Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Few Tidbits from "I Remember..." by R. Aumon Bass

R. Aumon Bass, one of the most respected Deaf teacher by many others at VSD. Despite the fact that he was a teacher of the Deaf, the Board of Visitors named the girls' dormitory after him. Why not the high school building? Guess who ran the Board of Visitors back then? You got it right! It's hearies. So SYL to 'em!

However, R. Aumon Bass was educated at VSD and ended up staying at VSD to educate and work with Deaf students for more than 35 years. Not only that, he was actively collecting and preserving the history of Deaf Education in that state. He wrote two books. I'm going to select some interesting facts about my deaf school that R. Aumon Bass mentioned in his book, "I Remember..."

R. Aumon Bass lived to 101 years old, I believe. I'm not sure but I know he went over 100 years old. Here is what he wrote, the red comments are my own so you can follow what is going on:

"When I was a pupil at VSDB, an old soldier of the Civil War came directly to the chapel door and stood there and looked inside the chapel. I met there and offered him any help. He showed me where his bed was while he was in the hospital. His bed was near the stage on the east side of the chapel."

It is no secret that when the Civil War occured at New Market as the Northerners battled the Southerners, 30 miles south of New Market at VSDB's huge Main Hall and the Chapel was transformed into a hospital. There are stories that lots of dead bodies were thrown down the steep hill just few feet away from the current high school building.

"When I was in school, one of the boys and I found some human bones under the steep hill near Healy Hall."

R. Aumon Bass said it in a casual manner. To me, that is freaky.

"We had a good old former slave whom we called "Uncle Dennis" Shafer who worked and lived in VSDB most of his life up to his death in 1906. He saw the school under construction 1839 - 1845. He worked most of his time on the main hall. He was highly respected and loved by all at VSDB up to his death. I enjoyed talking with him."

"1839 - 1901, we had no nurse until 1901. The matron took charge of the infirmary. "Uncle Dennis" Shafer took charge of the children in the infirmary for the matron while he lived in the infirmary for many years. The whole school loved him up to his death in 1906."

I thought it was interesting that a former slave, black man was reveled by a white-dominated deaf school. At that time, no black student was *allowed* to enroll in VSDB. Yet, the school permitted a black man to take care of its white students. Plenty of contradictions, really. But again, that is so VSDB.

"We had only one Christmas holiday for many years from 1839 to a few years after I graduated -- 1908. The pupils were not allowed to go home from the opening of the school to closing (June)."

Can you imagine that? My Dad told me that we were lucky to go home "every weekend", he went home only twice or thrice per year in 1950s.

"1872, Paxton Pollard (deaf) was the first student from VSDB to be admitted in Gallaudet College."

"1907, Alvah Rasnick was the first student from VSDB who graduated from Gallaudet College."

Wow, it took 68 years for a student from VSD to graduate from Gallaudet College. Sigh.

"1958-1978, Mr. Joe R. Shinpaugh was appointed Superintendent of the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind, Staunton, Virginia. See the Virginia Guide, November 1958 - Page 1-2. Since Mr. Shinpaugh became Principal and Superintendent of the VSDB, he has turned out more graduates than all the superintendents of the past. He has also sent more students to Gallaudet College. More Virginia students have graduated from Gallaudet College. We, the students, the parents and the alumni take our hats off to Mr. Shinpaugh."

Many of you might say, "So what? Who cares about Mr. Shinpaugh?" His sign name is "S" on a person's heart. He is the child of deaf adults from ... Arkansas! Yes, his parents graduated from Arkansas School for the Deaf. Hold on this subject for a minute or two.

"1876, the aged mother of two of our pupils arrived at the school having walked, in two days, a distance of fifty miles for the purpose of visiting her children. After she had recovered from the fatigue of the journey, money was furnished for her to return to her home by rail."

Interesting, is it?

"Dr. John W. Michaels was one of our graduates, 1873. He taught at VSDB and at Arkansas School for the Deaf. He was a teacher, principal, author and minister. He married Miss Mary Agnew Scott with me in 1912."

Again, Arkansas. As you can see ... even today, Arkansas and Virginia still shared these bonds for more than 100 years. Drake, Shinpaugh, Frick, Copeland, Michaels and now with me, Chlms, RozRana, Fears, Silas ...

So you can see why I hang out with Arkansas friends at the Gallaudet Barfeteria -- I never planned it ... apparently, someone intends me to be stucked with these Arkansasites.


1 comment:

Fred Evans said...

This is probably way too late, but for your information, Mr. Aumon Bass was born in 1885 and died in 1984. He was 98 or 99. Not quite an octanegerian, but close1