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


All Media

Interview with Mary Gladys Jones, 2 July 2019

Audio Recording

About This Recording

Mary Gladys Jones is a renowned community member in Fruitland, MD, and a retired educator in Wicomico country. She describes her move into education in the early 1940's and 50's and her experience as one of the first African-American teachers to be assigned to a previously all-white school in Salisbury, MD. She chronicles her experience as an educator in Wicomico county and as a founding member of the Fruitland Community Center after her retirement in 1981.

This interview is part of the Maryland Humanities Teachers' Institute: Documenting School Desegregation through Oral History collection. For more information, see the Edward H. Nabb Center finding aid.


Creston Long (CL): Recording now. Okay, this is Creston Long: from the Nabb Research Center. It is July 2nd, 2019, and I am at the Fruitland Community Center in Fruitland, Maryland, interviewing Mrs. Mary Gladys Jones. So, Mrs. Jones, thank you very much for agreeing to do this oral history interview, and I'm going to start with some basic questions about your background. Could you tell us where you were born and where you grew up and anything that you'd like about your early childhood?

Mary Gladys Jones (MGJ): Thank you so much. It's just a privilege to share, that's really oral history. I grew up in Worcester County, in a little town that we call Whaleyville, Whaleyville. It's about 17 miles from Salisbury. I grew up in a family of five: a mother, a dad, a brother, and it was two girls. So, it was five of us. We grew up in a Christian home. We grew up in a home where there was a good family relationship. We had to learn to be respectful. Children would sort of laugh now when they know that we had to say "yes, sir" and "no, ma'am," and when someone says that to me now, I just have a warm feeling about it because it shows such respect. My family lived not in the little village where most of the African-Americans lived, we lived what we would call "down near the highway," and there was also a railroad that ran right past our house and the trains went regularly there. We always went to church and it was Pullets United Methodist Church. A few years ago, that church was burned and I still have such sad, sad feelings because I feel that it could have been saved. It was enough of us who had come out of there to have taken care of that church; so, it would have been like a museum and we would have a place to take our relatives who still are buried in the Whaleyville cemetery. What happened? I'm not sure, someone called and asked for some information from me, some instructions I gave them as honestly as I could but when you procrastinate, sometimes things kind of get out of hand and that's what happened. By the time I knew anything, the church had been burned and I've just had to reinforce my efforts so that I spend more time and do more work at Mt. Calvary United Methodist Church now. Even financially, the finance that I gave there, I made sure that I improve my financial givings at Mt. Calvary. So that is my home church and a church that I do love and it's a beautiful building and we are still working there to help improve that.

CL: Okay, when was your church burned? Approximately.

MGJ: It's been about seven years now, about seven years.

CL: All right, I'm sorry to hear that.

MGJ: I still, I still—

CL: I can tell it meant a lot to you.

MGJ: I still grieve about that, because my parents spent so much time and gave so much and my other relatives, it was a family church and I just don't know what happened that it got away like that.

CL: It's—clearly your parents were a very important part of your life. Were there other role models that you looked up to?

MGJ: Oh my, yes. The one—and I'm sure he had no idea how much he inspired me—I had an uncle. He did not have a daughter, he had a son. So, he thought of me as his daughter. He worked for wealthy people in Salisbury, so he was exposed to things that we were not exposed to and he spoke beautifully. I always admired that. So, I always spoke differently from the other young people in the community. So, if there was an oratorical contest, I was this just chosen one. If there was someone to speak, and I even sang also, I was always chosen to do those, do those kind of things to represent our school. I did many oratorical contests and they used—they used to be countywide. So once a year, usually up here somewhere for a program of that type. We were involved, the church and the school, they were our main, main parts of entertainment.

CL: And could you tell us where you went to school?

MGJ: I went to school, grades one through seven, at the Whaleyville Elementary School. It was a one-room school and I have to say that that's where I got my interest in becoming a teacher. I entered school at five years old, and my first-grade teacher was such a good one that she was my role model—and believe it or not, when I was in summer school one year, at Bowie, she was still alive and she was in Baltimore. She came to the school, she had not seen me since I was young, but I was busy doing something. I'd been appointed to do something in that class that I was in and she was able to come in. She said, "I know who you are." She was able to select me and her name was Mary Gatlin. She was my ideal. Now, at that time, teachers like to take children home with them, she wanted to take me home with her for a weekend, and I did the same thing when I started teaching. I used to take their children home with me. My mother loved little girls. I would take the little girls home. She would take care of them and we'd spend the weekend together. We sometimes—[pauses].

CL: So that's what—so you went to Whaleyville, the one-room schoolhouse, for grades one through seven?

MGJ: Yes.

CL: Okay.

MGJ: Then from, for eight and nine, I went to the Flower Street High School.

CL: And where is that?

MGJ: In Berlin, Maryland.

CL: Very good. And so that was grades eight and nine?

MGJ:Right, and my principal was Mr. Jerry Williams, and I keep in touch with his daughter—his daughter-in-law and son. Now they are in Baltimore, and I taught the young lady who became his daughter in law, and we keep in touch.

CL: Now as the principal did he also teach?

MGJ: Yes.

CL:Okay, because that's a difference now, we don't.

MGJ: Yes, he taught.

