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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Walter Durham, January 19 and 26, 2001. Interview K-0540. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Fond memories of Lincoln High School

Durham fondly recalls what he regards as strongly positive attributes of all-black Lincoln High School: well-run, strong sense of discipline, well-maintained and clean, with a very caring faculty. Also, he includes an intriguing comment about one disciplinary practice: the obligation of shoveling coal in the school's basement furnace room, known to the students as "the coal mine."

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Walter Durham, January 19 and 26, 2001. Interview K-0540. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

BOB GILGOR:
Can you tell me about Lincoln? What was Lincoln High School like?
WALTER DURHAM:
Well it was pretty much a very disciplined school. Very strictly run. It was just about none tolerance school. Had a principal at the time that I didn't like. But I didn't understand what he was trying to do, either. But I learned to like him after we left Lincoln. Then I understood what he was trying to do. It was a school that you could go in, no paper on the school campus, hallway shined like new money all the time. You could drink out of the commode in the bathrooms, it was kept just that clean. If you got in trouble there, the biggest person probably who would spank you when you were in high school was the gym coach. They had their ways at Lincoln High School, we called it the coal mine. If you would get caught doing something you had no business doing you could get sent to the coal mine. The coal mine was under the school. The janitor would shovel coals into the furnace to keep it warm, whatever. And if you got in trouble, you were sent to help him, or you'd be sent to keep the school clean. Whatever you had done, people knew that you were under punishment.
BOB GILGOR:
They could see you?
WALTER DURHAM:
They couldn't see you in the coal mine. But your classmates knew where you were.
BOB GILGOR:
Could they tell by the coal dust getting on you that you had been down there?
WALTER DURHAM:
[Laughter.] No, it wasn't that bad in getting coal dust on you. But you'd probably stay down there for a whole class period.
BOB GILGOR:
So you'd shovel coal for an hour?
WALTER DURHAM:
Yes.
BOB GILGOR:
Besides being a very disciplined school, what are your other memories of Lincoln and the teachers there?
WALTER DURHAM:
Most of them took time out to teach. You know, didn't take a whole class and just move ahead and if one or two was left back there they were left on their own to get it. It seemed like they took the time and pulled everybody ahead at one time. And I liked that. It was more to me back then when you got bad grades, the teacher would work with you one on one with it.
BOB GILGOR:
So they really took time and cared for you?
WALTER DURHAM:
Yes.
BOB GILGOR:
Did you feel like they were your advocate, or your friend helping you?
WALTER DURHAM:
Well I took it as being your parents, number one, and your teacher, number two.
BOB GILGOR:
So they were more like an absentee parent to you?
WALTER DURHAM:
Yes. And somebody that really cared for you.