Interview with Evelyn Lynn


It's April 19, 1988, and we're sitting in the beautiful setting of the Occoquan River in the living room of Mrs. Evelyn Lynn who is a former teacher, teaching principal and principal in Prince William County and in Fairfax County.

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Q: I want to start by telling you that I am pleased to be here, and tell you also that I have heard so many good things about you from your friends and associates that I am anxious to learn more about you. Let's start and talk a little bit about your career. I know that you were first a teacher. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

lynn audio (Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)

A: I graduated from a junior college in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1929. That fall, in September, I accepted my first position as 7th grade teacher in the Amherst public school - consolidated high school and elementary. As a 7th grade teacher, I stayed there for seven years. I enjoyed my first experience. I had always wanted to be a teacher and was delighted with it.

Q: You said that you had always wanted to be a teacher. Did teaching live up to your expectations then of what you had wanted to do?

A:Yes, I think it did.

Q: And then you moved from Amherst to...

A:From Amherst I went to Occoquan.

Q: That's Occoquan Elementary?

A:Right here in Prince William County river - That's Occoquan that you're looking at. But my home, as you know, is in Fairfax County. The river's the boundary.

Q: And about how long did you teach at Occoquan Elementary?

A:About four years. From there I went to Dumfries.

Q: Dumfries Elementary?

A:Dumfries Elementary in Prince William County. I had discussed with my superintendent, Mr. Haig, that I wanted to go to the University of Virginia to graduate school to become a supervisor. He persuaded me, and I'm so glad that he did to accept a principalship of Dumfries school which had experienced a growth. There was a new building and the school had expanded from the seven-room school to a fourteen-teacher school. That's Dumfries.

Q: Now at that time did you have your masters in administration or . . .

A:No, that was not required then. I had only a junior college education, but I had experience.

Q: And how did becoming a teaching principal add to your responsibilities as versus just a teacher in your previous school?

A:It added quite a bit because I was responsible for a lunch room. Those years were - the years I was at Dumfries-included the World War II years. We were selling bonds and stamps, having activities, patriotic activities. The principal was responsible for the registration of people - the young men having to register for the service.

Q: Now you, as the principal, were responsible for registering . . .

A:Right. I was responsible for helping ...and then came along rationing sugar and rationing, um . . . and what else did we ration?

Q: Coffee, flour perhaps?

A: Food stamps.

Q: Now did you provide the facility and then you directed the people who came in, or you actually participated in the giving of the rationing stamps?

A:I'm sure I had plenty of help because I helped;,I cooperated with the person in charge in the county of Prince William, with getting, furnishing the names of people in the community whom I knew through the school who sat at the desks and did the actual registration.

Q: But you were the coordinator of that effort.


Q: And also you said that you sold bonds and . . .

A:Yes, There was quite a bit of competition and enthusiasm and interest in the school in competition between the classes - patriotic competition to sell bonds and stamps for the United States.

Q: I don't mean to jump ahead in our story because we will come backs but one of the things that I would like for you to mention later is to talk about the change in patriotism as you saw it in students and the community. We'll talk about that as we continue. Approximately how long were you the teaching principal at Dumfries Elementary?

A:I think I was a teaching principal the entire time I was at Dumfries Elementary, from 1940-44.

Q: From 1940 to 1944? Then in 1944 what direction did your career take?

A:I was . . . Right along in there I took a year off. No, I went then as principal to Barcroft Elementary school in Arlington and was a teaching principal there.

Q: That was in Barcroft?

A:Barcroft in Arlington County. And I was a teaching principal there.

Q: What do you remember about Barcroft? What stands out in your mind?

A:Well, it was a busy time, and I remember a very pleasant association with parents, the PTA and the parents of the children. Of course, the especially important people, the principal and the teachers and the members of the staff, the cafeteria workers.

Q: You said it was a very busy time. Why was it a particularly busy time?

A:Well, any time you're responsible for the education of children is a busy time as you well know.

Q: That' s true, yes.

A:And if you're responsible for the welfare of the whole school, and coordinating the educational program throughout the whole school. And I had gotten my degrees you see what I did - I had graduated from a junior college and I got my bachelor's degree from George Washington University while I was teaching in Arlington.

Q: So while you were at Barcroft you were working on your degree - on your bachelor's degree - and then you continued as a teaching principal there at Barcroft. Then in 1950 or '51, you got your master's, Is that correct?

