Storer College Alumni pictures in the background, in modern day, with the storer college logo, and t


Storer Stories

Harpers Ferry

Hear from students at one of the nation’s first schools for African Americans, Storer College in Harpers Ferry (1867-1955). Storer alumni share stories of challenging teachers, freezing dorms, and young love as they recount campus life in segregated-small-town West Virginia in the 1940s-50s. Elaine Eff, Former Director, Cultural Conservation Program, Maryland Historical Trust, introduces each interviewee and asks questions as part of the 2014 Storer College Oral History Project.


Season 1

6. Interview with Alvin Catlett by Elaine Eff


EE: Today is April 23, 2014. This is Elaine Eff, and I am at the home of Alvin Catlett, and we are going to talk about Storer College for the National Park Service archives, and we will discuss his role as the son of an alumna and also as the head of the Alumni Association and organizer of the annual Storer College reunion. So, why don't you introduce yourself and tell me a little about yourself. [00:48.00] AC: My name is Alvin Catlett [spells last name]. I am a native of Washington, DC, and my mother, Gloria Gaines was born in Staunton, Virginia, and so she migrated this way. I'm not sure exactly the year she was there. She was there for two years before the school closed. So, Mama used to drag all of her children to her annual reunions, and I think I've been going maybe twenty years or so. And then Mama passed, but I had grown to really love the people there, and I had decided that, although Mama was gone, I would continue to come. EE: Stop [claps hands]. [00:01:48.01] AC: So, that's my involvement with them, and then I became president because the last president, Mary Harris, was stepping down, and I wanted to see the Alumni Association as well as the annual reunion continue. So, I said I was willing to become president. I had the support of many of the alumnae. EE: Tell me when you were born, your birthdate, and then also when your mother was born, if you know. [00:02:20.24] AC: Yes. I was born May 1, 1952. My mother was born March 25, 1928. And, again, she was from Staunton, Virginia. So, we've been around a while, and like I said, I started coming begrudgingly in the beginning, but in time, I really liked it, and I hated for the reunion to be over because, like with my mother, I knew that more than likely by the time we had the next reunion, there would probably be a few less members. So, it was always good. I was always coming back, but for me, it was kind of sad because I knew we all have to leave. As we've been seeing every year, any number of folks have been leaving us, and some were very strong supporters of the Alumni Association and the reunion. EE: Why don't you tell me about the reunion? Like you started going as a youngster with your mother, I assume. AC: Yes. EE: So, why don't you tell me about your early memories of going with her? [00:03:46.05]AC: Oh, it was always a grand event. Mama had this thing. She was always trying to be the one who had the most number of family or friends who would attend with her. I think in her best years, she had maybe thirty, thirty-five people come with her, including her five children. And I remember having a real nice time. We would start out on Friday afternoon and get up there, and then we would go to the track where they have the buffet, but it was always fun. We always had a lot of fun, and then on Saturday, there was the picnic, and then later on, the dinner and dance. And back in those days, we had live entertainment, and it was really, really nice. I definitely enjoyed the choir. I call myself a singer. I sing with the church that I belong, but I always enjoyed them because they were very strong, and they were good. They were really, really good. And then I had an opportunity to join the choir some years later, in fact, when my mother was still here. I joined the choir. EE: What choir is that? [00:05:23.21]AC: It's just a Storer reunion choir. For lack of better terms, it was just a reunion choir. What we were doing when Mrs. Harris was the president, we would meet at her house—many of us would meet at her house, locally, meet at her house, and we would rehearse the music, and then later on, we would just get up there, meaning Harpers Ferry, and we would rehearse Saturday afternoon after the picnic and before the dinner dance, we would rehearse for Sunday morning, and we still do that now. And it's always good. I've always enjoyed it. EE: So, tell me where you remember all of these events taking place, like geographically. You mentioned the racetrack. [00:06:17.25]AC: The racetrack is in Charles Town, which is a couple of miles up from where we were actually staying, where we still stay now in Harpers Ferry. The picnic, that's in Harpers Ferry. In fact, it's on the campus where Storer College was, and the dinner dance is at the hotel. It used to be called Cliffside Inn, I believe, and now it's the Quality Inn. So, everything is local, meaning either in Charles Town or Harpers Ferry, and we've tried over the years to see if we were willing or wanted to do something away from those places, and in time, no. It wasn't doable. We just couldn't do it, and we enjoyed—at least I'd say most of us, we still enjoy doing what we do when we go up there. EE: So, tell me what Storer College meant to your mother. What stories did your mother tell about that you recall? [00:07:33.29]AC: Oh, my mother. My mother told us about how difficult it was for her to get there in the beginning because she didn't have a lot of money. And, in fact, that's the reason why she left because she ran out of money. But Mama, although she didn't finish at Storer, that was the beginning or the starting point because she then came to Washington, DC and she went to now closed DC Teachers College where she got her undergraduate, and then she went on to Catholic University to get her—she got three master’s, I believe, all centered around education of some sort. Mama stressed education with her five children—education, education, education. Now, it didn't necessarily mean that she was going to fund it because she made it perfectly clear, “I don't have the money, but education is important. Education is important.” [00:08:39.08] So, I guess that's where it all started with Storer College. I tried to show my children the same thing, and I'm proud to say that a number of them have gone on—in fact, all of my children have college degrees, and my daughter has gotten her master's. So, she's kind of following in my steps. I've got two master's. But I am proud of them, and I'm going to give the credit to my mama. That's all I'm going to say about that. EE: Now, she's from Staunton, Virginia. AC: That is correct. EE: And she went to Storer College in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. AC: Yes. EE: Did she ever talk about why she picked Storer College or how she found it? [00:09:30.21]AC: I wish I could tell you. Somebody knew something to tell her because her grandmother and grandfather actually raised her. Somebody said something to her and them for her to come to Storer College, and back in the forties, it was tough getting into school anyway, and since Storer College was around, it was known by a lot of people about Storer College, believe it or not, for us, for blacks. So, that’s when, exactly how it happened, I don't know, but I don't think it was Mama's whole idea by herself. EE: Do you know if she had any other family members who went to the college? AC: No. To my knowledge, no others, no. In fact, I know there were no other family members that went to Storer. EE: I wonder how she felt about—why Storer held such an important place in her heart. I'm wondering did she have a similar relationship with DC Teachers College, which I think that became UDC? [00:10:40.14]AC: Yes, it did become UDC, right. Mama always talked about Storer College after attending, and she made it known, and if you didn't remember her talking about Storer College, you would definitely remember her talking about the reunion because the reunion, “Get ready for the reunion. Get ready for the reunion.” She would usually start in, I guess, March, April, to remind us about the reunion and getting the money in. Well, in the beginning, she was paying for all of us, most of us anyway. But then later on, it was like, “Okay, the reunion, are you going to be able to make it? Why can't you make it? You know it's important to me.” [00:11:29.28] So, Mama pushed Storer. Mama did have a lot of good stories about Storer, and, unfortunately, she has some bad ones, too. Some of her instructors were pretty tough on her, but I think it truly made her a stronger individual, the way she turned out to be. Mama was pretty strong in the end for a little short lady who was five feet tall. I think until I was about thirty, she just seemed like a giant in stature, but she carried herself well, and if you met Gloria Gainesor, Gloria Catlett, once she married, you would not forget her. EE: What did she look like besides being short? Can you describe her kind of energy? [00:12:27.28]AC: Oh, Mama had a lot of energy. Mama was short, small to medium size, but you would know when she's in a room, not because she was just really loud, but she kind of drew attention to herself. Mama was the kind of person that, when she went anywhere, she would either know someone and, more than likely, have a few more friends by the time she left. She was just that kind of individual. She didn't care if she knew no one wherever she went. By the time she left, she was going to have some names and addresses. That's just how she was. And when she passed, she had many address books filled with names and names and names and names and telephone numbers and addresses also, but she was the kind of person that it would really be difficult to not like her. Now, you may not necessarily like everything she said because Mama was one who, to a large extent, did not bite her tongue. If there was something that was bothersome to her, she would let you know. She wouldn't necessarily tell the world, but she would let you know. So, she was my role model. EE: And when did she pass? [00:13:55.09]AC: Mama passed, it will be ten years—it was ten years April 9th, I believe, because we buried her on April15th, and for me, that's important as a tax practitioner. So, we buried her on the fifteenth ten years ago. EE: Was your mom involved in any way in the reunion planning or in any aspect of the reunion? [00:14:34.02]AC: What I remember was that Mama would come to the meetings that they had to plan for Storer, the reunion. Outside of that, I have absolutely no idea. She didn't tell me, but I knew that she was coming up—we had meetings in May and October every year, and I know Mama was coming out. I came with her maybe once or twice, but for me, I was too busy. You know, the usual kind of crap people come up with. But she definitely was coming to the meetings, the reunion meetings. One was to get us on board with planning, and the other was, “Okay, this is what happened, and so now let's just get started on the next one.” I know she was coming to both of those. EE: What year did you become involved in the planning? [00:15:31.07]AC: Planning? Oh, that's a tough question. Mama was gone. Mama was gone by the time I actually got involved because they told me about the—the year that she passed, I came to the reunion. I remember announcing at the dinner dance that I had decided—the dinner dance and the Sunday service, that I decided that I was going to continue what she had left, and that is to continue supporting the reunion and the Alumni Association. So, probably within that year because that same year, we had the meeting in October, and I attended that meeting, and Mrs. Harris was still in office then, and I started to get more involved with the reunion and the Alumni Association. So, that's ten years ago. EE: And so you were elected the president. So, why don't you tell me when and how that you became president in such a short time. [00:17:00.29]AC: I think this is my fourth or— EE: Tell us when you became president. [00:17:14.13]AC: I became president, it will be four years this October, and what had happened, Mrs. Harris had been saying for a couple of years at least that she was going to step down. She was really getting tired, and I believe her husband at the time was also ill. So, she needed to spend more time with him, and there were a number of alumnae who indicated that they thought I might be a good president, and I was reluctant. I didn't want to hear that because I believe, “Let someone else lead, and I will do something to follow.” You know, to follow, to help out, but then in time, she was stepping down. They needed a president. Most of the officers were gone as well. Either they had left the organization, or that they had passed on. And we were at a meeting and they said, “We need a president now.” Period. Mrs. Harris had already stepped down. They needed a president. And so I said that I would, and for all intents and purposes, I ran unopposed, and I was voted in and accepted as the new Alumni Association president. [00:18:49.04] We didn't have many officers, even after I stepped in. And then I think a year or two later, the treasurer stepped down, and my wife became, Isabel became, not became, she was voted in as treasurer probably because she's like I am. We both are accountants, and they figured, “Okay. She's an accountant. So that would be the way we would go.”[00:19:13.22] So, that's how I got in, and it's been a challenge to keep things going mostly because the membership is dying. I mean, that's the bottom line. The membership is dying, and so it's tough, and to get younger folks involved. And younger folks could be either descendants or friends. They don't have to be bloodline. So, we're pushing as much as we can to try to keep this thing going. It's amazing that there are people who have heard of Storer College and people who haven't heard of Storer College. We just keep trying to—we're trying to keep things out there. We're trying to keep that exposure out there. EE: Let me ask you a question. What is the relationship between the Alumni Association and the National Park Service? [00:20:17.14]AC: The relationship. Oh, this is interesting. The National Park Service and Harpers Ferry, part of the National Park Service and Harpers Ferry is Storer College. They actually—don't ask me how they got it—but where we meet, where we have our dinner dance, where we have our picnic is now National Park Service land. EE: And where is that? AC: That's in Harpers Ferry. EE: Which buildings? Which area? [00:20:57.28]AC: Well, it's their administration building in Harpers Ferry. The church that we attend is still there, and it was there when they were matriculating, I guess the word. So, that's still there. Where we have our picnic, it's another building that's part of their administrative buildings there. So, the National Park Service is—in Harpers Ferry, a lot of the National Park Service is Storer College. There's another side where there's the park, but we're not there. So, I know that the National Park Service uses their building to, for a fee, because there are groups that meet there. So, we are still alive because I know they've named one of their rooms, Storer College, and they've got a lot of artifacts and things there in the building. EE: Are any of them your mother's? Would any of them come from your family? [00:22:25.02]AC: I don't think so. We've got some pictures that are there, and I believe Mama is in a couple of them, but that may be long after Storer College officially closed, and they kept pictures. They kept some of the pictures from the reunion EE: Does the Alumni Association have anything to do with the Storer room in Mather Hall, formerly Anthony Hall? [00:22:57.09]AC: Does it have anything to do with it? I would say we—that's interesting, and the reason why I say that is because when Mama was still here, I know that they created that room. So, I'm not sure how much—I believe they had some—they would have had to have some input into the Storer College room, but how much, I really couldn't tell you, and that was before I really got involved with the Alumni Association, but I'm sure that Mrs. Harris—I think she was there for maybe fifteen years, I believe, as president. So, they were doing things long before I got involved. EE: Tell me how old you were when you first went to your first reunion. Do you remember? And your brothers and sisters? [00:23:52.00]AC: Oh, lord. I had to be thirty-four, thirty-five. I'm thinking about my youngest children, and when I first took them up there, I think they were six. And so we're talking about 1981. So, '87, '81-'87, yeah. I think they were six or seven. So, we're talking a number of years that I've been going. During that time, I might have missed maybe one or two years reunion, not many, and most of it—one I know had to do with my job at the time with the telephone company. I had to do strike duty in West Virginia. Not West Virginia, sorry. Richmond, Virginia. So, I couldn't go that year. But I might have missed three years out of that entire time EE: Can you describe kind of the events of the reunion? When it happened and how your Alumni Weekend unfolds, how people get together? [00:25:10.22]AC: Okay. What we do is we try to come up around midday Friday, and those to register, pick up their packets, that's Friday afternoon. Then at six thirty, seven o'clock, for those, we have the buffet dinner at Charles Town Racetrack. They actually have—Charles Town actually has a race, usually somewhere between the third and fifth race, named after Storer College. And so there's a section up there, and it could be as many as fifty, sixty seats, cordoned off just for us, and we go up there, and we have a meal. There's a lot of interaction, and sometimes people will—some of us will stay to go and gamble. Most of us don't. We don't want to lose our money. So, we end up leaving. But we have a chance to speak to a lot of people and see faces. So, that's really the first event that takes place, and that's Friday evening. [00:26:27.13] Then on Saturday, we have the first event is picnic at noon, and it runs noon to two, two thirty or so. This is on the campus, and immediately thereafter, ten to fifteen of us, maybe twenty at most, we go to the church to rehearse the music. Around seven o'clock, we have the dinner dance, and that runs up until midnight or a little thereafter. And we get quite a few individuals to attend the dinner dance on Saturday night. EE: And where do you hold that? [00:27:20.17]AC: That's at the Quality Inn. That used to be the Cliffside Inn. That is Saturday night. Then on Sunday morning, we have worship service, and it starts—I think we start at ten thirty, ten forty-five, and we're done usually by noon or a little bit thereafter, and everyone goes in a different direction. And we have people coming from near and far. I think the farthest was—we had someone come from California. Most of the folks probably East Coast, but we do get people from Pennsylvania, which is not considered East Coast. So, we get them from all over. We get them from all over, and that's usually what we do. EE: How many people generally come? [00:28:17.14]AC: Well, like the alumni, we're getting less and less each year. I would say last year, there were probably a total of maybe sixty folks. I think when I first was president, maybe we had eighty, eighty-five. So, as people pass, we lose a few folks and their descendants and friends, I guess. So, last year, somewhere between fifty and sixty. It's always good to see them. For me, it is. EE: So, what would you say the highlight is? And you didn't tell me when you hold it and why you hold it? [00:29:08.01]AC: Oh, yes. Well, I don't know why they started this, but it's always the first full weekend in August of each year, and that's when it is. In fact, I believe it's in the constitution that that's when we're going to have the reunion, that first full weekend. So, if, let's say, Saturday is the first of August, we don't hold it until the very next weekend. It's got to be the first full weekend of August of each year, and it runs from Friday afternoon until midday Sunday. EE: So, do you have any special guests or speakers? [00:29:56.15]AC: We have had—at the dinner dance, we've had individuals to come in to speak to us. We've had some skits and some other things going on. At the picnic, we've had individuals coming in to speak to us to either tell us about—some stories about Storer or even some things about Harpers Ferry. We've had the speaker, not the speaker, but the minister for Sunday has, to my knowledge, has always been a Storerite, has always been a Storerite, but we have had interested parties to come in to speak to us, even at the Sunday morning worship service. I know Dawn Burke produced a book, and she spoke, and she got some stories that I wasn't even aware of, but that's not totally unheard of. There's some stories out there that I haven't heard of. [00:31:07.19] So, we've had a number of individuals down through the years to come speak to us and share. In addition to the Storerites, we've had others outside to come and speak to us. EE: Tell me about the stories that your mother handed down to you about her experiences at Storer, like some of her classes, some of her teachers. [00:31:36.11]AC: As we get older, our memories start to fade. All I can tell you is that Mama had shared some stories about some good experiences as well as some that weren't necessarily so good. The buildings, the shape they were in, the things that they even had to go through, Harpers Ferry was tough on black folks back then. And, yes, they had their own little area, but going into town, it was tough. It was tough going into town. The teachers, many of them, if not all of them, were non-black, and they were catching heck as well. They were having some tough times, but Mama had some—in general, some favorable experiences when it came to Storer. I can't tell you that this instructor or teacher or professor said this to her or that, but I know it had to be—in the end, it had to be good because Mama pressed us into going year after year after year, and, believe me, if she did not believe in that, she would not have attended, period, nor would she have been dragging us up there from the beginning. So, she had a bunch of experiences, and I'm thankful that she did because, like I said earlier, that I stress the importance of education to my children and people that I come in contact with. Education is important, and you need that. It can't be taken from you. You need it. EE: Do you recall your mother talking about the closing of the college? Obviously—were you born in '52 or '57? AC: I was born in '52. EE: So, you were three years old when the school closed. But, over the years, did she talk about Brown v. Board of Ed., and how she felt about the school no longer being open? [00:34:04.04]AC: Well, the fact that she left early because she ran out of money, I think that played a major—that was it. That was it for her. As far as why the school closed, through the years again, I've heard a number of stories, and I can't directly attribute them to even her, but a number of stories—yeah, Brown v. Board of Education caused by many folks the State to say, “Well, look, we don't have to invest in Storer College any longer because separate but equal no longer, and everyone will, they will go wherever they go, wherever they go, wherever they can attend.” [00:34:55.29] AC: So, as far as I know, I'm not sure. Well, I've got my own personal views. I think that was a way out for West Virginia. That was a way out for West Virginia. “We don't have to deal with you people. So, good, close. Have a nice day.” EE: Except there was other black colleges. [00:35:22.01]AC: Yes, but it's like, “Okay, well, you've got that school over there. So, you can go to that school. We don't have to do anything for you because there's something else out there for you. We don't have to say, 'Well, look, two, three, five schools, that's fine. No, there's one school over there. So, you guys can go to that school. We don't have to do anything else.'” EE: Yeah, but don't you think, isn't it interesting how many of the students who were forced to leave in '55, when the school closed, went right to Shepherd? AC: Yes. EE: Which had no history of integration. AC: Right. EE: I mean, that to me is fascinating. [00:36:02.01]AC: Yes. Well, again, but I guess it also showed although the state said, “We don't care,” there were still institutions of people that said, 'Well, we do care. So, come on. We will educate you. That's fine.'” So, yes, it is, but, again, as far as I'm concerned, the State was clear. “We don't care.” Shepherd, absolutely, and I think a lot of the Storer records were sent to Virginia Union. I believe they were sent to Virginia Union, yes. I believe they were sent to Virginia Union. Why, I don't know, but I know Mrs. Harris had mentioned to us that we were taking up, and we haven't done that in quite a few years, but they would take donations and send them to—in the beginning, they used to have a scholarship. They had scholarships for descendants of Storer. They would award scholarships to individuals. Well, in the end, they stopped doing that and said, “Well, we will send money to Virginia Union” because that's where our records were. I don't know if there's a library there. I don't know if they did that, but that's been gone for maybe six, eight years easily EE: What, Virginia Union? [00:37:40.05]AC: No. The money went to Virginia Union. We stopped taking donations or contributions and sending them off to Virginia Union. EE: So, now what are the dues, and what do you do with the dues that you collect? [00:37:55.11]AC: Well, most of it sits in the treasury, believe it or not. I shouldn't say most of it. A lot of it, we use to continue the reunion. We also spend money when members leave, meaning they pass on. So, we'll send flowers and cards, and we will try to do things. I would say to you that the treasury doesn't really grow because we end up spending—we try to cover our costs in what we charge for the reunion, but we've got a little bit of money there, just a little bit. So, most of what we do centers around the reunion, but like I said, we do, when members leave us or their loved ones leave us, we will send them small tokens and flowers. EE: How would you say the alumni feel about the Storer representation at Harpers Ferry today? [00:39:19.07]AC: That's mixed. It's mixed because we've got individuals who live in Harpers Ferry, live in Charles Town, live in Shepherdstown that do not attend the reunion. We have some that do. You mentioned Mrs— EE: Taylor. AC: No, Mrs.— EE: Smelley? [00:39:44.07]AC: Mrs. Smelley. Mrs. Smelley says to me almost every year, you know, “Brother Catlett”—because we actually attend the same church—she said, “Brother Catlett, we need to contact these people because there are a lot of people up here,” and that's as far as it goes. We haven't really been—we've tried. We tried getting all the people that we could think of. We send them the cards, let them know about the reunion, let me know about the meetings that we have. We try to make it easy for them because we, every year, we would have the meetings up in Harpers Ferry because a lot of people were up there. So, a lot of us would travel an hour and a half, two hours for the meetings. And then we thought maybe we should start having the meetings here. We had them in Alexandria. We had them in my church. We had them at Mr. Vollin's church, and the participation didn't grow at all. So, we still do Harpers Ferry in terms of our May and October meetings, and we still—I mean, we're trying. We're trying to reach out to people. When they had—a couple of years ago, there was a Roper—I think it was Roper. There was an alumnus of Storer College that in Charles Town, the high school up there named the auditorium after this woman who—I think she might have even been a principal. She might have been promoted to principal. I know she was at least a teacher there for many, many years, and they named the auditorium after Ms. Roper, and I saw a number of Storerites, some I had been seeing at the reunion, others someone else would say, “Oh, that's a Storerite right there, and that's a Storerite.” And we try to get them, and the interest just—it could be they're tired. A lot of people are tired, and so it's not for them to carry it on. It's for those who come after them, the descendants as well as friends. EE: Tell me what the message that you think that Storer College sends because I will tell you when I tell people that I'm doing these interviews, not one person that I—certainly no white people I know have ever heard of Storer College. AC: Sure. EE: And it vanished at a pretty critical time, before a lot of us were born, but why should people know about Storer? How might we get it out there? [00:42:58.24]AC: What I found out, being a member of the Alumni Association, there are many Storerites who have played a part in the history of either the United States or Harpers Ferry or Charles Town or Washington, DC or Alexandria, Virginia. There have been a lot of Storerites who have done things of note. So, for that time period, Storer created or helped to create or helped to mold these individuals that have played a part in histories. We're trying to keep that message out there, but that's all. And for me, I didn't know a lot of them. I knew a few of them, and most notably, my mother. So, for me, that's important. I mean, that's, for me, that's where it is, is Mama. [00:42:58.24] AC: There are others though who I've grown to know and love in the organization, and many of them have passed on, and they did some outstanding things within their communities. They're not here now. And so Storer played a part. Storer played a part in shaping these individuals for where they went. EE: Do you want to drop a few names or tell me a few of their stories? I don't mean to put you on the spot. [00:44:48.25]AC: Yeah, you are, but that's okay. Oh, what was his name? He's been gone two or three years now. Names, names, names, names. The first names I can think of is the lady who passed early this year from Alexandria, and I didn't realize—it will come to mind as I stall for time—Ardelia Hunter. She did a lot within Alexandria and the public schools there. I didn't realize she had done as much. And at her homegoing service, there were a number of people within Alexandria, the NAACP in Alexandria, the Alexandria public school system that they had stories about her and what she did and what she meant to the community. Outside of her, I am at a loss. Let me think. I can think of some people, but in terms of—what was his name? I can see this guy's face. I'm sorry. I'm at a loss. EE: We could even take a break and like look him up if you wanted to. AC: Sure. EE: Tell me what your mother did, what her career was. [00:46:19.28]AC: Mama was an early—oh, lord, excuse me. Mama was a teacher in DC public schools. She also worked with the Headstart program in the district for many years. She retired from DC public schools maybe around 1970 something or '80, '70 something. But Mama was a DC public school teacher. There were a number or people...She also did the state program. The state program was for adults who had left school early. I know she was at Spingarn State. But primarily youth, young, early—early childhood education. There were a number of people at her homegoing service who remembered has as that little lady who meant a lot, who cared a lot. Mama was a good teacher. She would tell stories about some of the situations that occurred, but, yeah, Mama was a teacher. She was a teacher. Mama had three master's. I had two. Mama had three. She was contemplating possibly going back for her doctorate. She was a tough little lady. EE: So, we've talked about why Storer was important and what the legacy that you want to carry on as a legacy, as someone who's inherited his mother's passion. Do any of your brothers and sisters feel similarly about Storer? AC: Not as much. EE: Say that in a full sentence, if you could. [00:48:24.14]AC: I'm sorry. I have one sibling who is just as interested. She's down in Athens, Georgia. The rest of them, they're kind of lukewarm to the whole idea. Actually, all of them have at some point in time attended the reunion. Last year, we had all but one, and I think the year before that, four or five of us, which is the total number. Yeah, four, I believe, the year before. But sometimes we get them and sometimes we don't. My sister, Alva, probably is the one— EE: What's her name? [00:49:16.12]AC: Alva. Like I'm Alvin, and she's Alva. No, we're not twins. She was born a year ahead of me. The story is that her first name was Gloria, and they decided early on that was not going to work because you've got two Glorias in the house. So they changed it to Alva Gloria instead of Gloria Alva. But Alva is probably most supportive, and she tries to attend the reunions every year. I've got a brother over in Southeast, William. He and his wife, they will attend every so often. And then Nathaniel, a couple of times, and Charles, actually he's been here now two years, and he's out in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I'm the one really that's kind of breathing Storer College, yeah. EE: Well, I think we're all very grateful for that. That's a very important contribution. AC: Thank you. EE: Let me ask if there's anything that I should be asking you, any questions I've forgotten or any particular memories or stories. Now your mom never talked of having boyfriends or close friends from college, or did she? [00:50:48.02]AC: Well, I'll just say this. This is going to be interesting. I would say that, no, there weren't any really close, close, either boy—there weren't any boyfriends. First of all, if she had any boyfriends, there would have only been one, knowing how she was raised, but there was no boyfriend, and I don't recall any very close classmates. She was close to a lot of them once they started the reunion, but while she was at school, no, I don't recall any. EE: Were there any places when you went back for reunions that she said, “I've got to take you here. You've got to see this. This is a place that has importance to me.” [00:51:35.14]AC: There was—we went into town. There was a place in town where they dedicated—wait a minute. It was a Storerite that helped put this together. EE: Not the Hayward Shepherd monument? [00:51:58.25]AC: No, no, this was actually in a building that's still standing in Harpers Ferry. I don't remember his name. I don't remember his name. But what I can say is she definitely wanted us to go to the building that is still on Park Service land. We used to hike. We used to hike. Mama would take us up through the mountains, and was it Jefferson Overlook? EE: Jefferson Rock? [00:52:40.18]AC: Jefferson Rock, yes, thank you. Jefferson Rock. When we first started going, younger folks, we would hike. Right after the picnic, we would hike up through the woods, and she showed us some of the buildings that were still there, and what they meant to her and the school. Other than that, I don't think so. Now, you did find about Brackett. The place in, we went there. They've got a room. The museum in— EE: Mather? AC: No, no, no, no. This is in— EE: Well, I think there are a lot of notables and a lot of names to remember because a lot of people have come through. AC: Yes. EE: So, unless there's something else that you want to discuss or any subject that I've forgotten or anything you want to say about your mom and Storer and what the message is going forward. [00:53:55.14]AC: The only thing I can say is I appreciate what you guys are doing because this helps us to stay alive, the memory of Storer College stay alive. So, I'm very much appreciative of that effort. EE: No, it is great that the Park Service realizes how important, the shoulders that they stand on. [laughs]AC: Yes, yes. EE: Well, thank you so much, Alvin. It's been a delight, and I really look forward—I wish you luck at the reunion. Have a great reunion this year. AC: Thank you. EE: We'll hopefully see you again. AC: Yes, ma'am. Thank you.

