Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History & Culture Enduring Connections: Exploring Delmarva's Black History


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Interview with Harry Church, 27 February 2019

Audio Recording

About This Recording

Harry Church, age 84 at the date of the interview speaks about growing up on Delmarva and working for the Dorchester County Board of Education. Mr. Church’s property rests on what was his great grandfather’s farm. Mr. Church’s great grandfather was a slave, fought in the Civil War and used the pay received to purchase the land. Harry Church’s family has been on Delmarva since the Civil War era.

This interview is part of the Salisbury Growth and Development Oral History Collection. For more information, see the Edward H. Nabb Center Finding Aid.


Interviewer: Erik Gaskill
Interviewee: Harry Church
Short Summary: Harry Church, interviewed by Erik Gaskill on February 27th, 2019 in Delmar, Maryland for the Salisbury Growth and Development oral history project of the Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture. Harry Church, age 84 at the date of the interview speaks about growing up on Delmarva and working for the Dorchester County Board of Education. Mr. Church’s property rests on what was his great grandfather’s farm. Mr. Church’s great grandfather was a slave, fought in the Civil War and used the pay received to purchase the land. Harry Church’s family has been on Delmarva since the Civil War era.

[Recording starts, interview begins 00:06]
Erik Gaskill (EG): Hello my name is Erik Gaskill and today I am here with Mr. Harry Church of Delmar, MD. Today is February 27th, 2019 and we are sitting in Mr. Church’s home in Delmar, MD located a few miles north of Salisbury University. Our topic today will be Mr. Church’s memories of growing up in the area, life growing up on his father’s farm, time spent in the Armed Forces, and changes and development over time in the Delmarva area. So Mr. Church I wanted to thank you again for welcoming me into your home and making time for this interview. I was thinking we could start with some biographical information if that’s alright with you.

Harry Church (HC): Sure.

EG: Excellent, so just wondering when were you born and where were you born?

HC: I was born on March 14th, 1934 and I was born on the farm where I lived for the rest of my life until I was grown. It was on Connelly Mill Road right here in Delmar, MD. I attended school in Salisbury, Salisbury elementary. Colored elementary. Salisbury Colored High school. That is still written on our diplomas (chuckling). Of course, growing up on the farm in the 30’s, all of us came along during the depression and we were blessed I guess to be on a farm because the farm produced vegetables, had cows, horses, we had crops that we could also. My mother would put them away for the winter. We had can goods. We had hogs. I always had plenty to eat on the farm. I don’t ever remember going hungry on the farm, that’s a plus to say (chuckling). Then when we graduated high school we all went to college except for a couple of us. You either went to college or you’re going to work and we did know work back then because everybody works on a farm, you have to, there are so many diversified jobs on a farm. Work is just a natural thing, you had certain things to do and you did it, you had to feed hogs, you had to feed chickens, ducks or whatever fowl you had on the farm and of course you had to work in the fields in the summer time and we mostly did truck farming.

EG: So with truck farming, what kind of crops was your family growing?

HC: Watermelons, cucumbers, pickles, corn, and later on we did get into soybeans and whatnot as time went on because there was a mechanization that took place that really changed 2 farming tremendously, in other words it got away from the horse and horses and plowing by horse and cultivation, that sort of thing. We got into some small tractors, and that changed a lot, to put it that way.

EG: Do you know when your family made the switch to tractors?

HC: Roughly, let’s see I was in college. Shortly after I went away to college, I don’t remember the year frankly.

EG: Okay

HC: We had a Ford diesel, we had one roofed four row tractor and we had the Ford diesel. The other tractors were gas. We had a one little four row and a Ford was a two row I remember correctly because I had that back in the barn for a number of years after my father passed. He passed in 1992, spring of 1992.

EG: So how did running tractors, what change did they make on the farm?

HC: Well mechanization I would call it. In other words, you got away from the horse and plow, one horse and two plows. You used tractors instead. It also offered a change in the crop. You’re pulling up gosh, your pulling seed machines I call them, much larger seed machines. Cultivation was done and after cultivation you move into chemicals, spraying and that kind of thing. I can say something about that. I think everybody had their own opinion of the chemical. I think today we are suffering from it because I know after living through it, we have fewer birds. Fewer birds in the area and we also have fewer bees. I’ve notice that here on this house. For a number of years I was here I was always cleaning the house of “dirt dotters” and these long tubes made out of dirt, I haven’t seen those in the last seven or eight years. And then a lot of times I’d get stung out here because there would be bees that built nest out in the shrubbery and whatnot. I’d be leaning over and cutting and then all of the sudden it would feel like somebody jabbed me in my thigh (chuckling). I haven’t had that to deal with in a few years (laughing). But anyway, it has made a difference. I wonder and I may be wrong but I think that’s what’s happening to the bees. If you kill mosquitos, I mean a bee is an insect, and why shouldn’t that have an effect on them? I’m hearing more talk about that all of the time on the radio and on the TV. But anyway it has changed drastically in that regard because now as a farmer you can plant your corn, you can plant your soybeans and come back and put your insecticides and whatnot down and you don’t touch that, you put your weed killer in there and you don’t touch that until fall until its ready to be produced. Which makes a tremendous difference, it used to be a lot of cultivating and hoeing and that all went extinct so. It’s been a big change, big change.

EG: So what kind of work would your family do during the winter time? Were you growing crops or doing supplemental jobs?

HC: Well my father worked at Dupont. He worked at Dupont in 1941 and that’s when everything started moving again as far as we were concerned and most people because of the surge in jobs and the war was on so there was more jobs for people to get and people were 3 prospering a whole lot better than they were during the thirties. It made a big difference. I know my father was a happy man, with eight kids and a wife, I don’t know how he did it sometimes but anyway (laughing). I often think about but he worked and he was the only one working and he sent my sisters and me to college and a lot of times we were so close together in age. I mean one was born right after the other you know, so somebody, you’d catch up to somebody who is in college so you’d have two people in college or three people in college you know (laughing) I don’t know how he did it! But anyway I know that my two older sisters, I was the third child, and I know that to send them through we cut wood during the winter, I guess some people would call it cutting timber.

EG: Oh, okay.

HC: But it would be pine-wood sold in five foot lengths, however large you wanted to muscle it.

EG: Could you tell me a little bit more about the timber milling?