A:No, that must not be right. I think that must have been when I got my degree because after that I got my BS degree.

Q: Oh, OK, so that's when you got your degree and then you stayed at Barcroft and you continued. . you took a year out to get your master's degree and that was at what university?

A:At American.

Q: At American?

A: Right.

Q: And then after that where were you assigned? What was your next important assignment?

A:That coincided...I'm trying to think. I didn't get my masters degree until shortly - a year or two before I retired.

Q: Oh, so then with your bachelor's you went to Crestwood in Springfield, Va. Is that right?

A: Right.

Q: Now I believe you told me that you opened Crestwood School. Is that right?


Q: Tell me what was required to open this brand new school in Springfield, Va.?

A:Well, it was . . . I met Mr. Woodson, the superintendent and a member of the school board up there. We went all over the school. It was the most beautiful school, just lovely. And already it was too small because by the time we moved in the post-war population of Springfield was developing and . . . I forgot I taught a year at Garfield school before I went to be a principal.

Q: Is that right? At Gar-Field?

A: Not down here - at Garfield school in Fairfax County.

Q: What did the administration, what did the superintendent, what guidelines did he give you to open this new school? And then what did you do as a principal? What action had to be taken?

A:The teachers had been assigned but . . . I'm afraid I'm going to mess this up for you.

Q: What were some of the things that you had to do to get that school ready for all those baby-boomers that were coming in after the war?

A:When I look back on it I can hardly believe I was able to do it. I don't think- I could do it now. It was not only, of courser the most important thing was to think about the people we were going to house, and the school had the population,. Springfield was growing by leaps and bounds. Springfield really sprang into being when I first went up there. I think there were just three schools between Annandale and Springfield Lee High School was there. Garfield elementary school was there. That's where I was first introduced to Fairfax County - as a teacher at Garfield. So while I was a teacher in the 7th grade at Garfield, Mr. Woodson and a supervisor, Ellen Hurdleg came in one day in the room and asked if they could see me briefly, and my children were very good to be left alone. So I went out and talked with them and they said they would like me to consider taking the new Creekwood School that was opening up a few blocks up on Hanover Ave., and was going to take some of the population from the Garfield Elementary School that was being housed in the churches and in trailers as well as in the Garfield school. And the Lynnbrook school was being built. It was going to open the following year. We were in the midst of an explosion. Some of the pupils that came into Crestwood that first year were later able to go to Lynnbrook because that was built the following year. That eased the pressure a bit. The necessity of making provision for the educational program for the children as they came in from all parts of the country, all parts of the world, because many of them were children of military families and had been all over in different parts of the world. Many of them had different needs, but all of them needed to be educated and fed. And our cafeteria was a big part of the day after the children would come into the classroom. Of course they were assigned during the month in which the secretary and I had ... the month of August when we had been getting them enrolled and getting them registered.

Q: Now, just the two of you, you and the secretary paid all of the registration?

A:That's right, we were doing that. Yes, I think we did.

Q: And you were mentioning all the different needs of the students. Can you think of any particular needs or any of the needs and the ways in which you met those needs?

A:Well, there were always the human needs of the children. I remember one youngster who just could not wait to get into first grade. And he came up whenever he could. His father would bring him up because he wanted so bad to come to school. His father would bring him up and take him around through the school and he couldn't hardly wait to get there. I remember that he, when the following fall when he came to school and his father left him or his mother, whatever the case may have been, there was a great deal of crying down the hall and he had not found things as much to his liking apparently as he thought. He missed his family. it didn't take him long to come out of that. We had wonderful teachers and they were able to - the teacher was able to relate to him. It didn't take very long for him to feel like he belonged to us.

Q: That he belonged . . .

A: We always had that - that was before kindergarten had been put into Fairfax.

Q: Now was kindergarten instituted while you were at

A:Yes, right.

Q: And what changes

A:The building was already being - the population was already exceeding the first plan of the building and they were building as I recall - they were adding an addition of four classrooms and later trailers on the playground.

Q: And this was when it was brand new ?

A:That was when it was brand new. It continued to grow and we had another building program before I left and then there's been a gymnasium added since T left.

Q: So it's in a constantly growing area?


Q: What did you have to do as a principal in order to get all. those different groups of people from those different areas to work together and support that school?