[00:54:33.09][End of Transcript]

Storer College Oral History Project Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (HAFE) Interview with Alvin Catlett by Elaine Eff April 23, 2014

5. Interview with David Johnson by Elaine Eff


EE: Today is April 23, 2014. This is Elaine Eff, and I am interviewing Mr. David Johnson, and we are going to talk about his years at Storer College for the National Park Service archive. So, Mr. Johnson, can you first tell me your name and when and where you were born? [00:00:47.08] DJ: I'm David M. Johnson, and I was born in West Virginia, Isaban [spells], West Virginia. It was located on a high mountain. My father was a miner. He was working in the mines up there. What else do you want to know? EE: Where is Isaban? DJ: In West Virginia. EE: Whereabouts? DJ: In the southern part of West Virginia, near the Kentucky border, you might say. EE: Well, tell me about your parents. You said your dad was a miner. [00:01:31.26] DJ: My father was a miner, a coal miner, and my mother a schoolteacher. I didn't know too much about my life in Isaban because I was a baby when they took me away from there. EE: Oh, and where did you go? [00:01:52.24] DJ: I was about three years old then with my brother. I had a brother, and his name was Caliga [?] [00:01:58.06] Johnson. He was a year older than me, yes. So, my father got another job, I guess. We were still in West Virginia. We moved to Mt. Carbon [spells], West Virginia. EE: And where was that located? DJ: In West Virginia. EE: Whereabouts from where you used to live? [00:02:27.18] DJ: I guess you would say that's near the western part of West Virginia, close to the Ohio line, border. I don't know how long we were there, but it wasn't too long. My father received employment at a—see now, I was a baby, talking about it, this you understand. [laughs] That's how old I was at that time, but he worked at Powellton, West Virginia, and he ended up at Elkridge, West Virginia as a coal miner. At that time, my mother wasn't teaching school, but she did receive a position in West Virginia, a schoolteacher in Kimberly, West Virginia, and that's where we settled. My father bought a house up there and settled us there at Kimberly, West Virginia. EE: And how old were you when you moved to Kimberly? [00:03:41.28] DJ: I guess I was about three or four years old then. Three or four years old at that time. EE: So, your family was moving quite a bit while you were just an infant. [00:03:51.06] DJ: That was the end of it then at that time. I don't know how often they moved before then. But, see, I was born in Isaban, June 27, 1928, and my brother was born on March 26, 19 and 27. EE: So, your mother was a schoolteacher. DJ: Yes. EE: Was she trained? Did she go to college to become a schoolteacher? [00:04:31.09] DJ: Yes. She went to West Virginia State, but she was teaching before she went to West Virginia State. She was trained at Storer College. She started at Storer College, and she received training to teach, at Storer College. She didn't have a, what do you say, a bachelor's degree in teaching. She didn't have that, but I guess she had a certificate for teaching, whatever it was, they allowed back in those days. EE: So, how much time did she spend at Storer College? [00:05:16.26] DJ: Storer College, it was a two-year college at that time. I guess, I think she went to high school there. She went to high school at first, I understand, at Storer College. There was a high school. She attended high school there, she and her family did. Her brothers and sisters and cousins attended school at Storer at that time. And then it was changed over to a two-year college. She took her first training in teaching at Storer for two years. EE: So, did she talk about Storer College? [00:06:08.26] DJ: Not much. She didn't talk about it until the time we go to college. Then she told me she wanted me to go to Storer. I didn't want to—I wanted to go to Howard. EE: Where did you want to go? [00:06:19.09] DJ: I wanted to go to Howard in Washington, DC, because I wanted to be a doctor. So, she talked me into it, going to Storer. I wanted to go to college. I was afraid I wouldn't be going to school at all if I didn't go to Storer. There was a college in West Virginia, you know, I could go to school at West Virginia Tech. West Virginia State, she didn't say anything about West Virginia State, and I didn't even want to go to West Virginia State at that time. I decided to go to Storer College. EE: Now, by the time you went to Storer College, it was no longer a two-year college. [00:07:05.09] DJ: It was a four-year college at that time. She knew about that then. It had changed over since she left from there, you know, to West Virginia to teach. She taught school there. She taught at one place, and it was Meadow Bridge, West Virginia. She taught there, and then she didn't go back home. She went further down to Widen, West Virginia. My father was working in the mines in Widen, West Virginia when she met him. He told her he would be her protector because it was bad then there, and, of course, that's how they struck up the relationship there. Daddy and Mother got married in Charleston, West Virginia in 1924. I know that much. Then, of course, they had us. And now we're in Kimberly, West Virginia. EE: Now, tell me about your education that prepared you to go to Storer. [00:08:22.22] DJ: My mother was my first teacher. She taught me elementary grade, and she was teaching with Mr. Vaughan [spells]. He was the principal of the elementary school, Kimberly Elementary School, it was. It was a two-room school. Mr. Vaughan taught fifth to the eighth grade, and Mother taught the first to the fourth grade. So, she was my first teacher at that time. EE: So, what do you remember about the two-room schoolhouse? Your mother was your teacher? [00:09:13.12] DJ: Yes, she was my teacher. She taught me the first through the fourth grades. I must have done pretty good because she passed me on over to Mr. Vaughan. Mr. Vaughan was a strong teacher, a good teacher, too. My mother was a good teacher, too, because I did learn. [laughs] I learned how to read and how to do arithmetic, and that was very important. So, I thought I could do as I want to in my mother's classroom because I was her kid. I was running around through the classroom, walking around at will, [laughs] and then she grabbed me and make me sit down. So, I'd sit there for a while, and I tried to go again. Then she gave me a whooping. [laughs] Then I stayed in my seat after that. [00:10:20.26] One time, I remember my grandmother, her mother, was visiting us in Kimberly. She had just whooped me, and I went home and told her mother, my grandmother about it. I said, “Your daughter whooped me today.” She said, “She did?” “Yeah.” She said, “Well, I'm going to say something to her about that,” and she did. [laughs] My mother goes to her and [00:10:51.10] said, “Mama, he was running around in the classroom. I can't let him do that. I told him to sit down, and he would not. I had to give him a whupping.” [laughs] So, my grandmother told me, she said, “Why do you say? Your mother, you behave yourself. You wouldn't behave at first. That's why you got your whupping.” [laughs] [00:11:14.12] So, that was my life in my mother's classroom. She had us doing something all the time, and I was so glad I could read and I could do arithmetic. She always had plays there, and she always wanted to put me in the plays. I see now why she did, but I couldn't understand at first, you know? Why she wanted me to have a part in her plays that she had, you see. And she would give the play in the Kimberly school, but she always wanted to give the plays in the church, yeah. That was her place. She was a good Christian woman, a deaconette. My father was a deacon, and she was a deaconette. EE: What church did you belong to? [00:12:20.08] DJ: Kimberly First Baptist. It's about 108 years old, I think, now. EE: Wow. So, tell me, where did you go to school after the eighth grade? DJ: After the eighth grade, Kimberly, I mean Simmons High School. Simmons High School. It's not there now. EE: Where was that located? DJ: Montgomery, West Virginia. EE: How do you spell “Simmons”? DJ: About four miles from Kimberly [spells]. EE: And how do you spell “Simmons”? DJ: Simmons [spells], Simmons High School. EE: So, you said you wanted to be a doctor. Tell me about what were your dreams and how it is that you ended up choosing Storer. [00:13:25.22] DJ: My brother died when he was about eleven years old, I think it was, and I was a year younger. EE: What did he die of? [00:13:38.11] DJ: I was impressed whenever the doctor would come to the house. I was impressed when he would come to see my brother and treat him, tend to him, and I always said I wanted to be a doctor. That's the reason why I had the desire to be a doctor because of the doctor coming to the house to treat him. I kept that desire through high school and into college, even at Storer. And I find out that the science courses were very important, you see, and I was very much interested in biology. So, when I went to Storer College, I attempted to make an A in the course. EE: So, tell me about your first memories of Storer. You must have gone for the first time just when you started. When was that? When did you go to Storer? [00:14:58.29] DJ: I went to Storer in 1946, the fall of 1946. I was a freshman there. It was a small college. I was surprised that it was a small college. Maybe it was three hundred or some students or something like that at that school there. But I'm glad I got there when I got there because my uncle was the chef [laughs] at the college. EE: The sheriff? [00:15:37.29] DJ: Yeah, he was the chef at the college. I was surprised. Mother didn't know that, or she would have told me. EE: What was his job? DJ: He was the chef/cook. EE: He was the chef? DJ: He was the chef. EE: What was his name? [00:16:00.06] DJ: David Robinson. I remember David Robinson. He was my mother's oldest brother in the family. My mother, in the family, had eleven siblings, you might say. EE: So, what did he cook? Where did he work? DJ: He cooked all of the food, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. EE: And in what building? Where was his kitchen? DJ: I don't know. There was a building, but I don't know what the name of the building was. EE: Do you remember where you went to eat every day? [00:16:42.24] DJ: Yes. But I don't know the name of the hall, you see, and whether it had a name or not. I don't think it had a name, but I would have remembered the name. It was a building. I don't know whether it was a part of Anthony Hall or what. In fact, I've forgotten the name of all of the halls. EE: Do you remember where you lived? Did you live in a dormitory? [00:17:08.06] DJ: [laughs] I've forgotten the name of the—you see, I was only up there for two years. I only attended Storer for two years. And the reason I didn't go all the way to Storer, I told you, I wanted to be a doctor. Somehow, I received information that Storer was a Class C college, and I wouldn't be able to get into a medical school from a Class C college. That's the reason I didn't stay at Storer. I left Storer and went home to go to West Virginia State. Mother wasn't going to let me go to Washington, to Howard University. EE: Where was West Virginia State located? [00:18:05.01] DJ: It's an institute. Institute, West Virginia. EE: So, that's where you graduated. DJ: I graduated from there. I went to Storer for two years, and while I was at Storer, I enjoyed myself. I played football up there, and I seemed to have [inaudible] [00:18:32.01] up there as a football player at the time. EE: Do you remember who you played? [00:18:38.01] DJ: I received honors as a running back. It was part of the EIAC, the Eastern Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The Eastern Intercollegiate Athletic Association seemed to have its location in Norfolk, Virginia at the time. EE: And what other colleges were in the league? [00:19:22.28] DJ: Say that again? EE: What other colleges did you play against? DJ: Oh, Norfolk. It's Norfolk State now, but it was the Norfolk division of Virginia State, Fayetteville, Winston-Salem, Salisbury and all the little kids in North Carolina at the time, and Pennsylvania. I've forgotten the name of the school in Pennsylvania. At that time, those schools were Negro colleges, you understand. I've forgotten the name of the school in Pennsylvania, but we used to go to Pennsylvania to a school to play football there, and then Eastern shore, Salisbury, Maryland. EE: How was your record? How did you play? Did you win many games? [00:20:42.17] DJ: Not too many. [laughs] Not too many. We had a coach. I've forgotten his name. Don’t tell me what his name because I've forgotten what his name is. He wasn't a good coach. He didn't know too much about football. We used to know more about football than he did, but he was the coach, you see. So, we had to work with him. So, we won a few games, but we didn't win too many. We lost most of our games. EE: Was the coach a white or a black man? DJ: A black man, yeah. EE: Did he teach also or did he just coach? DJ: I don't know. He didn't teach in physical education because I didn't have a physical education class up there. EE: Where did you play football? [00:21:42.09] DJ: We played at a high school in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Yeah. On the Harpers Ferry football field, we played our games there. This is back in '46. Things weren't too good back in ‘46 for us, college-wise. We practiced in the front of the school. It's still there. It's a big area of the field, you might say, and we played there—and it sloped down, but we practiced football there. EE: Where would that have been? In front of Anthony Hall? [00:22:33.20] DJ: Yeah, in front of Anthony Hall, and dormitories were in the back of it, and the street run down that way. Anthony Hall, that's where the hall was. EE: Did you live in Mosher Hall? That's your dormitory? [00:22:54.10] DJ: Mosher. You know more about it than I do! [laughs] It was Mosher Hall. That's where we men had a dormitory. EE: What was that like? [00:23:10.07] DJ: It was good. They were good fellows, you know. There weren't any bad people. A lot of the men that were—not a lot, but some of the men were ministers to-be on the staff. So, they were studying up there and hoping to become ministers. In fact, my dormitory mate was studying to be and became a minister. He taught school. When he finished at Storer, I understand he was at Andover Newton. Have you heard of Andover Newton, a seminary or a school around Boston, Massachusetts. He got a doctorate degree up there, and he taught there for years. EE: Do you remember his name? DJ: Oh yeah, Henry Brooks, Reverend Henry Brooks, Dr. Henry Brooks I guess you'd say his name. And he had a brother, too, who came—his brother went to school somewhere in the Midwest. I've forgotten the name of it. I don’t know if his brother was interested in science or wasn't, but then his brother finally came to Storer. But when he came to Storer, I wasn't there. I had transferred from Storer to West Virginia State. But I did meet his brother. I was going to the reunion, and he was, too, and I met him that way, yeah. I've forgotten what his name was. He was a doctor, too. He had a mother in Virginia, Alexandria, Virginia, and she lived to be over a hundred years old. He would come down to the reunion for two or three days. Then he'd go on to Alexandria to see his mother. But she finally died, and when she died, maybe a year or two after that, he died. And his brother Henry had already died, you see. EE: Very young. Oh, after she was a hundred years old. [00:25:57.06] DJ: Yeah. Henry, he became such a great person. I would say that he was invited to Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia to speak there as a speaker. I don't know if it was a commencement or what it was, and he was invited down there to speak. I planned to go down there, too, but I didn't make it, just to meet up with him, you know, down there. I think he retired from Andover Newton, and he moved back to Pennsylvania. He lived in Pennsylvania with his brother. They lived in Pennsylvania at that time. EE: Let's talk a little bit about you. You said you studied biology. [00:27:00.06] DJ: Yeah, I was studying biology. I was determined to make a good grade in biology. Well, in all of my subjects for that matter, but particularly biology because I wanted to go to med school. EE: Do you remember your teacher? [00:27:18.14] DJ: Yes, I don't know if she's a doctor or not. Miss Watkins. I'm going to say Miss Watkins, but she probably was a doctor. She was tough. EE: Now, was she white or black? [00:27:33.08] DJ: She was black, and she taught biology. She gave us a final examination, and in that final examination, she covered the whole book. [laughs] And I studied the whole book. So, in her examination, I made an A. It was 99 and a half she gave me, and she told me she took a half off because I had something in there that—it was good, it was right though, but she said that she had took the half off. I couldn't make a 100 under her. [laughs] But afterward, whatever courses that she gave, I made an A on. EE: Did you have a teacher named Miss Jemison? Do you remember her, a biology teacher? [00:28:38.22] DJ: That was her name. EE: Oh, Miss Jemison. DJ: Yeah, she got married. She was Miss. Watkins, and her name became Mrs. Jemison, yeah. EE: Many people really liked her. [00:28:54.22] DJ: Well, she was a good teacher. She was a good teacher. We learned from her, you see, but she was tough [laughs] as far as giving courses and everything. The lesson matter was good. It came from the book, you see. EE: Did she encourage you to go to medical school? [00:29:24.01] DJ: No. She didn't know I wanted to go to medical school, didn't anybody know that I wanted to go to medical school at that time. EE: So, what happened? [00:29:33.19] DJ: Well, I determined to go to medical school, even at West Virginia State. But there was one subject that I did not do too good in at Storer, and that changed my mind against Storer because the Dean at Storer was Dean Johnson, and he was my chemistry teacher, yeah. And he didn’t give me a good grade in physics. Wait a minute. Was that chemistry? Yeah. He didn't give me a good grade in chemistry. I didn't take chemistry in high school. They did not offer the course in chemistry in high school. So, I thought that was the reason why I didn't make a good grade. I didn't know too much about chemistry at the time. Biology, I did, you see. I had a good teacher, but I found out she was a biology teacher. We didn't have a biology teacher at Simmons High School. But the way the lady taught it, I was able to learn, really. Her name was Porter, Elizabeth Porter. EE: Was this at Storer or in high school? [00:31:08.07] DJ: This was in high school. She was the substitute teacher, I found out, I understand. She taught biology. It may be that she liked biology or whatever, yeah. EE: Now, when you were at Storer, were there any white students? [00:31:24.01] DJ: No. There weren't any white students. In fact, there weren't any white students during the whole time I was in Storer, but we had white teachers though, Dr. Cunningham and this other one, Dr. Porter, I believe his name was. EE: What did Dr. Cunningham teach? [00:31:51.01] DJ: Sociology, and we had a white president. No, he retired that year. '46, he retired, yeah. EE: Who was the president when you were there? DJ: What is his name? He taught for over thirty or forty years. He was there with my mother. EE: Mr. McKinney? [00:32:22.15] DJ: No, Dr. McKinney, he just started when I was there. EE: He was the president when you got there. DJ: He was the president, but there was a white man, McDonald, Dr. McDonald, if I'm not mistaken, Dr. McDonald, yeah. It was Dr. Henry T. McDonald or something like that. He was the president. EE: He was the president when your mother was there? DJ: Yeah. EE: What years was your mother there? [00:32:49.06] DJ: He was president up until 1946, and he retired in 1946. That's when Dr. McKinney became the president. EE: Did you hear a lot of stories about President McDonald? [00:33:07.25] DJ: Yeah. I understand he was a great president. All of them liked him. All the blacks liked him. I guess he was president for thirty or forty years, something like that. EE: Did your mother ever talk about him? DJ: Oh, yeah. EE: What did she say about him? [00:33:34.06] DJ: She liked him. All the blacks did. He treated the blacks well at that time. EE: His wife was there, too, wasn't she? DJ: Yeah, she was there, too, but they never said too much about her, just him. EE: Do you remember any important people that came on to campus when you were there who gave lectures or visited? [00:34:00.10] DJ: Nnamdi Azikiwe. EE: Who was that? DJ: He was a political man. He went to school at Storer, as I understand, and he was invited by Storer to speak at the commencement in 19 and 47. He came. He spoke for about ten minutes and then he left. [laughs] EE: And what did he become? [00:34:29.00] DJ: Nnamdi Azikiwe, he became the president of Nigeria, if I'm not mistaken. He owned a newspaper called The Zik, I think it was. EE: Was he in school with you? He wasn't in school with you. [00:34:48.27] DJ: No, he wasn't with me. No, he finished. He wasn't the president of Nigeria, but he was an important political man in Nigeria. I don't know whether he was an ambassador or what he was at that time. But he came to Storer and spoke at that time during that particular period, yeah. EE: Do you remember John Brown's Fort on the campus? DJ: Oh, yes. EE: Tell me about that. [00:35:30.27] DJ: Well, it was a memorial for peace, you might say. We would go to visit it, you know, to check it. We were so glad to have it up at that time because I didn't know too much about John Brown then, but I knew that he had fought the federal government, and that he was also a supporter—he was interested in blacks being free from slavery, let me put it that way. I didn't know that he had taken the Fort, you know, attempted to take the Fort or the federal offices. It wasn't the fort. EE: Right. The Armory, I think they called it, yeah. DJ: Yeah, he was trying to take that with some of his people. EE: You have to speak up. [00:36:45.18] DJ: He was trying, he was trying to capture the, I guess, the Armory, yeah because they had ammunition in it, and he wanted to get the ammunition so he can fight a battle against whoever, I guess. It may have been the federal government, or it could have been—there hadn't been a war yet. That's what started the war, the Civil War. He was against slavery at that time, and he knew Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass was a very good friend, Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist at that time. And I would say John Brown was one, an abolitionist, too, because John Brown came from St. Louis area, the Midwest area, all the way down to West Virginia. There's a good museum on John Brown at Harpers Ferry. I visited that. That's where I became really interested in John Brown. I understand what he had done for the blacks, to try to free the blacks. He lost his life as a result, he and his son, his son, too. And, of course, there were some blacks who were with him at that time, you see. So, that's all I can say about John Brown. EE: So, how does it make you feel to be at a school in Harpers Ferry? What did that mean to you? [00:38:56.17] DJ: Well, I feel good because I'm doing what my mother wanted me to do. My mother really wanted me to go to school there, and she went to school there. And her brothers and sisters and her cousin also went to school there. That was the opportunity for them at that time because there were no other opportunities for them to go to school. That was back in the 1890s, you might say. EE: When did your mother graduate? Do you know what year? DJ: She graduated in 1940. EE: No, you graduated. [00:39:42.11] DJ: She graduated from West Virginia State. She went to school at West Virginia State. She kept teaching and went to summer school. EE: What years did she go to Storer? Do you remember? Do you know that? DJ: No. EE: Before you were born? DJ: Oh, yeah. EE: Long before you were born. DJ: Before I was born, yes. EE: So, tell me, did your mother come to visit you when you were at Storer College? [00:40:07.20] DJ: Mother never came to visit me when I was at Storer College. My daddy did because I was playing football. He came to visit me then. But Mother stayed home, teaching school. She hadn’t got the time. [00:40:24.18] So, she never did come. Her sister, my Aunt Genevieve, she graduated from Storer College. EE: Oh, her sister. What was your mother's maiden name? [00:40:40.13] DJ: My mother's sister, she was a younger sister. She graduated from Storer College. She was teaching school in Virginia, and she would always come in on the weekend to take me from Storer, to her mother. My grandmother was living at that time. EE: What was your mother's maiden name? DJ: