Bernard Jones Sr.
Bernard went to Robert Moton School. They would start out their days with daily devotions and signing. He shares about his school experience as a young boy.
BERNIE JONES, SR.: My name’s Bernie Jones, um–
INTERVIEWER 1: Senior.
BERNIE JONES, SR.: Bernie Jones, Senior.
INTERVIEWER 2: What was a typical day like for you at Robert Milton High School?
BERNIE JONES, SR.: A typical day at our high school, we started off in the morning with a morning devotion, a prayer, and pledge of allegiance to the flag, and then we’d do a song. And usually there was competition between homerooms as to who could sound the best when singing.
INTERVIEWER 2: All right. Can you tell us about your favorite teacher and what made him or her so special to you?
BERNIE JONES, SR.: My favorite teacher would have been Louis Kane. Louis Kane was our math teacher, music teacher, and he also assisted with the athletics, phys-ed department. And the reason why he was my favorite teacher was because I liked math and I liked to sing. And we always, every morning, we would sing very well, very loud, and we were always competitive.
INTERVIEWER 2: Who was your least favorite teacher and why?
BERNIE JONES, SR.: I can’t say that there was a least favorite. I liked all my teachers because they taught us how to be young individuals. And they were concerned about us. They wanted us to learn how to learn and how to go forward into world and be successful. I think Miss Harris was probably the strictest teacher. But later on in life, I would say she was the teacher that I would think did the most for me.
INTERVIEWER 2: What were the major differences between black and white schools during segregation?
BERNIE JONES, SR.: From my perspective, the major differences were the books we received. Our books were always secondhand. Half the pages were missing. There was always graffiti written in them. Uh, we didn’t have– every– our school wasn’t air conditioned, first of all. We had to open the windows to get air conditioning when it was hot. Our gym was used as dual purpose as a gym, auditorium, classroom, whatever.
So I guess not be able to go to white schools to visualize or see what they were like, I couldn’t make a direct comparison, because the only time we went to white schools were when we played them in basketball and soccer. And the only time we played them in basketball probably was my last year or two in high school. Therefore, I never really got into a white school.
INTERVIEWER 2: During desegregation in Carroll County, how would you describe the transition into integrated schools and what experiences or events stand out in your mind?
BERNIE JONES, SR.: Well, I wasn’t in Carroll County during the transgression from segregated schools to integrated schools. I left Carroll County in 1960. Now, the first schools to integrate probably were the elementary schools back in ’55, ’56. But I wasn’t part of that. Therefore when I left Carroll County in 1960, all the schools, high schools, were still segregated except for Francis Scott Key. I think that that was the newest school built in the county. And that was the first high school to start segregation. So I was not a part of that.
INTERVIEWER 2: All right. Well, that’s it. Thank you.
BERNIE JONES, SR.: My pleasure.
INTERVIEWER 3: Can you give us your name?
BERNIE JONES, SR.: Yes. My name is Bernard Jones. They call me Bernie Jones. I’ve been back in the county since 1969.
INTERVIEWER 1: Is there anything you would want to add that we didn’t ask you?
BERNIE JONES, SR.: Well, I think Carroll County has changed a lot through the transgression of the open-minded people that we had in Carroll County, in particular Ari Zep, Bob Scott. Those two people stand out in my mind because they were very instrumental in helping to change the way Carroll County were.
And I think that was important, particular Bob Scott, because he was instrumental in helping me to become the first African-American to serve on a bank board in the county. And without his assistance and persistence, that would not have happened. And I think that in itself has made a big difference in Carroll County.
And he also– when I understand I wasn’t a part of it. But when they went to Washington for the March, Ari Zep, Bob Scott, and their wives, they participated in that. So individuals like that– John Lewis, George Collins, they were all instrumental in making changes in Carroll County. And I take my hat off to them.
INTERVIEWER 4: Uh, what do you remember about your neighbors growing up in your neighborhood in Carroll County?
BERNIE JONES, SR.: My neighbors in Carroll County– well, when I grew up in Carroll County, we lived on a dirt road. And we played in the road. Because you didn’t play in people’s yards. Yards were sacred.
