restricted access Chapter 5: Getting Along Swimmingly
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Chapter 5 GETTING ALONG SWIMMINGLY S Harold Edward James, born February 3, 1884, enrolled at Hampton Institute as an energetic boy of fifteen. He found his life’s vocation working on the school’s eight-hundred-acre farm at Shellbanks, where students earned money to pay their tuition and produced food that the school sold to supplement its income. Shortly after he left Hampton, Harold bought and operated a farm in Wethersfield, Connecticut. Later he became the manager of a school in Hanover, Virginia. After Helen went to Hawaii, Harold and Harriet grew closer at school, and he was deeply affected by her death. Dr. Waldron worried about him. “I feel very anxious that Harold should get a good place— and the sooner the better for him, for he will not do well, while he is idle & grieving. It would be far better for him to be busy with his hands. It is the best cure for sorrow. I thought it was a mistake for him to go north, as he was well, & doing well at Shellbanks, & could have continued there. He is becoming more manly every day. Do not let him idle long.” He had a loving, generous nature but was far more blunt than his sisters concerning his feelings about the family. Harold also displayed a lively sense of humor, as he signed his letters with variations of “Rama Hama” James, including one that he sent to Louise as “Ramastein James.” He ended another letter to Bertha, “I suppose you are tired 93 reading such a trashy old letter so good bye.” He used slang expressions: “swell,” “out of sight,” and “you bet.” He wrote his first letter home to his father on October 5, 1899. Just to make sure “Pappa” knew how to reach him, Harold put his return address at the beginning and again at the end of the letter. He and Helen had traveled together as far as New York, where he caught a boat for Old Point Comfort. “I had a lovely sail on the steamer getting supper and breakfast there also having a stateroom to myself. Lou [Helen] arrived Saturday night and I saw her Sunday. I am having a fine time, seeing Lou most every day for the school she teaches is near the institute. All the matter with this place is the food and beds. The beds and pillows are made of cornstalks. The food is on the hog, bread and mollasses for supper . Tell them all I will write to them soon and give them my love.” Harold was homesick when he first arrived. He wrote, “Tell Bert I got the picture that she sent Lou of her and Wese [Louise] and Hattie and I keep in our bureau and every time I look at it I think she is smiling at me. All the fellows are stuck on it.” He missed Bertha and Peter, to whom he confided more about the daily routine and his feelings about the school than he did to his father: This is going to be a long letter for I know you want to know all about it. . . . There are about five hundred colored boys here and about 100 Indians. The Indians room in a large brick building called the Wigwam. The colored boys room in about 8 different buildings. One large stone building is where most of them room. I room in one of the cottages and have a fine room with two other fellows. Our room has three windows while the other rooms have only two. . . . The furniture of our room consists of three iron beds, 3 chairs and bureau, 2 bookcases and a table. We have lace curtains to all of our windows which we bought ourselves. I am going to get my uniform Saturday and it is going to be a fine one. Here we have a fire department on the grounds. It consists of a huge engine drawn by about 100 boys, two hose carts and one hook and ladder. We have a fire drill about once a month. There is a large sawmill here on the grounds which takes great big logs and saws them into all kinds of 94 Getting Along Swimmingly lumber. Thousands of logs are towed to Hampton from N. and S. Carolina by tugboats for this mill. There is a trade school where the boys take their trades, shoemaking, machanical woodturning, brickmason and all kind of trades. There is a large barn here where they keep...