Still, museum researchers found that white students got to use new textbooks, then handed them down to their counterparts at Lula G.Scott. Even when the county sought to improve the situation for African-American students, the efforts were jerry-built. Officials closed tiny Churchton Elementary, another school for black children, in 1953, hauled the building to Shady Side on a trailer and made it an addition.
Miss Battle was principal of the new complex, which featured four rooms, a kitchen and, for the first time, full-fledged indoor bathrooms.
A large photo of Principal Battle hangs over the exhibit, along with equally imposing images of Scott, an African-American teacher-principal named Flora Ethel Andrews (1914-1955) and their influential white counterpart, Nellie C. Nowell, who taught and served as principal between 1933 and 1973. They gaze down like a Mount Rushmore of "separate-but-equal" education.
Gumballs and Girl Scouts
Capt. Salem Avery, a white waterman who trolled Long Island Sound during the mid-1800s, worked those waters until they were largely depleted. He moved to southern Anne Arundel County, where he bought a piece of land in 1860 overlooking the West River in what is now Shady Side.
His wife, Lucretia, tended farm operations, Avery captained a "buy boat" on the Chesapeake and the couple raised seven children in the two-story clapboard house they built, now site of the Captain Salem Avery Museum.
On a July afternoon, the weather is so hazy it's difficult to make out one of the sights usually visible in the distance, the Bay Bridge.
Ospreys soar in and out of a pole-mounted nest. Expensive beach cottages surround the historic setting.
It's a section of Shady Side that black residents — now roughly 6 percent of the town's population — rarely visit, Denniston says, adding that blacks have tended to visit the museum sparingly.
"Memories and Mementos" has helped change that. It's open every Sunday between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., and museum officials say visitors have been more diverse than at any previous exhibit.
What all guests experience is a time gone by.
Along one wall near the entrance, a mural painted by local artist Allison King depicts recess as both blacks and whites enjoyed it: slides and games of hopscotch, jacks, Red Rover and "caddy," an activity in which players would try to use a stick to propel a wedge of wood as far as possible.
Recess seems to spawn a disproportionate number of warm memories.
"Basil Dawson would take wet gumballs and throw them at you," writes Ruth Phipps Zirnhelt, 84, of Churchton, who attended Shady Side Elementary between 1939 and 1941, in a note pinned to the mural. "They hurt! I don't know why we never told on him, but we never did."
"We played … anything we could make up," adds Mary Lee Neiman Murphy (Shady Side Elementary, 1936-1944) in another note.
In a far corner of the exhibit, an old-fashioned teacher's desk stands on an elevated platform, as in the old days. A slate chalkboard hangs overhead, a remnant of Shady Side Elementary, circa 1920. (It will remain part of the museum's collection.)
An American flag stands on a pole, and George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass gaze down from framed pictures
"We said the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord's Prayer every morning before class," according to a note from longtime resident Raymond Bast. "About ten feet from the back of the school there was a water pump. You brought your own cup from home, and if you didn't have one, you could get someone to pump the handle [so you] could drink water out of your hand."
In the film and in typed notes, others remember making paper airplanes, devouring copies of the Weekly Reader, going on Girl Scout trips, playing outside in the snow and watching a classmate climb out an open window to take care of a wounded bird.
In a note stuck to the teacher's desk, Howard G. Rogers (Shady Side Elementary, 1941-1947) recalls something to which students of any stripe can relate.
"Mostly what I remember," it reads, "is writing on the blackboard 500 times that I must not talk in class."
Largely funded by grants from the Maryland Historical Trust and the Maryland Humanities Council, the exhibit has established an archive of community memories.
That process is continuing. Guests can sit down at a "Memory Desk" and respond to a list of questions about their school days: What happened when you broke a rule? How was your school heated or cooled? What did you bring for lunch?
"It has been so interesting to learn these details," says Denniston, who sent questionnaires out to members of the community and got dozens of replies.
Then there's that 1966 letter.
Framed beside a chalkboard on which someone has been writing their ABC's, it informs the parents —presumably of a white child — that their daughter would be attending Lula G. Scott that September.