Robinson. Her name was Lelia Robinson. Lelia Bell Robinson. EE: So, did you have places that you loved to be? Did you have a favorite place on the college campus? [00:41:27.00] DJ: On campus? [laughs] Believe it or not, it's my dormitory. I'd did a lot of studying when I was there. I wanted to be a real good student; you understand. I was interested in trying to make As in everything I studied. EE: What did your room look like? [00:41:54.17] DJ: It was a normal room. Henry and I didn't do anything to try to make it elaborate, but we had a lot of students who'd come to visit with us. That was because they weren't impressed with me. I think they were impressed with Henry. They would talk to him, and I'd be studying my biology or something else. EE: Did you have desks? What furniture was in the room? [00:42:25.18] DJ: No, there wasn't—whatever the… EE: Was there a desk? Just a desk and a bed? Did you have a desk to study at? [00:42:36.00] DJ: No, I studied on my bed. We may have had a desk. I don't know if Henry used the desk. EE: And what about the library? Did you use the library? [00:42:50.27] DJ: Very seldom. Very seldom. We had a library, but very seldom. I did all my studying. I read my book in my room. EE: And what did you do on weekends? DJ: I would visit my grandmother. As I say, my aunt would come down. She graduated from West Virginia State—I mean, Storer College. She would come down and pick me up. EE: Where did she live? [00:43:24.28] DJ: On a Friday. She lived with her mother. EE: Where? DJ: It was called Martinsburg, but it really was Douglas Grove, West Virginia in the country. Douglas Grove, West Virginia, about four miles from Martinsburg, West Virginia. EE: So, did you have much of a social life? Was there much mixing between girls and boys, men and women? [00:43:53.24] DJ: I had a social life, you might say, but it wasn't with the girls, you understand. As I said, the fellows would come into the room to talk. I would talk with them sometimes, but most of the time, I wasn't too talkative. Understand. I was study conscious at that time, you see, because I knew I was in college, and I wanted to make good. EE: Were there any rules or an honor code that you remember? I mean, were there people who drank or gambled? [00:44:29.16] DJ: No, there was no gambling. The Storer College was a religious centered school from a Northern Baptist convention that run around Connecticut, Boston, New York, and New Hampshire. That was a religious school, and they wanted to establish Storer College down there back in those days. John Storer, I think, was the one who—he contributed ten thousand dollars, if I'm not mistaken, ten thousand dollars to start the school. Ten thousand dollars is a lot of money today, but it was a whole lot of money back then, you see, to start a school. EE: Do you remember going to religious services? Did you go to church on campus? [00:45:39.17] DJ: Oh, we went to church. Oh, yes, we were required to go to church back then. That was a part of the school rules. And we wanted to go to church there. Dean Kelly who was the minister and would speak to us. He was a teacher there, too, Dean Kelly was. I think his name was James Kelly, if I'm not mistaken. EE: What did Dean Kelly teach? [00:46:15.17] DJ: Well, he taught me public speaking. EE: Now, was he white? [00:46:20.18] DJ: No, he was black. He was the dean of the school. Dean Johnson, he was the dean of, I guess you said, it had to do with education, you understand. But Dean Kelly was the dean of men back then at the school. And Dean Jacobs, there was a Dean Jacobs who was the dean for women. EE: That was a woman? [00:47:05.14] DJ: Yes, she was a woman, and she was black. I always thought [00:47:12.00] there were two—there were two, as I recall. There were only two white teachers there, and when I spoke to you about, Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Porter. I think his name is Dr. Porter, if I'm not mistaken. EE: What did he teach? [00:47:39.15] DJ: I really didn't know because I never did—oh, yeah, there was a doctor there, a white doctor. He was a German. Dr. Walach [spells]. [Actual name is Wallace, Richard A.] EE: What did he teach? DJ: He taught German. He was my German teacher, yeah. Dr. Porter, he leaned toward history. He was a history teacher, if I'm not mistaken, but I didn't take history there. EE: You didn't take history your first two years of college? [00:48:23.24] DJ: I didn't take history at all in college. I took it in high school. EE: Because you were trying to go premed? DJ: That's right. That's what it was. And I took premed at West Virginia State, too. So, I wasn't required to take history. EE: Did you ever go into Harpers Ferry or Bolivar? [00:49:07.16] DJ: Never did. I stayed at school campus about all the time. I think because it was too hilly. [laughs] EE: Too hilly. What about in the winter? DJ: The mountains. Too slopey. I'd put it that way. EE: It's pretty hilly. DJ: So, I just stayed on the campus all the time, yeah. The only time I left was when I went to, my aunt would come in and pick me up and take me to Douglas Grove to see my grandma and eat the delicious food she was cooking up. EE: What did she cook up? [00:49:51.08] DJ: Oh, she cooked a lot of food. [laughs] Chicken, fried chicken, and beef, roast beef and all of that, and good pies and cakes. She was a great cook. EE: Did you ever go over to Jefferson Rock? Did you ever go down to the rivers? [00:50:15.04] DJ: No. I didn't like the river, Miss Elaine. The only thing I liked about water was washing and bathing, that's all, and cleaning up. But so far as going down and swimming and anything and fishing, I didn't do that. But I have done some fishing lately though with my church on the Chesapeake Bay. EE: On a boat. DJ: Yeah. I got seasick. [laughs] It was in the Atlantic Ocean. I was in the army, you see, and, yeah, the Atlantic Ocean, I got seasick, and I stayed seasick all the way over, ten days over to England. EE: So, when were you in the army? [00:51:05.29] DJ: In Germany. EE: In what years? DJ: In Germany, in '51, '52. As soon as I graduated from West Virginia State. EE: Right. So, tell me what happened to your dreams of a career in medicine? [00:51:24.18] DJ: Well, I can't hear too well. And my mother and dad had never told me that. I never thought anything was wrong with my hearing, although my father did, when I was a high school student in West Virginia, Montgomery, West Virginia, he would take me—he did take me to Charleston concerning my hearing, you understand. And, of course, as I say, I never thought I could—you know, my hearing was bad. I didn't think a thing was wrong with that. But the doctor told my daddy that he didn't think that, what's it called? A hearing aid. A hearing aid would help me in hearing because I had nerve type hearing. EE: How old were you? [00:52:24.27] DJ: At that time, maybe fifteen or sixteen years old. I had been in the hospital a while at that time. But I didn't know that I was hearing impaired. Let's put it that way because nerve type, according to my mother—I did ask her one time about my hearing, but she told me. She said “When I was a baby, the doctor gave me a pill. It was a big pill, and she didn't want to give it to me, but she gave it to me anyway, and it took my hearing away, and it took my speech away.” She said, “I couldn't hear for a while, and I couldn't talk well.” She think it came from that pill. She said finally my hearing came back-- partially. And my talk, I have difficulty talking most all of the time. In fact, I have difficulty, I talk through my nose now, you know. You see. But I do talk much better than when I was young [00:54:05.14]. EE: So, how did that affect going to medical school, your medical career? [00:54:06.12] DJ: Well, I didn't know a thing about that then. I thought then my hearing, I came to realize that I did have a defect in hearing. I, at George Washington University, on the GI Bill, I did think about being a doctor. Yes. But I noticed when I would take classes at George Washington with those doctors and all, I started thinking then. I couldn't hear the teacher, what he was saying, you see. And I said, “Well, maybe this is not for me.” I had just married my wife, too. I don't think I told her about my hearing. I didn't tell her that I was thinking about dropping out. So, I stayed there for a while, and I took this course under another doctor. He was white, and he didn't say anything to me about my hearing, but he said something to me about my marriage. He said, “Now, Johnson, you've got a kid.” I had one baby, and I had gone to that school. He said, “You've got one kid.” He said, “Now, if you get another kid, you're going to have to get out of school.” He said, “You want to be a doctor?” I said, “Yes. ““You can't have any more children.” [laughs] That's what he told me. “You can't have any more children, not right now, because you're going to school.” [inaudible] [00:56:05.24] I had another kid, and I told him about it. He said, “You're going to have to drop out of school. I said, “You’re right.” That’s the reason why I dropped out. I decided that I could do something else. I could be something else other than being a doctor. [00:56:23.29] But I didn't want to be a teacher. Do you know what I mean? I didn't want to be a teacher at all. But I ended up doing substitute teaching, yeah. I became a substitute teacher, and I decided then that—I didn't decide at that time, but I had a cousin who lives here in Washington, and he was a mail carrier. He carried the mail. I didn't want to be a mail carrier, to carry mail, but I did want to work in the post office. So, before I left home in Kimberly, there was a good friend of ours who was telling me, “I'm thinking about staying home. Teach school here at home.” But then I kept, I had a desire to come to Washington and go to Howard University and med school, which is—I'd been to the army and back then, you see. [00:57:35.08] So, I left Kimberly. This friend, speaking about this friend, his name is Moyer [spells]. Mr. Moyer. I'll never forget him. He said, “Man, you're not going to stay in college are you, there is nothing down here but the mine.” He said, “They're about to close down. Certainly, you don't want to go in the mine.” I said, “No, I don't want to go in the mine.” He said, “Then why don't you go to Washington? A big place, a city like that, they have the post office there, government in Washington, DC, and apply for a position down there.” [00:58:23.10] That’s what he was telling me. He was an educated man. He said, “That's what I would do if I were you.” I told him, “Yes, sir.” I did leave Kimberly and came to Washington I did want to come to Washington because I know of my cousin working in the post office there, but I didn't have a relationship with him. I didn't make any contact with him until I got to Washington. And then I had another cousin, too. I had about two cousins down there at this time. That's one reason I came, but I didn't make any contact with him. My mother told me [laughs], “Don't have too much to do with them.” She just wanted me to be by myself. [00:59:12.17] And my cousin, I had a cousin living in Charles Town, West Virginia. EE: Okay. You're going to have to tell me what career, what you did after you left GW. What kind of work did you do? [00:59:32.20] DJ: I was an insurance agent when I first came here. And then after working as an insurance agent, I became a circulation manager for Afro-American Newspaper Company. I was the circulation manager for them for about ten years. And during that time, I decided I wanted to go to the post office. I took the examination for the post office, and I passed. And they called me, and that's when I came to the post office. [01:00:28.22] But before that, I had passed as a—I think I might have been a chemistry employee. I'll put it that way. I don't know what I'd be doing in there because I never did go. EE: Okay. So, the only teaching you did was substitute teaching. [01:00:51.27] DJ: Substitute teaching that’s all. Because I worked in the post office, and I was in the post office for about maybe five or six years. I liked what I was doing in the post office. I said, “No, I’m not going…” I didn't want to teach. I didn't like teaching. [01:01:13.00] But, before I was working in the post office, there was a friend of mine who was telling me he was doing substitute teaching, and, therefore, I became interested. And I said I could do substitute teaching at and stay at the post office. That's what I did. I did substitute teaching. I did that for forty years. I did substitute teaching for forty years, and I worked in the post office for forty-two years. EE: Great. So, you retired from the post office. [01:01:45.10] DJ: And I retired from the post office. With substitute teaching, there's no retirement situation there. EE: That's great, that’s wonderful. So, you did enjoy it. DJ: I have six children. EE: You had how many? [01:01:59.09] DJ: I had six children. My wife didn't work. To keep her from working, I had to get the other job so that she'd stay home and take care of the kids. EE: So, you worked nights at the post office? [01:02:08.11] DJ: I worked nights at the post office from ten thirty to seven, and the work I was doing wasn't too hard. So, let's see, after, I think, 1983, I became a supervisor, a regular supervisor, but I started supervising in 1970. EE: Right. [01:02:42.10] DJ: So that was—so, I had been in the post office about twenty-five years. I wasn't about to give up anything. EE: I hear you. I want to get us back to Storer College though. I want to go back to Storer. I want to know what you think about Storer College now being the headquarters for the National Park Service. [01:03:11.10] DJ: Well, I was very much concerned when Storer closed. EE: Tell me about that. [01:03:16.11] DJ: You understand, West Virginia State, the state of West Virginia wanted Storer College when I was down there, you understand. When I was down there, the state of West Virginia wanted Storer College, but they didn't want to give them much money, you see. So, Northern Baptist wouldn't allow them to have it. They wouldn't allow you at that time. This report, I was told. I don't know too much about it, whether it's true or not. But the Northern Baptist Convention wanted to keep Storer, and they were financing it. And West Virginia, because of West Virginia State, they lost interest in it. [01:04:04.27] So, when they closed, West Virginia State, it was discrimination at West Virginia State College at that time, so far as blacks and whites were concerned. So, when I went to college, discrimination was ended. Let's say when discrimination was ended at West Virginia. West Virginia, the state of West Virginia did not become interested in Storer. I don't know whether Storer contacted the state of West Virginia about the loss of funds and everything and the Northern Baptist Convention got away from it, but because of the freedom that blacks had to go to the Union school and they didn’t want to go there, you see. And as a result of that, the Northern—they called it the Northern Baptist Convention— decided to cancel, you might say, their fund. EE: Right. [01:05:39.02] DJ: And, as a result, the fact of canceling the fund, then Storer College did not have any finances to operate on. I'm thinking that they did contact West Virginia State about that, the State of West Virginia, but they weren't interested in helping them. I think they were telling them to marriage with the Shepherd State College. It wasn't a state college, but Shepherd College, and I don't know what happened there, but Shepherd College accepted the, what would you say, the businesses, you might say, but they did not want to take in the school. They did not merge with the school. EE: So, how did you feel when you heard it was closing? [01:06:46.05] DJ: Well, see, I was at West Virginia State when it happened. EE: No, you weren't. DJ: I wasn't at Storer. EE: 1955. DJ: In 1955, I was out of school then. EE: Right. [01:06:58.08] DJ: Yeah, in 1955, I was out of school. In fact, I wasn't even going down to West Virginia to Storer College, not to the reunion for that matter. EE: When did you start going to the reunions? [01:07:12.13] DJ: When I came to Washington, DC. I missed some of my friends, you know, and I was going to school—who was going to school at the time when I was at Storer. They kept asking me to come with them because they were going to start a Storer College reunion. EE: Do you remember when that was? [01:07:36.12] DJ: Charles Gaines [01:07:39.01] was one of the main ones, Charles Gaines. He lived here in Washington, DC, and he contacted all the students, all the Storer students they could, you know. So, that's how I became affiliated with the graduated students at Storer. I did not graduate from there. I tell my story. I didn't graduate with Storer. I graduated from State. See, that didn't make any difference. You're still a part of Storer. I said okay, and I tell [?] [01:08:24.11] about my mother when she goes there. I had a cousin who was going to school, Cousin Violet. She attended the reunion at that time, the Storer College reunion. EE: What's her name? DJ: Violet [spells] Arter [spells]. EE: Is she still alive? DJ: No, no, she's dead. She died. She's been dead. She came out with my mother then. EE: So, tell me what you think the biggest lesson that you learned from Storer College would be? [01:09:11.07] DJ: The biggest lesson? Well, I was disciplined when I came to Storer, as you might notice. I told you I studied most of the time. So, I had been disciplined very well by my parents, and Simmons was a good school. Simmons High School was a good school. I received my discipline from them. My coach named Coach Robert Harris [01:09:47.25], he impressed me a lot. EE: At high school. DJ: Yeah. EE: Right. But what about Storer? What was the lesson—I mean, were there things that you say, “I owe that to Storer College”? [01:09:59.29] DJ: I said, at Storer, being well disciplined at Storer, I was able to see whatever discipline they, you know, had up there, and it didn't bother me, you understand, because I was a part of it anyway before I came to Storer. That's what I'm saying. EE: Right. DJ: So, whatever rules and regulations they had, I accepted it because I really—I was really a part of that in high school. EE: Well, I'm going to end this interview, but I want to make sure that there's nothing else about Storer College that you want to tell me or that I've forgotten to ask you about. You know, anything about your— 01:10:51.07] DJ: Well, I played football there. I mean, I think I told you that. EE: You did tell me that. DJ: I played football for two years there. EE: What was your happiest moment there? Do you remember anything that gave you great pleasure? [01:11:06.04] DJ: [laughs] My happiest moment was, I'd say football and science. Able to make a good grade in science, because, I'd say, I [inaudible] [01:11:24.24] in being a doctor. EE: Right. Well, this is great. Just if you close your eyes and think about Storer right now, and we think about what it looked like, just tell me how you remember it when you were there in the 1940s. [01:11:46.04] DJ: The only thing I remember about college that I can remember about Storer is I played football there, yeah. I was able to play football, and I played it for two years, and I excelled at it, I'd say. I was one of the best, [inaudible] [01:12:17.18], one of the best football players at that time. [laughs] EE: Do you remember homecoming those years? DJ: They called it homecoming, but I didn't know what it was. [laughs] We didn't have much. We didn't have much, Miss Elaine. I don't even think the fellows [01:12:44.10] even thought about there being a homecoming then. My dad, he came down. He came down to see me play football one time, and he did see me play. He offered me a coat if I made a touchdown. EE: Did you make one? [01:13:00.27] DJ: Yes, I did. EE: Did you get that coat? DJ: But I had to tell my quarterback first. I said, “Look, my dad is down here.” I said, “He tell me he's going to buy me a new coat if I made a touchdown.” I said, “Man, I've never made a touchdown before.” I never made a touchdown before. And so, the quarterback, his name was Guy Napa [?]—not Guy Napa, Paul Napa [?] [01:13:25.20]. EE: Paul. DJ: I'll never forget him, yeah, Paul, and Paul said "okay." And he kept giving the ball to me, and I made a touchdown, and we beat that team. We beat that team. That was—I can't recall their name. I think one team was Winston-Salem, but I'm not so sure. EE: That's great. Good for you. Did you get the coat? [01:13:54.15] DJ: But, anyway, I did make that touchdown, and I hurried off the field to tell my dad. [laughs] And he bought me a beautiful coat, yeah, yeah, he did. He was visiting my grandmother, my mother's mother, his mother-in-law. He was visiting Grandma at the time at Douglas Grove. He'd come up, you know, for his vacation, and he'd go hunting. He'd be hunting. I don't know where he did the hunting. He'd go at night, you see. And I was so glad about that, but I didn't know I'd make a touchdown. I didn't think that fella would give me the ball until I could make a touchdown. But he did, he gave it to me, and then he blocked for me. [laughs] I guess I did it about three times and made a touchdown. It was almost dark at that time when we were playing the game. I've forgotten the name of the team. I think it was Winston-Salem. EE: Well, that's a great memory for us to end this conversation on. If you think of anything else you want to tell me, you know where I live, and I'd be happy to talk to you again. So, I just want to thank you. [01:15:17.03] DJ: Well, I was glad that I was able to sing. I like to sing. EE: Oh, you sang. DJ: We had a good music director named Mr. Piersall [?] [01:15:33.25]. I remember him. Mr. Piersall was his name, yeah. EE: Tell me who did you sing with? Did you sing with the choir? DJ: It was the choir. EE: Did you sing with the glee club? DJ: It was the choir, yeah. EE: And tell me where did you sing? Did you sing only on campus, or did you travel? [01:15:53.13] DJ: We stayed on the campus. We would have a concert. We gave concerts on the campus, yes. We'd go visiting, too. We would visit all the [inaudible] that could make a contribution to Storer College [01:16:14.18]—New Hampshire, Connecticut. We stayed at Yale University one night, you know, and sang there. New York, New York City. We'd sing there. We came all the way down to Charleston, West Virginia and sang a concert there. Then we'd stop by Clifton Forge, Virginia [01:16:49.26], but we didn't get to sing there at that church down there. Something happened, and we didn't get to make it. We went to the Eastern shore, too. EE: And what did you sing? What kind of places did you go to? Did you go to churches, or did you go to schools? DJ: Churches. It was churches, yeah. EE: And what kind of songs? What was your favorite song? [01:17:30.02] DJ: [laughs] I can't recall what my favorite song was, but I think it was an Easter song, “He Was Wounded.” I used to like that. His name was Oscar Villa [?] [01:17:41.12], a big, heavyset fellow. He sang tenor. I can hear him singing, “He was wounded for our transgressions.” I did like that part. I think that was one of my favorite songs. I don't know the name of it. EE: And what did you sing, what part did you sing? DJ: Whatever it was [01:18:07.23], the bass part. Yeah, I was the bass. I sang the bass, the baritone and bass part. EE: Well, you had a pretty good two years. You were a pretty busy guy. [01:18:21.08] DJ: Yeah. Maybe I was. [laughs] EE: You must have been traveling an awful lot if you were traveling for football and traveling for the choir. DJ: Yeah. We did a lot of traveling during that time. Just the Northern Baptist Convention paid for it. High expenses, you know, coming up that way, you see. EE: Who did? [01:18:49.14] DJ: I said the Northern Baptist Convention. The Northern Baptist Convention is the one that sponsored Storer, you know, all during the time I was there, yeah. EE: Well, this is great. This is good. Do you got another song you want to sing? Do you want to sing us out of this interview, sing me a song that you sang? DJ: What now? EE: Do you want to sing me a song? [01:19:12.17] DJ: No, I can't sing. [laughs] EE: All right. DJ: I never did any solo parts. EE: Any what parts? DJ: Solo. I never was a soloist. I just was an accompanist, you know, whatever. EE: It sounds like you were a team player all the way. DJ: Yes, that's right. EE: This is great. Well, I'm going to say thank you, and I really appreciate your taking the time and sharing all of these wonderful memories. DJ: I hope I was a help. I didn't think I could be of much help. EE: I think you were a great help, and I think you're more of a help as we talk. So, if you think of other things, write them down, and we can always talk again. So, thank you so much. DJ: Okay. Alright, then, Miss Elaine. [01:20:03.11] Call me any time. [laughs] EE: Thank you, Mr. Johnson. [01:20:07.23] [End of Transcript]

