PHYLLIS LEFFLER: [00:00:00] Okay, today is April 25th, 2022. I am Phyllis Leffler, interviewing Mr. Frankie Allen. We are in Zion Crossroads this morning. I’m with Annie Valentine, George Gilliam, and Lorenzo Dickerson. So, thank you so much for being willing to do this interview today.
FRANKIE ALLEN: [00:00:21] Well, thank you for having me. Looking forward to it.
PL: [00:00:25] Good. We’re going to start out with the simplest of questions, and that is, can you tell us your date of birth?
FA: [00:00:31] April 7th, 1949.
PL: [00:00:34] So, just after your birthday, not so far, right?
FA: [00:00:37] Not so far.
[Extraneous material redacted.]
PL: [00:00:48] And where do you live now?
FA: [00:00:50] I live in Princess Anne, Maryland.
PL: [00:00:59] Now, [00:01:00] growing up, I’d like you to describe your neighborhood, what it felt like to you, if you can remember, as a child or different aspects of your neighborhood. For example, was there a local church that you attended? What kinds of social outlets did you have in your neighborhood or activities, and then specifically what kind of sports activities that I know you’ve already talked about?
FA: [00:01:26] Oh, yeah, I enjoyed the neighborhood that we lived in. It was kind of called the Venable District in that area. Now, we did live a few other places, but my fondest remembrances were about 1957, ’58, and I was probably about 8 or 9, 10 years old. But the Venable area’s where we grew up, on 13th Street. And of course, Venable had what they called -- we referred to it as the dump because they said it was a landfill at one time, but there was a school there, and there were all these fields. So, we’d go down at the dump and play, and we’d play [00:02:00] like in the neighborhood, all sorts of sports. And then there was really a lot of, you know, you went from one place to the next, 11th Street, 12th Street, 13th Street, Page Street, 10th Street, so all the kids got together. I guess probably about my early teen years, the big place to really go play sports or to do things was one of two places. In the summer or spring, we’d go to Washington Park and play there. I spent many, many hours there. I was very fortunate; later on in life, I got a job, the first real job that I had, I was like a counselor in the summer at Washington Park, so I got to play basketball and go through a lot of different things. Then there was the Carver Recreation Center. We went down there, and they had like a little skating rink, and they had, I want to say, I’m trying to think of the year, but it may have been about 1957, ’58 that they added the gym. [00:03:00] The Carver Rec Center was an attachment to Jefferson, and as historians, y’all may know the exact dates, but I remember one of the fondest memories I had was I was in the fourth grade, and we were playing -- they were going to dedicate or christen this new gym. It was in the spring of the year, and so the teams that were going to play was the sixth grade versus the seventh grade, and so the seventh grade had all these really good players, and sixth grade, maybe not so much. But the seventh-grade coach was the only gym teacher, Mr. Hawkins. The only other male teacher at the time was a guy by the name of Mr. Gaines, John Gaines, and he was good friends with my sister. And so, anyway, my sister, always my biggest fan, Jeannette, says, “Frankie boy, my little brother,” say, “He’s really good.” And he said, “Well, he’s just in the fourth grade.” She said, “Well, see if you can get him on the team.” So, I ended up, as a fourth grader, playing with the sixth grade. When we ended up losing [00:04:00] to the seventh grade, but we only scored 12 points. We got beat 28 to 12, but I had 9 of the 12 points, so that kind of gave me (laughs) just cushion, going forward with whatever. So, we enjoyed the things that the Carver Recreation Center provided for us. We’d go down to Tonsler Park some, but there were a lot of activities sports-wise. And just, like I said, we’d just go outside, choose teams, and play.
PL: [00:04:25] So, you had a sense of freedom in the neighborhood, moving around.
FA: [00:04:28] Oh, sure. I mean, you’d get up on like a Saturday morning, and if you had something to do, chores or whatever, wasn’t a whole lot of stuff, but you’d get up, do those, and you could be gone just about all day, maybe come back home for lunch. And in fact, then you’d go back out and play. The only thing I can remember was that your mother wanted you to be home before dark or before this, but in the summers, even at night, we’d still play one, two, three, red light, these [00:05:00] children’s games, hide and seek, tag. It was just a gathering in the neighborhood. So, yeah, we felt really safe. I had no reason at the time to not feel unsafe. Now, we didn’t venture too much further than those places that I told you, that we mentioned.
PL: [00:05:19] And I’m assuming this was a completely segregated neighborhood at the time?
FA: [00:05:23] Well, I tell you, we were on the cusp. We were at 13th Street, and once you hit 14th Street, that’s where the white families lived. So, there was Venable School over here to our left, and once you went up to 14th Street, and then you go up to 15th Street, and I’m trying to think -- well, Grady Avenue was up on the other end of 13th Street, so you go Grady Avenue, and once you hit 14th Street, that’s where. So, 13th Street, if you went back 12, 11, 10, Page Street and all that, you go down to maybe over where Jefferson Elementary School was, over in that area, [00:06:00] Fourth Street, you had that kind of area. Then there was some homes, later on in life, I think on Ridge Street, but yeah, it was pretty much segregated. We were right on the cusp, our house right there on 13th Street. Then you’d walk maybe 200 yards or less, and you’d be right at 14th Street, and that’s where Venable School was.
PL: [00:06:21] Right. Tell me about your siblings. You said you had older siblings.
FA: [00:06:24] Oh, yeah, older sister Jeannette, and because she was like nine years older than I was, my mother worked, and she took care of me. She still refers to me -- I’m 73 years old; you just noticed I had a birthday. She still refers to me as baby boy, Frankie boy. And so, she was Jeannette, but we called her Nettie, and brother was big brother but really just bruh, just like that, and Frankie boy, the three of us. That’s how we, if you go to the school, and people, that’s how they know you. I’ll still come back, “Hey, Frankie boy,” just like that. But [00:07:00] anyway, my mother and father, just loving parents. And my mother, she was athletic; my father, not so much, but my mother, she played basket-- she went to Hampton Institute. Back then, it was Hampton Institute for a couple years or whatever, but then she came to Charlottesville, met my dad, got married. But she was the athlete. She played basketball. The whole family, like my brother played sports. His team, when he played little league baseball -- we were talking about that Jackie Robinson little league was what we did in the spring and summers -- his team was the Indians. And so, anyway, like I said, they were the best, and my sister was pretty popular at Burley High School, and she was two years ahead of my brother. She graduated, I think, in ’58, and he graduated in 1960, but my brother was one tremendous basketball player. I tell people [00:08:00] all the time, he was really skilled, could really play, and he had a nickname from his teammates, called him Mop because he was tall like a rag mop. But that was my daddy’s nickname, so he was like Little Mop. But anyway, when he got to high school, and everybody had a nickname, but his was Mop Allen, and so he was an outstanding -- and I remember being a little boy -- and we were talking about this not too long ago -- watching him play. But I turned out to really be a really good player because being so much younger, he would let me play with the bigger players. It just made you better, and some of those guys that we talk about, Phillip Bell and Pete [Dumes?] and all those guys that played, Frank Dumes and Alfred [Martin?], and they would get kind of upset with him, say, “Oh, just let him play.” I’d wait around, wait around ’til somebody got tired, and they’d let me play. But it made me a much better basketball player.
