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Sidney Sheppard

Page history last edited by gjsands@k12.carr.org 14 years, 10 months ago
Sidney Sheppard 
One of the highlights of my life was when I was able to finally go to Robert Moton High school.  I started Robert Moton High school in 1935.  Going to high school, for me, was something important...
...A lot of people in the community I grew up with considered themselves having finished school when they graduated from elementary school.  At the time, elementary school was grades 1 through 7.  So to go to high school made you a special person in my community.  I grew up in a little community in southern Carroll county called White Rock, which was about three miles from Sykesville.  I had never heard of Taneytown.  That was, as far as I was concerned, on the other side of the world.  At that time, whether you know it or not, Taneytown was the second largest incorporated town in CarrollCounty.  Westminster was the largest, but Taneytown was a long ways from Sykesville.
There was a high school in Westminster, on Union Street, I think it was called Westminster Colored High School, or Carroll County Colored High School, or something [like that].  There was no transportation to that school.  The people who did not live in Westminster, for example, my family was 20-some miles from there, who wanted to go to high school had to find somebody [who lived] on Union Street in Westminster, and pay room and board and stay with them to go to high school.  I had an older sister who went to high school, and my father had to pay room and board for her to board with someone in Westminster.  Now, when the high school moved on Church Street, the first Robert Moton High school, there was no transportation.  The first principal of Robert Moton High School was George Crawford.  [He] made it [a priority] to get a bus so the children from Sykesville, MountAiry, and Winfield could ride to school.  The first students who rode that bus had to pay ten cents a day to ride the bus.  Mr. Crawford had to buy the bus himself, so he had to raise money for the down payment.  The superintendent of school apparently wasn’t in favor of him doing that, so the superintendent told him if he missed a payment, he would lose his job.
Ten cents then was a lot more money than it is now.  Carroll County was a farming community, and one of the jobs that people had was to work on the farms.  A lot of times, a good farm wage was a dollar a day.  For my brother to get ten cents to go to high school, when he got off the bus, he walked to a farm and fed the livestock.  He got his dinner and ten cents for doing that, so that gave him the ten cents he needed to ride the bus every day.
The bus that they had in 1933 wasn’t like the buses you have today.  They didn’t have air conditioning.  Air conditioning hadn’t been invented yet.  The bus that the students rode on didn’t have any heat.  Heat had been invented, but that bus didn’t have any heat.  It was a used bus, so some days it broke down and the students didn’t get to school.  The driver of the bus didn’t live in Carroll County, [he] lived in Howard County, in a little town called Cooksville.  He drove the bus from Cooksville to Mount Airy to Taylorsville to Eldersburg to Westminster.  And he drove it for free.  He didn’t get paid for driving the bus.  He was also a teacher, he taught all day.  After school closed, he drove the bus back.  In order to make money to pay for the bus, sometimes the school had programs at night.  That same bus driver drove the bus back to Westminster at night.  The same kids that rode that bus during the day to school, if they wanted to go to the program, they had to pay another ten cents to [get there].
They needed a new high school.  The old Robert Moton High School was an old building.  It didn’t have indoor plumbing.  Its heating system didn’t operate too well, and they didn’t have the facilities they needed, plus they needed more room.  It made me feel good [when the built the new high school] to know there was a new high school in my county.
I came back as a teacher [to the new Robert Moton High School].  I taught 8th grade Core, and Boys' Physical Education.  Core was an experiment in education that the state of Maryland had entered into around 1947.  Instead of teaching History, English, Arithmetic, and Science separately, you put a group of [subjects] together.  Carroll County had an English and Social Studies core.  The core teachers taught English and Social studies.  You took an area of interest, and you talked about that area of interest.  In doing that, you got all of the English that an 8th grader or 7th grader might need to know.  And you got the Social Studies that an 8th grader or 7th grader might need to know.
Teaching at Robert Moton was one of my most pleasant professional experiences.  It was also the most demanding.  I lived in Baltimore city at the time, and my day started at 7:30 in the morning when I got in my car to get ready to come to Westminster.  I was coaching boys basketball.  During basketball season, I might get home at 2 o’clock in the morning.  At that time, Robert Moton did not play the high schools in Carroll County, so we had to get a schedule by going outside of Carroll County.  The nearest school that I played was probably Tubman in Howard county, or Banneker in Baltimore county.  We also played Lincoln in Frederick County, North Street in Hagerstown, Central Consolidated in Bel Air, Havre de Grace Consolidated in Havre de Grace, Carver in Baltimore.
We were playing segregated schools.  This was before integration.  The only school I played my first year in Robert Moton, other than the black schools was St. John’s Catholic School.  Later on I was able to add a school in Carroll County as they were able to fit [Robert Moton] in their schedules.
[Playing with other segregated schools] was a way of life.  It was what I’d been doing all of my life.  That’s why I went to Robert Moton High School.  In White Rock, I had to walk from my house out White Rock Road to Liberty Road-32 which was 3 miles to catch the school bus to ride to Westminster.  Had I walked three miles in the other direction, I would have been at the white high school in Sykesville.
