celest looked off into the distance, he noticed that the faint smile she always seemed to have had left her lips. She removed Stag’s hand from her grasp and her face became expressionless before she began speaking, “You want to date me? You and I?”, she seemed to be thinking aloud rather than speaking to Stag. “That would mean that eventually you would want to kiss me at some point. I’ve only ever kissed an adult negro man once in my life”. Stag was a bit surprised to hear Celestia talking this way, he hadn’t realized that she even thought of him as “a negro”, he thought she simply saw him as a friend. She continued to speak, “When I was growing up we had a butler who lived with us, his name was Jerome. Jerome took care of me since I can remember, he practically raised me, but then he became deathly ill. Once we knew there was no hope that he would recover, I went into his room and visited with him as he lay in bed ready to expire. I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, he died not long afterwards. We all loved Jerome, we knew there was no way we could ever replace him”. Then she looked directly into Stag’s eyes and stabbed him in the heart with her final words,”…And it’s a shame because it’s so hard to find good Black help anymore”. Stag almost choked, did she say what he thought she said? Was she serious? Was she just trying to put him in his place?

Well, there you have it, “Its so hard to find good Black help”, he knew exactly where he stood. With that he rose from the picnic table, went back inside and returned to his milling machine. They never spoke again. A few weeks later she quit her job at the factory, apparently saving the money she needed to get her new car. Stag learned that not only was good black help hard to find, but so were good friends. He would be a lot more particular in choosing his from then on.

Norfolk State College: The Untold Story

“Big – Bad – Moses – Rose!”
“Da-da-da”
“Big – Bad – Moses – Rose!”
“Da-da-da”
“Big – Bad – Moses – Rose!”
“Da-da-da…”

Oh no, here he comes again, Moses Rose, football star extraordinaire, walking through the quad of the Norfolk State campus singing about his favorite subject, himself.
It was just after Christmas break early in 1972 and Moses Rose was the big man on campus. Before that Jo Jo Bethea held that crown. He doesn’t know it, but he and I were in Phys. Ed. together, but that is the extent of our contact or my knowledge of his short stint on campus. One minute we were in Gym class together, the next thing I knew he was thrilling the crowds at Clemson and later at the Norfolk Scope with the Virginia Squires in the American Basketball Association. But Moses Rose was “Da Man” now and he let everyone within earshot know it by singing that one verse song of his (I won’t repeat it again here).

As far as I and my friends were concerned Rose could have his fame on the football field, we had ours in the ping pong room. We spent morning, noon and night playing table tennis. There was me, Trinidad (Trini), Trinidad #2, Jerome and “Plastic” and a few other names I can’t recall. It is my opinion that there has been someone on campus named Trinidad every year since the early 1960s. Our problem is that we had two Trinis, one was a great table tennis player and the other was a wannabe of the other Trini. Yes, you’ve already guessed it, they were both from the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Trini #1 was small and frail. He was what we called a professional student, when I matriculated in 1971, he had already been in school for six years and from the amount of time he spent in the Student Union building, he could look forward to staying another six or more. I don’t think the other Trini was actually a student, he could be seen working in an office on the upper floors in the building but always found time to make his way down to the basement where the ping pong room was located.

“Plastic” was the only female in the group, well, there was Gwendolyn, but she wasn’t as dedicated as the rest of us, she actually spent some of her time going to class. “Plastic” was a good player though, she had game. The reason we called her Plastic is because of the shiny make-up she always wore, it made her look like a mannequin in a store window. She wore a big afro, red lipstick, had rosy cheeks and was beautiful to boot. Plastic had a really nice personality, I think she was the one who sold me down the river. When I arrived on campus I told everyone I was from Washington, DC. I didn’t see the point in trying to explain that I was from a small little town way out in the country 50 miles away and besides, no one would ever know. Well, it didn’t take long for someone to ask what part of DC I was from, “Southeast”, of course. “Where in Southeast? What street do you live on? I know all about DC, did you go to Spingarn or Ballou?”. Well, that was all that it took, I was sunk. I said I went to Spingarn. “Spingarn? Spingarn? Spingarn is in northeast, Ballou is in southeast. Yeah, you’re from DC, Ha!” From that moment on we were best buddies, she called me “D.C.” and I called her “Plastic”.

