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.

Posted in Country Living | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

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.

Posted in Country Living, The 70s | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Norfolk State College: The Untold Story

1971 Norfolk State College Student Union BuildingThe Norfolk State College Student Union building, where I spent every waking moment in the ping pong room 1971-1972

“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 “Rug-ged” 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.

NSU LibraryI could hear Moses Rose singing from across campus. When I looked up and saw that he was headed for the library, I turned and walked in the opposite direction.

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.

Posted in School Life, The 70s | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Ten Plus Two More: The Legend of the Rosenwald School

Chapter One: The Lost Treasure of Piney Ridge

“Ten plus two more.”

– “What?!”

“Ten plus two more, that’s the answer, ten plus two more!”

– “That’s the answer to what? What the heck are you babbling about now?”

“That’s the answer to the question the little boy asked in the story, “The Ransom of Red Chief” by that O. Henry fella. He asked this guy ‘How many does it take to make twelve?’. I read that story last night, I laughed and laughed, but I’m glad I read it now. He was asking a bunch of kid questions and that was one of’em. ‘How many does it take to make twelve?'”

– “How many WHATS does it take to make twelve? You ain’t making no sense. Anyway, this ain’t got nothing to do with what I was talking about, you didn’t let me finish what I was talking ’bout.”

“You ought to try reading sometimes, Lester. How many ANYTHING does it take, that’s what he was asking, how many ‘things’ does it take to make twelve ‘things’. And I just figured out the answer, that’s all.”

– “No thanks, Normally, I would just wait for the movie to come out.. But I’ll bite. How many things DOES it take to make twelve? You’re so smart, I can’t wait to hear this!”

“I just tol’ja, ten plus two. It takes ten ‘things’ plus two more ‘things, to make twelve ‘things’. He was just a little kid see? Look Lester, the kid in the story was only 8 or 9 years old. That means, he probably only knew how to count to ten. This was a long time ago. He probably could only count to ten, so he needed to have things explained so he could understand it, something he knew about. So he needed to hear ten plus two more in order to understand how to get all the way to twelve from ten? It’s not like giving directions, you can’t just say ‘you can’t get there from here’. He’s young, he’s looking for answers.”

– “What are you some kind of doctor? Since when did you start talking with sense? Now I gotta go back to school to figure out what you’re talking about. So it can’t be nine plus three things? I don’t get it”.

“No Lester, we’re Americans, Americans count by tens. Everybody counts by ten. That’s the answer we been trying to figure out all this time. OK, lets start over, we were talking about that old wive’s tale legend of the lost treasure, you know, (he cupped his hands over his mouth to make an echo) ‘The Lost Treasure of Piney Ridge’ w-o-o-o-o!”. Then Parlo wriggled his fingers on each side of his face to emphasize how scary it all must be.

– “Yeah, that’s what I was talking about, you were supposed to be just listening”, Lester reminded him.


Watching
Piney Ridge School.

Lester Pinkney and Parlo Silby, both long-time residents of Remington, Virginia, both aging as expected, were standing at the bottom of the old Piney Ridge schoolyard staring at the ground. A pile of fresh dug dirt was about 10 feet behind Lester, as they talked Lester would walk over and look at the pile of dirt then walk back and survey the ground again. “It’s got to be here, it just has to”. Parlo walked over and patted Lester on the back, “Look, we know its here, we just haven’t figured out where. Now, you know the story, you’ve heard it a thousand times. It all started way back in the early 1900s when Julius Rosenwald realizing that Negroes weren’t being given a fair shot at getting a good education, collaborated with Booker T. Washington and Tuskegee Institute to build schools for Negroes throughout the south, everybody knows that. This was a shared funding program, Rosenwald’s philanthropic fund provided half of the moneys to construct the schools and teachers homes where needed, the labor and the rest of the funding came from the black community and in some cases the local school board”.

– “OK, OK, move along, you sound like you’re reading from a book or something!”, Lester was getting anxious. “Any self respecting American with one of those schools in their county would already know the history of how those schools came about. Don’t let you tell it, it’ll come out all screwed up. Now get to the good part.”

Parlo continued, “Well we already know that part but, as the legend goes, turns out for some reason old Julius Rosenwald, himself, took a special interest in the Piney Ridge school, the one that was being built in Remington. In 1925, when construction was just getting started on land donated by the Davis family, word got around that Mr. Julius was planning to make a surprise visit to the construction site, just to see how things were going. No one knew when, or even if he’d actually be there so people just started hanging around the property during the day, they wanted to get a glimpse of the man building colored folks schools all over the south. This guy was president of Sears and Roebuck, the same guy they ordered clothes from in the catalog, he was coming to Remington!

Except one fella had heard that Rosenwald was known to show up at all hours of the day or night, even when nobody was there. So what he did was camp out down across the road on what later became “The Government Place”, now known far and wide for spying on foreign embassies and such. Fleabite Gaskins has been dead for 50 years but they say he claimed that one night while he was sleeping in that field, he heard a car drive up. He swore that right at the stroke of midnight he saw a white man get out of the car carrying a shovel and a vase or a urn or something. This man walked directly over to the southwest corner of the building, stood right at the cornerstone. He placed his back against the building so he was facing due west. He stood there in the pitch black for a minute, then started walking straight ahead counting as he went. “One”, “two”, “three” and on and on. When the man got to about eight he went out of sight behind a big oak tree. Fleabite was afraid to move for fear that the man would hear him so he kept still and just listened… “Nine… ten… eleven… twelve”. He stopped at twelve, the next thing he knew, Fleabite saw the man’s gray suit coat come flying out from behind the tree and hit the ground and then he heard what sounded like digging. That white man was digging in the school yard, I mean he was going at it. He must a dug deep because he kept at it for a good 30 minutes or more, until Fleabite heard what sounded like the man struggling to climb out of the hole he’d dug. He heard the man filling in the hole, that took a while too. When that was done he came back in view all sweaty and dirty carrying nothing but the shovel. Sweat gleaming in the moonlight, he was so wet. The man got back in his car and left. Fleabite crawled out from under his covers, went over to where he thought the man had been digging but couldn’t see any sign of where the ground had been disturbed, no sign at all. It was like the man had never been there. And that’s it, that’s the story of how the legend got started. Nobody has been able to find any treasure or any sign of a hole since.”

