Thursday, December 1, 2011

Back Behind The Capitol With The Phoenix Arizona Crew

Its funny how people cross your mind as you lay in the dead of night trying to get to sleep. Now everyone I knew in Phoenix lived in the Mathew Henson's way back in the day. Later, many of us moved away to various parts of town, some of us moved out of town and back in again.
My family moved to Tucson where we stayed on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and then on Campbell Avenue.

When we decided to move back to Phoenix, my mom went back and found us a house. I remember Paul and Madge Harper,my mothers friend's and their daughter Gerty coming down to Tucson in their truck and helping us load up and move. That's when we moved back BEHIND THE CAPITOL !!!

In no particular order I am going to list all of the people I remember. Some we used to call by their Mr and Mrs name.
We always included both parents when we spoke of them in a conversation. Like " Do you want to go see if Mr and Mrs Mullins want us to go to the store for them", or Here comes Mr and Mrs Rayford, you better get that ball out of their yard!

The list goes on:
Mr and Mrs Edward Mays,Mr and Mrs Fred Hurd, Mr and Mrs Williams, Mr and Mrs Floyd Gammage, Mr and Mrs Jones, Mr and Mrs Herb Boyer, Mr and Mrs Patrick Grant, Mr and Mrs St Clair, Mr and Mrs Stenson, Mr and Mrs Charles Anderson, Mr and Mrs Honey Hutchinson, Mr and Mrs Cason, Mr and Mrs Hime Watson and Mr and Mrs Leroy Thomas.

Then we had those names like Aunt Tiny and Mr Turner, Harry and Jean Ong and their son Danny, The Higuera's, Mary and Jean at the store, The Renteria's Lydia and her children Carmen, Frances, Joe and Eva, Mary and her boys Freddie,Teddy and Tommy, Rev and Mrs Nicholson and daughter Carolyn, Judge Flood, The Hamilton's,The Dashers Howard and Louise, Mrs Allen, The Finley's, The Mosley's and son Ricky, The Worleys, The Counts, Beverly Williams and son David.

What about the Miss first names like Miss Bobbie, Miss Essie Lee, Miss Clara, Miss Dora, and Miss Anna laurie and those names like Mama and Daddy Wattie, and MuhDear.

Nicknames for sure: Lil Johnny, Nino, black Johnnie and White Johnny, Bayla, Reachie and Pie, Gold, Chubby and Chunky, Gate-Mouth, Suddie, Big Jimmy, Long Tall Sallie, Ghost, Sandy, Muncie and Porky, Junior, Punkin, Steve, and Alexander.
then there was Miss Shake-um-boodie, and Miss Nosey Mosie, (those two names were only between us kids. We would have gotten killed by them and our parents)

Remembering also Carlos Dominguez, Sue and Faye, Charles and Michael Ferguson, Hilton Conley, Diane Elzy, Freddie Carol, Ricky, Vivian Ann, Stephanie, Rosie, Eddie Lee, George Burden, Eula Faye, Ricky and Lawrence, Bertha, Lamon, Raymond and Daymon, Calvin, Orema, Eric, Patricia, Gloria Jean, Joanne, Herlinda, Sylvester, Ruthie, Betty, Michael, and Maryvula, Carlotta, Wanda, Olivia, Sheryl, Marilyn, Nate, Margie, Jack and Will, Jeannie, Freddy Johnson, Isalee, Lynne, Hazel, Ruby, Floyd, Paulette, Josie, and Herman, Sammy Diaz, Elroy, Randy Simms, Alexander, Lupita Sanchez, Nick Rivera.

Also Kids like Charles Parker, Darnell Hanson, Diane Hicks, Shirley Ghant, Danny Geyagos, Richard Peterson, Bertha, Ruth and Hazel Stinson.

Should I or should I not mention the behind the capitol bigots? Okay I convinced myself.
Mr Cheever was one and Mrs Wortham was the other. Mrs Wortham was the worse of the worse. The black kids at Sullivan did not stand a chance with that woman until the parents and the NAACP stepped in. The "she" bigot tried to flunk all the kids in the school. Ms Wortham was two hands away from getting choked a little bit harder than she was if Mr Edwards had not stepped in on time. Its funny that right after that meeting all those kids were suddenly promoted.

I know there are countless others whom I have not named but I know they are not forgotten. We made that part of town and it was all good.

Oh yeah, How could I forget Bruce, Ronnie, Richard, JuneRae and Teddy.

Long live the Triangle !!!

That hollow grass is filled with the sounds of laughter and do-wop songs. We would use whatever tools we could find to make music such as an old trash can with a lid. That was our drum.

We would break off sticks or use or hands for the sound. Combined with our voices in harmony we thought we were the best in the west.

Our parents knew where we were but if you heard that sound your parents made up to call you or if that porch light flicked on and off you better head home and quick.

He lived all up and down Jefferson, Washington, Madison, Adams, and Monroe Street. From 17th Avenue to 35th Ave. And what was amazing was that he was there all at the same time.