PL: [00:08:58] So, just for the record, your brother’s name [00:09:00] is Ernest.
FA: [00:09:01] Ernest, yeah, his name is, yeah, Ernest Allen, Jr. But I remember one of the coolest things about him was he was really just a really good player, and one time in the big game, he made a shot from half court to win the game, and they won what they called the old Western District back then. And Burley, they were very close knit. Like you said, you talk about the Burley team, but yeah.
PL: [00:09:28:] As a child, did you go to the Burley games?
FA: [00:09:31] Oh, yeah, man. That was the thing to do. That was like the social outlet, the football games. People would get off work usually on Friday nights or whatever. My buddy Frenchy was the scorekeeper. He kept the score, and I’d be sitting right behind him. We’d be cheering in that gym. Oh, man, that was the social event of the weekend or whatever, to go to the Burley football games, football games and basketball games. We just enjoyed that, man. That was the thing. [00:10:00] Everybody’d kind of go there, and like I said, he made this half-court shot, and the next day, all the kids were going around trying to practice shooting as long as they could; wouldn’t get up there. But I thought, man, that’s my big brother. They’d shoot, “It’s Mop Allen, Mop Allen.” (laughs) And I was saying, “Well, how cool is that, man, to have his name being shouted and that’s your brother?” But no, we were a close-knit family. My sister Jeannette, she’d come to my games when I was playing in college and in high school, and boy, she would be on the referees. I was always afraid that she was going to get put out the game. One time, she was rolling up like a popcorn box or something like that, and she was -- oh, man, to this day. But I’ll move on. I’m sorry.
PL: [00:10:46] So, tell me, just so we’ll have it on the record, what your parents did, what kind of occupations they had.
FA: [00:10:52] My mother worked at the University of Virginia Hospital, and she worked in the Department of Medical Records, and she was like a coder or something, where [00:11:00] they didn’t have obviously the technology, so you’d have to handwrite everything in, like a procedure that a doctor did. She’d always tell me, said, “Man, doctors have awful handwriting,” trying to decipher that and put it in. And she worked there for many, many years and I think maybe got to a supervisory position, but it was hard for Blacks to be kind of -- she knew the position probably backwards, but in fact, she used to say sometimes she was training to her bosses. She trained all of her bosses, so to speak, but that was just the day and time in which we lived. And my father worked for the C&O Railroad. He was a waiter. That’s when train travel was really big. The flights hadn’t come in. Plane travel didn’t come in, and so he worked the dining car.
PL: [00:11:47] It was a distinguished job.
FA: [00:11:49] Oh, yeah. I tell you one thing: he would take me in the summer sometimes, and that’s where we had a love for baseball, but he would take me with him, and sometimes some of these, they’d have these Pullman berths [00:12:00] out there by the club car they call it now, but it was the dining car, and all those guys that he worked with. And so, I’d go on a couple trips with him, but the one that was most that we’d go to every year was to Cincinnati because we could go watch a baseball game. And we’d go because he’d have a layover. They’d get there, and baseball back then, they played a lot of day games. Now they just play them all at night. We’d go to the games during the day, and we’d come back at night, and the food was good. To this day, I really love traveling on the train. But yeah --
PL: [00:12:33] Those nice dining cars are gone now.
FA: [00:12:35] All of it’s gone now. So, I just enjoyed doing that. And the guys that we worked with, we weren’t really related, but everybody was cousin, like Cousin Lo, Cousin Joe, Mr. Joe, and it was just a camaraderie between all those guys.
PL: [00:12:55] So, growing up, did your parents ever [00:13:00] talk about the Brown v. Board of Education decision or civil rights or the concept of massive resistance going on in Charlottesville?
FA: [00:13:10] Growing up, and like I said, was it almost two different eras, but growing up, you have to understand my mother was probably as much a person of faith that you’d ever want to meet. She actually, before women were considered to be able to be deacons, she was a member or always was a delegation, always went to the Virginia Baptist General Assembly later in Richmond, and so she was a praying person. She just instilled that in all of us, but yeah, indirectly, you wouldn’t say, “Well, Brown v. the Board of Education,” but mother worked, more so than my father, but worked extensively with the NAACP and this whole thing about the idea of equality, Brown v. the Board of Education, the [00:14:00] NAACP was in the late ’50s, right around 1960, in Charlottesville, really trying to push the integration of schools. And to be quite honest, when you’ve had other people, they were kind of handpicking the students that they wanted to take on this undertaking because it was one of those things where I think the NAACP and Black people at large felt like, if this thing is going to work, then we had to be not as good as, but we had to be better than. And so, they handpicked certain people, and so my mother being very active with the NAACP, they picked me to be one of -- and I’ll be very frank (laughs) with you. I did not want to go. I didn’t want to leave all my buddies at Jefferson Elementary.
PL: [00:14:53] Let’s back up for a minute because I want you to sort of talk about what schools you attended and when, [00:15:00] and then we’ll get into that, if you don’t mind.
FA: [00:15:02] But to answer your question, there was some talk of the Brown v. the Board of Education. I can remember, and I was in that old -- and I can remember --
PL: [00:15:13] You would’ve been five, I guess (overlapping dialogue; inaudible)
FA: [00:15:15] Well, what I remember most about 1955 or that era, because of my dad and his love for baseball, and he was a big Dodger fan, so now I’m the huge -- we got in here yesterday, and they had the playoffs on, and my brother and I were watching the Dodgers and the Padres, and the other channels got basketball on, but daddy was a big Dodger fan because of Jackie Robinson, and that meant a lot to Blacks back in that era. So, we automatically became Dodger fans. So, what I remember a couple things about 1955 was that I was in the first grade, and the World Series game came on at 12:30 because they played games in the day, and he got me out of school early (laughs) in the first grade, and [00:16:00] we watched the game, just the two of us. And the Dodgers won. It was the only time they ever won a championship in Brooklyn. They were the Brooklyn Dodgers. Then, they moved to the West Coast to LA. But I thought that was, “Man, I’m getting out of school, and it’s just the two of us watching the Dodgers,” and how excited and happy because he never could beat the Yankees, it seemed like, in the World Series. They’d get there, and they’d lose. And Jackie Robinson was on that team, and so I remember that. And then when you get to the other thing that wasn’t really discussed, but when you’re six or seven, you hear your parents talking about certain things and probably not for the consumption of a six-, seven-year-old, but I remember them talking about Emmett Till, and I didn’t know exactly what they were talking about. And what I remember the most about the conversation, because my mother was probably more outspoken, but I can remember my dad saying, “That boy was no more older than baby brother,” meaning Ernest. I know you’re trying to get these names. And then, that didn’t [00:17:00] fully register back then because I’m like six years old, but that was around that time, and so there was always discussion about things, about civil rights and whatever, human rights, whatever. And I know my mother was very active in those type of things, but that was always that kind of unspoken silence about certain things and the dos and don’ts of whatever, but growing up at that time, change was coming. It’s just how effective or how long it was going to take, because sometimes, as we know, change goes at a snail’s pace.