The inspiration for our endeavor came one day while we were taking an outdoor break to watch little Trini show off his skills at soccer. Then, from off in the distance you could hear the faint sound approaching…
“Big – Bad – Moses – Rose!”
“Da-da-da…”

Great! Here comes Moses Rose, “That’s right, that’s right, step aside, make way for Moses Rose. Moses Rose is passing through”. For some reason he always referred to himself in the third person. I have to admit, the guy was impressive, built like a brick you-know-what, but in all fairness he was pretty entertaining, you had to like the guy for his self confidence, if nothing else.

It was then that someone spoke up, “Why doesn’t the school have a soccer team? We could all be on the soccer team” (I’d never played soccer in my life). Trini agreed and someone suggested that we just start one up, how hard could it be to start up a soccer team and schedule games, right? That’s how it all got started. The next thing you know we had not only organized a soccer team, we’d put together a chess team (the chess room was directly across the hall from the ping pong room). The student union was built with lots and lots of glass. The walls to each of the rooms in the basement were made of glass, as were the walls to the entrance of the building and the entrance doors. I can’t tell you how many newbies walked right into the walls and doors face first, trying to get into the building. You could just stand at the entrance to the basement and pick out the kids who were going to run into the glass “SMACK!”
So, by the end of that week, we had organized enough people to have a soccer team, a table tennis team, a chess team and a spades (card game) team. The next step was to make some phone calls to other schools to see if they would be interested in organizing representatives from their campuses to compete against us and other schools, yet to be determined.

Before Long we had schedules for traveling from one to school to another. We were the first to travel and first on our list was a visit to Virginia State in Petersburg. I remember that outing like it was yesterday. We all jumped in cars and drove to V.S.U. There must have been at least 10 to 12 of us. It was too cold for soccer so it was just the ping pong, chess and spade teams. We all basically rotated from one team to another so even if it were warm enough for soccer, the head count would have probably been the same. We arrived late Friday night with games scheduled for Saturday morning. The first thing we did was go to the student center and hang out. This was a learning trip if ever there was one. When we arrived at the center, we were met with music and dancing, there was a party going on. In the center of the room was what appeared to be a very intoxicated girl dancing on one of the tables. All she needed was a pole and you would have thought we were in a strip club. I asked someone from the school who the girl was, he said, “Oh, that’s not a girl, she’s a transvestite, a cross dresser”. I’d never seen anyone like that before and it made me realize that I needed to start paying closer attention to who I was talking to. After the party we went to a predetermined dorm and crashed for the night. Oddly enough, directly across the hall was the cross dresser’s dorm room. The noise from across the hall kept us up all night. There were guys in and out of that room all night, all going there for the sole purpose of having their hair braided. In with a fro, 30 minutes later, out wearing braids. We barely got any sleep at all.

The noise must not have affected us because the next day we won three out of four ping pong games, two of four of the chess matches and swept the spades games. It was a very successful outing. Three weeks later V.U. visited our school, but I have only a minute recollection of it. Our next stop was to be Virginia Union. There was a really bad snow storm that weekend so I decided not to go. There were two or three cars battling the elements to get there on that fateful day. I wasn’t able to make that trip, so I only have what I was told to go by. But apparently, the car that Jerome (Alias) and Plastic were in was trying to make it through the blinding snow when it skidded off the road and slid into a guard rail. Neither of them were hurt, so they got out of the car to inspect the damages. They circled the vehicle to see if it was drivable, but as they stood behind it looking it over, another car turned the corner and did exactly what they had done. That car plowed into the rear of their vehicle pinning them between the two bumpers. I was told that Plastic died at the hospital, Jerome had to have one of his legs amputated. I lost a good friend that day, two good friends. I never expected that Jerome would return to school, but he did. I would occasionally see him on crutches making his way to class, but he never came back to the ping pong room.