HC: Yeah, we started out, I remember we started out and we were cutting a lot of timber back then and we started cutting a lot of wood they call “lapse”, when they would cut a tree down and they wouldn’t use it all the way down to the end. We would call that part a lap and it was long enough to get maybe two pieces out of it. Sometimes it was long enough to get three to five pieces out of it that they left there. So we started cleaning up in the wooded area. Then we started cutting some of our own. The person who bought it there was in Sharptown and he lived down in Virginia, would send them to a paper mill in Virginia, we’d haul it to Sharptown right there on the river. The barges came and took it down river to the paper mills. But it was hard work but it made good money. It made good money, the barge was 6x6x6. We’d haul it down to Sharptown and headed right to the wood deposit right there on the shore and they had the tractors with the claw on them and come by and pick it up and carry it on down to the barge. Yeah, and I know that I saw the timber cut on the farm, twice. Takes about twenty years to raise that kind of timber. I saw the timber cut back there twice in my life. The first time I noticed that the woods was clear. And when I say that it was mostly timber there wasn’t any junk stuff in there, they called it junk but it’s not junk, undergrowth. There was undergrowth in there but when you cut that timber out it was clear. And most of it, some of it was old growth timber. Some was twenty-five, thirty and some was forty. Forty years so but anyway when we were going through school, around the house was clear and it was told to us when we were thirteen or fourteen, “when you finish high school you can go to work or you can go to school, it’s your choice.” And if you didn’t want to be in school you moved out of the house and you got a job and a place to stay (laughing). But it all worked out well, it all worked out well.

EG: Excellent, I wanted to go back and ask a little bit more about your schooling in Salisbury for elementary and high school.

HC: Yes.

EG: So I was wondering, what was the commute like each morning? 4

HC: You wouldn’t believe me. We were first to get on the bus and last to get off (laughing).

EG: Oh gosh (laughing).

HC: What happened was they would pick us up over here on Connolly Mill Road, we’d go to Delmar, turn on Chestnut Street and there was a family there on Chestnut Street, and we’d pick them up then go out to a place called Woodlawn, you know that place where the shopping center is right now? And we would pick the kids up out there but it wasn’t there then. I’m sorry I got the names wrong, it was over there on Stage Road. The kids lived over on Stage Road, they hadn’t built Woodlawn at that particular time. The church was there and there had been a school house there. If you look into our centennial that we had in Wicomico County, you look into that and you’ll see that, gosh what year was that? Hm. It showed different areas of Wicomico County, where the schools were, where the churches were, the rivers, hmm I’m trying to think of what year that was. Anyway, we were talking about that one time about genealogy. My great Grandfather, well one of my great grandfathers he was my father’s grandfather. Runs ships, he was a captain and he ran ships to Baltimore. He had three boats. And he carried produce to Baltimore and of course brought things back. And his name was Captain Jim Shears. And he had these three boats and (I didn’t know the name of them at one time) because two of his sons, he had eleven children, two of his sons ran the other two boats. He ran one and when they got of age he was running three of them. I still, it’s still a mystery to me, I’ve fished hear Quantico Creek and I don’t know how, my father said they did it! All the time they had them boats, they ran them up Quantico Creek to Quantico.

EG: Wow.

HC: (laughing) that’s what I said too! I’ve been to most areas in Quantico Creek, some of it was by land and some of it was by boat. I’ve been by the prison farm down there, I came up there once but what I did was I followed the depth finder you know because that old creek there goes in and out. Some corners you got thirty-five, forty feet of water and other corners you may just have ten you know? And I’ve caught a lot of fish in that place. My father and I were talking one day and I said, Dad I don’t know how they ran sailboats up there. I mean you’ve got the wind factor, and boats don’t have breaks, you know (chuckling). But apparently, they had some kind of guidance system that they used to go up there but anyway it was a lucrative business, I would say they were quite prosperous. He lost his first wife, she was a, you know how some people just naturally have a business head? She was that kind but they lived well, they lived well. And his children, when somebody has eleven children or twelve, they’re going to have a lot of offspring with somebody somewhere. Somebody is going to be quite fertile (laughing). There were a lot of them, there were a lot of them and they’re some still living, one just passed. Last weekend, weekend before last. I was at her funeral and she was ninety-nine. Still had her right mind, knew all of us. She went blind a few years before she passed but she wanted to live to one-hundred and she missed it by a few months because her birthday would have been in April. She’d have been one-hundred years old in April. But anyway, I met her when I was sixteen years old. She lived in Quantico, on Nebo Road in Quantico and I had to stop there quite 5 a few times to get oil in the car and I was doing a little sporting back then, you know (laughing). She always teased me, she’d say, she’d hear the car running and she’d say “here comes little Harry” (laughing) but she was a remarkable woman, just a remarkable woman. We had a camp meeting about five years ago and a lot of Churches (last name of family members, not various congregations) came down from the city and they were around her just like bees were around a hive because they were answering questions from different people that they had never heard of up in the city, and she would tell them who they are related to, who their parents were and that kind of thing. I thought it was amazing and her last days were spent in a nursing home but she still knew everybody. I walked up behind her one time we had a lunch in down the corner from Quantico Church and I said, “Hi, I bet you don’t know who this is”, “Yes, little Harry.”

Both: (laughing)

HC: Anyway there were quite a few Churches and some may still be living, I know a lot of the young ones are still living because they came down and started asking questions to her because they heard these names and whatnot you know and wanted to know who they were and what they did and whatever. But she was a remarkable woman and a blessed woman to have lived ninety-nine years and carry all of that with her you know. I tell my daughter one time I said, you know, my thing is I’d like to live as long as I possibly can, but I want to know who I am (laughing). I think that’s the main thing but yeah.

EG: So I was wondering as well was how far back have you been able to trace your family roots in the area that is?

HC: Hmm. I’ll tell you, when I came along and there were a lot of older people and I always could go back, during my time of coming, I could go back to back in the 1800’s. Because when you start thinking about it, if I’m sixteen years old and a number of people who are still living, they were born in the 1800’s or 1900’s, and I may not remember all of them but there are some I can still see now down in Quantico who were old men when I was with my father going with him on a boogie down to Parrot Farm on Wicomico River and that’s been a number of years, my gosh. Some of them I remember their faces, I don’t remember their names you know but I remember seeing them and dad saying, “This is so and so and so and so”. Things…how do I want to say this? Sometimes things happen in families where somebody doesn’t speak to somebody for an x number of years, that kind of thing you know it really fouls up remembering who was who.

