War-Time Invaders

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Soldiers on Campus

Soldiers on Campus

War-Time Invaders

By Ed Morris, as originally published in The Wake Weekly

In times of war Wake Forest, both college and town, gave far more than just its men to the cause. During the Civil War the college, several homes and a few temporary buildings housed a Confederate hospital. Located on the main railroad line coming out of Virginia many wounded confederate soldiers ended up in the hospital here. Many died here and were buried in unmarked graves. During War World I again the college and town served as a host to both the Army and Navy. College buildings were used for training facilities. The grounds of the Birthplace Museum served as the parade grounds for training both soldiers and sailors to march together. It was during World War II that the most lasting impact would come to both the college and town however.

With the coming of war in 1942 came women. It would appear that there would be a shortage of male students, so what better time to admit co-eds. After all the college had been playing host to women students off and on since Evabelle Simmons attended and graduated in the 1880s. Women came to the law school and medical school in the 1920s. Dr. Margaret Lineberry was the first woman to complete her medical education in 1928 and Margaret Gordon was the first woman to be admitted to the bar after graduating from Wake Forest in 1927.

Along with co-eds in 1942 came other “invaders” to the campus, hundreds of US Army troops who would be attending the Army Finance School.   There was an element of confusion and crowding but both the women and soldiers were most welcomed to Wake Forest, but not without some pain for the college students.

It happened suddenly in August 1942 just a couple of weeks before classes were to begin for the fall semester. Using broad war-time power the military saw the college campus along the main north-south rail route exactly what they were looking for and thus took what they needed. The Social Science Building, the Music-Religion building, Gore Gymnasium, the Alumni Building, the cafeteria along with Bostwick, Hunter and Simmons dorms were taken over by the U.S. Army Finance School. In addition soldiers occupied all the available space in the yet unfinished chapel. In all more than half the space on the campus was used by the Finance School. The change was sudden, drastic and gave a realization to the college students that we were at war and nothing remained totally unchanged by it. Very soon however it seemed very normal. Students liked having the soldiers on campus. It was widely reported that not only did they fit in well, but they added something to the campus not seen before. The 1943 Howler summed it up best, “students and soldiers working for a common cause-victory.”

The troops liked their surroundings and college “chums” equally as well. Many of them had been in college across the nation only to have their studies interrupted by war. For others being on a college campus was a first time experience. They made the best of it in all ways. They dined at Miss Jo’s, they hung out in their free time at Shorty’s or Snyder’s Soda Fountain. They even formed a cheering section to route the Demon Deacons’ on to victory at football games. And yes, they fell in love and some would marry college co-eds or local girls. Life in Wake Forest would forever be changed by the war time occupiers.

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The Bounty of Goodness: Wake Forest’s East End

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Original publication date July 2008

Universe: “All matter and energy, including the earth, the galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space, regarded as a whole.” Whole: “entire, unhurt, healthy.” Healthy: “to heal; sacred, holy.” Holy (earliest use): “that must be preserved whole or intact, that cannot be transgressed or violated.”

Being interested in the origins of words, I’m thinking that a town, like a universe, must be regarded as a whole, viewed relative to its health and, if you’ll permit, its holiness. While Wake Forest has had its struggles (the most impactful being the college’s removal to Winston-Salem in 1956), our town is thriving and is, most would say, a good place to live. It has always exhibited certain amounts of holiness; and, there is room for more.

Like other southern towns, racial segregation played a part in our town’s growing-up years. It’s fair to say that race relations here have been amicable, with whites and blacks peacefully coexisting. It is also true that the area of town lived in by most African Americans (now called the East End, but familiarly referred to as the DuBois community) hasn’t gotten its fair share of attention from the Town of Wake Forest until recently. Through the Northeast Neighborhood Plan, designed to “enhance neighborhood safety, appearance, walk-ability, and recreational and economic opportunities,” long overdue revitalization efforts are underway for a part of town that some of its residents have described as “left behind.”

The struggles of African Americans are documented well enough that I don’t need to define them. While I don’t believe suffering to be inherently holy, I’ve learned that a sort of holiness can be expressed through having to endure the struggles of suffering. It is a holiness that comes through living as fully, lovingly, and authentically as possible, no matter the circumstances of one’s life. I’ve also learned that when people – any people – are able to create much out of little, the fruits of that labor are vastly more appreciated than (and even possess an intrinsic value that may surpass) that which comes out of the expenditure of easily-had resources.

This awareness came home to me in a big way ten years ago while working as the site coordinator for the DuBois History and Mural Project, and thus coming to know many East Enders. I saw the value that the community placed on the education provided by the DuBois School, a value that most whites can’t fully share because we have not had to struggle and suffer for our education. DuBois graduates too numerous to mention are living today the richness of their school experience through doing great things, both out in the world and here in the local universe.

