Friday, December 10, 2010

Hokey Pokey And Ballin' The Jack

Memories are awesome! Two old friends Gerald Jones and Hazel Landrum Williams both live out of town and from time to time memories come out of those conversations I have had with them and Erv Campbell. 

Hazel saw a picture I had posted on another site and asked me to keep them coming because it took her back in time.

I visualized the area of the picture I posted and thought of Eastlake Park, Booker T Washington School and Maxine Johnson! 

Maxine Johnson sure could sing so I thought I would dig around and see what I could find.  
If you were black you know that was the time you could sit downstairs and not in the balcony. 

Oh sure we loved the show but we know who we really came to see. We know that once we heard that little ball of fire singing we could sing right along with her.

First you put your two knees close up tight
You swing them to the left and then you swing them to the right
Step around the floor kinda nice and light
And then you twist around, twist around with all of your might
Spread your lovin’ arms way out in space
You do the eagle rock with such style and grace
You put your left foot out and then you bring it back
That’s what I call ballin’ the jack 

In a way, Maxine was supposed to be into Music. Her mother played the piano over at First Institutional Church and one of her brothers McKinley was in a band.

When Mrs Johnson could not make it to church to play the piano, her daughter Jerri stepped in.  I can imagine how proud her parents McKinley Sr and Jessie Johnson were of her and of all their children. 

I can't remember if her other siblings Shirley, Wilford or Jerri could carry a note, but I hear that Maxine's girls can really sing. 

Maxine has sung with the best of them, singers like Wayne Newton, Louie Armstrong and Louis Jordon.
I also found this clipping that was in the Pittsburg Courier!! Way to go Mack!

Maxine and I were in Ms. Crumps room at Booker T and also in Ms Daniels cooking class. 
As good as  Maxine could sing, if she did not put in the exact portion of flour or sugar that the recipe called for she could not sing her way out of the wrath of Ms Daniels. LOL

Speaking of Booker T and incidents, Mr Mason our art teacher let us out for recess early one day and a few of us went to the playground to play "spans" a marble game. 

Mitchell Wesley, Maxine, Leonard Caldwell, my cousin Patricia Grant, Mary Matone (the only non african american in the group) and me all had marbles. Well to make a long story short, Mitchell Wesley got beat by a!

The next thing I knew embarrassed Mitchell Wesley threw a rock, hit me in the forehead and caused me to bled profusely messing up my clothes. I can remember Fred Hogue and Ruthie Mae McNeely laughing.

When I got home, I got it again because I had worn a brand new skirt with the poodle on the front my mom had just bought the day before.
My skirt was now ruined and mom was fuming mad. Not only because of that but because I was down on my knees in the dirt playing marbles. (lol)

Its been years since I have seen Maxine or have heard her sing.

My friends tell me that she still belts out the blues like only she can. However I do think of her every year because we share the same birth month give or take a few days. Plus, she has a rare talent that has been enjoyed for so many years by so many people.

I hope some of the people we grew up with and have moved away will see this post, smile and remember the good times and don't forget to do the "Hokey Pokey" while you are at it.


  1. When I was a child, we had just the opposite experience---we had to sit in the balcony and not on the lower level. The walk to the balcony was painful on the legs, but I think that the view was much better!! LOL

  2. Vicky, this is truly wonderful material. I had Mrs Miller in Kindergarten at Booker T. She would pinch you on the shoulder to keep you in line. Truly Wonderful. Thank You.

    1. Thanks Rod for the read and the reply. i love this venue because a person can take time, reflect and then write things down that make an impact on you.