I didn’t win any trophies [while at Robert Moton High School].  They weren’t passing out trophies.
We had a good team, and we were competitive.  Robert Moton was one of the smallest high schools in the state of Maryland.  Every school we played was larger than we were, had more students, which meant they had an opportunity to get better players, but we were competitive.  We had some rewarding wins.  We went up to Frederick and played Lincoln high school, and we came away with the win.  For Robert Moton to beat Lincoln high school in Frederick would be just like if McDaniel were to beat University of Maryland College Park.  There was that much difference in the programs or the size of the schools.  When I finished Robert Moton [however] we didn’t have a physical education program.  We didn’t have a basketball team.
We played softball, soccer, cross country, and track.  The only high school in CarrollCounty that had football was WestminsterHigh School.  The only black high school in the state of Maryland outside of the schools in Baltimore City that had football was Bates high school in Annapolis.  Football wasn’t a big thing in the black high schools in the state of Maryland at that time.
There were some teams that I enjoyed beating more than the others.  I had a good friend who was the coach at Havre de Grace Consolidated, so I took pleasure in beating him  when we went up to Havre de Grace.  I had worked at Robert Moton High School in Easton MD before I came here.  Easton had one of the best basketball teams for black high schools in the state of Maryland outside of Baltimore city.  The coach invited me to bring my team [to play in their new gymnasium], and they beat us terribly.  Robert Moton High School in Easton won the state championship for several years.  That same year, we invited them to a return game, and we beat them.  That was one of the greatest wins.  We beat them in sudden death overtime.  Basketball games don’t end in a tie.  If, at the end of the playing time, the score is tied, you have a five-minute overtime.  At the end of the five-minute overtime, if the score is still tied, you have another five-minute overtime.  At the end of the second overtime, if it was still tied, so you had a three-minute overtime.  We ended the three minute overtime and we were still tied.   The referee said to play sudden death, the first team to get two points ahead will win.  At the end of the sudden death overtime, we were leading by 1 point, so we were declared the winners.  That was my biggest win.  The Robert Moton High School in Easton had three times the number of students that the Robert Moton High School in Westminster had.  That team we beat went on to win the state championship for the next 4 or 5 years.  That was one of my biggest wins.  Plus the coach was a good friend of mine.
The first trip [with my basketball team] I took, it cost us $40 for the bus.  We went to Central Consolidated in Bel Air and that was a school bus.  Later on, we were traveling in a motor coach.  It had a radio, heat, air conditioning.  So we were traveling in style.  Whether you know it or not, Physical Education in CarrollCounty at that time had to pay for itself.  The board of Education didn’t give us any money for athletics, so we had to make enough money to hire a bus.  I had to make enough money to pay for officials.  We charged admission at the door.  We sold hot dogs and sodas at a concession stand.  We sold tickets to the athletic association to become a member.  That would get you into home basketball games at a reduced fee.  Every Thursday we had a recreation night.  We played records and sold hot dogs and sodas.  That’s some of the ways we earned money.
In order to travel, we had to get a bus.  If we had a 40 passenger bus, I carried about 25 students.  We sold the extra tickets.  If I had a good crowd of people who wanted to buy tickets, I would take 5 boys off the bus and put them in my car.  I would sell those 5 tickets, and drive my car to wherever we were playing.
I’m still trying to come down from the euphoria [of the recent election and inauguration].  It was one of the greatest experience that I‘ve ever had.  I, like most of the people in the world, have a sense of optimism that I’ve never had before.  I just feel like everything is going to get so much better than it was.  You see, there was no need for a Robert Moton school.  There weren’t that many black kids in CarrollCounty going to high school.  At that time, I think there were 7 high schools, one in each town.  They bused black kids from all over Carroll County to come to Westminster.  Robert Moton high school never had 75 students, I don’t think.  It never had 75 high school students.  Those 8 or 9 high schools in Carroll County, if they put 8 or 9 little black kids in a white high school, scared to death, it would have been no problem.  The county spent a lot of money to send us to Robert Moton High School.  They wouldn’t have had to send me to Sykesville.  I could have walked there.  Instead I walked the same distance to get on the bus to ride 18 to 20 miles.
My happiest moment as a student was during a declamation contest.  You had to get up and make a speech.  I was in that contest.  And the happiest moment of my life in high school was when I finished that speech I had to make and sat down.  Now I didn’t win, I didn’t come close, but the happiest moment of my life was when it was over.  I was standing up there scared to death. I didn’t even know what I was saying.
I’ve had a lot of happy moments as a teacher.  When you have a youngster that you are trying to get a point over to, and I’m not talking about basketball, but in English or history, and they don’t understand, and all of a sudden their eyes light up and they understand what you’re talking about, that’s one of the happiest moments you can have as a teacher.
I would wish that everything that Obama has wished for this country and the world, he is able to achieve.

View the video interview for Sidney Sheppard 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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