"I wanted to go skating a lot, but since they said there weren't colored people allowed I didn't have a chance to go," said 11-year-old Josephine Williams, a pupil at Fauquier County's Southeastern Elementary School.
She is one of many blacks in this rural county on the fringes of metropolitian Washington who claim they have been turned way from a popular skating rink because of the color of gheir skin - a charge the rink's owner acknowledges is true.
It has quickly become a local issue, a civil rights controversy reminiscent of those elsewhere in the rural South in the early 1960s. It has divided neighbors and, in at least one case, brothers in an area where racial differences rarly break into the open.
A spokesman for the FBI said it has conducted a three-month investigation into allegations of racial discrimination at the rink, Hugo's Skateway on Rte. 17 southeast of Warrenton, and has forwaded its results to the Justice Departmant.
Government lawyers are studying the reports for possible violations of the Civil Rights Act's provisions on public accommodations.
"Everybody's out to cut my throat," said the owner, Hugo Jasper Stribling, a stock 66-year-old. Stribling argues that his $250, 000 skating rink and the 700 person capacity dance hall he owns next door are private clubs, from which he may exclude whomever he pleases.
He openly confirms that blacks, "white trash" and men with beards or long hair will not allowed to enter his two establishments, which together compose the major recreation and entertainment sport in southern Fauquier County.
"Isn't there such a thing as free enterprise anymore?" Stribling asked. "This is strictly private. Besides, the black isn't interested in coming in here. You couldn't pay them to come."
News accounts of the controversy already have prompted some local concern. One local school administrator, who asked not to be named, said that further publicity about the rink "would have repercussions that could tear the community down."
Local businessman John Winslow wrote a letter to the Fanquier Democrat protesting that Roger Hedgeman, a black friend, was not permitted to enter the rink. Shortly after the letter was published, he said, he received anonymous phone calls telling him to drop the matter. He was even snubbed by some members of his church, he said.
"I do not see how we can preach brotherly love on Sunday and skate at Hugo's on Tuesday," Winslow wrote in his letter to the editor.
Elementary school teacher Thomas Holmes, who said he was banned from the rink because he is black, said blacks are fearful of white reprisals against the black community.
"I went all around the black community trying to get them together for a class action suit. Everyone's scared. All I could get was 'I wish you well,' " said Holmes.
In at least one family two brothers have fallen out over the issue, one claiming Stribling was within his rights, the other claiming he was encroaching upon the rights of others. The latter called a reporter to disavow any statements his brother might have made, he said, that his brother's comments would be attributed to the whole family.
The county's young people are suffering most, said Diane Hubbard, 28, librarian at Southeastern Elementary School. "Here in this county there's not much for the children to do. When this rink opened up a year ago all the kids talked about it. It's bad for the black children."
According to Holmes, a church group recently tried to skate at the rink but Stibling refused to allow a small Filipino child to enter the hall so the entire group departed. "He pointed out the Filipino and said "That one's black. He can't come in here," said Holmes."Children never forget things like that."
"I'll never forget it as long as I live," said 22-year-old Roger Hedgeman, an assistant manager at the Market Tire Company. Hedgeman said Stribling barred his entrance to the rink though he was willing to allow his three white companions to enter.
"I felt like something was being taken away from me. I was hurt.It was only 15 miles from my home, that's why I was so shocked. I didn't realize anything like that was going on so close to home," he said.
Stribling said he operates private clubs only, that membership is required and that members must present cards to enter. He refused to show a sample membership to a reporter. His attorney, Claude Compton of Manassas, refused comment.
The county's commonwealth attorney, Charles B. Foley, said, "The state prosecutor's hands are tied. It's all within the hand of the federal authorities." Foley said he has forwarded several complaints about discrimination at the rink to the Justice Department.
According to the FBI, their investigation has been on a desk at Justice since mid-summer when they completed their inquiry.
A decision on whether to file an action against Stribling should come within a month, according to Lisbon Berry, a supervisory trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division at Justice. "Other skating rinks have been defined as places of public accomodation as defined by the Civil Rights Act, he said.
"We have filed a number of suits over the years against so-calle'private clubs' and have prevailed," said another Justice spokesman.
But to some in the countryside of Fauquier County, Washington and its promise of action seems slow and distant.
"This thing was brewing for a long time. I guess it's a dead issue now," said David Nagy, principal of Cedar Lee Junior High School, where one in five students is black.
And Thomas Holmes, the black elementary school teacher, added:
"I tell my students they hate because they were taught to hate. They don't even know why they hate, I tell them."