Reasons for walking change, but the act is always rewarding

Published 9:40 am Saturday, June 26, 2010

I started school in 1951 at Ebenezer Elementary (established 1922). It was a three-roomer, 2 miles southwest of Ivor and 100 yards west of Ebenezer Baptist.

I would ride to school with my Aunt Maggie Fulgham-Sprewell, who taught fourth through seventh grades. Lizzie Howell-Warren, Joyce Warren-Bower’s aunt, taught the first through third grades.

Joyce and her sisters had gone to Ebenezer, too. They got there on the Ivor-Courtland Road from past Berlin, reputed to be the oldest settlement in the county.

President William Henry Harrison is believed to have attended the old Berlin Academy (est. 1778) just past the present-day Nottoway Elementary.

That two-mile adventure was frequently on foot.

School buses began running about 1940, but catered to higher-volume routes, and although responsive to elementary schools, were generally dedicated to the more distant high schools, including Hayden (est. 1904) and Southampton County Training School (est. 1939).

Leroy Butler and others would walk the 2 miles from Sadler Road. Leroy was a prominent catcher; today he is the voice and personality of Leroy Butler’s Gospel Hour,


Local baseball teams included the Berlin Eagles, Manry Clowns, Ivor Tigers and Zuni Blue Sox. These popular Saturday afternoon events featured 18- to 50-year-olds and festive partisan crowds that could run into the hundreds.

Woodrow Nichols and siblings, and Bernard and Martha McClenny-Williams walked from, shall we say — back there. A small, but spectacular cypress swamp that serves as a sort of gateway for the meandering Kellos Mill Road was on its way westward to Wakefield.

Walking southeast and reaching Millfield Road, they might encounter the Butlers — Joe, Margaret and others. Isaac Butler’s baseball field and blacksmith shop lay ahead at the crossroad.

My aunt retired in 1953. I began walking to Rosenwald Elementary (est. 1920). It was a partitioned two-roomer. It stood in the curve of the road 3 miles west of Zuni, on what is today Seacock Chapel Road. The two-story Odd Fellows Lodge stood across the road.

By 1960 the Farmers Club was erected a couple hundred yards to the west. The remains of an ancient sawdust pile were 200 yards in back. It’s said that a wooden barrel business existed at the site.

Right around 1950 there was a lot of movement in and out of the Rosenwald District. Joseph Harris moved his family — May, Eloise and others — from Ivor to a quarter-mile east of Doles crossroad.

My uncle, Rubdell Joe, an extraordinary mid-century adventurer and entrepreneur, purchased his new farm in 1949 and moved his family, including daughter Carol from Long Branch Elementary, to the adjoining property on Rosenwald’s west.

Jennie Lewis-Wells and family moved from Clayton Road, a 2.5-mile old-fashion woodland treasure, ending on the south at Beulah Land Methodist; its cemetery was the site of the earlier Long Branch School.

Mr. “Boot” and Mrs. Early Warren’s grandchildren, Butch and others, moved to Richmond. Years after the death of Mr. “Boot,” an aging Ms. Early married Mr. “Mutt” Holmes, who was Benex’s father. Never the one to pass up a good name.

George Eley and family, including Ivan and others, returned from Sebrell. The now 68-year-old Ivan completed first grade in Sebrell. He says his first-grade teacher was a Miss Hood.

Well, my wife’s Franklin Bowling League has a number of retired teachers, including an 89-year-old Louise Hood-Bryant (Shaw, class of ’42), originally out of Norfolk. She says she customarily boarded the train in Portsmouth on Sundays and got off in Sebrell.

The old Lewis and Eley two-story tenements (Tucker Swamp Road, a mile south of Diggs crossroad) were about 200 yards apart. The Eley home had a nest of flying squirrels that would gambol and glide in a yard tree. Just two lone chimneys today. While the old Lewis home is just a small patch of telltale forest.

The Lewis home had a separate kitchen. Quite common 75 years ago. Many of the old split-level homes, including the one I grew up in, are due to the two structures having been shoved together.

Ordinarily, an adult might set out on a distance of two or three miles or more, and be picked up, and often by a total stranger. On your way, destiny will come to greet you.

Walking has come full circle. Today in its comings and goings — its own reward.