Lockland-Wayne High School alumni gathered recently to reminiscence about school days and their lives growing up in the Lincoln Heights and Lockland communities. Shown at the event are, standing in back row, from left, Bob Stroud, Carl Westmoreland, Bob Johnson, Albert Seay, Bob Lewis, Richard Hunter, Virgil Thompson, George Gray and Ted Carter. In the middle row, standing from left, are Mabel Lewis, Charlene Hunter and Pat McDowel. Seated, from left are Minnie Pugh, Shirley Johnson, Janice Robertson, Maxine Yates, Wanda Gray and Jackie Carter. Not shown are Janice Battle, Don and Lucia Hudson and Jeanette Bronson. Herald photo
By Dan Yount
The Cincinnati Herald
Do you remember?
A group of graduates of the long closed Lockland-Wayne High School do remember the good times they had going to the school and growing up in the Lincoln Heights, Lockland and Wayne communities during a recent Do You Remember? luncheon at the Ambereacres Clubhouse in Amberley Village.
And the memories flowed out….
They remembered teachers, academic accomplishments, sports, music, businesses in the communities, special events and, especially, how good it was living in Lincoln Heights, Lockland and Wayne in the good old days.
Lockland Wayne High School existed just 20 years, from 1938 to 1958. It is historically significant as having an all-Black student class; all-Black faculty and all-Black support staff, as well as the first all-Black state boys’ basketball championship team in the country. Alumni continue to hold reunions every year.
Alumni members at the luncheon said before the school opened its doors, the students attended Lockland High School. Many of the students walked to school from Lockland and neighboring Lincoln Heights and Woodlawn, with some kids walking five miles to school.
Parents wanted Black school
The Black residents wanted a high school for many reasons but most of all to ensure their children had the best opportunity to learn in an environment that fostered music and with teachers who looked like them throughout all areas of the school’s curriculum,
In the summer of 1936, residents of Lockland voted to approve a $55,000 bond issue and received an additional $45,000 from a federal grant to build and extension to the old Wayne Elementary School building, providing 12 classrooms with an auditorium, which doubled as a gymnasium.
Carl Westmoreland, now the historian at the Freedom Center, remembers the industry that was present in the area such as the Phillips- Carey Manufacturing Co. asbestos and roofing firm; DuPont chemical company that made muriatic acid; Darling Co. that processed dead animals for soap products; Stearns & Foster mattress company that made mattresses (in slavery times they bought cotton only from growers who did not have slave workers); Fox Paper Co. and others.
Jobs were plentiful
Jobs were plentiful, Westmoreland said. His father and stepmother relocated from Georgia to Cincinnati by train in 1917. “He was told at Union Terminal to take the 86th Street streetcar to the end of the route in Lockland, and he would find a job,’’ he said. “At that time, anyone in Lockland who did not have a job did not want to work. My Dad’s stepfather had a job the day he stepped off the train. There was not enough housing in Lockland for all of the emigrants. Some lived in tents with no running water.’’
Shirley Johnson, who brought the group together for the event, attended kindergarten with Westmoreland. She played Mary and Westmoreland was a shepherd in a school play at St. Simon of Cyrene Episcopal Church.
Janice Battle said she remembers thriving communities with churches, police and firefighters; various businesses such as a drugstore, restaurants, a movie house, clubs, filling stations, taxi service, a bank, ice-making plant, a newspaper and even a skating rink. “And the owners and managers all looked like us,’’ she added.
The alumni noted a number of “firsts’’ among the graduates. Tony Yates became the first Black basketball coach at the University of Cincinnati. Billy Goins became the first Black Navy Seal. Ray Tomlin was the first Black to play basketball at Xavier University. Robert Johnson was the first Black buyer at NuTone, which makes products for residential use. Richard Hunter was elected mayor of Silverton. And although he was not a native, former St. Simon Rector John Curry is the first African American to serve as presiding bishop in the Episcopal Church.
Twenty of the gradates of the school attended Ivy League schools.
They remembered favorite teachers. Willis Gravley taught Shakespeare and was a “natty dresser.’’ Gravely taught literature, and his reading of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven’’ was so intense it scared some of the students, alumni said. Bernice Dickerson was a no-nonsense math teacher, who told students they would “be somebody someday.’’
George Gray, a member of the famed 1952 basketball team that was the first all-Black team to win a state championship in the country, said he remembered the team accomplished that goal even though all the referees were White. Teammate Ray Tomlin was so good, he could “shoot your eyes out,’’ he said.
They remembered going to Anderson’s restaurant for Mr. Andy’s huge sandwich.
Had a sense of family
Mabel Fullman Lewis said she grew up surrounded by Black neighbors, which made her feel comfortable. “I also grew up with a sense of family. We ate meals together and went to church together. We loved and respected our teachers, who were always Black. We were taught manners. Love of self was instilled in us. We did not know we were poor. My parents never had harsh words between them, and they solved their arguments in private. They were always happy. As children, we had a sense of belonging to a solid base.’’
Westmoreland, however, noted there were boundaries for Blacks in those days. In an earlier interview with a local magazine, he said, “There’s a fence in Lockland. It’s still there on Shepherd Lane, a 10-foot fence. Apartheid wasn’t in South Africa, it was here. We couldn’t go across that fence and play baseball. We couldn’t do anything. Even though my Dad went to Lockland High School, even though he played on their baseball team, he could never go back there and practice and just hang out the way kids do. That fence in Lockland had been there all my father’s life, and now all my life, too.’’
However, the speakers said Lincoln Heights was a great community in which to grow up.
“Everybody had a father who got up in the morning and went to work. We listened to our elders, and very few went to jail. It was safe, and you could leave your car running and the doors unlocked at night. People got along, and most of the amenities one could find in any small town were available there. We were told we could become anybody we wanted to be,’’ they said.
One speaker said the classmates could blame only themselves for the disintegration of the Black family occurring in some instances today.
“We have forgotten our history,’ he said.
Bob and Shirley Johnson were childhood sweethearts and have been married for 62 years. Shirley is the only Black woman to become president of the Cincinnati Council PTA, Elementary and Secondary levels.
Bob Johnson is president of the Lockland-Wayne High School Alumni Association.