A Stranger in Our Classroom

Womelsdorf school

When we lived on the farm in that Great Stone House, I went to school in Womelsdorf. This was in 1955 to 1957 for first and second grades.

One day, and I’m not sure exactly when, or even in which grade it occurred, a new kid showed up for class. But unlike the rest of us, he was different in one significant way. He was a Negro whereas the rest of us were white. That’s what the majority white culture called Blacks in those days, Negroes.

Now I think I had a general understanding of Negroes. I used to watch Amos ’n’ Andy reruns on TV, which were broadcast very early in the mornings, but I’m not sure that I knew much more about them. Maybe I knew something about their days of slavery and the Civil War, but not a lot, and I probably didn’t know much, if anything, about the segregated South or the recent Supreme Court decision to desegregate the schools.

I’m sorry to report that I don’t recall the fellow’s name either.

What I do recall is that he kept to himself. At recess some of us tried to make friends with him, but he resisted our efforts, in fact, I seem to think he got a wee bit belligerent. I don’t recall that anyone was openly hostile towards him, but just because I don’t recall it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

One day he showed up for class with a completely shaved head. We were told (I’m not sure by whom, maybe by our teacher?) that his father had shaved his head. I don’t know if it was a punishment or if it was just a routine haircut, but I seem to remember that he looked even more sullen after that. I think I formed the opinion at the time that the reason he was so anti-social was that he had a hard-ass father who would punish him for the slightest thing.

On another day, he came in with what looked like a really serious wound in his forehead, and I suspect the years and my imagination may have inflated the size and seriousness of it somewhat, but it couldn’t really have looked like it does in my memory, can it? (It looked like it hadn’t even been treated, just an open wound that was festering.) We were never given an explanation for that wound, and he never offered one.

One day, he didn’t show up and we never saw him again. Presumably his family had moved. He had been with us maybe a month, no more than two.

And just a reminder that these are my memories of events from over 65 years ago. While I’m reporting them as accurately as I remember them, it’s certainly possible (likely?) that the years have wreaked a little havoc with my gray cells.

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