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A Story on Every Street

AStoryOnEveryStreet.jpg Carver High alumni take trip through time
By Dianna Smith, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer, Friday, July 21, 2006

DELRAY BEACH — Back before streets were paved, when churches were few and blacks weren't allowed to cross east of Swinton Avenue, Jeannette Horton used to run barefoot in the sand.

White sugar sand. The pretty kind, quick to cover the feet that try to step on top. It was hard to walk on, let alone run, but that's what it was like in many of the black neighborhoods back then. No pavement, just sand. And that's why the track team at the city's only black high school had such a good reputation. Running on sand developed their legs.

Chris Matula/Post

Daisy Fulton (right), Class of '64, kisses the Rev. Marcia M. Beam Thursday at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church. Carver High was Delray's only high school for blacks.

Horton remembered this on Thursday, when she and about 60 other classmates took a tour through time. The time when Delray Beach was divided. Blacks on one side of the town, whites on the other. People like Horton who hadn't been back for more than 30 years saw houses and streets and people who sparked memories they had forgotten. All memories Horton plans very much to keep.

"I've cried in private a couple of times today," Horton, 55, said as she flipped open a 1968 yearbook and found a picture of herself as a spunky drum majorette, posing with a baton in her hand. She ran her fingers over the black-and-white photo. "There I am," she said. "Unbelievable."

Carver High School, which served as the only high school for blacks during segregation and was where the Delray Full Service Center is now, has a reunion every two years, and this year the reunion included a tour. More than 60 people piled into two trolleys to visit old black neighborhoods with nicknames like the Red Line because all the houses were painted red, Frog Alley because frogs flooded the neighborhood after a hard rain or the Sands because sand blanketed the ground like snow.

Each of the streets, many of the homes and even a wall had a story.

On Lake Ida Road is a wall built to divide the black neighborhoods from the white ones, longtime resident and tour guide Ruth Pompey said. Though it's still there, Pompey said it doesn't mean the same thing anymore. But the reminder is plain as day.

They saw the homes of elementary school teachers who used to bring mangos to school, patches of concrete where children played marbles and hopscotch, and the Paradise Club, where football fans celebrated each time Carver won a big game.

Walter Wade graduated in 1955. He recalled the days his family and their neighbors were inseparable.

"This was our section of town," said Wade, who lives in Atlanta now. "We were poor, but it was like we couldn't live without each other."

Some of the alumni learned things they didn't know.

Longtime resident Vera Farrington took the groups past the Delray Beach Memorial Gardens, a segregated cemetery.

Before it was created, Farrington said, the dead were buried wherever families could find earth deep enough to dig.

Once the cemetery was established in the 1950s, the caskets were dug up and buried again for $1 a body, but it's believed that not all the bodies were found.

The tour ended at the S.D. Spady Cultural Heritage Museum, where pictures of Carver High graduates decorate the walls.

Handsome young men in football uniforms, young women in fancy gowns.

Memories were bound in black-and-white photographs, framed or in yearbooks. Like the one with Horton's picture inside. That spunky majorette who used to run barefoot in the sand.

"I still walk barefoot now," Horton said, smiling, still flipping through the book. She stared at her picture again. Her smile slowly disappeared.

"I wish I had my childhood back," she said.

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