CL: Okay.

MGJ: And he taught music, we learned so many beautiful numbers, he could play very well, played the piano, and he taught all of those the songs that I enjoy so much now. He taught numbers like God Bless America, and The Star-Spangled Banner, The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Those kind of numbers, those are the kinds of things that we learned how to do, and I just appreciate music and love music so very much because of that, that kind of exposure and it continued when I went to Salisbury High School, I had a music teacher who taught the Civic Classics in her music class. I can't begin to think of how many beautiful, beautiful numbers I have in my head. I mean, I still know them and if I did sing, I could still sing them.

CL: Okay, so you were—so you went to Salisbury High School for high school, and was that?

MGJ: I finished there in '35.

CL: In '35.

MGJ: 1935.

CL: And at that time, was that grades 9 through 11?

MGJ: Yes.

CL: Okay.

MGJ: State High School was a four, it was four years then instead of the five that we have now.

CL: Okay, very good. And are there any, any teachers, other teachers from your high school years that stand out as having shaped your mind?

MGJ: Yes, the homeroom teacher I had was, her name was Ms. Banks. A little lady who was just very, very—there was no nonsense in her class, and she taught English—and even now, if I get in trouble wondering what I should say, I can think of things that she wrote on the board. In the objective case, you know, in the possessive case. I can just see that on the board and I can come up with the correct word. English and speaking correctly has always been important to me.

CL: Okay.

MGJ: And I passed it on to my nieces and nephews, and I—they often say when people talk about how they speak correctly, they often say, "if you had an aunt like I have, you would know why I speak this way," and I'm pleased about that now. I worked hard to get them to do that, but most of them speak beautifully, even though that some of them did not finish college, but they speak like college people. They speak very well.

CL: Very good. Very good. So, after high school, you went to Bowie and could you tell us about that? What led you to go there? And also, how old you were when you went?

MGJ: When I went to Bowie, I was 16. At that time, they did not have a degree there, you had a certificate. You went for three years and you were certified to teach. When I finished Bowie, I was—I became a teacher at the Girdletree School in Worcester County with a principal who was excellent, and because of the kind of things I saw her do, I stayed in the profession. The supervisor was kind of rough and tough; had I had to stay there very long with him, I don't know whether I would have stayed in the school system or not, but I was in Girdletree for four years and I taught the primary grades.

CL: Okay.

MGJ: Some of those children are still around and they remember, and it was just so delightful because you could teach the whole child. It wasn't just teaching one thing, you could teach the whole child and they remember that. I wanted to get into Wicomico County because I had spent so much time in Wicomico County. So, I asked the supervisor if there was anything here in Wicomico, and I was given a one-room school in North Quantico. I taught grades one through seven, every subject.

CL: What year was that, do you remember?

MGJ: It was in the early—it was in the 1940s.

CL: In North—

MGJ: In early fifties, yes, North Quantico was a one-room school. What a lovely experience that was, to have all those children there, and the—there is a young lady whose mother I taught and they have bought all of our property there. We have property from here—when I got married, I moved to Fruitland—and all this property almost from this school, all the way down to the corner. That corner house was built for me, that was my first home, first new home, and they have—the young man that married her; he was in one of my sixth-grade classes and he bought the property. So, we have a close relationship, I go in the house, it's an Airbnb now. It's absolutely beautiful in there. So, I taught at—I came in Wicomico County and I stayed at North Quantico for about four years. They were having a discipline problem in the Allen school, Allen Elementary. So, because they would have a discipline problem and they thought I could handle that, then I was assigned to the Allen Elementary School. It was a two-room school, I taught the upper grades, four through seven. Some of my seventh graders still come to visit me and I stayed there and at that time they had trustees for the schools and it was a gentleman here in Fruitland who said to me, "Wouldn't you like—why would you go to Allen? You live in Fruitland; wouldn't you like to teach in Fruitland?" I don't know whether I answered him in an affirmative way or not, but anyhow, I was assigned to Fruitland. It was called the Old Morris Street Colored Elementary School. This is the building that we're in now.

CL: Okay, all right.

MGJ: That's how it was identified.

CL: Old Morris Street?

MGJ: Old Morri—that's, that was a term that they used and they can't seem to find any history of it. The Old Morris Street Colored Elementary School. So I came here in the mid-fifties. I stayed here until 1957, and in 1957 the school was built over—that is the Fruitland Primary now. It was called Cedar Lane and they moved me to—we moved from here in April 1957 into the first new school I'd ever been into. And in that school, I was given the—I was always given the upper grades. For some reason or another, I never had discipline problems, or if they saw one who might be a problem, they sent them [both laugh] they sent them to me.

CL: Okay.

MGJ: So I stayed there until the early sixties, then I was—I went to the Salisbury High School. We were housed there as a sixth grade, with a sixth-grade section in the Salisbury High School. I was there for one year. The next year, they sent me to what we have now as the Chipman Elementary School and I had a sixth grade—there were sixth grade classes, sixth grade section there. So, I stayed there for a year. I think it was just one, I think it was just one year.

CL: Do you remember the name of the school then? Was it—It wasn't called Chipman.

MGJ: No, it was, it was called, it was then the Salisbury High School.

CL: Okay.