EG: That’s really great that you can trace it back to the 1800’s though!

HC: Mmhmm, yeah. This lady who just passed, I’m trying to think of how many brothers and sisters she had, oh gosh! Might be ten but it’ll take me a little to look a while. I got her obituary right over there. But anyway, my mother’s grandfather, gosh, Daniel Johnson, I don’t know how old he was, he lived to be in his nineties, ninety-six, ninety-seven and he had a daughter who took care of us when we were little who we called Aunt Bert, she was my grandmother’s sister 6 and she would take care of us when momma was having a shower and what not. She lived to be ninety-four. Very rarely was she sick and it seemed like a lot of times when people live that long they don’t stay sick long before they pass. She didn’t because I went to see her when I was working, I worked in Dorchester County and I would go to see her after work sometimes and she was at ninety-four when she passed. Little bit of a biscuit I bet she only weighed ninety pounds wet and she was that size all of her life. There were eight of them in that family.

EG: That’s a lot of family.

HC: Yeah I knew all of them, her brothers, knew all her sisters, yeah.

EG: So you mentioned working in Dorchester County, could you expand a little on that?

HC: Yes, I went over there in 1965 (Home phone rings) (Pause Recorder)

HC: I went over there in 1965 and I worked Dorchester Country Board of Education for thirty-three years. I retired in 1998, excuse me it sounds like a long time (laughing). But anyway I remember going across Maryland Avenue Bridge and I saw all of these troops were over there then. They were there because of the burnings and the difficulties we were having, social problems, that kind of thing. I asked myself what are you doing here? I’ll never forget that going across the bridge. I got across the bridge and they had that old armory over there then and so I didn’t know what I was doing here and I was on my way to the superintendent’s office to get a job. Well I had done my practice teaching over there and I walked into his office and was still questioning myself (laughing). I had job offers in a little place on [RT] 213, I’m trying to think of the name of it. They wanted me to teach over there and I would have had to live at least fifteen miles away or something like that. And I said no way, I can’t do that. I can’t drive from Delmar over here, that’s too much. And I went all over to Harford County and they offered me a job and the guy told me, well I was old enough to know because I had been in service and I had been around and worked in different jobs, you know that kind of thing. And they wanted me to work in Harford County and he said you wouldn’t have any extra work to do, no night basketball games and all that kind of thing. And I looked at him in the eye and I didn’t say it, but I thought well where are you going to be in the next ten years, are you going to be at this school as the principal? Chances not and all of that will go down the wash (chuckles). So, went to Harford, offered a job there. Went to just outside of Washington, I’m trying to think of the name. Montgomery County. I went to Montgomery County and was offered a job there. Got a call back and they wanted my picture and all that stuff. I got back home and there was a letter at the house. I was living in Fruitland then. There was a letter that came from Dorchester County and it wanted me to call her and apply to a job in Dorchester County. My wife was already working in this county, she was teaching in this county so I didn’t expect her to want to move anywhere of course because she had tenure and all that kind of thing and I was always quite comfortable coming home because it offered me all of the things that I wanted to do in my spare time like fishing and hunting and taking care of the home, that kind of 7 thing. So I went back over there and I got in the superintendent’s office. He has me sitting over there, “Mr. Church, where are you from?” and I said, “Delmar”, “Really?” he said, “My wife is from Delmar so you must be okay too.” (chuckling). Yeah I don’t think she’s living today, I know he passed. He said you go and see Mrs. Jolly and if she wants you, she’s got you. I said okay and I was there for thirty-three years. So I taught the shop six or seven years. Anyway, I became principal of the new tech center out there and I stayed there an x number of years, got that started and I was looking around for something else to do because after a while you stay in a job, I don’t know it doesn’t get boring but you’re doing a lot of things that are repetitive. Every year its something in that time slot that you gotta do. Another job came up at the board, supervisor of all those programs and I stayed there until I retired. Enjoyed it. Someone said, “how did you do that did you enjoy it?” Yes I enjoyed it, I enjoyed the kids, I learned a lot from the kids. I mean they’re always buzzing around you know. You think he’s not paying attention but he is and he comes up with this idea about doing something you know? I had a guy and when he came into shop I asked, do you know what shop means? He said no sir. I said it means work! Everyone works in a shop (chuckling). Yeah I had a ball with the kids. Then when I went to the Board there was a lot of kids who knew me because they were in the older building and then they moved into the new school and I moved into the new school. And in the span of maybe three years I didn’t know the kids there, all of them were new but they were still kids, they were still kids. I would walk down the halls, I would walk down the hall and tell a kid to do something and never stop walking. Like “take your hat off” and they’d go, “who is that man?” (laughing) they pulled em off they pulled em off.

EG: So sticking to the whole school topic, what was your experience like for high school in Salisbury?

HC: Here in Salisbury?

EG: I’m sorry, where did you go to high school?

HC: In Salisbury, Salisbury High School.

EG: Okay, yes.

HC: I liked it, I liked it good. I went all the way through. On one side you had the elementary school and of course the elementary, middle, and high. The middle and high, then we didn’t separate like we do now you know we’ve got middle school and well middle schools. Period. And then you’ve got high schools and they do that in some places. I think Laurel they’ve got the schools right beside each other there in Laurel. A high school and a middle school. But I liked it there, I got to know everybody, every kid in the county because the school was segregated and everybody came to Salisbury High School. See at one time the kids would go to school say in Quantico, some would go to Nanticoke, some would go to Fruitland up until the 8th grade, and then they’d come over to Salisbury High School so you knew every kid that graduated in this county. You know going to the high school there on Lake Street. And I liked it. I think we started out with sixty some, 8 maybe seventy kids coming through there in my class. And some kids I went all the way through school with in the same class which is…different. Different then anyhow than it is now of course. Kids are zoned now with different schools. Lot of memories there at Salisbury High School. The lady I married, went to school with her all the way through high school, same class (laughing). Yeah, yeah.

EG: That’s excellent. So I just wanted to clarify a little bit about your father’s farm. So I know that he went to go work for DuPont in the forties, did he still own the farm when he went to work?