The East End is bounded on the south by Roosevelt Ave., north by Perry St., west by N. White St., and east by Allen Rd. During the first two thirds of the 20th century, with its schools and multiple businesses and churches the area was almost a town within a town. Of the four churches, three remain, including the oldest, Olive Branch Baptist, which grew out of Wake Forest Baptist. Spring Street Presbyterian remains as a structure only and is about to become a performing arts center, thanks to the W.E.B. DuBois Community Development Corporation. This church was started in 1905 by Professor Allen Young, who also began the community’s first school the same year, predating DuBois by 21 years. (See next issue of Heritage Magazine for the Allen Young School story.)

This community’s rich history is one of a people who created much out of little but their goodness – and what a bounty goodness is. On a recent warm, spring Sunday afternoon, the East End’s Alston-Massenburg Center was full of blacks and whites, all come to hear Mary Evelyn Jones, featured speaker at the Wake Forest Historical Association’s May meeting, talk about the collective history – and her personal memories – of Wake Forest’s African American community. “We’ll go back in time,” the octogenarian began, “telling what our parents told us and what their parents told them about our ancestors.”

You’d never know that Evelyn Jones is 80 years old. Her beautiful, honey-colored skin is as smooth as that of someone half her age (I was wishing for a Grande size “Evelyn Cream” to apply at bedtime). With the vigor she’s known for (she still serves town boards, alumni and church groups, as well as her neighbors), she gave us colorful accounts of the still close-knit community’s history, intertwined as it is among business, social, church, and educational life, and painted pictures of a once strong, vibrant neighborhood and its – well, just plain goodness. It was a place where midwives served the entire Wake Forest community, attending mother and child for a week at a time, and is still a place where neighbors tend to each other – “Not everybody can afford to go to the rest home; if somebody’s needed, you go stay with them, bathe and cook for them.”

The former Wake County assistant teacher talked of neighbors named Gill, Smith, Pope, and Mitchell, entrepreneurs whose presence downtown included a poolroom, restaurant, barbershop, shoe shop, and foundry. Up in the neighborhood were candy and grocery stores, sweet shops and beauty parlors, music and dance teachers, undertakers and barbers. The area’s brick masons, electricians, and plumbers served both the East End and greater Wake Forest, as did the town’s all black volunteer Fire Station #2, located on the very site of our meeting that Sunday afternoon.

We heard about Ms. Gracie’s, a sweet shop that sold “High Rock” (nickel soda pop), and Mr. Percy’s, a grocery and restaurant. “Everybody bragged about Shorty’s hotdogs; we bragged about Mr. Percy’s. It was a place you could go on Sunday evening … and enjoy a cone of ice cream, a hot dog or hamburger with a soda, or just sit with your kids and enjoy the piccolo.” (For those not old enough to know, a piccolo is a jukebox; and for those not old enough to know what a jukebox is, google it!)

Marlon and John B. Cole, two white brothers from the Mill Village, ran a store on N. White Street. “Cole’s … was a life saver for the people on this side of town. They sold everything that people needed. They ran an account book, so if you didn’t have the money until payday, Marlon would credit the people.”

Evelyn Jones and others like her, most of them unrecognized, have for years done the holy work of their living, the results being a bounteous inheritance for all of us. I, for one, left the Alston-Massenburg Center that afternoon with a robust appreciation for the goodness of people, and for the living legacy of these neighbors in particular. The East End has always exhibited a gracious plenty of the holiness found in Wake Forest. Now, as the town at last stands taller in its responsibility to its citizenry by putting genuine energy into the East End, perhaps this little universe of a town will also find itself to be more healthy and whole.

© Amy Pierce and Wake Forest: Our Heritage, 2002-2013. Originally published in Our Heritage Magazine. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Amy Pierce and Wake Forest: Our Heritage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Purposeful Dreamer: Allen Young and His School

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Original publication date October 2008

[The only comprehensive written history we have of Allen Young and his school comes from an article by Wake Forest College student Yulan Washburn, Allen Young’s School (The Student, 3/28/56). Two other articles are known to exist, Carol Pelosi’s Wake Forest’s Other Campus (Wake Forest Gazette) and Jean McCamy’s Allen Young’s Normal School Provided Education of Heart, Head and Hands, (The Wake Weekly, 2/24/72). Quotes not attributed are from Washburn.]

Behind every seed that grows to serve a great purpose is the heart and mind of at least one human being with a dream. Wake Forest is a town that owes its beginnings – and the beginnings of many of its landmark qualities, places and character – to purposeful dreaming. The seminal dream in its history was that held by certain Baptists in the early 1830s – the creation of an institution to educate and train young men for the ministry. The dream was a nightmare to many in the state, running counter as it did to the prevailing notion that ministers were not supposed to be formally educated, but simply “called to preach.” Nonetheless, Wake Forest Institute grew to become Wake Forest College/University. Its founding fathers could not have known the impact such a dream would have on both men and women in the ensuing decades, and the world is better for it.