MGJ: They did not have the new high school, it was a Salisbury High School but we were housed there.

CL: Oh, I see, I see. Now, if we could go back for just a second to these different schools, like at Quantico, about how many students were you working with in one year?

MGJ: In, at Quantico? I had between 20 and 25.

CL: Okay. And—

MGJ: When I was in Allen, it's, it's hard because it varied so. I usually had 25 or 30 in my classroom and the other classrooms usually had about the same. So as a principal, I was the principal—teaching principal for 13 years. So we had, usually they try to have an average of, it was usually in the thirties by that—at that time. They think that's too many now, but at that time we had anywhere from 30 to sometimes 35 in the classroom.

CL: And were there generally more older students or younger or—so if you had grades one through seven, or then later four through seven, were they balanced somewhat equally? Or was there a— did there tend to be more younger students or older students, or did it, was it different year to year?

MGJ: Was it—I guess it kind of depended about with the migrants, many of the migrant children were behind. It's like one who became a doctor at Salisbury University, Dr. Wavie Gibson, he did not—he was a migrant, from a migrant family and they came here. He did not begin school until he was eight years old, and to see what would have been lost had he not gotten in this area and stayed and he went on and went to school and became a doctor and taught at SU.

CL: Oh, yes, well known. Very well known.

MGJ: Yes, so in most of the classrooms, they think of them as being over, overcrowded, overloaded for one teacher. But for us, we just you know, it was just a part of our schedule, so we learned how to handle it. If they needed phys. ed. I'll just write the program for the, that particular grade. When I went to Salisbury Elementary they used to had a lead teacher in that grade and in the sixth grade I was the lead teacher and I would just write the program for the phys. ed. Somebody else—they would go to music, to a music teacher. Then all the other basic subjects, you had to teach yourself, the math and all of that.

CL: So, did the older kids sometimes look out for the younger kids or? It's hard for me to imagine today working with that large of an age span, but it sounds like it worked.

MGJ: Usually, you knew that they were families. You would have a whole family of children there. It was usually—they were usually kind to each other, took care of each other. They had to get on the bus and that kind of thing. The parents would say, "You look out for the little ones!" The only time I got to ride the bus, if I got on, wanted to ride the, ride through the routine where my children were located. I could do that, but as far as having transportation, I'd never had transpo—bus, I had bus transportation for my education.

CL: So during that time, I mean, did you have to communicate with parents a lot about children's progress, or how did that sort of?

MGJ: Usually, with a P.T.A., they would come to the P.T.A. meeting, the parents, and they would—if they needed to come to the school, if you need to send them a note or if you needed them to do something special for you—in Allen, that P.T.A. the gentlemen said, "I do not know how to conduct a meeting." I said, "Don't worry, I will help you through it." and he did that, he had nieces and nephews, the whole family there and it was one of those things where if you had a disciplinary problem, you could say, "I want to speak to your parent about it," and if those parents needed to know about it and you got in touch with them, they certainly responded and helped you with it. You didn't have to worry about it. You knew that they were going to be cooperative.

CL: Okay.

MGJ: That isn't always the case now, and that's sad.

CL: For student books and that sort of thing. Were there—did you use textbooks and use them year to year? How did that sort of work, that part of the job work?

MGJ: We had textbooks, but they were the textbooks that the Caucasians had used.

CL: Okay.

MGJ: We got those books and we needed—if we needed desks, we never got new desks, we always got their used desks.

CL: Okay.

MGJ: We did not have a custodian. Here in this building, they had coal stoves. I was the teacher down on the end who could get here quickly: I had to take care of the coal, the stoves. I came early because the other two came from—one came from Allen, one came from Salisbury. By the time they got here I had the, I had done that, but when I was in one-room school, it was a wood, you had a wood fire. The only thing you could do was to get one of the larger boys to decide that they would help you and they would help to keep the fires. So I've done the wood fire, I've done the coal fire, we didn't—in this building when I taught here, there was no electricity; there was no inside plumbing. There was a pump right at the edge of the driveway, there was what they call a pump house there. They had to bring their own lunches, we didn't have any cafeteria or anything. And, you know, when we got to health, I would just teach what would make a good breakfast and at the end, we would just prepare a good breakfast and have it here.

CL: Okay.

MGJ: We enjoyed doing that. I started at my house and then we'd come here to finish, and for lunch, they'd talk about that and we learned how to prepare a lunch. Sometimes it'd be soup or that kind of thing, and a little later on, there was a lady who used to come and take orders, but she usually just took the orders from, for the teacher so they could have a good lunch. It's been interesting, it's been many challenges and it's been difficult because I had to see that the floors were oiled, they had the wooden floors and they had to be oiled every so often; there was no custodian to do it so you just got one of the larger boys to help you, and you did that. You had to do this: see that the rooms were swept each day and cleaned up and the trash and all that. You had all of those things to be responsible for. There was no help for that. Eventually, they gave us a small stipend for, if you likely had a young boy helping you, they'd give you a few dollars to give to them for helping you.

CL: Now was the school, say this school, for instance, was it under supervision from someone in the Board of Education? How did that work?

