In His Mind's Eye: Gillespie Makes Model of Old School
James Gillespie, a life-long resident of West End, has always told his -children and grandchildren about his days as a student at Vineland School.
He wanted to show them what it looked like, but the school, which housed black children in the first- through eighth-grades, was torn down in 1957 to make way for a new school, and Gillespie has been unable to find any photographs of the building.
"I decided to build a model of the school building," he says.
Gillespie does carpentry in his free time, contracting to build cabinets and making baskets for Pinehurst Resort.
He started the model five years ago, but stopped, thinking that the project wouldn't go anywhere. Six months ago, he began again, working off and on in his spare time. Recreating the model wasn't too difficult.
"I remember what it was like when I was 5 years old," Gillespie says. "I can still see it, every inch of it." He says Vineland School was located on N.C. 211, where West End Elementary School is today.
Gillespie, who was among the last graduating eighth-grade students to attend the school, remembers a -simpler but quality education in the four-room schoolhouse.
"The teachers had to teach two classes, along with the principal teaching," Gillespie says. "The teachers made sure you were taught, did your work and understood what you learned before you went home every day."
Gillespie recalls that there was only one bus.
"It had a seat for the driver and three long benches for the others," he says. "If you sat in the middle, you were back to back."
A cow bell rang to signal the day's opening, lunch hour and closing.
There was no lunchroom, so students had to bring their lunches from home in a brown paper bag, and since they had no tables or benches, had to eat either sitting on the ground or standing.
"The school had no milk or soda, but did sell snacks like potato chips, popcorn, candy and ice cream," says Gillespie.
There was no indoor -plumbing, so the children had to use an outhouse.
"There was an old water pump that was used for water to wash our hands and drink from," Gillespie says.
He recalls that each classroom had a pot-bellied stove, which was started up by the older students upon their arrival at school.
"Sometimes we would stay in our coats until lunchtime until it warmed the room," Gillespie says. "But in the summer, there was no air conditioner or fan, so we had to open the -window and wait for a cool breeze to pass."
Unlike other schools of that time, Vineland had no playground equipment.
"The girls played hopscotch and jumped rope, while the boys would shoot marbles," he says.
He also remembers students being held to a higher standard, not only for their behavior, but for the dress code.
"The girls had to wear dresses, and boys wore pants with the shirttails tucked in - and pants at their waist with a belt," he says.
"Now that does matter," Gillespie says.
Anyone who has a photo of Vineland School can contact Faye Dasen at fdasen@ -thepilot.com or (910) 693-2475.
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