Norfolk State College: (A Fish Out of Water )

(The following events are true, the names were changed to protect the innocent (and the not so innocent))

“Benny, you get the bologna, I’ll get the cheese. Leroy, you get the mayonnaise and Stagalee wear my maxi-coat, you got’ta get the bread”. Yes, it had finally come to this, Bill Clayton and his three roommates were laying down a strategy whereby they would go to the local Be-Lo Market and shop-lift enough items to make sandwiches, bologna sandwiches. They were literally starving to death and something had to be done.

The Norfolk State College admissions building loomed perilously in front of Stagalee.
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This hadn’t been what Stagalee envisioned when he received his letter of acceptance from Norfolk State College during the past summer. Sure, he knew it wouldn’t be easy, heck, he wasn’t even able to raise the fifty dollars needed to secure on-campus housing, but he was determined to go.
When it came time to leave for college, Stagalee found that he didn’t actually have a ride to get there. It just happened that a neighbor and close family friend, Tina, and her husband were driving back to their home in Hampton that weekend and offered to give Stag a ride. He quickly took them up on their offer to ride along. When they arrived in Hampton he spent the night at Tina’s house, the next day they dropped Stag off on Corprew Avenue in front of the school’s admin building. Stag stood and watched as Tina and Paul drove off down the street, he was all alone now. This was becoming far too real for poor Stag, there he was standing on the sidewalk, his seventy-five pound trunk of clothes sitting beside him on the lawn, he had no idea where to go from there. He picked up his belongings and headed down the long walkway to a sign marked “Admissions”. Long story short, six hours later and being directed from one long line to another, Stag learned that he did not have enough funds ($50 to his name) to qualify to live on campus. The good folks in admissions gave Stagalee a piece of paper with an address and directions on it, he walked the six blocks with his trunk to his new home at 1719 Willoughby Avenue. He had to walk past the Twin Towers, the male and female dorms that loomed watchfully over the campus, the dorms where he should have been walking into right now. When he finally arrived at the address written on the paper, there waiting for him in the house were his 3 new roommates, Bill Clayton, Benny Sims and Leroy Whitaker. These guys were all from the Hampton Roads area, they knew their way around, had family and friends nearby and seemed prepared, at least outwardly, for the challenges that lay ahead. Stag, on the other hand, was like a fish out of water, he’d never been more than 50 miles in either direction from Remington, Virginia. This was all new to him and the prospect of living with people he’d never seen before in his life was a bit overwhelming. Bill was the oldest and seemed to be the most laid back of the three. Bill was from Hampton, owned a car but, for some reason, had decided not to bring it with him. Benny was from an upper middle class family, his family owned the first and only black-owned hotel in Myrtle Beach, from the start it was plain to see that he was a spoiled brat who had been given everything he ever wanted. Leroy was an amateur boxer, he was a self proclaimed black belt karate expert and also had a cousin who was a professional boxer, Parnell Whitaker.

Stag should have been staying in the Twin Towers dormitory, but was not financially able.
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The rent for the row house was going to cost $7 per month for each of them, but it wasn’t just them living there. Behind the locked door in the kitchen lived another tenant, old man Grimsley. The landlords, Mr. and Mrs. Everett, live upstairs, they are an elderly couple with no children of their own and who decided to open their home to college students for both the extra income and to help young people as they try to prepare themselves for the future.

The first day of classes was particularly uneventful and Stagalee was glad to get back to his new digs and away from the hustle and bustle of campus life. He opened the front door, which held the foyer, directly ahead was the door to Mr. Grimsley’s room, slightly right were the stairs leading up to the landlord’s apartment. He unlocked the door to his left and went into the living room where he and his schoolmates lived. The living room was pretty large as row houses go, it was big enough to hold the bunk bed where Benny and Leroy slept at night and the normal furniture that goes with living rooms. The next room was smaller and this is where he and Bill slept in single beds on opposite walls from one another, there was also a desk for studying and dresser and mirror. The next room was actually a hallway that lead straight ahead to a bathroom and then off to the right there was the kitchen, which Mr. Grimsley also shared. The kitchen was obviously a later addition because there was a window in the wall between the hall and the kitchen, this came in handy because you could see who was in the kitchen through the window without having to go all the way to the door. Mr. Grimsley had his own refrigerator and he only came into the kitchen long enough to prepare his meals, then he would disappear back into his room. Mr. Grimsley appeared to be between 75 and 80 years old and did not seem to be very friendly, they rarely saw him at all.