MGJ: You had a supervisor, and the supervisor would—we had, you had a supervisor and you had, what did they call that person? Someone who checked on the attendance that they would come in and check your records to see if they were, if there was somebody who needed to be contacted; they'd been out a long time or they were not coming regularly. Your supervisor usually, tried to get in—well, you never knew when they were coming.

CL: Okay.

MGJ: and that was, I think that was a part of it. But they expected you to be on task whenever they did come and if you were having a having difficulty with getting maybe something done, they might do a lesson for you. But we had to write the lesson plans, we had to do the schedule, and you can imagine, some of those schedules were 15 minute periods. Now it takes them more than that time to get them settled down. But we had to—and with the first grade, we had to teach reading in the morning and in the afternoon. That had to be done. So we had to be able to assign the other classes to what they were supposed to do while you taught the one, when you moved from that, you assign them what they were supposed to do, you went to the next class, and you did that until you got all the way around to all of your, all of your subjects. You could, you could combine your spelling, and you could combine your music, you could combine your phys. ed. They had recess periods at that time. Usually if you had a recess period, one teacher was assigned to go out on the playground, and the others could use that maybe for the planning time or just to take care of personal needs and that kind of thing.

CL: Was there a county curriculum that you followed?

MGJ: Yes,.

CL: You did, okay.

MGJ: Yes.

CL: Now, this was obviously all during the time of segregation.

MGJ: Right.

CL: Were the African-American schools under different supervisors than the white schools?

MGJ: The had the, they usually, usually the African-American schools had an African-American supervisor.

CL: Okay. All right, but they were all, everyone was under the Wicomico Board of Education?

MGJ: Right. They were they were responsible to the—they had to be accountable to the superintendent.

CL: Okay. Now, a general maintenance of the school. I know that you said you had to clean it, but if there needed to be a repair on, a more serious repair. Who took care of that sort of thing?

MGJ: Now, in the early days, you could call on your trustees and they would do those kind of things for you. Then later on, that I guess, as a matter out from the office too, if you had a problem.

CL: So with the trustees, so did a school like the Quantico have trustees?

MGJ: Yes, and they were good.

CL: And so were, they were private supporters of the school?

MGJ: Yes. They were volunteers, but they were usually very, very good if you needed something, and if it was rainy and stormy or something, one of them might take their car and come get you or come get some of the children to take them home, and if you had a special need of some kind, you'd let them know, and if they could do anything about it, they would. They were usually very cooperative. I've had good trustees.

CL: And when did that, when did that sort of support stop? I mean, you mentioned it was mostly in the early years, but—

MGJ: That stopped when we integrated.

CL: Okay. All right, and trustees, I think of in another context, often church, right?

MGJ: Yes.

CL: The Methodist Church has a board of trustees, or a trustees committee that takes care of the building.

MGJ: Usually had three trustees for the for the school, fortunately. In the smaller, in the smaller towns it was usually three of them and there's one you could always depend upon.

CL: Okay, very good. Now, when—so after your time at Salisbury High School with the sixth grade section there, where did you go from there?

MGJ: Okay, well the last year when I was at the Salisbury Elem—Salisbury High, it was called Salisbury High School then, when I was there. The superintendent came one day and called me aside and said that I was to go to Prince Street, I would be the first one to go into the desegregated school and oddly enough, said. "You must not make a mistake." That's a challenge. That was a challenge.

CL: Was that Mr. Mahaffey?

MGJ: No, my—the one who did that was Mr. Fulton.

CL: Oh, okay. He came after.

MGJ: Yes.

CL: Okay. Harold Fulton? [inaudible when both speaking] I'm familiar with that name, okay.

MGJ: Mr. Fulton, he was the one who told me that.

CL: Okay. How did you feel about that?

MGJ: Uh, well, I felt good that I'd done a good job, but I just kind of felt like if I'm that good, why are you taking me from my [school], and sending me somewhere else, and he said—I was told not to discuss it with anyone. I could tell my husband, and I told my parents. It was, was kind of frightening, really, to step out like that but I had a good friend and she said, "I will help you." She got all the things I needed for my bulletin boards, and set the—helped to set those up for me and I went with her, you know, with apprehension, of course. But really, it was one of the best classes—my first class—was one of the best classes I've had. I think there were maybe three African Americans in it.

CL: Okay.

MGJ: And the rest of them were caucasians, and those families I still stay, some of them I still stay in touch with. It was a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful experience there. Mr. Bloodsworth was my first principal there, then the who was just—Mr. Greer, who was just funeral last on Saturday—he was the second one that came.

CL: Okay.

MGJ: And oh, my. They were just so good.

CL: With the students, you said it was only three African-American students. How did they do? I would think that might've—you had apprehension, did they have apprehension as well?

MGJ: They didn't seem to, no they seemed to be, they seemed to be okay.

CL: Okay.

MGJ: Some of them had lived in a different area, because of we only had that many because there was not that many people over in that—African-Americans who lived in that area at that time. So they did well, and I knew their parents.

CL: And what grade was that, that you taught?

MGJ: That's one of the other things they did. I said going into integration, they didn't know how white kids would respond. So they took my sixth grade from me, see I was a sixth grade teacher. So all of my materials that I had, I couldn't use those. I became a fifth-grade teacher. My first year, I was a fifth-grade teacher.

