Shirley Brown

Shirley went to The New Windsor School for all of her grade school years. Shirley walked everyday to school.


Shirley Brown

INTERVIEWER: I am delighted to be interviewing Shirley Brown who is a graduate of the New Windsor school. And we are sitting in the newly renovated old New Windsor school talking about the school history. Shirley tell us what years you attended the school.

SHIRLEY BROWN: I came from 1943 to 1955. It was my entire 12 years.

INTERVIEWER: So I guess you had classes on every floor of the school. Is that right?

SHIRLEY BROWN: That’s correct. The elementary was on the first and as you moved up to each floor.



INTERVIEWER: Ah, tell us how you got to school.

SHIRLEY BROWN: I walked, um, at that time. Uh, I’m not sure how far it is, but I was too close to the school and the bus would go by. But I had to walk. But that was probably good.

INTERVIEWER: Mhm. And what did you pass on your way to school?

SHIRLEY BROWN: My way to school there was an ice house, uh, a tin building. And at that time, most of the local people did not have refrigerator, electric refrigerators at that time. And the ice was made in huge molds, probably about 100 pounds, and then, um, broken into small chunks. Not broken, but, yeah, put into small chunks and delivered to people’s homes and put in their old, oak ice boxes. Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: And, uh, tell us what else did you pass in school? Did you, uh, was there another school in the community?

SHIRLEY BROWN: Oh, at that time, uh, on my way home and near me was the African-American school. And, um, I would stop in in the evenings and talk to the teacher who roomed, um, with a family near us. And, um, it was kind of exciting to hear their stories, and I would help dust the blackboards.

And, um, last year I went to visit one of the teachers as she is now 93 and very alert and had wonderful stories. But she had been there before I knew this teacher, but, but told me wonderful stories about the school. I was trying to find a photo of it. And the school was moved, and it’s now in Westminster on Church Street and was part of the original Robert Moton school.

INTERVIEWER: Well, did they have food in the school when you attended here?

SHIRLEY BROWN: Yes, they did. It was home cooking. And it was quite good. Except I do remember in probably the second grade I was eating lunch. And the teacher was very adamant that we cleaned our plate. It was– everything had to be eaten.

And I came upon these creamed onions. Well, I thought, uh, cannot eat these things, but what’ll I do? And so when she turned her back, I wrapped them in a napkin and tucked them under my plate. I thought, uh, wow, made that. So I was very careful to what they were having on the menu, because I didn’t want to do anything wrong. And–

INTERVIEWER: Well, what was your favorite food?

SHIRLEY BROWN: Oh, my favorite was– Miss Helen Saylor was this wonderful baker. And she made sticky buns. We had hot sticky buns, and the aroma was just heavenly. And everybody would look forward to the day of the sticky buns.

INTERVIEWER: Well, I’m sure in those days there was no smoking allowed in the school as there is now.


INTERVIEWER: Did anybody smoke in the school?

SHIRLEY BROWN: Well, at that time in the ’50s– I guess belonging to the Brethren Church we were very against and not used to seeing ladies smoke. And as we kept seeing our English teacher coming out of the, um, boiler room or furnace room, whichever you want to call it, we were wondering what was going on. As we found out, she was smoking.

And so we decided we would, um, talk to her about this. And so she gave us an explanation that in college in drama class that she was in many plays, and she had to learn to smoke to be in this play. And so I guess she became addicted. But it was a neat story.

INTERVIEWER: Well now, you were the yearbook editor. Is that correct?

SHIRLEY BROWN: Right, right.

INTERVIEWER: Tell us how you put the yearbook together.

SHIRLEY BROWN: Well with only 20 students, everybody was on a committee. And it worked out quite well. Um, we had a professional photographer in Westminster– Dan Engler. And course with no computers and the like as we have today, he would help us crop the pictures.

And we would go there and work in his– it was actually in his home and his little boys were running in and out. But it was a really family, family occasion it seemed like. Um, but we made it through. And Madeline Myers, who is now Madeline Hiatt, was our classbook advisor and was very helpful in getting it completed. But we were quite proud of it.

INTERVIEWER: I’m sure you were. Did you have any field trips while you were here?

SHIRLEY BROWN: Well, I suppose you could call this a field trip, but it sticks in my mind. Uh, the teachers took us to, I suppose it was C&P telephone switchboard. It was not far from the school, and it was in a private home. And you would go through the– I suppose it was a living room, but– private quarters and to the second floor. And there were three operators. And of course, it was like you would see on in an old movie today.

And as I realize, I didn’t have a phone. But most of my friends who lived on farms had the big wooden boxes on the wall with the crank on the side. And you would get, number please. And these operators– so the teacher took us there to show us how we were getting through to make calls.

And, um, let’s see. Oh, and also as I visited friends, there was the party line. And it’s my understanding you didn’t have to go through the operator, but a few little jiggles your neighbor would answer and also other neighbors could listen in. They were [INAUDIBLE]. I suppose this was cheaper maybe.

Or maybe that’s all they offered. But we thought this was exciting. And as I looked in one of the old yearbooks, uh, Roop’s grocery store was 22. That was his number, 22. So that’s my memories of our field trip.

INTERVIEWER: Well, then you had a field trip to New York. Is that right?

SHIRLEY BROWN: Yes. That was our senior year and that was really, really exciting to be from downtown New Windsor to uptown Manhattan. Um, I’m trying to think of all the places that we, uh, uh, we went to.

INTERVIEWER: I have, stayed at the Taft Hotel.