And Finally I would be remiss if I did not say "Rest in Peace Richard Cason" for you are truly in Soul Heaven

Sunday, October 30, 2011

School Days, School Days Dear Old Golden Rule Days- Booker T Washington Phoenix Arizona

I have to give my friend Erv Campbell for these wonderful class pictures from Booker T Washington School in Phoenix Arizona.

These pictures bought back some more good memories just looking at how we looked back in the day, remembering old crushes and as my blog states, lingering thoughts and loving times.

I am hopeful that more of these oldies will pop up and can be enjoyed by those who still grace this earth and those who can see what their loved ones looked like way back when.

Ms Hardy's Home Room: Class of 1955

Top L-R Benjamin Grimes, Lorena Morgan, David Phillips,need name, Fred Hogue, Margie Tolliver, Alfonso Tilly, the next two need names

2nd row L-R Eli James, Harold Gossett, Gerald Jones, need name, Teddy Lane, need name, Robert Strickland, and need name

1st Row is Ms Hardy, Shirley Robinson, Sam Unk last name, need the names of the next two.

Mr Mason's Home Room Class of 1955

top row from l-r Doris Henry, Easton Tolliver,Vernell Trulove,Fletcher Sanders, Valma Mitchell, Rufus Jacobs, Barbara Jernegan, Raymond Hamilton, Doris Ward

2nd row l-r Vera Turner, Lavern Reed, Shirley King, Wayne Hooks, Doris Miller, George Ervan Campbell, Birde Ann Jackson, George Diggs

bottom row l-r Wilbur Gamble, John Bell, Aubrey Young, Rufus Harris, Mildred Hendrix, Vernon Oquin!


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

George Reed: A Father's Fight For Right After Korea Flight

On November 28th, 1951 George Reed welcomed home his son Thomas to sunny Phoenix Arizona.

I imagine there were tears in his eyes on that wednesday morning, as he proudly held his head up high. Those tears he shed could not have been the same tears shed when his son left home.

George could not get the hands on support of his other two sons. You see, they were off fighting a war in Korea and could not be home to see the arrival of their brother. Their brother, 19 year old Thomas had been in Korea also, fighting for his country.

Thomas Reed was a Phoenician who came home from the war accompanied by a military escort and a flag draped across his casket.

On June 5th 1951 Thomas was mortally wounded in Korea

It would be at least five weeks before George Reed saw his son rightfully buried.

George Reed wanted to have his son buried in Greenwood Cemetery but they had a policy that negro veterans had to have special requests from three sources to be buried in their military section. Those three sources was
The American Legion, The Disabled American Veterans and The Veterans of Foreign Wars. (click on images to enlarge)

A citizens group that was set up of members of the NAACP and The Urban league along with representatives had been fighting this custom for quite sometime.

Un-american nonsense they called it, and felt that any veteran, no matter what color or creed be buried in the cemetery if the next of kin requested it.

After fighting so hard and not getting anywhere, the Council had to go to the local papers to see what the community thought about this travesty.

There was such an outcry from the public.

George was proud of his son but he wanted not only this son that he lost so early in life to be buried with the other veterans and God forbid, if he lost another one of his sons to die fighting for this country he would want the same thing for them too.

George Reed wanted to have his son buried with other veterans. Not in the Veteran's cemetery in Washington but in Greenwood Cemetery where others of his sons peers were buried.

Mr Reed turned down the offer to have his son buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington was such a long way away for this man to comprehend. At least now his son was home and any day of the week, hour of the day he could head over to Greenwood in quiet solitude and visit the son whom he loved dearly.

Chicago Defender Jan 19,1952
submitted by Thomasena Grigsby

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Westerner: 1953 Booker T Washington Yearbook Phx Ariz

What a great pictorial history when you have a yearbook from years past that reflect and highlight the people you know. I was over joyed when my friend Gerald Jones shared his sister Gloria's 1953 class yearbook.

I wonder where some of these people are today and what has happened in the turning point of their lives since leaving these halls of Booker T Washington School in Phoenix Arizona. What legacy did they leave for their families and communties be it large or small and did they carry on and appy what they were taught.

Gloria was the Editor in Chief of The Westerner and is the daughter of Reginald and Thelma Jones.

Mr Mason was my art teacher and also a member of the IBPOE of W on south 7th Ave where I was affiliated once upon a time. He is a wonderful human being along with his wife of many years Helen.

I wrote a prior blog where I had mentioned Ms Daniels my homemaking teacher. Ms Daniels has gone on to Glory now as well as her husband Haze Daniels who was a prominent civil rights attorney here in Phoenix.

These are the graduates from 1953 (click on images to enlarge)

Lee Limbs became a United States Deputy Sheriff. R.I.P. Lee

Everyone knew those Tucker guys Ned and Fred especially the girls who always said Ned and Fred in the same breath with "cute"
If those Vann's aren't related to Sandy Vann I don't know who is. I bet those are her aunts. They could all pass for twins.