The school landed in a hot water because of the accident and the fact that it happened while students were participating in unsanctioned athletic events. Ultimately, back then at least, the school was deemed responsible for the students while they were in their care. Needless to say, that no more tournaments took place. I have found no formal record that this incident, or the events leading up to it, ever took place. Of course, I am using aliases to protect the privacy of those who suffered during this tragic time in the school’s history. But the least I can do is memorialize what I know about what took place in writing, here and now.

Ten Plus Two More: The Treasure Revealed

This is Part II maybe you should read Part I first.

*************************************************
“There it is!”, Parlo jumped out of the hole he’d dug and pointed.

– “There what is?”

“What have we been looking for you idiot?”

(Lester, under his breath) “Nobody should call somebody a idiot.”

– “Don’t call me no idiot, I ain’t the one been digging for the past two hours.”

“Alright, you’re not an idiot. The treasure, there’s the treasure. That busted up vase that old man Rosenwald must have buried here.”

– “Who’s old man Rosenwald?”

By now Parlo was visibly getting angry, “Don’t make me repeat myself. Julius Rosenwald, the man who was president of Sears, Roebuck and Co. You know that catalog your folks kept in the outhouse when you were a kid, the one they used to send away for shoes and clothes. That Rosenwald, now do you remember? Old Fleabite Gaskins has been dead almost 50 years but damned if he wasn’t telling the truth.”

– “Oh that guy.”

“Yeah, THAT guy.” Parlo reached down and began pulling out pieces of the broken vase that had been lying buried in the schoolyard for almost 90 years now. “I wonder if the Rosenwald school in Warrenton or Blackwelltown has something buried there too.” A rusted rectangle shaped tin box lay in the rubble, Parlo reached down and picked it up, almost afraid of what he might find inside. The box was coated in some type of wax to keep it sealed. Parlo took out his pocket knife, walked over to the makeshift table they had set up earlier. He sat down on a folding chair and laid the box on the table. Lester came over and said, “Let me get my phone, I want take pictures while you’re opening it, this could be huge.” He took out his phone and started recording. Parlo took out his pocket knife and began cutting around the edge of the box. The seal was really good, you could actually hear a vacuum sound as the box filled with fresh air. Suddenly, the top of the box popped off, it surprised Parlo so much that he dropped the box back onto the table, it lay open before them. Inside the box was nothing but a peace of paper that looked as new as the day it had been written on. “Where’s the treasure? What’s this?! That’s it, a piece of paper. Where’s the treasure everybody said was here???”. This was more an insult to Parlo than anything, “Imagine 90 years ago one of the richest white men in the country coming to this little place and digging a hole and leaving nothing in it but a piece of paper, HA!”. He snatched the paper from the box, looked under it and yelled out again, “WHERE’S THE FREAKIN’ TREASURE!?!”. Parlo unfolded the paper and read the words written there, he read them aloud, “It’s all inside. – j.r.” Parlo was furious by now, “Inside? What the heck does that mean, what’s all inside?”
Lester spoke up, he got it even if Parlo didn’t, “The kids, it’s inside the kids. It’s inside the school. That’s where the treasure is, the world is inside. Our future is inside, that’s what that means. The treasure is the education they got while they were here. The treasure was learning from some of the brightest negro teachers the state had to offer. The treasure was this new building, nothing like they’d ever had before. The experience of being together, playing together. Can you imagine the number of young lives molded right here on these school grounds. Can you imagine how many games of hopscotched were played, how many soft balls were hit, how many knees got skinned. Think of all the PTA meetings, spankings, you name it, it all happened right here. Some of the best teachers taught in this school, Mrs. Hackley, Miss House, Miss Rowe, she got married and became Mrs. Stinson, Mr. Berry, and more. By the way Parlo, that Miss Stinson? she was a good looking lady, pretty. They gave the treasure to the kids and the kids left here and spread it.”


Watching
Parlo and Lester may have allowed their imaginations to run away with them.