Storer College Oral History Project Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (HAFE) Interview with David Johnson by Elaine Eff April 23, 2014

4. Interview with Dorothy Young Taylor by Elaine Eff


EE: Okay. Looks good. Today is Monday, May 5, 2014. This is Elaine Eff, and I am doing a recording for the National Park Service about Storer College. I am interviewing Dorothy, known as Dot, Young Taylor in her home, and it is a beautiful day. So, first, thank you for letting me come to your house. [00:00:48.24] DYT: Oh, you're welcome. EE: And we are going to start by asking you first to say your name and then tell me where you were born, where you grew up, and then we'll get into the college. So, start with your name and where you were born, and where you got your [inaudible] [00:01:04.04] DYT: Okay. My name is Dorothy Y. Taylor. I was born in Charles Town, West Virginia. I lived here all of my life. My parents were Catherine and Aldridge Young. [00:01:19.20] They're both deceased, of course, at this time. And I have one sister who is deceased and one brother who is still living, and that's my family. EE: And tell me, if you want to, if you don't want to, I understand, when you were born, what year were you born? [00:01:38.09] DYT: Oh, I was born on February 29, 1936. EE: Leap year. Whoa. So, you're really only a quarter of your age. DYT: Wouldn't that be nice. [laughs] That would be lovely. EE: Let's talk about your early memories of Charles Town and education. You know, your schooling here. [00:02:11.17] DYT: Okay, let me think. I went to Eagle Avenue School at the age of five and the first grade. At that time, they didn't have kindergarten. Then when I went into high school, I went to Page-Jackson High School and graduated from that in 1953. EE: Okay. So, you're talking about going to school here in Charles Town, and you graduated from Page-Jackson. I'm trying to understand what you remember about education and what the importance of education was in your family. [00:03:00.19] DYT: Well, my parents, of course, didn't go to college or anything like that. As a matter of fact, I'm the only one in my family that went to college. My sister didn't go, and my brother didn't go. And education was important. I mean, it was talked about that, at that time, everybody needed to finish school, you know, especially high school. But I was the only one in the family who decided to go to college. EE: Now, why was that? How early did you start thinking about that? [00:03:34.05] DYT: You know, I really don't know. It's just something I just wanted to do. I said, nobody else has done it in the family. So, I think I'm going to college, and I'm going to finish. It was my thought at that time, and, well, I did it. EE: Where were you in the birth order in your family? [00:03:52.17] DYT: The middle child, which may be—that might have been one of the reasons why I was stubborn about doing it. They say middle children lose out on a lot of stuff anyway. So— EE: So, tell me when you first heard of Storer. When you said you wanted to go to college, where did you want to go? What were you thinking about? [00:04:15.27] DYT: Well, we'd known about Storer, you know, all of our lives, because it was there, and we knew a lot of people went to Storer. So, when we graduated from Page-Jackson, this was before integration, of course. So, Storer was the next, you know, place that you thought—you know, for everyone around here, that was where you went to school. And we had a friend that graduated before me, and she went to Storer. And of course, she talked about it. So, it made us want to go. You know, everybody in my class that wanted to go to college, this is where they went. Meg—Margaret, [Jackson Smelley] as we called her—went to Storer with us. We had another friend, Mary. [00:05:00.14] So, everybody around here that wanted to go to college, that's where you went. You went to Storer. And, of course, when Storer closed, we had to continue that education. We didn't want to give it up. So, we went to Shepherd [College] after that. EE: What did your parents do? What kind of work did they do? [00:05:21.00] DYT: My father worked at the Halltown Paperboard Company, and my mother was just a domestic. She helped in homes. EE: How did they feel about your wanting to go to college? [00:05:32.21] DYT: Oh, they were very much in favor of it, yeah. I mean, it was just something you did. You didn't stay home, you know. You had to either go to school or you had to go to work. EE: So, tell me, when you first saw Storer, how old were you? [00:05:53.15] DYT: Oh, my goodness. I don't even remember because when we were growing up, there were certain things that went on at Shepherd that we went to, you know, like concerts or— EE: You mean, at Storer? DYT: At Storer. Yeah, I'm sorry. EE: Do you want to say that again? Do you want to say that again and use Storer? [00:06:14.15] DYT: I'm trying to think of what I said. [laughs] EE: You said Shepherd. [00:06:18.08] DYT: Yeah, when we were growing up, when they had programs there that we wanted to go see, the parents wanted to go see, too, we just, we were there, you know, at different times. This was at Storer, of course. [00:06:32.18] So, it was something that you just grew up with, you know. It was there, and it was a place everybody just wanted to go for certain reasons. When they had, like I said, programs or if they had choirs and things like that, programs like that, my parents went to see that. EE: How did you get from Charles Town to Harpers Ferry? [00:07:00.03] DYT: We drove. EE: You had a car? DYT: Uh huh. EE: Could you get there by any other means? DYT: No, unless you wanted to walk. EE: There was no public transportation? DYT: No, no, back in those days, no, it wasn’t. EE: So, describe Storer College to me as you remember it, your earliest memory of it. [00:07:25.23] DYT: I can't remember that far back. EE: What did it look like? I know you've probably been back in recent years. [00:07:32.19] DYT: Yeah. It really hasn't changed that much. When I went to Storer, it probably looks—I'm sure it looks the same. The same buildings are there, used for other purposes, of course, but the buildings are the same, and it really hasn't changed that much from the time I was there and going back later on, years after it closed. It hasn't changed that much. EE: How did it compare to Shepherd College? [00:08:04.11] DYT: Very small. It was a small school. It was just those few buildings that were there. I'm trying to think how many was there at the time. I think about six or seven buildings. EE: Do you remember how many students were in your class? [00:08:28.02] DYT: In my freshman class, there were probably about fifteen or sixteen, just a very small class. EE: How many were men and how many were women? [00:08:45.18] DYT: There were more girls than boys. That was for sure. I would say that there were probably about, maybe about eight males, the rest females. Now this is not probably true because I can't remember really. EE: I actually think we've seen a picture of your freshman class. DYT: Oh, good. EE: I'm pretty sure that Margaret has a picture. DYT: Okay. Margaret would probably have a better idea of how many. EE: So, when you went to Shepherd, how different was that in terms of size and student body? [00:09:31.25] DYT: A larger student body, much larger. I went in as a sophomore… EE: But you only stayed for one year? DYT: At Shepherd? EE: At Storer. [00:09:48.02] DYT: Two years at Storer. EE: So, you went in as a junior. DYT: No, I went in as a freshman. EE: You started Storer as a freshman. DYT: Yes. EE: And then you went to Shepherd as a junior. DYT: Yes. I'm sorry. I misunderstood you, yeah. Just two years. EE: Were they different kinds of schools? What was the difference between Storer and Shepherd? [00:10:22.23] DYT: It was really different. For one thing, there wasn't that many black kids at that time, and some of the teachers were friendly enough, and some weren't. You had to deal with that problem. But, after all, it was a pretty good school. EE: What do you remember about being a day student at Storer versus if you had lived there? Was there a difference in the kinds of activities that the students were engaged in? [00:11:06.23] DYT: Well, I only commuted. You know, we only commuted. So, I didn't stay on campus. I wasn't involved in any of the activities really. Maybe, you know, at night, if they had something like a dance or something like that, maybe we could stay for that, but I didn't get involved in any of the activities that they had on campus at that time. When our last class was over, we drove home. If it was any activities any other time, maybe we would go, you know, at night or something like that when we had something going on. EE: Do you remember going to homecoming or any of the football games? [00:11:57.07] DYT: No. EE: So, you were really just very much a day student. DYT: Yes. EE: Who did you go with? You said “we.” DYT: Well, we had another girl, Joanne [?] [00:12:11.22]. Her mother would drive us sometimes. EE: What was her name? [00:12:14.14] DYT: Joanne Baring [?]. She's deceased now. And there was another one. Her name was Mary Taylor. Who else would go? That's the only two I remember from here. EE: How did you get to be friendly with Margaret Smelley? [00:12:48.06] DYT: Margaret and I graduated from high school together. She was in my graduating class. They lived in Harpers Ferry. Of course, there wasn't a high school there. So, they, after they finished, I guess, sixth grade at Grand View, they had to come up to Charles Town to go to school. So, she was in, I guess, from the seventh grade on up. EE: So, what did you study there? Do you remember what you studied at Storer? [00:13:32.09] DYT: Just maybe basic classes then. We had English lit, biology—boy, oh, boy. It's been so long. I can't even remember. Just the basics that we had that you would take when you entered into college, your English, your sciences. [clash] You know, I can't even remember half the classes. EE: Do you remember any of your teachers? [00:14:18.26] DYT: Yes. We had Dean Johnson for a teacher. EE: What did he teach? DYT: You asked me too fast. [laughs] What did he teach? EE: What kind of man was he? Was he white or black? DYT: He was black. We had Dr. McKittrek [McKinney ?] [00:14:45.00]. She was white. She taught us the English lit and those courses. The biology teacher, I can't remember her name. EE: Was it Ms. Jemison She gets mentioned a lot. I hear her name quite a bit. DYT: It doesn't sound familiar. I can't think of her name. EE: Were any of the teachers like the ones that you needed to—were there teachers that you had to stay away from? [laughs] [00:15:18.06] DYT: No, no. Oh, Mr. Patrick. He was the social studies teacher. EE: Was he white or black? DYT: He was black. EE: So, the student body was all black, but the teachers were mixed. DYT: Uh huh. EE: Was there a difference in the way they treated the students at all? DYT: Not at all. EE: How did you feel as a student during that era, an era of unequal rights, I would say. [00:16:03.06] DYT: You know, we didn't feel anything because they treated us just like we were students. I mean, there wasn't any difference. Dr. McKittrek [McKinney(?)] who was white, she was just our teacher, and we never thought, you know, we didn't look at her as just, you know, “She's our white teacher.” She was our teacher, and that was the way that we approached her, and she approached us as students. You never thought, you know, there was any difference as far as race was concerned. As a matter of fact, we used to tease her, and she'd laugh. You know, we just had fun with her. [00:16:42.17] Of course, Mr. Patrick was a very stern type of—I mean, when you went into his classroom, he was ready to work, you know. You didn't tease him. And Dean Johnson, of course, he was the same. He was very stern. He was, we had to teach these bunch of little kids around here. That's the way we looked at it, as a bunch of kids. EE: When you were there, you were all four-year students, even though some of you couldn't stay for the full four years at that point. What degree were you going for, had you hoped to go for? [00:17:22.29] DYT: Just a BA, a Bachelor of Arts. EE: What were you planning to do with that? [00:17:26.10] DYT: I really didn't know at that time. I didn't make up my mind until I went to Shepherd what I wanted to do. EE: And what was that? [00:17:35.10] DYT: Elementary education. You know, I just didn't have any goals at Storer, you know. EE: Storer was primarily an education institute for teachers. I think it turned out mostly teachers? [00:17:56.14] DYT: Yeah, mostly. I mean, a lot of them, you know, you could get your degree in any subject matter, biology or whatever, you know, literature, English, at that time. I really didn't have a goal when I went to Storer. EE: How do you feel Storer prepared you for going to Shepherd? [00:18:23.12] DYT: Very well because when we went to Shepherd, all of our classes, we didn't have to repeat any classes, you know. We were accepted. Every class that we took was accepted as the same as—if you were already there at Shepherd. EE: Do you have any great memories, particular single memories of Shepherd, things that really stood out in your mind? DYT: Not really. EE: Is there any place that you really liked to be, to go, like to sit, like to walk to? [00:19:14.06] DYT: We used to—they called it the Rams’ Den We used to just go there and eat lunch and stuff and just sit and talk until it was time for your classes to begin. But other than that, you know, that was it. EE: Where was the Rams’ Den? Which building was that in? DYT: I don't even know the name of the building. EE: What other activities happened in that building? DYT: I don't know. EE: Was it down in the basement? [00:19:58.07] DYT: Let me think. It has changed so much. So, I'm trying to remember. Let's see. EE: I've heard people talk about the canteen. Would that be the same building? DYT: Yeah, it'd be the same place, I guess. Now you're talking about at Shepherd or at Storer? EE: Storer. DYT: Oh, at Storer, it was called a canteen. It was like in the basement. EE: What was that Rams’ Den? Was that at Shepherd? [00:20:31.24] DYT: The Rams’ Den at Shepherd. EE: I'm going to have to not mention Shepherd. I can see that it's getting confusing. DYT: Yeah, it is. EE: We'll not even think about it again. DYT: We won't even mention the word. EE: Never again. All right. So, what was the student body like in general? Would you say they were fun loving or they were very studious? Was it a competitive environment? What was it like? [00:21:03.25] DYT: No, it wasn't. It was a friendly, fun-loving type of group because it was small enough. Everybody knew everybody else. Even if you didn't live on campus, you knew everybody there, and when we'd go to that little canteen, like it was called at Storer, we'd sit there, and people would talk and laugh and play and have fun, and, you know, you either brought your lunch from home, or you sit there and ate. You could buy lunch there, whatever they would have at that time. EE: Now, why don't you tell us about—you went to Storer just two years before it closed forever. I wonder if you had any idea that that was in the future, but I'd love to know like, if that was the case, what you knew and what it was like when you learned that the school was going to close. [00:22:12.14] DYT: Okay. We found that the school was going to close in our second year there. And we were told by different teachers that this was what was going to happen. They kind of gave us some ideas about where to go to school, what to do, you know, how to transfer to another school and all of that. So, it wasn't a secret. You know, they let us know that next year, the school's going to be closed. EE: Do you remember how you learned? [00:22:49.05] DYT: One of the teachers mentioned it. I'm not sure who it was. I don't remember who it was. And I mean, it might have been Dean Johnson because he was also the Dean of the school at the time. He just, you know, let you know this was what's going to happen. So, start making plans about what you want to do, where you want to go to school to finish. And it was just a matter of fact, you know, that was it. EE: So, how did you feel about that? [00:23:28.12] DYT: I didn't feel one way or the other. Like he said, this was a matter of fact, this is what's going to happen. So, make plans. I mean, there was nothing we could have done about it. So, it was just something you just—that was it. EE: So, how did you feel, having gone to two colleges in your career, what place does Storer College hold for you? [00:24:01.29] DYT: Well, it was a place where, you know, we had a lot of fun there. We met a lot of new people coming in. It was comfortable. If you were in a place where you feel comfortable, you enjoy it. We were just very comfortable there. And the thing about it, like I said, we commuted. We didn't live on campus or anything like that. So, when our classes was over, we came home. So, it wasn't anything like, it would have been a different feeling if I lived on campus, but you went there. You took your classes, and you came home. EE: Did you spend time in the library? Where did you do your studying? [00:25:03.24] DYT: We studied mostly—we did some studying in the library. But you didn't do a lot of studying there because we came home. If we had an eight o'clock class and maybe didn't have any more until the rest of the day, when that class was over, you came home. You did your studying at home. But if we had all day classes, we would go study where we could find a little room to study in. We went to the girls' dorm and studied there. But we did have a special place for commuters, you know, people who commuted back and forth. You found a place where you wanted to study, and it could be anywhere. EE: Did you ever go into town, into Harpers Ferry? [00:26:12.11] DYT: Sometimes in between classes. Now, one class I had at eight o'clock and didn't have another one until four o'clock. So, on days like that, we'd maybe walk around Harpers Ferry a little bit. But mostly you just—sometimes we came home and went back at four. But we didn't do a lot of things like in the town itself. EE: Were there places that were off-limits? Were there places that you couldn't go? [00:26:45.11] DYT: No, no. I don't remember that at all, anything off—no. EE: Did you ever go into Bolivar? Did you go to friends' houses? [00:27:02.03] DYT: The only house, maybe it would be Margaret's. We would visit there. But other than that, we didn't know anybody else there that we would want to visit. That was about all. EE: Tell me who Margaret is so we can have it on the record. DYT: Margaret is a friend of— EE: What's her full name? [00:27:19.15] DYT: Margaret Jackson Smelley. They lived in Bolivar. I'm not sure whether they lived in Harpers Ferry or Bolivar, which is confusing, like Charles Town and Ranson. We would visit them, and then there was another friend that we graduated from school with. He lived there, and he went to Shepherd—I'm sorry. He went to Storer for a while. EE: What was his name? [00:28:00.03] DYT: His name was Leslie Dennis, and other than that, that was the only people that we really knew there because there was a lot of older families there at that time living in Harpers Ferry, but they were only ones that we really knew. EE: Did you go into town, into Harpers Ferry or to the college on Sundays for vespers? Was that required for you, too? [00:28:25.13] DYT: No. EE: Were you familiar with that? [00:28:29.12] DYT: Yeah, we heard, the ones who lived there, we heard them talking about it. But like I said, we weren't, you know, part of that weekend was not—you know, we went to our own churches here. So, you know, things like that, we weren't required to do. It was just people who lived on the campus. EE: Now, I'm guessing that you were aware of the Niagara movement and sort of the role that Storer played in early civil rights. Was that kind of part of the education? What was your consciousness of that at the time? [00:29:07.25] DYT: That was not even part of what was even discussed at any time when we were there, and I didn't really know about it until after I was older, and you heard about it. None of the teachers ever mentioned it. Nobody ever talked about it. I guess, in the last maybe about fifteen or twenty years did you hear anything about the Niagara movement. EE: Did you have any kind of social life there? Was there any dating? Were you aware of people coupling off? [00:29:52.08] DYT: Oh, aware of that during school, during the day, but, no, we—like I said, we just came home after everything, you know, after classes were over. EE: How do you feel about the Park Service taking over or being the new stewards for Storer College? [00:30:14.27] DYT: I thought that was really a good thing because it preserved the buildings. You know, I think it was really great that they did. EE: Now, do you ever go back there? If so, what do you do when you're there? [00:30:37.15] DYT: Back to Storer? Like I think I said before, last year, when they had the reunion, I went and ate lunch with a friend of ours, but I never really went to any of the reunions because I didn't know anybody there. There were usually the older people who remember Storer much better than I would. They were the ones that you would see at the reunions. But, other than that, I don't think I've ever been back to anything maybe. I'll take it back. I went to something they had last year. Oh, what was it? Some discussion. I can't remember what the title of it was. But that would have been—you know, I didn't go back to anything like that. I guess maybe because we weren't really so much a part of the campus life itself, that, you know, once you got finished with whatever you were doing there, you just came home. You had things to do, you know, here, and we had our churches we went to here, not vesper there. So, we were kind of—we weren't isolated, but we just didn't feel like we were really a part of everything that went there, that was going on there, rather. But, other than that, we just enjoyed ourselves when we were there, but we weren't that much involved with things after classes were over. EE: When you say “Storer College” to people, what do they know about it? How do they respond to it? [00:32:57.16] DYT: Well, a lot of people don't even, I mean, a lot of people just didn't know about Storer. Now, younger ones growing up, you mentioned it, they have no idea what you're talking about. It wasn't very well known. It was just—even though there were some students there from Africa, there were students from Virginia, and let's see if I can remember some of the places that some of them were from when I was there, New Jersey, but it probably was because a parent or an aunt or an uncle or a grandmother or somebody attended Storer that talked to that particular person and told them about Storer because I couldn't imagine a lot of those students coming all the way from New York or the New Jersey area coming to Storer, you know, a little small school in the middle of nowhere up in the mountains in Harpers Ferry. But it was because of the parents, like I said, the parents or grandparents or somebody knew about that or either went there years ago. And they talked, I guess, to their children or grandchildren about Storer, and that's what happened. A lot of them decided, “I'd like to go there. It's a small school.” And I guess at that time, you know, when we went there, now this, like you said, there wasn't that many small black schools around that didn't cost a lot of money, you know. EE: Do you remember what it cost when you went? [00:34:44.10] DYT: No. It wasn't hardly anything. Maybe a hundred dollars a semester or something. It didn't cost anything. EE: Was John Brown's Fort on campus when you were there? DYT: Yes. EE: Can you tell me a little bit about that? What that meant or not? [laughs] [00:35:09.08] DYT: We didn't pay much attention to it. It was just there. You know, a lot of times, we didn't even know who John Brown was at that time. We knew that that fort was there, and, you know, in talking maybe to somebody, “John Brown did this, and John Brown”—okay, you know, it didn't mean a whole lot. I guess, when you're young, and you don't really think about stuff like that, you know. It's other things that are on your mind. Now, now, of course, I know what it's all about, and I wish I was more involved in history at that time because everything was there for you to learn about the history of John Brown, but we just said, “Well, okay. The fort's here,” that's it. It didn't mean a whole lot. EE: It's a pretty remarkable place, and sometimes you have to be away from them to realize. [00:36:18.06] DYT: Yeah, probably so. But I guess, you know, it's like everything else. People would come from all over to visit Charles Town to find out where John Brown—his trial was here. And we never, it never dawned on us that, you know, how important that was. We said, “Okay, John Brown's trial was here, and there was the courthouse.” [00:36:49.04] It's like, you know, even in your hometown, there's some places in your hometown you probably say, “Well, there it is. It's just there,” you know, and it's just something you just, it's just there, and you don't really realize how important something is. It's your hometown, and that was just it. [00:37:10.05] But with Storer, it was a lot of history there. Even later on, we didn't even know who started the school, and later on, after I got older, we found out about John Storer. We found out a lot about Brackett and the missionaries from New England that came down to start these schools in this area. And we knew there was one that started a school here in Charles Town, and we knew that—we found later there was another one, Dudley, that went to Martinsburg and started a school. But this all happened after you were grown up and older. So, as you were young and you're going on your teenage years, you don't think about stuff like that. But really now it's important to know that history. EE: How old were you when you started Storer College? [00:38:18.09] DYT: Sixteen. You know, a little giddy headed, giggly sixteen. You know, how much do they really think about stuff? But it was sixteen. EE: It's nice to know that life is long enough that we get sort of to come back and look at things in a different way. DYT: Yes, in a different way. EE: Is there anything that you want to tell me about the college or about your memories or just any specific things you loved or hated or just remember specifically, any quick vignette? [00:38:57.05] DYT: I really can't. You know, sixty years is a long time to try to keep a memory. I can't remember. Let's think. EE: Just in case I turn off the machine and you say, “Oh, I wanted to tell you this.” So, I just want to—just know that if there's a question you think I should be asking you, let me know. Otherwise, I think we might just— [00:39:36.07] DYT: I really can't think of anything other than that we really lost out on a lot of things that were going on at Storer because we weren't on campus, as I said before. And, you know, I'm sure that after classes were over and they went to the dining room, this is when you could really, you know, sit and talk. We missed all of that, you know. And that's a time when a lot of memories are made, when you have a chance to get together with friends and talk and giggle and tease each other. I think you even make your little memories with your little—little boyfriends start to come in together. So, we missed a lot of that. So, I think that—I guess memories that I just didn't have like that, you know? EE: How would you rate your education there? [00:40:43.11] DYT: It was really a very good education. We had to work hard for our grades because, like I said, some teachers were very stern, and you either had to really work at your grades. There was no playing around. They were serious about what they were teaching, and they were serious enough to make sure that you got what you were supposed to get because I said, when I transferred to another school, we didn't have any problems at all. Transferring our transcripts were okay. Our grades were what was accepted. So, the education I got at Storer was a good education, very good. EE: And how did it prepare you for your career? [00:41:41.20] DYT: I had the subject matter that I needed, you know, for my first two years at least. It did a good job of giving me what I needed. EE: Tell me what jobs you got when you got out of college. [00:42:03.15] DYT: I taught school. I was a third grade teacher for many years. EE: Where did you teach? [00:42:11.14] DYT: There was a school here called Wright Denny, and that burned down. During a storm, it got struck by lightning, caught on fire. And then they built a new elementary school, which was named Page-Jackson Elementary School because the high school itself had closed up. So, I taught there for a number of years. As a matter of fact, I taught school for about thirty-eight years. EE: All in Charles Town? [00:42:53.16] DYT: Uh huh. And then, of course, after I retired, I did a lot of substituting within the county, and I've often asked myself why after all those years of teaching, why I would want to sub, but I did it because a lot of the teachers asked me would I come, would I do it, you know. But both schools, whatever school I transferred to, really gave me everything that I needed to do whatever I wanted. EE: Did you say both schools you transferred to? [00:43:38.27] DYT: No, when I transferred. Remember we're not mentioning. [laughter] EE: So, when you graduated ultimately, why don't you tell me when you graduated from college and where you graduated and sort of maybe paint a picture of the four years. [00:44:07.01] DYT: I graduated from that school. EE: Which one? You're allowed to say it. We're wrapping up. [00:44:16.18] DYT: I graduated from Shepherd, and it was kind of—you know what? Thinking about it, going from a small school like Storer with maybe fifty students or seventy-five students and then going into Shepherd, I think my graduating class of Shepherd was four hundred students. You know, it was kind of funny. Who ever thought that I would be in a class of this many? You know, once you started at Storer, I thought that I was going to, you know, finish at Storer, and to have a class of four hundred students was almost unbelievable, you know, to me at that time. It just didn't dawn on me this was what I was supposed to be doing, you know. [00:45:15.25] And at first, it was a little different, going from a small school to a larger school. There was a whole lot of adjustment, but I think it helped because there were a lot of friends of ours that were at Storer went to Shepherd. So, you know, you had that closeness even with certain people there, you know. Then you met a lot of new students, too. So, it wasn't too bad after all. [00:45:59.09] But Shepherd really, the school itself helped me to do what I, to go into teaching. They did a really good job of teaching me everything that I wanted, that I needed. I didn't have any problems at all finding a job at that time. EE: It's all really good to know, and it's a good story. [00:46:31.21] DYT: Sorry, I couldn't, a lot of it, I can't remember a lot of things after sixty-some years. My gosh. EE: Edwin Remsberg is here in the room, and he'll be taking photographers of Ms. Taylor, and I have a feeling that he has a question. ER: How did the closure of Storer affect the rest of the community that wasn't students there? How did people who were not students who lived in this area, how were they affected when it closed? [00:46:56.21] DYT: You know, I don't think it really affected anyone a whole lot other than the students who lived on campus. I don't think it, because we lived in Charles Town, and Harpers Ferry was another town, and you're around your own, your town, this is where I was born and raised. So, this is where things were important to you. [00:47:29.21] Now, going to Storer, after Storer closed, I didn't want to visit there. I didn't want to do anything there. And like I said before, not living on campus kept you kind of isolated from a lot of things that you could be involved in, and it would have been nice if they would have maybe said that we had to attend vespers. It would have been nice to attend something like that. [00:48:06.10] Now, after I got older, when they have reunions and things like that, we'd come back and go to church there. What was it, last year or the year before? We went to—I think it was last year. Yeah, it was. They had an eleven o'clock service at that little church, but while we were there, we weren't involved in anything like that. We didn't have to go to that church because we were home, going to our own churches. [00:48:53.21] So, when Storer closed, it didn't mean a whole lot. It may have meant a whole lot to the older people who went there, that lived in the county, but it didn't mean a lot to us. It was just like, I guess, anything else. EE: Well, I thank you. DYT: I wasn't a lot of help because I can't remember a lot of stuff. EE: Well, you remember what you remember, and that's worth a lot. DYT: That's it. [laughs] EE: Thank you so much. DYT: You're quite welcome. [00:48:53.21] [End of Transcript]