PL: [00:17:38] Just, I did a lot of work in my career on a different oral history project. Just, I guess, this is an aside, but I worked really closely with Julian Bond, and he said the same thing about the Emmett Till case, exactly the same. He said, “We all thought that could’ve [00:18:00] been me.” So, it really resonated.
FA: [00:18:03] Yeah. And I think over the last few years or whatever, there’s been more, I think, documentaries and all those type of things, but just sometimes, when you get to be a certain age, and I’m getting to that certain age, you start to look back and reflecting on things that you didn’t really maybe, because of the day-to-day life, but you slow down a little bit, and you start reflecting. And it’s kind of your past or whatever, you form by different things, and your beliefs. So, just trying to understand how things worked back then for a teenager or a 10-year old, 11, it was kind of awkward.
PL: [00:18:45] So, let’s get into the schools you attended, so Jefferson and then Venable and then -- but if you can just tell me the grades and all.
FA: [00:18:54] Well, I started at Jefferson. There was no integration or whatever, and like I said, it was [00:19:00] probably -- not probably -- it was in the fall of 1955. And my first-grade teacher was Miss Maude Fleming, and she lived right up the street from us.
PL: [00:19:09] Could you say that again?
FA: [00:19:10] Maude Fleming, Miss Fleming. She lived right up the street from us, and you see me smile because here’s the thing. Going on to college and even got a master’s degree from Virginia Tech, but I could still remember (laughs) all five of those first -- and sometimes I can’t remember if I set the car door, put the garage door down, whatever, but Miss Fleming and all those teachers those first five years, six years or so, those first five years I was at elementary school, they were all kind of special. There was Miss Fleming, and I remember she wore the little apron-type thing, kind of diminutive-type woman, and you could get in trouble for like not being in line or [00:20:00] talking when (laughs) you’re not supposed to or whatever. And this is funny, but you’d come up, and boom, she’d hit you with a ruler. I don't know. I’m saying things that I’m sure other kids experienced just like that. But she was the sweetest little lady, but the thing with it is that you weren’t supposed to do those type of things. And now people may look, “Oh.” Man, we loved Miss Fleming. Then in the second grade, I had Miss Bessie Taylor. And like I said, everybody was cousin, so it was Cousin Bessie Taylor, and she could really play the organ and the piano, and we’d have all these little fun things to do in her class. She was a fun teacher. Third-grade teacher, Miss Robinson, she was kind of the athletic type, Laura Robinson. She’d get out there in recess and play kickball with us. And then the fourth grade, man, my fourth-grade teacher, Miss Marion White, now I really wanted to get in Miss McGuinness’s class, and I’m sure y’all have done this too --
PL: [00:20:51] Rebecca McGuinness, right.
FA: [00:20:53] -- but I got Miss White. And Miss White and Miss McGuinness were like -- the fourth grade was kind of like the year. First, second, third grade, they [00:21:00] hugged you a lot, but fourth grade, Miss White was so strict, when I got her, I was saying, “Why couldn’t I have gotten Miss McGuinness?” But I learned so much under Miss White, but she was so strict, man. But then when you got to know her, like at church sometimes, after church, you’d talk to her. But she affectionately was known as Wyatt Earp. I’ll never forget that.
PL: [00:21:23] Wyatt Earp? (laughs)
FA: [00:21:24] Wyatt Earp. Nobody ever said that obviously -- she probably knew that, but I remember her being -- and I understood what she was saying. She would say things to me like, “Frankie boy,” said, “I’ve got to be hard on you because life’s going to be hard on you.” And our teachers were doing that. Then in the fifth grade was Miss Jemison, Miss Rosemond Jemison, and she was just a loving and fun-loving -- and all those teachers, you interacted with because you would see them at church. You’d see them at the Burley football and basketball games. They would come by your house socially or whatever, so [00:22:00] at the end of the day, those first five years, I can still remember those teachers now. I went to Venable in the sixth grade.
PL: [00:22:07] Pause for one minute. What church did you go to?
FA: [00:22:10] First Baptist, Seventh and West Main, the Reverend Benjamin Franklin Bunn, and his wife, Miss Bunn, she was one of my mom’s favorite people, and she was really good friend, family and all that. But anyway, I digress a little bit, so I’ll try to get -- my wife is probably sitting there, “It’s going to be your fault if we don’t get on the road when we’re supposed to.” But anyway, sixth grade, we were at --
PL: [00:22:36] You were at Venable.
FA: [00:22:37] Venable.
PL: [00:22:38] And tell me the story about why you went to Venable in sixth grade.
FA: [00:22:42] I went to Venable in sixth grade because my mother thought this was the thing to do. They were handpicking certain Black kids to desegregate or integrate the schools. I didn’t realize it until I started jogging my memory; when I was in the fifth grade, they had closed the schools in Charlottesville, but they didn’t close the Black schools, (laughs)[00:23:00] so we just went to school in the fifth grade.
PL: [00:23:03] So, you weren’t aware that the white schools were closed.
FA: [00:23:05] I really wasn’t until you jog your memory. So, now we were in the sixth grade, and I can remember the summer when they were trying to tell me that you needed to do this, and I just about had my dad convinced, man, “I don't know if he’s ready.” But my mom was insistent, and I really think that they convinced my dad that this was like being Jackie Robinson. (laughs) And I don't know, but anyway, I remember the sixth grade, and we didn’t live that far from Venable, like I said. I remember my mom walking me from the house, and you had to walk up to 14th Street and then where the front of the school was, but the gym was right there. When I was playing ball and all that, you could just go out those gym doors. But anyway, that morning, I think it was like the fall of 1960, [00:24:00] and she walked with me, and there was newspaper or camera people or whatever, I guess The Daily Progress, and there was just so much going on. And to be very honest, all those fun times, all those things I was telling you about at Jefferson and all my friends, that’s probably the most nervous. She was holding my hand, said, “You’re going to be okay,” but even then, there was things you would see on television, other places, and you don’t --
PL: [00:24:35] Birmingham.
FA: [00:24:36] When you’re in the sixth grade, you’re not talking about, “Oh, this is going to be a part of history,” but maybe if you look back on it, I’m sure it was. But it was pretty challenging, those first few days. But as I remembered all of the first five years, I remembered those teachers. I also remember my sixth-grade teacher, Miss [Condiff?].
PL: [00:24:57] Do you know how to spell that?
FA: [00:25:00] C-U-N-D-I-F-F or C-O-N-D-I. [Zellie?] was her first name, which is thought was -- because back then, you’d get a report card, and the teachers would have their name, but Miss Condiff, and she was really a really good lady.
PL: [00:25:18] Oh, she was?