Parlo stood mesmerized by what Lester was saying, more like preaching. He’d never heard him speak like this before.

Lester walked over to where the old swing sets used to be then continued on, “They gave these kids the building blocks to become pillars of the community. Teachers, lawyers, principals, business executives, carpenters, brick masons, secretaries, house wives all walked down those steps, Parlo, and on into the mainstream of society, able to stand toe-to-toe with the best America had to offer. They had to use hand-me-down books, desks, chairs, stuffed old rags in cracks to keep out the cold. But they persevered, they made it through, they flourished Parlo. They didn’t let a little thing like segregation keep them down, they didn’t let a little thing like Jim Crow hold them back. They were men and women dammit! They kept going, WE kept going. We don’t need no treasure, we got the treasure (putting his finger to his head), we ARE the treasure (pointing to his heart). Us, the ones they didn’t want around no more after slavery, the ones they thought weren’t no good for nothing. Well let me tell you something… a whole country don’t fight a war over something that ain’t worth nothing. You and I attended this school. We’re old enough to remember how it was. That treasure is IN us, Parlo. We have to believe that, we have to know that down deep inside! Julius Rosenwald knew it, Booker T. Washington knew it, our grand-parents knew it. They invested money, time and labor in it, because they believed it. We know it too and it’s our responsibility to keep the treasure that these schools provided from being squandered. We ought to be able to do that Parlo, we have to do it!”.

Moisture had formed beneath Parlo Silby’s eyes as he’d sat listening to Lester. When he stood slowly to his feet, he wiped the moisture away. He turned and looked at the broken down old schoolhouse he’d attended as a child. After what seemed like minutes, he looked at Lester and said, “Com’on man, let’s get outta here”.

~ The End ~

Historic Schools of Fauquier County, Virginia

Name USGS Topo Map
Bethel School Marshall
Blackwell Town School Midland
Cherry Hill School Linden
Crest Hill School Flint Hill
Fenny Hill School Upperville
Foster Hill School Marshall
Goldvein School Goldvein
Good Hope School Somerville
Hitch School Flint Hill
Hume School Flint Hill
Hurleytown School Warrenton
John Barton Payne High School Remington
Lake Field School Rectortown
Landmark School Middleburg
Litchfield School Remington
Merry School Midland
Midland School Midland
Morgantown School Orlean
Pilgrim Rest School Thoroughfare Gap
Piney Mountain School Jeffersonton
Piney Ridge School Remington
Public School Number 18 Marshall
Rosenwald School Catlett
Rosenwald School Warrenton
Saint Stephens School Catlett
Turkey Run School Catlett
Waterloo School Jeffersonton

Rosenwald Schools (may also be listed above as historic)

Name USGS Topo Map
Rectortown School Rectortown
Routts Hill School Opal
Crest Hill School Flint Hill
Greenville School Greenville
Piney Ridge School Remington
Rosenwald School Catlett
Rosenwald School Warrenton
Morgantown School Orlean


Authors Notes: What I found most interesting when researching Julius Rosenwald, was how little money he actually contributed to most school projects. The bulk of the money came from the community. I was a bit surprised by that.
Click on the Rosenwald school names to see further details about each school. Notice how much money each community raised and how much was contributed by the Rosenwald Fund.

Sources:

Fisk University, 2001, “Fisk University Rosenwald Fund Card File Database”, retrieved 5/22/2015 from http://rosenwald.fisk.edu/

National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2001, “History of the Rosenwald School Program”, retrieved 5/17/2015 from http://www.preservationnation.org/rosenwald/history.html

Place Keeper, 2014, Future Works LLC, retrieved 5/22/2015 from http://www.placekeeper.com/

Virginia Home Town Locator, 2015, “Fauquier County VA Historical Schools”, retrieved 5/22/2015 from http://virginia.hometownlocator.com/features/historical,class,school,scfips,51061.cfm

Wikipedia, 2015, “Julius Rosenwald”, retrieved 5/17/2015 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_Rosenwald

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