CL: And that's a lot of work doing new materials, on top of everything else.

MGJ: And at the end, during that year, the principal and the superin—and the supervisor, both of them were white, came in and I was teaching a lesson, and I guess I did it well, because they said to me, "What would you like?" I said, "I would like my grade back." And the next year they gave me my sixth grade back. Then when it came to a time when they had to have a divided class, a fifth grade and a sixth grade, because I had handled that so well, I was the one chosen to do the fifth and sixth, the split grade like that. Just talk to one of those a few days ago that was in that class. So the experience there at Prince Street was wonderful.

CL: Did you have some, if you went from fifth to sixth grade, did you have the same students that you had the year before?

MGJ: No.

CL: No, they were different.

MGJ: They were different.

CL: All right.

MGJ: They were different, and then eventually I got—when I had the fifth and sixth grade, I had to teach most of the classes, only the special ones like phys. ed, and what have you. But when they departmentalized, then I became the English teacher for all of the sections of the sixth grade, and we usually had four sections.

CL: Okay.

MGJ: So I did the English, I had a homeroom class where I had to do my reading and spelling and that kind of thing, but all the English I taught.

CL: And so how long were you at Prince Street?

MGJ: 15 or 16 years, I'm not sure.

CL: Oh, all right.

MGJ: I stayed there, that's where I retired from.

CL: Okay, and what year did you retire?

MGJ: 1981.

CL: '81. So you saw a whole period of change?

MGJ: Oh, yes, oh, yes. Except when I retired in 1981, I wasn't sure what I was going to do because I'm used to, I'm used to working. It doesn't take me all day to take care of a house, and I was sitting one day and I got a call from Mr. Foxwell—I don't if you know Mr. Foxwell or not—he was a, he's a principal. He's still living. He needed someone—he was, he was the director for migrant education, and the lady who had been in charge before was not able to do it, and she said, "you know who can do that?" And he called me, he said, "I have an offer for you that is too good for you to refuse." So I became the special person in migrant education, and I did that from 1981 to 1984 at the end of 1984, we did not have enough migrants in Wicomico County—they still have migrants in Somerset County. So I did the migrant education program from 1981 to 1984, and that's when I did the traveling from one school to another, to work with migrants in the schools.

CL: Okay.

MGJ: I usually did that three days a week. I would start out at Pinehurst, they had some there. I'd leave Pinehurst and go to Delmar, I'd leave Delmar and come back to Fruitland Intermediate, I'd leave Fruitland Intermediate and go to Fruitland Primary, and finally, I had one child who was having a problem, who had gone on to high school and once in a while I would have to go there. So that gave me those five schools that I became involved with, with migrant education.

CL: Now, with these children, they they were moving around. Is that—were they only in school for a certain time of the year?

MGJ: No, what happened, they had settled by that time.

CL: Okay.

MGJ: And they were behind and needed help.

CL: I understand.

MGJ: So I was doing the work to try to bring them up so they could keep up with their classes, and often, if they had a project or something—they needed newspapers, magazines, that kind of thing—they did not have them. So I just took all those kind of things in my car, if they needed something like that to help and I just found out that going in that little room with two or three and working with them, you were able to get them to stay focused so they could you could see that they were growing. So that's where I got the idea of volunteering to try to help children who were at risk, and that began here. I started really, at my parents called and asked me if I would do that. I began at my dining room table, but then I didn't want my dining room become the center, so I asked the trustees here at this church—not this church, but this school, if I could use one of the rooms here, and that's how the Fruitland Community Center began.

CL: Okay. And when did that start?

MGJ: I started here in 1983.

CL: Okay, now had the, so the—this school, what was it, it wasn't still being used as a school?

MGJ: It wasn't a school, but the community, it had become a community center. They were having socials here, dances, dinners and social functions.

CL: And who owned it? Was it the community that owned it, or did the county still hold title?

MGJ: The community bought it. My husband was able to help with that. They bought it from the Board of Education.

CL: Okay, because by that time, it wouldn't have been used as a school for many years.

MGJ: It wasn't a school at all, it was used for the community.

CL: Okay. Well, I want to ask some more questions about the community center, but before I do that— so obviously, you taught during the period of integration. You were at, your experience at Prince Street, is there anything else you'd like to share from that? I mean, that was a time of major change and are there anything you'd like to share from that time or any particularly challenging experience? Anything you'd like to share on that?

MGJ: Well, I was really surprised with the way I was accepted, the very first year. They were coming and said, "Here," they would open the door and push their child and say, "Here's, here's my child. I want her in your room," and then after I had been there for a while, one of the gentlemen across the street had his son in there, he said, "You know, I'm so glad he's in there," said, "I thought, you didn't teach anything, anybody, but just this, the children with a high intellect," and his child was his son was an average, but I taught all, all mental abilities. You might know, you don't know, but when I was at Fruitland one year, I had an imbecile. I mean, they had been classified that, an imbecile or a moron in my class, and I had no help. There were no assistants.

CL: Right, so you taught students that had special needs all the way up to top performing students. Okay. I cannot imagine how challenging that was, but—

MGJ: Well, they were not, they were not bad. There's some days they were better than others, I tried to teach them how to order their lunch, to know milk and that kind of thing. One day they might know, the next day they didn't know it. The only thing they knew how to do was when you got ready to go to lunch, they knew how to drive the truck. So they drove the truck up there, but they did not, they did not disturb the class. They just did whatever they had to do. They didn't disturb the class and I never had any discipline problems with them.

