Little Naked!


Laying around in the grass
Saturday nights can’t come too soon, if you’ve been playing around in the grass all week.

When Saturday nights rolled around on Piney Ridge Road of Remington, Virginia in 1958, we knew exactly what time it was. That’s right, it was bath time! The greater part of our childhood was spent without the conveniences of an indoor bathroom. We had indoor and outdoor running water, but no indoor bathroom facilities. Even living under those stark conditions, we were well fed, well kept and received regular baths. Our mother gave all of us a bath every Saturday night, rain or shine, whether we needed it or not. (I’ll leave it to your imagination as to whether you think we needed it). In keeping with this weekly tradition, there was another even more legendary tradition started during that time. One of my siblings, I’m sworn to secrecy as to which one, became infamous for her shenanigans during this ritual. My mother would announce bath time and begin making preparations for it by bringing in the galvanized steel, round wash tub that sat against the house just outside the back porch door. A foot tub was used to heat water on the stove and fill the tub. This was before we ever thought about getting a water heater. The round, galvanized tub served only two purposes, one: it was used for rinsing clothes on laundry day and two: it was used for the washing of our little hindpots every week. (I’ll bet you haven’t heard that used in a while)


Saturday evening bath, Spencer, Tennessee, 1939 - Kodachrome by J. Baylor Roberts
Photo entitled “Saturday evening bath”, Spencer, Tennessee, 1939 – Kodachrome by J. Baylor Roberts

The first child in the tub was considered the lucky one because he or she got to use clean, fresh water. Everyone else had to share some or all of someone else’s used water. I thought we were unique in reusing bath water until one night at about bath time, which happened to be about the time Gunsmoke came on TV. I saw Chester do the same thing. He was itching and scratching so hard from his own stink and dirt that he opted to use the left behind bath water of a total stranger, rather than wait for the barber to clean the tub and add fresh water. Yes, the barber also ran the local bath house in Dodge City. In our case, most often, we not only shared tub water but we also shared the tub. There was usually no less than two of us taking a bath at a time during our early years. Luckily, dad added on a bedroom and a bathroom addition onto the house while most of us were still relatively young. Mom would go through the washing routine of each child and save the most difficult job for last, that job was getting my sister, [REDACTED], into the tub.

“Little Naked” never wanted to take a bath and did everything she could to avoid it. Why did we call her Little Naked? It’s pretty simple, no matter how hard mom held onto her, as soon as the last stitch of clothing came off, Little Naked would squirm, pull away and break herself free. Once she was out of her mother’s grasp, she’d immediately begin chasing us around the house, hands flailing wildly and feet going a mile a minute. We would be screaming, running, laughing, hiding and yelling “Oh No! Here comes Little Naked!”. All of us kids scattered in every direction trying to get away from her. You couldn’t let Little Naked touch you! She smelled too bad by the end of the week and you didn’t want any of it rubbing off on you. So we ran as fast as we could to get away from her. Eventually my mother would catch up to her and finally wrestle her into the bath tub. But for what seemed like years, we had a heck of a time on Saturday nights trying to get away from our “Little Naked”.

Well, that’s the short and sweet of it. I’m sorry I couldn’t divulge the name, and I don’t know where she lives to this day. As the legend goes, she left home one Saturday night, running naked through the woods, yelling and screaming frantically and has never been seen again. She probably ended up somewhere out west, happily married with 8 kids and a dog. I wonder though, do you think she still runs around the house buck naked to this day, chasing her husband and kids on Saturday nights? I can hear them all now, “Oh No! Here comes Big Naked!”

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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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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 had taken care of me ever 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 ito 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 after. 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, that was that… “Its so hard to find good black help anymore”, Stag 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 Celest quit her job at the factory, apparently having saved enough money to get her new car. Stag learned that not only was good help hard to find, but so were good friends. He would be a lot more particular in choosing his friends from then on.

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