In the years following the founding of the college and the growth of the town it birthed, there were others with dreams for education in Wake Forest, dreams all but deferred because of the dreamers’ skin color. If you are a regular reader of this page, then you know some of Wake Forest’s African American education history (Going Forth With Promise – The DuBois School, 3/05; The Bounty of Goodness – Wake Forest’s East End, 7/08). These articles are not the whole story; there’s at least one more we can tell about East End education, the story of another “purposeful dreamer,” Allen Young, and the school he birthed on November 6, 1905 in one small corner of a local bedspring factory.

Professor Young (b.1876 – d.1957) lived all his life in Wake Forest and was one of the founders of Spring Street Presbyterian Church. As a child, he had to help support his family and so did not attend school. He worked instead for the town’s white families, some of whom were professors at the college. He apparently caught the attention of several of these men, as they began privately tutoring him. “Young had to have demonstrated a very striking intellect and drive at a very young age to interest white scholars in a barefoot black boy,” wrote Carol Pelosi. One of his teachers was likely Biology professor, and later college president, William Louis “Dr. Billy” Poteat. In fact, “Dr. Billy” actually secured for Young that corner of the bedspring factory where he later began his school.

Thanks to the tutoring he received as a boy, Young was able to attend Henderson Institute, Kittrell College, then Shaw University, eventually working in the public school system. The young educator “. . . got the idea of founding a private school from a colored minister, and resigned to devote his full time to it.”

Young’s mission was “to prepare the young colored children for the practical duties of life. He did this the best way he knew how: ‘. . . by educating the heart and head and hands – heart to obey God’s law, head to think, and the hands to do with might what they found to do.’ He adopted the motto, ‘ Not how much, but how well.’”

Starting small, he began by teaching children in grades 1-7. He secured substantial funds from the white community before appealing to the (Presbyterian) Freedman’s Board in Philadelphia. That Board “granted his appeal, enabling the moving of his school from the corner in the bedspring factory into a new frame structure with four rooms,” ultimately allowing it to expand beyond the primary level.

The Wake Forest Normal and Industrial School’s new building was the first on a campus that, as Jean McCamy wrote, “blossomed in the heart of Wake Forest” and grew to include four others. Situated on both sides of Spring St., just east of what is now N. White, the campus was bordered by Taylor to the east and what is now Brooks to the west. By the mid ’20s, Professor Young’s dream had grown to include 11 faculty and 366 students. It “leaped ahead of the state to offer the first colored high school in Wake County . . .  and also sent out the first colored school bus in Wake County.”

The school, Pelosi wrote, “blended a rigorous curriculum with practical work and religious faith,” incorporating Latin, French, and Civil Government, plus a literary society. Manual training was required for the boys and “advanced teaching and practice in sewing and homemaking” for the girls. “The school boasted a 15-piece band that played . . . all around the area, and the choral group of the school sang at a great many places, including WFC and the University of North Carolina.” A college student began the school’s athletic program and other students coached the teams.

The school’s reputation grew along with the campus; in its heyday, boarders came from as far away as Pennsylvania and Connecticut. In those days, most upper level schools for blacks were private; Young’s was both private and denominational. “Just where Allen Young got the money for the buildings and for salaries of a faculty . . . nobody knows . . . But Wake Forest townspeople . . . have vague memories of the principal making a trip through the North, and there are accounts connecting Allen Young’s name with John D. Rockefeller, while Pierpont Morgan’s name flits through others . . .”

In the mid ’30s, though, the Freedman’s Board of the Presbyterian Church ceased its funding. Also, the state opened a free high school for blacks in the Wake Forest community. The two blows were the death knell for Wake Forest Normal and Industrial High School. Young, described by Pelosi as “a remarkable man, nurtured and educated in Wake Forest, who in turn nurtured and educated thousands,” understandably wasn’t able to easily let go.

“When a man has spent his life on a project,” Washburn concluded, “he doesn’t let it go without a struggle.”  Young “still dreams of the day when [the school] will function again.  . . . He has over 500 books he envisualizes as the core of the new school’s library. An 80-year handicap and a free public school system are formidable blocks to his plan, but Allen Young is still a man of energy. As long a he can plan, as long as he can dream, [the school] will remain a possible successor to the itinerant Wake Forest College – at least for the mind of Allen Young.”

On February 17, 1957, not quite a year after Washburn’s article, this purposeful dreamer died while working on plans to revive the school to serve the handicapped and retarded.

© Amy Pierce and Wake Forest: Our Heritage, 2002-2013. Originally published in Our Heritage Magazine. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Amy Pierce and Wake Forest: Our Heritage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.