A:Well, I used to say that our lot was really cast in pleasant places because they were all aware of - seemed to be aware - all the mothers and fathers seemed to be aware of the pressures that were being brought on the school,,and we had a marvelous PTA. The fathers and mothers were just so helpful. The room mothers did everything that they could to help the teachers. Mothers volunteered to do work for the teachers like getting things for them. And then we had volunteers that came into staff the nursing - I can't think of the word.

Q: The clinic?

A: The clinic.

Q: Now did you coordinate all those efforts? The volunteers and the clinic workers and ...

A:Yes, but the teachers knew - it was all team work. It was working through the teachers and through the secretary. of course,,the main job that the teachers were doing was taking care of the children and doing the teaching, but they could suggest names to me of people who might have some time, that might be able to help.

Q: I keep hearing you mention team work and working with other people, That makes me think of your philosophy. What would you say your philosophy of education might be or what might be a guiding statement of how you've managed to be so successful as a principal?

A:Well, I think I was just fortunate as I said. My lot being cast in pleasant places. Now there was one thing I did not have that the principals that are there now have. The school was such a large community in itself that I had no buses to be concerned - with which to be concerned*

Q: Now did these students all walk to school?

A:Yes, they all walked to school. That community just sprang up.

Q: And you were responsible or were the parents responsible?

A:The safety patrol - one of the best organizations in the school - the most helpful is the safety patrol. Those youngsters would stand on the corners, the crossing guards '- I think we had only one crossing guard at first# but they may have more now. But the crossing guard would meet with the safety patrols and they would talk about the signs they would use and about the safety patrol holding the children back as they were coming to school in the morning or leaving in the afternoon to keep them from going into the street until the way was clear.

Q: Did you have many discipline problems? Did you have many problems with those students who were walking by themselves to school?

A:Of course everybody was human, and they were just wonderful boys and girls, but some of them had little ideas that maybe wouldn't always be exactly as you would like it. I remember when we had one teacher who was particularly strong in science and the children were just so enthusiastic and one morning the custodian came in; and by the way, you could get a good principal quicker my philosophy used to be that you could get a good principal more quickly than you could get a good custodian.

Q: Oh, is that right?

A:They were so important to keep us warm and keep us safe - take care of the furnace and keep us clean. The custodian came in, as white as a sheet. He could hardly speak, and I said, "What is the matter?" And he said, "There is a big black snake walking, and by that time a little boy came rushing past and said, "Mrs. Lynn, there's a black snake walking, crawling down the hall upstairs." One of the teachers had encouraged the youngster to bring it in, She hadn't said, "Please bring in snakes," but the youngsters knew how interested she was in science and how they liked to bring in living things and animals. Neither the custodian nor I was quite up to it so by the time the custodian had gotten in there, the boys had gathered up the snake and had an armful of black snake going out the door. So all was saved. I remember that. So I didn't have to do anything but just stand by.

Q: On those occasions when as all principals have, you had students who disobeyed the rules or did something of which you did not approve, how did you go about disciplining that student? What action did you take?

A:The first thing I would do would be have a conference with the teacher and the pupil and the parents just as soon as possible. And, of course, support the teacher in the meantime with whatever she felt that she wanted to give to the child in the classroom. But, as far as activities in the halls and other places, I often just had a conference with the child, and weld set up little goals about going a day at a time. Tie or she would try to get along because it was to their advantage to get along.

Q: Did you feel that you had the support of your parents in those conferences? Did they support the school?

A:Yes, they did. I think it was a wonderful community. Many is the time that I've walked through the hall that I wondered how could I be so fortunate just to have that community.

Q: Now, with that true, how long were you a principal at Crestwood? About 26 years?

A: Sixteen years.

Q: Sixteen years you were a principal there and did you feel that the support of the school by the parents and the community was as strong when you left as when you arrived?

A:Oh yes, I felt that the person who was coming in was coming in to a good school and I think he felt so too.

Q: What did you do that made that community so supportive of that school, because I know you were very instrumental in making Crestwood an outstanding school. What steps did you take?

