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Neighborhood Memories - Georgetown
Clara Sharon Taylor was born in 1925 in Warren County, North Carolina. Unable to make a profit off the land, her family moved to Georgetown in search of a better life in 1932. Clara fondly recalls being part of the thriving black community of Georgetown. She attended Phillips Elementary, Francis Junior High, and Dunbar High schools. She remembers many instances of prejudice, yet also a remarkably happy childhood in a close-knit community.
"We lived in Georgetown which seems rather unusual. At that time it was a predominantly black, family centered neighborhood. We didn't realize all the prejudices. We had a playground and wonderful teachers and good schools. We had wonderful times through high school. Life was enjoyable for us and we didn't have worries. We didn't know we were poor or missing anything, because we had fun. We knew all the neighbors. We sat out front, chatted and talked, and went to school or work. Everybody looked after everybody else's children and if someone spoke to you, you paid attention, and there was a price to pay if you didn't pay attention. I had chores in my house that I had to do. My parents worked and by the time I was done with my school activities, did my chores--I was responsible for washing clothes--and did my homework, I was ready to go to sleep. In those times your day was full. In the summers you had more time.
"We lived on P Street from 1933 to around 1937 or 1938 and I was in Junior High School by then. I recall that we lived right next to what is the swimming pool now and there was a set of apartments to the right of the pool. The pool was to the left of the schoolhouse right where N Street winds around. The Creek is after you past Francis, so I don't know if Francis was considered Georgetown. I think it was considered Foggy Bottom.
"I have one brother, James Milton Sharon. I was close with my brother growing up. My brother was kind of sickly so he stayed close to home, but we played with the same people. We played hopscotch, tag, building blocks and all those kinds of games out front while our parents sat on the stoop. It was a four unit apartment with a stoop. We went to school, did our homework, and played. We went to the library and to the playground where we had the maple wrapping every year and crafts and all kinds of things. Miss Violet McKinney was in charge of the playground at that time. She lived in the 100 block of P Street, NW but she came there everyday. We also went to church.
"First we attended BYPU, the Baptist Young People's Union at the Jerusalem Baptist Church and then we moved to the First Baptist Church and they had the Christian Endeavor Society which was another youth activity. We went to church in the morning and then went home and did what we did for that afternoon and then we'd go back in the evening on Sundays. That was our social activity for the week except on Saturdays when we'd go to the movies. We went to The Mott Theater on 26th and M streets. It used to have a series and then a movie. We'd pay a dime and go at twelve or one and my dad would come and get us at five, because we had stayed long enough. You could see a movie over and over again and nobody would kick you out.
"We lived at 2461 P Street and then 1272 25th Street. I attended Phillips Elementary school which is now the International School on M Street between 27 and 28th streets, Francis Junior High, and then Dunbar High School class of 1943. I went there because I wanted to go to college. We walked to Dunbar sometimes. We walked all over Washington. Connie Stokes lived at 2453 P Street and I lived at 1272 25th Street and we'd meet at 20th and P streets. We'd walk to 18th Street and Florida Avenue and pick up another little lady and go around the corner to U Street and then pick up Laverne Hall and walk to Dunbar. We thought nothing of it. Later on we started getting school tickets for three cents and ride the bus from 22nd and P streets and ride to 3rd and P streets, NW and then walk to school. We walked everywhere. On Sunday afternoon we called having an enjoyable time going to church and then my friend Colleen Thompson and I would take our little patent leather shoes and walk to the Lincoln Memorial, the monuments, and the Capitol and walk back. Nobody had transportation or cars.
"When I was sixteen I taught Sunday school to a group of fifth grade boys which was challenging. I still see them today and they still remember me as Miss Sharon. I taught the Endeavor Society at about fifteen years old, because the person who was in charge got sick. I had younger children who were seven and eight, and not those fifth grade boys with some of them were as large as I was. I was the First Baptist Church Sunday School teacher, I sang in the choir, and I was the Junior Superintendent of the Christian Endeavor Society. We participated in so much and we knew what we wanted to do. Back then most of us who came through school just thought of teaching elementary school. By eleventh grade I knew that unless I could get a scholarship, I was not going to college because there was no money. I guess at the end of World War II things were getting harder and people needed employees. By the middle of twelfth grade I went to work as a clerk in the Surgeon General's Office from about three to seven P.M., so they let us out of school at two thirty. At that time the office was on 1717 E street where the World Bank is now. We filed and read papers. By May the Civil Service Commission came through the schools and permitted us to take the examinations. I worked in Scientific Research and Development as a messenger and then a clerk's job when others went to college.
"After my father got a car we would go to the Speedway where the Kennedy Center is now. We spread a blanket out and watched the planes and the boats. That's what we did on Sunday afternoon. We drove around the city to see new things being built. We went to Suburban Gardens on the streetcar. It was similar to Glen Echo. It was at the end of the line and then you had to get on the bus. Life was simple. You didn't have any money so you did the simplest of things. You didn't need a lot of money. In church we helped families that needed help. We were all less fortunate so therefore we would share what food we had and clothes and shoes if possible.
"We were separate and knew we were separate. We could use the libraries but we could not try on clothes or hats in stores. Because you were black you could stand on the bridge, but not sit on the steps to listen to concerts or watch fireworks near the Capitol. In 1933 you could listen to the concerts, but not sit on the steps. It was a way of life that you don't realize until you are older.
"We had fun and were happy and didn't realize all the bad things. It took very little to be happy. We might walk down to the water or up Q Street and see the houses or walk by the stores on M or Wisconsin. Most of the fun was just being with friends. We would get a soda at People's and window shop and it was fun. We skipped rope and played hopscotch."
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