I served in the inner city of Norfolk for one year after high school. POPV Prince of Peace Volunteers also known as the Prince of Peace Corps was a creation of the Lutheran Church. It provided a program similar to Vista or the Peace Corps where volunteers, usually young, would spend one or two years in an American inner city or overseas mission. The salary was menial, just enough to get by. We did a variety of work, much of it quite secular. We did our little part in making the world a better place. This is my story.
Lynne and Bob Souvorin, Original Team Members in front of their Chevy Station Wagon named "Bathtub". Bob and Lynne started the Team and Teen Center in July 65. Craig Hullinger joined the team in February 66. Pamela Jo Smith and Myrle Horne replaced Bob and Lynn in about July 66. All of us completed one year.
|Our POPV Team XMAS 1966 - Myrle Horne, Craig Hullinger, Pam Smith|
James and Pam in front of Mural in the teen center drawn by Bob Sourvorin.
Piano Man and admirers.
Craig Harlan Hullinger
Norfolk, Virginia Jan 1966 to Feb 1967
We participated in a two week training period in Chicago where we were exposed to a number of social workers, civil rights activists, etc. There were about 25 young people from all over the country. We lived in the YMCA in near north Chicago, and visited neighborhoods and homes in Public Housing Projects, including Robert Taylor and Cabrini Green. As the only south side Chicago guy in the group I thought I was an expert.
The training program was excellent, developed and managed by Coach Walt Reiner from Valporaiso University in Indiana. I really wanted to go over seas. They had some workers in India and Indonesia. However, they only sent older college graduates overseas. Since it was January in Chicago, the idea of a warm place was appealing. The warmest sounding place was Norfolk, Virginia. Norfolk became my home for the next year.
A young woman, Candace, and I took the bus from Norfolk to Chicago. The trip took about 24 hours. We met and moved in with the rest of our Team composed of Bob and Lynn Souvorin. Bob and Lynn had started our POPV mission six month before, converting an old church and school into a teen and community center.
We initially lived in a boarding house with Mr. Bess, a nice elderly gentlemen who cooked such things as collard greens and fish with their heads still attached. He owned a really stupid dog named Farfel, and thought we POPV volunteers were goofy. He was right.
The four of us then rented an old house close to the teen center. Candace quickly became afraid of the community and returned to her parents home, so our team was reduced to the three of us.
Lynne and Bob had not know each other before Norfolk, but had married shortly after coming to Norfolk. Bob was 28, an Air Force veteran, and an artist. He was also known as the "Duke" and had a great story about his grandparents fleeing Russia during the 1917 revolution. They had taken the train east instead of west, and survived. He said he would have been a Duke in Czarist Russia.
Lynne was twenty and from California. She had been adopted by a Mexican American family. Both Lynne and Bob were excellent people and a lot of fun.
I was very happy as part of the team. Norfolk was an adventure and an interesting place. We were paid $70 a month plus room and board. Our big splurge was a monthly trip to Shoney’s Big Boy for a large hamburger.
We did what we thought the community needed with very little supervision. There were three nice Lutheran Ministers nominally in charge, Pastors Elmer Medley, Jim Mueller, and "Fathe" Deramis. All three were or later became part time Navy Chaplains. They provided support when we needed it, but we were pretty much independent. I saw all three in later years. I ran into Pastor Deramus when he was active duty Navy and I was on a Marine Reserve duty at Coronado, California.
Bob and Lynn had set up a number of programs. We kept the Teen Center open 7 days a week, and it was a second home for lots of young people. We helped people get jobs, did a little training, and in general helped the community. Bob taught some art classes. Lynn counseled many people. We conducted dances on friday night, drawing large crowds. We all worked each day at the center.
I spent a lot of time getting to know people, helping where I could. We assisted people to find jobs and worked to improve racial relations.
I started a Boy Scout Troop and led a clean up effort to get a littered vacant lot turned into a park. I taught vacation bible school to thirty two 8 year olds and kept the teen center relatively clean.
I served with Lynn and Bob for six months. They left when their year of service was complete, heading for the University of Florida where Bob planned to complete his degree in art education.
|Myrle Horne, Pastor's Wife, Pamela Jo Smith|
We spent every day at the center. Kids would drop by at all hours. Many of them were not working or attending school. The center was a kind of home away from home. We talked to the kids, played ping pong, wrestled, boxed, played chess sang, danced, played piano, listened to records, watched TV, and read.