HC: Let me tell you about that farm. It’s a little different. If you go in the records sometime and I imagine you do go through the records because you check your records, the school was bought by my great grandfather with his mustered pay that he got from the Civil War. It’s still called on the records here in the county it’s called Sandy Wales Farm. He was in the Civil War and I think his name is in the record books over at Salisbury State. But he bought that farm with his mustered pay and when I popped into the world and started learning what is going on, why we had all of these apple trees, pecan trees, flowers in different places on that farm. Well now he did that. All of that stuff, little peaches and pears, apples, (???), he planted all of that stuff, we already bordered with a lot of it. We did a lot of bordering back then, we got every single wart on the knot. And I think he had five girls. But anyway, I’ll show you that in a minute, I’ll show you the plat of that farm. The slave owner was from England and of course back then they were doling out land, I guess land grants to different people and she got that land grant and of course she bought slaves. I think, I’m not sure about this but I do know the lines are on Connolly Mill Road. And this is really going back because I haven’t seen one in a long time, but they had stones. They were odd shaped stones, they were almost triangular shaped. But you know I was taught that stones grow, you know they add on to the base of the ground you know? And there is one still I know where it is I don’t think anybody took it up but a lot of the times the farmers would move it when they plowed the field. And that was not too far down from where our farm was. Some old man had a farm out on Jersey Road and daddy told me, claimed that the lines were wrong. But you know you have land grabbers and when you measure land, the lines on land, if the line is moved one inch in one place and its changing all the way down that line and moving over. He couldn’t have carried those stones so far, I remember seeing him, he was a little thin guy. I don’t know what he would weigh wet, but anyway (chuckling). Anyway he moved every one of those stones, all the way back because they start from Connolly Mill Road and went all the way back to almost Adkins Road, straight as an arrow. As to the original spot where he put ‘em, I wouldn’t know unless I had some kind of meter to identify stones you know, and there are a lot of ‘em down that line. A lot of them went down that line. But anyway my father and the only people he knew passed, his grandfather passed, the land went to his mother and some to her sisters then in their passage and all of these are between spans of time, in their passage the land went to somebody else. But what my father did, when he came along what he did was get a hold of all of those pieces except one or two of them. But in the back there is a family cemetery and my great grandfather is buried back there, Sandy Wales is buried back there, his wives, he got married twice. My father, one of my brothers, my sister, my brother in law, my grandmother that is my father’s mother, and her 9 husband George Church, and then one of my aunts Grace Church and her husband. And then there were two of his children buried back there too. Two of his girls. They came home, yeah. And that’s just, they’re still together but it’s just relatives were there, were still on that property.

EG: Wow that’s incredible.

HC: Mmhmm. And it’s a time thing when you look at it, you know. People lived there what, sixty-seventy years, sometimes ninety years you know, yeah. I know my brother is buried back there and my sister and my father. I’ve got a brother in law buried back there, aunt and her husband, grandmother and her husband. And there is a baby back there. Daddy never knew his brother because he died when he was a baby. He’s buried in there too. But nobody knew exactly where he was of course there is nothing there now. Back then a lot of those graves held wooden boxes in that period. Mmhmm, yeah. Time.

EG: Yeah it seems to fly and I don’t know where it all goes.

HC: Mmhmm, my daughter was over here talking about it the other day, she comes home and says “I can’t believe that I’m sixty years old” and I said, “I can! I saw it all!” (laughing). Yeah, yes sixty years old.

EG: So you were mentioning earlier when you graduated high school you and your sisters had to make a choice, either go to college or work. So you chose to go to college?

HC: Mmhmm.

EG: So when was that and what college did you attend?

HC: This was in 1952 and I went to A&T University in 1952. I went to their technical school now you would call it and I majored in their Auto mechanics. I took auto mechanics, I took welding, I took drafting, the whole nine yards. Then when I finished school I decided that I had really made a mistake. Because also of course at that time I took ROTC. But my father told me that if you go another year and get your degree, I only had a certificate, you gotta get a degree, he said I’ll pay for it and I’ll buy you a car so you can get around in it. I wouldn’t do it at the time. You know you’re in love and things are buzzing around in your head and you’re not making any sense of anything (laughing). But anyway I went back to UMES and I got my degree and went to work, yeah.

EG: Now were you in the Armed Services?

HC: Mmhmm.

EG: When was that? 10

HC: I went into the service in 1956 and I had a four year…well two years active, two years active but not in the service because I had to go to camp and then I had two years of standby so it was a six year obligation. When I finished work the state gave me four years military time, which added to my pension. Yeah. And then I went to Georgetown. GW, got my masters. Did that three years. Yeah, I haven’t been still that’s for sure (laughing).

EG: Definitely, that is what I am seeing for sure. So during your time in the Armed Services were you in the Army? Did you have a specialization at this time?

HC: Yes, I was in the 82nd Airborne Division.

EG: Did you travel anywhere?

HC: I never went outside of the United States, I went to…I think for a couple years I went to Fort Benning, Georgia. Oil running rifle matches, pistol matches. I had a special duty of training some guys from West Point. They wouldn’t let us harass them like they harassed us, you know (laughing)? I thought it was kind of funny. One guy said well they might end up to be your being over you guys you know, but I said well that’s kind of iffy. But anyway they wouldn’t let us harass them. A lot of guys in there…well I never did find out who my friends and neighbors were, I still don’t know today but I got this letter saying your friends and neighbors are wishing you to, “Your friends and neighbors are guiding you to serve two years” or something like that. But I never did find out who my friends and neighbors were, all I know is that my mother sent me this letter inside of another letter (laughing). I was in Baltimore working, I said “golly day right in the middle of something else that you’re doing ya know, it’s almost like your trying to watch a TV program and one of your friend keeps calling you (laughing). Oh my, but I tell you I wouldn’t trade that experience now for anything. I think all young men ought to go into the service. I really do. A lot of them would really serve them well. Some of these kids here now and even back then are never made to do anything. They won’t do anything, they just (shrugs). I remember we were jumping out of airplanes, jumping out of a perfectly good airplane which is insane. But one night this guy came in, I didn’t have to go on that jump for some reason or another. But he was an Indian from Nevada, big fella, you know he looked like an athlete too. He stopped at the door, like I said I wasn’t on that but this fella said that when he stopped at the door, the sergeant went and kicked him out and the whole side of his neck it looked like somebody had skinned him. What had happened was that the risers caught him, he was tumbling, those risers caught him right at the side of his neck. He had a strange name, I’ll never forget his name, his name was Everybody Talks About Me Charlie. (laughing).

