Historic Schools of Fauquier County, Virginia


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

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

Watching
Warrenton Training Center (aka Rosenwald).

Rosenwald Schools (may also be listed above as historic)

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

Watching
Catlett School.

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

Blackwelltown School – AP US History Project

Routt’s Hill School – AP US History Project

Piney Ridge School – AP US History Project

Sources:

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

The Association

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

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

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


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

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

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

Hard To Find


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Providence

I was baptized in the Rappahannock River in the summer of 1961. My older siblings, I and quite a few of our friends from the ridge had turned our lives over to Christ at Providence Baptist Church in Remington, Virginia, only a few weeks earlier. I wasn’t even ten years old at the time and was quite reluctant about going up when the altar call was made during homecoming revival. I’ve told the much exaggerated story, once or twice, that I was so scared when my brother and sister tried to talk me into walking up to the altar with them, that to help me make up my mind, one of them pinched me so hard I jumped up out of my seat and when I landed I found myself at the pulpit standing directly in front of Rev. Tyler. But no matter how I arrived there, I couldn’t turn around then, not with the matriarch of the church, Miss Chaney, sitting right there in the aisle seat of the second row staring at me. I remember Deacon Earl Moore taking me aside and giving me a good talking to. Satisfied by my answers to his question if I was ready to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior, he turned to the pastor and nodded his head. And the rest, as they say, is history.


River baptism
“Shall we gather at the river, the beautiful, beautiful river…”

The Homecoming anniversary at Providence was always one of my favorite memories. Only we didn’t call it homecoming when we spoke of it among ourselves, we always called it “Third Sunday in August”. Much of our entire church year revolved around the events and activities related to the third Sunday in August. Who was going to speak? Who was going to sing? And most importantly, what foods were going to be served between the morning and the evening services and who was responsible for preparing which dishes. Back then we didn’t have a dining room, so they improvised. There were four or five large oak trees that stood on the pastor’s study side of the church. Someone came up with the bright idea to use those trees as the serving area whenever meals were served.


Homecoming
Our church yard filled like this one during homecoming in August.

Long boards were constructed and used as tables, and those tables connected all the trees into a square. The ladies of the church, or Ladies Auxiliary, worked inside of the squared circle of trees preparing and serving the meals while church members and visitors lined up on the outside of the circle, waiting to be served a delicious meal. Those meals always included the best fried chicken and potato salad, arguably on the east coast. Once served it was every man for himself when it came to finding a prime location to sit and enjoy your meal. Visitors had the luxury, or disdain of sitting in their cars, their hot cars. While members usually took time to go home and change clothes for evening service or freshen up before returning to eat.

The ladies of the church spent hours preparing chicken, ham, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, desserts and much more. While the morning service was in full swing, the women would work feverishly setting up for dinner. The dinner was a precursor to the afternoon service, when a prominent guess speaker and choir, that had been advertised as coming for weeks in advance, would offer old timey gospel songs and a heart throbbing, fire and brimstone message that was sure to be talked about for weeks to come. Every one of those ladies were great cooks in their own rite, some famous for their potato salad, others for their fried chicken, others for their dessert. Of course, I thought my mother’s fried chicken and potato salad was the best on the planet (then and now). And I wouldn’t want to slight anyone by naming names, or by not naming names. BUT, one of my favorite memories is the combination of punch and vanilla wafers provided by Mrs. Ada Hardnett. She brought them to both church and school functions. I would go so far as to brave PTA meetings if I knew that her cookies and punch were going to be served. I’ve tried, but so far I’ve been unable to duplicate that childhood delicacy.
Many of our lives revolved around Providence back then, I spent many a Wednesday nights entertaining myself on a back row pew while the church elders conducted church meetings and many a morning in Vacation Bible School during Summer break. Yes, those were the days. I haven’t been back to the church of my childhood in a while, but I know that Providence Baptist is still going strong, still gathering at the river and still celebrating third Sunday in August just as fervently as we did way back in the day.

Le Plume Est Sur La Table

When we were growing up our mother told us how, in high school she’d learned to speak French. One of us asked her to say something in French, “Le Plume Est Sur La Table, that means ‘The pen is on the table'”. We repeated, “Lay Ploom se sir la tah-blu. Say something else mama!”, we begged, “Say something else!”…
“Ouvrir la porte, that’s open the door”, my mother smiled and said.
– “Oo-vray la port”, we said in unison. As far as we were concerned, we knew how to speak French.


Liberty Park
Naval Air Station Norfolk, VA. (Photo Courtesy Virginian-Pilot).