FA: [00:25:19] Just really a good person. She wore the apron. I think all the teachers, probably you didn’t want to get stuff on your clothes, you wore an apron. And I remember being in class and just being so nervous or whatever, and the worst part wasn’t so much the class; it was the time when you went to the cafeteria, first day you go to lunch, and you sit there, and you’re sitting there by yourself. And I know that Miss Condiff told, said, “You all go over and sit with him.” And the guys that came over and sat, one kid -- I called him a kid -- his name was Ed Coleman, another guy named Mike Christian. I don't know whatever happened -- maybe a guy named Phil Speasmaker. I was just [00:26:00] trying to remember some of these guys’ names. But they came over and sat, and one thing we had in common, that we were pretty good in sports, and we played sports and whatever. But Miss Condiff was really a beautiful lady. She understood things. And I can remember this, as time would go on, and when you’re in the sixth grade, it was a big thing if she asked you to erase the blackboard. And so, when my turn came, you erase the blackboard, and when people would do something good, she would hug them. And she would call me Franklin. My name is really Franklin, and she would say, “Franklin, come here. Let me give you a hug,” just a nice lady. Years later, my sister and my sister-in-law both worked at the library, the downtown library, and she came in, and my sister was there, and she said, “Let me just ask you.” And then (inaudible) my sixth-grade teacher. My sister told me that she had asked about me because she had followed my career playing ball and all of that. [00:27:00] And so, anyway, seventh grade, we’d go to seventh grade, and I had Miss Stargell, Janice Stargell, and she was really young. I can remember her being this really young person and really kind of dynamic, and I think she commuted. I don't know why. And this may be wrong, but I think she was coming from like Orange County or something like at the time, but she was just a really good teacher. And so, I remember in the seventh grade, what I remember most about the seventh grade was teaching the Civil War, and she was doing it by certain battles. And so, I got the Battle of Antietam, which is, as I learned, still you remember, it’s the bloodiest battle of them all. And we had to do these little watercolor-type things and talk about the Battle of Antietam. And the most significant thing I can remember is that several years ago, the final Jeopardy question, and the answer was the Battle of Antietam, and my wife said, “How’d you know that?” (laughs) I’m just kidding with [00:28:00] you, but I enjoyed Miss Stargell. She was young, dynamic. And then after that, eighth grade.
PL: [00:28:08] So, were there any team sports at Venable that you would’ve played?
FA: [00:28:19] Yeah, because this is a sports thing. In the sixth grade, they had what they call the citywide elementary school flag football teams. And so, anyway, those guys that came and sat down at the table the first, “You’re going to play football with us,” and, “Frankie’s a good player,” and all that. And so, anyway, we were out there trying out for the team. This is citywide, so Venable had a team, and the other four or five that weren’t integrated, elementary schools, had their teams. So, I was pretty good. I do remember the [00:29:00] PE teacher, coach. His name was Bryant Bibb, Mr. Bibb, and I think the principal’s Mr. Robertson. Y’all may check that back in 1960. But we were out there trying out for the team. After about a week or so into practicing and all of this -- and we lived right across the street from the school -- Mr. Bibb and Mr. Robinson had said they wanted to speak with my parents about this citywide. And so, we were sitting in the living room. They were saying, “Well, you know, Frankie, he’s a really good player. We really love him,” and all of that, “but we really feel that it would be hard for him to go over to Belmont.” And I knew there were other, Johnson and Clark -- I can’t remember -- the elementary schools, “and probably put him in a position of danger,” or whatever the word they use, “awkward position because it’s just some people are not going to accept [00:30:00] this.” So, my mother said, “Let me just ask you a question. Is he good enough to be on the team?” And so, “Oh, he’s probably the best player,” whatever. So, anyway, she looked at me, “Do you want to play?” I said, “Yeah, I want to play.” She said, “Well, he’s going to be on the team if he said he’s going to play.” And here’s what they ended up doing: Venable did not enter a team into the citywide competition. We played intramurals. We played among ourselves. Now, I don't know how the other parents -- I’m sure there was backlash because we can’t play in the citywide competition for this thing because of Frank or whatever, but we had the best time playing intramurals. And some kids who would not have made the team, because it was only going to be a select few, now all of the sixth and seventh graders, all of us got to have an intramural team, and we played every afternoon or twice a week [00:31:00] or whatever and had a great time at it. So, the answer to your question, that was the first time that the idea of sports came up. So, sixth- and seventh-grade years, there, and then I’m sure later on -- and I don't know if they still have the citywide. So much things have changed, but yeah, that was one of the things I remember. And then same thing with basketball. We played what they call intramural within the school, basketball, and I had a great time doing that. And I remember scoring all these points. There was no scoreboard or anything over there, so we’d have people over, just keeping the score, and they’d go in and keep it by hand and all that, points scored. But that was one of the things I remember about my sixth-grade year there at Venable.
PL: [00:31:48] And would you have been among the first students to integrate Venable?
FA: [00:31:55] Yeah, because see, there was no school. Like I said, in my fifth-grade year, [00:52:00] the schools were closed, so yeah, I was one of the first ones to integrate Venable. Now, I’m not considered part of that Charlottesville 12 because of the fact that that was -- I went in the sixth grade, but I was among the first group because that first year when all the schools were closed, I think those students were taught at the school board office or something but not in the school. But yeah, that would’ve been that sixth grade, that fall of 1960.
PL: [00:32:33] And do you remember other white students being hard to deal with, or did they just kind of ignore you mostly?
FA: [00:32:41] I tell you what, Venable, the students there for the most part, I can’t remember any negative -- well, a couple times outside of the school because after school, sometimes we’d play, and school wasn’t there, and there were [00:33:00] a couple kids that went to school there that were like maybe a year or so older, and maybe they were in the seventh grade, that had the racial slurs or whatever. But for the most part, the kids that I hung around with, we were all good buddies. One kid in particular, Mike Christian. He was a character within himself, so he was always -- he said, “I want to get first. I want to pick you for my team,” or whatever. I hadn’t talked -- I saw Mike years ago. He was working up in UVA, and I was coaching basketball, and we were playing UVA, and we were practicing before the game, that they call shoot-around, and he was working up at the fieldhouse. This was before JP, the old fieldhouse, and he came over, and he said, “Oh, man, I just stayed here, working up here.” He’s probably retired now. I hope he’s still living, but I just remember him in particular. He was a character. [00:34:00] But there was a couple guys that I can remember where there was a fight and all this type of thing, but it wasn’t so much school related because it was basically after school, but we would stay around afterwards and play anyway. But it wasn’t a school acti-- but they went to school there. They were like a year ahead of me.
PL: [00:34:20] So, then you go to Lane for high school. Your sister and brother had been at Burley.
FA: [00:34:30] So, if I had to say this, my eighth-grade year was probably the worst year of my young life.
PL: [00:34:39] At Lane. You were at Lane in eighth grade.
FA: [00:34:40] I was at Lane, Lane at that time, grades 8 to 12. And unlike Venable, which is a small setting, and the kids that were there, whether this meant anything or not, a lot of their parents worked at UVA. They were in that kind of area right there, so just [00:35:00] it was kind of a better atmosphere at Venable. But Lane, and everybody, all those elementary schools that I couldn’t go over there and play football against in that league, they all came to Lane, and eighth grade was just a -- and you’re 13 years old, so you’re kind of just trying to find your way and navigate your way through being a teenager or whatever. But the eighth grade was awful because you couldn’t play sports, and they had an eighth-grade team, so I didn’t play sports in the eighth grade. And I thought that was going to be my opportunity to go to Burley, and my father was, “Well, if he can’t play sports,” and my brother had gone there, whatever. I thought, “This may be my opportunity to transfer over to Burley,” but the eighth-grade year, I remember playing at the Carver Recreation Center because they had like a [00:36:00] league down there, and we played, and it was just good. So, I played basketball, and it probably helped me a little bit because we were playing against better competition and all that. So, basically, after my eighth-grade year, it was said that the Black kids could participate in sports, and that wasn’t easy.