Storer College Oral History Project Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Interview with Dorothy Young Taylor by Elaine Eff May 5, 2014

3. Interview with Jane Davis Reeves by Elaine Eff


Elaine Eff: Today is April 9, 2014, and this is Elaine Eff, and I am interviewing Jane Davis Reeves on behalf of the National Park Service for an oral history about Storer College. So, why don't we start—first of all, it's great to be here and thank you for being so willing to participate. Let's start just about you. Tell me when and where you were born, who you are, first of all. Tell me your name and when and where you were born and about your family, and then we'll move on to how you ended up at Storer. [00:00:46.16] Jane Davis Reeves: My name is Jane Davis Reeves. I was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the middle child of five. My mother and my father were both born in Maryland: mother, Anne Arundel County, my father, Howard County. We moved out of the city— EE: Let me ask you first, do you want to tell me what your birth date is? [00:01:20.16] JDR: My birthday was January 2, 1930. My mother wanted me to be a New Year's child. She said she jumped up and down and did all kinds of things, but that's usually not in our hands. So, the five of us lived in Baltimore. It was during the Depression, and my father lost his job. EE: Tell me what your father did. Also tell me where you lived in Baltimore. [00:01:54.25] JDR: We lived on Mount Street in Baltimore, and so we moved to Virginia. EE: Tell me, well, first tell me what your father did. [00:02:08.06] JDR: He was just, I can remember he worked at a paste factory. It was during the Depression. So, he lost that job. EE: First of all, what was your father's name and what is a paste factory? [00:02:25.16] JDR: I don't. They made paste, I suppose. EE: How do you spell pace? [00:02:30.08] JDR: Paste [spells]. EE: A paste factory, how interesting. Tell me his name. [00:02:37.24] JDR: My father's name was George Edward Davis. His father was a Methodist preacher. Well, it wasn't United Methodist then. It was Methodist Episcopal preacher. His only brother, whose name was Reverend Clarence Davis, was also a Methodist Episcopal preacher. I come from a long line of preachers and teachers. Reeves 2 At the time, when the Depression was in its full, I was born 1930, and we moved to Virginia because my mother's sister had no children. She and her husband worked in Washington, DC: she as a maid—that was Aunt Janie. I was named after her, and he was a chauffeur for a rich family, a rich white family, I'll say, because in those days, the blacks didn't have much. And that is the reason out of the four siblings that I have, my younger sister from—younger than me, Bernice was born in Virginia. All the rest of us were born in Baltimore because when the Depression got better and he got a job, we moved back to Baltimore. So, I started kindergarten in Baltimore. But I suppose he must have found that city living was very difficult for a growing family because my youngest brother, George, was born in Baltimore. [00:04:35.14] We moved out to a little community called Patapsco Park, about three miles outside of Baltimore. [between North Linthicum and Brooklyn.] EE: Where was that? [00:04:49.03] JDR: I think that was still Anne Arundel County, but in those days, we went to— well, I'll just go through. I started school early because I had gone to kindergarten in Baltimore. They just put me in first grade because consequently when I finished high school, I was sixteen years old. So, I entered college at the age of sixteen and graduated at the age of twenty. EE: Where did you go to high school? [00:05:26.02] JDR: I went to high school in Annapolis, Maryland, Bates High School for three years. My father was at that time a local preacher. EE: So, your father made a career jump at some point. JDR: Yes. EE: Why don't you tell me about that? That's interesting. [00:05:46.08] JDR: Okay, when we moved to Patapsco Park, we were members of St. John's Methodist Episcopal Church. My father became a local preacher, then a supply pastor. EE: What is that? [00:06:04.28] JDR: At that time, his father died, who was a preacher, Reverend George A. Davis. My father was Reverend George E. Davis. Edward was his middle name. So, we had to move. They assigned my father to his previous father's pastorate because my grandfather died. So, my dad, as a supply pastor, went to his church to become pastor, and this was near Frederick, Maryland, but the place was called Ijamsville with a silent “j.” It was spelled Ijamsville [spells], and that's where we Reeves 3 stayed from my age five to fifteen, and that summer we moved from Baltimore County to Frederick. I had one year to finish high school there in Frederick County. [00:07:18.24] Now, my father wanted to join the conference, but you had to have a college degree, and my father did not have that. So, he enrolled in Storer College, and we commuted twenty-six miles one way back and forth to Storer College. EE: Now, you said “we.” [00:07:44.15] JDR: When I graduated from high school, I went to Storer College, too, and then a couple of ladies in the community wanted to get a college degree, and so they went with us back and forth. We had a car full, just about. EE: How interesting. [00:08:05.25] JDR: For four years. EE: Now, tell me this. How did you even know about Storer College? [00:08:14.01] JDR: My father. I guess the conference told him there was a college nearby where he could get his degree because he had to have a degree in order to join the Methodist Church and become a pastor. So, he went to that—while I was still in my senior year of high school, then I joined and went down there with him. And my younger sister Bernice two years later, because she's two years behind me. It was unique because everybody knew a father and a daughter were going to school, college together, and there were other retired—well, not retired—other adults in the area of the West Virginia/Virginia/Maryland area that went to Storer, some on weekends just to classes, but my father and I went full time, and we graduated in 1950. EE: So, tell me what years you attended Storer. [00:09:25.11] JDR: I enrolled in 1946 and graduated 1950 with a bachelor of science degree. I was the only female in the science department. I wanted to be a doctor. I took premed, but my father talked me out of the way. In those days, you did what your parents told you to do. He said, “You'd better take some education courses just in case you have to fall back on teaching.” So, that's what I did, and I did fall back on teaching, just like he said. EE: Did you always want to go to college? What made you— [00:10:12.04] JDR: The reason I went to college is because in my family, my father's side, that was the next step after high school. My father has a sister that was principal of an elementary school in Baltimore. Reeves 4 EE: Which one? [00:10:29.10 JDR: Aunt Mabel. That was my father's sister. EE: And what school was she principal of, vice principal? [00:10:34.28] JDR: I don't know the name of the school, but she was the principal. My father's only brother, when he joined the conference, I thought he went—I remember my dad saying, he gave him the last ten dollars in his pocketbook. He went off to get his BD at—I forgot. I'm having a senior moment—Northwestern, I think. Northwestern University. EE: Who was this? [00:11:05.11] JDR: My father's brother, Uncle Clarence. The Davis family believed in education. So, in my family, my children are all college graduates. My husband, we'll get to him, was a teacher in Middletown, here in Harrisburg, a little town ten miles from Harrisburg. He was a teacher. So, my heritage is teachers and preachers. EE: Did you know of any other or did you ever consider any other school, any other college? [00:11:42.11] JDR: There was no choice. We were poor as church mice [laughs], and we didn't have the money. In the summer, we would get a job, and that would pay for the tuition. When I went for the first time in 1946, from the high school that I finished in Frederick, the local Elks, I think it's a social club, granted a $250 scholarship to whomever had the highest, among the graduating class, had the highest average. That was me. So, I got it. So, that paid for my tuition. And in the summer—tuition was $250—can you believe it now, at what colleges cost, but in the summer, we worked enough to get it, and we got that. We commuted every day. EE: What other expenses did you have? [00:12:49.15] JDR: That was it. EE: Besides tuition. Books, meals. [00:12:52.24] JDR: Books, yes. No meals. We went back home because it was only about an hour, a little over an hour ride back in Maryland. We went back to Frederick. We lived outside of Frederick in a little place called Centerville. So, that's how we were able to get a college degree. EE: And tell me about your commute. You were telling me about how you went through three states. Reeves 5 [00:13:18.15] JDR: Oh, yes. That was something. We went through three states every day leaving Maryland, and when we got down to—oh, we went through—oh, I forgot some of the names of the little towns we went through. But when we got down to the bridge, in the beginning, in 1946, we had to go through a mountain when we got to Harpers Ferry because there's train tracks still there, but they built this bridge, and that went into Virginia when we got across from the bridge that says, “Welcome to Virginia.” You go around that road, and then you cross the river up at the same river, the Potomac, I think it was. We cross that river and went back to the right, and that took you into West Virginia. So, every day for four years, we went through three states, and that was unique, too. I enjoyed that. EE: Tell me about your first sighting of Storer, when you first saw it, and how it appeared to you. [00:14:28.08] JDR: We parked outside the gate. There was a big gate up there with a nice entrance and the words, “Storer College,” was it 1856? EE: '67. [00:14:43.04] JDR: 1867, but that was there, and it always seemed like hallowed ground. It was dignified. Some colleges, you go into a town, and it's buildings, but there was the campus, and you didn't see it until you went through—you saw it, but you had to go through those gates every day, and I thought that was the way all colleges looked, but they don't look like that now. Oh, I also had the privilege of whenever they needed a substitute teacher at the high school in Leesburg, Virginia, Dean Johnson would send me. I became the teacher's pet. All the way through school, I was the teacher's pet. I didn't make waves. I followed the rules. [00:15:44.24] I'm still a rules follower because if you don't have rules, you'll have chaos. But, anyway, at the end, I don't know where that cup is, but the college had a big silver cup, and every year, they would engrave the name of a student that best represent the ideals of the school, and in 1950, it was my name, Jane Celeste Davis, which I haven't ever seen it. I saw the cup, but it's like an urn, and it was silver, and I think for that year, I was that student because I was a teacher's pet type. [laughs] EE: Tell me how many students were at Storer when you got there and when you left. [00:16:43.03] JDR: My graduating class was the largest graduating class up until that time, 1950. EE: How many came in and how many left with you? And why don't you tell me a little about this photograph that we'll copy? [00:16:59.18] JDR: I don't know what the enrollment was, and some were not in that picture. But at that time—now that was in 1950, and, of course, in '55, the school closed. Whether the enrollment improved or not, I do not know. Reeves 6 EE: Do you ever remember there being white students on campus? [00:17:25.16] JDR: No. We had white teachers, but up until that time, all of my education was all black. Everything was separate. When we lived right outside of Baltimore and had to go to high school in Annapolis to Bates High School, we passed through two white communities, but, of course, we were not allowed to attend them. We had to go through them. It's so funny because when integration came, so many people didn't like the idea of busing. Well, we were bused because of education, because of segregation, and now because of desegregation, they [the whites] didn't like that. They thought it was, but that's what we had gone through allr those years, segregation and had to commute to another black school. There were no high schools around except—because my father was instrumental in getting a bus to take us to Annapolis so we could have high school. [00:18:39.19] When my father was in high school age, they went in Baltimore to Morgan Academy. It was an academy. That's where he got his high school education. My mother only finished elementary because there was no high school. So, that's the way my father got his education, but his family was very education conscious, and all of my family are college educated. EE: Tell me about life in Harpers Ferry. Were you aware of a black-white divide? Were there places— [00:19:22.13] JDR: Yes, yes. West Virginia still is, in my opinion, not as progressive as some of the other parts of the South. Maryland was Southern and completely segregated, but they were still considered the Union, part of the Union. They never seceded. Virginia did, but I remember we used to go to get ice cream at this drugstore in Harpers Ferry. They served us, but we had to leave. We couldn't sit down and eat there. We had to get our cone at the counter and leave, knowing we were college and everything. And in those days, they were more dignified than they are now because you had professors that lectured, and that, of course, enhanced your vocabulary. [00:20:22.28] I don't know if they lecture any more or not. Dr. Schumaker taught us all about, he taught geography. We had about four or five white teachers. That was my first time of being around whites, other than cleaning their kitchen or something because weekends sometimes I would go and do family work. The year I graduated from college, that summer, I did private family work. I would work anywhere, you know, for income. EE: At what point did you get employment in your field—well, tell us first what your major was. [00:21:09.09] JDR: My major was biological sciences, and when I finished college, I was twenty years old, and I sent out applications, Maryland and Virginia and West Virginia. We did our practice teaching in Charles Town, which was four miles from Harpers Ferry, and I went back. I had to stay on campus for some of those Reeves 7 activities overnight, but we went back and forth to Charles Town to practice teaching. So, I sent out to Maryland and West Virginia because I think my certification was with West Virginia and Maryland. I'm not sure about Virginia. I'm not sure. I don't remember. But I didn't get a job that September. [00:22:09.00] So, I went to Washington, DC to try to get a job with the government. That was in 1950. But then it was the Korean War. Which was the first? Korea or Vietnam? Korea. The teacher that got that job went off to the service. So I was called to teach in Baltimore, Towson, Maryland, in December of 1950. I turned twenty-one while I was there, and that was in Towson, Maryland. I had a female teacher. Some of my students was only two years younger than I because I taught senior high school. Maybe my principal realized that I was not mature enough. I'm not sure, but I guess I went in as a substitute. That June, I was dropped. So, I came to Harrisburg. EE: So, in other words, did you continue your teaching career elsewhere? [00:23:27.01] JDR: I came from Baltimore, from Towson to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in June of 1951. I applied here, and I was certified here in Pennsylvania, but I did not get a job. So, I went into the government. I worked at Middletown, which is the Department of the Air Force, and I worked there for fifteen years. EE: So, why did you come to Harrisburg? [00:24:04.12] JDR: Well, I came to Harrisburg because my father was sent here to pastor a church here. So, that's how we got to Pennsylvania. He came in June. I was still teaching. After school was over, I came here because I did not get reassigned. And it was kind of segregated here. My husband was from Middletown, and he finished college. He was trained—well, we'll get to my wedding. I was here a good six years before I got married. Let me see. EE: Well, we want to keep up with teaching and Storer first. [00:24:52.04] JDR: Okay. I worked at Middletown, the Department of the Navy, for fifteen years, and things began to change socially here. Middletown, from downsizing, closed. That was the Department of the Air Force. That year, I got a job teaching at a junior high school, Edison Junior High, seventh grade science. My salary was $2,400 a year. So, when a military facility closed, your name goes on a list. The Department of the Navy called me, and I only got one year in teaching. I loved teaching, but the salary difference, I could not refuse, about $3,600 a year more. So, I went back to the government. That ended my teaching career. EE: Okay. Let's go back to Storer for what prepared you for your career and just tell me, you were a day student. JDR: Yes. Reeves 8 EE: So, tell me where you spent your time when you were on campus. JDR: In class. EE: Yeah, say that in a sentence, what a day was like. [00:26:34.08] JDR: Okay. A day at Storer was most class—mostly classes. We had a room in Brackett Hall, which was the female dormitory, and all the day students, some girls from, my best friend from Charles Town, and we would eat lunch there. And at the end of classes, my father's and mine, we would get home. We would get back in the car, go outside the gate where he parked, and go home and back the next day. [00:27:10.25] Tuesdays and Thursdays was science and lab. That's all I had, but Monday, Wednesday, and Friday was a full day of school. There was no—we lived in the country. There was no other activities available, and those days, blacks could not go to restaurants, and when we went to the movies in Frederick, we had to sit upstairs. This was the 1940s. EE: What about in Harpers Ferry? What social activities— [00:27:48.00] JDR: None. We went back home to Maryland. You know, at the end of the school day, we left Harpers Ferry. EE: Tell me about your best friend in college. Who was your best friend? [00:27:59.22] JDR: My best friend was Ruby Brown. She was a day student from Charles Town, and Ruby married another one of our classmates, Roper. His name was Russell Roper. He built a house there, and I would always go see Ruby. When we begin to have the reunions, she and I were very close. And when I got married here in Philadelphia, Ruby Brown and Delores Berry came to my wedding in 1956 in Harrisburg. Ruby was my matron of honor, I think. We continued to be friends until she died 2000, in the year of 2000. She was a teacher in Bolivar, which is part of the Harpers Ferry—Bolivar becomes Harpers Ferry. It's a small section there. But, yeah, she lived there. Her husband built their home, and that's where she was buried. But I remember the year 2000 she passed. Delores Barry is still alive, but I haven't gone back to—I haven't been to the reunion in two years. [00:29:39.20] Another lady in my class was—oh, I know her name. She's on the list. It's going to come to me in a minute. I'm having a senior moment. Well, Mildred Vollin was a year behind me. My sister Bernice is two years younger than I. She was a home ec major, and most of her classes was in Cook Hall, where the home ec students were. I said Delores Berry. I'm trying to think of somebody's name. Who was it? EE: Well, tell me what classes you took, and how you picked your major. Reeves 9 [00:30:20.27] JDR: All right. I wanted to be a doctor. So, I took all sciences, chemistry. I did very well, only one semester I made all As. I took German. I took Latin. A music class, I did very well in that because my whole family is musical. I played the piano at the end, the last two or three years of college whenever we would have— at noon, we would have—now, what's the word I want? We had a worship service because it was a Baptist school. We had worship service, and when we had the assembly, I would play sometimes. EE: What would you play? When did you play? [00:31:07.27] JDR: Hymns, hymns. EE: On the piano or the organ? [00:31:10.17] JDR: Piano. They didn't have an organ there. I took organ lessons when I came to Harrisburg. There was no organs in the churches. It was all pianos in Maryland when I was a child. EE: Were you able to participate in any extracurricular activities, any clubs or sports or choirs? [00:31:30.10] JDR: I participated the last two years, the choir director needed altos, and I guess he heard me sing in the music class. So, he would have me and my sister stay and be a part of a choir my senior year. He would take us home to Maryland when it was all over. So, he came back and forth just to get us to sing because my whole family can sing or play some kind of instrument. We're very musical. EE: Was there ever a Glee Club? [00:32:03.17] JDR: Huh? EE: Was there a Glee Club? [00:32:05.19] JDR: Yes. I've got a picture somewhere. It's in that book. I'll show it to you. EE: Did you participate in the Glee Club? JDR: Yes. EE: So, what did the Glee Club do? And did you travel? [00:32:16.04] JDR: They traveled, but that was before I joined. I didn't join until my last year because they needed altos. And so I got to sing mostly at school, but the choir did travel. EE: So, when you say “choir,” that's the same thing? Reeves 10 [00:32:33.00] JDR: That's the Glee Club. EE: Got it. Now, what was your favorite subject and tell me why. [00:32:38.21] JDR: Biology because I did well, very well. I made an A. Chemistry, I made an A. And all the biological sciences, the students didn't like it because they—in algebra, college algebra, they graded on the curve, and they would take the highest score and then make it A, B, and C as it came down. They didn't like me because my score was 100 all the time. [laughs] I liked science and math, exact courses. I was not good with—you know, I would rather answer a question, “What is the name of the first one-cell animal?” I'd say, “Amoeba.” But if it's a “describe something,” people, that's more aesthetic, I was a scientist. I'm a bottom-line person, and there's one answer, right or wrong, and I'm still that way. So, my favorite subject was the sciences. EE: Who was your favorite instructor? [00:33:51.25] JDR: I guess—who was my teacher for college algebra? It wasn't Miss Jemison, but we got along. EE: Tell me about Miss Jemison. [00:34:02.19] JDR: She was very strict, and in the beginning, our very first class, we were running around trying to find the right room, and, of course, you get a demerit for coming late. We finally found the right, two or three of us, but we got—she was very strict about that. But it's understandable, the first year, trying to find, you know, where everything was, since we didn't live on campus. But I guess my favorite teacher, I don't remember her name. She taught chemistry. I forgot what her name was. Or Dr. Johnson. He was the dean, and I had a class with him. EE: And what did he teach? [00:34:56.29] JDR: I know trigonometry was one. That's the only class I made a C in because I missed it in high school by moving my senior year to Frederick from Annapolis, which was pre-med, college prep. Frederick was only general education. So, I missed trig. Half of the subjects they had in high school I had already had because I left a better school, Bates in Annapolis, to come to Frederick. I wanted to go back there and live with my aunt because all of my family, aunts, cousins, everybody, was from Maryland, and I wanted to live with my aunt in Annapolis and finish my senior year. My mother didn't want to break up the family, she said. EE: Were your courses that all students were required to take? [00:35:56.00] JDR: In college? The first year, yes. Reeves 11 EE: And what were those classes? [00:36:00.24] JDR: Biology, English, geography, religion, you had to take religion. I did well in that, too. I think it was like overall refresher to see how much you did not or did get from high school, and my education in Maryland undergrad [high school] was not up to par. They were supposed to give us separate but equal. It was not equal. I think in elementary school, those teachers were high school graduates. I don't think they finished college. Maybe the principal did, but it was very inferior education, and I didn't know what it was to study because I didn't have to, because I was always the smartest in the class, in a marginally rural people. And when I went to Storer College and students from the north who went to integrated schools was competition, and that's when I hit the books and had to learn how to study just to keep up. But my education, elementary and high school, was very, was not up to par. It just was not. EE: How would you describe the quality of education at Storer? [00:37:40.11] JDR: Well, to me, it was wonderful because I hadn't had to study and work. I don't know how it would have stood up against white schools. I don't know. But you get out of college what you put into it, and if you go there to learn, you will learn. I guess that's all I can say. EE: Can you tell me about any of the teachers that you remember? [00:38:07.28] JDR: I remember Miss Hyslop. She taught Latin. EE: Was she white or black? [00:38:13.04] JDR: She was white. And she would give you—we laughed so much with her. She would give you a question, and she wanted you to get the answer so bad, she would act it out. She would do all kinds of stuff. My father was in that class with me. I made an A, and he made an F. She said to me, “Why don't you help your father?” [laughs] He had four country churches and raising five children and trying to go to college. He barely made it, and I came out with honors. But, in those days, your parents was here up on a pedestal. Now, I don't know. Nowadays they want to be your buddy, but parents should be parents. But I do remember her because she just would do all kinds of—“interfricio”[phonetic] was the word, and she would go say, “What does “interfricio” mean?” and that was “fright.” It meant “fright.” And she went into, she just went all over, fell on the floor and all. “Now what was that?” she said. You almost had to get it. But I remember her. She was so funny. She looked like Olive Oyl, you know, in the cartoons. She was an oldfashioned— we had her, and Dr. Schumaker was white. Miss Hyslop was white. Who else? Dr. Gunther. He was a German teacher. I made A in German, too, the first year, anyway, and B the second, I think. But, one year, I got all As because I had all my favorite subjects. German was one. I made an A in German my third year, and that's when, in the Methodist Church, they have [offered to send me to] Reeves 12 Meharry Medical School. That's the only black school around that I wanted to go to. EE: And where was that? [00:40:24.12] JDR: Tennessee? I'm not quite sure now. I wonder if it's still—I don't know. It's Meharry Medical College, and that's where I wanted to go. And the Methodist Church was going to send me there because that summer, the bishop—and we were in an all-black Methodist Church. The Methodist Church North and Methodist Church South couldn't come together to let blacks in. So, they put all the black churches in the central jurisdiction, and we had our own bishops and everything. And the bishop that summer saw my grades and he was going to send me to Meharry Medical School. I think it's Tennessee. It's a southern state, but it wasn't the Carolinas. It wasn't Georgia. [00:41:26.04] It must have been, I'm not sure. I'm not sure. But my father again said, “I don't have the money to send you,” and, in those days, blacks didn't get scholarships. Blacks couldn't get loans. Nowadays, it's a good thing because nowadays kids have such debt when they come out of college. It just really ruins their early years. But there was no money for it. So, I had to give up my dream. So, I taught science just the year at Towson and here in Harrisburg, but most of my career has been with the government. EE: Do you remember any kind of honor code or rules that you had to follow when you were at Storer? [00:42:24.07] JDR: They had curfew. We had a women's dorm. Men couldn't come in there unless the house mother—downstairs, they had a living room sort of a set-up for that. But now I think it's coed everywhere, even in the dorms, but at that time, no. EE: You said sometimes you had to spend the night overnight in Harpers Ferry. [00:42:50.05] JDR: Yes, my last year, to practice teach. We didn't get back in time, you know? My father started in 1949, no, no, no, the year before, 1945. But that last year, he waited and graduated with me because he had to bring me back and forth to school. So, he would take just a course or two, go to the library or sit out, you know, until I got my classes done. EE: Where did you stay when you spent the night? [00:43:26.16] JDR: In Brackett Hall with the girls. It was the girls' dorm, and at that time, there were empty rooms. So, I stayed—I remember staying overnight, and I could hear the water at night down, the Potomac River coming. The Potomac and the Shenandoah met right back of the campus, and I always loved the sound of the river. You could hear it. It was at the edge of—John Brown's Fort was right next to Brackett Hall. They later moved it down to the historical area, but at that time, John Brown's Fort was on the campus. Reeves 13 EE: What did its presence, you know— [00:44:14.02] JDR: History. A part of history. We didn't think about that then. We didn't think about that then, but we always knew it was there, and the story behind John Brown and coming through, hanged in Charles Town, four miles away. Now, my children are fascinated. When we go back there, I had them go down with me two years ago, and they went through all their—there's a plaque now, but Storer College members in the Storer College building down in the historical part, and the last name on the list because we had to send the money in for that, that was my father and I. We were the last ones on the list engraved in brass or whatever that is, the plaques. EE: Now, tell me about the library. I know we have a great picture of you there. When did you spend time there? [00:45:16.03] JDR: On Tuesdays and Thursdays because I didn't have classes all day. [telephone rings] I went to the library mostly Tuesdays and Thursdays because we had shop—we had lab day on that morning and some at night, in the afternoon. So, I didn't go all day, like we had to be there at eight o'clock or something and go from class to class because those were lab days, Tuesdays and Thursdays mostly. So, I would spend that time in the library, you know, waiting. We traded books because you had to have, you know, books for everything, but they did have a library, and that's when I would spend my time there in between classes, but it was usually Tuesday and Thursday because I didn't have a full schedule of classes. I just had lab work. EE: Do you remember which of your teachers had doctorate degrees or what kind of degrees your teachers had at Storer? [00:46:33.07] JDR: Dr. Schumaker had, was a doctorate. Our dean of instruction, Dean Johnson. Of course, McKinney, who was the president, we called him Dr. (Oh, there's a package in my mail.) Okay. Dr. McKinney was the president. Dr. Schumaker, he had a philosophy, a doctor of philosophy. I think Dr. Gunther, the German doctor, he was white. I don't know whether Miss Hyslop had that or a master's, but I know of at least three. I don't know about Miss Jemison, whether she had. I know she had a master's. I'm not sure about that, but I know at least three had PhDs. EE: Was Storer College the first time you were educated by white teachers? [00:47:43.08] JDR: Yes. EE: Tell me what that meant to you. [00:47:46.21] JDR: I don't know. They were the authority. They had the information that I wanted to get. So, it was in the summer of my junior and senior year. The Methodist Church, that's how I got my $250 for tuition the following semester, Reeves 14 the Methodist Church sent me to New York to work in a work camp in the black churches in the Bronx, and my senior year, it was in Yonkers. And in Frederick, there was two white girls. I forget where—Joanne, her name was, I forgot the name of the young girl. She was a Methodist, and she was sent there for the same purpose, and both of them were white, and we were roommates in New York. That's the first, yes, that's the first time I was ever around whites, but they were lovely people, and we got along fine. EE: Do you remember any special events that took place on campus? Any special lectures or music or programs that were brought on to the campus? [00:49:10.22] JDR: Football games, but I didn't go to them because I lived in the country and that was on Saturday or weekends. They had a football team, and the choir, of course, which traveled, and the Glee Club. EE: Did you travel with the Glee Club? [00:49:27.14] JDR: No, I wasn't a part of the choir then. Only my last year, when the choir director came and got me in Maryland and brought us back because he needed, you know, just my last year. EE: Tell me about your graduation. [00:49:41.04] JDR: That was this. This was my graduation. We came down, and the minister, a friend of my father's, he had a country church, too, and a member of his church commuted with us. So, he was there. What was his name? He was from Mississippi. I forgot his name.[Reverend Blackmon] I taught his son how to play the piano. That's when I started teaching piano, my senior year of high school. But he was there, my mother and my father, and that's when they took pictures of me as the graduate. It was a beautiful day in June. EE: Tell me where the graduation took place and what you remember. Was there a procession? Where did you walk? Where did you go? [00:50:31.15] JDR: Oh, the procession. In Anthony Hall was the building where most of the classes were, and we marched in, yes. That was a nice day. But, of course, after the service, there was no place socially you could go in the 1950s. Those were— looking back now, on how things have progressed, I realize that segregation was a terrible thing, and many people are still fighting the Civil War. They still are. It's hard to change men's hearts. But we had a social life of our own, and that was sufficient until you knew and saw some other way, like when we came to Harrisburg, of course. You see white people all the time, but down there, it was, you stayed in your community, and children adapt. That's the way it was, you know. You do what you have to do, as Maya Angelou says, and Oprah quotes her often. When you know better, you do better, but if everything, if that's all you've known, you make your peace with it until you can do better, and that's the way Reeves 15 life should always be. EE: What lessons, what do you think were the great lessons that you learned, you know, maybe both good and bad, from Storer specifically? [00:52:20.21] JDR: I feel, and I've got to speak about that, as an African American, that it's going to take a long time, but the answer to all of this is education. And I come from a family on my father's side of people that believe in education. I feel like this year, you should be a little better off then you were last year. I believe in progress, and I realize now how things were then and how you've got to prepare yourself for life because life has got to be lived. You have no choice, and you need to do as much as you can to keep moving upward, to better yourself, and then to pull somebody else along that don't know. I find that so much in my church now. EE: But what about at Storer? Were there any great life lessons that you think began there? [00:53:43.04] JDR: Only how important education is. When you're young and you live in an all black society—I lost my train of thought. You get satisfied. I realized that I would rather be a little fish in a big pond than a big fish in a little pond, and I feel what I got in my early years, all young people need to know and do and be around people that can lift you up. I don't know if I realized that then because I was very young, even sixteen, starting college at sixteen, and finishing at the age of twenty. I didn't know anything about life and how it is. I lived in a cocoon, and my husband now tells me—he's gone. He said, “Janie, you don't think like black people.” I said, “What do you mean? I grew up in an all black situation. My father was black. My mother was black.” My mother was of mixed race because her father was biracial. My mother's picture's there. I'll show you, a good-looking woman, a very good-looking woman. But I feel like you should pull yourself up from your bootstraps, but my husband explained to me, some people ain't got no boots. I didn't have empathy. I do now. Age and sickness brings that on. And I didn't know how inferior and cloistered a life I lived because I volunteered at the soup kitchen. I was there today. I was almost afraid of street people. I would never—the only people I knew were in our church and in the school. I never saw street people. I didn't— EE: I have to get you back on track. I want to try to stay historically here. [00:56:28.07] JDR: But those were the things I've learned, that the answer to life is education and being aware of all that is around you, and the different kinds of people there are in this world. EE: Describe what the people were like at Storer. Did you walk into a situation where everyone was just like you? Were there a lot of different— Reeves 16 [00:56:52.14] JDR: I didn't notice any difference because we were all dirt poor. I didn't notice any difference. The people that came to college came from a family that cherished and loved education and becoming more aware. So, those were the kind of people I was around all the time, except for church people. They were like me. We came from poor circumstances, but we came from families that boost education. So, I figured they were all like me, and pretty much they were. But here, like in the city, you see everything. EE: Were you aware of the Niagara movement or the NAACP? JDR: No, no. EE: Tell me about that in a sentence, how that whole movement played out on campus. [00:57:56.07] JDR: I was like a little butterfly [larva] in a cocoon to be a butterfly. I was not aware. I was not aware of the outside society, only my family, which was large. My mother was one of twelve children. My family, the church people, and my college people. I was unaware. I never even thought nationally, statewide. I didn't think about that. EE: How about, were there activists on campus? [00:58:31.17] JDR: No, not then. I don't think the protests started until the late fifties and the sixties. Was there an NAACP? My father was active in the community and trying to better black people. He did. When we came to Harrisburg, which was shortly after my graduation from college, they started the OIC, trying to get people—we had no black—in Harrisburg, no black bus drivers, firefighters. They had to fight to get jobs in there. I didn't realize. Back then, all you could do was be a preacher, a teacher, a lawyer. There was jus not many—no typists. Nobody was hired to work in an office, none. I just didn't realize socially that that's not okay, but I didn't realize it. I was in a cloistered, safe world. EE: What places did you value most at Storer? [00:59:48.14] JDR: Well, I just went to school and back. EE: Was there places—I mean, close your eyes and sort of take yourself back to being an eighteen year old on the campus. Were there places that you really liked to go and that you liked to spend time, or where you felt very— [01:00:05.08] JDR: Not for me, being a day student. Now maybe kids that lived on campus the whole time might have participated in stuff earlier than I. Maybe traveling with the football team or something. But I didn't have any access to any social programs because I was a day student, and I went back to my home. Reeves 17 EE: Did you ever go to Jefferson Rock? [01:00:33.09] JDR: After I graduated. EE: Use that in a sentence. [01:00:37.01] JDR: I didn't get to see Jefferson Rock until we started going back for the reunions, and that's when I got down there, downtown also. But it wasn't historical then because John Brown's Fort was on the campus. Now, everything is down there, and they run buses, but, at that time, it wasn't. EE: Can you describe to me the interior of Anthony Hall? Was that the building that you spent the most time in? [01:01:06.09] JDR: Yes. It was wooden. It wasn't a brick building. And right on the other side was Mosher Hall, which was the men's dorm. Brackett Hall on the other end of the administration building, one was on the left, and the other was on the right, the administration building in between. Wooden floors, there was no tile, I don't think, not swanky at all. EE: What were the classrooms like? [01:01:47.19] JDR: If our graduating class was the largest, there were rooms with desks and stuff, but they were just plain. There was no, the only beauty was outside: the trees, the grass, and all. We had a little gym down at the bottom. There was grass from the entranceway. I thought that was pretty. I loved the entranceway that said “Storer College.” And when you walk in, on the left was all grass, and down below, it looked like an old barn is where the gym classes were. And then—it was small. We didn't have many buildings. Cook Hall, Brackett Hall, the library, the science dorm—not a dorm, the science room. That was it. And then Curtis Hall. Curtis was the chapel. They went to chapel on Sundays, but, of course, I never did. Okay, you're looking for something. [pause] ... the campus life, those that lived on campus had. EE: Say that again. [01:03:07.03] JDR: We as day students did not have access to any social life, which was minimal because of segregation because we had to leave at the end of the day at the close of the classes. We went back into our own little communities. So, I missed a lot. I missed a lot by not living—and I also feel that I lacked a lot of social skills because I was only exposed to family and church and school, nothing else. EE: Tell me what you think about the National Park Service—first tell me where you were when you learned that Storer College was closing. Reeves 18 [01:04:05.11] JDR: I was here in Harrisburg. EE: Can you use my question in your answer? [01:04:11.04] JDR: When, in 1955, when I learned that Storer was closing and it was because of the Brown v. Board of Education. We knew in a way that pretty soon Storer would be affected because nearby was Shepherd College, that they recommended that the Storer students went to. And so by 1955, I don't know what the time schedule was, how it was planned, they little by little got less students in and stayed long enough to graduate. I think some of the students, and then the others were transferred to Shepherd College. EE: Did you have inklings that it was happening? [01:05:13.10] JDR: I just heard the news. We were sort of isolated. Almost all the students at Storer College came from Virginia, Washington, DC, not many from Maryland as I know of, and when we came to Harrisburg, another state, there was nobody around, graduates of Storer, that I lived. There was a couple of kids from Philadelphia. One lived in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. So, we were removed from the scene, and I was not affected so much in the fact that I just heard it was closing, and that it finally did until we began to meet. The twenty-fifth anniversary, we went to Washington, DC, and my father was still alive. I went with him and my mom. That's the first time we had gotten together. That was twenty-five years after I graduated because it was the twenty-fifth of my graduating class, I think. Yeah, I don't know whether it was my graduating class or all of Storer, but most of them, I knew. So, it must have been. That's the first get together twenty-five years after it closed. And I had no contact with the DC people and the Baltimore people because there was no alumni club, a club for graduates, not in this area. I think there was a chapter in Philadelphia, but that's two hours away. [01:07:12.09] So, when I graduated, that was the end of my going until we started the annual reunions that I had. EE: So, tell me what you think of these reunions. How do you feel about them now? [01:07:30.29] JDR: In a way, as you get older, I'm eighty-four now, and the classes are getting smaller. Everybody on that top row, which for a long time of the school picture, they're gone. Every one of them. And one of the first ones before our twenty-fifth anniversary, Freddie Johnson, she's on the second row down, she's the brownskinned girl on the right, she died young. But it's sort of bittersweet because you wonder who's left, and I came very tied to some of my classmates and tried to keep in touch, but only just two or three. EE: You know, you had a lot of men in your class. JDR: Yes. Reeves 19 EE: What was that about? [01:08:27.19] JDR: That was wonderful, wasn't it? They couldn't get jobs. The only thing in the South, and there's so many black colleges in the South because there was nothing out in the corporate world available to blacks. EE: Was Stanley Spurlock in your class? [01:08:47.25] JDR: Yes. EE: Do you remember him being president of the class? [01:08:53.19] JDR: No. I don't remember that. No, I didn't remember that. Maybe I did then. EE: Were you aware that so many of the guys who did come, that were in your class came because of the GI Bill? [01:09:07.28] JDR: Oh, yes. EE: What effect did that have? [01:09:12.28] JDR: I suppose that's the reason they came because, let me see, my brother went out and joined the army when I was a senior in high school in Frederick. Yeah, it was in the forties, and I'm sure a lot of them. My sister, Bernice, my younger sister, married a young man from, at Storer, not at that time. She married him later. EE: Who did she marry? [01:09:39.15] JDR: Henry Stevens, and he went on the GI Bill. So, many did use the GI Bill to go to college. EE: So tell me what you think about the National Park Service now taking the place of Storer College? [01:10:05.16] JDR: I'm glad that it did because it did a lot of—well, Brackett Hall is gone. There's a new building there. And it brings back memories, and it's a place to go to remember your childhood, how interesting and innocent we were, and it's still there. So, I'm glad that they do, that the Park Service took over and made it that because that means there'll be a vestige of some kind of Storer always because there's a Storer building down in the historical place. So, I'm very pleased about that. EE: And I'm pleased that your story will be part of it, as part of the Storer archive. Is there anything that we didn't talk about? I know we didn't talk about your Reeves 20 husband. I know he's not a Storer boy, but— [01:11:01.25] JDR: No, when I came here, my husband was in the service, as he got out. I was twenty-one when I came here. I met my husband when I was twenty-four. He was a graduate of Lincoln University near Philly, and his father's a Baptist preacher, and we were introduced. Now, he majored in high school curriculum, secondary ed, but he could not, because of racism, he had—they gave him a job in the elementary school, and he had to go back to school to get elementary education courses. [01:11:57.04] So, he went—shortly after we were married, he went back to Philly and lived at the Y, went to Temple University, and got his equivalency to become an elementary school teacher, and he got his master's, I think. Yeah, he went to Temple. [01:12:20.01] My daughter went to Temple. My younger son, Justin, got a football scholarship here in Harrisburg. He went to Villanova. So, all of my children are college graduates. For a long time, we didn't have children, and we adopted Chrissy. . . . When she graduated, she was a good student, very good, except for math, but she was in the accelerated class. She just took math, and math was—I was good in that, but she went to the University. She was in track, and she, her husband, she met her husband at a track meet. He lived right outside of Norristown, Pennsylvania, and she met him at the track. She went to Arizona State and dropped out. She had to do it her way. It took her six years, but she got her degree from the University of Reno. EE: Would you have wanted any of your children to go to Storer College? [01:13:39.07] JDR: I became a Pennsylvanian, and I know, if it's totally segregated, no, because it was not—it was separate but not equal. You get a better education except my niece finished Lehigh. Her children—and Justin was going to go to Morehouse. That's a good school, and my niece went to—it's the best female college. EE: Spellman. [01:14:17.11] JDR: Spellman, Spellman. And those two, now Justin, if he hadn't gotten the scholarship to Villanova, he was going to go two years to HAC. EE: What's HAC? [01:14:31.00] JDR: Harrisburg, it's a junior college, a two-year certificate program, but it was rated very high here, and you could transfer almost anywhere. I was going to transfer him to—down in Georgia. We just called the name of it. EE: Morehouse. Reeves 21 [01:14:55.13] JDR: Morehouse, thank you. Another senior moment. [laughs] But he got that scholarship. So, he went. So, my three children—my husband was a graduate of Lincoln University, and then he got his equivalency of a master's in Temple. EE: Have I forgotten to ask you anything? We'll wrap it up now. Is there something about Storer that we should have talked about that I've left out? [01:15:28.04] JDR: I only have pleasant memories of a very innocent time for me in a very cloistered, safe environment. There was something strengthening and comfortable being with all of your own and having the same goal, education to improvement your way of life, and I think I accomplished that. I accomplished that, and it's wonderful to know that you can meet people from other parts of the country and widen your base, widen your base. It was safe. It was beautiful down there. It is pretty. I think it's a beautiful place, and I have nothing but fond memories of my time there. EE: Super. Well, I thank you for sharing them with us. [01:16:30.23] JDR: All right. Good to relive it when you're eighty-four years old, just turned eighty-four in January. EE: I'd like your secret. Thank you so much. JDR: You're welcome. [End of Transcript] [1:16:42]

