Their books were raggedy. They just got second things

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 9, 2018

The following is an excerpt from an unrehearsed taped interview with Mrs. Leora Rhodes Brooks Franklin (b. 1920), long time resident of Richmond, KY. The interview was conducted by A.G. Dunston, Assistant Professor of History at Eastern Kentucky University, for the Oral History Center of EKU. Professor Dunston spent several years interviewing the black community of Richmond. He interviewed Mrs. Franklin in her home on October 9, 1992. This segment is midway through the interview.

AG: Oh, okay. Alright. Let’s see, I can’t think of anything else I need to dig into your past (laughter) . . . Listen, let me ask you this: Was there any problem that you can remember when
Richmond City Schools, when Richmond High became . . . when students became integrated? Was there any problem that you can remember?

LF: Yeah. It was a problem there then because it got so that the school . . . Well, let’s see, how can I put that. You know, a lot of times they say, well, we shouldn’t have taken that school away. But that wasn’t so. Because I took my daughter, my baby, my youngest daughter, I took her out.

Well, they had to teach so well when she went there in the first and second grade . . . well, she passed the second grade, and that year, they had the first and second grade together, and I, um . . . she was a B average reader and she went from a B average to a D average reader.

Well, that didn’t bother me because I said, well, she gets out of that class, that teacher, and I got the teacher, you know, the woman that I worked for, she got her a book because their books were raggedy. They just got second things, so that’s what they did. They didn’t, and I worked with the N.A.A.C.P. and all of this stuff. So, we went in and checked on the school.

They didn’t have hot water. They didn’t have toilet paper. They didn’t have doors on the bathroom . . . the girl’s bathroom. The men’s toilet looked like I don’t know what and the soap . . . they didn’t have no soap, and what they were doing . . . Now, they could get that up there, but they said that [they] didn’t know how to use it. The children didn’t know how to use hot water. I said, who in the world now doesn’t know how to use hot water. That’s what they . . . that’s what they said.

And, and, of course, everybody said, we ought to kept it. No, we couldn’t if we hadn’t ruined that. So, my kids went there until about the seventh grade, I believe. Sixth or seventh grade.
One of them was in the sixth and one was in the seventh.

Well, anyway, when they got up there, they thought that my youngest daughter . . . was changing the school . . . done something to it. [They thought that the daughter was having problems because she changed schools.] Now, they left before the school was closed, and they thought she wasn’t getting along with the people or was scared or something.

And, Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Willoughby, they got together and they watched her. When she went to get something off the board, she didn’t know what she was getting there and when they had problems on the board, she would miss them.

So, she called me up and I went up and she told me, she said this child has been crippled in her first or second grade of school, and [the teacher] said, “I was that way because I had to go live with my grandmother.” And, she said, “I thought it was her bringing her up here to school, but she gets along fine with the students and things,” but said, “I watched her until she couldn’t . . . anything I have on the board, she couldn’t get. She’d be so long getting it, she didn’t know what she was doing.”

And, she said, “I don’t know whether I can do anything about it or not.” Said sometimes it’s awful hard. But, that year was the year that they started remedial reading, and so Mrs. Willoughby, Hortense Willoughby, that was a wonderful teacher up there. So, she told me she said, “With you all’s income, I can’t get her in that class.” Said, “But I’m going to put her in it anyhow.” Said, “When it’s time for that,” said, “I’ll let you know and we’ll put her in there.”

You know what, they got her. She called me, and they put her in that class, and that child didn’t look back. She was a . . . she got on the honor roll.

AG: They just messed with her.

LF: Messed it up. Messed up. And, she went . . . she went right on and went right on through and didn’t have any trouble at all. But, we talked, we had a mother’s group that was connected with the school. You know how they have something like Parents-Teachers.

One of the teachers told us that they have other students grading their papers and all of that. And if the student don’t seem like they want to get anything, you just leave them alone, just pass them on. They don’t have to get it.

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It’s seed month!

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 8, 2018

The snow’s been collecting on the garden and the blooming season seems very far away. Of course the seed catalogs have started trickling in already (January is ‘seed month’ in the industry) and by Valentine’s Day gardeners have piles of choices.