JOBS JOBS JOBS
Jobs were always difficult in the inner city. Capable hard working people could get jobs but they did not pay very much. And many of our kids had very poor work skills and attitudes. You would line someone up with a job, and they would last a day or two, and then quit, or just not bother to go back after one or two days. Successful people who could find and hold jobs would move out of the neighborhood.
There was a lot of discussion about migrant workers and the abuse they took for low pay, so I decided to investigate. I put on some old work clothes, hitch hiked up to the Maryland Eastern Shore, and asked about picking vegetables. A man with his own business and an old school bus was an entrepreneur who found farms that needed crops picked, and then brought his work crew to the job. Each individual on the crew would decide when and where he would work. Everyone but me on the crew was African American, some with Carribean roots.
On our first day the bus drove to an old grocery store, where people bought food. Most people bought a bag of bacon rinds, or potato chips, with a beer or a ½ pint of liquor. One couple bought a loaf of bread and milk.
We picked cucumbers. Although I was 18 and in good shape, almost everyone there could pick cucumbers faster than me. We received, I think, $.20 per bushel of cucumbers picked. Not a good way to get rich quick.
At lunch our crew took a break and went to the old grocery store, where people again bought a single beer or snack. Everyone decided that they had worked enough for that day, and took the rest of the day off. We returned to the camp, which was a number of small unpainted shacks.
I spent the afternoon getting to know the people. They were all poorly educated, of course, but later in the day their children returned from school, animated and enthused and brightly dressed. It would of course be very difficult to achieve in school when you moved every few weeks.
I thought that a Boy Scout troop was a good effort, since there was little parental direction for many of the kids. I contacted the District office to get started. I was surprised to find that the Boy Scouts, like many things in the south, was segregated. We were part of the African American Scout Council. I was the only leader who was white.
On one of our first camping trips we went to the Dismal Swamp south of Norfolk. When I requested permission from the District to go to the camp, the Scouting Executive hesitated, and told me it was a "white only" boy scout camp. But after a little thought, we decided that that was stupid, so we went anyway. So we integrated the Dismal Swamp.
Our scouts collected cans, sold newspapers, etc to raise enough money for food. We did not have much money, so decided to subsist on spaghetti. Big John, the other 18 year old Scout leader, knew how to cook spaghetti. So we cooked it and cooked it, and eventually had a pot full of paste. Luckily our scouts had brought other food from home, so we did not starve.
That night we took our Scouts on a snipe hunt. We told them that a Snipe was a cross between an alligator and a rabbit. We wandered around the swamp shouting "Snipe, Snipe" in an effort to flush out the elusive critters. I remember the surprised look on the bridge tenders face as we walked over the bridge, all of us calling for Snipe. Big John and I "found" a snipe, and captured it in a bag with a great deal of commotion and noise. Our Scouts were also a little surprised when we opened the bag and found that the snipe did not exist.
We took our Scouts to Williamsburg, VA, and saw how colonials and slaves lived in early America. Interesting for all of us.
I needed some kind of vehicle. My father had sold my 1930 Model A Roadster modelahullinger.blogspot.com, so I had a little capital. I bought a brand new red 1965 Honda Sport 50 cc motorbike. A fine machine. It had four speeds and would go about 45 miles an hour. You could start the little thing by just pushing off with your feet and popping the clutch. I drove all over Norfolk with that bike, sometimes with a big guy on behind. Cecil Cade and I went bar hopping on it, and Big John (280 lbs) also road with me.
After Bob and Lynne Souvorin left our team did not have a car, so I traded the Honda for a 1956 Mercury Station Wagon. The Merc drove ok, but almost everything was wrong with the car. I put on new brakes myself, and they worked. I kept driving on the smooth bald tires. The steering was the most remarkable - you could turn the wheel almost 180 degrees before it would start to turn the wheels. Driving down the road was interesting as you kept correcting the direction.
|1956 Mercury Station Wagon, Pam and Gary|
I could not get the car certified by the inspection agencies since it was unsafe. One of the guys suggested sending Pam to get the car certified. He said sending an attractive woman would get results. Pam took it in and passed the test.
VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL
I taught Vacation Bible School to 33 kids about eight years old for about two weeks - it only seemed like two years. It was very difficult getting and holding their attention. Lots of the kids had learning disabilities, and little discipline at home. I did get their attention in part by being loud and creating interesting and lively things for the kids to do. I also used Corporal punishment, "Knocking of Wood", by rapping on the kids head with my knuckles when they would not behave. That would of course not be tolerated today but worked well then.
COCKROACHES AND THE PRAYING MANTIS
When Bob and Lynn and I moved into our house in Norfolk we discovered incredible numbers of cockroaches. Many of them lived under a cuboard. When we turned it over we did a war dance and dispatched many, many little beasts.