PL: [00:36:21] So, do you have any understanding of who made that policy that you couldn’t play in the eighth grade? We’re still trying to find that out.
FA: [00:36:30] I don't know. I just know that I was going to try out for the eighth-grade basketball team. I wasn’t going to try out for football or any of that kind of stuff. And they said that you couldn’t try out, that it hadn’t been approved, politics, I don't know. And so, my eighth-grade year, I didn’t play sports at the high school level or whatever. Or then it was considered high school.
PL: [00:36:54] But it was only Black kids who couldn’t (overlapping dialogue; inaudible).
FA: [00:36:55] Oh, yeah, only Black kids. They had the eighth-grade football team, the eighth-grade [00:37:00] basketball team, and back then the only other thing they had was baseball and track, and they didn’t have women’s sports or girls’ sports or whatever. So, anyway, that’s when I thought, “Well, man, going into the ninth grade, I’m going to be...” And so, whoever did or did not make the decision about the eighth grade, whoever did that in the ninth grade, we would be allowed to play, now I don't know if that was some protest from maybe the NAACP or from whatever, but in the ninth grade, that would’ve been the fall of ’63, I guess, I played JV basketball. I was in the ninth grade, and I played JV basketball. Ironically, my JV basketball coach was Tommy Theodose, and he’s more recognized obviously as the coach of the football team, but back then, there were only three coaches, so if you were the head coach [00:38:00] in football, the basketball coach and the baseball coach were your assistant coaches. So, it was the same way. The head coach of the basketball team when I was in the ninth grade was Dave Cook, and (laughs) Tommy Theodose was the JV basketball coach. And I used to kid Coach Theodose. I said, “You didn’t know a whole lot about basketball.” He said, “Oh, no,” and he’d laugh. I’d see him. He said, “I was smart enough to throw you the ball,” or something like that. But he was a good guy. Coach Theodose was just a really good guy. I mean, I never played football, but as time went on, things really got a lot better, if my eighth-grade year was the worst year, then especially from about my junior and senior year because I was really playing a lot of basketball. I got injured in my sophomore year and only played about half the season, but my junior and senior year, we got a young coach, new coach that had been a star player [00:39:00] at the University of Virginia by the name of Chip Conner. And Chip, he wasn’t much older than we were. He was probably about maybe 24, 25 years old. We were 17-, 18-year-old kids, and he was really -- you could look him up. Virginia’s basketball wasn’t very good, but he was like the best player, and he was like all ACC. It was hard to make all ACC at Virginia back then because all those Carolina schools kind of dominated it, but he was a really good guy, and we stayed in touch. And so, my junior and senior year, it was really good. But if things were good at Lane or at least all those schools we played were in Richmond, and we had some terrible times down there, and that’s why --
PL: [00:39:45] Can you describe (overlapping dialogue; inaudible)?
FA: [00:39:46] Oh, yeah. So, in my JV year, ninth grade, I remembered the racial slurs, the N word and all that. We’d go to places, Hermitage and some of those schools, Douglas Freeman, [00:40:00] and you just played, and you just kind of tried to ignore it. And like I said, Coach Theodose was pretty protective. I was on the team; there was one other Black player on the team, but at the semester, he didn’t -- I think it might’ve been something else, but I was there, and Coach Theodose was pretty good at trying to protect us. And he was a guy that was well respected. But there were a lot of things that went on my ninth-grade year with some of these places we go, players, people in the stands or whatever. And I can remember, we’d stop and eat at a place called Shoney’s and be a little bit nervous about going there, going in because it was kind of a hangout in Richmond on Friday nights. All the high schools in Richmond would go to this Shoney’s. I want to say it was on 250 Broad Street or something like that. But my 10th-grade year, we traveled, same type of thing, [00:41:00] and I didn’t play but half the year because I broke my foot. I broke it, and then I came back and played the latter part of it. But my junior year, we really had this really good team, and Chip Conner was the coach, and we won 20 games. We were 20 and 4, won the district championship, and then the following year, we did the same thing and went to the states and all that. So, we had back-to-back years of 20-and-4 years. But my senior year, we were cutting down the nets after winning the championship, and this huge fight broke out in the crowd. And my brother and I were talking about that because he was at the game, my mother. You know, there was the ceremony of just cutting down the nets, and we were playing Highland Springs High Schools, and it was at the old Richmond arena. It was like one security guard in there, and they were fighting our cheerleaders or whatever. And [00:42:00] you can say -- oh, go ahead; I’m sorry.
PL: [00:42:02] What was the fight about?
FA: [00:42:05] That’s what I was going to say. We won. Of course, we were the only school in the league at the time that had Black players.
PL: [00:42:13] You were the only school.
FA: [00:42:15] Yeah, we were the only school my junior and senior year. Now, after that, I think some of the other schools in Richmond integrated, but I know when we played, and I may be missing somebody, but I just know that it was one of two things, and so you can say, well, you asked me about why the fight broke out. It could’ve been because our team won; their team lost, and a few people decided to fight. It could’ve been maybe somewhat racially motivated because the guy that was hit, the first punch that was thrown was one of my teammates, whose name was Robert [Carey?], and I can remember being on this ladder, cutting down the nets. You’re looking out, and you’re waving [00:43:00] to everybody, and somebody just comes by, and then all you-know-what broke loose in there. And my mother said (laughs) --
PL: [00:43:08] Somebody hit somebody on the field?
FA: [00:43:10] Oh, yeah. Game was over, so --
PL: [00:43:11] Oh, it was on the field, so (overlapping dialogue; inaudible)
FA: [00:43:13] Yeah, he was on the court, and everybody’s celebrating. You’re out there on the court, and you kind of take turns maybe going up on this ladder with these scissors and cutting. So, I was the captain or whatever, so I’d gone up there first, and I’m just kind of like, “Yeah, yeah,” and we’re going to cut down (inaudible) piece of the net, and I just happened to look out, and all of a sudden, I see this guy just come, and Robert’s standing there. He’s, “Yeah, yeah,” and then boom, man, and then all of a sudden --
PL: [00:43:37] So, was Robert Carey a white player or a Black player?
FA: [00:43:39] Oh, Robert Carey was Black. Maybe I should’ve backed it up. Robert Carey was a great athlete. He played on the football team. He died way too soon, I think a car accident or something, many, many years ago. And his brothers and his relatives that were older, they were star athletes at Burley also, but I remember Robert getting hit. Then, after that, oh, [00:44:00] man, it just all poured out. And then everybody’s fighting. I can’t remember exactly, but a lot of it, everybody’s pretty shooken up behind it. I know our cheerleaders got (inaudible)(laughs) and just trying to get back, but those were the kind of times that we lived in. But it got better, and so when you asked me the question, was it racially motivated, I just know the person I saw get hit first was Robert Carey. And it could’ve been, because I was up on the ladder, they couldn’t hit me. I don't know. (laughs) But it was just a whole thing. And things like that can be just one or two people just whatever.