CL: Now, you've mentioned several times that you had a reputation for discipline. Did you have a special approach to discipline or how did, how did you develop that reputation?

MGJ: What I've always believed is that, is to be constant in what you're doing, and if you don't expect much, you don't get much. And when they came in, I expected everybody to do the very best that they could, everybody didn't have to make an A, but if you were supposed to pass in a paper, if it wasn't finished, I wanted that paper. I wanted to know why, and if they did poorly, they didn't believe this, I said, "If you've done poorly, I haven't done a good job. So we'll start all over," and just letting them know that you have standards and I didn't change them. When they finally found out, then we became good friends and I could relax and enjoy, enjoy my classes. I had one and he came to see me about a week or so ago. If somebody came to the door and I had to leave my class, he immediately stepped up and kept that class going. He was just—I didn't have to worry, and also, if I gave an assignment and I wanted it back, they did it by rows, and anybody who didn't have theirs in their row, they were really in deep trouble. I said, "You have eight and only seven papers," and they got on that person. They would, I'd say, "I want my papers to the front of the room when I close the door." I stood at the back door for them to come in and I went to the front door. I said, "By the time I get up there, I want every paper to the front," and they learned how to get in there and get it done and some said, "I don't (inaudible) about yours." I said, "Well, we don't have to." But I was exact, and then we learned to relax and enjoy each other.

CL: Once you had established a standard for them to meet—

MGJ: They knew that expected that, that I expected something from them.

CL: Very good. Now, something I think I missed was the year that you started, the year that Mr. Fulton came to you and said he wanted you to print—to go to Prince Street.

MGJ: I'm thinking it was, I'm thinking was about 1968, 1968 or 1969. It was somewhere right in there. I don't think I have it in here. I can't keep all of those things in my head.

CL: Oh, that's fine, I understand and it's, even an approximate date is very helpful. So by that time, really, Wicomico County was supposed to have made more progress with desegregation. Is that?

MGJ: [Jones begins shuffling papers] I don't know.

CL: That's okay, take your time.

MGJ: This, you might be able to gather something.

Okay, I'll take it.

MGJ: This is our magazine that is just, it's called the Maryland(?) Pride and I happen to be on, on the last—this is the one that's just come out.

CL: Okay, this is, oh, I see.

MGJ: Right in here, I think you can get the information that you mght need if you read that paragraph right in there.

CL: Okay, I will.

MGJ: Because I don't know how he got all the—well, somebody gave it to him—how he got all that information.

CL: But it was sometime in the late, you think the late sixties. Okay, all righty, and by that time, I mean, Wicomico County had been planning for desegregation for several years, but it sounds like there hadn't been a whole lot of actual change, is that a fair assessment or?

MGJ: Well, you know, often [pauses briefly] the planning, we don't know about it until after the planning has been done and all of that. Then it comes, it's all, all there and they just say, "This is going to happen." We're not in, sometimes we're not left into the planning stage. They're ten years, sometimes, ahead of our planning.

CL: Were there other African-American teachers that had the same, that made the same change that you did at other schools?

MGJ: At that time, they put one in [pauses] Prince Street in the upper grades, I was chosen and there was one in the primary grades. Of Lucy, she was Lucy Sacha Hall(?). Very quie—a brilliant young lady, but very, very quiet and she did become frustrated, and she retired. And at the end of the day, sometimes she would say, "Let me just get the broom and sweep the floor to get rid of some of the frustrations," or whatever. She didn't handle it, handled it very well but she's a brilliant, brilliant—she's still living, I haven't seen her in quite some time. But she was, even in summer school when we used to go to summer school. She always sort of stayed to herself, but if you need an answer to a question or a problem. She would work over through the hours. She wouldn't bother you with it, but she was working on it. She was just that type of person.

CL: You know, at other schools like Pinehurst or say, East Salisbury or the other schools, did they do the same thing? Did they place African-American teachers into those?

MGJ: A bit more slowly, not that particular year.

CL: All right.

MGJ: At that time, I don't know whether any other school had—I don't think any of the schools had African-Americans at that time.

CL: So you literally were the first in the county, not just at Prince Street, but, okay, all right.

MGJ: I can say I was really one of the first.

CL: Okay, all right. Well, thank you for that. Now, with the Fruitland Community Center, did you say 1983 is when you became involved?

MGJ: Yes.

CL: Okay, and at that point, did it have a youth, a young children's program or did you build that?

MGJ: I built that, built that.

CL: Okay. What was your vision for that? or goals? However you want to answer that.

MGJ: [pauses before answering] I don't—when parents called and said they wanted someone to take their children, try to help them. I had about three, I think it was three boys I started out with, but I had always—I have also done private tutoring. I did, I still continued to do that at the house—when I came here and we started a class, the children started coming, and they started asking if they could bring them from Somerset County, from Worcester County and we did it on a weekend. We did it on Saturdays. I gave up 50 years of my life on weekends to be here, and there was another teacher who died a few years ago, Miss Pinkett, who said, "As long as I can, this will be the last thing that I will give up," and she came every Saturday morning and helped and in 1991 we really ran out of funds, to maintain a building like this is quite expensive and it would have just gone out of existence, I suppose. But I'm in the sorority and they said, "You are doing the very thing that we're supposed to be doing. This is what we're supposed to do, so we're going to help you there." So they began and we, they've been we've been a line item in their budget since that time every year.