Storer College Oral History Project Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (HAFE) Interview with Jane Davis Reeves by Elaine Eff April 9, 2014

2. Interview with Elbert Norton by Elaine Eff


Elaine Eff: Today is April 2, 2014. This is Elaine Eff interviewing about Storer College for the National Park Service Harpers Ferry project, and I am here to speak today with Elbert Norton in his home, and I'm going to start by asking you to tell me where you were born and about your early years, and ultimately, we'll get to the reason for this visit. [00:00:35.15] Elbert Norton: Well, I was born in Alexandria, Virginia. EE: Tell me your name. [00:00:42.16] EN: My name is Elbert Norton, and I was born in Alexandria, Virginia, November 2, 1933. EE: Okay and tell me about your growing up and your early education and sort of what led you to want to go to college and to go to Storer. [00:01:05.03] EN: My younger years were in Alexandria. I had some wonderful years in Alexandria. I was raised by two lovely parents. I had three brothers. I am the oldest of four. [00:01:23.68] EE: What was that like as a youngster? 00:01:26.56] EN: It was a lovely neighborhood. Although things were segregated. It may have a whole block of white. The next block, they're all a whole block of blacks, you know, but everything worked out well. I went to school, upper grade, high school, in Alexandria. I participated in various activities, especially baseball, basketball, and football. I played every year until I graduated in June of 1951. EE: And what made you, did you always think you would go to college? [00:02:38.05] EN: That was in the back of my mind, but I wasn't sure whether my parents could afford to send me to school. But for some reason, being the first boy, I guess they wanted me to kind of set the example for the other three. So— EE: How did you even know about Storer College? [00:03:00.06] EN: I knew about Storer College because Ardelia Hunter lived next door to me. EE: Now, tell me who Ardelia Hunter is. [00:03:05.25] EN: And Ardelia Hunter is a Storerite who we lost this past December. She was a devoted educator for years and an elementary school teacher. Then she went into principalship. She was a good teacher. And through her and through a very good friend of my dad, who had two sons at Storer, that was the, the Brooks family, a marvelous family. When I say, “a marvelous family,” that's a family that had three boys that became generals in the army. Isn’t that something? That's amazing, out of the same family. EE: So, now was Ardelia Hunter a lot older than you? Was she a teacher? [00:04:00.05] EN: Ardelia was—I came out of high school in '51. Ardelia came out in around '46. So, the difference was about what, five years, yeah. EE: So, tell me, what did you know about Storer? [00:04:16.16] EN: Well, basically, I didn't know anything about Storer other than just talking to Ardelia, and she always talked about how beautiful the mountains were up in West Virginia. So, when I went there, I saw the mountains, and I liked the scene. The school was small. I said, “Hey, I'm going to like this.” [laughs] EE: Did you ever think about going anywhere else? [00:04:47.10] EN: No. Once I got there, I didn't want to go anywhere else. EE: And what years did you attend Storer? [00:04:57.29] EN: I attended Storer in the fall of 1951 until I graduated in June of 1955. We were the last graduating class. The enrollment just went down and down. EE: How old were you when you went to Storer? [00:05:17.20] EN: Well, I'll say about eighteen years old. EE: And tell me how many freshmen you went in with and what you remember about your freshman class. [00:05:27.02] EN: Well, we had a—it's so long ago. I know there were some pretty girls in that freshman class. [laughs] But the only thing I can tell you about that freshman class is that we got along very well together. And during that first week of orientation, there was a period to get to know your classmates. Yes, it was just a good time of my life. I never had an idea that I would go anywhere else. I didn't want to go anywhere else, and I don't think my dad wanted me to go anywhere else. I think he felt that that was kind of a safe haven for me because he didn't want me to drift. He figured if I could do well here, he said I should do well in life. He wanted me to set some kind of example for my brothers, which I tried to do. EE: Did anyone else from your family go to Storer? [00:06:42.17] EN: No. Storer closed in '55, and my brother after me, he went down to Virginia State. He did real well. He went down to State and finished State and was ROTC. When he came up the army, he was a major. So, he did quite well. EE: So, describe your first trip to Storer. Do you remember going? How did you get there? [00:07:16.11] EN: I got there by automobile. I got there by automobile. I was fascinated by the change in the scenery as we left Alexandria, going up to old Route 7 up through Leesburg. Going off in Leesburg, I could see the difference in the scenery. The mountains and the leaves were still green. It was in September. They were still, still green. And then I would notice the various signs, “Watch For Falling Rock,” that type of thing, you know. It was just a different thing for me because I'd been in the city all of my life and being exposed to that type of things was all new to me, but it was beautiful. EE: Yeah. Describe what you remember when you remember first seeing it. [00:08:16.16] EN: The first thing? Well, it's hard to picture in my mind the first thing that I—I knew there were plenty trees, huge trees, large squirrels, large blue jays. Let me see. It was just something altogether totally different from being a city boy, you know. EE: And where did you live? [00:09:01.09] EN: Right here? EE: No, in Harpers Ferry, at Storer. [00:09:04.06] EN: At Storer College, I lived in the men's dormitory which was named Mosher Hall. Mosher Hall was the old men's dormitory. EE: Yeah. Describe it to me. [00:09:15.25] EN: I have a picture of it. It was old. It had four floors, old floors, old oak floors. It's just an old building. EE: What was your room like? [00:09:32.13] EN: Oh, the room was nice. It was comfortable for me. We made it comfortable. [laughs] EE: What did you do to make it comfortable? When you went in there, what did the room look like? What did you do to make it your home? [00:09:43.07] EN: Well, I just had to do some adjustments. I had to try to make it comfortable for me because, when I went in there, I said, “My goodness.” There wasn't no mattress on the bed. Everything was pulled apart. So, I had to kind of clean up a little bit and get it ready for me, you know. They had radiator heat, and when that thing got hot, that room was hot. [laughs] You could imagine that. That old radiator heat, it got hot. But I liked that old room. EE: Did you have a roommate? [00:10:23.10] EN: My first year, I did have a roommate. I had a roommate my second year, second and third year, I had a roommate. EE: So, what was the ratio of males to females when you got there? [00:10:40.04] EN: I would say, my goodness, there was more women than men. The ratio was—it's hard to say because you had a lot of people that commuted to school, and they came from all around Jefferson County. I wouldn't know what the ratio would be. EE: So, tell me what it was like being really the last full class, the last class to spend four years at Storer. [00:11:28.12] EN: Well, I felt very proud, and then again, underneath that, I felt sad because the proud moment was, I was graduating, and my folks came to the graduation. The auditorium was full of people because everybody had—they knew that the school was closing, and they had an expectation that it could have survived, you know. And come to find out that they had planned to close it earlier, and I'm glad they didn't close it earlier. But we as students didn't know. We had no idea that the school was going to close because that meant that a lot of kids had to transfer to other schools. But being in that last class, when I came out of there, I said, “Well, I don't have a school to go back to,” you know, but—and then again, I say, “I have been a part of history. I have started history by being a member of the last class that graduated from Storer College.” We had a very small class. I don't know how many are left now, but when our class was being recognized at one of the reunions, I was the only one there to represent my class. And the ones that were contacted, they just couldn't make it. You know, they just couldn't make it. EE: You went in with a class of how many, and how many of those graduated? [00:13:28.01] EN: Well, I would have to look at that picture and count those, you know, but in our class, our class was so small. I don't think it was no more than maybe twelve. EE: Who graduated. [00:13:49.28] EN: Who graduated, yeah. As kids, they would come to Storer, and after a year or so, they would transfer and go to other schools. Most of them would transfer either after the first year or the sophomore year. EE: And why would they transfer? [00:14:09.09] EN: I guess they transferred because they wanted to go to another school. Their parents pulled them out to go to another school. They'd go to another school that offered them a little more, I guess. And some just dropped out. EE: So, tell me, what did you major in? [00:14:34.13] EN: Well, I majored in biology. I was a biology major. That's one thing that I really didn't want to major in, but I did. I liked some things of biology, and other things, it wasn't me. EE: Tell me, who was your favorite teacher. [00:14:54.12] EN: My favorite teacher was Dean Pugh. He taught religion. He was one of my favorite teachers. Dean Johnson in science and math, he was a strong teacher, a very powerful teacher. EE: Do you remember who your biology teacher was? [00:15:24.15] EN: I had—it seemed like our biology teachers; we had a new one every year. They would come every year, and they would transfer. I'm trying to think now. EE: Did you have Mrs. Jemison? [00:15:40.10] EN: No, she was there the year before I got there. Mrs. Jemison, they say that she was a very good teacher. They had a biology teacher named Mr. Hicks. He didn't teach me, but that was—what was the lady's name? I can't think of her name now. EE: What was the ratio of white teachers to black teachers? [00:16:15.25] EN: I would say almost half and half. I got to go down the line and call the names. Dr. Schumaker, he was a sociology teacher, and he was white. My class sponsor and she taught, Miss Hyslop, Miss Constance Hyslop, she was a—I don't know what she taught. Dr. Wolfe, he was the librarian. Dr. Ash [?] came over from a Shepherd College. He was there for a while. I'm trying to get some more names in my mind. EE: Who was president when you were there? [00:17:10.05] EN: Mr., Professor, Terrell, Dr. Terrell was president. EE: Do you remember him at all as a man or as a leader? [00:17:22.06] EN: Yeah. He was there my last two years. Let me tell you a story about Dr. Terrell. He had a good relationship with the students on the campus. One year, the basketball team was going on a full four game swing south, and not knowing the schedule of any other activity, I assumed that I was going with the basketball team because I was one of the main players on the basketball team, and they were going down to play Norfolk State, down in Norfolk, Virginia, and Elizabeth City State College down in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Morristown Seminary out in Morristown, Tennessee. And I got a call that the president wanted to see me in the office. So, I went over to his office, and he told me, he said—he got a very slow way of telling you things. He said, he would say, “Norton, I understand that you're one of the valuable players on the basketball team,” and I said, “Yes, sir.” He said, “Well, we have a dilemma.” I said, “What's the problem?” Dr. Terrell, he said, “Well, as you know, the choir, the a-cappella choir is going to Washington, DC to sing on The Capitol Caravan variety show.” Back then, The Capitol Caravan was the black TV show in Washington, “and what it all amounts to, we're trying to promote the school, sell the school so we can get more students to come to Storer College, and I'd like for you to be with the choir.” And he said, “You're a good basketball player, but I also understand that you're a valuable part of the tenor section of the a-cappella choir. So, I need you to go with the choir.” [00:20:06.10] It kind of sunk in, and it hurt a little bit because I was looking forward to the basketball tour. So, I understood what he was saying. I told him, “I can understand where you're coming from, and the school comes first,” and he said, “I'm glad you see it that way.” So, we got along very well. It didn't make too much difference because, as a team, the team lost all the games. [laughs] I believe we probably won one game out of the four. EE: And how was the choir? [00:20:44.21] EN: Oh, the choir, we went to Washington, DC, and we sang at three or four churches that weekend, and that was—during that time, all the black schools used to have a spring tour. Colleges had a spring tour where they would leave campus and go to the different towns and cities and sing and give concerts, and that was all to help to sell the school, promote the school, and hope that we could get more students in the fall. And we could sing. [laughs] And we could sing. I mean, we could sing. We sang songs written by the masters, I mean, a cappella. The pianist just plays four notes, boom, boom, boom, boom, and the director takes over, we would sing. We had beautiful harmony. It doesn't take a whole lot of voices to have a beautiful harmony. EE: How large was the choir? [00:21:49.02] EN: Our choir was always between—I would say twenty-five and thirty people, but that was enough. EE: Was that considered a small choir? [00:21:59.10] EN: A small choir, a small choir, but, you see, when you have powerful voices in a small choir and you all blend together, nobody trying to out-sing anybody else, but they sing together, it's beautiful. I mean, we could sing songs, and in order to be a part of that tour, the professor would put you up on the stage in four-part harmony—soprano, alto, tenor, and bass—and you had to sing the Hallelujah Chorus, [motorcycle noise] and he could tell if you really knew your music or not or were you dependent on somebody else. And that was a very [inaudible] [00:22:55.22] for it. EE: Who was in charge of the choir? [00:22:58.14] EN: Mr. Mathis [?]. Mr. Mathis was a good music man. He was a pianist, and also, he was the music teacher. EE: What was the relationship of the choir to vespers? [00:23:18.00] EN: Well— EE: Vespers? Tell me what vespers were. [00:23:19.22] EN: The vespers was the Sunday program at the church. EE: Which church was that? [00:23:26.29] EN: The Curtis Memorial Church, the church where I got married. I got married in that church. But the vespers was on Sunday at four o'clock, and you had to go. You had to go to vespers. That was one of the requirements. EE: Did you sing in vespers? [00:23:51.17] EN: Sometimes. Sometimes. On occasion, we would sing during the vespers, especially programs, you know. And that old pipe organ in that church was really sounding good then. We had a couple of ladies that could really play it. They had to pump real hard though. [laughs] They had to pump real hard to get the sound right, but that thing sounded good. EE: You just told me that you got married at the church, and I know you were in the choir, and I know a certain young lady was in the choir with you. So, why don't you tell me how you met Miss Jackson. [00:24:35.07] EN: Well, I met my darling wife. EE: Tell me her name. [00:24:41.23] EN: Her name is Mary—at that time, her name was Mary Jackson, Mary Catherine Jackson. Everybody called her Catherine. She was the oldest of twelve. I met her at a choir rehearsal. We used to have choir rehearsals three nights a week, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and it was always in the evening, starting around, I guess, seven o'clock, seven thirty about a hour. But we were sitting side by side, and her voice was too heavy to sing alto. So, the professor had her singing contralto, you see. And she was singing contralto, but she was singing the tenor line. So, she was next to me, and we were singing the Hallelujah Chorus. I can remember it very well. And being a young man, you know, I said, “Girl, why don't you sing the thing right?” I said, “You sang the wrong note.” She said, “You sang the wrong note.” I said, “Look at it.” She said, “You sang the wrong note.” So, I didn't think that she would call the professor. She said, “Mr. Mathis,” she said, “Elbert claims that I'm singing the wrong note. Would you please play that stanza for me please?” [00:26:34.25] So, the girl on the piano played the stanza, and she was right. She was right, see, and I had to think fast. I said, “You mean to say I've been singing that note wrong all the time?” She said, “Yes, you have,” and then I asked her, I said, and she was off, even she lived in town, she walked to school. So, I just asked her, I said, “Can I walk you home?” and she said, “I'll think about it.” I said, “I'm going to ask you again.” So, I asked her again after the rehearsal was over, and she said, “Yes.” That's how it got started. EE: So, when was that in your education? [00:27:25.08] EN: That was in my sophomore year. She was a freshman. She was a freshman, and she let me walk her home. We just had a lovely conversation walking down the street in the night walking home, and that's the way it all started. EE: And where did she live? [00:27:47.16] EN: She lived right in Harpers Ferry. She lived right in Harpers Ferry on Gilbert Street. Gilbert Street's still there. EE: Did you meet her family? When did you meet her family? [00:28:05.07] EN: I met her family that same night. It was a chilly night in the fall. After I walked her home, she brought me in the house to meet her mother and father, and, of course, the rest of the siblings were, they were very curious, my wife being the oldest one, and they had no idea. You see a young girl you like, and it was just something that just got in my heart, you know? So, we were married for fifty-two years. EE: So, tell me, where do you court at Harpers Ferry at Storer College? What did you do? [00:28:57.18] EN: The campus is a small campus. It was beautiful. You had benches out there. And in between classes, you would see the boys and the girls go up and down the campus, sit out on the bench. And then we had a little place called a PX where they sold a bunch of ice creams and hot dogs and potato chips, stuff like that. They had an old jukebox down there. They would gather there. You had to go in town to go to the movie, in Charles Town. We went to the movie. We'd get together, and those who had cars would ride to go to the movie. Then we had a place where we had dances, you know. That was kind of the thing where you got together and met your girl. EE: What kind of rules were there? [00:30:03.08] EN: The rules for men and girls were different. The girls had to be in by a certain time according to their classification: freshmen and sophomores and juniors and seniors. The higher up you were, the more time you had. And then on Sundays, you had a courting time on Sundays because you went over to the girls' dorm, and in the girls' lounge, a beautiful lounge with all of these nice sofas and chairs in there, but you had a time for that. They had a lady named, a matron named Miss Byrd. She was tough. Let's see, we went over there to court your girls. EE: What dorm did she live in? Where did she live? [00:30:54.23] EN: She lived right there on the campus. EE: She lived at home. [00:30:56.21] EN: She lived right there on the campus. They had a house. EE: Oh, she didn't live at home? EN: Are you talking about the matron? EE: Miss Byrd. In other words, you could go to this dorm. [00:31:10.02] EN: But, see, I didn't have that problem because my wife lived off campus. I went to her house. [laughs] See, I went to her house to court her. EE: So, you didn't have to go— [00:31:21.21] EN: I didn't have to go— EE: Go to the dorm. [00:31:22.19] EN: I didn't have to go to the girls' dorm, no. The only time I went to the girls' dorm was I met her. She came up for prom, and I had to meet her over there for the prom. EE: So, who was watching out for you? Who was watching out to make sure that there was an honor system and that everything was appropriate? [00:31:51.06] EN: Well, I think that thing kind of worked itself out, you know. Boys will be boys, but we didn't have no problem with that. I think the boys had too much respect for the girls. I don't remember anybody doing any problems. If there was some sneaking around, it was kept mighty quiet. [laughs] EE: So, did you ever get into trouble? Did anybody ever get into trouble? What did they do to get in trouble? [00:32:23.02] EN: I don't remember anybody getting too much in trouble, you know. If you got caught doing something wrong, they would give you a one-way ticket and a bag of peanuts home. [laughs] They would send you home, you know? Most guys kind of had pretty good respect for girls, you know. And you had a lot of guys in that time, you had Korean War vets. A lot of guys were going to school on the GI Bill, and they were able to have their own automobiles, you know, and that type of thing. They were under a different thing. They were vets. They got checks every month from the VA. But I ducked the war. It so happened that I stayed in school. If I didn't stay in school, I would have been in one of those battles over there in Korea. But I stayed in school, and my classification went from 1A to S1, Student 1, S2, Student 2, S3, and S4. And then when I finished school, it immediately went back to 1A, and as fast as it went back to 1A, I was drafted. I spent two years in the army. I was drafted for two years. That's how that thing worked. EE: Tell me about what activities you were involved with other than the choir. [00:33:59.21] EN: Well, other than the choir, which I loved, and the basketball team— EE: Yeah, tell me about that. [motorcycle noise] Let’s start over. We have a lot of motorcycles today. Tell me a little about the sports that you were involved in. What was the name of the teams? [00:34:23.02] EN: The Storer College Tornadoes was our—the Tornadoes was our nickname. The Golden Tornadoes. Our colors were gold and white. We had a good basketball team. All four years, we had a decent basketball team, especially the last two years. We had some good players. EE: And where did you play? Where did you practice? [00:34:55.29] EN: Well, we practiced at the Harpers Ferry High School and the Page-Jackson High School. We played our games in both places during those times, during those days. We dressed in Mosher Hall, and we'd get in our cars and drive to the schools to play. And the girls did the same thing. EE: Were there any great games? [00:35:35.05] EN: Yeah. EE: You’re a little—you're not a huge guy. I'm curious, what did you do? [00:35:40.24] EN: Well, I was a ball handler. I was very fast. I was very quick, and I had a good outside shot. I could shoot good, and I could drive, and I was a good passer. When you put me in a game, the team had to pick up speed. They had to pick up speed because I was going to push that ball down the floor. When the tall man got the rebound and gave it to me, I pushed it on down the floor. I'd get it on down the floor. You had to come on down there. EE: What were some of the great games you remember? [00:36:28.02] EN: Oh, some of the great games were against Elizabeth City, down in Elizabeth City College in North Carolina, Bowie State—I think it was called Bowie State College. Bowie was a teachers' college then. Bowie would have 280 girls and maybe 40 men in the school [laughs] in those days. But, anyway, we had some good games with Bowie State. And then we had a school in Washington, which is now DC Teachers, it was Miner Teachers College. That was the black teachers college. EE: Why was it called Miner? [00:37:08.16] EN: I don't know why it was called Miner. I never knew the history of Miner, but we used to have some very good games with them in Washington, DC, at the Banneker Junior High School. We had some good games. And then we had good games with Norfolk State, down in Norfolk, Virginia. Back then, Norfolk State was called Little State to Virginia State, but, as time went by, Norfolk State just outgrew Virginia State [laughs] and became a tremendous commuter school. It's a large school now. EE: Who was the biggest rival to Storer College in sports? [00:37:51.21] EN: The biggest rivalry? Let me see. I would say Miner. We had some good games with Miner’s Teachers College. And we always wanted to beat Elizabeth City because they were a god team—we did our best to try to beat them. They were an outstanding team. They had a couple of guys in their team that went into the professional ranks. That was so long ago, but I can remember it well. EE: Didn't you play another sport also? [00:38:37.18] EN: Yeah, I played a little bit of football, but my love was baseball. I always wanted to be a baseball player. I always wanted—to this day, I am fascinated by the game of baseball, fascinated by the game of baseball. [laughs] I think it's the only sport that I know of that's not geared by time. Everything else is time. Swimming is time. Basketball is time. But baseball is three strikes, you're out, and everybody gets a chance to hit that ball, if you can hit it. EE: Was there any baseball at Storer? [00:39:20.28] EN: No, we didn't have a baseball team. We put together a little team just to put something together, to play some teams in the area, [00:39:28.15] in the community, you know, but we didn't have a baseball team. EE: Tell me about the gym at Storer. [00:39:36.16] EN: Storer had an old barn down there at the bottom of the hill, and that barn wasn't used too much during our time. They had maybe a few fundraisers. Maybe the girls in the dorm would have some kind of Halloween dance down there, and sometimes the coach would take us down there just to shoot around, but it was an old place. We didn't really do too much practicing down there. The floor was kind of warped, and we had to shoot through the rafters. But we didn't spend too much time down in that dorm. I know I never liked the barn. [laughs] I never liked it because you don't have the right of way when you're running hard, to get out of the way. You're going to run to a wall and all that kind of stuff. [00:40:37.16] EE: I heard you had some tricky shots when you were playing basketball in the barn. [00:40:44.28] EN: You had to be careful how you shot the ball because you had rafters up there. You know, you had to be careful. You couldn't shoot too high. You couldn't arch the ball. I couldn't arch the ball. That's one reason why nobody liked it down there. But the other two places, oh, shoot, I carried on. I can see myself running up and down that court now. I had good legs then. I didn't have no arthritis. [laughs] I had wonderful legs, yeah, strong legs. For a little fellow, I could jump and I could handle that ball. Lord, have mercy. This is the first time I talked about something like that in many, many years, about those endeavors, you know. EE: Could you ever coach or do anything like that? [00:41:43.03] EN: No. In my life, I took time to coach my son in the Peewee League and things like that until he got into junior high school, but, as far as coaching otherwise, no. EE: So, what degree did you receive from Storer? EN: I got a BS, a Bachelor's of Science, in biology. EE: How did that help you in the working world? [00:42:19.25] EN: Well, it didn't help me in the working world because I had to get a job. By then, my wife didn't have no job, and we were married. I said, “Well, I'm going to take this test for the postal service. They got a [inaudible] [00:42:35.22] test [inaudible],” and during that time, men were—during that time, men could get jobs. You could get jobs back in those years, if you wanted to work. And I took a test for the postal service. I passed the test. I passed the scheme test. EE: The what test? [00:42:56.07] EN: Scheme. EE: What is that? [00:42:58.10] EN: Scheme is you had to know how to route. See, now you've got, now you have zip code. There wasn't no zip codes for years. There wasn't no zip codes. So, you had to know the scheme. You had to know the mail by scheming. And then you had to know the train connections, the routes, the junctions. You had to know all of that stuff, to process the mail. EE: Do you feel that you learned anything at Storer that you carried with you into your profession? [00:43:34.25] EN: Well, I was a, I wasn't an exceptional student. I was a student that had to work hard to get over. I think if I had applied myself a little more, I could have been a better student, but as far as carrying over… I think by going to Storer College and serving those two years in the army prepared me for life. Them two years in Uncle Sam’s outfit with all kind of men with all kind of, with all the walks of life, and you all had to do the same thing. EE: Where were you? [00:44:26.21] EN: I was stationed in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Fort Gordon, Georgia, and Fort Polk, Louisiana. I spent two years in the South, and that was during the fifties, '56 to '58. You know how things were then. [laughs] EE: And how many years did you stay with the postal service? [00:44:55.22] EN: I stayed at the post until I retired. EE: Which was? [00:44:59.07] EN: Thirty-two years. I retired in '59. EE: No. [00:45:08.28] EN: I was teasing. [laughs] I retired in '89. December of '89, I retired. Once I got out into the work world and then my wife, she got a job and all, we did all right, you know. I got to provide for my family. [clears throat] EE: So, how is it that you, when did you and your wife decide to get married? She couldn't finish at Storer, I guess. How did that work out? [00:45:53.10] EN: That was a tough time. That was a time I thought that I would lose her because from 1956, when she finished, in June of '56, I went in the service in the fall of '56. There was a time there, I think it was around in '57, that I didn't think I would hold on to her. EE: Well, she had to leave Storer in '55, right? [00:46:41.09] EN: She left Storer in '55, and in the fall of '55, she went to Shepherd, and she finished in Shepherd end of June of '56. She was an exceptional student. Catherine was a very smart girl. She carried everything—it's amazing. All the kids that left Storer College during that time, they had no problem getting into any other school. It was indicative of the kind of teaching that they were getting. They had children, kids that go down to Virginia Union, West Virginia State, Morgan State, North Carolina A & T. They went everywhere, and most of them that I know they finished at other schools. And now and then, with all the reunions we have had since 1955, somebody will come back to Storer College. Forty, fifty years, they'll come back to Storer College just to reunion. EE: Why don't you tell me a little about the reunions? I think it's pretty wonderful. [00:47:59.08] EN: Oh, the reunions are gorgeous. The reunions are gorgeous. We don't have the crowds no more like we used to have because they've gotten older, and we have lost a lot of people. EE: How long have you been doing them? [00:48:14.05] EN: We've been doing reunions for—Oh, my goodness. The school closed in '55. I think the reunions started around, it had to be in the seventies, I believe. EE: Well, the Park Service took the property in the mid-sixties. [00:48:35.26] EN: That's right. It had to be in the seventies. Once they started having reunions, they had one every year. EE: Have you been involved in the planning for that? [00:48:45.20] EN: Oh, yes. I'm always in there. They called me to be photographer—I used to take pictures of it, of the reunion. I have books here now of various reunions. EE: What are you going to do with those books? [00:49:05.15] EN: Well, as times go by, somebody got to get them. Somebody got to get those books because I won't be here forever. EE: Well, don't forget the Park Service. They're interested in your story, very interested. What's your favorite part of the reunion? [00:49:25.18] EN: My favorite part is meeting the people. When you get there, you wonder who's coming this year that you haven't seen in a long time. We got a guy that come last year, I hadn't seen him since 195—he graduated in 1952, you know? What brought him back? And all he could say was he'd been trying to get back. He'd been trying to get back, you know? EE: Who was that? [00:49:56.25] EN: His last name was Washington. He came out of Martinsburg. What was Washington's first name? It was good seeing him. EE: Is he still around? [00:50:11.02] EN: Yes. He's still around. The reunions are wonderful. EE: What do you think when you go back there? [00:50:28.13] EN: Well, you think, it makes you appreciate some of the good things that you've been through as a young man. When I go back there, it seems like my mind just opens up to a place, you know, opens up—like you say, “Time stood still.” My mind just goes way back to thinking about the good days, the younger days, and you always end up saying, “Where does the time go?” It's been fifty years, you know, but it makes you feel good. And to see somebody that made effort, where you live, you live there, to come to the reunion. Some people can't walk. Somebody in a walker, somebody—everybody got some kind of health issues at our age. Some people, they want to come, but they don't have anybody to bring them. Their offsprings can't bring them, what the case may be, but if their offsprings are taking any interest in the school or are told anything about the school by the parents, they will make a concerted effort to bring their parents to the reunion. And we have some folks where the offspring bring them every year, you know. EE: What's your favorite place when you go there? What place makes you the happiest to see? [00:51:56.15] EN: The place? The whole campus. The whole area. As much as I've been to West Virginia, I've always felt good, and I've been there a lot of times. When I drive this beltway and hit that 270, and 270, go up there, hit 340 up by Frederick, I hit 340 going to Charles Town. See, that scene from 340 going to Charles Town and Harpers Ferry is altogether different than going up 80 and going up 81, you know, trying to hit 81. It's a difference. So— EE: In what way? [00:52:47.16] EN: I just come alive, just by seeing a difference in the mountains. I like driving around in the mountains. I like driving the car, being able to see the roadway ahead and its curves, the incline and drops. I hate driving a straight road. I hate driving 95 going down, like going down to Fort Bragg in North Carolina. It's straight. That's the worst kind of driving in the world. I like to see things. And when I get up there in Harpers Ferry, it just seems like it renews my life. So, when my wife passed, I took her back to Harpers Ferry. I took her back to the family plot. They have a family plot in Harpers Ferry. When I lay there, I'll be buried right next to her in the family plot. EE: Where is it? Which cemetery is it? [00:53:49.10] EN: Cedar Hill. It's right off of the main drive when you go into Harpers Ferry. You know where the Anvil Shop is? If you know where the Anvil Shop is, the Anvil Restaurant, if you know where that is in