After he graduated from the old Sollers Point Junior-Senior High School in 1953, Ed "Eddie" Bartee went to work forBethlehem Steel Corp.in Sparrows Point, where he became a representative for the steelworkers' union and was responsible for a $2 million budget.
"That was a lot of money for a poor boy with a high school education," Bartee recalled Saturday. "I owe it all to my teachers. ... There's no question that the training I got carried me a long way. I'm thankful. I'm blessed."
Bartee was one of more than 200 who gathered Saturday in the Turners Station community of Dundalk to pay tribute to retired African-American educators who taught in four Baltimore County schools before they were desegregated in the 1960s.
In all, 19 retired teachers, librarians and administrators, including Joe A. Hairston, the system's first black superintendent, were honored during a four-hour luncheon ceremony organized by the Turner Station History Center, a nonprofit museum that opened in December inside the Sollers Point Multi-Purpose Center at 323 Sollers Point Road.
Calvin H. Statham, a retired teacher and musician, said he thought it might be time to retire on a recent Grandparents' Day at his school. "I realized I had taught 21 of the grandparents," he said.
But he told the group he is still teaching intermittently after more than four decades with Baltimore County. "I still enjoy it," he said. "If I were young, I'd start all over again."
The "Honoring Our Educators" event was a fundraiser for the history center, which opened an exhibit entitled "Celebrating our Schools." Displays featured photos, trophies, report cards and other artifacts from the four schools attended by black students from the 1890s to the mid-1960s in and around Turners Station, the old Turner and Fleming elementary schools and the Bragg and Sollers Point junior and senior high schools.
Guests viewed the exhibit, caught up with friends and reminisced about old times, as if they were at a reunion — and many remembered the names of all their teachers and classmates. During the formal program, speaker after speaker remarked about the instrumental roles played by music and art and math teachers and others, especially when schools were segregated.
They recalled teachers who used their own money to buy books and supplies for students when the schools didn't have sufficient funds, and teachers who taught ballet and other subjects on their own time, or found jobs for high school students over the summer.
Before taking trips outside the neighborhood, Lomax said, she thought most people in the world were black — in her segregated world, they were.
"The only whites we saw were bill collectors and insurance men and the milk man and the bread man," she said. "Everyone else was black."
Lomax also recalled that one of her teachers lived on the same block that she did.
"There was a wonderful sense of community because the teachers lived in our neighborhood," she said.
Several of the speakers, including honoree Joseph Woodfolk, expressed unhappiness about the county's plans to raze Sollers Point, now a "technical school" on the same block as the multi-purpose center, to make way for a parking lot.
"Sollers Point remembers everything," Woodfolk said. "As long was we can see Sollers Point, Sollers Point lives on."
The building "should not be demolished," said former student Mary Coleman. "It should forever stand as a monument to the educators and the students who have become well known as achievers."
Toward the end of the program all of the participants stood and sang the alma mater of Sollers Point Junior Senior High School, whose final verse is:
And every day that I've been here
I've learned just what to do.