Dunbar story brings back memories

Rhonda Noble

The News-Herald report about Dunbar School really “took me back.”

You see, I was a young white girl raised on Ferry Street in Loudon. Our backyard looked right at the Dunbar schoolyard.

As children in that neighborhood, we all grew up together. All of us. We were not black or white. We were just kids who played together.

I remember I used to ask my daddy why some of my friends had to go to that school and I had to go someplace else — a question he never quite explained. I was much too young to understand.

But change was coming and he knew it. I was starting in the fourth grade when the schools desegregated. I was also one of the most fortunate students in Loudon County.

Edna Arnwine, one of the first black teachers in Loudon County, was my teacher that year. I remember there was a lot of grown-up talk about those changes. Some people were not happy about any of it. I just remember thinking it was going to be great because now we would all be in one place. Ms. Arnwine was so good and she just had a little something extra about her. She really cared about all of her students.

I contracted the measles that year because there wasn’t yet a vaccine. My fever was so high I was taken to Loudon hospital and they used bags of ice packed around my body to try to help get the fever down.

Many days of school were lost, but I never got behind. My teacher — “that black woman” — came to my house every day and sat beside my bed after teaching all day. She read to me when I was too weak to raise my head. As my health improved, she continued to come. She taught me my lessons until I could return to school.

I did not attend Dunbar, yet because of it I have lifelong friends and precious memories of a woman who cared for me — a child she didn’t have to care about. The things she did for others weren’t in her job description, they were in her heart.

Thank you to the News-Herald for the article you published. It took me back and reminded me where I came from and all of the places I have yet to go.

Rhonda Noble, who grew up in Loudon, still calls Loudon County home.