Two Children in a One-Room School .. . trict will have the opportunity to say if our schools will remain WHITE or be known over the world as one of the few colored schools in Texas. “If you are willing to have your children and your school known as an integration school, then that is your privilege. But in twenty five years from now you will be very unhappy. Remember, one drop of iodine will lessen the color in a snow white sheet. Why do you think of money or expense when this can happen. You will know its consequences …. “If it is delayed it may never come to pass. The white and colored majority do not wish integration, as an example look to the state of Arkansas, who with the help of the colored vote returned their governor to a third unprecedented term …. “Do you think people will be pleased to move here and send their children to a integrated school. Some may, but thousands will not. Down goes property valuesup goes taxes. You can prevent it by your vote. “Some people suggest a Christian attitude towards this matter. We do not discuss Christianity. We do not question equality. We look out the door and see the white and the colored go by. The red bird and the black bird, the mule and the horse, the bee and the wasp, the ant and the butterfly, none of them equal, yet all of them useful and for generation after generation, they have preserved their identity. “Don’t let anyone confuse you with this phase .of the issue. Go out and vote to keep Boerne a white school … Some say it’s bound to come later, but I believe if the people vote against it that it will never come. Can the courts set aside the demands of the people, if so that will be another issue. Remember it is your ‘say-so’ we urge you to vote AGAINST. Jr.” Well, Lessee The office of the Boerne Star wasn’t hard to find. It was right on Main Street, next door to the Elite Cafe. Inside was one long, unswept room. littered with papers and a multitude of items stacked carelessly on tables and shelves and in corners. A massive, bulging man with glasses, wearing a sports shirt only half-stuffed inside his trousers, was sitting in a chair near the doorway. “Are you the editor?” “Well, I guess I’m one of ’em,” he answered. “My brother Gammon’s publisher, and he’s in Bandera right now. I’m Jack Davis.” When he spoke you could see the stained teeth common in West Texas. “I guess people just don’t know what they wanta do on this thing tomorrow. There’s an awful lot of ’em don’t care much either way. But most of ’em I guess don’t know if it’s the right thing to do or not. I figger they can’t vote for it and don’t wanta vote against it.” A woman came up from the back of the room, and another sat down at a table to fold papers. A little boy about 10 or 11 who worked there, dressed in a dirty t-shirt and blue jeans, leaned against the wall and listened. Davis didn’t do any introducing, but the others were interested and contributed occasionally to the conversation. The woman folding papers turned out to be Mrs. William Gammon Davis, Jr. “I don’t guess I’m as radical as my husband on this,” she said, “but I really don’t see why we should be the first. Why, we get along fine right now, land some folks’re afraid if we mix things won’t be near so peaceful.” The women worked and listened and talked at the same time, and Davis leaned far back and relaxed in his chair. The population of Boerne, they said, is about 2000. It was settled mostly by Germans. There were a lot of English settlers around too, and while they were here they made a big thing of training polo ponies, but nearly all of them left and the Germans, who were good at getting the best land, stayed. Davis found the catalogue of the Kendall County Fair, and the members listed at the front almost all had German names: Bierschwale and Dietert and Ehman. Ebesberger and Harz and Helmcamp, Luckenbach and Kutzer and Schuchardt. The school district in question covers a large territory, about 350 square miles. There might be about a thousand qualified voters with poll taxes in that area, but probably no more than 400 would vote in next day’s referendum. “We got a lot of retired folks here,” Davis said, “a lotta old army folks. They come ’cause of low taxes, good water, quiet, things like that.” How many colored live in Boerne? “Well, lessee,” Davis said, extending a huge, gnarled hand to count on. “There’s Buddy Ferrell and his wife, they got the two kids involved in this thing, adopted kids. Well now, there’s Harry White and his wife ….” “And Ira and her husband …” one of the women said. “And Hunt and Emily …” said the other. “And then Ruby and her husband …” “And Clarence and his wife and daughter …” “And Della and Albert Washington …” “Oh, I don’t know, I guess there ain’t more’n 30 livin’ here,” Davis said, authoritatively. “Most our niggers are ol’ niggers with no kids. Buddy Ferrell’s kids are the only two. Forty-five years ago there rnusta been a hundred niggers here and they most of ’em moved away. There must be about 400 Mexicans