Appalachian gardeners during the 1930s could count on catalogues from Stark Brothers Nurseries, Thompson & Morgan, and the grandfather of seed catalogs, Burpee’s.

“W. Atlee Burpee, who founded the Burpee firm, was a cousin of the California plant wizard Luther Burbank. In Burbank’s lifetime the Burpees bought seed from the little firm Burbank maintained to help finance his experiments. W. Atlee Burpee began his business in 1878. It gained prestige by introducing the sweet pea from England and more prestige by developing new varieties which were shipped back to England.

“The present Burpee, David, a man of medium height and thinning hair, became president of the company in 1915 after the death of his father. Born in Philadelphia in 1893, he attended Cornell’s agricultural college, from which he was called home by his father’s illness. During the War he set up sample gardens, encouraged people to grow their own food. The War stopped shipments of bulbs, so he grew fine Dutch bulbs in the U. S. Carefully and in person he oversees the operation of the Burpee farms, Fordhook Farms (named for the ancestral Burpee estate in England) at Doylestown, Pa., and Floradale Farm in Santa Barbara County, Calif.

“In person, too, he follows many of the 20,000 experiments made yearly by the Burpee organization. He advocates Federal patents for the protection of flower experimenters. He lives at Fordhook Farms while his younger brother, Washington Atlee Burpee Jr., treasurer of the company, lives on fashionable Delancey Street in Philadelphia.”

Time magazine, Sep. 21, 1931

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Shoot if you must this old gray head, but spare your country’s flag

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 7, 2018

Barbara Frietchie’s story has been immortalized in plays, poems, and local Frederick, MD lore. The story relates that a 96 year old widow draped the Union flag from her window as Confederate troops rode by. Stonewall Jackson saw the display and ordered his troops to shoot the flag. Frietchie is reported to have said, “Shoot if you must this old gray head, but spare your country’s flag.”

Barbara Fritchie (frontispiece from 'Life of Whittier's heroine, Barbara Fritchie')

Barbara Fritchie (frontispiece from ‘Life of Whittier’s heroine, Barbara Fritchie’)

Makes for great storytelling; the problem is, when you go back to primary sources, the details don’t quite add up to that exact story.

“Barbara Frietchie was loyal to her heart’s core,” Mrs. Shriver Tompkins confirms in a NY Times editorial dated October 25, 1899. “This I state from personal knowledge, though I believe she was the only member of her family who was.

“She was not bedridden at the time of the battles of Antietam and South Mountain, for I saw and conversed with her at that time. She had a small flag which she kept in her window during the memorable week of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s occupation of Frederick. Barbara Frietchie was not a myth, neither was her loyalty. I have always understood and believed absolutely that she waved her flag as Gen. Reno passed her house, he looking at her and exclaiming, ‘The Spirit of ’76!”

So we’ve got the elderly Frietchie at the window, waving the Union flag energetically at the troops below. Except that General Reno is not leading Confederate troops or shooting at her flag. And Tompkins makes no mention at all of Stonewall Jackson.

George O. Seilheimer, in an article titled The Historical Basis of Whittier’s “Barbara Frietchie,” goes further:

“That Barbara Frietchie lived is not denied. That she died at the advanced age of 96 years and is buried in the burial-ground of the German Reformed Church in Frederick is also true.

“There is only one account of Stonewall Jackson’s entry into Frederick, and that was written by a Union army surgeon who was in charge of the hospital there at the time. ‘Jackson I did not get a look at to recognize him,’ the doctor wrote on the 21st of September, ‘though I must lave seen him, as I witnessed the passage of all the troops through the town.’

“Not a word about Barbara Frietchie and this incident.

“Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, too, was in Frederick soon afterward, on his way to find his son, reported mortally wounded at Antietam. Such a story, had it been true, could scarcely have failed to reach his ears, and be would undoubtedly have told it in his delightful chapter of war reminiscences, ‘My Hunt for the Captain,’ had he heard it.

from 'Whittier and Whittier-Land.'

from ‘Whittier and Whittier-Land.’