Harpers Ferry, you could turn right there, and that takes you back into the graveyard. EE: How's the view from there? [00:54:09.25] EN: The view's nice. The Jackson family has a plot there. Everybody connected with their family, that's where they'll be. EE: So, you must have known Harpers Ferry pretty well from hanging around with a native. EN: Very well. EE: Where did you go in Harpers Ferry? What places did you visit? Where did you spend time? [00:54:36.19] EN: Oh, I've been all over Harpers Ferry. As a matter of fact, there was a time that we had four or five of us at Storer College, we called ourselves explorers. Where the Amtrak train rolls now, that was B & O line then years ago. And we'd be all down there, calling ourselves explorers, had ropes and stuff, you know, crazy then, young boys. We'd go up in these little caves and stuff and seeing all this stuff in there. It was crazy. [laughs] It was crazy. When I say it was crazy [laughs]— EE: Where did you go? [00:55:18.15] EN: Up in the mountain. We went inside the mountain. We went inside the mountain with tunnels and all this stuff, getting on our hands and knees and crawling all up and down, not knowing what we would face, you know? We did all that stuff. I knew my way around the Ferry. It wasn't much to—we'd go downtown. We'd go downtown in the Ferry, where the old watermark was when they had the flood back in the 1930s that washed out the town. But the Park Service has done such a tremendous job up there with that school and the area now. It's amazing. EE: Yeah. How do you feel about the Park Service taking it over? [00:56:08.25] EN: Oh, they did a wonderful job with it. If the Park Service didn't take it over, who was going to take it over? The Park Service kept it alive. They kept that place alive, and I think it was—it must have been about four years ago, they had that—what was it now? They had the enactment of the NAACP— EE: The Niagara? [00:56:42.24] EN: Oh, the Niagara movement. They had, that was beautiful. They had the enactment of all the things that happened during the time. EE: Tell me about that. [00:56:51.17] EN: Oh, that was beautiful. They had, the Park Service, they put up tents. They put up all these tents all over the campus, and they had the governor, an Ex-Governor, Senator Byrd. He was living then. And a lot of—Duke Ellington's band played up there. Not Duke Ellington, the other fellow's name. They had that place rolling. The Ku Klux Klan even came up there, and the state police—[laughs]. That was about four years ago. That was a lovely time of day. There were so many people at Harpers Ferry. They didn't know what to do. EE: What was the Ku Klux Klan doing there? [00:57:46.00] EN: They were there. They were trying to start something. They just made a presence, but the West Virginia State Police also were there. They had busloads of people to come up there. That bus would stop right in front of that gate. The entrance that goes into Storer College with the two stone pillars, the bus would stop there, and the people would unload in the bus, and my goodness, they all came back to be a part of this history, and they had the reenactment in the church of one of the events that took place in West Virginia. Oh, that was a time. EE: Do you remember any racial incidents or civil rights activities when you were there as a student? [00:58:46.28] EN: We didn't have any. We didn't have that kind of stuff. We were up on that hill. By being up on that hill there, we were in our own world. Everybody had their place. We didn't have any problems during that time. We had no problems up there like they having now, no way. We knew that if we went to the movie in Charles Town—they had two movies in Charles Town, one down in Ranson and the other in Charles Town. The one in Charles Town, you had to sit up in the balcony, but in Ranson, you could sit anywhere, see? So, we would go to the movie in Ranson [laughs] EE: Was there any place that was off limits in Harpers Ferry? [00:59:37.13] EN: Well, there wasn't too much there to be off limits, you know? [laughs] They had their little elementary school that was right behind the church. That was a white elementary school for Harpers Ferry, and their school at the entrance of Harpers Ferry, which was Harpers Ferry High School for the town of Harpers Ferry. No, sir. EE: Could you go get a soda? Could you— [01:00:14.25] EN: Oh, yeah, were no problem. Just was no problem like that. We didn't have those kind of problems in that part of Jefferson County. We knew that the situation was a little different than it was in Charles Town, but everybody knew the place. I don't remember any incident. I don't remember any blow-ups or anything when I was up there. EE: So, you never felt like any of the business owners, any of the people who lived there— [01:00:42.25] EN: No, I didn't feel like I was being—if I wanted to go into a store and buy something, I'd go and buy something. If I wanted to get a suit, I'd go in and a man would size me up, and I'd get a suit. Because you had the race track up there. See, you had the racetrack. EE: Did you go? [01:01:01.16] EN: The racetrack was always there. The racetrack was way, the racetrack was always there. Then, all of a sudden, here come smart boys. The smart boys would come in, and they built a casino, see? They built a casino. EE: Did you ever go to the racetrack? [01:01:22.11] EN: Maybe a couple of times. I had no money to go to the racetrack. I liked to see them run. EE: Was the race track around when you were in school? [01:01:28.17] EN: Yes, indeed. EE: Did anybody ever go there? [01:01:30.15] EN: Yes, indeed, yes. EE: Really? It wasn't segregated? [01:01:33.19] EN: No. If you had the money and if you played the races, that's right. During that time. Yes, indeed. EE: So, do you have any bad memories of the place? Any people that you particularly wanted to stay away from or— [01:02:00.13] EN: You always have people that—I don't say you want stay away from them. You just don't socialize much with. I didn't dislike nobody, but there were people that I felt more comfortable with than others. I didn't dislike anybody. I picked who I wanted to be around. I was kind of a regular fellow. I didn't like that wishy-washy stuff. I wanted people to treat me the way I would treat them. I was fair, fair and honest. So, I didn't have any problems, you know. EE: Besides your wife, did you maintain lifelong friendships with any of the Storer people that you met? [01:02:53.29] EN: Oh, yeah. I tried to. I try to maintain friendship. It's probably because also we're all together when we had the reunions. We carry on as if we were in school, you know? We had one girl that come back to the reunion. She lived in Savannah, Georgia, and she got the word about the reunion. So, she said she was coming. Her and her husband came to the reunion, and when she got out of the car and saw all these faces of people that she knew, she cried, and she got mad at us because didn’t nobody tell her about the reunion. “See, I didn't know all this was going on.” But then time started taking over, see? Everybody started getting older. Everybody started breaking down. And every year—at one time, it was, we'd lose one. It may go by a couple of years. The Grim Reaper can't get in there. And then, all of a sudden, the next year, may lose four. See, that type of thing. And then often, snatching too many. I don't know how many is left now. I guess anybody that went to that school and is still living and got to be between, got to be in their seventy-five and up. See I’m eighty. So, you got to be at least seventy-five or seventy-six and up. We had a young lady that come back a couple of years ago. She went to Storer two years, and she transferred to Morgan, and she came back with her husband, and she was so glad to come back, she didn't know what to do. She had been away all those years. She went to Morgan, finished Morgan, but she always wanted to come back. [telephone rings] Oh excuse me. EE: Okay, we just moved from the table over to Mr. Norton's poster boards of dozens of photographs. Why don't you tell me where these photographs come from? [01:05:16.05] EN: They came from me. [laughs] EE: What are we looking at here? [01:05:28.02] EN: Well, we're looking at scenes from 1951 through 1955, which were the four years that I was at Storer College. You are seeing pictures of some of the campus activities, some of the kids walking around the campus in between classes, the choir function in the auditorium, the choir appearances, the choir of 1951, '52—it was a very good choir. Here's a picture over here of a couple of girls in the back of Cook Hall. That was the laundry room. And the girls had— EE: Who were those people? [01:06:19.09] EN: Wilma Jones and Connie Haskins. They were—I guess, they were washing the clothes. They had two days, and the men had one day to wash their clothes in the back of Cook Hall. Then you have a picture of two sisters here from Berryville: Ann and Peggy Jones, and another girl named Pattie Carter from North Carolina. She was an exceptional basketball player. EE: And where are they sitting or standing? [01:06:52.25] EN: They are standing out in front of the campus up against—it seems like they're standing up against a bench. And then you've got some kids. This was a sundial. You always passed the sundial when you were going to the mess hall to eat, going to the cafeteria to eat. And that's Ellis Moats and Margaret Williams, and I don't know the other fellow there. EE: What are the other places that you used to hang out? Do you have any pictures of the PX? [01:07:29.19] EN: I don't have any pictures of the PX because that was inside. EE: Tell me about the PX. [01:07:34.17] EN: This was the back of the—the PX was a gathering place back where, during lunch hour, all the kids would gather for sodas, ice cream, hot dogs, potato chips. They had a juice [juke] box in there. We had records to play, and the kids would eat their lunch there and prepare themselves for the evening courses that they had to take. EE: Tell me, there's some interesting things happening here. What's this building here? [01:08:04.26] EN: This is the back of, that's Mr. Garnett Mack. Garnett Mack was a very good student. He worked in the kitchen as his job, student job. That was in the back of Cook Hall. He was unloading a truck, supplies. EE: And what's this picture here? Why don't you describe it to me? [01:08:28.22] EN: That's a ping-pong table. It was placed out in front of Mosher Hall. And the picture you see there is Mrs. Thomas Somerville and Reverend William Thomas playing ping-pong on a nice day. EE: What's the building behind them? [01:08:46.21] EN: The building behind them is Mosher Hall. EE: It looks beautiful. Why did they tear it down? [01:08:50.10] EN: I don't have the slightest idea. [laughs] EE: And tell me about this picture of Petra Ross. Where is she standing? [01:08:56.21] EN: Petra Ross? Where is she? Oh, Petra Ross was a good student. She was a commuter student. She lived in Charles Town, and she taught for years in Washington, DC. She's no longer with us. That's in between classes. EE: And what building is that behind her? [01:09:19.06] EN: That's Mosher Hall. That's Mosher Hall, the porch at Mosher Hall. Here's a snow scene. EE: I don't see any pictures of Jefferson Rock. Did you ever go there? [01:09:35.26] EN: Oh, yeah. Jefferson Rock, you had to go a little ways to Jefferson Rock. That was off campus. You had to go out in the front of the campus and go down past two of the famous old buildings that were there during the Civil War. EE: What buildings were those? [01:09:57.06] EN: What do I want to call it? Brackett House? There were two buildings down there, two old buildings. We had to go through the graveyard to go to Jefferson Rock. EE: And when did you go to Jefferson Rock? [01:10:15.28] EN: Well, you went to Jefferson Rock whenever you could, but you weren't supposed to go down there. EE: Why not? [01:10:21.26] EN: Well, you know, you just weren't supposed to go down there. [laughs] But they did, you know. EE: I see a man and a dog. What's that about? [01:10:35.22] EN: Where? Oh, that was the campus dog, George. That was one of the most friendliest dogs I've ever known in my life, in and out of the dormitory. He lived in Mosher Hall. He would go up and down, one floor and the other floor. He was a clean dog. I don't know who kept him clean, but he was in and out all over. He was all over that campus. He was friendly with everybody. I never known that dog to bite a soul. Yes, indeed. EE: Tell me about these snow pictures. You've got a few. [01:11:12.08] EN: Oh, let me tell you about the snow scene. The very first snow, the very first snow that I've ever seen in West Virginia was one morning we were going to breakfast, and we opened that door in Mosher Hall, and you had to go—it was a long porch. All you could see was just this beautiful white scene of fluffy, fluffy white snow. And the mountains, you could see the mountains on the other side of 340. From that scene up there, you could see—oh, it was beautiful. It was beautiful because in the fall, when the leaves fall off the tree, you could see the deer running through the mountain. And in the spring and summer, it was heavily dense and green, different shades of green. But when the snow came, whoa! Oh, it was beautiful, yeah. EE: Tell me about this picture from your scrapbook of your freshman class. [01:12:18.05] EN: Every year, they had—this was taken in the area on the side of Anthony Hall, the main building. That's where they would take their pictures of the class, to the side right here, Anthony Hall. EE: How many students are there? I see one white student or one white person. [01:12:44.28] EN: Well, she was, she was the sponsor. That's Miss Constance Hyslop. She was an outstanding teacher. She'd been everywhere. She'd been to France, Paris, she’s been everywhere [01:12:57.19], but she was an outstanding teacher. Now, out of this picture here, sixteen of us, a lot of those kids, I haven't seen since they were freshmen. This fellow here, Kirk Gaskins, he finished school. He finished Storer in 1954. He was my buddy. These two graduated together. Margaret taught school in Cincinnati. Ann taught school in New Jersey. A lot of the folks there are dead and gone. EE: I notice you don't have any pictures of Mary Catherine Jackson. [01:13:48.10] EN: Well, yes, I do. She's around here somewhere. [laughs] She’s around here somewhere. EE: Let's look at your other group. Maybe you'll tell me a little about homecoming. Tell me about these pictures, these homecoming. [01:14:07.03] EN: Oh, that was the homecoming of 19—either 1951 or '52. The kids were getting together and decorate the car. There you see. They'd parade up to the—the football game was at the Harpers Ferry High School football field. They had a grand time. People came back. The alumni came back to the games to be a part of it. Here's a picture of Catherine down there. EE: Who is that a picture of? Oh, tell me where are you? Where is that picture taken? [01:14:56.18] EN: That picture is taken in the back of Brackett Hall, and there's John Brown's Fort right next to it. John Brown's Fort was on the campus then. EE: Did you have any connection to the building at all? [01:15:15.24] EN: With John Brown's Fort? EE: Uh huh. [01:15:18.07] EN: Well, it was just—for some reason, as the history goes, John Brown's Fort was moved several times. I don't know how it got up at Storer College, but it was there for quite a while. And all the visitors that came up there to want to see John Brown's Fort, they had to come through Storer College to see John Brown's Fort. That's where it was located. EE: Do you remember that your sister-in-law Margaret worked there? [01:15:49.06] EN: Yes, she worked. Cathy worked there, too, yeah. EE: What did she do? [01:15:54.12] EN: Cathy, somebody had to be there and take—I think they charged something like fifteen cents to go in. [laughs] EE: Tell me what we're looking at here. [01:16:12.00] EN: You're looking at the layout of the Storer College campus. EE: Tell me who made this. [01:16:19.28] EN: I did. This is the president's house at the top of the hill, the church here. The president's house was across the street from the church. Here's Catherine and I right here. Here's the main entrance to the school, the two pillars. Here's Mosher Hall. Once you go into the campus, Mosher Hall was extreme to your right. Here's Mosher Hall. See that ugly—look, it was an old building, no? Okay. Then you'd pass Anthony Hall, which is now the headquarters of the Park Service. Okay. There's where John Brown's Fort was on campus. Here's Cook Hall. No. Here's Brackett Hall. Here's a building that they tore down. I don't know why they tore down this building. This building was beautiful. And that's where they had the picnic, the picnic tables and all this stuff, and then, of course, you've got Cook Hall over here. That's the layout. That's the way the school was laid out. EE: Where's the gym? [01:17:25.20] EN: Oh, the gym was, from this standpoint, I didn't take a picture of the gym. The gym was down here. See, you had this field where we practiced football. There was a field here. And you had a tennis court. It used to be right here. And they had another road down there, and then the gym was right here. EE: Okay. We're now looking at the video. I'm going to ask Mr. Elbert Norton to tell us what this image is that he's put together. When did you do this? [01:18:07.01] EN: I did some time in the—it must have been either my junior, sophomore or junior year. I put this together. I have some pictures that I've taken with my black and white camera. EE: So, tell me what we're looking at. [01:18:27.20] EN: You're looking at the overall view of Storer College as it was laid out then. Let me begin up in the northwest corner. You have the president's house here. Across from the president's house on the street that goes down the hill, goes down towards the main road is Curtis Memorial Church here. That's the church that my wife and I got married back in June 28, 1958. This is the main entrance of the church where the two pillars are with the famous words on both pillars, and during that time, the automobiles could go through Storer College all the way down to get to the John Brown's Fort. [01:19:25.03] Also, when you come into the campus, to your extreme right was the boys' dormitory, Mosher Hall, which is located here. It had a big porch in the front. It was always shady. It had, I think it had three or four floors, but it had plenty of heat in the wintertime. Passing, as we continue down the road, the sidewalk, you come into Anthony Memorial Hall, which is now the headquarters for the Park Service. If you notice, they had three ways of getting to Anthony Hall. EE: What did you do at Anthony Hall? [01:20:18.27] EN: In Anthony Hall was where you had all of your classes. All your classes were in Anthony Hall. EE: Who's this? [01:20:30.21] EN: This is George the campus dog. If you notice in this photo here of Anthony Hall, you can see the three entrances, one, two, and three. EE: Which entrance did you use? [01:20:48.08] EN: Most people used, boys used this entrance. The girls used this entrance. The one in the middle was used mostly by the faculty members because their mailbox was inside the door. EE: What's this over here? [01:21:05.23] EN: That's me. This is the Storer seal. EE: And what was that field used for? Tell me about this field. [01:21:15.28] EN: This field here was the field where we practiced our football and where we had played softball. We had a lot of benches, white benches lined up along here. This was the main road, cars, cars, cars, auto cars coming down, but there were a lot of white benches down where the people would sit, boys and girls would sit, and then we had the tennis court here. The barn was down on this road. There was another road here, the barn. And then Cook Hall was off to the left, almost like sitting by itself, a lovely beauty, a lovely building. It's still beautiful, and that was a girls' dorm, the home economics building. And you'd come out of Cook Hall and walk a few steps, there's Cook Hall behind John Brown's Fort. [01:22:15.22] There was John Brown's Fort. The road came around. This road came around. It went on around and came behind Brackett Hall, and then you came out the back side. Brackett Hall was a lovely building. EE: And what did you do, what— [01:22:39.27] EN: Brackett Hall was a girls' dorm. It was a girls' dorm. If you notice the hedges here, it was sort of a nice area in there where you could shoot a bow and arrow, archery, small archery targets. EE: Now, I don't see the gym. [01:22:59.26] EN: No. EE: Show me where the gym was. [01:23:02.03] EN: The gym was—the barn was back here, back on this street here. EE: I'm surprised you didn't put it in there. [01:23:10.10] EN: No, I didn't want to put the barn—I didn't like that barn. [laughs] I didn't like that barn. EE: That was great. That's the best tour I've had so far. Thank you so much. Now let's sit down again, and then we'll sort of talk about what we forgot to talk about, if there's anything that we should be discussing before we break up and I say thank you. So, tell me what I've forgotten to ask you. Anything that you'd like to tell me? [01:23:55.06] EN: Oh, I'll tell you. I'll tell you what you can ask me about. The food. [laughs] EE: Oh, tell me about the food. [01:24:00.29] EN: Yeah. [laughs] Well, some days, it was good. Some days, it wasn't. Like on Sunday, you got breakfast, and then they would give you a—lunchtime they would give you a bag, give you a lunch bag with a couple of sandwiches in there. That would hold them for dinner. [laughs] EE: So, you ate lunch on your own. [01:24:34.13] EN: Yeah. You had breakfast in the morning, and then you had—you didn't have, what’d you call it, a nice dinner for Sunday. They'd give you; they prepared bags for the lunches. I couldn't stand that. You know why I couldn't stand it? Because it reminded me too much of when I was in school. See, you didn't have packaging then like you have packaging now. See, now you get packages of mayonnaise. You get packages of mustard now. But back in the day, it was slapped on your bread. [laughs] And by the time you got to eat it, oh! It would taste like nothing. But if they had packages then, it would be wonderful, yeah. EE: So, you only got breakfast? [01:25:27.16] EN: We got breakfast, and then we got, they would give you lunch, but you didn't have no dinner. EE: Well, if I'm not mistaken, your future mother-in-law was the head cook. [01:25:43.06] EN: Yeah. EE: Tell me about that. [01:25:44.29] EN: Yeah, she was—that's the way it was. She was a good cook. EE: What was her name? [01:25:50.23] EN: Her name was Mary Frances, and she was a lovely mother-in-law. Oh, she was a wonderful person. She had a lovely personality. She got along with everybody, and she was very jovial, and she had all them children, twelve children. EE: Do you remember any food, any special food that she made that you really looked forward to eating? [01:26:16.28] EN: No. It wasn't nothing special. Because we always kept hot plates in the room. My mother would send me boxes of stuff. Everybody got a box now and then from home. You had to. Sardines, potted meat, Vienna sausage, crackers. Your mother would make a cake or something, cookies, things like that. You could save your change and get some chili, and we had our hot plate. We'd plug it up. [laughs] You had to have something; you know. Back then, there wasn't no McDonald's back in them days. [pause] No McDonald's. There wasn't any special meals, but you were hungry. So, when you're hungry, you eat. And we had that little old football team. They would save food for us, call it a training table. After practice, we had to hurry up and go up and shower and run over to the mess hall to the cafeteria to eat with they had. [laughs] EE: And where was the mess hall? [01:27:49.15] EN: The mess hall was in the back of Cook Hall. Not Cook Hall, Brackett Hall. Brackett Hall was a nice building. It was old, but it was nice. The stones were like slate or something. It was beautiful. EE: What's there now? [01:28:10.21] EN: They tore it down and now it's the like a little learning center or something. You know, they got that little part where, like an overhang or something, where there's all the picnic benches and all that stuff. Yeah, and then the library. Do I have a picture of the library on there? Mr. Wolfe? EE: No library. [01:28:44.02] EN: Oh, I missed the library. EE: We'd better find a picture of the library for you to put in here. EN: Uh huh. EE: Did you tell me about graduation? EN: Yeah, I told you about graduation. EE: Okay. You told me about graduation. There was no John Brown Day that you remember, right? [01:28:59.26] EN: No John Brown Day? EE: John Brown Days? EN: No. EE: And no May Day that you remember. [01:29:04.22] EN: No, no May Day. John Brown's Fort was always open. Somebody was always there. And all they had in there was just old relics, that's all. Just old relics, and then they moved that thing down into the fort. When the Park Center took over, they moved that thing all the way down. I don't know how they got it down there, but they moved that thing. They had to get underneath of that thing. EE: Well, you didn't have to do it, right? [01:29:37.09] EN: That's right. Keep that building intact and take it all the way downtown. EE: So, what else would you like to tell me? Do you think you've told me what impact it's had on your life, Storer College has had on your life? [01:29:49.07] EN: Oh, a wonderful impact. It had a wonderful—like I said, with Storer College and my two years in the army, put those two together, they did wonders for me. They helped to strengthen and broaden me in various ways. You know, going up there to school, it teaches you how to get along with people. You leave high school. You've been in high school for a long time, and in my hometown, everybody knew everybody from grade one in my hometown. And then you go to a college where you got to meet new people from all walks of life, and then you're thrown into the military where you meet men from all walks of life. But in the military, everybody got to do the same thing. There ain't no brother different from any other brother when it comes to preparing yourself for war. [01:30:59.17] EE: Do you remember any of the Nigerian students? [01:31:06.18] EN: Yeah. EE: That was interesting, wasn't it? [01:31:09.09] EN: We always had students that came from Africa. We always had a couple from Nigeria, Lagos, Nigeria. One boy's name was Samuel Cole. That was, I guess, his American name. He didn't socialize too much. He was a smart student, but he wasn't the kind of student where—in the dormitory, he would go down to his room. There was a lot of guys in different rooms. His room was always, he had the door shut all the time. He was always studying. He was a good tennis player. He loved to play tennis. He used to get up at six o'clock in the morning, and he'd go out and play tennis before classes. When he finished Storer, I think he finished Storer in June of '52, he went back to Africa. The last thing we heard from him was that he was caught up in one of the uprisings. They had so many uprisings over there. He was caught up in one of those. We never did see him again. [01:32:26.27] And then we had several others that were there. They were all exceptional students, smart students, but they were hot, kind of hot-tempered. I got along with them pretty good. Of course, I could play tennis, too. EE: Did any of them play basketball? [01:32:55.06] EN: No, they loved tennis and soccer. They loved their tennis and soccer, yeah. They would do things that were cultural. I'll give you an example. When it came time to take a shower, they took the hottest showers I've ever seen a person take. I thought they would burn themselves, scald themselves. They would be in there singing one of their African chant songs, and the steam would be coming out, but they were used to it. But I got along with them. EE: So, how many students would you say when you were at Storer married other students? EN: In Storer? EE: Uh huh. [01:33:51.12] EN: Oh, I can tell you that. I can tell you; I can show you. Let me see. Do you want me to give you the names? EE: I'm just curious. I mean, you married in the college. EN: I married Catherine. EE: Your sister-in-law married someone she met. [01:34:21.00] EN: Yeah, and Margaret, this girl Margaret. Margaret married Summerville. Jackson. Dayton Jackson, he met a girl named Williams. A boy named Carlton Funn, he married a girl named Joan Berry. That's all I can give off the top of my tongue. And my sister-in-law, Margaret, she married a fellow named Ulysses Smelley. So, the association was good for that. EE: What was your wedding like? [01:35:12.01] EN: Oh, a lovely wedding. The wedding was in the church, right there in the church, down at the church. I had a lovely wedding. We had the wedding in the church, and we had the reception in Cook Hall. [laughs] EE: And who cooked? [01:35:30.07] EN: I don't know who cooked. I was busy. [laughs] EE: Not your mother-in-law. [01:35:35.28] EN: No, no, no, she was part of the wedding. Yeah, and I had—my grandmother came to the wedding. Ain't that something? EE: Yeah. Well, you're definitely a Storer College male all the way. [01:35:49.11] EN: My grandmother, my great-aunt, they all came to the wedding. You know, it ain't easy because it brings back too many feelings. Like I look at those pictures there and these girls there— EE: Tell me what you're looking at. [01:36:14.03] EN: Oh, I'm just looking at the girls and the fellows. EE: And what picture is that? [01:36:18.02] EN: Both of these. EE: What are they? [01:36:20.11] EN: The girls' basketball team and the boys' basketball team of 1953-54, and them girls could play. And them girls, all those girls had some legs on them, too. They had some good legs on them, and we used to look at them girls play. They could really play. They could really move on that court. Those kind of things bring back a lot of memories. EE: So, your wife played basketball and she was in the chorus? [01:36:55.16] EN: She played basketball. EE: Just like you. EN: She was in the chorus. My wife was an English teacher. She knew English. She knew her English. She would sit here in the kitchen, and when the news commentators, it ain't come out right, she’d correct him. She'd say, “What is he saying?” She'd say, “What is he saying? He got to go back and retrain himself.” That's the way she was. EE: Where did she teach? [01:37:32.22] EN: She taught school in Virginia. She started out in a one-room school, a two-room school out in [inaudible] [01:37:45.23], Virginia, out in Loudoun County, way out there. And then she came to, went down to Pomonkey High School. Pomonkey was located down in Pomonkey, Maryland down Route 4. Then she went up to Kent Junior High School and taught junior high school for a couple of years, and then she went to Bladensburg Senior High School, where she spent most of her time, at Bladensburg Senior High. Then she got out of the classroom and she went to Northwestern Senior High. That's where she became a vice principal, at Northwestern Senior High School. That's when you're responsible for a class from the freshman year to the time it graduates. That's a whole lot of students. That's a whole lot of students. [01:38:42.11] Let me tell you something. I would go with her. She always wanted me to go with her to chaperone, take pictures, or do a thing. I went to the school, the Northwestern Senior High School, and in the gym, I saw all the kids come walking in the gym. I said, “This can't be all of the kids.” And then she said, “These are my students.” I said, “You mean, all these kids. You're responsible for all of these kids?” She said, “All of these.” She said, “This is my class until they graduate.” I said, “What?” And let me tell you something, when they flashed her picture up on the screen, when they flashed her picture up on the screen, you thought Michael Jordan scored a big point, you know? [01:39:41.11] Or somebody for the Redskins made a touchdown. They all just, they all just praised her, and I just sat there. I said, “My gosh,” and she looked at me and said, “Did you get that picture?” I said, “Yes, I got it.” They just had a big—they praised her. When that class graduated and they had a commencement on the fieldhouse, I think it was at the Capital Center. They had the commencement at the Capital Center. She stood there and hugged every boy and hugged every girl that came and got their high school diploma. She hugged every last one of them, and I couldn't believe it. She loved teaching. Not only did she love teaching kids, she loved teaching Sunday school. She just loved teaching Sunday school. Whatever she did, whatever she was involved in, she did it right. Either you do it right or you don't do it at all. EE: Did she have to get any other degrees after Storer? [01:41:09.24] EN: No, she just kept on going with other little things, you know. And she didn’t—. EE: But her degree was adequate. [01:41:19.12] EN: Yeah, that's right. She knew what she was doing. My wife, she knew that she had a family. She had a husband, and she enjoyed too many other things than to be tied up with school all the time. She needed a break. But she was a good teacher. She was a tremendous teacher. Everybody—now I'm going to tell you an episode. She would come home from work. Most times, she would come home, and I'd be in the kitchen, sitting in the chair. And Elaine, she would come in, and she threw her books down on the table, just threw them down on the table, put her hands on her hips, and she looked at me, and she calls me—she calls me Nort [spells]. She said, “Nort,” she said, “Nort,” she said, “I had one hellion today in school.” I said, “What?” She said, “I had one hellion today in school.” I said, “What did the young man do?” She said, “First of all, he came into classroom with his hat on, his shirt out, his pants almost down to his, all the way down to his [inaudible]. [01:42:38.06] He come in there loud and wrong, and I told him to get up. I can't teach no one like that, and he didn't want to go out.” And she told me that he had to get out of here, you know? She told him, I guess she told him he wasn't going to graduate or something, but anyway, it upset her. Boy, she was upset. Elaine, she was so upset she took her clothes off and just lay on the bed. She was exhausted. And I said, “Well, let me go and get dinner started. Let me do something.” And the kids [laughs], my daughter, “Daddy, Daddy, what's wrong with Mama?” [01:43:25.26] I said, “Your mama had a hard day. She had an exhausting day.” I told her she had an exhausting day. You know what my daughter said? “I don't want to be no teacher.” [laughs] And she didn't. Yeah, but she loved it, you know. EE: Things have really changed, haven't they? EN: Oh, definitely. EE: But it's wonderful that you and she came through at such an incredible time and at such an incredible place. I think, unless there's something else you want to tell me, I'm going to stop us. EN: Okay. EE: Okay, but I just want to thank you. This has been wonderful, and I'm just so glad we got a chance to talk about Catherine as well. We'll probably take some more pictures, and I just want you to know how grateful I am for you for giving this record to the Park Service so that they will have it forever. So, thank you very much. EN: You're quite welcome. [01:44:26.12] [End of Transcript]

