Page 22 missing from York, Pa., school book? Turn to Page 11 two times, teacher tells Voni B. Grimes
Voni B. Grimes joins other Penn State York administrators instrumental in growing the campus in the 1970s and 1980s. Pictured, from left, John Marshall, director of continuing education; John J. Romano, CEO, Penn State York; Ed Elias, Romano’s predecessor as CEO; and Frank Miller, campus register. This photo appears in Grimes autobiography, “Bridging Troubled Waters.” Background posts: New book gives insight into Voni B. Grimes, Who are York County’s most influential people? and A short test of your black history knowledge.
I had the honor or introducing York leader Voni B. Grimes, a community award recipient at the Salvation Army’s annual dinner this week.
The next night, I introduced local historian Jim Rudisill at an unveiling of a scholarly journal at the York County Heritage Trust.
Here are comments recognizing Voni, with Jim’s comments coming in a future post:
Voni B. Grimes, left, embraces Edward P. Hall during an observance at Maranatha Church of God In Christ in this York Daily Record/Sunday News file photo.
Voni B. Grimes,
I’d like to start off by answering questions some may have about Voni B. Grimes:
Q. Why does he drive a Cadillac?
A. The York community denied Grimes, a black man, a home 50 years ago, but they couldn’t stop him from buying the best car on the market.
Q. How did he learn to play his trademark harmonica?
A. He started when he was 6 years old and picked it up again at 60, when it was helpful to play it for Masonic functions.
Q. And why did he move into a suite at the Yorktowne Hotel at the age of 75?
B. When Voni Grimes was growing up in York before World War II, members of the black community weren’t welcome there. That prompted a young and determined Vonidoe Buster Grimes (now you know what the “B.” stands for) to vow he would live there some day.
I’d like to tell a story about this man who has become legendary in the York County community, a community that has been home since he came here from Bamberg, S.C., as a youngster. Part comes from his autobiography, “Bridging Troubled Waters.”
Each school day, young Voni B. Grimes would walk to East College Avenue, a half-block from his home.
The home’s address was 228 Susquehanna Ave., but calling the dirt alley an avenue is charitable.
Often, his white friends would join him for the short stroll or meet at the intersection. That’s where their time together ended for the school day.
Noell Elementary School, now occupied by Community Progress Council, stood almost across the street, its doors open only to white students.
Those kids crossed the intersection and entered its welcoming doors.
Voni commenced his walk of more than five blocks to the segregated Smallwood School.
This College Avenue-Susquehanna Avenue intersection was a dividing point between the best education York schools could offer white pupils and hand-me-down education for black students.
How would Voni respond to this injustice?
After saying goodbye to his buddies, Voni walked down East College Avenue toward his “private school,” as he later joked about Smallwood.
No bitterness there.
At Smallwood, Voni grew used to getting hand-me-down books. They were often stale editions, replaced by new books at the white elementary schools.
One day, Smallwood teacher and principal, Mr. Hopewell, asked his class to turn to Page 22.
That page was missing from Voni’s book.
Turn to Page 11 two times, the principal said with a smile.
Voni smiled, too.
This story says a lot about Voni B. Grimes. He has become a success by handling challenges that have come his way without bitterness, with a smile, and with strength and aplomb.