Stagalee went home for Spring Break, Freshman beanie and all.
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The next day when Stag arrived home from classes he walked through the living room, through his bedroom and into the hallway on his way to the kitchen. But he noticed that the bathroom door was slightly ajar and someone was inside. He went to the door, pushed it open slightly and there slumped on the toilet seat, leaning up against the sink was Benny Sims completely unconscious… with a syringe sticking in his arm. Benny Sims was hooked on scag, heroin, H. Stag saw that he had needle marks on both arms and there he lay high as a kite and knocked out. Stagalee grabbed him, picked him up and began smacking him, trying to bring him around, but it was no use, he was out. Stag laid him on the floor and closed the door. When his other two roommates arrived from school Stagalee told them what he’d found and they all went into the bathroom, pulled Benny out and began beating him relentlessly, he woke up only to be beaten some more. Benny’s three roommates told him in no uncertain terms that if this happened again he was out, he’d have to leave the house, needles would not be tolerated in the house. Of course Benny never touched a needle again after that.

During the summer prior to coming to school Stagalee had applied for a student loan. He acquire the loan from the State Bank of Remington with the provision that once he graduated and worked as a school teacher in the state of Virginia for a period of two years, the loan would be forgiven. The loan was part of a work-study program and that meant he needed to find a job. Stagalee found work in one of the neighborhood youth centers, the Grandy Park Youth Center just a few blocks from campus. The center was in the middle of rival gangs, there was Liberty Park, a housing development just north-east of the center and Grandy Park, the development the center was located in. There was always a war brewing because gangs from both neighborhoods played basketball inside the center and Stagalee’s work -study job was the referee the basketball games, this place in a constant no-win situation. This made for an interesting and scary walk home each night, Stag was taunted and threatened to the outskirts of the neighborhood every night, but mostly by the girls. The girls, decked out in mink coats, mini skirts and Converse All Stars slashed their switch blades and hawk billed knives at him with promises that hiss face would be messed up if he keep flubbing calls during the games. Stag finally realized that he would not be attacked when kids from Liberty Park tried to attack him for what they considered making a bad call against them during the game, the Grandy Park girls chased the would-be attackers out of the neighborhood and from then on he was under their protection, after that they escorted him out of the neighborhood each night.

The decision to steal groceries hadn’t been made lightly, for months they had been living off the kindness of others. Many days went by with them only eating peanut butter crackers or Ramon noodles, if they were lucky. On numerous occasions they stood at the back door of the Student Union snack bar waiting for “Big Mama” to hand them a few frozen hamburger patties or a bag of frozen French fries. This scene was played out almost once a week now, Robert would stand at the counter, begging her to give them something, anything, just to keep them from starving, thankfully, she was always able to find something for them. When times got really hard, Robert would tie the front of his Tee shirt in a knot and switch around in front of the gay guys who hung out in the snack bar and who always seemed to have money, he didn’t like doing it, but it kept the boys fed. This particular time we’d gone for over a week without eating anything at all. Even Jimmy, Clayton’s friend who lived on campus, had stopped leaving food in their fridge because he’d grown tired of them scrounging it all.