So the neighbors– they were all good neighbors. You knew all your neighbors. We didn’t have that many, but they all looked out for you if something went on. If one kid was crying, they’d come over and find out what was wrong. And they looked out for each other.
INTERVIEWER 4: What did you do for entertainment as a child and also as a young adult?
BERNIE JONES, SR.: Entertainment? We played ball in the road. And most the time we spent looking for the ball in the weeds, because it wasn’t that much of an open area. We played with our neighbors. We would play ball. We would play with the girl. We’d play house, mother and father, typical kids’ games.
Uh, as we got older, we got bicycles and we would ride our bicycles. But we didn’t have much of a lot of toys. So we learned to be innovative. Most of the time, you spent with your chores.
I mean, you had to get wood in for the fire. You know, you had to cut grass, pull weeds out of the garden. So you learned how to be helpful and useful to the family. It wasn’t all play time.
INTERVIEWER 4: Were you– when you are attending school, what were some of the favorite activities that the children liked to do at recess time or after or before school?
BERNIE JONES, SR.: Well, before school there wasn’t much to do because we were– when you got to school you probably had 5 or 10 minutes before school took in. So there weren’t a bunch of before or after school activities. When school was over, you got right on the bus and came home. During the day, we played soccer. We had little softball teams. In the wintertime, you could go in the gym and play basketball.
Our class, we liked to sing. So we would do a lot of singing. Our– we prided ourselves on being very vocal and very good. When, I guess, in the middle ’50s they started a glee club and then they started a county chorus, so we were all pumped up to be a part of the county chorus.
So they took so many students from each high school and they called in [INAUDIBLE] and you sang an opera. So that was a highlight of our time, just being able to participate and go to Western Maryland College and sing in a big auditorium. To us, that was huge.
INTERVIEWER 4: What do you see as the most difference between African-American youth today as opposed to when you grew up?
BERNIE JONES, SR.: I think the biggest difference in today’s time is the opportunities that are available to African-Americans for any minority child. The opportunities are just unreal. There are just so many. I would think that it’s a challenge as to being able to select what you want to do. There’s nothing you can’t do.
When we were coming up, the only jobs we could get in the summer, you could work for the nursery pulling weeds, or you could get a job cutting grass. But you never got to work in a grocery store bagging groceries, or work in G C Murphy’s, anything like that. It was always labor-type work, where the kids today, they can do almost anything. They get the jobs in banks working as tellers.
They can work in the hospitals as, I think, orderlies or pinkies or whatever they call them. There– it’s just insurmountable the opportunities that they have. They can go to summer school. We never had summer school. I mean, if you were failing you just failed. Where today, if you fail, you have an opportunity to make it up.
If you’re bright enough you can go to summer school and take extra credit. So there’s not a reason for any minority student, any student, not being able to progress. I think one of the problems, in my estimation, is just so many opportunities that children don’t take advantage of it. And they just squander their time rather than being focused.
INTERVIEWER 4: And how have things changed in Carroll County since you were young?
BERNIE JONES, SR.: Well, I just explained to you how a lot of things have changed. The opportunities in Carroll County are so much more. You can live anywhere. If you have the money, you can live anywhere you want, where before, you were discriminated. You weren’t even offered the opportunity to live in different places.
You can work wherever you want. So those in itself– you can go to any high school you want if you live in that district. You can go to McDaniel College. You can go to community college. There are just so many opportunities. And let’s face it, Carroll County is probably one of the safest counties in the state. Our crime wave is real low. The opportunities are just here. There’s a big difference.
INTERVIEWER 4: Tell us about the time when there was a swimming pool started in Carroll County by a gentleman from Jamaica for African-Americans.
BERNIE JONES, SR.: Well, this was a little before my time. I don’t know when it started. There was– I think it was called a country club. It was called Scarlett’s. It was off of Poole Road. I think this was back in the early ’50s. I was told that he had horseback riding, swimming pool.
I was probably three, four years old. I don’t remember all that. My mother remembers going there. But it was supposedly an upscale country club for African-Americans. They had people coming from New Jersey, DC, Virginia. It has been pretty nice.