CL: Okay. Which sorority is this?

MGJ: It was the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. I'm in the Delta Omega—Delta Sigma Omega chapter and they had been here with me and with this community since that time, and they're still supporting. They supported not—they supported not only with their finance now, but at one time every Saturday morning, there were people assigned to come and help with this and they also provided the food for the children. We always had lunch for them, and they had an assignment each time and they said, "You're doing what we're supposed to be doing." So they've supported me through the years for that, they've continued.

CL: Well, that's fantastic to have that reliable support. So you mentioned the building, maintaining a building like this is challenging. Have there been other challenges that you've had to deal with at the center?

MGJ: Um, getting people to volunteer? We just don't have people who are committed the way Miss Alexis is. What she has done has just been remarkable. She started about 30 years ago because I had her boys, and the boy that I did have all of the time—he was just an average, but he was so playful. But they gave me permission to take care of that, and now he's a civil engineer, he's coming home for the holidays. He's married, has two kids, and he's doing quite well. Both of her boys are doing quite well, and since she was here with me and saw me working, she has been here all the time and now then she has kept up with all of the technology and what have you. Even if I were younger, I wouldn't keep up with the technology—that's just not me. But she's into those kind of things: she's a seamstress, she's a business lady, and she loves doing these kind of things, I can turn my back and walk on those and never think about that, would never think about it because that's just not me. I'm more with the arts, and that kind of thing. But she's with getting people so they can do the ordinary things, and we have more ordinary people than we have those who excel. So, she's on with a hands on kind of thing, which is excellent.

CL: Okay, so you said you started with three boys in the mid-eighties and then how, can you tell me a bit about the growth of those numbers? It grew from that.

MGJ: Well, when they found out about it, we would check—I've always checked report cards and parents will say that my child's not doing well, we would say send them to the center and they would send them and some parents have come and brought their children and some have stayed with them, some have supplied the snacks for them. We've just had all kinds of help because they see that we're struggling or reaching out to help. I have no, no family here that I need to be supportive of, my family's in North Carolina. But we have been here all of this time and they know that we're here. We don't have as many children now because many of them have grown up and they leave the area and they don't have their young children here. That's why we have such few.

CL: How many kids are here now?

MGJ: We we usually register from 15 to 20. Our limit is really 35, we don't have that many now.

CL: And is it still mostly a Saturday program?

MGJ: No, no, we stopped that—when I stopped doing it on Saturday, then I began to work with them from Monday through Thursday. I've done it Monday through Thursday all by myself, maybe with one person coming in. That particular year, when I did do it by myself, Monday through Thursday, I had big boys who were really behind as far as age was concerned with, with schooling, but I didn't have to send any of them home. They didn't alway—they didn't all accomplish what they should have accomplished, but I never had to send any of them home.

CL: Now, at any time, has the Fruitland Community Center had a direct connection to a local church?

MGJ: Yes, our church, our church supports us each year, and St. John's—we had people there from St John's—anything we asked for and they for helping us like with towels, napkins, things like that. Anything we ask towards, St. John's always helped us with it. Those are two churches that always help us: Mt. Calvary and St. John's.

CL: Very good, and is there anything else that you'd like to share about the Fruitland Community Center?

MGJ: The vision that Ms. Alexis has for the Fruitland Community Center is amazing, and that vision takes it beyond my vision because she's interested in this particular age, where they have the digital and all of these—she works with circuits and all of these new things, and I can just see it going into another upper stage, but she needs some more committed people with it. She has the Wallops Space Academy coming here this fall for a six—I think it's six weeks program and October, she can tell you about that. They came here and gave a demonstration on using the drones. We were out there and we had a lot of young people who came and some who stopped by and she will get on the telephone or a computer and let them know about it. So, it's on the way to another stage completely. I have—I'm concerned that in doing the job skills, they're missing out on some of the other things that I like, and that was building self-esteem, respect for property, respect for people and doing the very best that you can do. I'm in the academics, she's in the hands-on kind of thing. That's where we are different. I still want the academics, the arts, and I like the finer things, but she wants the skills, the on-hands things which are a part of a child growing up or a person growing up and we need those kind of people. So, her vision for the Fruitland Community Center is certainly different from mine. I still feel like they need to know how to speak correctly and how to write correctly. You can't depend upon the computer. It will show you the red lines, but if you don't have a computer you don't see the red lines and you don't do it well and their writing is not good. People don't speak well, a lot of them don't. I can pick it up even if it's a reporter. If they split a verb, I know it, I've got it. It was interesting, the other Sunday I went somewhere and the person said, "Well, I'm speaking." It was a young girl. She bright and I said, "I know one thing. I've traveled here and I'm gonna listen to you, but you better not split one verb. If you do, you'll know it." It's just that I know that. I know that. So, she handled it quite well. This ear picks it up: I don't hear well, but it will pick that up.