A:Well, I'd always had the philosophy that the teachers, principals, parents and all those other people in the school that keep it running, custodians, cafeteria managers, the visiting teachers, the speech teachers, the music teachers, all of those people - and of course, they were people of different personalities. But most of them were there because they liked children. They liked that kind of an atmosphere. They liked that kind of a job - a convenient kind of a job. It was a pleasant place for them to work. But I always had the philosophy that the most important thing was to try to understand and I had a little prayer. That was before things got so that we weren't supposed to have prayer in school. That's how long ago that was! But I had a little prayer that went something like this; and the children appreciated it too. Grant me great teacher eyes to see, ears quick and keen, lips that laugh, strong and tender hands, but more than all, a heart that understands

Q: Now did you say that in the mornings? or how did you use that prayer?

A:I think I just shared that with the children. But in my classroom, when I was teaching, we would have a thought for the day. Every day and the children would bring in some favorite quotation or poem or something that their parent had sent in. And I've always been a lover of poetry and had collected a lot of things that were good for thoughts of the day. So we put that up and if the children chose to copy it and memorize it - it wasn't required, but if they'd like to, I'd make a note of it and they felt like they were getting extra credit. I think it was to their credit.

Q: At this time also, did you say the Pledge of Allegiance?

A:Oh, yes.

Q: Was that said every morning?

A:Every morning, yes indeed. The children would lead those opening exercises.

Q: Now was that in every classroom? Was it handled that way?

A:I think so, yes, sure.

Q: You've mentioned that you had such wonderful support not only at Crestwood but all of the schools where you were teacher-principal or principals but you seemed to have especially strong support at your Crestwood school. Was there anything that stands out in your mind that might have made that's particularly supportive community?

A:Yes, I think because that was a very new development, and it had sprung up, just mushroomed, following World War II. The school was a central, a focal point for the community. It was a new school, all the parents were interested in their children as they were in other schools. But the difference was a matter of walking a few blocks to the school to confer with the teacher or the principal if necessary. It was easy for it to be done and even the fathers could come in an hour late, getting to work or half an hour, and come by to speak with me.

Q: This is the end of side one of the interview with Mrs. Evelyn Lynn, April 19, 1988. Since the principal is the prime communicator with the community, we need to talk just a little bit if we may about the school community. You've talked about the support of your community. What did most of the people do? What was the occupation of most of the parents in the Crestwood community?

A:Most of the parents were in the government and the greater majority of them were working in D.C. or they were, their fathers were, in the service at Ft. Belvoir, or they were working at Belvoir in other positions - or at Quantico.

Q: Did you have to make special provisions because you had such a large military community in your school? Do you think there were any special provisions made?

A:I don't think so. They were very supportive - very supportive.

Q: Approximately how many of the mothers worked at that time?

A:I wish I had a percentage to give you, but I know that there were not as many mothers working then as have to work now.

Q: Did you see a change in how mothers supported the school and how that affected their students from the early years of your principalship and the latter years of your principalship?

A:Well, the latter years of my principalship were at Crestwood Antipus I said that was kind of an ideal set-up because the community was large enough to support, to take care, to be taken care of by our school. Mothers could walk up to the school. Fathers could take a, be late, take a little time off to come for a conference. And many of the fathers would come to confer with the teachers in the afternoon. They would get off from work early enough to come for a conference with the teachers and if it was necessary to have a conference with the principal.

Q: We've talked of how you've handled community relations and you've described the organizations that were within your school. I was wondering if these were other community organizations that used your school and other effort you had good school-community relations with them?

A:I'm so glad you brought that up because without a doubt that helped make the school closely knit with the community. I remember that they were, the community, wanted to establish a library and I think that's called the William Byrd Library. When they were getting organized and getting going on that project, the Friends of the Library met in our school. The Women's Club would meet in Crestwood. And, of course, after school the Cub Scouts and the Brownies. And then on Sundays at least one church I can remember that had church and Sunday school at Crestwood while their school was being built.

Q: Now who scheduled all these activities? Were you in charge of the scheduling?

A:I must have had the approval, had to approve it and it all came over the counter in the office. They always consulted me so I would say, yes, I did. They didn't make it a hard task. They took care of the building. Now and 057 then we would have some problems with children. The Sunday school was held in some of the classrooms and some of the children's desks might have felt like they hadn't been treated with proper respect. Those things were very minor and people were careful to see that they did not disturb anything.

Q: Was there a fee charge for the use of the school? Or did they just . . . ?

A:Now, I didn't handle that. I imagine that must have been, to take care of the custodial part. I'm sure that was handled by the group itself. If they couldn't take care of it themselves they paid for the custodians.