EG: That is a strange name (chuckling).

HC: That is a strange name! I asked him what happened and he told me he said I don’t know I got scared all of the sudden, I just got scared. I asked, “Will you get scared again?” and he said “Oh no I don’t think so, the kick was worse than this (pointing to his neck)” (laughing). Oh 11 gosh, that was some outfit though, that was some outfit. I marched in Eisenhower’s parade for his inauguration as President. I don’t think the weather was ever as cold in my life in this area. It was a cold day, I mean it was cold. I thought I was going to freeze to death. And you couldn’t be in an overcoat, you had to be in a dress suit you know. Man when we pulled those overcoats off I thought I hope this line never stops (laughing). Golly day. Mmm.

EG: So do you remember anything else about that day beside it being very cold?

HC: No, (coughs) it was exciting to be there cause I had seen (coughs) these on television before and we stayed in barracks that had these potbellied stoves and that was right there outside of DC. We drove, we went up on a bus from Fort Bragg. It wasn’t bad, because everything was really coordinated you know. I looked at him because we had to look at him when we went by and we would turn our heads and look at him and he was cold too, that man was cold. I could tell what he was going through he’s cold too and he’s got to stand here and take this crap (laughing).

EG: That sounds like an experience, definitely.

HC: Yes, experience (chuckling). It’s something to remember you know. Something to remember.

EG: A character builder, right?

HC: Yes, right (laughing). We had, Army never goes into the field until winter time. Why? I don’t know, don’t ask me why. But the coldest day in the winter is when you had field trips and field problems. We went to South Carolina. South Carolina airbase one year and I learned something. I learned something and I was only there for two weeks. This one guy told me, he was a veteran of many years. He told me he said “Harry, don’t go near a fire. Stay away from fires. The first three or four days you’ll suffer like a dog from the cold and you’ll want to go to the fire. But after three or four days you won’t pay cold any mind, you won’t.” And he said, “Sleep on the ground. Get your sleeping bag and put in on the ground”. We always found a big log because the wind would blow out, it’ll blow across that log. Never sneezed. The next time we went we went to somewhere out on the base there Bragg way off into the woods, that’s a big, that’s a large base. And he only said, “How’d you make out the last time?” He was a sergeant in another company. I said, “Made it fine, made it fine.” I see these guys dug holes, you wouldn’t believe it, I see these guys dug holes in the ground and built fires under there, they really did. Of course they’re covered and all smoked up you know (laughing). Someone asked me, “aren’t you going to get in there with us?” I said no (chuckling). I said “no, but I’ll get in there before we get back, but not now.” I didn’t. The other thing is I did sneeze. That summer I came home and got out of the service, I went back to work and I was working in Baltimore and worked for the transit company in Baltimore. Made good money but I didn’t want to do that all my life. But anyway the place where we rented was a place called Cherry Hill and the first summer that I was home, we’d leave the windows up all night in the apartment upstairs and in summer the breeze would go through there nice you know, really pretty near the water too. I caught one of the worst colds that I had ever had in my life from that cross12 breeze. I mean it was bad. Back then when I caught a cold it was bad, I mean it was horrible. But a few years down the road I had my tonsils taken out and I haven’t had much to do with colds since. Mmhmm, yeah. But I was like a lot of guys, I came home from the service and you say to yourself, what am I going to do now I’ve got to do something better than what I was doing before. I went back to work and then I said that’s it I’m going back to school. And I did. It wasn’t easy you know you’ve got a family and working. But anyway I worked until…I didn’t work I would do my school work, I worked part of the time sometimes. The guy at the Campbell’s Soup would let me come and work every now and again. Trying to think of his name. But anyway, everything worked out. Everything worked out.

EG: I’m glad. I’m glad everything worked out the way that it did. I wanted to ask a little bit about getting back to your childhood. So growing up in this area, did you and your family go to Salisbury frequently or were there any trips to Salisbury?

HC: All of the time.

EG: All of the time? Alright (laughing).

HC: We’re four and a half miles from Salisbury and we would go to Salisbury most every Saturday. We’d go to Salisbury and go to the movies. They had a movie there on Lake Street and they had one uptown, The Ulman Theater, and then they had the Wicomico Theater. The Ritz Theater was downtown. It was like a meeting place. They had the stores there, there was another store there, Ernie’s. Some of the best hot dogs in the county. I mean they were good hot dogs. What he did to those hot dogs was he had a I guess it was a burner up there and there was a piece of metal that came right down on top of the hot dog and it would heat that hot dog up and brown it, brown the bread with the hot dog inside of it! That hot dog was hot, you had to be careful! But it was good, it wasn’t sloppy. There was just enough mustard in there to taste it you know. I bet my brother could stand and eat about three of them (laughing). But they were some good hot dogs, Ernie’s hot dogs, mmm.

EG: Did your family do any grocery shopping in Salisbury or was that mostly just in…?

HC: Mostly in Delmar, yup.

EG: Mostly in Delmar, okay.

HC: Mmhmm there were service stores in Delmar. When you go to Delmar, you know there is a VFW that leaves Delmar off to 54.

EG: Yeah, yes.

