J = Josh (Interviewer) & C= Chuck (Interviewee)
J: What school did you teach at ?
C: Now at what point in time are you talking about ?
J: Right around the time of integration.
C: Ayden High School.
J: Ayden High School ?
C: Yes, Ayden High School.
J: Now what did you teach there ?
C: I was a math teacher, I taught everything from Algebra 1 to Pre-Calculus, I taught there for 67 to 71 which was the last year for Ayden High School.
J: Back then what was the distribution as far as precentages of black to white students ?
C: When I started teaching there the schools were pretty much segregated, i’d say totally segregated actually. I started teachin in Virginia before I started teachin here, but anyways. Uhm there was a black high school in Ayden called South Ayden High School, which is no longer there, but there is a monument to it’s existence and it was about a quarter mile from Ayden High School. But Ayden High School at that time was pretty much along the diving line between the segregated communities. Now this is where i’m havin trouble with the years, but I would say probably 68 or 69 I can’t remember which, possibly 68 Pitt County instituted a policy of Freedom of Choice, which meant the students could apply to go to whichever school they wanted to, and if they didn’t submit an application they were assigned to the school nearest to where they lived. But even though the majority of black students lived on this part of town there was a section on the north side of town, and some families didn’t turn in their applications so that being closer to Ayden High School they were assigned to Ayden High School. I can tell you the first ones name, I can tell you what he looked like, he was a great kid in an awkward position.
C: But his name was Devro Blunt, I remember him very well cause I was the JV football coach at the time and he played football, great kid. I don’t remember any difficulty with anything at all. And the second one was a kid named Fletcher Hardis who was killed in tractor accident not terribly to long after he got out of school. Uh okay.
J: Alright uh.
C: I can ramble forever. I don’t wanna waste your time.
J: Oh no, it’s fine with us. During your time teaching what did you enjoy the most around the time of integration ?
C: Getting to know the kids. I taught for 37 years, and everything to me was about the kids. I had an administration degree so thats not where it was, I wanted to work with kids, and a lot of them that I taught back in those days still stop in to see me, which I think is a very positive thing.
J: Mhmm. Since you did teach around here in the right time period, what was your opinion on how integration was handled ?
C: Well, from that they went to pretty much i think this happened in 70, 70 71 school year maybe 69, 71 was the last year there was an Ayden High School which it then became Ayden Grifton, which they put a bomb in the bathroom but I wasn’t there at the time. Uhm, the last year there was an Ayden High School they consolidated South Ayden with Ayden High School until the integration of Ayden was complete at that time. Uhm, you know I don’t remember there being any real violence, the kids that came from South Ayden some of them had already known eachother. Cause I remember it must have been 70 cause the year before I remember Ayden High School had scheduled games against South Ayden and also the black school in Farmville, H.B. Suggs, and the only difficulty really to ever remember was Ayden High School scoring at the buzzard to beat H.B. Suggs at an undefeated season and they had a riot in the gym, but that was more between schools than anything else. Uhm, I don’t remember around here there was alot of violence, but of course there were people that were gonna exhibit some prejudice. But I don’t recall there being in major issues in terms of having uprisings.
J: Alright, last friday we talked to Mr. Ivory he was one of your former students, and he apparently things very highly of you because he told us that your were one of the most fair teachers around here, and we were wondering what did you do to be so fair to all of your students ?
C : You know I thought about that a lot particularly with Ivory cause me and him still maintain contact, as a matter a fact he was here the other day, he will just stop by just to chat. He has taken on a lot of leadership in trying to get things better, you know I really don’t know i’ve thought about it a great deal. And i just, kids are kids and i’ve never saw it any other way, and for a while i dont remember any consious decision, like okay these people are new here and their different and whatever i just dont remember ever having a thought, i think to myself i just dont know kids are kids. I was a scout leader at the time, and the scout troop was sponsered by the Ayden Motor Club, and Ivory and some of his buddies wanted to join the boy scouts and the club wouln’t let them and that kinda ticked me off a little, and that’s when i quit the scouts, but anyways.