I found a very large praying mantis a week later. I had read that the Chinese released praying mantis in their homes to control bugs. So I released my fine large green mantis in our home.
I did not see Mr. Mantis for a couple of weeks. I hoped he was doing his duty, eating our roaches. Then I forgot about him.
Pastor Deramis came over to our home one time, bringing his very proper and dignified wife with him. They sat at our kitchen table. Mrs. Deramis was clearly a little concerned with being in our less than palatial home, but she was trying hard. Just then, wouldn’t you know it, Mr. Mantis flew out and landed on Mrs. Deramis shoulder. I knocked it from her shoulder. She handled it as well as could be expected after I explained that it was just in our home to keep the cockroaches down.
SHAVING MY HEAD
|Actually Boot Camp Shot But Close Enough|
I saw my family during the year. They drove down from Chicago. I gave my siblings rides on my motorbike and we went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I also saw my father in North Carolina where he was on a business trip. I told him, "Dad, I joined the Marines." Oh, no", he said, and sat down on the bed. "How long?" "Four years", I replied. "Well, it will probably be all right", he said.hullingermarine.blogspot.com
COMBAT IN NORFOLK
I SAW MORE COMBAT IN NORFOLK THAN I DID IN VIETNAM
The level of violence in the inner city is startling. Many young men carried a weapon of some sort and would pull out their weapon casually and make kind of good humored but somewhat serious threats. It was a lot like Dodge City - and you needed a weapon to be competitive with the others guys who carried weapons.
CECEL CADE - Cecil Cade was the leader of our local gang. He was about my size, 6'2' and 185 lbs. He was a nice guy but very tough. He carried a 38 revolver in his hip pocket sticking out of his pants for his serious work. But he was well known to the local police, so carrying the gun was an invitation to be arrested, So most of the time Cecil carried a large table spoon sticking out of his back pocket. When angry or just playing, Cecil would brandish his spoon, and cry " I’ll spoon you to Death". It was kind of humorous, but also a real threat. Either end of the spoon really hurt when punched into your body. And it would be hard for a Police Officer to arrest Cecil for carrying an unsharpened spoon.
Cecil and I became reasonably good pals. Being aligned with Cecil made my life a little more secure.
One of our entertainments in the teen center was slap boxing. Slap boxing is similar to real boxing, but instead of punching your opponent, you slap him. I was a very good boxer and slap boxer, but always made sure that Cecil beat me.
JOHNNY OUTLAW - Johnny Outlaw had a reputation as a very tough guy. I did not know him except by reputation. One dark night I was on the corner with two other guys and Johnny Outlaw came down the street with two women. They were arguing. Johnny would periodically slap one of the women.
She shouted at us from across the street, "Please help me, mister"
Johnny shouted, "Yeah, help her you FMF", and leaped straight into the air about four feet - an impressive display. I really did not want to fight Johnny Outlaw - fighting a big tough guy with a 4 feet vertical leap is a bad idea. Fortunately he stopped abusing the woman so I did not have to interfere.
BULLOCK - Bullock was a big tough guy. For some reason he became angry at Lynne Souvorin and the word went out that he was going to beat up or kill Lynne. I waited for him at the door of the teen center, but he never came, and the problem blew over. He was killed a few weeks later in a gun fight, fortunately not at our teen center, so that ended that concern.
HAND TO HAND COMBAT
John and I also experimented with fighting knives. I was surprised that it was not that difficult to kick a knife out of an assailants hand.
One of the interesting techniques of getting a fight started was for the "Booster", a small guy, to start the fight. After the fight is started the friends of the booster join in and thrash the individual.
One night several guys starting breaking windows of the teen center. I asked them to stop. Three of them, BaBro (baby brother), George and Frog proceeded to swing their golf clubs around, while the leader, Ed, leaned against the wall next to the only way out of the teen center with his hand in his jacket grinning at me and enjoying the drama. I pretended to be cool, calm and collected, leaning against the wall (but close to an interior door).
The three guys kept screaming and swinging their golf clubs close to my head, but did not connect. Then George the little "Booster", who had just been released from prison, threw down his golf club and tore his shirt off. He then began swinging at me, dancing around trying to goad me into fighting him. He finally connected with a glancing blow.
I was about to start fighting back when inspiration (or panic) hit. I grabbed Babro, the most rational one of the four, and told him "That’s it!! The cops are on their way." Now, there was no way that I could have called the cops but Babro told the other guys, "we better get out of here. The cops are coming. Come on, lets get out of here before they come." And they left. Glad to see them go.