PL: [00:44:49] So, would that have been ’66?
FA: [00:44:52] That would’ve been the spring, because basketball goes between ’66, ’67, so it was ’67.
PL: [00:44:59] Spring of [00:45:00] ’67.
FA: [00:45:01] Right. It was my senior year.
PL: [00:45:02] Senior year, right. So, here’s a more general question for you: do you think sports became a means to overcome race divisions in a general way? So, like the desegregation of these sports teams, did it sort of help with the process of integration as a whole, or was it --
FA: [00:45:36] Well, I think the intent, when I first started playing, I think that was a way to -- I mean, you just think about, the races were separate. We didn’t go to the same churches. I can remember Charlottesville that the Blacks sat up in the balcony. So, there wasn’t a whole lot of things that would bring you together, but sports, [00:46:00] they bring people together. So, whatever your philosophies or thought processes might be, I felt like that was a way to kind of bridge some gaps because the camaraderie of a sports team, once I got to playing, especially starting at Lane junior, senior year, then I want to Roanoke College and played there, there’s a kind of a camaraderie among teammates for the most part, especially back then. I think the idea of team was more prevalent back then than it is sometimes now, but I’m just speaking as a retired coach when I say that. But to answer your question, I thought it was a great way to break the ice. You saw people in a different light. You kind of realized that we could all be on this one team together, and we could put our hands together. We could hug each other or whatever without this [00:47:00] kind of glare or this scrutiny. But in general, I think that sports has played a tremendous role in bringing people together of different races, but sometimes seeing that time has evolved; things have gotten more political, more polarized even with sports, and sometimes that kind of makes you take a back because you can remember teammates that I had in college, we were from all different backgrounds and different places. But if being on a sports team was sometimes a Black person’s first real interaction with a white person and vice versa, then all of a sudden, it serves some purposes because after a while, you’re going to start talking about some other things.
PL: [00:47:51] Did those friendships extend beyond the court? Did they (overlapping dialogue; inaudible)
FA: [00:47:56] Yeah. I’ll be honest; when I was at [00:48:00] Lane, some of my teammates, Randy Page, we still stay in touch quite a bit, Randy, a guy by the name of Chris Uhl.
PL: [00:48:14] How do you spell that?
FA: [00:48:15] U-H-L, Chris. Randy Page. And Randy, I guess, has been the one that -- and it was Dr. John Shrum. Well, he was just John Shrum, and he just passed --
PL: [00:48:30] He was on my block. He lived on my block.
FA: [00:48:31] And he passed away not too long ago, several years ago, but just to give you -- and I don’t want to talk too long, and I don’t want to make this all about me, but --
PL: [00:48:42] Well, it is about you. (laughs)
FA: [00:48:45] I was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 2013, and Randy Page and John Shrum drove down. I hadn’t really seen them in a while. And they said, “Man, we had to be here.” And Randy and I stayed in touch pretty much, [00:49:00] and so it did extend a little bit further than just those days. And then, like you said, John was just a wonderful person, and so you asked me. So, it was a lot of things that happened back then that they would think almost, oh gosh, 2013 from 1967, but I’d see those guys from time to time. And when I was coaching then, sometimes I’d have teams that’d come in and play UVA. I think Randy got Milton Wingfield, Lindsay Sadler, some of these guys. They all would come to the games. I’d get up, take -- of course, the teams I was coaching wasn’t as good as UVA, so we’d get beat pretty bad --
FA: [00:49:47] -- get an opportunity to come in and say us. But all those guys, Doodles Taylor, if he goes by that, I think his name is Bobby. So, anyway, but those guys just kind of was guys that were on the team. [00:50:00] But Randy and John, they were -- yeah.
PL: [00:50:06] What about in the classroom at Lane? Was that comfortable for you?
FA: [00:50:09] I tell you what; in the eighth grade, as I said, that was really awkward in the eighth grade and little bit in the ninth grade, but my junior and senior year, I was on the staff of the Lanetime, which was the student newspaper. You talk about sports; you won a letter. You got to wear your letter sweater. Man, that was a big deal back then. And I tell you what; I say this because I think you’re better off trying to look at things through the lens of the times that we were in. But it was tough on, I think, some kids at Lane -- the white kids, I’m talking about -- who were kind of torn between, “Do I do this? Do I do that? What’s my heart telling me?” I can remember in the eighth grade and ninth grade, [00:51:00] the cafeteria, I thought, was where a lot of things happened because you had some teachers out there, but you know. But I can remember sometimes there would be altercations, fights or something, and it was a Black-and-White-type thing. But I remember the guy who was the president of the senior class when I was in the eighth grade was Jim Copeland. He was a bigtime football player at UVA. He went on and played for the Cleveland Browns. And guys like Jim Copeland, more so than the teachers, those guys would come down, and they would intervene or whatever, and those were considered like the student leaders. I didn’t know Jim Copeland that well. I was just a little eighth grader, and of course, I followed his career, but I think then there was a group of, I don't know if administrators, but they were a group of students that I think that were considered leaders that could kind of squelch a lot of things. [00:52:00] And again, Jim Copeland, he’s a lineman, and you see all of the accolades go to the position players, the star players, the quarterback and all of that, but he was a presence. And I remember him a couple times, defusing a lot of potential situations just because of who he was. And he’d have that big L, that big Lane sweater on or whatever. And I don't know, some of this is just coming back. It’s been a long time. I know Jim passed away several years ago too, but I’ve run across him from time to time because after he finished playing pro sports, he was an administrator at a lot of different colleges, even here at UVA for a while.
PL: [00:52:36] So, did you know the assistant principal, William Barnett or John Huegel, the principal? Do you think they had any larger role to play in terms of the race relations at the school? Are you aware of any specific attitude?
FA: [00:52:55] The assistant principal at Lane?
PL: [00:52:57] Yeah.
FA: [00:52:58] Because I tell you, the principal I remember was [00:53:00] Mr. Nichols, and then there was a Mr. Barnett that was a athletic director, Willie Barnett. The only thing I --
PL: [00:53:10] Oh, yeah, he was both assistant principal and athletic.
