Diamond City, NC Schools
John’s Creek Diary
1919 - A very nervous seventeen year old lady had been appointed her first teaching assignment -- Cape Lookout, known then as Diamond City. She received her teachers' certificate by "correspondence course," her help and instruction was received through "The American Educator" (a form of encyclopedias) and instruction from Mr. Clem Gaskill. (Mr. Clem Gaskill is still remembered as a "genius" self-made.) The young teacher would continue her studies at East Carolina Teachers' College in the summer months for several years, thereby upgrading her certificate. Her first day at Cape Lookout was a beautiful, crisp fall day. She had arrived early that morning by boat (naturally) and always remembered how the water was just slightly choppy and seemed to dance and giggle at her! She was quite leery of what she was facing. Her students would range from 1st grade to 8th. They would be children of fishermen's families who possibly never had any schooling outside the home before. (Little did she know that her most rewarding experience that first school year would be a fourteen year old boy -- back to him later!)
When she arrived at "The Cape" a young boy "poled" out in a skiff to take her to shore. The schoolhouse was one room with a pot-bellied stove and the fixtures and furnishings were remembered as "rather crude." Someone had thoughtfully started a fire in the heater and "it wasn't too bad." The building was opened (doors and windows) to the east. There were no openings on the other three sides. This building was also used for all other public affairs during cold or inclement weather. Of course in pretty weather everything was held outside. There were oil lanterns for light and "Teacher" had brought pencils and paper. (Some of the children had never seen a pencil before.) There were cedar logs in the corner for fuel as nothing gives off heat like cedar -- once you get it going!
By 9 o'clock four or five children had shown up, and others "straggled" in until by the end of the second day she had sixteen students, three of them older than she!
All-in-all the students adjusted quite well and wanted to learn. but as with all groups there were one or two who didn't. Earl Rose (one of the older students) became "assistant disciplinarian" on his own authority and did some "score settling" out of school. "Teacher" said this wasn't really proper, but it sure helped! One young girl was forced to attend by her parents, but at fifteen she had no use or desire for schooling. Neither did she want the others to go. After trying everything imaginable the teacher (on advise and authority of the superintendent) was compelled to expel her for the sake of the other students. "Teacher" passed away in 1986 and I could never get her to tell me who the girl was. She simply told me, "It's none of your business -- besides, her family might be embarrassed." (SHE was one lady who kept a secret for at least 55 years!)
Now back to the fourteen year old boy mentioned earlier. He came to school in his father's old clothes and often in anything he could find to hide his nakedness and ward off the cold. He could neither read nor write, did not know his alphabet or numbers, but was eager to "know things." By the end of the first year he was reading quite well, his writing was exceptional and he was doing simple adding and subtracting. He had learned most everything taught to the different grades of students. I never knew his name either, "It may make some of the other "good" students think they were not important." Oh well, "Teacher" was no gossip!
Often times parents who couldn't get out to work their boats would slip in just to sit around the edge of the room to watch and listen. many times they would teach others in their family who had never had the opportunity to learn from a "real" teacher.
By mid-March attendance began to drop drastically. Nature was beginning to sprout, fish were showing-up, little pools of water among the sand dunes warned by noon, while bottom-up skiffs needed scraping and painting to be ready for the spring and summer. The beach sand was moist and warm to bare feet and every morning that ol' sun blazed more golden and grand across the east'ard beach. Pa's needed the youngun's help, gardens and little orchards had to be cleared of winter's damage. "The sap was rising!" -- Hearts and minds were turning outside to the newness of the season approaching. Therefore, much was crammed into a six-month school year.
"Teacher" moved on to teach upstate at other schools, but it clear that none was more rewarding than "Diamond City."
"Teacher" was my mother, Pearl Willis (Whitley). She met my father, Joe Whitley while teaching at Sandy Cross, NC. Yes, Pap was an "upstater," but he could never get the salt water from her veins or the salt air from her lungs. They returned to Harkers Island to make their home for more than fifty years.
Reprinted from “The Mailboat,” Vol. No. 4
From "Our Shared
Past" prepared for the Diamond City & Ca'e Bankers Reunion, August
1999 as a collection of writings, research and recollections to tell the
story of the Banks communities.
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