“Somewhere in this school yard is buried treasure, waiting to be discovered. All anybody has to do to get it is figure out where it is by using the information we already know. They say that some students at Liberty High School in that Bealeton, Virginia made a video of how Piney Ridge school came to be and if you watch that video carefully it shows you exactly where that treasure is. It shows exactly where to find it, all you have to do is watch it, study it, they say.”

Parlo got down on his haunches and started doodling in the dirt as he spoke, “We know he did go 12 paces west, taking about 3 foot strides, according to Fleabite Jenkins or was it Gaskins? We also know that, because of the dimensions of the tree shown in the video, he would have come out on the other side of the oak tree and back into Fleabite’s line of site. So that means we know he didn’t keep walking straight the entire time. He must have turned either north or south somewhere between steps 8 and 12. I say he turned at ten, then took two more steps in a different direction. Ten plus two more, if that’s right Lester, ten plus two more if that’s it. Quick! I got it! Fill all that dirt back in, we should start digging right there!”

Chapter Two: The Treasure Revealed

“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.” (Poor Lester obviously had a short attention span).

“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 Waller, 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

Posted in School Life, Some Fiction / Most Fact | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

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!”

Posted in Country Living | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Try Your Best to Stay Alive!


In the day
Police traffic stop, be ready. Photo courtesy of http://www.jamesdavisdefense.com

First, let me preface this tutorial by informing you that I am, by no means, an expert in survival, legal matters or in law enforcement. I’ve simply been around longer than most people and can impart things that you can do that may help get you to stick around longer too.

Recent events have made it blatantly clear that something has gone wrong in America. Maybe things haven’t gone wrong, perhaps they’ve always been wrong and the things we thought had been addressed and corrected were never really and not even nearly resolved.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that he’d been to the mountain top, looked over and had seen the promised land. Many thought that when a black man became president of the United States, this was a good indication that we’d also reached that same plateau, but no. Every time it seems we reach the top of the mountain and look over, all we ever find is another hill to climb.
Let us hope that this primer can make the trek up the latest hill we see before us, just a little less difficult to scale.

Here are a few things we can do if we look in our rear view mirror and see flashing lights approaching……

1). Pull over immediately. If you can’t pull over immediately because of safety concerns or road obstructions, reduce your speed to a crawl anyway. Use hand signals to let the officer know that you are going to pull over further ahead, then slowly proceed to a safe place to park or curb your vehicle.

2). Stay in your vehicle, don’t run (do not run!) or make any sudden moves as the officer approaches.

3). Keep both hands on the steering wheel.

4). Be especially polite in addressing the officer, smile a lot. Try to find an opening to lighten the mood

5). Don’t ask why you are being pulled over. Let the officer tell you why you are being stopped or let him ask you why you THINK you are being stopped.

This part is important

6). If you know why you were pulled over, say so. Admit that you are aware of whatever the infraction is, honesty might just get you off with a warning. Use phrases like, “Yes officer, I noticed my tail light was out this morning and was just on my way to Wal-Mart to have it replaced”
(But only say that if you aren’t driving in the opposite direction of the nearest Wal-Mart).

7). If you don’t know why you are being pulled over, let the officer know that you are unaware of what the problem is. Do not admit guilt to anything that could get you arrested and especially if you are being arrested, I’m not a lawyer and am not trying to provide you with legal advice, but you’ve watched enough cop shows on TV to know this.

8). Be especially polite in addressing the officer, smile (See #4). Studies show that you are somewhat less likely to be killed at a traffic stop if you don’t give anyone any reason, whatsoever, to kill you.

9).Try to form a bond with the officer as quickly as possible. Studies show that you are more likely to survive a traffic stop if you have had a chance to form a bond with the official standing next to your vehicle. Say little things like, “Nice day isn’t it officer”, “I’m trying to get home to my kids/ grandkids/ family and may have lost track of how fast I was going”. Here’s a few I’ve used over the years that emits harmlessness and creates a bond between you and the officer at hand, “Man, I really like the new cruisers you state troopers /county deputies/ town police are driving this year”, “This state has the best looking uniforms, man I’m glad I don’t live in New Jersey” (Sorry New Jersey, your state trooper uniforms and cruisers are terrible).

10). Don’t argue with the police (this is a tough one and one I’ve not always been able to adhere to). Again, do not argue with the police, be polite, if you can’t smile, always be polite, practice saying things like “sir”, “ma’am”, “officer”, “I’m terribly sorry I wasn’t…(fill in the blank)”, be polite.

11). Don’t run, stay in your car until told to exit. Don’t move yourself or your hands toward the officer or his weapons.

12). I admit that I might have a problem with this one, but if he says “Sir, I’m going to have to cuff you for my own protection” (and even though I see no reason why it would need to be done in a routine traffic stop), comply with the officer. Follow all instructions and commands, be submissive (I can’t believe I’m writing this). Do everything you are instructed to do. It’s not always evident, but the way it’s supposed to work is the good guys are the ones with the badges.

If you follow these simple guidelines, you just may live to see another day. Stay safe out there.

This blog post is designed for general information only. The information presented should not be construed to be formal legal advice of any kind, good luck!

Posted in Life in America Today | Tagged , , | 8 Comments