“Barbara Frietchie had a flag, and it is now in the possession of Mrs. Handschue and her daughter, Mrs. Abbott, of Frederick. Mrs. Handschue was the niece and adopted daughter of Mrs. Frietchie, and the flag came to her as part of her inheritance, a cup out of which General Washington drank tea when he spent a night in Frederick in 1791 being among the Frietchie heirlooms.

“This flag which Mrs. Handschue and her daughter so religiously preserve is torn, but the banner was not rent with seam and gash from a rifle-blast; it is torn—only this and nothing more.

“That Mrs. Frietchie did not wave the flag at Jackson’s men Mrs. Handschue positively affirms. The flag-waving act was done, however, by Mrs. Mary S. Quantrell, another Frederick woman; but Jackson took no notice of it, and as Mrs. Quantrell was not fortunate enough to find a poet to celebrate her deed she never became famous.

“Colonel Henry Kyd Douglas, who was with General Jackson every minute of his stay in Frederick, declares in an article in “The Century ” for June, 1886, that Jackson never saw Barbara Frietchie, and that Barbara never saw Jackson. This story is borne out by Mrs. Frietchie’s relatives.

“Barbara Frietchie had a flag and she waved it, not on the 6th to Jackson’s men, but on the 12th to Burnside’s.

“The manner in which the Frietchie legend originated was very simple. A Frederick lady visited Washington some time after the invasion and spoke of the open sympathy and valor of Barbara Frietchie. The story was told again and again, and it was never lost in the telling.”


sources: The Historical Basis of Whittier’s ‘Barbara Frietchie,’ by George O. Seilheimer, “Battles and leaders of the Civil War, Vol 2,” edited by Robert Underwood Johnson, Clarence Clough Buel, The Century Co, NY, 1884

Life of Whittier’s heroine, Barbara Fritchie, by Henry M. Nixdorff, W. T. Delaplaine & Co., Frederick, MD, 1887

Whittier and Whittier-Land, eds. Donald C. Freeman, John B. Pickard, Roland H. Woodwell, Eagle Tribune Printing, North Andover, MA, 1976. Courtesy of the Trustees of the Whittier Homestead, Haverhill, MA.

NY Times editorial dated October 25, 1899, online at

3 Responses

  • Crow Jane says:

    Great article. Makes me a little sad though. Whittier’s poem was one of my favorites when I was a little girl.

  • Sports Mad says:

    I know this might sound funny coming from Australia. However, I’m just addicted to reading about American History I find it fascinating. Thanks for the insights into the flag waving episode and trying to set the history straight. Cheers

  • Nick says:

    I pass by Frederick all the time on I-70 on my way too and from Pittsburgh to Washington. I had no idea there was such a rich history in the town. I guess I need to stop sometime and explore more.

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The weather furnished a field where I could tell big stories—and tell the truth

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 5, 2018

In the tragedy of the Galveston hurricane of 1900 — the most fatal natural disaster in U. S. history — more than 6,000 souls perished. Yet that number would have nearly doubled had it not been for the efforts of Dr. Isaac Monroe Cline. Cline, born in 1861 near Madisonville, TN, was the weather-forecasting pioneer who went on to become the world’s foremost authority on hurricanes, or tropical cyclones, as they were called.

“Father and mother often told me that I was a problem and hard to handle even before I could walk. My inclination for research evidently developed at an early age; they said I investigated everything that came within my ken. …

“Stormy weather was of frequent occurrence in this locality (Madisonville, TN). Forked flashes of lighting and rolling thunder, vibrating through the hills, fascinated me. Father would refer to the thunder as Jupiter Pluvius announcing the approach of the corn wagon, because at the season on the year when thunder storms were frequent rain was generally needed for the corn crop.

“One Saturday night a tornado, with its funnel-shaped cloud and destructive swirling winds, moved down the Fork Creek Valley. Many residences were destroyed and several people were killed. The destruction was so great that messengers were sent out over the surrounding country for help. Father went early Sunday morning to render what assistance he could and took me with him.

