School construction photo triggers flood of memories

Published 12:01 am Sunday, March 15, 2015

By Ralph Almond

For the Salisbury Post

Amazing, just how much enjoyment an old man can have looking at one picture. The March 10 photograph of workers clearing the lots for the new school office was just what I needed to jog my early life memory. Recently I looked up the 1940 census report. There at 123 East Cemetery Street was Claude E. Almond, head of household, third-grade education. Rosa Paige Almond, fifth-grade education. Then a name jumped out: Ralph, 3 years old. Hey! that’s me.

A sister Eloise to be born soon. Then a move to the big house! Around the corner to 508 North Main St., smack dab in the middle of the school project.  Turned 6 right after we moved. Started my first year of school at  A.T. Allen School at Long and East Innes. Bank there now. Did fairly well through the third grade, with Mrs. Hamrick teaching. A sister Peggy was born a year or so later.

World War II ended. Main Street from Spencer was packed, with people going into Salisbury to celebrate. Everyone was out-of-control happy. My friends and playmates included Donald and Joe Rink, whose dad ran Rink’s grocery just across the street. He had a warehouse full of seed bags, hay and straw bales, you name it, to catch a boys’ attention. You could buy a live chicken for I think 50 cents — another dime and Mrs. Rink would dress it for you. The dimes that previously went to War Bonds now allowed you to pay for the dressing. My closest friends were Larry and Eddie Pring, who lived two houses toward Spencer. There were more that I cannot recall just now.

It seems the lots our houses were built on must have only been 75 to 100 feet deep to the back. Behind us was a tall fence with a double gate should there be a need to drive in back. Just over that fence were a row of 3 to 4 very small plain weather boarded, not painted houses. A street or Alley fronted the houses with a row of small houses. I am quite sure this was called Boston Alley. There lived a neighborhood of black people. Dad worked with one or two of the gentlemen and often brought their cars into our back to tune them up for an couple dollars. Mom sewed for the public, including the black ladies; 75 cents for a plain summer dress. Mother said two of the flock of white ladies see sewed for jumped her for sewing for the blacks. After a while mother finally lost her patience. She told a lady she had examined the blacks’ money and it appeared same as all the other money. No more argument.

Well the bomb was about to fall. My life never to be the same, I thought. Dad had his vacation week the first week of August. He always drove mother and us three kids to Stanly County to live on the farm where she was raised. He raised a tent at a fishing hole at Long Ferry. He fished for catfish to his hearts content. Trot line and cane poles and cork. At the end of vacation, arriving back home on Sunday night, we found a note on the front door. Be moved out by Monday morning or the sheriff and men would set our furniture out on the street. The reason or excuse was the war is over. All those poor solders coming home will need a place to live. We paid, I think, $15 dollars rent. Four appartments were to be built in the house. Now, Mrs. Hamrick had taught me well in math, four times $15 was $60 dollar . My first lesson with realtors or developers.

Dad found us an old house on Crane Creek Road. Fourth through seventh grade was spent at Dukeville School. I loved school. Got one whipping, at A.T. Allen. J.T, Donnie and another boy pushed me into the girls’ bathroom. Boy, did I hit the floor. I got up very embarrassed and got out fast. Uh-oh! Miss Annie Bostian caught me coming out. The boys were gone. I will not describe the scene in her office. Dad simply said,”Boy, make that your last one.”

Summer between seventh and eighth grade was the next bomb. The school bus had to turn on Crane Creek road at the J. I. Palmer crossroads and run a 3-4-mile detour to pick up my sisters and me before going down Long Ferry. Maybe it delayed the other kids getting home. Their parents got the PTA involved and complained to Mr. Trexler, our principal. All then went to the school board. To end the argument and win, one person said, “That terrible old Crane Creek Bridge is going to fall in.” Folks, that is the solid bridge that has been restored at Dan Nichols Park.

Amazing how they arrive at the answer to school problems. The answer: The East Spencer bus would detour down Good Lake Road to pick up those kids. So then I was under the care of my eighth-grade teacher Miss Martha Miller, salaried at $1,300 dollars per year but still had money for our little extra teaching supplies.

May our Father in heaven look down on that still majestic old school in East Spencer. I hope the town of East Spencer gets the building and uses it may be another 100 years. For some comparison, may I say I graduated as valedictoran, with a little over 92 average. I believe there were 18 boys and two girls in the class. Boy, how the arguments and travel of the school board “house” have mirrored this little boy’s life.

Ralph Almond lives in Granite Quarry.