Years later, as I walked across the parking lot leaving to go to work one morning, those french lessons came back to me. I was about to put the key in the door of my ’65 Mustang when it hit me, “Ouvrir la porte” and just as I was about to open the door, I glanced inside the car. There, in the backseat, lay Ferdanand Beadman sound asleep. How was he getting into my car? This was the third morning in a row I’d come out to go to work and found him fast asleep in the back seat, how was he getting in without breaking the lock? The bigger question was WHY was he breaking in in the first place? His sister lived not more than 5 miles from where we were. Which led to an even bigger question, how was he getting to where we were? We were in the parking lot of the Bachelor Enlisted Quarters (B.E.Q.) at the Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Virginia! How was he getting on base everyday? Granted, security was nothing like it is now, but I would think it wouldn’t be that easy to either climb the eight foot fence or find a stranger that would let him ride through the gate with them. But there he was snoring away in the back seat. I didn’t call base security, I simply got in the car and drove off base. I stopped along the road, woke him up and made him get out. I told him that I was going to contact base security to keep an eye on my car and for him to catch a ride to his sister’s house. I never saw him again after that and assumed I’d have no more surprises for a while.
The theory of having no more surprises was shattered around 1630 that afternoon when I arrived back at my room in the enlisted quarters. For some reason NCIS or base security got it into their heads to bring the drug sniffing dogs to the living quarters that day. Of course, I knew I had nothing to fear, until I remembered that I had a roommate, a roommate who liked to have pot parties in the BARRACKS and who’d had one just last night. Whenever he and his buddies started lighting up I would make myself scarce. So now here I was standing in the middle of his roach clips, bongs, rolling papers and residue in front of a security officer and his dog.

“Is this your paraphernalia?”, he asked. I quickly let out, “Heck no, it’s not mine, I don’t do drugs”. The officer looked at me in disbelief, “Your roommate says its yours, he said its all yours!”. Why that dirty dog! I’ll fix him, I thought to myself. My roommate was from West Virginia, he liked to hunt and he liked guns, he liked guns a lot. And for some unknown reason he thought it was a good idea to bring all of his guns with him from home. Not only had he brought his entire arsenal with him, but that arsenal was right here in the room with us. He’d put his entire gun collection in the overhead (that’s the ceiling for you civilians). The guns were above the ceiling tiles, there was at least one gun lying on top of each tile in that room and I was about to rat him out for lying that this left behind mess belonged to me. I was just about to narc on him when I remembered, “Hey wait a minute, you couldn’t have talked to him, he left for home this morning, he hasn’t been here all day!” That old trick of turning one suspect against the other had almost worked on me. “Nope, he didn’t tell you nothing”, I said.
“Maybe not”, he said, apparently they weren’t done yet, “but the dog hit this locker. This IS your locker, isn’t it? It has your name on it”. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a plastic baggy, “We found this in a shirt in your locker”. He felt around in the baggy and pulled out a tiny lint ball. He took the lint and began unraveling it, inside was a seed. “Know what this is? We do, and to make sure we’ll be sending it to the lab. We found it in that shirt”, he pointed to a shirt I’d just bought last week. It was a shirt my friend Filly was wearing when I went home to Remington the prior weekend. I saw it and liked it so much I offered to buy it from him right then and there. He agreed to sell it to me for $12. Up until that day, I had not yet had a chance to wash it and / or wear it. The officer handed me a piece of paper, it was a summons to appear at Captain’s Mast two weeks from that day. Captain’s Mast is like civilian criminal court, with the same consequences and worst. I’d never been in this type of trouble before and all I could think of was that I only had to weeks to clear my name before I’d be standing in front of the captain.


Walking the plank
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at Captain’s Mast.

On the morning of Captain’s Mast I arrived at base headquarters not exactly sure what to expect. I was led in to see the Executive Officer (The X.O. is the second in command after the base captain). He was standing behind a desk that was just outside of where mast was being held. He instructed me on what to say and do when I went in to see the captain. “…but before we go in, do you have any evidence, witnesses or testimony you wish to present that could clear you of these charges?”, he asked.
“Yes sir, I just want to tell you that I have never worn that shirt before and that I bought it from a friend of mine only a week before it was found in my locker”, my voice was shaky.
“Is your friend willing to attest to this? Do you know how to contact him?”, he was beginning to seem not so bad after all.
“Yes sir, here’s his phone number. Actually this is his grandmother’s phone number, he doesn’t have a phone.”
The X.O. took the number, dialed it and asked the person on the other end if he could speak to Filly Pevvish. I knew who was on the other end and I knew they would have to run down the hill, get Filly… anyway, there was about a 5 minute pause before Filly picked up the receiver and answered. This is the actual one-sided phone conversation I heard:
“Is this Filly Pevvish? It is? O.K. fine then. Hello Mr. Pevvish, this is Commander Oxnard, I’m the Executive Officer here at N.A.S. Norfolk. I am standing here with someone who says you know him. He is currently charged with possession of a controlled substance. That substance was found in the pocket of a shirt we found in his locker. He further states that he bought the shirt from you… (pause). Oh, he did? Mr. Pevvish, did you know that there was marijuana in the pocket of that shirt when you owned it? (pause) Oh? Well, thank you Mr. Pevvish, and thank you for your help in this matter”.
The X.O. hung up the phone looking a bit dejected, “Mr. Pevvish said ‘yes he knew he had marijuana in his shirt pocket, he always has marijuana in his shirt pockets, he said he keeps it there all the time. I guess that takes care of that, I have no choice but to dismiss the case. You won’t have to see the captain after all”. I was very thankful that Filly had admitted the that shirt and it’s contents belonged to him. He was a civilian and the Navy couldn’t touch him. And what made it perfect was that everything he’d said was true.