CL: Well, I see on this article that you showed me that you have won the Light of Literacy award. So, it sounds like you have devoted a lifetime to refining that ear.

MGJ: That was, that was really a complete surprise. I had no idea about that. One of my sorors nominated me for that, and I didn't know it and I started not to go, and someone insisted that I that "You need to go to that," because I've been involved so much, I just like to stay at home some time and not be required to do anything, but it hasn't worked out like that.

CL: Well, I see you also won the Salisbury Award. So at this point and this was a very special year for you, 2019 is that—I didn't ask you at the beginning of the interview your age, but it's all over these publications, so I—

MGJ: Oh, well I can't hide it anymore.

CL: You cannot hide it.

MGJ: I cannot hide it anymore. The celebration for my 100th birthday was absolutely wonderful. They had one here on my birthday and people from all around came. The building was just filled, and then my family had a celebration on the next day and people came from different parts of the country and my grandchildren were here and great nieces, and it was about a hundred people there for that. So it's been nice, and last on June 12th, it was time for my dental appointment. I'd been away six months, and they had said before that when you come back, we're going to celebrate your birthday. I thought they would forget it, and I was ready for them thinking they had forgotten it. I sat in the waiting room and shortly after I got there they came out with flowers and cupcakes, one lighted, and sang Happy Birthday, happy belated birthday. So I celebrated all through the month and they're still calling, so it's been—it's really been a great, great celebration. I've enjoyed it. So now that I don't have to try to hide it.

CL: Right.

MGJ: I can get by with it or something, you know? [pauses] They named the street down here—

CL: I saw that.

MGJ: And now then I say, "It's my way or no way."

CL: [both laugh] Well, that is, that is a good year.

MGJ: Yes, it has been a good year.

CL: Well, I don't have any more questions right now, but if there's anything else you would like to share, you're welcome to.

MGJ: Have you gone—have we covered—?

CL: I have worked through through these questions, yes, and you've really provided a great amount of information about your teaching career and your life devoted to education and to children. So, I think all of that is very clear on here but if there's anything you'd like to share, you're welcome to and there's no pressure either.

MGJ: No, it's, it's just—this has been a wonderful journey. I've enjoyed it so much. There have been challenges there have been struggles, there have been setbacks, but each time you come out just a little stronger and more determined to go on with it. When you have touched lives so that they come back and tell you, "I remember what you did,"—they remember my motto. A minister said to me a few weeks ago, he saw me at a restaurant, he came past and he said, "I'm doing a sermon on your motto. I don't have it finished it yet. Well, I'll let you know when it's finished," and when I meet some of my children, that's how they greet me with my motto. "Good, better, best. Never let it rest, 'till the good becomes a better and the better becomes the best." So Sunday, I was asked to speak at Scholarship Sunday, and I used a part of it: you're good, but you can become better, and we need to do that. So I still feel good when I know that I have touched so many lives and they come back and share with me what it has meant to them and to have young people who want to come to see you. I have so much coming that sometimes I wish they would not come, come so often. But it's—I've just been so grateful that throughout the years I've been able to relate to children from baby stage all the way up now, and many—some of them have retired. So, I've gone through the funerals of a lot of my children and I call them my children. I have three boys and I said, "now I'm not speaking to you disrespectfully, you are my boys," and I still—they still come at Christmas, bring the flower that I want. Sometimes I take all of them out to dinner. Sometimes I just do something for, something for each one of them. The one, Dan(?), who has bought the property down there, he likes my pineapple upside down cake. So when I get a chance, I'll just make one for him and take it to him. He enjoys that. So I just kind of learn to enjoy life and the things that I've been able to do and I'm just so grateful each day. I take each day now as a gift and I try to do something worthwhile each day.

CL: Very good.

MGJ: Thank you so much.

CL: Well, thank you. I'll go ahead and turn this off. We went—[Recording Ends]

Related Records

Record #58

County Worcester County
School Name N/A
Location Snow Hill Road in Girdletree (No. 3, District 2)
Date Opened 1919 fiscal year; Democratic Messenger: "For the construction of a two-room school house near Gir…
Current Status Still standing, attached by addition to Cool Spring United church
State Maryland

All Fields in This Record

State Maryland
County Worcester County
School Name N/A
Location Snow Hill Road in Girdletree (No. 3, District 2)
Date Opened 1919 fiscal year; Democratic Messenger: "For the construction of a two-room school house near Girdletree"
Current Status Still standing, attached by addition to Cool Spring United church
Source Democratic Messenger, 19 July 1919, page 1; The Rosenwald Schools of Maryland Multiple Property Documentation, 2010 Report: 13, 2014 Revision: Surviving School Appendix.
Additional Information Two teacher, two room school
State Maryland

Record #61

County Worcester County
School Name Whaleyville Colored School
Location (No. 2, Dist. No. 9)
Date Opened
Current Status
State Maryland

All Fields in This Record

State Maryland
County Worcester County
School Name Whaleyville Colored School
Location (No. 2, Dist. No. 9)
Date Opened
Current Status
Source Democratic Messenger, 11 July 1940, page 10
Additional Information
State Maryland
Click on a field to move that field into top summary row for all records in this source.