From schoolbooks to good looks

Published 1:41 pm Monday, August 21, 2023

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The last days of August found the school aged children in Washington and Beaufort County getting ready for going back to school.

The late summer evenings were spent with us kids talking about what teachers we would get and those we hoped we didn’t. We wondered how many schoolbooks we would receive that year and how much homework we’d have.

Our parents and guardians now focused on buying school clothes and supplies. And many breathed a sigh of relief their children would be going back to school after a long hot summer of trying to keep up with their kids, the kid’s household chores, and their kids who had jobs working the tobacco fields, babysitting and running errands for elderly neighbors.

But there was another big event a lot of parents and adults looked forward to.  It was the ‘New York Ball’ that was held here in Washington during the Labor Day weekend from the early 1950’s thru early 1970’s. The New York Ball was a fabulous event that was sometimes held at the Armory on Main Street   It was hosted with after parties at the American Legion Club, the Elite Club and Griffin’s Beach. People from the five boroughs of New York City frequented the event, (hence forth the name ‘The New York Ball.) But people from other cities like DC, Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and others attended as well.   Lena and I would watch over the weekend for the license plates on the cars from the many states to see who had come to Washington.  The best part of watching though was my sisters and I watching our mom and her friends prepare for the Ball.   The beauty salons were booked solid for those who wanted new hairdos the week before the Ball.  The Glamour Shop on Main Street was the place to go for a beautiful gown and McClellan’s and Charles Department Stores were the places to buy long white gloves, costume jewelry and nylon stockings.  The women and men looked like celebrities going to the Ball.  The festivities around the Ball made for a reunion of sorts for locals and those coming from far away to attend the Ball.   It really was an elegant affair.

 The glorious ‘Washington Ball’ was held in New York City that the locals attended. I think it was held at the renowned Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. If my memory is not correct about the location, I hope some of the readers of my column will correct me. I would love to hear your stories and see your pictures of those attending the New York Ball or the Washington Ball if you have any.

Leesa Jones is a Washington native and the co-curator of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum.