childhood tales V


I tell this story often about how I ended up in Lynchburg, and what might have happened had I done a simple thing differently! In the book "Inspiration Street" by Darrell Laurant, I was interviewed by him and I told him this story. It was so 
fascinating that he included it in his book! Here is the complete version of my story from the beginning! My Mom and Dad met at Virginia Union in Richmond during classes in the early '40's, graduating, getting their teaching degrees,  and getting married in 1946. Dad was from Abingdon, Va.(near Bristol), and Mom was from Richmond, within walking distance of Va. Union. They then began a search for teaching jobs with an agreement that they would settle near the middle of the state so that each of them would be an equal distance from home. It would have to be somewhere from Roanoke to Lynchburg....and it ended up to be Campbell County at a school called Kingston, 15 miles south of Lynchburg....120 miles from Richmond, and 190 miles from Abingdon, Va....close enough.
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 My parents rented a house near Chapel Grove church, and a short ways from Kingston school. Mom taught 1-4th grade, Dad taught 5-7th, and was the principal! In 1951. I am...ta-da, I was born. Ms. Spencer, was my babysitter next door to where we the meantime Dad was looking for a house! Mom didn't like the country, Dad neither. He looked a lot in Lynchburg. I told Ed, Big6, that I was almost their neighbor on Taylor St. Dad bidded on a house at 1718 Taylor St, but he lost the bid! The house burned down in the mid 90's, and is now a vacant lot. Dad kept looking for houses, and here is where it gets interesting? Lets jump ahead a little...Dad spent his last days at the Oak's(now the Elm's), on Murrell Rd, an assisted living home. After my morning shift on the radio, everyday I would visit him there in 1995. We would watch Perry Mason, and have lunch. Dad would out of the blue, say something that didn't make any since? Dad said "Son, if you had to go to the bathroom 5 minutes earlier, we wouldn't have got our house on Pierce St!" I didn't pay attention at first, but Dad said it a few times later....I then decided to investigate it? I asked him what did he mean by that right then, forgetfulness would set in, and that is all I got? I kept at it and got this story... Those who know my Dad, knew that he was really light skinned....he could really do this "passing" thing like sit in the bottom section(all White) of the Paramount theater and watch a movie with no hassle! Lynchburg realtors would only show houses in certain areas to certain people according guessed it....race! There were certain invisible barriers around the city dividing Black and White neighborhoods! The barrior went places like up 15th St, one side, down Fillmore St, down 16th St, and so on. Historical Pierce St. was Black from 12th to 15th, stopping there on the side of Dr. Johnsons home (the tennis court). Doc's home was 1422 Pierce. You cross 15th St. on Pierce, and you were in another territory! There were a lot of these "territories" in Lynchburg, including a well-to-do one from Johnson Rd, to Tollys Ln. off Fort Ave to Carver St. A lot of prominent teachers and Dr's built houses there! I remember us invited to the newly built home of the Moultries(1958)! We took a tour of the beautiful very large home on Johnson Rd. I recently drove by their home, damn, John and Drucilla would turn over in their graves if they saw the condition of their house now! They, at the time, were surrounded by the White section "territory!" Anyway, Dad saw the ideal house at 1502 Pierce St, one problem, wrong territory! The house had a fenced in yard, place to park your car off the street, etc. Someone told Dad that the couple fought all the time, and it was up for sale! Dad was determined to get that house after losing the bid recently on Taylor St. He said the plan was to meet with the realtor (passing), and he had the cash to get the house for $4500 dollars! The plan was, he was to park up the street(Church St, if I remember)? Mom, who was dark skinned was to wait with me in the car! Dad got out, and went down the street, about a block to the real estate office. We had a four door '54 Chevy at the time, and I had to go to the bathroom. Before Mom could stop me I opened the back door and ran down the street and into the office...thus the words...."Dad, where is the bathroom?" All hell broke loose, but Dad had already paid the money, and was walking out the door with the deed!! The Realter said "there must be some kind of mistake, wait, you can't, wait (I guess he must have sounded like the guy on the Reginald Yancy tv spot!) but, but, uh, uh, uh!! The guy followed Dad and me out the door, as he dragged me up the street and into the car! I was told that the realtor turned red as a beet! I'll bet he said "Oh no" (guess who said "oh no" this time?) "I just sold the wrong house to a ni--r!!" Now you can see where the title to this childhood tale came from! We soon moved in to 1502 Pierce St, one house in the White territory, to the dismay of the neighborhood! Dr. Johnson watched us as history was made, and almost 5 year old MadLad and family moved in! Ms. Proffitt lived next door down 15th St, and yelled out the window "Hey, yawl got the wrong house?" Dad politely said "No mam!" "Yawl must have the wrong house 'cause ain't no ni--rs in this block!" She called the police. Dad showed the deed to them, and they were on their way. Ms. Proffitt had 3 teenaged boys who worked on old cars in the backyard. Every now and then a rock or something would fly by your head, and hit the ground close, from the back yard! Thank God that their aim was terrible! Dad would wake up in the middle of the night to see if anything was done to the car....nothing! Ms. Bell lived across the street at 1501 Pierce. She came over to the fence and spoke to Dad. After a while I remember Dad saying "We ain't moving nowhere!!" She had offered Dad twice the amount of the house to move!! I had a fenced in yard to play in, but my parents wouldn't let me play there alone! Dad put in a new furnace, heat, air conditioning, paint job and gravel driveway! My Sister and I had our own rooms! My only concern was that I had to leave Ms. Spencer, and go to Bethune Nursery School. I knew that when I saw that long hill on Campbell Ave, to Dewitt St, I would start crying....I was getting ready to get left! Mom taught me at Kingston in the 1st grade, but I had to go to the second grade at Robert S. Payne school, where I met all my present day friends! As the rocks and the sneers continued from the area, I remember this interesting tid-bit? A few months after we moved in, Mom got a letter, read it and threw it into the trashcan! My Aunt was visiting at the time from D.C, and noticed her sister getting mad! Mom said "Nothing, don't worry about it!" My Aunt went in the trash and got out the said:  
New resident! We noticed that you have recently moved here to our beautiful city of Lynchburg! Since you are new here, we would like to invite you to our next church service this Sunday! We would love for you to possibly make Thomas Road Baptist church your church home! We hope to see you this Sunday....signed....
Rev. Jerry Falwell!!!
My Aunt said "Come on Sis, lets go Sunday!! If they say anything or try to stop us we will show them the letter!" My Mom, who didn't like controversy, said that she didn't want to be the Rosa Parks of Lynchburg! I wish that Mom had kept that letter! Now we know how the church congregation solicitation works don't we? The church would get the real estate records for the area, look up the new home sales, and see what street(territory) they were living in to send them a letter! I'll bet they got a lot of the congregation that way!?  
The pictures below are, clockwise:

Madlad, 8 months old, and Mom at our home on Chapel Grove Rd. in Evington!

Family picture with my sister Cornelia in
 front yard at 1502 Pierce! 
Dad and me, Mom and me, ducking rocks! Notice Dr. Johnson's home in the background, the next territory!
What if....a little thing can cause big consequences, theme of the movie "Back to the Future!" Ok....What if: Dad and Mom had settled in Roanoke(no Soul station for Lynchburg? Surely someone would have thought of the idea...maybe)? What if: I had gone to the bathroom before the deed was transferred? Dad arrested for impersonating a White person?



There were a lot of stores in the neighborhood, almost one on every other corner! Meade's, Simmons, Bibee's, Hall's, Ward's. Every store had something to attract customers in a unique way. Simmon's was just across the street from us...I could go out the door and right into the store with Mint Juleps on the brain! Hamilton's Store at the corner of 13th & Pierce Sts. had a unique! Classmates Herbert Walker & Glen Clark would take items you ordered right to your house! I know you all remembered the delivery bike Glen rode with the big basket on top of the little wheel and the big wheel in the back! All the groceries had to fit in the front basket! Glen had his apron on, and took off with what looked like a normal delivery. I was at the corner of 14th & Pierce Sts. talking to Paul and Juan, and watching Glen ride down the street. Glen was going to turn left and go up 14t
h St. toward Fillmore. We all turned and looked down the street, so none of us saw the collision! Oh but we heard it though, a big crash after a 
screech of tires!  We looked up 14th St, a blind corner from Pierce.....Glen had run headlong into a car!! Glen was laying on the ground holding his arm...there were grocery items, milk, eggs, tomatoes, lying everywhere! We Froze none of us could speak or move! The driver got out of the car to see if he could do anything? Mr. Hamilton either heard the crash or someone ran up the street and told him about it, but he ran up the street and helped Glen to his feet.....I go blank from there, still frozen, I couldn't tell you if he was taken to the hospital or not! A small crowd had 
gathered and talking, hoping that Glen would be all right? I n
eed for someone to take up the story from there, I was still frozen! We are trying to restore the Hamiltons Store, and make it a Museum! You can read about it on my web-site under "pierce st. gateway!" If you can help out by donating, you will find the forms and blanks on that page! By the way, there is a picture of Glen Clark on my first "pierce st." page! Glen passed away recently! 



My Mom told me one Sunday that this was going to be a special Sunday at Jackson Street Church! This was Communion Sunday....what is that? Mom said you will find out when we get there. I waited for Rev. Pannell to announce the occasion, he did! "I want you to come up a few section at a time for our Communion service! We partake the body of Jesus, and the blood of Jesus" at least  it went something like that? All I heard was the Blood part! The first group everyone kneeled in front of the alter...Rev. said "This is my body take it! "Then he said "This is my blood, drink it and be blessed!" Again, all I heard was the blood part.... Rev. said "Do this in remembrance of me." Man, I would remember anyone that you want to remember, just don't make me do this! The first group rose up and went back to their seats....they seemed alright! A few groups went up and came back, I was concerned about the fact that it was almost our turn, and the blood part! Finally it was our turn, and Mom took me by the hand and took us to the alter. I stooped down beside Dad, and the service continued... Jesus body was represented by these small round paper wafers. Rev. said "This is my body, take it." I ate it, this ain't bad, kinda stuck to the roof of my mouth, but I got through it! On No....there it is....Rev. said "This is my Blood, drink it and be blessed." I looked to my left, Mom drank the liquid in the tiny little glasses that fit into the holes in the round alter. I looked to my right, and Dad did the same, no different expression, and put the tiny glass in it's place. I was the last one, and the glass was in my hand. Rev. Pannell was getting ready to say go in peace, and I still had the glass in my hand! Here goes nothing...down the hatch.....I don't remember what happened next after what I said! Before I thought....(this happened to me a lot), I said loudly "Ma, this ain't nothing but grape juice!!" There was a big SMACK (Mom had a backhand you could never see coming), I don't remember anything after that.......

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