Q: It's been said that we learn most from adversity. You seemed to have had such a pleasant experience at Crestwood. Can you think of times of adversity while you were at Crestwood?

A:Indeed I can. I don't know whether adversity - you can be the judge whether adversity-is the word. But, I can still get chills of what we went through during the Cuban crisis when we had to have air-raid drills. And when everyone would get on the floor in the halls the; safest place. We would have decided what would be the safest place, and the teachers, children and everyone would have to get on their knees, cover their head with their hands. And I can remember how unbelievable it seemed to stand in that hall with hundreds of children and people and not hear a sound.

Q: Now, how were you told?

A: An air-raid siren. There was an air-raid sired placed near our school. of course, we didn't particularly enjoy the best place for it really and we had to cover our ears anyway.

Q: Now were you given specific guidelines?

A:Oh yes, we were told how to handle that. It was suggested and I imagine that there must have been some - I can't remember - I guess that the principals were responsible for seeing that it was properly done. But if any questions came up, I'm sure that someone would have come to help us.

Q: How did you go about explaining the necessity of that to the students at that young age?

A:Well again, I think the parents were very helpful and understanding, and I think they reinforced what the teachers the teachers and the parents reinforced each other in working with the children in air-raid drills as well as the fire drills and any other activity in school. I tried not to make it a fearsome thing at all but something they could do and do well and be proud of their cooperations.

Q: Did this go on for a matter of weeks, months? Do you have any recollection of how long that happened?

A:I don't know how long we did that. I'm sure we did that for the duration.

Q: Now we go from things that were negative to things that are pleasant to remember and I know that you had such a wonderful career that you will have many memories of your past triumphs. I would like to talk about a very important occasion in your life and that was your retirement ceremony. Could you tell me just a little bit about your remembrances of your retirement ceremony? Could we start with some of the important people who shared in that event with you?

A:Yes, I . . . the PTA president, Captain Brightenburg was president at the time I retired; our school board member, Mr. Herrity, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors was Mr. Herrity, and the dearest, I cannot think of her name to save my life, the representative - the school board representative - a lively person.

Q: And I understand that Mr. Herrity make a presentation that night also, didn't he?

A:He presented a resolution thanking me for the work, whatever I had done at Crestwood. Laid it on with a trowel and trimmed the edges off very tactfully - good politician that he is - but he did do it sincerely.

Q: Of course, I'm sure he did, and I understand that there was a special day named. Is that not true?

A:Yes, they named the Sunday of my retirement, was June 4, 1972, and that was declared Evelyn Lynn Day by the action of the Board of Supervisors.

Q: What a wonderful honor that was for someone who was given so much. If you had words of advice to give to someone who was considering becoming a new principal, what would you tell that person?

A:I have a friend who is a principal and I haven't heard from her since she started this year. We talked about that. she is a very dedicated person and I would say to her just as I've said now that if I had to do it over again that I would do it. I've enjoyed it. If I were younger and had my life to live over again, it was a very happy time and very fulfilling.

Q: What is the most important thing do you think for a principal to remember on a daily basis?

A:Well, I think maybe we've said it before that we're sort of charged with, I believe our superintendent Mr. Woodson said, that the principal would set the tone for the school and I think the way that we would set the tone, the principal would through cooperation, with the teachers and understanding of the teacher, the parents, and all of the staff, the secretaries, the cafeteria people, special teachers, custodians, all of the aides, all of the people who keep the school running and going and supervisors. If we could remember that understanding each other's point of view, trying to understand, is one of the most important things. My prayer is very simple: Grant me great teacher eyes to see, ears quick and keen, strong and tender hands, and lips that laugh, but more than alia heart that loves and understands. And I think that in all of our relationships in school and out of school as parents that is a big help.

Q: I thank you so much for this afternoon. I have enjoyed it, and you have given me some interesting ideas and things to think about. Thank you for sharing these also on the tape. Is there anything you would like to add? Is there anything that I failed to ask that you would like to add to this tape?

A: I don't see how you would have room for much more.

Q: Anything you would like to say that I have failed to ask?

A:I don't think so. I just feel very indebted to all of the people with whom I worked, and to the superintendent, Mr. Funderburk. Now Mr. Woodson retired while I was still a principal. Mr. Funderburk succeeded him and I believe that if I had to do it over again and had the opportunity and was younger that I would do it again.

Q: Thank you very much.

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