Isaac Monroe Cline, weather forecaster“The brick residence of one of father’s friends had been demolished and some of the family killed. A child was asleep in a bed on the second floor of the building. The tornado picked up the bed with the child and deposited them, with the bed intact and the child unhurt, in an orchard about one hundred yards from the house. …

“Hiwassee College, a school with a national reputation for its thorough teaching of English as well as Greek and Latin, and other subjects which constitute the foundation of learning, was about five miles from where I lived. It was a school where Methodist preachers were educated, but its curriculum enabled young men of limited means to prepare a foundation of learning on which they could build through the future.

“I entered Hiwassee College when I was sixteen years old, and took the liberal arts course leading to the Bachelor of Arts. In part payment for my tuition, I served as Librarian and assistant janitor, in which latter office I chopped wood for the fireplaces, and performed other chores. With another boy I rented a small two-room building on the campus in which we studied, slept, cooked, and ate our meals. There were several of these hutments we would call them today, which the college rented to poor boys who were striving to get an education.

“Mathematics, physics, chemistry, Latin and Greek had a special charm for me, and I studied them thoroughly as I went along so that I was well grounded in these studies.

“At the suggestions of friends I gave some consideration to preparing for the ministry, and so paid particular attention to Latin and Greek.

“However, my association with men who were preparing to become preachers convinced me that I could not follow the ministry and accomplish my objective in life. I must say that the mental training and discipline of the mind which the study of Greek and Latin gave have been worth more to me than any other of my studies except mathematics, and I have appreciated this fact more and more with the passing years.

“Among the students at Hiwassee were some young men from Louisiana and Mississippi, who were preparing to become lawyers. One of them was the late Robert Broussard, who served Louisiana in the United States Senate with distinction for many years up to the time of his death. I joined these students and studied Blackstone for a while more to broaden my field of knowledge than to make law my profession. I have been invited often to give talks before social clubs and business organizations.

“Frequently, I have told the following story: ‘I first studied to be a preacher, but decided that I was too prone to tell big stories to be a preacher. Then I studied Blackstone for a while, and soon learned that I was not adept enough at prevarication to make a successful lawyer. I then made up my mind that I would seek some field where I could tell big stories and tell the truth; later the weather furnished that field.’ ”

source: “Storms, floods and sunshine,” by Isaac Monroe Cline, Pelican Publishing, New Orleans, 1945

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It was the finest house we’d ever seen

Posted by Dave Tabler | January 2, 2018

Viola Brown Black wrote the poem below about her childhood home. It still stands on Bell St. in Hiawassee, GA. It was built by her father, Lona Cicero Brown, in 1909.



The tall, white house on the high green hill,
looking down on the sleepy little town,
was the home of my childhood, home of my heart, still,
though I’ve lived and roamed the world around.

At first it was a dream in my father’s heart,
who wanted the best for his own,
the house we lived in was falling apart
with six children all overgrown.

Father chose the trees and had them felled,
then logged to his sawmill beside a stream,
from early until late the whir of saw swelled,
making stacks of lumber to give life to a dream.

Then to a planer thirty long miles away
the lumber on wagons was hauled,
to go or to come took all of a day
and often the teams in snow were stalled.

Many a tree gave up its life, so
as to become a part of the house so fine,
it was many years ago and now no trees grow
where stood giant oak, poplar, hickory and pine.

Two stories and a half tall the house stands
and it has twelve large rooms in all,
it was built by the labor of many hands,
complete with bath, balcony, each floor a hall.

Oh, it was the finest house we’d ever seen!
Its rooms jutted out with big windows clear;
snow-white it was painted, with high roof of green,
no other house could compare, either far or near.

It protected us from without, watched over us within
through joy, sorrow, sickness and in health,
it mourned as we mourned the sad day when
it could not hold back the angel of death.

The dear old house will ever be a part
of we who romped within its walls;
childhood, youth, and affairs of the heart,
visions of it poignantly recall.

Viola Brown Black




One Response

  • Dave Tabler says:

    Hello Raven,
    The reason is because we scan comments for approval before posting, in order to prevent spam posts to the site. DT

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