Individuals who worked for V.P.I. in 1899:
(Top row, from left) "Sporty Sam" (Charles Owens), "Uncle Wash" (Washington Eaves), Granville Eaves,
(second row, from left) "Hardtimes" (Floyd Meade), "Sampson and his mule" (Sampson Campbell),
Alonzo Freeman Sr., "Smoky Sam," (third row, from left) "Charles,"
"Me an' Kanode," and "Bill Bland." 1899 Bugle, p. 155.
Left and right sides of stereopticon of
the Mess Hall, 1890s
Charles Owens ("Uncle
Sporty") started working for V.A.M.C. in 1890 as janitor
in Barracks No. 1. He soon acquired an
additional duty as a snare drummer to beat out the
first call to reveille. He attached the large snare
drum to a leather belt about his waist. Ten minutes
before reveille each morning he would parade the area
in front of the barracks, beating out tunes on his drum.
Sampson, Campbell drove a cart with a mule.
Floyd Meade was born in
Blacksburg on October 2, 1882 and lived with the
Thomas family. Cadet N. W. Thomas of that family
acquainted Floyd with the barracks when he was only
seven years old. He became a favorite of the
cadets and the unofficial mascot of the V.A.M.C.
athletic teams. The cadets gave him the nickname of
"Hard Times." He used to run about Blacksburg
ringing a bell to call attention to a poster
advertising athletic contests at the college.
Later as the mascot of the football team, he travelled with the gridmen on
their trips, frequently dressed as a clown in orange
and maroon colors. When he was fourteen, he worked
part-time at the Mess Hall.
As he got older, Floyd Meade trained a huge turkey to
go on a leash of orange and maroon ribbons. When he
tapped the turkey with a whip, it would gobble. He
would parade the turkey up and down the sidelines at
football games and tap the turkey for a touchdown or
spectacular play. The press made a big thing of it,
and the football team became known as the "Gobblers."
Floyd Meade died in 1942. (Temple, 254-6, 448)
John Sears ("John the
Barber") came to Blacksburg around 1917. He was a
favorite barber in Portsmouth, and the cadets talked
him into coming to Blacksburg. His shop was on the
quad in the barracks at first. He had a phenomenal
memory and remembered everyone and the positions they
played. Alums used to look up Professor Rasche and
John the Barber when they came back to town. He was a
Pat Mills was the barracks
janitor and a popular debater. On March 31, 1916 he
was awarded the decision in an "Old-Time Negro
Debate" held at the German Hall. All the contestants
were janitors on the V.P.I campus and the subject was
"Art is more fascinating than nature." Mr. Mills
argued the affirmative. In 1918 "Pat" Mills argued
the same position when it was decided that "...the
Kaiser should be hanged to the nearest tree
immediately after capture" was too one-sided to
argue. The final record of his debating career shows
him arguing the negative side of "...Ulysses S. Grant
deserves more honor in fighting for the Union and
Strength than Robert E. Lee deserves in fighting for
independence and his home."
Freeman owned a dry cleaning business in Blacksburg. He and Bessie (Briggs) Freeman had five children. Alonzo Freeman, Jr., was the principal of the elementary school
for black children in Blacksburg. Alonzo Freeman, Jr.'s letter
to the editor of the Roanoke Times was published on August 15, 1940: "The
Average Man Does Not Object to the Cost of the
Defense Program If the Money Is Wisely Spent."
Beatrice Virginia (Bea) Freeman Walker (1926-2013) was Alonzo Freeman, Sr.'s youngest child. She was an active member of the Blacksburg community and was instrumental in the renovation of the Order of St. Luke's and Odd Fellows Hall Museum in Blacksburg. A video oral history with her is available.
Doc Tyler, trainer for V.P.I. Varsity Football Team
Extension programs serving black families were moved
from Hampton Institute to Virginia State College at
Petersburg. Funding, accountability, and supervision
of programs for both blacks and whites became the
responsibility of the director of the Cooperative
Extension Service at VPI. (Virginia Cooperative
Extension Service, College of the Fields: Some
Highlights of the Virginia Cooperative Extension
Service, 1914-1980, 1987, 258.)
All citations are from
Harry D. Temple, The Bugle's Echo: A Chronology of
Cadet Life, Vol. 1, Blacksburg: Virginia Tech Corps of
Cadets Alumni, 1996, unless otherwise noted.