With that, the X.O. took out a document, handed me a pen and had me sign that I understood that the case was being dismissed. He took the pen and said “The irony is, this is the same pen they used when they charged you”. He chuckled to himself, laid the pen on the table and turned to put the documents back in the file cabinet. I looked at the pen, then at the X.O., then back at the pen. Hmm, “le plume est sur la table”, I thought to myself… what an unbelievable last couple of weeks this has been. Yep, I need to write this all down while it’s still fresh in my mind. I grabbed the pen from the table, rushed back to my room and used it to write this story.

Norfolk State College: The Ping Pong Man

“We gon’ kick yo ass, Mister Ping Pong Man. You done done it now, yo ass is grass!”.
– “Yeah, let’s get him”. Stagalee was about to leave the Grandy Park Recreation Center not sure exactly what he should do. It was time for him to go home for the day, but the Liberty Park boys were gathered just to his left, they were standing in the street staring him down. To his right were the Grandy Park girls, these 15 to 18 year old girls were just as notorious as their male counterparts. They, too, stood in the middle of the street. The girls were all dressed in what could best be described as the group uniform, Chuck Taylor all star sneakers, white knee-high socks, miniskirts and either a jean jacket or a mink coat. The minks were of various lengths. Each of the girls sported a switch blade knife which they menacingly flicked opened and closed, as they stared at Stagalee, waiting for him to leave the safety of the rec center.


Liberty Park
The Liberty Park neighborhood of Norfolk, VA. (Photo @1964 Courtesy of the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority).

The year was 1971, VA-44 (I-264) was still under construction. The Norfolk Scope arena had not long been completed. Dr. J. was a Virginia Squire for the American Basketball Association. Norfolk’s urban renewal was in full swing and Stagalee was there fresh out of Remington, Virginia. This was only Stag’s second day on the job. He had been assigned to the Grandy Park area in order to fulfill his work/ study program obligation at Norfolk State. Through the program, Stagalee received a $500 check for school tuition and a $20 a week salary. Begging for food in the Student Union building was never again an issue after this program began in the second semester of his freshman year. Grandy Park, as it was known, wasn’t that bad of an area. There were some nice homes there, it appeared to be a very nice neighborhood. The problem with Grandy Park was its close proximity to Liberty Park. Liberty Park was, well, it was the projects. Liberty Park was one of the first federal housing projects in the country. It was constructed to be “a defense housing project for 800 Negro families… developed by the Federal Public Housing Authority of the National Housing Agency”. By most accounts, the neighborhood began to deteriorate from the moment construction was completed. Students at Norfolk State were warned to stay away from that area, they were told that gangs roamed the streets and that no one was safe. Stagalee was being confronted by two of those gangs right now, one male and one female. He decided to take his chances and turned in the direction of home and started walking down the street, in the direction of the girls. The Liberty Park boys began following, the girls encircled Stag, tossing out profanity laced threats all the while. One of the girls turned to the boys, who were about 20 paces behind and yelled, “We got this, we don’t need ya’ll to handle him!”. The boys stopped and turned back up the street.


Mr. Ping Pong Man
A likeness of Mr. Ping Pong Man demonstrating his abilities on the table. Photo courtesy of Tumblr.com

Just yesterday he’d been treated like a celebrity. When he arrived at the rec center for his first day of work one of he kids asked him if he knew how to play table tennis. Of course he did. Stagalee spent almost every waking hour in the ping pong room at the student union building on campus. His prowess on the table was well known among those who frequented the basement of that building, which housed a room for ping pong, the chess room, where the chess club met, the restaurant / greasy spoon and several other rooms that were of no importance to Stag.

