Helping Hands

WEATHERFORD, TX — On a hill overlooking Weatherford is set a piece of history gathering dust and graffiti. Long gone are the days when children would sit at desks and write on tablets. Seemingly, the only writing now comes out of cans of spray paint. Raymond George aims to change all that. The all-black school he attended as a child is his passionate restoration project.

Raymond is the chairman of Save the Mount Pleasant Colored School, Inc. The members of this committee oversee the restoration of this valued piece of history. “We work closely with community leaders to save the historical presence of the school,” Raymond explained. “Our goal is to turn this school into a museum and a meeting house.”

The present structure is currently being transformed into a museum because of some dedicated people, generous donations and good ole elbow grease. The two-room, brick building was constructed in 1927. At that time, it was called the Mount Pleasant Colored School. Students in grades one through nine learned, laughed and played there for 36 years.

During the near 50 years the school was in operation, the country saw many changes. Jim Crow laws segregated black and white people. “That is just the way it was,” Raymond remembered. “We did not know any different. People sometimes ask me if I think those were bad times. We felt blessed to be getting an education, and for that reason we all thought it was good times.” When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed in July, outlawing discrimination in public accommodations, the school soon closed. Colored children were integrated into Weatherford schools.

“In 1953, after I graduated from the ninth grade,” Raymond explained, “my dad drove me and several other children into Fort Worth every day to I.M. Terrell High School. It was almost an hour each way. I remember him doing that for us so we could continue our education.”

Raymond retired from Southwestern Bell in 1997 after 40 years of service. “I had to find a project to keep me busy,” he said. Raymond has been working to preserve the school for 12 years. In November of last year, the one-and-a- half acres of land on which the school was set was purchased.

Raymond has become a history hunter as well. While researching the school’s history, he discovered information was scarce at the library, records in the court house seemed to be missing and not much memorabilia could be found. But, artifacts are popping up all the

time. For instance, the librarian at the Weatherford Public Library found an old, tattered book with information about colored schools in Parker County in the late 1800s. Some history came from Raymond’s own family, too. He found numerous photos of family members, who had attended Mount Pleasant Colored School.

Recently, the restoration has taken on new life, because Raymond has been speaking out about saving history by saving the building. He wants a physical reminder of the era and is trying to get it registered as a historical landmark. He is planning a wall of remembrance. He wants to commemorate anyone who has been involved in or simply cares about the Mount Pleasant Colored School. He collected tile from the area around the building and with the help of a local business, Etched, is etching names and dates on them to recognize former students, teachers, administrators, relatives and donors. “If we do not keep this in the public eye, it will fade away,” he stated with emotion.

His passion has spread, much like his words. He discovered there are so many willing to give a helping hand, time or money. One such individual is Grady Wallace, owner of Roof King. Grady is donating the roof to the Mount Pleasant Colored School. He recounted his decision by saying, “I told my wife that we were so fortunate and blessed by God in our business. I felt like we needed to give some away. A couple of days later, my secretary put an article on my desk about the school. After I read it, I thought, I can donate a roof.”

Talking like old friends, the two men shared stories about growing up and what they remembered of the segregation era. “I have been able to see [history] from both sides while working with Mr. George on this project,” Grady admitted. Grady may be significantly younger than Raymond, but he remembers the dividing lines in town.

Raymond shared a story about seeing history from both sides. “Sometimes when we would walk to school, the white kids would throw rocks at us. We would keep all the rocks, and when we walked home in the afternoon, we would throw them back at them. After that, we would all play baseball together.”

The togetherness theme has been showing up lately in Raymond’s mail box and at the school itself. “Since the school has been in the public eye, donations have been pouring in,” he said. Many have given their money and time to help clean up the building and surrounding

 

land. Businesses are generously offering their products and services to help restore the building to its original state. Raymond pointed out the floor, donated by Tyree Flooring. He also hopes to find windows and doors. “I don’t even think most people know where the school is,” he said, “but I have come to realize that we live in a community that really cares. It’s not about black and white anymore.”

For 48 years, the doors have been shut, the windows broken and the floor collapsing from disrepair. As Raymond walked along the property, he reminisced about the times he spent there as a boy. He pointed to where the water pump and the flag pole were located. “The girls played in the front on a swing set,” he recalled. “There was a Maypole over there. The boys played in the back of the school. The outhouses were located in the back, too. Kids would walk up the hill from Prince Street. We are also trying to get the street reopened.”

The heritage Raymond is working hard to preserve is a part of the entire history of the community of Weatherford. He wants the community to remember that the mission of the restoration of the Mount Pleasant Colored School is “to recognize a historic time when segregation was a way of life in the community and the South. This effort honors those who believe in the value of education and opportunity, as well as those in our community who made the transition peacefully and honorably.”

Written by Erin McEndree.