He lubricated the grass in front of me with real tobacco juice

Posted by | October 23, 2007

“I was born on the Virginia Polytech Institute campus in October 1903, the son of Dr. Ellison Adger Smyth, Jr. of Charleston, South Carolina who came here with Dr. McBryde to found the Biology Department in 1891.

“Mama, my mother, being from Charleston, did not feel that the house was really established unless there was a black in the kitchen. Domestics, that was the place for a black woman to me. A black man, farm work, painting, carpentry, any make-shift job that you could get. There were not many blacks in Blacksburg. Out on Nelley’s Cave Road, the Mills family and hangers-on and kinfolk to them, very fine black family. In town there were a few blacks living up Bitter Hill, the oldest section in town.

Virginia Tech Campus 1947“On the campus, us kids, they called us the Faculty Fumblers when we played football. We always fumbled the ball. But I played opposite Booker T. Washington who chewed real tobacco. We were allowed to chew licorice and spit what looked tobacco, but we couldn’t chew real tobacco. But Booker T. Washington chewed REAL tobacco, and he played opposite me, right tackle.

“He lubricated the grass in front of me with real tobacco juice, and I didn’t like to roll in that. Anybody who passed by was free to join in the football games. We played Potlikker Flats [north Blacksburg], we played Bitter Hill, and they always beat us, but it was a lot of fun. Sometimes even college students passing by from the Aggie Hall would stop, “Can we play too?” And they would choose up sides.”

Ellison A. Smyth
Blacksburg, VA
1991 interview


appalachia appalachia+history appalachian+culture appalachian+history appalachian+mountains+history Blacksburg+VA Booker+T+Washington Ellison+A+Smyth Virginia+Tech

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