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


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Crisfield Traditions in Time: Interview with Eugene Borden, 24 June 2003

Audio Recording

About This Recording

Eugene Borden was an educator in Somerset County, MD. In this interview, he describes his upbringing and the influences on his life that led to his thirty-year career in education, as well as the various aspects of the Crisfield community that pertain to education. He also talks about the prominent Hispanic community in Crisfield, thanks to an influx of migrant workers, and his work with the Migrant Education Program. He also speaks about race relations and the impact of integration on the area, noting that everything seemed to go smoothly.

This interview is part of the Crisfield Traditions in Time Project. For more information, see the Edward H. Nabb Center Finding Aid.




009 Borden describes Somerset County Migrant Education Program, which

serves children of the mostly Hispanic migrant workers who pick tomatoes and other crops in July and August in Somerset County. Somerset County utilizes its small number of bilingual teachers to work in this program.

036 Borden describes his thirty-year career in education in Maryland.

048 Borden was raised in Marion Station, MD, and plans to die there.

050 Borden thinks that the Crisfield community now values education because

of the loss of traditional jobs in the seafood industry.

056 Borden describes the social cohesion of students in the Crisfield public


064 Borden has seen students become more serious about school as they look

for other career paths outside of the seafood industry.

072 Borden does not want to comment on the cliques at Crisfield High School.

078 Most teachers at Crisfield High School were raised in the local area.

082 A few teachers come from outside of the area - mostly from Pennsylvania

  • attracted by the proximity of Crisfield to the ocean.

086 The school reinforces the traditional local culture in several ways. The

Crisfield High School sports teams are named the “Crabbers.” The school takes students on field trips to the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art and to Fox Island where they participate in environmental studies for several days.

122 Advanced classes and career fairs are ways that Crisfield High School

provides means for escape from traditional occupations. About 60% of Crisfield graduates continue their education beyond high school.

130 Crisfield High School students are 60% - 70% Caucasian, 30% African

American, and 1% - 2% Hispanic.

Somerset County is just beginning to have a permanent Hispanic population, and most of their children attend school, especially on the elementary school level.

Parents of Hispanic Children are involved in Somerset County Public Schools’ “parenting activities.”

Borden guesses the drop out rate at Crisfield High School is about 7% - 10%. Students drop out for a variety of reasons. Education is not a major priority for those students who want to be watermen. More boys than girls drop out.

In the past few years, roughly 15% - 20% of boys in Somerset County went into traditional occupations such as seafood packaging, being watermen, and farming. When Borden started his career in the 1970s,

35% - 40% went into traditional occupations.

Last year, 60% of students in area [unclear if he means in Crisfield or Somerset County] were college or post-secondary boimd. College educated students come back quite often to Crisfield after graduation to visit relatives, to substitute in school system, to give addresses at commencement exercises. Former students are usually the Crisfield High commencement keynote speakers.

Roughly 5% -10% of student population joins military.

Very few of those in traditional occupations have been to college although a few college educated people do crabbing and farming as hobbies or for supplemental income in the summer months.

Religion is very strong in the Crisfield community. Crisfield Church Alliance sponsors Crisfield High School’s Baccalaureate activities. Borden thinks that most of the Crisfield community, like him, would support prayer in the schools if the Federal Government would allow it.

The community is made up primarily of Baptists and Methodists with some Catholics.

Borden doesn’t see an increase in materialism among Crisfield students.

At this point in the tape Kristi Bell takes over the questioning of Borden. In 2003, a former Crisfield High basketball player who went on to coach in West Virginia was the ke 3 mote speaker. A few years ago, a Crisfield student who had become a medical doctor made the keynote address.

Each year at the Baccalaureate, a local minister gives an address, which lets the graduating students know that if everything else fails they can always turn back to God. It is usually done in the evening in the High School’s auditorium.

Borden had teachers that encouraged him to continue his education after high school. While serving in Vietnam in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he prayed that if he could make it back to Marion, that is where he would want to die. He then went to Saudi Arabia for the Persian Gulf War and made it back to Marion again. He dropped out of National Guard service after deciding two wars was enough.

Borden attended the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) in Princess Aime.

Borden explains the reason for the large turn out at the recent funeral of Mr. Miles, former Crisfield High School basketball coach. He attributes it to the strength of Mr. Miles personality (describing him as a “little comedian”) as well as the to the close-knit community in Crisfield.

Borden and Miles used to drive together from Marion to Crisfield and back. Miles used to work at Woodson Middle School before he went to Crisfield High School.

Both Borden and Miles were raised in large families where they learned to share and get along with people. Borden thinks that the most effective way to reach students is by being sincere and caring about students.

Borden and Miles played together on a softball league.

Borden thinks that many students lose much of their interest in sports by the time they enter Crisfield High School. There are area leagues on the Eastern Shore but not enough interest to establish an intra-community league in Crisfield. Students are instead interested in working.

Borden went to a black high school where there was a strong discipline code. Borden’s teachers were black. Borden was drafted in 1968 so was not around when the Somerset County Public Schools were integrated in 1969. As far as he knows, there was not much of an adjustment problem after integration of the public schools in Crisfield. He attributes this to the circumstance that black and white kids knew each other from playing sports together. By 1973 when Borden started teaching in Crisfield, integration was not a problem.

Somerset County schools are as good as anywhere. His graduating class included 21 students. Some experiences were lacking, but students attained a base knowledge.