here now, and back then there wasn’t no Mexicans at ell. A lot of whites and Mexicans are worse’n niggers. When I was a boy here goin’ to school they usta send the Mexicans home to wash the lice off. “We got along peacefully in Boerne,” Davis said. “There’s a rumor goin’ round that the NAACP sent these two colored kids here, but I kinda doubt it.” The boy, whose name was Frank, explained that one of the Negro children, the younger Ferrell. was playing Little League baseball with a white team in Boerne this summer. “He gets along fine,” he said . Davis brought out a copy of the day’s Star. “We got three articles on the vote this week,” he said, “one long ‘un against it, and two short ‘uns for it. He pointed out the two short ones. One was at the bottom of the front page in the first column. It read: fi . .. During the 1957-58 school year two colored students attended a iseparate school with one teacher. The building is very old and outmodeled, and should be rebuilt in order to bring it up to modern day standards. “For the 1958-59 school year, the Boerne District will not receive any state funds for the colored school. This means, that if the colored school is to remain open, a tax burden of between $3000-$4000 will be incurred by the people of the district. Three or four thousand dollars is not a great sum of money, but in seven years this small yearly amount will accumulate to $28,000. It costs approximately $240 to educate one white child for nine months. To spend $2000 a year for one colored child is unreasonable, unwise, and uneconomical. It is reasonable to assume that all school funds should be expended for the best interest of all the students of the Boerne uted.” The second article was at the top of an inside page. It was cornposed of two quotations, one from the Adult Teacher, the other from the Wesley Quarterly, both stressing the love of God for all men, regardless of color. The quotations were contributed by Dr. H. C. Day. “Who’s Dr. Day?” “Town doctor,” Davis said. “He lives here.” Next door, in the Elite Cafe, the jukebox was blasting away on a hot hillbilly number, and two waitresses sat around with no one to wait on. Dr. Day was at his home number, and he said he’d be at his clinic across the street from the post office in ten minutes. His clinic was in a small, clean brick building across from both the county courthouse and the post office. He was a tall, slender young man with a jutting chin and a prominent nose supporting heavy horn-rims. In his office he talked while thumbing through some papers. By upbringing he was a Hoosier, not a Texan. He graduated from the University of Indiana and has been practicing in Boerne for seven years. He is a member of the school board. Sunday School “Yes, I started circulating the petition,” he said. “We needed a certain. number of signatures before we could have the referendum. I circulated it for the simple reason that I think we ought to integrate. I don’t see why any school children should be deprived of equal opportunities. After all, the Supreme Court knows the law better than I do. I’ve got two children of school age, and that doesn’t make me feel any different.” Day said the two quotations he contributed to the Star had been used in a Sunday School class he teaches at the Methodist Church. “It’s a moral issue,” he said. “They should have equal opportunities no matter what color skin they’ve got. Socially, economically, I think it’s inevitable. A lot of people feel if this passes tomorrow there’ll be an influx of Negro families, but I don’t think so. They wouldn’t have any way of making a living here, and if they have enough money to retire, they’re sure not coming to Boerne. “I guess we’re between a rock and a hard place. The state says don’t integrate and then requires this referendum. The nation says integrate. All we can do down here is go ahead and comply with the state.” Day said there were no pressures in Boerne against people who choose to speak their mind on this issue. He paused to read the long article in the Star, which he hadn’t seen, then his lips wrinkled into a faint smile. “Well, Gammon and I disagree on this thing,” he said. “We’re good friends and we go hunting, but we do disagree.” He said every minister in Boerne favored integration., and most of them had spoken in favor of it before their congregations. Father Palmer, one of the two Catholic priests in town, had devoted a whole mass to the vote the Sunday before. Day gave directions how to get to Buddy Ferrell’s house, over near the Negro school. He shook hands warmly, shyly, and walked out to greet two patients in his waiting room. I stopped for a cup of coffee on the way and asked the waitress how she planned to vote tomorrow. “Look,” she said, “when you’re in business for yourself you don’t talk about things like that. Yeah, sure Dr. Day can. When you’re dyin’ you don’t wanta go all the way to San Antonio or Fredericksburg. But if you’re in business and they don’t like what you say, why they’ll