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An Unforgettable Man

wilkinson-school

This was the only photo of Mr. Pittman that I could find. It was posted on Facebook by Craig Bone.

This guest post was written by Dave Riley, a friend from childhood, and is about our beloved principal at Wilkinson School in Rocky Mount, NC, Sanford Pittman  It was sad to hear a couple of years ago that he had passed. He was fine man, loving and kind, the type we surely need more of in this world. He was an excellent and committed educator as were the teachers under his supervision at Wilkinson School. We were blessed to have known him and learned from him.   

—David

Now read Dave’s post and enjoy….

Sanford Pittman will go down in my life as the Reader’s Digest used to say “One of My Most Unforgettable Characters”. He was the principal at Wilkinson School for many years in the 50’s &60’s. We lived across the street from the school and my mother did a lot of volunteer work there doing everything from grade mother to sewing up clothes that got ripped on the school yard. Mr. Pittman had her on speed dial, before there was such a thing for these emergencies.  Mr. Pittman was a stickler for order and proper procedures. He made sure everyone was schooled in proper manners and even held dance classes in an effort to teach us how to ballroom dance. Both of these were rather hard for a great deal of us 10-11 year old boys that would rather be learning better ways to shoot marbles or play ball.

The schoolyard took up a complete city block with plenty of room for improvised ball fields and other field activities and was a focal point in the neighborhood. After school and on Saturdays and Sunday afternoons (after church of course), a lot of the neighborhood kids congregated there to play whatever was in season. There were these massive (at least to us) swing sets that were about 20 feet tall and made of 4 inch piping. As stated earlier, Mr. Pittman was stickler for order and this was especially important for fire drills.  Not that the safety of the students was something to be taken lightly, but Mr. Pittman held his stopwatch and clipboard at the ready to time each class as they exited and then how long it took for the entire school to evacuate. This was also the case for the nuclear bomb drills where we had to get in the hall and kneel with our heads to the wall. Still haven’t figured why the Russians would single out Rocky Mount to drop a bomb and how that was going to save us, but I guess it was the best we had at the time.

So much for the background and the day of the famous fire drill.  The fire bell rang and we all did as we were directed and formed neat and orderly lines by class in the school yard. Mr. Pittman was recording times and making sure each teacher had an accurate head count. When the drill was over, he would then announce the time it took, the importance of the drill and praise us for a successful drill. I guess since he was in the Army during WWII he still marched briskly rather than walk. On this day he did his usual about face to return to school and misjudged one of the support poles to the swing set. Hitting is head on, it completely knocked him down and out. It was the first time I ever saw a person crumple starting with their knees, but he went down with a thud. There was an immediate gasp from the teachers as they went to his aid, followed by a bunch of kids (boys mostly) breaking out in nervous laughter. My mom saw it happen and came across the street to help and ended up taking him to Dr. Crumpler’s nearby office for a quick check up. He was fine and returned to school for the rest of the day.

He remained good friends with my parents until they moved to Morehead City and was kind of enough to attend our Dad’s funeral.

While not funny by any means, it is just another saga in the Wilkinson School Chronicles.

COMMENTS (3)
  • Georgia Lewis   /   October 26, 2016., 11:27 pmReply

    It's great to reminisce about those who impacted us in our formative years. Most were pretty special. Thanks for sharing this "saga."

  • jackieh0well wall   /   October 26, 2016., 10:02 pmReply

    Was my 2boys principal in the 60s .

  • John Riley   /   October 26, 2016., 7:39 pmReply

    Mr. Pittman was always the epitome of a fine Southern gentleman.

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