The Giant Open Air Market.
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This would be their second attempt at stealing a meal, their first try failed miserably. The plan was to walk the one mile down Brambleton Avenue, across the vast Campostella Bridge into the area called Berkeley and on to the Giant Open-Air Market. There they sold fresh rotisserie chickens. It would be Stagalee’s job to reach into the hot case, pull out a chicken, put it under his coat and calmly walk out of the store undetected. The other three team members (yes, this was a team effort) would go about the store gathering the necessary accoutrements needed to make an entire meal, bread, well basically just bread. One other person would also grab a chicken and make his way to the exit after insuring that Stagalee had made it safely outside. There were two problems with the plan, Giant Open Air Markets, if you are familiar with them, have a unique design, they are completely open, there’s no doors, just wide open space between the inside and out. The only thing that separates the indoors from the outdoors is a high volume curtain of air blowing downwards in the front of the store. There is a grate (somewhat like a cattle guard) that customers have to walk over, that captures the air and recirculates it back to the top. These stores also maintain a security guard at the entrance, just ‘inside’ the store.

In 1971 you had to be dressed in the latest threads on a weekend night in Norfolk, VA.
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Stagalee was wearing Bill’s maxi coat, which reached all the way down pass his platform heels. In 1971, begging for food or not, you had to either be dressed like Super-Fly or Shaft if you were going to be seen in public on a weekend night in Norfolk, VA. He stood at the counter dressed to the max, he grabbed the chicken just as planned and placed it inside his coat, under his arm. Stag began slowly walking toward the front of the store, but the container holding the chicken was slathered in grease and the chicken began to slide down the side of Stag’s body inside the coat. Stag held on for dear life but by the time he arrived at the entrance and the security guard, he was walking completely hunched over, the chicken was resting against his ankle, the only thing between the chicken and his hand was Bill’s extra long maxi coat. Stagalee looked like a crippled up old man in need of a cane. He safely arrived at the stream of air, seemingly unnoticed, but the force of wind was too strong, it blew the chicken out from under his coat and it went skidding across the floor and back into the store. Stagalee stood there paralyzed expecting the guard to start toward him. The other boys saw what had just happened and all three went running from the store and back toward the bridge without looking back to see if anyone was after them, never realizing that Stag had been left behind. Stag wasn’t too far behind, he was right on their heels in his Flagg Bros. platform heels, which were not made with running in mind. When they all finally arrived at the bridge they stopped long enough to realize how lucky they were and right there decided never to return to the Giant Open Air Market or try anything like that again.

But that was then and this was now and they were hungry again, really hungry. This was their last ditch effort to get food. They went over the plan at least ten times, you would have thought they were planning the rob the Louvre or the Chrysler Museum, they left no stone un-turned. “Look Stag”, Bill began, “This time you have to make sure you don’t lose the goods, we can’t all get back here and find out we’ve got everything ‘cept the bread, we can’t make sandwiches without bread”. Stag was adamant, “No man, it won’t be like that this time, we will be eating tonight. I hate that this is the only option left, I’ve never stolen anything before”.
Leroy raised his hand, whispering, “Quiet! You know Mrs. Everett listens to every word we say, last month she told our parents we were smoking funny cigarettes, so shut up!”
Well, she was right in a way, they had been smoking funny cigarettes, “Tijuana Smalls”, those little cigars with the plastic tip, everyone smoked them, she just thought they were something else.
Benny Sims turned to Stag and said “Hey man, let me hold your short”, Stag handed him what was left of the cigarette he was smoking and he continued, “We need to get going, I can’t take it no more, I can smell old lady Everett up stairs cooking Sunday dinner for her and her husband and my stomach is kicking my butt”.
Bill said, “Ok, Let’s go!”, and was out the door first, they walked the half mile to the store and everything went just as they’d planned. Stag got the bread, Benny got the pack of bologna, Leroy got the mayo and Bill got the cheese, they all made it in and out of the store without a hitch. When the boys got to the corner of Willoughby they double checked the take, it was all there, they breathed a sigh of relief and turned the corner to go “home”.
When they arrived back at the house Stag took out his key and opened the door to the foyer, they all gasped at the same time. There, in front of their door sat a large tray and on the tray were a platter of hot, crispy fried chicken, a large bowl of potato salad, a basket of piping hot biscuits and some salad greens in a plastic container. They couldn’t believe their eyes, but at the same time knew exactly what had happened… Mrs. Everett must have been listening at the vent (like she always did) and overheard every word they said. she had prepared that meal and placed it in front of their door while they were out stealing a meal. There had to be a lesson in there somewhere, but it completely escaped them because when Stag suggested the right thing to do would be to return the stolen items back to the store, Robert quickly retorted, “This chicken will only last one meal and then we’ll be hungry again. The bologna will last us all week.” And with that they went into the kitchen and enjoyed a Sunday chicken dinner fit for a king.