HC: And there is a yellow building that is beside that, and that was a store, grocery store in there and he carried some good sausage, for years. What was his name? I saw him one day because I didn’t think he was still living. He had a son, his son was a…his son was in a special school for learning. And every year he would come home and help his pop at the store, I don’t 13 know where he is now either. But that old man is still living because I saw him one day but I didn’t get to speak to him. He ran that store for years and then they had that market store. Ran that when I was coming up as a kid. Ralph and Gaskill. Not Ralph and Gaskill but what was that guy’s name? He had the clothes too. There was a men’s store on 54 as you’re going through Delmar across from the bank, it wasn’t exactly across from the bank, a little ways down the street but he carried some expensive stuff. I bought a Hickey Freeman suit from him and Hickey Freeman is supposed to be top of the line but you know what, ever since that day I have felt like I can’t afford a Hickey Freeman suit (laughing). But I still got that suit and that suit is still intact. I mean, I don’t know what kind of material it’s made but sort of a grayish color. Boy that was a nice looking suit, I wore it, I could wear the pants with something else like a blue coat or black coat or whatnot and the coat, I could match the pants with it. And I could just dress that way and the only scar on that suit is in the back pocket. I carried my keys in my back pocket and that material right around where those keys are turned white, friction you know. And that’s the only thing, no tears or anything on that thing. But I wore that suit, now we’re talking about Hickey Freeman suit, talking about 2,000 dollars. I can’t go that far with a suit, I can go 800 dollars, something like that it’s just too much money for me now because I’m not working, or doing anything like that where I need to put on a suit like that. I’d be just for show to put one on now.

EG: That sounds like a very fancy suit.

HC: Yeah it’s a suit that will fit you well. That guy will put that suit on you and he will make it fit you to a T just like you walked into it (laughing).

EG: I like that. So I wanted to ask, growing up, did you do a lot of fishing in the area?

HC: Yes, my father and I used to go down to Nanticoke. I find it strange, I never did, but he did a lot of fishing in the ponds. But he started me out down in Nanticoke on the shores of the Nanticoke River. And I fished, I don’t know how many fish I caught, I hope the man upstairs doesn’t hold it against me but I’ve caught some fish (Mr. Church has caught a lot of fish). I got a rod out there that I’ve used when I came out of the service in ‘58. I bought it in Baltimore, not Baltimore but near Baltimore. Brooklyn, Baltimore. There was a sports store there and I bought that thing and it’s really still good, it’s an odd-looking thing, it doesn’t have a bale on it, just rollers and you attach the line from the rollers, you’ve probably seen em they have been around for a long time. Because all these fancy ones are coming out now that are four to five hundred dollars that do just a great job...hmm, yeah. This was called a Bay rod. And I had one of my coworkers, he worked on the board, he made me a rod. Made me a rod with rollers on it and I still got that with a big pen rod on there. I caught a, got into a big bluefish down in Crisfield one day and that fish snapped that line. It was a big fish, I saw him come out of the water, a friend of mine was with me went “aww man.” That was a beautiful fish. Big blue, yeah. Sounded like a rifle, pow. He must have pulled that thing just right.

EG: Hmm, strong. So you also mentioned that you lived in Fruitland for a little bit. 14

HC: Mmhmm. When I came from Baltimore I went to work in Baltimore when I came out of the service. Had a child on the way, so after the service I went back to Baltimore and I worked in 58’ and worked til 61’ and I had it. I had my first accident with the bus. This girl, this young girl with a car came out of a side street and struck the front of the bus. A long way from Downtown and I had one of the fastest busses in there in that fleet that day. 1841 I will never forget the number. And that car hit that bus and swerved the front of it over. It was in the afternoon when the busses are packed and you got people standing up you know, some people clanged, I had to give them a card to fill out but when they, the police, came up there all of them mostly were a witness to what happened, especially up in the front you know. And knocked me out of the seat but I had my foot on that break, I didn’t let my, I didn’t take my foot off that break no sir. But at that moment in time I had said that I had had enough of this. This was in either the first of December, between the first and middle of December, it was before the kids got out of Christmas, that I do know. I guess it pays to be a pretty girl in a lot of instances. Had to go to court. Went to court and the judge is sitting there telling the girl how pretty she was.

EG: Jeez.

HC: We were in there for an accident and he says, “I’m going to let you off this time, no charge.” Hmm. I walked out of there thinking, “is this some kind of game or something?” But anyway I got my stuff together and school started down at UMES sometime in January, yeah it was that January then. And that was wrong, I should have stopped driving the bus in maybe August because it threw me out of sync. You know how a lot of small colleges have their schedules set up like this course will be taught in sequence and that kind of thing there. I went down there and there were several things that I should have been taking, I should have taken the first part anyhow. But anyway I made it out in time, I went to see one of the deans because I spent three years down at A&T and they wouldn’t give me credit for physical Ed. I been in service, had a family, married, “we don’t teach swimming here”. Oh come on give me a break (laughing)! That’s just ridiculous. But anyway this guy stuck with me, Dr. Stout. “You don’t need this, you don’t need that, and you’ve already taken this, come on and go with me.” He took me over to the Bursar’s office and told her, “Look he doesn’t need all of this stuff”, and she changed it. Dropped a lot of those courses and I graduated on time. I didn’t graduate mid-year, I graduated at the end of the year when everybody else did you know (laughing). Yes. I said now let me find a job, that’s all I could think about, let me find a job. Yup that didn’t take long.

EG: So what inspired you to pursue your masters?

HC: You had to.

EG: You had to?

HC: Mmhmm, you had to. GW provided a program in accounting for people who wanted their masters and you had two choices, you could get yourself a regular masters plus for your supervision also, I think I took that. Kept on having fun with the kids yup, they were okay, they were okay. 15

EG: Excellent.

HC: When you look at the kids you may have had ten percent that would give you some problems, the rest of them, I know a lot of the days I would have to shut my office and get my laugh off because I did the same thing when I was in school (laughing). Yes sir.

EG: So I wanted to ask more about your trips to Salisbury, your family was going to Salisbury a lot?

HC: Oh yeah, that was the big city you went to, they had all the stores there, restaurants. Delmar never had that many stores. Most of the time we went to Delmar was for grocery shopping. My father, he would get paid when he was just starting out, he would get paid on Thursdays, you know. So momma would make him a list on Wednesday night and on Thursday he’d been to the market. Now sometime they changed that, went to a Friday. I don’t know why it was something about Thursday. Mmhmm.

EG: Intriguing, hmm. I wanted to ask do you remember at all the installation of the Route 50 Throughway in Salisbury how next to Downtown, going to Ocean City, do you remember any of the changes at all?

