Column – A walk in space

Published 5:09 pm Tuesday, June 6, 2023

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1965 began with Suffolk teachers getting a $200 a year raise. 

Other school news made headlines as Nansemond schools announced the “freedom of choice” plan for the 65-66 school year. The plan was to be for grades one, eight and 12 only. Parents filled out a registration form on which they indicated either the nearest formerly all-white school or the nearest formerly all-Black school to which they wished the child to be assigned. If overcrowding resulted at a particular school due to the choices made, preference was given to pupils residing closest to the school. If any pupil is not admitted to the school of the parent’s first choice, the parent will be given an opportunity to make a second choice of the next nearest formerly all-white or the next nearest formerly all-Black school. “School personnel will neither favor nor penalize any pupil because of the choice he makes in the exercise of his decision under this freedom of choice plan. Transportation will be provided for pupils to the school of their choice on a nondiscriminatory basis.”

In July, Suffolk reported 110 students applied for transfer to another school under the freedom of choice plan. Suffolk students were required to submit a school of choice form prior to the end of school in June. Requests were fairly evenly distributed over the grades. Grades 1, 5, 6, 8 and 12 were given priority. According to the plan, full desegregation would be achieved by the 1967 school year.

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Also in the summer of 1965, Operation Head Start began in Nansemond County. The purpose of the program was to provide opportunity for children who would attend first grade in the fall to experience readiness and orientation activities relating to school life. The program was particularly designed for “culturally-deprived” children.

The case against poll tax was hotly debated throughout the late ’60s. In March 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that poll tax was unconstitutional. The literacy test required in locations was also ruled discriminatory. 

Overseas, the war in Vietnam blazed on. Every day, reports of air strikes, downed aircraft and MIA/KIA troops were highlighted on the front page. Air strikes were launched from air bases as well as from aircraft carriers. In one battle in March, 19 Marine helicopters took part; all 19 were hit with ground fire. Photos often accompanied the reports and showed the thick swampy jungles where troops were fighting. In July 1965, more than 8,000 U.S. Marines entered Vietnam in one week, bringing the number of troops in the country at that time to nearly 60,000. 

On June 4, 1965, Edward White became the first man to do a space walk. This was a key step in America’s mission to put a man on the moon. 

Locally, business thrived and the city grew. Suffolk instated a 2% sales tax. Reports were due by the 20th of each month from merchants. Merchants who made their reports on time were entitled to 3% of the collected tax for acting as collector. Merchants who file reports late, however, were subject to a 5% penalty in addition to one-half of 1% interest per month on the unreported amount. Several merchants reported customers refusing to buy goods when met with the tax. Others said the customers came prepared with the extra pennies needed. 

Ike Matina, one of the Munchkins in “The Wizard of Oz” died, Sept. 15, 1965. Matina and his brother lived their adult lives in Suffolk and are buried at Bethlehem Christian Church Cemetery.

One local farmer discovered a horticultural oddity. “Esmond W. Sadler Jr. thought it a bit unusual, and you may agree that indeed it is. After all, it’s not every day you come across a pretty good size beech tree that has two small holly trees growing from its trunk.” Sadler was clearing off the back part of a lot he owned just past Reid’s Ferry off Route 10 when he came across the oddity. Sadler’s wife, Mona, described it very well in a note to the News-Herald: “We have a rather unusual tree growing on our lot. My husband thought you might like to know about it. In fact, I guess you would say it’s two trees in one. It’s a good size beech tree with two small holly trees growing off the same trunk. It’s hard to believe, but we would be glad for you to see it.” A News-Herald reporter was glad to see it and he, too, was surprised to see holly branches protruding from the trunk of a beech tree. Sadler said he figured the beech tree to be about 10 years old. He had no idea how the holly joined up with the beech.