SHIRLEY BROWN: Oh, we stayed at the Taft Hotel. Uh, we went up to Baltimore and went on the train. And nobody can remember how we got to Baltimore, whether it was private cars or a bus. But we made it to Baltimore for the train. And we stayed at the Taft Hotel and went to see the Broadway show, The Seven Year Itch to, um, Radio City Music Hall. And the most exciting we thought was seeing Perry Como with his television show. And of course, we went to Mamma Leone’s for dinner.

And um, and another one of our memories was a jazz club. And, and just we girls went to that. And we thought, wow, this is really neat. But everybody was having a drink, and, but I suppose they didn’t mind if we had a Coke. And as we went out, the boys were peaking in the window, and they thought, what was this? And they were scared to go in.

And, and another school went, but they got into a lot of trouble in the hotel and were rather rowdy. But of course, New Windsor was quite good.

Some of the kids went to a baseball game. And at that time one visit, some visited a hospital. One of our, um, basketball players had been in a severe accident– Howlett Baile– and was paralyzed. And he was in a hospital. And so they went to visit. And so it was lots going on.

INTERVIEWER: And how many chaperones did you have with you?

SHIRLEY BROWN: There was two. We had our principal, Gilbert Martin, and Edna Haines who was our music teacher. And also at that time, the principal’s daughter, Mary, was going to Juilliard School of Music, and she met us up there. And, uh, I understand that the year before she had played in one of the musicals or I’m assuming the orchestra pit band. But that was really, really exciting for us.

INTERVIEWER: It sounds like a wonderful trip–

SHIRLEY BROWN: From Thursday to Sunday, and we thought that’s a big trip.


SHIRLEY BROWN: It’s my understanding it was the last year of overnight trips. I’m not sure why, but that’s the story. So we lucked out.

INTERVIEWER: Well, uh, tell us about your prom? How did you, where did you have your prom?

SHIRLEY BROWN: The prom was in the school gymnasium. And, um, I think half the fun was decorating with the, the tall ladders and hanging streamers, the crepe paper streamers, from the, uh, basketball net or the basketball hoop. And, uh, and we had lots of balloons and the Adirondack chairs around the sides, which looked quite nice. And, um, and course, it was so fun to get dressed up. And, and our one big dance of the year was very good.

INTERVIEWER: What did you do after school in New Windsor?

SHIRLEY BROWN: Uh, one of our favorite places was Brownies Corner, which was just close to the school. And they had wonderful fountain Cokes, which were so fizzy then, and sodas, and milkshakes, and you could get light fare. Uh, but one of the things I remember was the tons of comic books. I guess comic books were in back in the ’50s. And I worked there during the summer and sometimes after school.

INTERVIEWER: So you could whip up a mean milkshake I guess.

SHIRLEY BROWN: Pretty good, pretty good, yes. The only thing I hated– at night they had ice cream, and people would come in and want to have it hand-dipped. I don’t know whether they thought it was better that way, or– but it was not easy. I didn’t like that.

And then of course, uh, Pilson’s drugstore had a soda fountain also. And that was quite good. And it was close to the movie theater. And that’s something we did on Friday and Saturday nights. But it invariably broke down. We’re not sure if it was the film, the projector, or the operator’s fault.

But the kids yelled and screamed for the operator to wake up. And the lady who took the tickets, Miss Benedict, would come down and try to quiet us till it got started again. And we could see the end of the movie. The one movie I remember, specifically, was The Yearling. And uh, but others I don’t remember. But it was a fun thing.

INTERVIEWER: Well, since we’re now in new library headquarters, tell us about the library in the school. What was that like?

SHIRLEY BROWN: The library was extremely small, probably half the size of a classroom and not many books. The main thing was the huge dictionary. And I don’t think we used it a lot, because in our classroom we had encyclopedias and we had our regular books that we used in the class.

And it wasn’t like today’s library, which I think the new medium media centers with all the high tech and wonderful book, thousands of books and magazines. It was quite different. Uh, there was windows that you could see into the next classroom, Ms. Benninghoff who had math. Um, yeah that’s about all I can tell you. The windows–

INTERVIEWER: Was she a pretty tough teacher?

SHIRLEY BROWN: She was very tough, and I was scared to death of her. And the only thing– one day she came in with odd shoes. And I think it’s the only time I ever laughed– and probably brown and black. And she said, look, she said, my closet is dark, and I just couldn’t see what I was putting on this morning. That’s a memory. I don’t know, but it sticks in my mind.

INTERVIEWER: Well, these are wonderful memories of the school, Shirley. Is there anything else that you would, uh, like to tell us about the school?

SHIRLEY BROWN: The one thing I was thinking as I look through my yearbook was the custodian. There was only one custodian. And, um, as I, as I talk to some of my friends who was later a principle, he said, well, there was a broom and dustpan in each room. And the– one of the children would sweep the room each evening and then take the big waste can down to wherever and, and dump it. And, but they would clean. And I guess it kept kids from throwing papers on the floor, too, when you had to do the cleaning. But I can’t imagine one custodian.

INTERVIEWER: Well, and now your daughter is a librarian in the Carroll County [INAUDIBLE] schools.

SHIRLEY BROWN: Yes, she is and really enjoying it. Yeah, she had been at Key for seven years but now is moving. And she’s at North Carroll for a while until the new school gets built.

INTERVIEWER: Very nice. Thank you so much, Shirley. Appreciate your coming in and sharing your wonderful memories with us.

SHIRLEY BROWN: Thank you so much. I enjoyed it.