Life After the Bell
The Lucy F. Simms School was about more than just academic achievement. There were many thriving after-school programs for both students and the community as a whole.
Theater in Education
The Lucy F. Simms School placed a great emphasis on the arts, not only in their after school programs, but within the classroom as well. In order to teach her students about international cultures, teacher Mary Awkard Fairfax set up doll shows where her young students would dress their dolls in costumes from around the world.
According to Doris Harper Allen, the Ebony Players were organized, produced, and directed by Theodore (Buddy) Toliver in 1940. These girls were known for performing musical skits, most notably their production of the Ziegfield Follies. Their costumes were made through the Home Economics department, which included white aprons, red bandanas, and black t-shirts.
Operettas were a rich tradition for many years at the school. The students put on productions varying from the Pied Piper of Hamelin to Peter Rabbit. Parents, as well as members of the Newtown community, would come together to make elaborate costumes for the actors. Mary Awkard Fairfax said the community cared so deeply about these productions that they would “pack the auditorium and people would even sit in the hall.”
On the Court
Basketball was always popular at the Lucy F. Simms School. Girls and boys teams competed all over Virginia and won many championships. To the left is a picture of the 1952 girls’ team featuring from left to right (back) Delores Jones, Sarah Blakey, Evelyn Jones, Margaret Buck, (front) Hattie Mitchell, Doris Washington, Sally Frye, and Rosa Brown.
On the Field
The football team at Simms, better known as the Bulldogs, won numerous championship games. Like the basketball team, they were a point of school pride. Pictured is the school team of 1958, the year after it was started. Football “has a way of opening a lot of doors,” according to Howard Curry, seated on the far right of the front row.
In the Outfield
Students who were interested in sports often played different things in each season to stay in shape. In the spring, the boys would play in the community baseball league. The team gathered in the picture here, along with their coach, Junius Whitelow, was playing in the 1960s.
A Community of Music
At the Lucy F. Simms School, music and arts brought the students and community together. Church and school choirs, like the one pictured below, were important aspects of life in the Newtown neighborhood. Groups such as the Bundy’s Boys Band, seen above, were started and led by Lucy F. Simms students. These beloved groups and their music represented an important point of contact between formal education and community life in the Newtown neighborhood.
May Day Celebration
May Day at the Lucy F. Simms School was an important day of celebration and ceremony for the whole community. Celebrated on May 1st to welcome the arrival of spring, May Day featured a variety of activities such as wrapping the May Pole, a community potluck, and the performance of song, dance, and poetry. Teachers, students, and parents all put effort into making the day great. The highest honor at the festival was to be crowned as the May Day Queen or King. They presided over the celebration from the front steps of the school with their court. The students dressed in homemade costumes, often using creative materials such as crêpe paper. Ruth M. Toliver explains, “the children kind of felt, well, we can’t tear this -- this is special.”
Following is a gallery of related images.