The following week Stagalee received his first paycheck from the Work-Study program via a loan agreement from the State Bank of Remington. This new job marked the beginning of a new set of perils and adventures in the life of Stagalee, but it also meant that the boys never had to beg, borrow or steal for their meals again.

~ To be continued… ~

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Back in the Day in Fauquier County, Virginia – 1978


The year was around 1978 and as you can already guess, “those were the good old days”. Everything was simpler then, everything was fun. We enjoyed being around friends and family. We were young and carefree. If you see someone you recognize, please feel free to comment with name and minute mark in video where they appear.

The first scene in this video are from Kelly’s Ford on the Rappahannock River, just outside of Remington, Virginia and just off Sumerduck Road.
The second segment was filmed at the Interarms Gun Factory in Midland Virginia. We observe an average day, with an equal mixture of hard work and horseplay. The pay wasn’t great but the people were.

Growing Up Colored
Copyright ©1997-2019
All rights reserved

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The Whole Town’s Laughing At Me


Every time I hear that song by Teddy Pendergrass, “The Whole Town’s Laughing at Me”, it takes me back to 1975 and the weekend a Navy buddy invited me to go back with him to his hometown and spend the weekend. A weekend away from Norfolk and the base was always a welcome change. Spending weekends on base had become the same old same old. All day Friday was used by my friends and I to learn the latest DAP (a fancy way we slapped hands when greeting one another). It was required learning prior to heading to the clubs. Getting the right outfit together was the second most important thing you needed to do. You had to look sharp, no detail was too small to overlook. Finally, my friends and I would head out to one or more of the local clubs, like Batman’s Den or Friar Tuck’s. But a couple of days away from the same old crowd was just what the doctor ordered. So when my buddy invited me to spend the weekend at his home in North Carolina, I quickly agreed.


Working in the control tower day in and day out was extremely stressful, I needed some time away.
Working in the control tower day in and day out was extremely stressful, I needed some time away.

Teddy lived in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. “Teddy”, that wasn’t his real name, we just called him that because he was a dead ringer for Teddy Pendergrass and he took complete advantage of it. I won’t bother to go into detail.

We arrived at his home on Friday afternoon and by Friday night we had stopped by to visit all of his friends and hangouts. Finally, we settled in on a little juke joint just outside of town. The place was small, barely 30 people could fit inside comfortably, but we went in and tried to do just that, get comfortable. After a few drinks I noticed a woman sitting alone in a booth in the corner. For some reason, I thought I’d go over and ask if I could join her. She agreed and I sat down. I asked her if she wanted to dance, she agreed and we did. We danced every dance for the rest of the night. Fast songs, slow songs, in between, we danced to them all. It was as if we were the only two people in the room. After a while, I began to realize that we were being watched intently by almost everyone in the club. We were the center of attention, being the only people on the dance floor the entire night. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed myself more in a club environment. There was no pressure, no urgency to see who could have “pull a hammer back to the crib” first, like many of my Navy buddies who lived off base, like I did. Everything was a competition for those guys, but that wasn’t the case here. She and I were just having good, wholesome fun; laughing, talking, drinking… none of that other stuff mattered.


