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Irene Brown

Page history last edited by gjsands@k12.carr.org 14 years, 10 months ago
Irene Brown 
But thank God with our teachers, we made it—we made it.
 
 [If I had one thing to tell people] it would be that we had a great school.  We didn’t have much, but we learned a lot—and what we learned, nobody can take away from us.
 
Miss Bebe Shockley [my first grade teacher] was the best teacher in the county—white or black.
 
[Miss Shockley] was strict.  She had a stick about this long…which was a pointer…and if you did something wrong, across your fingers she went!...If you fought amongst yourselves, if you wouldn’t be quiet, if you threw your chalk against the chalk board or write something on the board that wasn’t supposed to be there….if you wouldn’t come in from outside on time, or if she said something and you made one little “mph” [made a face], it would get you in trouble. 
 
She’d put you in the coat room, and you’d have to stay there for a while, or you would have to stand in the corner, facing away from the class, for a certain length of time.  Sometimes they would set you on a high stool, with a hat on your head—yes, that was a dunce cap—and that would be your punishment.  If it was bad enough, she would write a note and put it in your book bag to take home to your parents, and that wasn’t good enough, because she thought that you wouldn’t take a note from your teacher, so who should knock at the door, but the teacher, and she would tell your parents what happened.
 
…and if she corrected you, your parents would say “Thank you”, and before the night was over, either Mom or Dad—and sometimes Mom AND Dad—would correct you and you would be in punishment for maybe a couple of weeks.
 
 All of my [six sisters and brothers] went to Robert Moton.  My oldest sister went first…and she became a teacher…got married, and had children…then there was my brother—he was the little devil—and then I was two years behind him.  He didn’t like school and he quit. 
 
[After graduating] I went to Frederick and worked at the sewing factory for two years., then I got married and had children.  They went to Robert Moton, too—not the one on the hill (Church Street), they went here.  They could not believe the things that we had to do…
 
We had old torn up books that the white kids had, that Mr. Janus brought to us.  And you would have maybe the introduction, and then maybe you’d go to page five or ten, and maybe the next page wouldn’t be there again…so you would have to sort of figure out what was in between., or maybe the girl beside you would have the pages you didn’t have, so you would have to lean over and look at that girl’s page…
 
We never hardly had books that we could take home to read or anything.  If your parents didn’t get books from outside…of course, we were lucky, because my parents worked for a doctor—those kids’ books we got, before the kids at Robert Moton got any.
 
[The ripped books] were very frustrating, because not only did the teachers have to figure out what we were going to read the next day, we had to figure it out, too.  We always had to improvise… “Jack ran—where--the house over here is blue—that’s another page—and you just had to read in between the lines, what was supposed to go there.
 
[In the school on Church Street] we had first grade to the third grade—and we had Miss Shockley’s room, and then we had Mr. Lee’s room, which ran from fourth to the seventh—and then we graduated.
 
[Graduation] was when we put on our little white dresses, shoes, and got your hair done and all that and graduated into high school.  And then we went from eighth to eleventh grade, and then we graduated.  But the school was not big enough ot have our graduation, so we had to go down to the old opera house on Main Street thats where I graduated from.
 
We were fortunate enough to have robes [for graduation], but we had to make our white dresses in order to graduate.
 
In sewing class, [my sisters and I] could not use the electric machines—we had to use the treadle machines, which I could not use—it always went backwards, instead of forwards.  [The treadle sewing machine] is one where you use the treadles, just like you would use a bicycle.
 
We had English, we had math, we had reading, we had writing…we had civics, we had music…
 
We did not have a foreign language—we were lucky if we got past English, because our English teacher was really good! You did not get out of there without knowing what she had for you to learn that day!  She was very strict.  She would have a lesson for you every day…she would teach you, like swim, swam, and swum…
 
We had algebra, and dividing, and addition…and every other year, we had geometry. When my year came up, we didn’t get geometry.
 
We had homework from each of the [four or five] classes we had that day—and it wasn’t just one sentence!
 
In civics, they were supposed to be teaching us world history, and geography…
 
My cousin and I got in trouble one day, for writing up my brother’s work for him.  He was supposed to stay in after school, and do the work…He told her to pick up the piece of paper [he threw it on the floor] herself!  Of course, I went home and told…and he got in trouble.  She told him to stay after school, and he said, “We’ll see.”.   She went and stood at the door where we were to go out, and she forgot that the window was open.  There stood a piano over here, and the window was behind the piano.  And my brother had his bicycle tied on the outside of that window. When she walked down to the door to block him from coming out, he jumps out the window, gets on his bicycle, and goes about his business!
 
[When my children grew up and finished high school] they went elsewhere—because there was nothing in Carroll County for black kids..

 
View the video interview for Irene Brown at the Carroll County History Project website, "Carroll County - Through the Eyes of the Black Experience": http://carrollhistory.org/tebe.html
 
 

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