How Much Have We Lost?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Samuel Ferguson: A Soldier From Gum Springs

One of the reasons I like knocking doors is because you get to meet many of the amazing people that make our community so great.  Tonight, I got to meet one of those people.

While knocking doors in Spring Garden Apartments, I ran into Sam Ferguson.  Mr. Ferguson is 89 years-old.
While I was talking to him about my race and voting in November, I noticed the military certificates hanging on the wall and said something to him about being a veteran and then we got to talking. 

Mr. Ferguson was born in 1922 and grew up in Gum Springs.  He grew up "cutting corn" and "milking cows" around Mt. Vernon's farms.  He told me about the farm where the Multiplex stands today and a man with 400 dairy cows back towards Mt. Vernon Hospital. 

He listed off a litany of the places where he had attended school - Gum Springs, Woodlawn, "Springbank," and high school in Manassas before Fairfax County agreed to build Luther Jackson High School.  That was the status quo in the days before Fairfax County's schools were desegrated in the 1960's.

I had never heard of a school at Springbank, so I Googled it when I got home and found a fascinating doctoral dissertation which discussed the history of the Gum Springs, Springbank, and Woodlawn schools along with the busing to Manassas.   
Mr. Ferguson enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served during World War II.  He also listed off all the places around the world he'd been, but I didn't take notes and couldn't remember all of them.  He showed me portraits taken of himself in uniform in the Navy (on the left) that looked like they were from a different time. 

After serving in World War II, he was the head shoe repairman at Fort Belvoir for 17 years.  He also had pictures of himself at work (on the right) and other pictures of men watching him do his work. 

He's not quite as spry as he used to be and he doesn't like to call attention to himself, but he still gets around.  His apartment was a treasure trove of Mt. Vernon's past.  He still had his childhood baseball mitt which was straight out of The Natural.  I wish I could've stayed longer.

It's easy to forget about Mt. Vernon's rural past.  My grandmother used to tell me stories about moving to Mt. Vernon in 1940 and having to deal with live chickens, cope with milk delivered via a milkman, and the stories about the rampant segregation that was the status quo in Fairfax County until the 1960's. 

I'd never met Mr. Ferguson before, but he reminded me a lot of my grandmother's stories.  There are also so few World War II veterans left, it's always an honor to meet one, hear their stories and gain some perspective. 

It's also good motivation to keep knocking doors!

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