I noticed a young lady sitting all alone and decided to ask her to dance
I noticed a young lady sitting all alone and decided to ask her to dance

It finally came time to go and Teddy broke away from his friends, came over and tapped me on the shoulder. He said it was getting late and we should be heading out. I thanked the young lady for allowing me to dance with her and take up her time. I told her what a great dance partner she’d been, she told me how much she had enjoyed herself. She and I said our goodbyes as Teddy led me out of the club and back to his house. I had way too much to drink.
The next morning I awoke with a slight hangover and a stiff back from too much dancing and sleeping too long in unfamiliar surroundings. I dressed and went down to find Ted in the kitchen with his mother, they were making breakfast. My memory of the night before was a bit fuzzy, but I did remember that the people in the club had been standing around the girl and I, watching us as we danced. I asked Teddy why everyone seemed to be in awe of us and he gave me an unexpected answer. He replied, “That girl, Hanna, the one you had so much fun dancing with last night, she’s the town prostitute. She’s a street walker and everyone in town knows it. She spends most nights standing outside the club or on corners trying to pick up customers. Last night was the first time I, or probably anyone else, ever saw her acting like a regular person. The whole place was laughing at you last night, the whole town has probably heard about it by now.”


This is how I pictured us on the dance floor that night (this was not us).

Who cared if they laughed? I know I didn’t. It’s a pity, the world can be very cruel at times. I guess no one ever asked her to dance or even bothered to talk to her before. I hadn’t known about her past, I just know she was someone I enjoyed spending time with. I don’t know what became of that young woman, but I hope she found happiness. I hope she found happiness and someone to spend the rest of her life with, like I eventually did.

Growing Up Colored
Copyright ©1997-2019
All rights reserved

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Separate But Equal


Designated Negro Picnic Area along Skyline Drive
Lewis Mountain Negro Picnic area had closed by the time our family started enjoying Skyline Drive.

When we were growing up, our dad really enjoyed taking Sunday drives through the country. We’d drive for hours. The night before our outing mom would fry up a big batch of chicken, she’d make her world famous potato salad and pack up paper plates, cups and plastic utensils. If you’ve never had a Ritz cracker topped with potato salad (with eggs), then you don’t know what you’re missing. Those Sunday drives were something we all looked forward to, well, maybe not mom so much. She did a lot of prep work in advance of those outings that went mostly unnoticed until we were older and more able to appreciate it.


Family outing along Skyline Drive, in the Shenandoah National Park
My family and I on one of our many visits to Skyline Drive, that’s me on the right

The problem with going to Skyline Drive (which we loved) was that there were no places for black people to picnic. By the time we came along, the Negro picnic area had been closed and the park had been integrated. Whites and blacks were supposed to picnic together, no separate but equal facilities anymore. The park had advanced, yes, the park had advanced, but the people, not so much. It was painfully obvious that we weren’t welcomed in those newly integrated picnic grounds, after all the years of segregation, the mixing of the races looked good on paper, but the concept was not so easily embraced by all.

Rather than get evil stares, grunts and unintelligible mutters while sitting and trying to enjoy our meal, we would spend hours driving around looking for a secluded place to stop and have our lunch. Most of the time though, we would leave the park entirely and stop somewhere on the side of the road. Maybe one of the roadside picnic tables / rest stops would be available. I don’t see those anymore, nowadays.


Family outing along Skyline Drive, in the Shenandoah National Park
Mom takes a photo of Dad and us near Big Meadow.

I lived most of my childhood oblivious to what it meant to be segregated from the rest of society. But our Sunday drives, mostly spent looking for a nice quiet place to have a picnic lunch, were a constant reminder of the sometimes harsh reality. Living separate wasn’t that bad, but it was rarely ever equal.

