From A One-room 'Colored School,' A Teacher Emerges

Black History Month February 1992 -- A Look At Carroll's Black Community

February 05, 1992|By Betty Dotson For | Betty Dotson For,The Carroll County Sun

Editor's note: The Historical Society of Carroll County has its annual African-American History Forum at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow in the Shriver-Weybright Auditorium, 210 E. Main St., Westminster. Among the speakers will be Betty Dotson, who attended the one-room schoolhouse at White Rock prior to her career as a teacher. We asked her to share her story with you in celebration of Black History Month.

In the summer of 1934, people would say to me, "So, you're going to start school this fall."

I was so excited about going, if they didn't say anything, I would say, "I'm going to school when it starts."

There was no questionas to what school I would go to. There was only one colored school, as it was called, in the White Rock area.

That school was White Rock School. It got its name because it was on White Rock Road facing Streaker Road.

I was not afraid to go because I knew all the children going there. I had been to the school before for social functions.

I was ready to go to school. My parents had gotten me a blackboard a few years before. At the top there was a roller with ABCs, birds,flowers and numbers on it. I could write my name, say the alphabet in order and read some.

Children by the name of Corpal came by to walk me safely to school. My parents had made the arrangement.

We walked the two miles on a dusty dirt road through woods from Obrecht Road to White Rock School, each of us carrying a tablet, pencil and lunch box. On real snowy days, sometimes my father would take me to school on horseback.

Carroll County had not built any schools for black children at that time.

White Rock School was a Masonic building. The Masons were called Odd Fellows and met on the second floor; school was on the first floor.

I knew my teacher would be Miss GladysSheppard. She taught all the children in White Rock School that year.

She met us at the door. As we came through the door, on the leftside were hooks for our coats and a shelf for our lunch boxes. On the right side was a water bucket, dipper and basin; we carried our drinking cups in our lunch boxes.

You continued walking on the splintery wooden floor to get to the desk. The desks were double, with one long seat for two children. The first-graders sat on the left side, then second, and ending with the sixth-graders on the right side.

We had between 16 and 20 children in school. However, every grade was represented. The blackboard, pot-bellied coal stove, teacher's desk, along with a stick for misbehavers was at the front.

Miss Sheppardrang a hand bell at 9 a.m., letting us know school was in. We all stood up, sang, said the Pledge, read from the Bible and prayed the Lord's Prayer.

Many times, we learned a verse from the Bible and recited it. Each day we read "Dick and Jane," the first reader, and had spelling, arithmetic and penmanship. The older children had geography.

We raised our hands when we had to go to the bathroom. The outside facility had one side for boys and the other for girls.

We were assigned duties or chores. The older children would keep the water bucket filled. They walked to the farm next to the school, Prough's Farm, and got water from the well, swept the floor, shoveled snow, carried coal and kept the fire.

Before lunch, we would line up and holdour hands over the basin while someone poured water over them. We wiped on a cloth towel.

On cold days, the teacher would make soup. It would cook and be ready for lunch while we had class.

After we raised our hands and the teacher recognized us, we had to stand up to speak.

Our playground was limited. Most of the time we played games in the road in front of the school, since there weren't many cars then. Sometimes we played on the side of the school. That school is now a private home on White Rock Road facing Streaker Road.

Walking to school was not easy. Sometimes dogs would chase us. If we went across the field, cows would run after us. Many times in the afternoon, white children would call us names.

The one-room school was a forerunner to today's open-space schools, with all children in the same area. Our school also helped pioneer the peer-teaching concept, with older children helping the younger ones.

If you were able to do allthe work successfully in your class, you could move to the next grade. Vocational education was taught. The "Colored Teachers Yearbook," put out by Maryland, required that we be taught crafts.

We didn't have snow days.

I loved school. Whenever I played school, I was the teacher, even though my students were older than I.

The second year, my teacher was Mr. Russell Haywood. My third-grade teacher was Miss Jane Brightful (now Costley). At the end of that year, Carroll County closed the one-room colored schools.

We were bussed to Johnsville School on Hodges Road for grades one to six and Robert Moton in Westminster through grade 11. My father, Frank Smith, became one of the bus drivers.

You know what? I didn't have to walk anymore.

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