HC: I don’t remember the time. I remember them doing it because when I went to work in Dorchester County, I didn’t see a lot of people I went to school with because a lot of them lived in Salisbury. Of course I was married, I wasn’t Downtown anymore on Saturday nights, that was all over and I remember hearing some of the discussion of cutting of some of the streets when they came through with the, we’d call it the bypass in Salisbury. Now they got a bypass right around Salisbury. But I remember that and sometimes, I don’t know if we’d have them anymore or not but we’d have class reunion and I’d see some of the people that I went to school with but not many of them and by working that far I thought I was working on the western shore because I didn’t see them but I was only working in Cambridge. But I didn’t see them, of course when I got into administration I was busy then. It was always something to do, meetings. When I got onto the board there were meetings out of town. Sometimes there would be 2 or 3 week long conferences at places you know, that kind of thing but I never got in town too much, mostly Dorchester. My wife was here but uhh…anyway they came through and unfortunately that happens to neighborhoods where the road will come through and block something off because of some other building, somebody gets hurt with any kind of movement. There was Catherine Street, there was another street or two that was cut off. I know Catherine Street because a friend of mine, he died when we were relatively young in school, one of my classmates. He lived on Catherine Street. There was another fella that lived on Catherine Street that was in my class too.

EG: So I know schools were segregated, was the lifestyle in Salisbury segregated as well? In Downtown or anything?

HC: Yup, it was at the time yeah. Especially water fountains, I don’t think we had the city bus back then but the bathrooms were segregated. I followed that all the way down to Norfolk, from 16 Norfolk to Greensboro, but things were changing very rapidly during that time. And there was a lot of stress. But you know it worked its way out. You go to a bus station you were served in the rear. What could you do? You were hungry. I was always hungry and looked for something to eat. I was raised on a farm to eat I guess (laughing). My mother was a good cook, she was a good cook.

EG: Aww that’s great.

HC: My grandmother, her mother could cook. She would make biscuits three hundred and sixty degrees. She would roll them up in her hand and then she’d get them all on this pan and probably take a fork and press the top of each one of them just a little bit. Man they were good. My wife was a good cook, surrounded by good cooks everywhere (laughing). Had some good meals.

EG: So growing up what were some of your favorite meals?

HC: Well my father was a meat eater, plain and simple. Very few things he didn’t like, one of them was cornbread, we didn’t eat cornbread. Most every meal that we had home there was hot bread made for that meal that was just the thing to do. We had hot bread, we had gravy, we sopped the gravy and we always had potatoes, beans, butter, all the things you had on a farm and you have to eat. I think for a while there I sold butter. When the cows came off from giving milk, I’d have a little run on Saturday where I carried butter to different places in Delmar and that’s butter. That is butter. I guess if I drunk some cow’s milk straight from the cow that would probably kill me, what they have done to milk is a shame I’ll tell you (laughing). It’s totally different, I can’t explain it to you how that taste because all of the cream was in it that we drank coming out. Now milk has a taste to it and some companies it has a nice taste. But it’s not like they have cream in it, you have to shake it up you know. We would take the cream off to make butter and boy put a little salt on that cream, mmmh. Then you put some molasses in it and hot bread and a class of milk, that’s a meal for you right there you know (laughing). I know the dentist over here asked me, “did you drink a lot of milk when you were a kid?” I said, “all that I could get.” Because he talked about the roof of my mouth and the hardness of my teeth you know. And if I hadn’t been in the service I still would probably have all of my teeth. But what happened was back in that time if you were in the service and you had a tooth ache or a cavity they would pull it out, yeah. Because another doctor asked me, “what happened to your teeth, who pulled it out?” But anyway, yeah.

EG: So you guys were doing your butter runs on Saturday sometimes and I know with the timber milling that would usually go to a paper mill.

HC: Yeah that would go to a paper mill and you’d buy it at different places, usually very close to the water where these guys would set up a depot you know and we’d carry it down and he was down there a certain day to pay off, you had your own stack down there and each cord was measured off with a straight red line and we made money doing it, yeah. 17 It was hard work put it paid off in the long run. A lot of the time you think when you’re doing something hard you think it’s going to last always but it doesn’t. It was for a purpose. It wasn’t a daily job, it was to make extra money.

EG: Excellent. So what were some of your daily jobs as a child?

HC: Milking cows, cutting wood, feeding horses, sometimes my dad was working. He did shift work. He would work 12-8 and they worked. But any farm job that you could conceive it was done and I knew about work when I got growing, I was raised that way I was the earliest boy you know. I caught it. And then afterwards my brothers caught some of it but never did the amount that I did because I was first in line (laughing). But I never mind working. Even as a kid I never minded working. My mother always told me, she must have seen something else in me, she always told me to stay busy. “You stay busy doing something constructive”. Yeah (chuckles).

EG: So what did you do for your down time? Was there any down time I should ask (laughing)?

HC: There was down time, it wasn’t all just work you know (smiling). I always tinkered on something. The first thing that I had was a motorbike. I bought it from this guy over here on, not Stage road but maybe Mill Pond Road. Well we were cutting some pulp wood over there and he had it sitting out there on the road for sale. I went up there and asked him what he wanted for it and he said fifty dollars. I went and told daddy and daddy said, well, of course I was getting long in the years then I was probably about sixteen years old. Fifteen, sixteen years old. Daddy said “well there is a truck, you got a power saw in there, there may be a can with maybe some gasoline in there. Go for it.” (laughing). So anyway I was cutting wood over that way and I had stopped by to see it and I told that fella that I think I was going to buy it. Daddy was working, I can see him now, he was working 12-8 I think. He was because he was always sleepy, working on 12-8 because he never slept during the day that much, he’d get some sleep three or four hours before he went to work you know? And he had one of those guys who was his boss up there at the plant, he said “if you catch up on work you guys can go and catch up on a nap at two or three o’clock in the morning, he said I’ll call ya if I need ya.” But anyway he went with me to go get the bike (train blowing horn) of course he got into bidding because he knew about that haggling. And when we left there we left with a 35 dollar bike (laughing). I learned something new that day. Every time daddy would get up he would say, well, would you take, I can’t think of number but he’d say, would you give 38 dollars for it? And then he’d go back to sleep (laughing). Woke up and the man would say, “I’ll take 35 dollars for it.” (laughing) And that’s what we got it for. I came home and had to work on that thing man. She had points on it, several points on it that were just a mess. I got it running. I was in the dark working on that thing and at night I’d run it too. The next thing I had, a motor scooter, a Cushman motor scooter. I bought it the same way, dad said there is a truck, saw, gas, take your brothers out there, you know. Every time I looked back they were on the ground they were wrestling you know (laughing). Oh my, the next thing I moved to, I bought a motorcycle years later. I bought a Harley. I was living here and that thing almost shook me to death. I had a, I don’t know if it gave it to me or not but I ended up 18 with phlebitis and it never suited me right after that even though I only had it in one leg but anyway I finally got rid of it. Then as time went on I decided it was time to buy one of those big Hondas, 12,000. Got rid of that and went down to, I can’t remember the numbers but it was a smaller bike, nice. I bought it from Easton. Then I got rid of that and then the next bike I bought I bought a Trike. The last thing I bought was a trike. Some guy out of New Jersey came down and bought that thing, it rode nice too. (talks about struggles of aging) But this guy worked for the fire department up there, nice fella. See that bear? Smokey the bear in that picture? (pointing to a beautiful print)

EG: Oh yeah, yes.