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Thinking About Mama


At Home
Earlene Brown holding her daughter Marcia…

It’s two o’clock on Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting in my living room watching an old Western on TV. I leaned back in my chair and peeked over into the kitchen, no one was there. There were no smells emanating from that direction that would indicate that food was being prepared and it wasn’t very likely there would be any time soon. My immediate reaction was to think to myself, “When I was growing up, mama would have already had the table set and would be calling us to Sunday dinner”. And immediately after that the realization set in that those days were long over. In our house now, home cooked Sunday dinners are mostly for special occasions. Families don’t sit down to dinner much anymore, if they do, they aren’t talking about it.

When I and my siblings were growing up, we received two home cooked meals a day, breakfast and supper and a bagged lunch to take to school and a snack (usually in the form of a peanut butter or bologna sandwich) after school. As I recalled those days, it dawned on me how much went into feeding, clothing and raising seven children. The majority of that effort came from my mother.


At Home
Mom ran a day care center that never closed.

I’d never realized until then how much work really went into taking care of us. Dad definitely did his part, he brought home the bacon and meted out the real discipline when he had to. Sure Mom kept us straight, but when things happened that required a stronger hand, she turned us over to our father. I seriously don’t know how they were able to raise us all on a single income.

My wife and I both worked and we still were just able to feed and cloth our kids and put them through college. My wife worked her fingers to the bone outside the home, then came home every evening and cooked, cleaned and took care of our five kids. I don’t know how she did it. But our kids are all grown now, with lives and families of their own. I think we did ok. It was a team effort, but like most two parent households, Moms do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to rearing the family. Hats off to Mothers, you do so much for so little. Your real reward is watching your children grow up to become responsible adults.

Nowadays there aren’t very many stay at home moms, but they’re moms none the less. They are loving, caring, supportive and nurturing and we are all blessed because of them. So hats off to mothers, you’ve done well. Don’t take your mother for granted, I lost my mom just over a month ago and my sister, Marcia, one week ago today. I surely do miss them. Mom took so much pride in her children. I hope I can continue to make her proud. I turned off the TV, got up out of my easy chair, went to the kitchen, made myself a bowl of cereal, smiled and thought about mama.

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Historic Schools of Fauquier County, Virginia


Watching
Remington School #15 (aka “Piney Ridge”). Class picture, taken @1900.
Photo courtesy of the Brown/ Gibson family archives

Historic Rosenwald Schools of Fauquier County

Name Location Image
Blackwell Town School Midland
Rectortown School Rectortown
Routts Hill School Bealeton
Crest Hill School Flint Hill
Greenville School Greenville
Piney Ridge School Remington
Orlean School Orlean
Rosenwald School(County Training Center) Warrenton
All Rosenwald Schools in Fauquier
A vast library of photos and details on historic Rosenwald schools in Fauquier County can be found by visiting the Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County
using the following search criteria

Historic Schools of Fauquier County

Name Location
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 Morgantown
Pilgrim Rest School Thoroughfare Gap
Piney Mountain School Jeffersonton
Piney Ridge School Remington
Public School Number 18 (Broken link fixed) Marshall
Rosenwald School Warrenton
Saint Stephens School Catlett
Turkey Run School Catlett
Waterloo School Jeffersonton


Watching
County Training Center (Rosenwald)


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:

Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County, 2015, “Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County Online Database”, retrieved 5/22/2015 from http://www.aahafauquier.org/

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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The Northern Virginia Baptist Association – BITD

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 about my childhood and growing up in Remington, Va. 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. Nothing happened. 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, Providence Baptist Church in Remington, would be responsible for providing volunteer workers during the weeklong event. The Association needed several of our members to stay on site during the day and stay overnight in the barracks or bunk houses there. All the other workers we provided could come and go on a daily basis, as long as they were available to help during speaking events and conference sessions.

My friend Fernando Beasley 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 like I said, there’s nothing to write about, 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 Fernando 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, but Fernando 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. Fernando 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. Fernando 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, Fernando 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, Fernando 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 came on and one of the elders who managed the site walked in with our chaperone, Leonard Banks. 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 Fernando 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, Fernando 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 the lasting effect it had on us, because this one won’t be told, this story stays in the vault.

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