just go get their coffee on Main Street or somewhere. I’m not gonna discuss it.” A radio on the counter was discussing American troops in Lebanon. Outside you could still hear the announcer talking about Eisenhower’s defense of the democratic way in the Middle East. Three Desks It was late afternoon, and the clock on Main Street said 6:30. It was not so hot now, and there was a touch of a breeze, and the first beginnings of shadows, cast out across the cement. Under the Cibolo bridge the tame little river looked cool and clear, like swimming water. Just past the Baptist Church, to the right, there was an asphalt road. Here started the Negro-Mexican section, the houses mostly small and unpainted and dilapidated. A half mile west, just off the asphalt road on a gravel one, was the Negro schoolhouse. The yard around the one-room frame building was covered in weeds. A large stone rested on the front porch against the screen door. The door was locked. Inside there was one fairly large room with a furnace in the middle, the teacher’s desk, and two student desks. On the wall was a poster which said “How do you look?” with several drawings of children immaculately dressed and scrubbed. Outside, to the right of the schoolhouse and behind, was an iron merry-go-round, broken and rusted. It tinkled softly in the breeze. Further down the road the houses were closer together. There was no segregation between the races here. Most of the houses belonged to Latin-Americans, and khaki-colored little children played in the yards and in the road. In a few of the yards, or on the porches, elderly Negroes sat, fanning themselves with newspapers or magazines. A LatinAmerican man watering his dusty lawn pointed out the Ferrell house. It was a clean, well-painted little house on the corner, and a Negro couple was sitting under a shade tree in front. He was a short, plump man possibly in his sixties. His wife was tall, heavy, with straight greying hair and a big, friendly face. He said he had been born and raised in Boerne, and his wife came from East Texas, around Athens. They work now as cooks in private homes. One of their children was 11, the other 9, and both were very interested in music. “They don’t teach music at the colored school,” Ferrell said. “I feel all right about this thing,” Mrs. Ferrell said. “Jus’ so if they go to the other school, the white kids treat ’em right.” Ferrell interrupted. “I think if they go to the white school, they’ll get along jus’ fine. That’s what I think. My boy Willie Earl, he’s playin’ little league ball, he’s off playin’ right now, and there ain’t been no trouble.” Mrs. Ferrell said Mr. McQuinn on the school board had phoned her about the editorial in the Star. “He jus’ said he wanted us to know he didn’t feel the way the people on the Star did. He tol’ me not to worry about nuthin, that thing’d be okay. But you know how it is with colored chillun goin’ to school with white.” She looked at me imploringly, questioning, with her big wrinkling face. “It’s kinda awkward til they get used of it. Now if the parents’ll jus’ be quiet and leave the little kids alone, it’ll be all right. I think if you give it time, it’ll work out.” She paused now and looked at the ground. “I jus’ hope everything works out all right, that’s all I hope.” In the failing light the shadows grew, and from somewhere far away came the sound of a cowbell. Occasionally a Latin walked by in the road, and the Ferrells waved and say hello. “I don’t know how this vote’s gonna go,” Ferrell said. “I’m gonna vote, and so is a few other colored folks roun’ here. Did you see that article in the Star today, did you see it? I can’t understand. There ain’t never been no trouble or nuthin.’ between white and colored roun’ here before. That article is the first stink that’s ever been raised. Why, when we was little boys in knee pants, Gammon Davis and I usta shoot marbles over on Main Street. Sure, us white and colored boys had our fights like all kids, but we got over ’em and played together and got along jus’ fine. “Since this thing started.” he said, “you know I ain’t heard a word ’bout the election. I know all the preachers are for it, that’s what I hear, but I ain’t heard nuthin’ else, except that I saw Mr. Schwope who runs the weldin’ place and he says to me, ‘Why in hell is they raisin’ all this hell ’bout two little colored kids jus’ goin’ to school. We don’t need no election for that.’ ” Ferrell broke his train of thought to point at a car driving by. “Oowie,” he said. “Now that lady’s sho ‘gainst it. That’s Mrs. Durst. She don’t want no integratin”round here.” Her husband was preacher at the Full Gospel Church. A plump, round-faced little Negro girl opened the front door of the house and came out to sit. “This’s Willie Louise,” Ferrell said. She was shy and didn’t have much to say. “Yessuh, I like music a lot,” she said. “I like all kinds of music.” She said she’d been taking a few private piano
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.