HC: Barry sent me one of those and I thought it was a beautiful and at first I didn’t know what it was you know? But I hung it up there by the stove, he calls me every now and then!

EG: That’s excellent. So Mr. Church we’re getting down to the end of our interview as we are running short on time so we’ll wind down. I want to thank you for your time.

HC: Oh you’re welcome! Mr. Hanna told me and I thought well that might be interesting! Digging up back in time, I’ve had a good life, I’ve had a good life.

EG: An interesting life as well! Very.

HC: My daughter, I don’t know if it was two birthdays ago but she gave this party and they made this picture of me, at that time I think I was in North Carolina, it was somewhere that I had been. But anyway on the picture they had put all of these occupations that I had been, jobs that I had done. Oh my I mean there was a whole list (laughing). Yes my gosh, honestly I’ve forgotten some of them.

EG: You definitely stayed busy, for sure.

HC: Every time think about it I think about my mother telling me to stay busy and do something constructive. Yeah.

EG: Well before we wrap up I just wanted to know was there anything that I didn’t ask that you wanted to add about memories of the local area or anything that I might have neglected.

HC: I don’t know I told someone long ago. I was talking about I was sort of fortunate in a way because of all the places I’ve been, all the things that I’ve done, there was always somebody around to give me a hand. I always remember that you know? In education I went to Cambridge. I started out at Macy’s Lane and I was there just in time to get into that movement when they were integrating schools. It’s the second year I taught I was moved to Cambridge High School, a white high school. And all the people at the school that I came into contact with, the secretary, the guidance counselor, even some of the teachers I was always, I’ll tell you about the teachers in a minute, I had my thing with those guys and ladies, but anyway if you don’t know something let me know because they do things a little differently over there. I said okay thanks I appreciate it, I 19 appreciate it and I always felt that they were serious you know that they weren’t just telling me that, you know some people will tell you that but they were serious. And even the kids, I think the second year I was over at Cambridge High School I started working with the kids and they were working on these plays for school you know and they wanted to come down and use the shop to make these dividers for the plays and what not. I said “Oh okay, but it would have to be somebody who is familiar with the saws and that area and I have to be in here because that’s the law, I have to be in here and you can build anything you want in here and I’ll help you do it if you want me to help.” And they did but they gave a nice plaque at the end of the year which I thought was nice of them you know. And I found more good kids than I thought I would you know you think people tell you all about bad kids and what not you know I didn’t find them that way. Somebody would go “hey how’s so and so doing in your class?” I’d go, “Yeah he’s okay, he’s okay” yeah (laughing) but I always found that to be true and I always try to help somebody else you know. But that’s part of work, that’s part of work. If you can’t get that for yourself boy you are in deep water. You’re in deep water up to your throat yeah (train whistle). Yeah I don’t know but it’s been a good life.

EG: Thank you again for your time.

HC: Oh you’re quite welcome and if you have any other questions call me up.

EG: Oh thank you, I definitely will.

20 TAPE (Time Access to Pertinent Excerpts)
(0:00-8:43) Attending Salisbury Colored High School, Life on the farm in the 1930’s, Crops, Introduction of Tractors and Mechanization, Insecticides.

(8:43-13:55) Father begins work at Dupont in 41’, Timber milling during the winter.

(13:55-21:35) Commute to Salisbury for school via school bus, Ancestor Captain Jim Shears activity in Quantico Creek, Family members in Quantico, MD.

(21:35-26:16) Church family genealogy on Delmarva traced back to 19th century, Ancestor Daniel Johnson, Strong and numerous familial ties.

(26:18-33:39) Work in Dorchester County Public School System as a shop teacher, principal, and finally as supervisory administrator on Board of Education, Cambridge social difficulties, Joy from working with children.

(33:39-36:11) Attending school in Salisbury, Segregation.

(36:11-42:22) History of families farm, Sandy Wales Farm, Stone markers as property lines, Family cemetery and deceased family.

(44:22-57:53) College at North Carolina A&T University in 52’, ROTC, Masters at GW, 82nd Airborne Division, Ft. Bragg, Training recruits, Eisenhower’s inauguration, Working part time at Campbell’s soup in Baltimore.

(57:53-1:06:09) Family Trips to Salisbury as a child, Grocery stores and Clothing stores in Delmar, Fishing.

(1:06:09-1:12:13) Working in Baltimore as bus driver 58’- 61’, Finished degree at University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Motivation for Masters at GW.

(1:12:13-1:17:59) Salisbury as the commercial hub of the area, Destruction of Catherine Street due to Route 50 construction, Segregation in Salisbury’s Downtown and in America.

(1:17:59-1:30:31) Home cooked meals, Making and selling butter, Chores performed on the farm, Downtime on the farm, Restoring motorbikes.

(1:30:31-1:36:01) Last reflections, Segregation and integration of public schools, Helpful teachers and the importance of returning the favor.

Related Records

Record #23

County Wicomico County
School Name Salisbury High School
Location Lake street, location of Charles H. Chipman Elementary School, Salisbury
Date Opened
Current Status No longer standing, however, one of the original doorways is preserved on the grounds of Charles …
State Maryland

All Fields in This Record

State Maryland
County Wicomico County
School Name Salisbury High School
Location Lake street, location of Charles H. Chipman Elementary School, Salisbury
Date Opened
Current Status No longer standing, however, one of the original doorways is preserved on the grounds of Charles H. Chipman Elementary
Additional Information
State Maryland