Another time these same four guys stole the TV set out of the teen center. I asked them to return it, and they went ballistic again. And another time I found the four of them wandering around in our house. We just had a nice chat and waited for them to leave.
We often had dances at the teen center, which were always a little dangerous. Bob and Lynn thought it was a good way to attract people to the center, which it was, but it always looked like World War III could erupt at any time. Cecil and his gang informally provided security, with their 38 pistols sticking out their back pockets.
I was at the front door, making sure real lunatics did not get into the center. There had been some kind of altercation which I missed upstairs, but had upset some people. Nate Cooper came towards the center out of the night, running at full speed with a large butcher knife, screaming that he was going to kill someone. I caught him with my arms around his waist and kept him from going into the center. He was a pretty good guy and did not cut me. I calmed him down a little and sent him home.
Cooper later joined the Marines and was stationed in Washington DC. I heard that he was badly wounded by inner city thugs in the capital.
A few minutes later some guy I did not know appeared at the front door with a pistol pointed at my stomach. He could not seem to speak and appeared to be high or drunk or both. I told him politely that I could not let him go up to the dance with the gun, but that if he took the gun home he could come back. He kept the gun pointed at my stomach, then tried to go around me. I stepped in his way. We danced back and forth - I would not let him get around me.
Fortunately he did not shoot me. After a few minutes of Mexican stand off, he went on his way.
DADDY’S SHOTGUN AND BLOW YO LEG OFF
George was young kid, about 15, and pretty affable, but as a young smaller guy he was always concerned about getting bullied. He said frequently "Somebody messes wi’ me, I get my daddy’s shotgun and blow his leg off ". I told him several times that you should not talk like that, and that he would get arrested if he shot someone. He said he did not care.
Frank was a very thin, mean guy, who had a reputation of being a good knife fighter. Frank and George got into some kind of dispute. George went home, got his fathers shotgun, and blew Franks leg off. This happened on the street, not in the teen center.
George never went to jail for this action, at least while I was in Norfolk. And about two months later both George and Frank on his crutches were in the teen center. They warily watched each other, and we all watched them, but there was no fight.
GARY GORUM - Gary was a young 16 year old, very strong. He and I wrestled and it was all I could do to beat him. He was usually good natured, but like a lot of young men in the inner city had an angry edge. One night I was laying on the couch watching TV, and Gary ran in and screamed, "I’m gonna kill you Craig".
He ran up to me with a pistol, firing several loud shots at point blank range into my head. It was only a starter pistol, and Gary was only fooling.
I helped Gary find a job. He went one day, but then decided he did not like it and never went back.
|Craig (Nice Hat) and Gary Gorum|
TONY and THE RAZOR MAN (TRM) - I was playing ping pong one afternoon with Tony, a pleasant guy. A man I did not know came in with a Straight Razor, announcing that he was going to kill Tony. Tony adroitly kept the ping pong table between him and the guy. I was between Tony and TRM. The three of us walked several times around the table. TRM would reverse directions and so would Tony, with me trying to calm TRM down. The guy was loudly threatening Tony. Tony was loudly proclaiming that it was not him but his brother who had done whatever had made Razor man angry. I kept asking the guy to put the razor down.
Eventually Razor man calmed down, and left. I have no idea what he was mad about and have no idea if Tony or his brother was guilty of whatever he was mad about.
COOL BREEZE - Coolbreeze was a sinister looking bad guy who for some reason was angry at Bob Souvorin. No one seemed to know him. He would walk into the center, lean up against the wall, and glower at everybody. I tried talking to him, but he was difficult to get into conversation.
One evening Coolbreeze fell over and was spitting up blood. A large ice hook fell out of his trousers - He apparently carried it with the handle in his waist band and the large sharp hook curled around his groin. Looked very uncomfortable and dangerous.
I took him to the hospital, where we waited for a long time to get admitted. The hospital was an inner city hospital, and pretty indifferent to the Saturday night fight injury crowd.
Two young thug white guys were mocking and laughing at Coolbreeze who was in agony. I shut them up with a few threats. I finally fired up the staff of the hospital, who put Coolbreeze into a wheel chair and took him into a room.
I waited quite a while with nothing happening. I walked to the room, and found that he had fallen out of the wheel chair and was writhing on the floor. Now I fired up the hospital staff again, who threatened me with arrest. Finally got Coolbreeze attended to - the Dr. thought he had just burned holes in his stomach with too much bad booze and too little food. The ice pick had not caused the damage.
