Sunday, June 30, 2013

What my high school was like in 1986 and 87...

Regular blog reader Alexis posted a comment that sparked an old memory for me that kind of relates to all this furore over Paula Deen's use of the "n-word".  I grew up in a somewhat rural county in southeastern Virginia.  Consequently, it wasn't all that uncommon for me to hear racist epithets, even though by the time I was in high school, it was becoming a lot less acceptable.

In any case, in Gloucester County, the place where I lived off and on from the age of 8 until I finally left for good at age 27, there is a very unique section of the county known as "Guinea".  Guinea is actually a very interesting place for many reasons, mostly historic.


The above video explains Guinea better than I ever could.  I could probably count on one hand the number of times I ever went to Guinea myself.  I used to take riding lessons not far from Guinea and one time my mom went driving around the area.  She ended up getting stuck in a deep puddle and had to get someone to help her.  Mom was pretty scared, but it turned out the woman who helped her, though very intimidating and hard to understand, was very kind.

Guinea was often described as a very insular place.  People from Guinea had their own dialect, which back in the early 80s, you could often hear if you visited the Hardee's in Hayes (part of Gloucester).  I don't actually remember the last time I heard someone use that dialect in person, but when I was a kid, it was very common.  And if you weren't from Guinea, you would have a hard time understanding what was being said.

Folks from Guinea often make their living working on the water.  The men from that area often wear a lot of camouflage, blaze orange, and white gum boots for working in the river catching crabs, clams, and such.

In any case, back in the mid to late 80s, people from Guinea had a reputation for being very racist.  Whether or not they actually were, I don't really know.  I knew a few people who lived in Guinea, but I wouldn't necessarily guess they were members of the few core families that lived there from its earliest days.

I remember back in the spring of 1987, there were daily fights at my high school, mostly between people from Guinea and black students.  The fights would get violent and I remember one teacher got hurt trying to break one up.  I remember in March of that year, there was a fight every single day.

Aside from that, my high school was relatively decent.  In fact, I remember it was lauded for having the very first Mac lab in the state.  We had a great golf team, too.  We also had a tough five point grading scale.

Of course, compared to what goes on in today's high schools, a little racial dissension is probably pretty small potatoes.


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