Discipline helped make us successful adults

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Last Saturday, I attended the funeral of a very close friend and classmate, John H. Bellamy Jr., with whom I graduated in 1962 from the former Booker T. Washington High School. I sat there reading about his many successful accomplishments listed in the &uot;Celebration of Life&uot; program. Then I began to think about our school days and the discipline and love that we encountered, and knew that these ingredients probably made him what he had become.

We got spanked in school the same as when we got home if our parents heard about any mischievous behavior. In those days that strong arm of discipline allowed people to walk to the store with their front doors wide open, they could leave their keys in their cars and never worry about them being stolen, or they could sit in their living rooms and never worry about a stray bullet hitting them by accident.

But if anyone tries to give the kind of discipline we got in those times, the streets would be empty and teens would be running the country, because all of the parents and teachers would be in jail.


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I think one of the worst things that happened when we attended high school was when some of us would slip around the corner to a small convenience store on Adams Street during the lunch period to buy snacks instead of lunch in the cafeteria. If the principal, the late Mr. Fenton Peele, caught any of us, he would suspend us from school for at least two days. Other trivial wrongs that were done included talking back to the teacher or just getting bad grades on tests and homework. When we did these things, one of the punishments would be to stay back after school and write on the blackboard several times that you wouldn’t do that wrong again. However, through it all, more good, prosperous adults than bad ones were being molded.

Some of the most fun activities we had were talent shows. In our junior year, Bellamy was the lead singer of a group called &uot;Johnnie and The Juniors.&uot; Our class president, Roland Wilson, was also included. They became so popular that they took their talent to the few other local schools and the Union Hall on East Washington Street.

Another group that Bellamy belonged to was &uot;The Ascots.&uot; The seven young men gave themselves this name because they wore scarves around their necks most of the time.

Wilson has a way of making sure we never forget from whence we came and keeping our past alive. He also stays in contact with members of our class or any student he may have befriended.

On a weekend in September 2002 when we celebrated our 40th-year class reunion, Wilson took the time to round up every student who attended the reunion who could travel to Petersburg and visit Bellamy before continuing a later gathering in the Union Hall.

Isaac Baker married one of our classmates, and thanks to his vehicle and that of another classmate, Rosalind Ruffin, many students spent a happy time with Bellamy – a trip that I’m sure he had never forgotten.

When we hold class meetings, we don’t only have them at former students’ homes in the city, but Wilson also takes his van and transports us to their places in other cities since we are small in number here in Suffolk. That is just the kind of person he is. Last Tuesday, he called to tell me that Bellamy had died on April 5. Wilson was in the process of contacting as many classmates as he could and I agreed to help him.

Meanwhile, our homeroom teacher, Mrs. Margaret Higgs, still acts as our overprotective mother. She has stood by us and always makes an effort to attend every activity and even sad events that we are involved in. A few other teachers whose classrooms we passed through also do the same. I call it a blessing that a homeroom teacher is willing to stick by a class for over 40 years as she does, rain or shine.

At noon last Saturday, Mrs. Higgs sat with us during Bellamy’s funeral in St Mark’s Episcopal Church on Tynes Street, where his mother, Mrs. Madeline Wilson, is a member. While sitting there, I thought about the many high school seniors who are graduating this year and will never have experienced the family-like closeness that we had for so many years. I also thought about how blessed we were.

I know that many of us resented the strong hand of discipline at the time that we were going through, but our parents and teachers taught and disciplined the only way they knew how with the intention of only helping more than hurting us. This discipline is also the reason for many of the accomplishments and successful lives of the older generation. To this I can only say, &uot;Thank God at that time for the rod.&uot;

Evelyn Wall is a staff writer and a regular News-Herald columnist. She can be contacted at 934-9615 or via e-mail: evelyn.wall@suffolknewsherald.com