J: Do you have any stories that you can share that deals with integration, that just sticks out in your mind ?
C: One of a time Ivory and one of his buddies, he might of told you this story idk, one of his buddies was sittin in the back of the classroom and they were tlaking when i was talkin, and thats kinda rude. So i told ivory and his buddy, and i might have this backwards but I told them to stop talking, and one of them made some comment, so I told him alright I want you to write a 500 word paper on sunshine, and the other one started laughing so I told him to write one on potato chips, and they still remember that. That was funny. I remember some stories. And there were some times where we had a kid here in the classroom and i’m sure you’ve never heard of him, but his name was Demetrius Higgons we called him Dee cause bless his heart he couldn’t spell Demetrius. He became a world kickboxing champion, we don’t see him much anymore as a matter of fact I haven’t seen him in years, but probably about 6 years ago I saw him down the street and he saw me and he came up and gave me a big hug and that was all good. I remember Dee he was one of those kids, like i said i coached football and tell him to be the quarterback he’d be the quarterback, Ivory was on the JV team and he wanted to play quarterback and and I would let him play 15 20 seconds, and that was just the greatest thing to him, he wasn’t very good. Just little things like that, I have things that’ll come back, but on demand it doesn’t work too well, but just little things like that . I remember one kid after a basketball game the basketball team and cheerleaders were coming back and one kid a black kid was harassing one of the cheerleaders and Dee took care of him, he might have erased his face, but just little things like that. Nothing really stands out in class besides the sunshine and potato chip incident.
J: Lets see, you mentioned the bombing earlier, do you know anything about that ?
C: Yah, actually i’ve been trying to go throughout the internet to figure out the actual years this happened, but I know it was either 69 or 70 but I cant remember. But I had left teaching after Ayden High School was closed, i was in NJ when i read the newspaper about Ayden Grifton High School being bombed. Which I remember was the first bombing of a school in American history. Now because there hadn’t been a lot of problems at the school doesn’t mean there hadn’t been difficulties in the community. Now I don’t remember all of the details it had somethin to do with a black person, according to what i read on Wikapedia which we know how gospel truth that is, this person died in Ayden jail, which I remember it different, but bottom line is someone died. And some of the different groups, and some of the other groups and outside groups, which like I said I wasn’t here I was in NJ, but my parents lived right there, and they came together and they were marching and stuff, and needless to say a bomb went off in the bathroom of the school, and from what I’ve been told they had an assembly that day, and the bathroom is adjacent to the auditorium which the auditorium wasn’t big enough to hold the whole student body so they held it somewhere else. But they did have a few students in the study hall, but no one got hurt, and they caught the people who did it, and they weren’t from here, and thats what I remember from the bombing, like I said I wasn’t here but I heard about it later.
J: Well looking back now, from the time you were teaching would you go back and change anything ?
C: I hope not.
J: You hope not ?
C: I hope not. From what i said before, for whatever reason it went pretty well as far as me and my relationship with the kids. I’ve always been thankful for that for whatever reason maybe my parents did something right I don’t know. It could be that when I was growing up I was around black kids, I had a grandbrother that lived on this side of town and and i lived over there and us kids would walk up and down the street. My grandparents had a lady from down there Daisy Garder just as fine as a woman ever lived and she was their house keeper and she loved me to death, all of us kids, and we all loved her. And maybe in a sense it just wasn’t all that strange, I dont know. Whatever it is I’m thankful.
J: Well do you know of anything else that you’ve been through or seen that would be useful as far as us putting a presentation together ?
C: Let me see, well, when I left I didn’t stay out of teaching but for 1 year, but i wasn’t going to Ayden Grifton for whatever reason. But I spent 30 D.H. Conley, at that it was only 4 months old. Large school, and even out in Conley I don’t remember anything, if there was a fight between a black and a white guy it’s just two people having a disagreement not necessarily because he’s white or black. A lot of black students were student body president and stuff. So i’ve been fortunate that i don’t really have a lot of stories about this in general and violence and that kind of stuff.
J: Well that’s about all the questions I have.