Storer College Oral History Project Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Interview with Elbert Norton by Elaine Eff April 2, 2014

1. Interview with Stanley Spurlock by Elaine Eff


Elaine Eff: Today is March 11, 2014. This is Elaine Eff [spells], and I am interviewing Mr. Stanley Spurlock, a graduate of Storer College, who attended from 1947 to 1951. We are in the Howard County Central Library in Columbia, Maryland, and it's a beautiful day. [00:00:41.11] Stanley Spurlock: Yes, it is, very beautiful. EE: So, it's a treat to be able to talk with you, and I know you have certain things you started that you want to tell us at the outset about your days at Storer. We're going to talk about as many aspects as we can, your memories of being a student there, but even before you got there. So, you wanted to tell me something to start out, I believe, and then we'll start with some of our questions. [00:01:11.07] SS: Well, I was raised in a small town, as I mentioned, Covington [City], Virginia, which is nestled in the Allegheny Mountains near White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. I had an unusual experience going to Storer College. There was a large water tower on the base and a very heavy snowstorm, and I've tried to meet other people who witnessed this, but that tower was laden with snow that was so heavy, it crashed to the ground, and it destroyed some of the specimens of the science teacher who at that time was a Mrs. Jemison. I can't recollect her married name right now, but she taught biology, a very excellent teacher, very strict, and everyone knew her and kind of feared taking her course because she was a bit strict. EE: So, when was that? [00:02:40.22] SS: That was in—the week that my brother and I arrived in 1947. I did not mention, but I arrived there with a twin brother, Sterrett Spurlock. EE: Why don't you spell his name? SS: Sterrett [spells first name]. EE: All right. You're going to have to tell us about why you chose Storer College. [00:03:16.23] SS: Well, it's rather personal. My brother and I had arrived from the military. I arrived from the Navy, he from the army, and we were really cutting up a bit in our hometown, nothing that was serious but enough to aggravate our parents.[00:03:47.10] So, when the opening came to—we applied to some colleges, but Storer was the first to accept. So, when we accepted to go, my mother said, “You're leaving? Thank God.”[00:04:05.02] And from that moment on, Storer was my choice. I went there. I recall some of the— EE: Before you get there, you're going to tell me some of your teachers, I'll bet, right? SS: Right. EE: Did you think of going to other colleges or was Storer your only choice? [00:04:31.22]SS: I had considered going to a state college in Virginia, Virginia State College, but as Isaid, my brother and I, both were World War II veterans, had acted up so that our parents were glad to get rid of us. So, we took the first college that accepted us. EE: So, how old were you? Tell us exactly when you were born. [00:05:01.28]SS: I was born November 26, 1923 in Covington, Virginia. EE: And what kind of town was Covington, Virginia? [00:05:13.05]SS: It's a mill town. A paper mill supported one end of the town, and on the other side was a textile plant, a rayon plant, they called it. So, there was always employment there, but I had no intentions of making my home in Covington, after having seen the world, the Navy, to be exact. EE: And where did you go? [00:05:49.24]SS: I went to Okinawa, Europe, those two places primarily. EE: Lucky you, yeah. And tell me a little about you and your brother. What kind of twins were you? Were you close twins? Were you good friends? [00:06:17.21]SS: We were good friends, but we were not homogeneous in our looks or our attitudes. We were just fraternal twins, but we got along pretty good. EE: So, what was it like going from Covington to Storer? You really had already seen the world. You were twenty-four years old, twenty-three years old by the time you went to college. [00:06:49.13]SS: No, let's see. I was twenty-one. Wait a minute. I went to college in '47, and I was twenty-four, right. I was twenty-four. EE: So, you were older. You and your brother were both older than other students. So, what was that like, going as an older student? [00:07:14.20]SS: There were lots of veterans there. Oh, many, many, many veterans. Most of the male population had been in World War II. So, we were all kind of on the same level. All the freshmen were—there were very few freshmen that were not veterans. Most were veterans. EE: What do you remember about the male/female ratio? [00:07:46.13]SS: Most female, the ratio I can't very well—let's see, '47, after the number of veterans stopped coming, the population decreased. During '47, most of them were getting discharged from the service. So, we had an influx of veterans, but after that, the number of students coming in dwindled quite— EE: Now, did you attend on the GI Bill? [00:08:31.28]SS: Yes. That was quite an enticement. EE: Tell me about that. That isan amazing opportunity. Tell me what that meant to you. [00:08:41.23]SS: Oh, definitely, definitely. I don't think I would have gone to college, had it not been for the GI Bill. I don't know. I wanted to go to college. I was a pretty good student in high school, but you had to procure this money, you know. You had to get this money together. [00:09:09.06]So, it would have been very—a lot of men and women, I guess, worked their way through, but the GI Bill was just a godsend, that's all. You had your books, tuition, all of that was paid for, and all you had to pay was your food, your doritory expenses and so forth. EE: So, it must have been—here, you're going to Storer with your brother. SS: Right. EE: Tell me what you remember about first seeing Storer. Had you seen it before you had gotten there? [00:10:00.01]SS: No. EE: Why Harpers Ferry? What did you think about going to that place? [00:10:08.15]SS: I really wasn't amazed at Harpers Ferry because, at that time, it was not accredited. It was not an accredited college. So, I had to do further graduate work in order to get teaching positions and so forth because Storer was a nice college. If you had an elementary major, you were all right, but it did not, the state did not recognize secondary education. So, when you came out, you had to go back and do some preparing. EE: So, what was your major? [00:11:01.02]SS: Social studies. I don't think—well, I did not get a job teaching from my credentials at Storer until I received certification from other schools. EE: And where did you go? [00:11:22.23]SS: I went to University of Maryland, took some courses at the University of Virginia, and I received—what did they call it? MEd, a masters of education from Coppin State College in Maryland. [00:11:42.26]And let's see. At the University of Virginia, they called it—I forget now what they called that degree. Let me see. I didn't write that down either. EE: Did you know when you started at Storer that you might not get a degree? Did that not enter into the process? [00:12:16.14]SS: They gave you a degree, and I knew—it was common knowledge that unless you were an elementary major, you would not get certified in secondary ed, but we went anyway, my brother and I. EE: And did you both finish? [00:12:38.16]SS: Yes. Well, no, he got married and went to Alderson Broaddus College in West Virginia. But I finished in '51. EE: Did he marry a Storer student? SS: Right. EE: Oh, who did he marry? SS: Her name? EE: Uh huh. SS: [laughs] Let's see. Gayanne, Her name was Gayanne Moss. She lived in—what's the name of it? Clarksburg, West Virginia. EE: Okay. [laughs] You hadn't thought about that in a while, I guess. SS: No. EE: That's great. So, I'm going to finish with the degree and just tell me, what did a Storer degree—so, leaving Storer, and then you had to go out and get further degrees. So, how was finding employment after you graduated? [00:13:53.07]SS: Well, I wentback. I had been in the Navy, but I joined the Air Force and stayed long enough to retire from the Air Force. Then I went to—as I said, Coppin State, and received certification, credits at the University of Virginia, and let's see. There was another. EE: Did you say the University of Maryland? SS: The University of Maryland, right, right. EE: But in other words, so, then, with all those degrees, how was finding a job? [00:14:42.24]SS: After that, they wanted—who was it? I forget now, but I didn't go into what I was prepared for. I went into special ed because that's where the need was. So, I took anything that they would give me. In fact, when I was interviewed, I signed a contract at the very same meeting of the interview. I had not had the opportunity to teach, although growing up, they called me Professor, you know, and I ain't never been to college. [laughs] [00:15:48.20]But I always wanted to teach, always, but it wasn't as I thought it would be. I mean, it had its ups and downs, you know, and it was rewarding also. EE: So, tell me, what was your first job? Where was it? [00:16:10.21]SS: Teaching in Baltimore, yes. Then I stayed in Baltimore four years and moved to Howard County. But I can't think of the school that I taught. EE: And where did your brother go? [00:16:36.24]SS: He went to—he didn't teach. He went to his wife's home in Clarksburg, West Virginia, and he worked at a bank EE: So, let's talk a little about your chosen profession that Storerprepared you for, and then we'll go backwards and talk about your years at Storer. Tell us a little about your life in teaching. [00:17:09.03]SS: I'm not polishing my apple, but I was always referred to as Professor. Even when I was in the Navy, they called me “Prof.”So, it seemed like I was always destined to be a teacher, but it wasn't—as I said, it wasn't what I thought it was. It wasn't like “Have a seat.” It was more like discipline, getting the students to do what you want them to do, and they were special ed students on top of that. So, it wasn't all peaches and cream. [00:17:57.10]But you had to live, and you had to have a job. So, I stayed with it. I stayed in it until I retired in Howard County. EE: In what year? [00:18:18.04]SS: Let's see. Maybe '71. I'm sure it was '71. Let's see. I'll take a guess on that and say '71. EE: So, what was the highlight of your teaching career? [00:18:39.07]SS: I would say molding, molding and getting students to do as you would want them to do. I mean,I learned the hard way. I thought if you walked in there with your chest out, they're going to just sit there and obey you [laughs] and do what you want. But it's more leading than pushing, you know? And I learned that the hard way.[00:19:20.27]But, finally, I stayed with it. So, I must have learned it in some kind of way. But you just had to motivate was the main thing and get them interested in what you are trying to put across. No pushing. I mean, that was taboo because it would backfire on you, which as I said, I wish I had learned that in the beginning. EE: So, tell me what you did learn? What messages, what lessons did you take from Storer College? [00:20:05.09]SS: Well, for one thing, I learned that students are very sensitive. They watch yourevery move. They imitate you. They notice how you dress, and everything about you is kind of emulated, and you pick up on that because you find that you want to set an example. [00:20:46.26]But when I went to Baltimore City--that was very difficult, very, very difficult. But eventually things smoothed out, and you don't come out of the military and go into teaching without trying to be militaristic to a certain extent. [laughs] But, as I said, you learn. You learn by doing, and it worked out. It worked out. EE: Well, let's talk a little bit about what you learned at Storer. What were your favorite subjects? What did you enjoy learning about? [00:21:42.13]SS: Well, generally, I enjoyed—well, I made pretty good grades in all of my subjects, not blowing my own horn, but I was quite frequently on the honor roll. And when people recognize you as having certain abilities and talents, not bragging, they kind of look up to you. And having your name on the honor roll quite often, you're bound to get a reputation. EE: What did you study? What are your most memorable classes or your most memorable teachers? [00:22:43.17]SS: Well, it was, it was, as I said, general studies. So, I had my—there was a teacher there named Mrs. Jemison, and she had a reputation of being rough in biology. So, I evaded for a couple of years. It was mandatory, and I had to take it. [00:23:11.19]And I went there and found out that t wasn't as bad as I thought it was, you know? But her name was the talk of the campus, and her biology. She was a very good teacher, a very nice lady. I was so sorry I put it off so long when I could have done it earlier.[00:23:38.24]But they kind of scare you, you know? You hit the campus, and people start talking, and you're listening, and oh, her name was Jemison [spells], but she was excellent, excellent. EE: Were the teachers when you were there predominantly black or white? [00:24:10.22]SS: Let me see. I put some teachers' names down here. I believe they were primarily black. Let's see. Dr. Schumaker was white. Professor Wolfe was white. I think Mrs. Hyslop, the French teacher, was white. Did I say Professor Wolfe? EE: Uh huh. What did Professor Wolfe teach? [00:24:48.00]SS: He taught English grammar, speech, very good. And those were, while I was there, the only white teachers. The president was white, but he retired before I arrived. EE: Who was the president when you were there? [00:25:18.15]SS: Dr. McKinley.[McKinney]I think he had just been hired. He hadn't been there too long. He had a PhD from Yale. EE: Did you know him? [00:25:35.16]SS: Well, he was the president. So, I would know him to speak to him, and that was it. EE: That's a lot. [00:25:42.25]SS: If I'd met him, I'd speak to him, yeah. But you weren't—it was a small campus. EE: How many students were there when you were there, do you recall? [00:25:58.18]SS: I don't think I could make a rough guess on that. No, I can't say. But it was in February of '47, and the veterans had enrolled, and as I said, after the veterans, the population started decreasing. EE: And you said there were more women than men when you were there. Would you say that? [00:26:36.06]SS: I believe I had to think about it. Let's see. I think there were more women. Yeah, more women. EE: Right. So, you said there were about four white teachers or so when you were there. [rustles papers] That's okay. And then tell me about some of the teachers that you had that people loved or people hated or people stayed from or people kind of gathered around. Do you remember any of those? [00:27:07.13]SS: Oh, Dr. Schumaker. I never recall Dr. Schumaker failing anyone. He was a very studious man, very calm, never excited, an excellent teacher. Everyone took courses from him. EE: What did he teach? [00:27:31.23]SS: Social studies, humanities, I would say, I guess. EE: What made a great teacher? [00:27:46.04]SS: The way they related to the students. The kind that you just revered. I mean, he was easygoing, but it didn't mean that individuals didn't want to do their work. He was well liked. He kept discipline in the room, although he had a soft voice, but everyone took courses from him. EE: So, do you have any memories of specific classes that you took? [00:28:37.28]SS: As to what? EE: Just sort of whether it was the relationship between you and the teacher or episodes or things you learned or pranks. [laughs] [00:28:57.02]SS: Well, as I said, I only flunked one course while I was there, and that was because as an undergraduate student, I was asked to go to Charles Town, West Virginia to substitute. I was a senior in college, and I missed some classes from this teacher, and he gave me a failing grade because I wasn't in his class. I was in Charles Town teaching as a senior. That was the only failing grade that I ever received. EE: What class was that? [00:29:57.12]SS: I can't recall. [laughs] I'll have to think about it. It was one of the humanities, history or something along that line. EE: That must have hit you pretty hard. [00:30:14.20]SS: I had an excellent record until then. No failures. EE: Tell me what campus life was like, especially since you started having a twin brother there. So, first tell me where you lived on campus. [00:30:31.23]SS: We had a dormitory called Mosher Hall. EE: Describe that building to me. [00:30:39.18]EE: It was an old building. I think it dated back to the Civil War. Let's see, three floors, I believe, or two floors? I'm not sure on the number of floors. But all the men, it was a men's dormitory, and it was called Mosher Hall. I think it was named after someone who served during the Civil War. EE: Had it been updated at all? What condition was it in? I'm curious if you and your brother shared rooms or what? [00:31:30.16]SS: Yeah, we shared. There were four of us in a room: my brother and I and two other students. But he left after—let's see. I forget now the year that he left. But he married a coed and, as I said, went to Clarksburg, West Virginia. EE: So, describe your room. Do you remember it? [00:32:10.29]SS: It had Army bunks, one up, one lower, and two of those. Being four of us in there, it seemed like it was roomy enough. There was a table there and four chairs, I believe. But the Army bunks, we were accustomed to Army bunks, having just come out of the military. EE: Was there a desk? Was there a table in place where you could study? Or were you not expected to study in your room? [00:32:47.29]SS: There was a table there, but someone was in and out all the time. So, you had time to study. Or there was a library that was pretty nice, and you could go there and study. EE: Where was that? What building? [00:33:06.01]SS: It was right on campus, oh, walking distance from your dorm. EE: So, what do you remember about the library? Was it well stocked? Did it have everything you would need? Did you have to go to other libraries? [00:33:23.29]SS: Well, I wouldn't say it was well stocked. It had been there for so long, and that school relied on donations a lot, being a religious school, and it—I really never thought about how proficient or sufficient that was because it did what we were required to do. There was plenty of research going on there for the students. EE: Can you describe the library? Do you remember what building it was and how you walked there from your dorm, for example? Were you in Mosher Hall all four years? [00:34:16.15]SS: Mosher Hall, yes, yes. EE: Could you answer that in a full sentence, how long you lived in Mosher Hall. [00:34:28.29]SS: I was there the entire time in Mosher Hall. Mosher Hall was next to Anthony Hall, which I think I have that—yeah, Anthony Hall, let’s see[looks at his notes] Yeah, Anthony Hall was the administrative building. It had classes also. EE: And then how would you go from your hall? Where was the library located? [00:35:04.25]SS: I would say a hundred yards, not that much, no, it wasn't. It was walking distance. EE: Do you remember what building it was in? [00:35:16.04]SS: The library? I just think they called it the library. [laughs] EE: That's a good name for a library. Tell me about some of the other buildings you remember. Like when you go back now, my guess is it doesn't exactly look like the Storer College you went to fifty years ago. I'm sorry, sixty years ago. [00:35:42.18]SS: There was practically a new building there called Cook Hall. It was primarily home ec, and it was a fairly new building. It was newer than the other buildings there. [00:36:03.14]As I understand it, some of those buildings have been used during the Civil War. So, they were pretty old, but Cook Hall was fairly new. And let’s see here. Cook Hall, there was, as I said, Anthony Hall, the administrative building, and Mosher Hall, and Brackett Hall, the females' dormitory. EE: Do you remember Lockwood? [00:36:39.19]SS: Lockwood House. Lockwood House was off-campus. Oh, it was quite a distance from the campus. Let's see. Other than it was used as a barracks, it was used during the Civil War is the only explanation I can give for it. It housed military. EE: But you don't remember it being used by Storer? [00:37:21.01]SS: No, no. EE: And then who were the black faculty members that you remember? [01:06:56.29]SS: Oh, let's see. Of course, the president, Dr. McKinney. His wife was a faculty. Dean Jacobs, Dean Kelly, Dean Johnson, Mr. Darius, Mrs. Darius, Mrs. Jemison, Dean Pawley, Professor McDaniel, Professor Steele, and Mr. Jemison. Well, he worked in the office, but he was black. EE: Were these your teachers or all the teachers you remember on campus? SS: They're teachers I remember. EE: I'd sort of like to know what they taught, too. [01:08:08.10]SS: Oh, let's see. Mrs. McKinney taught English. Dean Jacobs, well, she was the dean of women. EE: What did she do? [01:08:32.12]SS: She was, I would say, the female policewoman. Dean Kelly was the chaplain, and he was the chaplain and he taught religion. Dean Johnson taught sciences. Mr. Darius, he taught science and was a football coach. Mrs. Darius was a business teacher. EE: How do you spell Darius? [01:09:24.00]SS: Darius? D-E-R-I-U-S [actual spelling Darius]. Let's see. Mrs. Darius taught business. Mrs. Jemison taught biological sciences. Dean Pawley taught English. Professor McDaniel, he taught humanities, I guess. Let's see. I took a course in history under him. Let's see. Professor Steele, music. Mr. Jemison worked in the business office, and there was a maintenance man there called—his name was Johnny Hilton. EE: Now, how'd you know him? [01:10:41.23]SS: How'd I know him? EE: Yeah. [01:10:44.08]SS: Oh, he was all around the campus, all over campus. He was the maintenance man. A small campus like that, everyone knew everyone. EE: So, how many students do you think were there when you came in as a freshman? [01:11:01.28]SS: Gosh, that's tough. EE: A hundred, two hundred? SS: Oh, more than that. EE: Five hundred? SS: I wouldn't say five hundred. Let's see. Mosher Hall, Brackett Hall. I would say maybe between three and four hundred. EE: And how many do you think were there when you left? [01:11:39.01]SS: This is a guess. Maybe a couple of hundred, I guess. EE: I guess what I'm asking you is like did the population change. SS: Definitely. EE: You did say that the veterans had all come, and that started to drop off. SS: Right. EE: So, why, where were people going that they weren't coming to Storer? [01:12:07.00]SS: Well, the veteran population just decreased. So, the number of veterans coming in was much smaller. In fact, I remember my last year there, there were maybe two or three veterans who came in, three. In '40, the population was really declining. I would say in '50—let's see. The population hit its peak, I would say, in '47, and it was decreasing after that. EE: And why was that? [01:13:09.19]SS: The veterans, the veterans. The number of veterans just decreased. The war had ended, and the number of men coming to Storer just decreased, and it seemed like the number of females decreased. EE: Do you remember what your tuition was when you started as a freshman? [01:13:45.09]SS: Tuition, that was paid by the GI Bill. So, I— EE: Yeah, so you really didn't know whether it was rising or what was happening. SS: Right. EE: And then they also paid for your textbooks and supplies. SS: Right. EE: So, you really had no concept. SS: Right. EE: That was nice. [laughs] Do you remember what discipline was like there? What happened to the kids who, what did you know that you'd better not get caught doing? Was there something and what would happen? [01:14:20.15]SS: Well, I don't recall very many students being sent home, and I don't recall if they came back. They were sent home, let's see, I guess a couple of pregnancies. It wasn't that many that caused a couple of students— EE: That's all right. You just relax. You sit where you want to sit, and I'll follow you with the microphone. Don't worry about it. [01:15:22.21]SS:I guess a couple of pregnancies caused some students to go home. EE: Did you know anybody who was involved? [01:15:34.26]SS: Well, I wouldn't want to give their names. EE: So, was there any other kind of discipline on campus when people did something bad? Was there any punishments that were doled out? [01:15:55.05]SS: I'm trying to think. Let's see. I guess maybe one or two, use of alcohol could—I don't know if alcohol was the problem or the results of alcohol was the problem, but there was maybe acase or two of that. EE: Okay. Did kids live off campus or did everyone live— [01:16:54.14]SS: Oh, no, on campus. EE: Did you ever try to go off campus when you weren't supposed to? [01:17:00.27]SS: Men could go any time they wanted to, the males. But females had a curfew. EE: Anybody sneaking out? SS: I don't recall ever of a female sneaking out. EE: Was there any course that everybody had to take, like a single course? SS: Biology and English. And I guess all of those core subjects, math—you have to take some math and speech was required. EE: Do you remember how many credits you took a semester, how many classes? [01:18:04.08]SS: Let's see. Was that sixteen? Let me think now. EE: How many credits was a single class? [01:18:13.06]SS: Three. Three credits, and you took four to five classes. Four is twelve. I would say four to five classes. EE: Was there that one class that nobody wanted to take, that everybody thought was the toughest? [01:18:39.27]SS: Yeah, biology. Mrs. Jemison's biology. It was the talk of the campus. EE: But then you found it to be quite wonderful. [01:18:55.21]SS: Yeah. [laughs] Well, I wouldn't say wonderful. It certainly wasn't what it was put up to be. EE: Was there any hated teacher or hated administrator? [01:19:24.04]SS: I can't, not that I had. This fellow that, Hall—he gave me a bad grade, but I wouldn't hate him for that because he thought he was doing his job. But he was the teacher I told you about, I was teaching a course, and he—but I wouldn't say he was— EE: And he taught history, you said. [01:20:04.03]SS: No, it wasn't history. Did I say history? I didn't mean that. One of the humanities. EE: Were any of your teachers doctors, PhDs? [01:20:27.29]SS: Dr. Schumaker[pause], Dr. Wallach. I just thought of his name. EE: What did he teach? [01:20:48.00]SS: He taught European history and German. EE: He was probably a white man. SS: Yeah. EE: Okay. Do you remember graduation? [01:21:07.25]SS: Oh, yes. EE: What was it, and how can you describe it to me? [01:21:12.09]SS: Graduation was in '51. EE: But what month of the year was it? [01:21:20.25]SS: It was June of '51. EE: Where did it take place? [01:21:30.09]SS: Right on campus. EE: Whereabouts? SS: Harpers Ferry. EE: No, but where? In front of a building, outside, inside? [01:21:37.29]SS: It was, it was—in the chapel. One service was in the chapel. EE: Did the girls wear gowns? Did you all wear gowns? Did you wear suits? [01:22:16.28]SS: Oh, gowns, had class rings. In fact, this is '51. EE: Oh, my. All right. I see the Storer College ring. That is a beauty. Wow. [01:22:30.21]SS: This is old. It's old. EE: Well, tell me about it. I have a feeling I can't see what used to be on it, but tell me what it— [01:22:37.22]SS: Well, it had 1951 on it. There is, in Harpers Ferry, there is—[pause] SS: What was in the middle of it? [01:23:20.15]SS: Jefferson Rock. There was a rock in Harpers Ferry. It overlooks the Shenandoah River, and it says—I'm misquoting this, but “something about that site over the Shenandoah River is worth the trip across the Atlantic,” and that was by—I forget who said that, but it was a saying. It's a landmark. People go to Harpers Ferry, and they go to Jefferson’s Rock. EE: And did you go there? [01:24:14.17]SS: Oh, yeah. It's a huge rock that's on stone pillars, and the Shenandoah River flows right past. I think it was, yes it was Thomas Jefferson that said this scenery of this site is worth a trip across the Atlantic. EE: And when would you go to this rock? [01:24:52.19]SS: Well, it was a novelty at first when you went there. But later on, you visited it to show new students the place. EE: Were there any like initiation rites? [01:25:12.03]SS: I would say so. The fellows used to do a little imbibing up there on the rock. There was a— EE: Were you one of those fellows? SS: [laughs] Ahh, guilty. There was a—in Harpers Ferry, there was a beverage store right in the middle of the store. It's not much of a town, Harpers Ferry. [01:26:06.17]And the guys used to go to that store and get a beverage and go up to the rock and consume it. EE: What did you drink? [01:26:25.03]SS: Wine. EE: What kind of wine? SS: [laughs] EE: What kind of wine did you drink? [01:26:31.18]SS: I forget. I don't know of any names. We would just get a bottle of wine. EE: Red or white or did it matter? [01:26:43.11]SS: I don't think it mattered then. I guess it was mostly red. EE: Okay. So, what about initiation rites? What did you have to show a new student? [01:27:08.22]SS: Well, let's see. We would—I have to think about that. Well, one time, they had the guys walking around with the towels wrapped around their heads. I really can't think of anything else. EE: What do you mean, towels wrapped around their heads? [01:27:51.06]SS: Bath towels. EE: What was that? They're trying to be like— [01:27:54.15]SS: Like Hindu. It was just some punishment to degrade them. EE: Who gave the punishment? [01:28:05.09]SS: The group. They were trying to get into the “in group,” and they made them walk around with—it was wrapped around. But I really can't think of how long it was. EE: What was the “in group”? Who was the “in group?” [01:28:42.14]SS: What do they call themselves? They were mostly athletes. EE: You can think on it. Don't worry. I know you'll come up with it. I'm not worried. So, what was your very favorite spot on the campus or on the town? [01:29:22.23]SS: I guess Jefferson’s Rock, yeah. Off-campus, it was Jefferson Rock. EE: Tell me why. [01:29:35.14]SS: Well, we would, it was a place to get off-campus. The campus wasn't that large, and to get someplace and assemble, and some things, if you wanted to partake of a little wine, you wouldn't do it in your room. You'd go down to Jefferson’s Rock because the beverage store was downtown, and you walk up these steps to Jefferson Rock. That was about the extent of it, to Jefferson Rock. EE: Did you ever do any courting when you were there? [01:30:36.27]SS: Oh, yes. Oh, yeah, you always had a girlfriend. EE: Where would you go or what would you do? [01:30:49.01]SS: Well, there's a big gate leading, the girls, they were allowed. You couldn't go out at night. So, you could walk downtown to, they called it the Ferry. You could walk down to the Ferry and go to the store with your girlfriend and walk back, but that was not during the night. That was during the day.[01:31:28.15]And the administration was very, very swift on associations between the races--the sexes. So, if you went downtown with your girlfriend, it was between—it wasn't during class hours. EE: So, there was no place you could go and get a soda? [01:31:54.27]SS: Oh, yeah, but you couldn't sit down and drink it. But there was a place on campus where you could get a soda. I forget what they called that place. Come to think of it, there were no chairs in there. You stood up. EE: Describe that place. What did it look like? [01:32:27.18]SS: It looked like a small resta[urant]...let's see. It had ice cream sodas, candy bars, canned goods like sardines and potted meat, nothing fabulous, things that you could prepare right away. EE: But there was no place on campus for the adults, the adult students to hang out and drink a beer. SS: No. Oh, no. EE: Those are the Baptists and the Methodists there. [01:33:17.28]SS: No, no, no, no. That was forbidden. I never will forget—don't write this down—my twin brother and I, he was sitting there in the room. He had a bottle of whiskey sitting on the table. And the dean of men came in and saw it, and to this day, he put my name as one of the guilty. I had nothing to do with it. He was the one. But he coupled us together and said, “You Spurlocks, we don't do that here.” [01:34:05.17]And I didn't say anything. You know, I should have, but it was my brother that did it. And he was sitting there with a bottle right on the table, and the dean looked in and saw it. I should have spoken up, you know, but I didn't. EE: So, what happened to you? [01:34:31.14]SS: Well, that was the first time. So, he didn't do anything to him. EE: What dean was that? [01:34:38.18]SS: Dean Kelly. EE: The chaplain. SS: The chaplain, right. EE: So, what was Dean Kelly's job besides teaching religion and being the chaplain? SS: That was it. EE: Being the police, coming around and checking on you guys? [01:34:52.26]SS: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah. EE: So, what did you like best about the campus? [01:35:07.04]SS: Well, you know, not having too much experience with campuses, it was—at that time, I thought it was a quiet place to study, but I always regretted that it wasn't accredited. But it was out, away from a lot of busy-ness. It was rural, so to speak, and it was quiet. But I wasn’t worried about quietness then, but now that I think about it, it was a quiet place, away from the town [01:36:24.19] Now that I think about it, it was kind of secluded. You didn't, you only came in contact with campus people. There were very few people outside of the campus that you associated with because in Harpers Ferry, there weren't any black people and very few in Harpers Ferry. [01:37:04.25]Now, wait a minute. In Harpers Ferry, there were very few, there were no black people. In Bolivar, there was a few. But had it been accredited; I would have thought much better of it. EE: Tell me how you felt when you heard that it was closing and how you feel now.[01:37:30.09] SS: I don't know how that struck me. I don't know where I was when I learned it. I may have been overseas. EE: 1955. [01:37:41.12]SS: It didn't strike me as something that, as a great loss. For one thing, as I said, “I'll always remember that it wasn't accredited, ”and I'll always remember that. You come out thinking that right away you're going to get a job, and that didn't—so that stays with you for a while, especially when you feel that you are qualified. EE: Did you try to get a job when you left Storer?[01:38:24.24] SS: Oh, yeah, in my hometown, and the principal told me—they let me substitute---but the principal told me, he said, “It's not accredited, you know?” and that struck me in my heart. EE: But, you knew that when you were there? [01:38:48.18]SS: Yeah. EE: Did it just not sink in? [01:38:51.06]SS: Right. It's hard, once you get established, to change and move. You get into a comfort zone at Storer, and you don't want to move. You know everybody. Everybody knows you. [01:39:12.25]And it circulated that the place wasn't accredited, but you were kind of a fixture there by then, you know, and you just don't want to pull up stakes. I thought about it a lot, quite a bit. I thought about transferring to Virginia State, but I never did get around to it [01:39:43.14]But eventually I received accreditation, but to me, all of this—I wonder why they would have this school there doing this and not be accredited, you know. Why? And teach those subjects and not be accredited. It didn't make sense, but that's the way the ball bounces, I guess EE: Tell me this. How do you feel about your alma mater now being the headquarters for the National Park Service? [01:40:35.09]SS: Oh, I think it perpetuates things. I guess John Brown will be involved. I think it's a great thing. EE: How do you feel when you go back there to visit? I know you go to the alumni— [01:41:02.24]SS: Right, right, and go to—I go to the services there that Sunday, and you meet old friends. You meet old friends, and it's—I don't know. You just look how far you have come, you think. You think about that. [01:41:35.18]But the alumnae are dwindling, you know? We went down. EE: So, let me ask you a question: What advice do you have for the Park Service going forward, knowing that they want to preserve your legacy and your story? [01:41:58.06]SS: Oh, I think it's great. I think it's a great thing. Otherwise it may die. Storer College may die, you know? Storer College played a very big part early in its history, but it didn't keep up. I think it has a great history when you think about its contribution to black people because it was one of the earlier colleges. [01:42:55.02]But I think about it now, my feelings about it have softened quite a bit since earlier when I learned that it was not accredited. But it played its part. It did a great thing with black people. EE: Where is your diploma today from Storer College?[01:43:32.14] SS: I was looking for it a day or so ago. I have it. I was looking for it. EE: Can you just say, use the word “your diploma” so that we know what we're talking about. [01:43:46.02]SS: My diploma has been misplaced. It was on the wall in my living room, and I took it down, and I'm looking for it now, but it's in the house. I can find it. But, you know, that very thought came to me to put it back up. In fact, as late as yesterday, that thought came to me, and I looked for it. But it's there someplace, and I'll find it. EE: All I can say is, Storer College should be very proud to know that you are its graduate, and if you're any indication of the kind of gentleman who comes from that school, it doesn't matter. Accreditation is just a word. So, this has just been a honor for me to talk to you. Although I want to close up, I notice that I have a couple of questions, just a little housekeeping that I'm going to ask you anyway. You told me about your dorm room. Did you decorate it at all? [01:44:57.12]SS: I don't think so. My dorm room? No, I don't think I did. EE: You didn't have any pin-ups or— [01:45:14.28]SS: There were four of us in that room. So, I don't recall putting anything up. EE: How was the building heated, the dorm? [01:45:30.28]SS: I think it was steam heat. Wait, let's see, coal. They used to bring truckloads of coal there. So, that must have been for steam. No, yeah, yeah. They had furnaces, and they burned coal. They had heated water for—what do you call those things? EE: Radiators?[01:46:06.01]SS: Radiators. [laughs] Radiators, right, right. EE: So, you don't remember being too cold or too hot or do you? [01:46:19.22]SS: I was pretty comfortable at Storer. Comfortable, right. EE: Where were the bathrooms in the dorm, in Mosher? [01:46:26.20]SS: It was down the hall a few doors. EE: And do you remember there being an auditorium and a stage, an auditorium where performances would have taken place? [01:46:40.27]SS: It was in Anthony Hall. EE: What hall? SS: Anthony Hall, that's where they held assemblies, and when my graduation class installed some floodlights on the rostrum in Anthony Hall. EE: What kind of performances did they have there? Who would perform there? [01:47:29.10]SS: Oh, you would have speakers to come in. Sometimes it was in-house. Dean Kelly would give a presentation sometimes, and the president of the student government would give a presentation. He was responsible for it one Friday. EE: It was you. [01:47:58.29]SS: Right, right. And let's see. Anything that came on campus worth noting had a session at Anthony Hall. All of the assemblies were in Anthony Hall. EE: What did it look like when everybody was in there? [01:48:25.03]SS: Like a theater. It had a rostrum and—what do you call that thing that a minister uses? EE: A podium? [01:48:48.19]SS: A podium, right. He had a podium. EE: Do you remember any special May Day festivities? [01:48:58.08]SS: May Day, no. EE: You were going to say something? Did I interrupt you? About the podium and the— [01:49:08.11]SS: Oh, yeah. I said, I believe I mentioned that our class established floodlights on the rostrum. EE: So, do you want to tell me what the barn looked like, the inside of the gymnasium? [01:49:30.12]SS: It had a basketball hoop at each end where they played the games, and it was standing room only. I mean, no seating, all standing. And it faced a big field right between Cook Hall and the street, the street that runs up as you go into the campus. EE: Do you remember the Hayward Shepherd monument? [01:50:24.21]SS: Hayward Shepherd? No, I don't think I do. Hayward Shepherd? EE: Do you remember the gates at the front of the school? SS: Oh, yeah. EE: Anything special happen there? Is that where everybody would meet? Where did people— [01:50:51.14]SS: They just strolled up and down the entrance, that gate. The people just strolled from the entrance at the gate, and that sidewalk curved, went straight past Anthony Hall and made a curve around to the library next to Cook Hall. EE: I should have you draw a picture of it next time instead of just writing notes. That would be fun. I'd like to see that, like go home and do that and find that diploma, right? I mean, are you, what do you think about the missing buildings? Do you think about that at all when you're on campus today? [01:51:50.00]SS: Missing buildings? EE: The buildings that aren't there any more? Does it feel pretty intact to you? [01:51:57.09]SS: Let's see now. What did I miss? I was on campus at an alumnae meeting. EE: Does it feel pretty intact to you? [01:52:09.11]SS: Yeah, Anthony Hall was there. Brackett Hall. Is Brackett Hall there? And Cook Hall, Anthony Hall. They're all there. EE: I would love for you to draw me a map. Could you do that for me? We'll do that. And I guess there's only one more thing I'm going to ask you, and then I'm going to ask you to ask me what I forgot to ask you. You know, you were living in the late forties, fifties, after the war. It was a pretty interesting time certainly racially. How did that affect the campus? Was there any sense that you were— [01:52:57.27]SS: None. EE: Say that to me in a sentence. [01:52:59.20]SS: There was no, there was no contact. Mrs.—what was that lady's name? Let's see. Randolph[Rathbone]—I wrote that name down, I believe, ‘ran that restaurant. No, I didn't write it down. You know, that lady that ran... There was a restaurant. It wasn't a restaurant. It was just a store that had all kinds of odds and ends, and they used to give credit to the Storerites. I forget that lady's name, Mrs.—have you been to Harpers Ferry? You know that, as you leave the campus and make a left and go down towards Bolivar on the sidewalk, there's a building there that was a combination grocery store, knick knacks, a little bit of everything in there. Mrs.—don't tell me I didn't write that name down. But she used to give the veterans credit. Well, she was very nice to the people on campus. The only thing was, as far as her store was concerned, she was a segregationist. [laughs] There was no place to go in there and sit down and have a soda. [01:55:29.11]But they practically supported her business. I can't think of that lady's name. EE: Did the students get together? Did you meet to talk about the issues of the day at all? [01:55:59.28]SS: Later on, later, later, later, they began to notice that you could go in there, but you couldn't sit down, but that was late during my senior year. It was accepted all through my other years, but then it came to someone's attention as a senior that no one—I think there was a group of people, I tell you, it was from the American Friends Society came to Storer one summer, and they brought it to our attention, the American Friends, that you couldn't go in there and sit down, but you could go and spend money. EE: Meaning you were just unaware that was inappropriate or because you told me you'd gone to restaurants, you went places. Remember we talked about going to get sodas, and you said yes, but you couldn't sit down. SS: Right. EE: Is that a place we're talking about? SS: Yeah, yeah, right, right. EE: But there wasn't a lot of rabble-rousing? [01:57:30.05]SS: Unh unh, no, no, until those people came from the American Friends Society, and they brought it to our attention. EE: You said you were isolated or insulated. [01:57:46.07]SS: In Harpers Ferry? Yeah, definitely. There was no public transportation. Well, come to think of it, maybe there was a bus, but, yeah, there was a bus, and you caught it in front of her drugstore. It's been a lot of years. EE: I have a feeling that this is going to be like, you know, getting a shot, and it stirs things up. So, I invite you to just take out your pad and make some notes. We can certainly talk more. I think that this has been a very exciting and wonderful conversation. So, if we want to have a Part Two, I'm eager to continue to chat. I have a feeling that you're going to beat your brains out about the names you couldn't remember [laughs], and I know you're going to remember them. So, I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed this. [01:58:44.16]SS: Oh, thank you. Thank you. EE: Thank you. Is there anything that you want to talk about that I haven't mentioned, that we haven't talked about? SS: No, I don't think so. No, I think we covered just about everything. EE: Well, I thank you for thinking before we met and making that lovely list. If you need any help finding your diploma, I'll bring the nail to help you hang it. All right? SS: [laughs] Okay. EE: Thank you so much. This was a treat. SS: You're welcome.[01:59:16.29] [End of Transcript]

Storer College Oral History Project Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Interview with Stanley Spurlock by Elaine Eff March 11, 2014