FA: [00:53:12] Oh, he might’ve been, but the person I remember the most as being the principal at Lane, I believe, is Mr. Nichols, and he was a nice guy. The reason I say that, I didn’t have to have much intervention with him. (laughter) The worst thing you could do is go to the principal’s office. And the worst times, Phyllis, was like in between classes, maybe in the lunchroom, going to the bathroom, and I remember there was some hazing sometimes, especially when I was like in the eighth grade or ninth grade or something like that, where your locker sometimes would be on this end of the building, and then your next class would be on this end, so you’d just have to take those. You couldn’t go back to your locker to get this, so most of the time, you were carrying three or four books. That’s when everything was these hardbound books. And I remember a situation where this one guy thought it was cute to just knock the books out of my hands, and I was short-fused a little bit, even though you were kind of -- but something like that, I mean, I could kind of walk away from the catcall or whatever, the mumbling, the racial, but the physical thing, and I can remember getting in a fight with this student. And it was up on the third floor. And I do remember this teacher coming up -- just wasn’t much of a fight, but it’s more or less shoving or whatever -- Miss Bowen. (laughs) And there was two Miss Bowens, so this was Miss Bowen that was the English teacher, because I had her for English [00:55:00] class, I think in the 10th grade. But things that happened all the time. There were always -- there was some altercations in the lunchroom sometimes, and like I told you about Jim Copeland, but by the time I got to my junior and senior year, five years, and again it may have been the fact that -- but we had these winning football teams, and the one thing about Lane, everybody rallied behind the sports teams, especially the football and basketball teams. And I think if you asked me again, has sports helped, yeah, I think it helped in a lot of ways because I think all of a sudden, people saw each other in a different light, but we were all on the same team now, Lane High School, man, the Black Knights. But anyway, yeah, it got better for me personally in those last two years, but again, I was riding the [00:56:00] wave of back-to-back championships. I was one of the leading scorers. One year, I think I was the leading scorer in the state in high school, state’s leading scorer, so a lot of things were going well for me personally.
PL: [00:56:13] So, what’d you do after you left Lane, and why? (laughter)
FA: [00:56:19] Well, and this is, I guess, the next chapter of my story, so to speak. For all those accolades that we were talking about, winning championships and all that, the recruitment process was, because I coached basketball for 39 years after that on a college level, but the recruitment back then was a little bit different. So, I had all of these wonderful honors, these scoring records and all this type of thing, but I didn’t have a lot of scholarship offers, and I know my high school coach, Chip Conner, as I mentioned, he was a standout performer at UVA, and he had talked about [00:57:00] to the coaches up there about the possibility. And even I had all these records, I didn’t kind of fit the athleticism that they were -- whatever, but for whatever reason, obviously I didn’t go there. But at the time, UVA had never had a Black athlete or basketball player. This was like in 1967, ’68, because I know that about two, three later, a couple years later, they integrated. The first Black basketball player was a guy named Al Drummond, I think. But anyway, I’ve got three scholarship offers, and if I told you that the eighth grade was my worst year, the worst months of my life from like May and June were the fact that I didn’t have any scholarship offers to go to college. And I really wanted to go to college. And I had two that came in kind of late. One was to Bluefield State, and the other one was a place called Edinboro State. It’s up in Pennsylvania. It’s almost [00:58:00] in Canada. And I was going to go to school there because they’d offer me a full scholarship. And Bluefield State was having some protests and some civil unrest. They had a thing where I think the gym, (laughs) something went where they burned down the gym or something. I don't know, something. So, basically, I was going to go to Edinboro State, and in, I guess, late May, school’s about out, I get a thing -- at the end of the day, they have messages on the intercom, so it was the last period of the day was like sixth period, and the last thing the secretary said, “Oh, and Frankie Allen, report to the coach’s office immediately after school.” So, the bell rings, so I’m thinking, “Well, you know,” coach, I don't know what he may have wanted, but I go down there, and there was a recruiter from Roanoke College, assistant coach, and he was talking about this program and what they were going to try to do. And they were Division 2, but they were going to have this thing about [00:59:00] moving forward or whatever, and it sounded really good. So, he was the assistant coach. About a week later, the head coach comes back, who I built a great relationship with throughout years. In fact, I played for him in Roanoke for four years. But he came by, and we started talking about coming to Roanoke College, and so I’m excited a little bit about it, and it sounded good, and I’m being recruited. And so, they say, “Oh, and by the way, you’ll be the only Black student on campus,” not basketball, but on campus. So, now we got to go talk to -- well, they had told me that, so they made the home visit, and they sat down with my mom and dad. And so, anyway, they said, “Well, why don’t you come take a visit, take a look, see the campus or whatever, but we were offering you a full scholarship, room, board, books, tuition,” the whole nine yards, and they were playing [01:00:00] in a new place called the Salem Civic Center over right there, and they were going to start this new era in their basketball history, so to speak. So, I take a visit. I take the bus over to Roanoke, and the coaches meet me, and they drive me by the civic center, which is brand new. Campus was beautiful, even back in 1967, in that spring of ’67, beautiful day. So, we walk around campus, and we talk or whatever and meet a few people. So, we go back, and they said, “Well, take some time.” They said, “Well, you and your parents take some time to think about this, and we’ll come down on,” it was like a weekend, so, “We’ll come down Tuesday, Wednesday, or the middle of the week.” And so, we called our high school coach, Chip Conner, and he said, “I know the head coach personally. He’s a good man. He’s a good coach,” [01:01:00] whatever. And my dad, he wasn’t too keen on the idea, and it may get back to this Emmett Till thing. I don't know. And my mother just prayed over it. And with me, he said, “It’s your decision. You’re 18,” and just maybe turned 18, and I wanted to go play basketball, and I wanted to go to college. And then there was this little something called the Vietnam War going on too, so (laughter) I wanted to do those type of things. And so, we prayed over it and really made the decision to go there. And it was probably one of those things where more by faith and prayer that everything worked out. There was some issues but not on campus. I don't know if it’s just -- and the same thing I was saying when I was at Lane, we’d go on the road and play some of these places, [01:02:00] but the four years I was there, I had no incidents that I knew of. And I met the people saying things, but at the end of the day, I’m really convinced that I was successful there because the people there wanted me to be successful. It was a small school, and the first day you’re there, you meet the president, Dr. Kendig, just a nice guy, put your arm around, “Hey, welcome. How you doing? I come to all the basket --” This is the president, but it was a small school. And my teammates, I don't know, we stay in touch all the time. We just had our 50-year reunion and just going back to the times in which we lived, but I just knew that it turned out to be the best possible thing. And as we’re doing this interview, we were just coming back from -- I was awarded what they call the Roanoke College Medal, which is [01:03:00] the highest medal you can give to an alumnus, represents leadership, intellectual integrity, and what you give back to your communities.
PL: [01:03:09] Congratulations.
FA: [01:03:10] What you do, they always say, reflects your life, so when you reflect back, so I was kind of honored by those type of things. But back to this whole thing that people asked me there, how did this whole thing work, and I go back to the conversations that we had when you asked me about being the first to go and desegregate Venable. So, maybe in a way, and I doubt seriously, but they may have looked into that background that maybe I fully understood the racial climate of the time, to have to navigate what you had to navigate through those. Everything’s a learning experience through those early years of Lane and Venable and whatever. That may have made it work. But nothing like that happens without the support of the people around you. And like I said, when I went to Roanoke, [01:04:00] it worked out, because had it not worked out, man, it would’ve been one of those things that’d probably been worse for me. I think the school would’ve gone on, but when people want you to succeed, they put you in positions to succeed, you will succeed.
PL: [01:04:15] Did you have a roommate at Roanoke?
FA: [01:04:17] Oh, yeah.
