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Bunny Jackson, who has spent practically his whole life around the naval base at Dahlgren, said the government installation has been good to him and the community
Clarence 'Bunny' Jackson mows grass at the house where his family once lived across from Dahlgren. He's lived in the area almost all his life.
REZA MARVASHTI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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By CATHY DYSON
Bunny Jackson has spent almost his whole life either on the naval base in Dahlgren or across the road from it.
The second of 10 children, he was born in 1926 on land the base claimed when it expanded on the eve of World War II.
His family loaded the house on a sleigh, then watched a team of mules pull it across the road to a new location.
"I can get up every morning
The home in which Clarence P. "Bunny" Jackson entered the world is long gone--destroyed by fire--but Jackson's ties to the base have lasted his lifetime.
He spent more than 44 years as a civil servant, starting in the Navy mess hall and eventually working in the machine shop. He cut out pieces of metal for fins on Navy missiles.
Four of the five male children in his family found work on the base, as well.
"All you had to do here was farm, and farming wasn't paying enough," Jackson said about limited opportunities in King George County. "I didn't have no education. If it hadn't been for the base, I wouldn't have made the money I made and been where I was."
Not only did the base help Jackson and others in the African-American community along the "B" Gate side of Potomac Drive, it also introduced Jackson to some of the finer things in life.
He was a teenager--his memory is fuzzy on his exact age--when he started working in the mess hall. The Navy was teaching classes on bombsights to hundreds of students.
"They had food I'd never seen before. They had T-bone steak. I didn't know nothing about T-bone steak," he said.
He soon learned--because he got to eat there as well.
"I really enjoyed that, probably more than any job I had," Jackson said.
'JUST A NICE GUY'
Jackson, who turns 86 in late July, walked three miles from Dahlgren to school at Little Ark Baptist Church. It offered classes through sixth grade, which was all the education black students in King George got at the time, he said.
In his early years, his class had a book about a character called Bunny Squirrel, and someone called him Bunny on the walk to school one morning.