Stag had been listed as the best player on campus for a full week, the title was a difficult one to achieve and an even harder one to hang on to.

Stagalee took ‘next’ on the ping pong table at the rec center and never relinquished his spot the entire night. That’s when the kids began calling him “Mr. Ping Pong Man” and bringing in their friends from the street to watch him play. He was a big hit at the center. But that was yesterday.
This day he was assigned by the center’s director to referee a basketball game between the rival teams of Liberty Park and Grandy Park. That news meant that any calls made against Liberty Park could be his undoing. But he had no choice. “Twe-e-e-e-e-e-t!”, Stagalee blew his whistle in the final seconds of the fourth period. “Foul! Number 43 Blue!”. The call was against the team from Liberty Park, the fifth one of the night on that particular player. The rules stated that the player had to be ejected from the game for fouling too many times. The threats had already been coming since the first foul in the game, but kicking out their best player and causing them to lose the game? Well, that brought on even more taunts and warnings of impending violence toward Stag.
Today and every day after, he was escorted out of the neighborhood by the same group of girls. The threats flowed, the switch blades flicked, the girls were always waiting outside to walk him to the end of the block and the fence that separated Grandy Park’s Kimball Terrace from Brambleton Avenue. Stagalee noted to himself that the girls, nor the boys for that matter, seemed to ever venture beyond the fence. Stag would slide through the fence opening and onto Brambleton then walk the remaining two blocks to the house where he and his room mates stayed on Willoughby. But he could not figure out why those girls seemed to respect an invisible force field that held them inside their neighborhood. Being a college freshman meant that Stagalee was no more than a year or two older than these girls. But they may as well have been decades and worlds apart. As they walked, between taunts, Stagalee tried to relate to them by discussing their aspirations. He tried to get the girls to see beyond the now, beyond the fence. After a while the girls talked about life after high school and Norfolk, even considered the possibility that they might one day attend Norfolk State College (now N.S.U.).


Mad dog
As Stagalee walked down the street he noticed a dog chasing a little girl around a street light. Photo courtesy of TheWeek.com

After about a month of working at the center, Stag was walking through the neighborhood on his way to work when he heard screams coming from down the block. He looked up and saw a large dog chasing a little girl round and round a street light. Stag immediately began running toward them, yelling at the dog, trying to get its attention. The dog didn’t notice Stagalee approaching the little girl did and ran directly toward him with the dog snapping at her heels. Stagalee picked the little girl up and put her down behind him. The dog approached at full speed and jumped on Stag’s chest. The dog began excitedly licking Stag’s face. He hadn’t been trying to bite the child, he only wanted someone to play with. But this was a huge dog, and the little girl was terrified

At the same time Stag was petting the dog and trying to get it off of him, the little girl had run into a pool hall behind them screaming about the dog. The occupants of the establishment rushed out into the street to see what was causing the commotion, pool sticks in hand. Just as Stag got the dog under control, the men came at Stag, clutching the girl in a protective fashion.
– “Is that your dog?”
– Hey you! IS THAT YOUR DOG!?!” another person asked.
“No, that’s not my dog, I’ve never seen this dog before today”, Stag replied anxiously.
– “If you want to live to see tomorrow , you better take your dog and get the hell outta here!’, they were moving in toward Stag, ready to pounce
Then Stag heard a girl yell out from down the street, “Wait! He didn’t do nothing, he pulled the dog off the girl, we saw the whole thing!”
It was the Grandy Park girls, they’d witnessed the entire episode from several blocks away and were running toward what was now a throng of people ready to attack Stag for what they presumed had happened.
“That’s the Ping Pong Man” (they never bothered to learn my name, Stagalee thought himself, they don’t even know my real name).
“He works at the recreation center, he’s OK.”, they said, “We know him, he saved that little girl from the dog, ya’ll should be thanking him”.
The group of people took a collective step back and just as they had done so many times in the past, the girls surrounded him, but this time to protect him, maybe that’s why they’d been escorting him all along, for his own protection. The girls continued to walk Stag to the rec center each day after that and were waiting for him from then on to escort him out of the neighborhood, even though it was no longer necessary. They spent that time talking about what the future might bring, the switch blade knives never came out again.
And from that time forward, Stagalee was treated with respect and admiration in the neighborhood. Not only did the kids look upon him as somewhat of a hero, but the adults treated him as a respected member of the community as well.
= “There goes the Ping Pong Man!”, they’d say.
– “Hi Ping Pong Man” or “‘Bye, Mr. Ping Pong Man. C’Ya tomorrow!”.

Mr. Ping Pong Man, the boy from the sticks of Faquier County had found a home away from home in the projects.

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