Finding Five Row

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    Curate Reynolda

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Finding Five Row

By Harry Poster, Writer/Director of Five Row: Growing Up with Reynolda | @LearnReynolda

It was back in February, on a Friday, when I revealed the story I wanted to write about for the next three months. There had been drastic warnings of snowfall, two or three inches—a huge blizzard for the city of Winston Salem. I was furiously trying to finish up my research in the archives of the museum before they sent everyone home early to safety. The past three days had been spent holed up in the museum library. I sat with my stereo and played tape after tape of recorded histories. My new friends Flora Pledger, Harvey Miller, and Nancy Reynolds retold me their stories again and again as I rewound the tapes back to catch the details of growing up at Reynolda. My notes at this point read things like “big picnic,” “Kentucky Belle,” “the good ole’ days of Reynolda,” “Mary had been afraid of animals, all except for goats, because she believed the goats had saved her,” and, “ Lovey Eaton scared me.”  I was looking for a way into this huge history of so many people, a place where there might be a story I could shape into a play for children. And it was within my notes of interspersed facts and quotations that I discovered what I had been looking at the whole time. This is a world of people who didn’t grow up at Reynolda, but instead grew up with Reynolda.

At the museum the eras are split up into three specific times when the house went through changes. The estate grew and then shrank again and then the museum opened its doors. Reynolda too has aged and changed in so many ways alongside all of the people who have aged and changed with it. The play I have strived to write has been about the house and the estate just as much as it is about the people who have resided there for just under 100 years.

I ran home that day, avoiding the sliding cars and icy walkways, knowing that the story I related to was the one about being a kid on a large estate that would become home for the rest of my life. If I lived in the house on the estate how would I interact with the people who worked there? If I lived down at Five Row, where many of the African American workers on the estate lived, would I dream of leaving and making way somewhere else, or can I call Reynolda home? If I lived in either of these very different communities that reside on the same property, how would I interact with that other world if one day our paths crossed?  It was with all of those questions and the research in my pocket that I sat down with this play and began to write.  

Be sure to visit the Five Row online gallery to peruse a comprehensive collection of images from our Archives.


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