St. Helena Island teacher knew value of community ... and baked goods

features@beaufortgazette.comJune 17, 2014 

20070817 Star teacher

Ernestine Albany Bradley knew how to be a star teacher while also balancing the needs of her family and the community.

ALVIN — McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Back in the days of segregation, around graduation time, school district officials would make the rounds at Southern college campuses each year on a search for future teachers who would thrive in small communities.

Catherine Boyd, a native of St. Helena Island and a Jeanes Foundation educator in Beaufort County, knew the needs of local children -- she knew it would take a whole lot more than just knowing how to teach. She was looking for teachers who would want to become part of the island culture and who would serve as role models in and out of the classroom.

When she arrived at Voorhees College, she found Ernestine Albany.

As Ernestine listened to Catherine's description of St. Helena Island, she thought about her own experiences at a school that didn't have enough money for supplies -- or even heat -- but had plenty to offer in the way of making sure kids still learned. Ernestine was a product of teachers who cared.

She accepted the job and boarded with Jane Chisholm at Club Bridge on St. Helena Island.

There were rules for young teachers outside of the classrooms in those days. Teachers had to be respectable -- especially when they were out and about in the community.

Emmit Brown passed on word to two young men of Ernestine and another teacher named Sally. The young men requested the women's company. With Ms. Chisholm's blessing, a meeting of the four was planned.

Clarence Bradley drove, and Herman Smalls rode in the passenger seat. When the men pulled up, Herman moved to the backseat, and the women decided their fates by choosing who would sit in the front and who would sit in the back. (You can bet the two gentlemen had some say in the matter as well.)

So the romance began between Ernestine and Clarence and Sally and Herman. Soon after, the couples were married.

Ernestine Albany Bradley's first teaching assignment was at Tom Fripp School, where she was head teacher. She later returned to her home in Fairfax, becoming a "suitcase teacher." Many teachers back then found that teaching in their hometowns offered another way to be a role model to children who might just want to become teachers themselves one day. After earning her master's degree, she was transferred to Mossy Oaks Elementary to teach special education in 1980.

During these years, the demands on teachers were great. One had to be a part of the community. This meant being involved with community projects and religious activities in addition to work.

Ernestine, though, knew how to manage both her students' needs with that of her family and that of the community.

She worshipped at Brick Baptist Church with her husband and then attended Porter Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Port Royal. She also traveled back to Fairfax and attended church their once a month. She was known for her canning and baking, which she shared with friends and family. Her husband's farm provided her with plenty of ingredients to cook with.

Ernestine's children are successful and continue where their mother left off. Her daughter Patricia works as a librarian and researcher. Her daughter Edna earned her doctorate in education. And her son Leon is a builder who loves the outdoors.

And if you're looking for Clarence Bradley, you'll find him gathering corn for his children and friends.

Ernestine's family shares with us some of her favorite recipes.

SKILLET SHRIMP AND OKRA

"I watched my mother prepare this entree during the hot days of summer. Our family continues to enjoy seafood, and my dad, a fisherman of Wallace Plantation, would keep the freezer stocked with seafood." --Ernestine's daughter Patricia

3 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 pound okra

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 onion, minced

Grease a 12-inch cast-iron skillet with oil. Lightly batter shrimp with flour. In skillet, add shrimp. Cook and stir fry for 3-4 minutes until shrimp turns pink. Remove shrimp from heat. Pour off excess oil and moisture, leaving skillet slightly greased.

Combine okra, salt, pepper and onion in skillet. Reduce heat; simmer and stir for 14-18 minutes or until okra is cooked. Add shrimp and heat through. Serve over steamed rice.

LAYER CAKE

"Our mother taught us to say 'Daddy,' but he did not teach us to say Mama or Mother. We called her 'Stine' with the warmest affection. When this cake was baked I would stand on a chair waiting to lick the bowl clean." -- Ernestine's daughter Edna

Makes: 2 layers

2 cups sifted cake flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, separated

2/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. Cream shortening with sugar until fluffy. Add beaten egg yolks and beat thoroughly. Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with milk and vanilla in small amounts, beating well after each addition. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Pour into greased pans, and bake for 25 minutes. Cool, fill and frost as desired.

LEMON FILLING

Makes: 1 1/3 cups

1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons water

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter or margarine

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

Combine all ingredients in top of double boiler. cCook over boiling water 5 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly, or until thickened. Remove from heat, place plastic wrap directly onto top of filling to keep skin from forming. Cool.

WHITE FROSTING

Makes: 3 cups

1/3 cup butter, softened

1/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 cups sifted powdered sugar

Cream butter at medium speed with an electric mixer. Combine milk and vanilla; gradually add powdered sugar and milk mixture alternately to butter, beating after each addition. Add additional milk, if needed.

Columnist Ervena Faulkner is a Port Royal resident and a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition.

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