The Baltimore Sun co-hosted a panel on integration in county schools as a part of the 'Bridging the Divide' series by Liz Bowie and Erica Green. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun)

I enjoyed the article, "Area students use video to explore civil rights era" (April 18) by Talia Richman in which she chronicled the efforts by students from the Park School and City Neighbors High, apparently partly under the auspices of the "Baltimore Civil Rights Experience" to learn more about the history of America's civil rights struggles. This also prompted me to write to shed some light on integration in at least one Baltimore school as early as 1955.

I attended sixth grade at Montebello Elementary School between Harford Road and Lake Montebello for the school year 1955-1956, often taking the trolley down Harford from where we lived next to Herring Run Park (Argonne Drive did not exist at that time). In our class of roughly 27 students (as counted from the black and white class picture), we had 12 girls and 15 guys. Two of the guys stood out: one was the son of the pastor of the Norwegian Seamen's Church and the other was a black kid named Howard whose parents were somehow connected to what was then known as Morgan State College. Frankly, the Norwegian kid was of more interest to my 11-year-old mind because I knew lots of blacks but had never met a kid with hair so blond it was almost white!

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Maybe I was just tone-deaf to the racial issues, but I do not recall that the students in Mr. Franz's class really had any heartburn with having a black kid in the class. On the other hand, as noted in the musical "South Pacific," children have to be taught to hate. Maybe we lucked out because we hadn't yet taken that particular class.

Since my father's job took us to the Atlantic coast of Florida for the early days of the missile and space industry, I did not go to junior and senior high in Baltimore and had to learn the Madison by watching Dick Clark's American bandstand and could not learn in the "Hairspray" town. Sorry that folks who remained behind had to struggle until 1963 to integrate Gwynn Oak Amusement Park.

Wayne Birkel, Baltimore

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