CHINK and THE BRASS KNUCKLE GUY
I was relaxing in the TV room one night when suddenly a group of guys burst into the room. Chink, a small guy of mixed African and Chinese descent, was swinging his switchblade back and forth as he backed up. A large guy I did not know with very large brass knuckles was trying to get at him.
A good samaritan intervened, trying to block the Brass Knuckle guy. About 8 guys went down in a pile, with Brass Knuckle man punching the good samaritan in the face over and over with powerful power house blows with the brass knuckles. Everyone then left, including the bloody and dazed good samaritan. The Police came by later - they had found Good Samaritan bleeding very badly. I could not help them - I did not know Brass Knuckle man.
There were lots of other hassles and disagreements. Sometimes we would have a good old fashioned bare knuckle fight. Other times we would get out the large boxing gloves and have an impromptu smoker. I was pretty good - I could beat most all the guys.
ROME PICKED ME UP OVER HIS HEAD
Rome was a very nice guy. He was exactly my size. One time he said watch this, and proceeded to pick me up by my thigh and chest, and pressed me over his head. Amazing! I said "Please don’t throw me down". He was in the Marine Corps Reserve, serving as a six month Reservist. This was one of the reasons I went into the Marines - I thought that if he could do that to me after six months, image what I could do after four years. I am still waiting to get strong enough to press a man over my head.
Lee was a friend of Pam Smiths from Valporaiso University. He was an immensely powerful man and very nice. He was serving in the Navy. He played a 12 string guitar, and had a powerful and very good voice. He sang folk songs and was good enough to get ovations at the local coffee house.
When I completed my one year tour, I traveled home. I tried to give my old 56 Mercury to Pam and Meryle. They did not want it so I drove it home. I did not think it would make it all the way to Chicago, so I thought that when it died, I would leave it by the road and hitchhike the rest of the way home.
The tolls required for the bridges leaving Norfolk to the north and west always annoyed me, so I traveled south initially to avoid the tolls for my last trip out of town. I took it easy to try to get the car to survive as long as possible. The heat was out, and this was in February, so it was pretty cold. I kept putting more clothes on. The first night I slept in the mountains in the back of the car. The next morning I washed up in a mountain stream waterfall in the snow - beautiful, and pretty invigorating.
On the second night I got caught in a snow storm near Louisville. The bald tires of the Mercury did not work well, and I ended up spending the night in a rest stop.
On the third day I got to Purdue University, where I thought I would visit a friend. I knew three people at Purdue. I had no idea how big the campus was - I had thought I would just drive around and find them. And that is what happened. I saw Lynne Carlson, a girl I knew very slightly from high school. She was a nice person, very smart, and a cheerleader. I asked her if she knew where Bob Stevenson was. She did, and she jumped in the car to take me there.
I had not shaved or bathed properly for three days, I had three sets of clothes on, with each pair of trousers shorter than the one underneath. I had been smoking cigars, and the old car reeked. She was horrified that she had got into the car, but gamely took me to Stevenson’s fraternity. I offered her a ride home, but for some reason she preferred to walk.
I visited with Stevenson for a time, then continued on my way. The car was throwing oil rapidly now, and I needed to put in two or three quarts every 50 miles. I spent my last dollar on several quarts of old reprocessed oil, and a gallon of gas, and limped into Chicago with both tanks dry.
I tried to sell the old car, but found few takers. I was going to junk it, but a local dealer bought it from me for $20.00.
I have been back to Norfolk a number of times. I have found a few people I knew, but most have moved away. Some of the old ghetto has been subject to urban renewal with poor housing giving away to upscale new housing. Our old church, teen center, and house are still about the way they were.
I am glad that I did the year in POPV. We did a little good, although it was frustrating how many kids took two steps forward and three back.
Craig Harlan Hullinger AICP
309 534 5557
PS - I have found Myrle Horne, who is retired and living in Mexico, and Bob Souvorin who is living in Atlanta. Wish both of them would write of their experiences.
And yesterday Pam Smith found me. She is doing well, is a PhD in Government and teaching in Missouri and sent me the photos that I have included in this blog. Thanks, Pam. I did not take a single photo in Norfolk.
And yesterday Pam Smith found me. She is doing well, is a PhD in Government and teaching in Missouri and sent me the photos that I have included in this blog. Thanks, Pam. I did not take a single photo in Norfolk.
I have not found Lynne Souvorin. If you guys are out there I would like to hear from you.
If any POPV Volunteers read this I suggest you write of your experiences and send them to me. I will publish them on this blog. We had an interesting experience and we should tell people about it.
|Pastor William Parsons at the Center|
|Myrle and Craig|