INTERVIEWER 4: And what happened?
BERNIE JONES, SR.: Uh, I– I really don’t know what happened. I was just too young to– that would be something that Dixon, Richard Dixon, John Lewis, someone of that era or someone older would know. I’m not familiar with that.
INTERVIEWER 4: And the all-white swimming pool that was–
BERNIE JONES, SR.: Well, there were several of those. There weren’t any African-American–
INTERVIEWER 4: Do you remember anything about them?
BERNIE JONES, SR.: Well, when — uh, I guess before– during my college days, and we were I think– I’m not even sure who was the president. But I remember John Lewis, Robert and Phyllis Scott, one day we went to integrate [INAUDIBLE] swimming pool there on Bond Street.
We were allowed to go in, but once we went in– and there was no trouble. I think things were beginning to change before then. But this was one of the things that we were trying to do. So when we went to go into the pool, he allowed us in the pool. There was no one else in the pool. And that was it. A month after that, he filled the pool in. So there was no longer a pool afterwards.
INTERVIEWER 4: Why do you think he filled the pool in?
BERNIE JONES, SR.: Well, it’s quite obvious why he filled it in. He didn’t want to integrate the pool. So rather than have it integrated, and rather than have a big stink when we went there to integrate it, he let us in with no problems. And he just kept the whites out. Then when we left a month later, he decided to close the pool. He closed it, filled it in with dirt, and now they’re building senior homes there.
INTERVIEWER 4: Tell us a little bit more about first you integrate– did you try to integrate anything else with other African-Americans back in the ’50s in Carroll County?
BERNIE JONES, SR.: No, I was kind of young back then. I’m not as old as I look.
INTERVIEWER 4: [LAUGHS]
BERNIE JONES, SR.: The only integration I participated in probably was in the later ’60s. In the early ’60s, I wasn’t here. I was living in Baltimore going to Morgan University or Morgan College back then. And then after that, I stayed in Baltimore until ’68, ’69. So uh, I wasn’t really a big part of integrating Carroll County– only a few things.
INTERVIEWER 4: And tell us about your experience of being the first African-American on the board at the bank in Carroll County.
BERNIE JONES, SR.: Well, that was basically brought about by Bob Scott, Robert Scott, who was a great innovator. He was great civil rights person. And he was a big stockholder in Union National Bank. And he had approached me about being on the board. I never knew anything about a bank board.
So he talked to me and worked with me for five or six months. And he submitted my name to the board. And I guess he had enough influence that I was voted on as a member of the board of Union National Bank directors. And this was, I guess, the spring of 1991. And I remained on the board for nine years.
At the end of my nine years, the bank was sold to Mercantile Bank. And through the transition, I was on the board until we went through the final transition to Mercantile Bank. But the whole nine years, it was a different experience. A lot of folks were kind of surprised, didn’t know how to take it.
But I think I represented our community very well. I was never outspoken or raised any fuss. I did my share. I participated. And– and today, last– couple days ago, I had a conversation with Joe Beaver, who was the president.
And then he again thanked me for participating on the bank board and he said it was a pleasure serving with me. So I think it went over well. Carroll County was beginning to change then. And it’s changing every day, still.
INTERVIEWER 5: That was in 1991, that you–
BERNIE JONES, SR.: Yes.
INTERVIEWER 5: Wow. That seems so recently.
INTERVIEWER 4: It is.
INTERVIEWER 5: –you would be the first African-American in the ’90s.
BERNIE JONES, SR.: Well, you got to realize, Carroll County, when I moved back to Carroll County in ’68 or ’69, the population of the county was probably 64,000, 70,000 people. Now we’re, what, 170,000 people. So we’re probably more than doubled. And the people that are moving to the county now are middle or upper middle income.
So to them, segregation, integration doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t bother them. It’s all about being able to survive and get on with your life. So I think the difference is the type of people that are moving to Carroll County. And that’s the basic thing. Education and accessibility makes a big difference.
INTERVIEWER 4: Thank you.