PL: [01:04:18] And how’d that work? (laughs)
FA: [01:04:20] Oh, man, he’s my best friend. He was on the basketball team too, and here I am from Charlottesville, Virginia. My roommate is this guard, little guy. I won’t say little, but he’s from a place called Leaksville, North Carolina, and now it’s called Eden, North Carolina. So, all of a sudden, you got this Black guy from Charlottesville, Virginia and the White guy from Leaksville, north Carolina, and the only thing that he knew that we talk about afterwards -- I didn’t know at the time -- that just down in North Carolina, the first year of integration down there was his senior year [01:05:00] in high school, and so I don't know the name of the Black school that merged with the white school. I think name of his school was Morehead or something like that down there. But he said it probably worked out well for him because when they were recruiting, he had a history of this being an integrated school, so at the end of the day, we just hit it off. Only issues we ever had was just roommate issues, but as far as other, we did things together, especially freshman year, we went together. But everybody on the team, my teammates and the student body at large, even my freshman year, and then obviously I got to be a really good player as the years went on. But those guys were just great.
PL: [01:05:49] That’s great. We’ve had you talking for a long time, and I’m sure Cindy wants to get on the road, but I have just a couple more questions.
CINDY: [01:05:58] I’m (inaudible) rushing.
FA: [01:05:59] Oh, yeah, [01:06:00] we got plenty of time.
PL: [01:06:01] Oh, thank you. So, after Roanoke College, you came back to coach at Albemarle High School.
FA: [01:06:07] Yes.
PL: [01:06:08] So, I bet you were the first Black coach at Albemarle.
FA: [01:06:11] No, I was not.
PL: [01:06:12] You were not?
FA: [01:06:13] No. I tell you what; what they finally did was that they merged -- Burley became a middle school, and so they merged Burley and Albemarle, which was a county school. So, they merged the two schools, and the big thing, it was --
PL: [01:06:29] They closed Burley, right?
FA: [01:06:30] No, Burley continued to be like a -- they may have closed it, but I know it’s a middle school.
PL: [01:06:37] Now it’s a middle school, but as a high school --
FA: [01:06:41] But they closed it as a high school, yeah. Right. So, the coaches from Burley at the time were to go work at Albemarle, and they had to try to come up with some type of equitable solution to who’s going to be head coach. So, the football coach at Albemarle was white, and I want to say [01:07:00] -- I’m not really certain -- may have been Ralph Harrison or Jim Arbaugh, but they were out there. And the basketball coach was coming from Burley. His name was A.P. Moore. Now, A.P. has since passed, but A.P. was the basketball coach there for about, I don't know, maybe three, four years. I don't know. And A.P., now, I played at Lane, and he was a coach at Burley, but in the summers, I’d come back home. All those guys, we’d all play together, and I used to work up at Washington Park as a counselor or whatever, so A.P. Moore, and I’m an assistant coach in Roanoke, Jefferson High School. I’m two years out of college, and I’m the JV coach, but I’m young, and I’m wanting to make this career. And I get a call from A.P. Moore, and he said, “Frankie, are your goals [01:08:00] to be a head coach? Would you like to be a head coach someday?” And I said, “Oh, yeah.” “Look, I’m just talking about the high school level.” “Oh, yeah,” I said, “Yeah, Coach Moore, if you can help me in any way.” Now, he wasn’t my coach, but he knew me. So, he said, “I’m going to retire or resign from the head coaching position here at Albemarle,” and he said, “I’m going to recommend you for the job.” And I’m thinking, “Well, I’m pretty young.” And so, anyway, he did. He resigned, and I think -- I don't know -- this is kind of maybe folklore, (laughs) I think, but he was going to resign, I think, only on the condition that I was going to be the next coach. I don't know that to be a fact, but anyway, there’s a lot that goes behind that. But to answer your question, really, because I think he was trying to keep the racial balance, so the football coach was white, and they wanted the basketball coach. And I don’t think there was any other candidates at the time who were Black or who coach (inaudible) deemed be able to do this. And [01:09:00] I loved Albemarle, man. After my first year, rookie coach, I mean, you had a lot to learn, obviously, but the next two years, we won championships at the district level, coached some great kids. And then I got the opportunity to go to Virginia Tech as an assistant coach, and I went on to be on the college level. But I loved Albemarle, but I was not the first Black basketball coach at Albemarle High School. And A.P., he passed away several years ago, but he was a fun guy. I really appreciated. Sometimes when you look back and you don’t think about it, and you have this success, it’s because of others, the others around you. I mean, just a phone call --
PL: [01:09:40] Oh, that’s very generous, but I’m sure you had a lot to do with it --
FA: [01:09:43] Well, sometimes it’s putting --
PL: [01:09:43] -- in terms of skill.
FA: [01:09:44] -- yeah, just putting you in the right place.
PL: [01:09:48] So, I know later in your career, you became head coach at both historically Black colleges and at historically white [01:10:00] colleges and universities. And I want to just ask this general question about whether those contexts had any effect on either your coaching, any impact on your coaching strategies or on your opportunities.
FA: [01:10:17] No. I tell you, it’s really funny because when we talk about all of this, first desegregating or integrating the schools from elementary school, and then you coach at Virginia Tech, was my first head coaching position. I was an assistant there for 11 years. Then, you go to Tennessee State, which is an historically Black college, university, and that in itself was a unique experience.
PL: [01:10:39] I taught at Tennessee State before I came to Charlottesville. We can talk about that after.
FA: [01:10:43] We’ll talk about that, yeah, a little bit. But I tell you what, the Big Blue, it was my kind of indoctrination to an HBCU. And now we’re talking about race and looking at it in reverse, [01:11:00] when I applied for the job there, there was some skepticism because I didn’t go to an HBCU. In fact, (laughs) I went to Roanoke College, which is very white school. So, I was coming from Virginia Tech, even though it was a large university, and I had some success there, but again, there was a white school. And I remember the president. Dr. Hefner was the president then at TSU. He says, “Well, why would you take this job? Look, you haven’t had any real history or real service or work at an HBCU.” And then my answer was, “Well, know that. I feel like I’m qualified to coach basketball, whether it’s at an HBCU.” I said, “But if only case I can make, I guess, is I’m Black, I mean,” (laughs)[01:12:00] and he just looked at me. In fact, he didn’t really want to hire me, and the athletic director and certain people in the community that had some strong -- that knew me and knew of me convinced him that this is the man that you need to hire. And so, I got the job. We won championships. We won three straight championships. They haven’t done that since at Tennessee State in basketball, and then I left. But every time he would introduce me, he would tell the story, and he said, “And I didn’t want to hire Coach Allen, but people just overruled me.” He was a Mensa. He was one of the guys that were really, really smart. And so, I said, “Dr. Hefner, you don’t need to tell that story, man.” I said, “This is your time to say, ‘Man, and I hired this guy. It was the best move I ever made.’” (laughs) But anyway, back to your question, I enjoyed Tennessee State. You got a different perspective. I got my degree from [01:13:00] Roanoke College. I got an education working at Tennessee State University, so anyway, it was fun. It was a good time. Actually, it was a nice place to work. You talk about athletic though now; Tennessee S--
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