Just a lil shoutout to George Jr son of George and Merry Hamilton Whitfield

A Booker T Washington Quote: Character Is Power
Library of Congress picture

a special thanks again to Gerald Jones for the use of these images from the yearbook. I wish that I could have posted more but they were too hard to see with clarity.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Arizona's Two: Jumping Over Hurdles, Pitching Through The Times

My grandson Tyler is one of the many youngsters who run track and play sports. Not long ago I sat for two days watching over 1200 young people from not only Arizona but other states like California. They range from 5 years old to around 16 years. 

 I am amazed at the stamina they have when they run the long races like the 1200 and how good their form is when they run sprints, hurdles and other events.

And as any parent or grandparent would do, I started to tell my grands how good I was in sports. I am still wondering why they got up and went to the food stand.  Heck, I ran track in school and even played softball both slow and fast pitch. 

Now you have track clubs,  football  and softball clinics. and other avenues to compete in even before you get into high school.

Such opportunities they have now as compared to way back when and it got me to thinking about Arizona and down the road from Phoenix to Tucson.

Jumping Over Hurdles:  Joe Batiste

Originally from Lake Charles La, Ernest and Loretta  Batiste moved to Arizona  in 1926 for a better life. Their sons Ernest, Joe, Frank and Fred were all athletes who took Arizona by storm.  I am not sure if daughters Halle and Florine were athletes but I bet they  would have been  good ones.
Joe Batiste was not allowed to participate in football  at the high school at first because of his race. It wasn’t until Mesa High School  tried to get Batiste away that Tucson High allowed him to play.

Joe really wanted to play football so his refusal to run track unless he was allowed to play football was another factor in finally getting a shot  to play.  Way to Go Joe!!!

Just to show you how good he was in track,  Batiste set a world record in the 120 yd high hurdles in 14.0 seconds in 1939.

The American team  that went to Europe had their games cut short when the Germans invaded Poland.  When Joe and the American team came home, Joe was honored with a parade in Tucson.

Batiste qualified for the 1940 and 1944 United States Olympic teams as a hurdler and a decathlete, but the war forced the cancellation of those games also.

Joe was considered one of the best athletes that came out of Tucson.  Even as good as Joe  was, he was held back on getting a scholarship because of the color of his skin and the prejudices of the then coach of the University of Arizona. 
He was inducted in the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame  in 1990.
Batiste Enlisted in the Army in 1942, served his country and came back to all the trials that he had endured before he left.
Joe Passed away at the age of 38.
Pitching Through The Times:  Billie Harris

Billie Harris originally from Tucson was the first African American woman to play in a professional all women's softball league in Arizona.  She was an out standing left handed pitcher who had a batting average of 260,  pitched 4 perfect games and 70 no hitters in her career.

Harris played for a team called the Sunshine Girls in 1948. When they played a game in Phoenix against the Ramblers. In 1950 she came on board with the Ramblers.
I got a chance to see Billie Harris pitch at Rambler Field in Phoenix.  She pitched so fast that I could hardly see the ball .
The softball team I played for "The Mesa Cactus Wrens" had  games at Rambler field also.  We were one of the teams that played before the big games.

Billie's softball fast pitch career lasted for over 28 yrs and an amazing 6 decade player with all her other accolades such as coaching at Mesa Community College.

Ms Harris was inducted into the National Softball Hall of Fame in 1982 and in the Arizona Sports Hall in 2010. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Reverend Doctor C. C. Somerville And Me: Similarly Speaking

last Saturday I was sitting around wondering where I wanted to go for my birthday dinner. My daughter Latisha and grand kids Taylor and Tyler will foot the bill, even though I am sure the grands will pretend to foot the bill. Tyler and Taylor may spring for the tip.

It sure would be nice if some of the old places that were open back in the day were still in existence; places like Hodges or Town Talk Bar-B-Que. The Closest Stop Cafe that was located right next to First Institutional Baptist Church would even be nice.
Since I don't have any one those options I think that I would love to have some good hot wings from Native New Yorker in Chandler.

My mind also did more travelling as I wondered who all I knew had March Birthdays especially on the 16th and what similarities we may have in common. Strange as it sounds I went to a friends great grandfather who happened to be born in March and on the 16th!!! so I began to dig..

Reverend. C. C. Somerville born on March 16, 1859 in North Carolina: check out this biography see  History Of American Negro.
Similarity:  My great grand father was born in North Carolina and I was born on March 16th 19 hundred and something something. 
Here is the 1870 census Warren County NC with parents and other siblings. Click on image line  26 -30
In 1910 the Reverend is in Portsmouth with his wife Addie and children : see lines 28-36
Reverend C. C. Somerville became a minister and served at many churches one being Ebenezer Baptist Church in Portsmouth Virginia
Similarity:  My grandfather J. P. Daviss became a minister and served at Little Flock Baptist Church.  Me, I went to church on many an occasion and I could say I went at one time to the same church as his grands First Institutional Baptist Church (does that count)
Rev C C's grandchildren lived in AZ : GO CARDS!
Similarity: Reverend J. P. 's grands also lived in AZ and only a block over on 24th and West Washington I might add
Oops, my bad!!  I meant to say 
Reverend C.C. was a publisher of a weekly newspaper The Vigil in Portsmouth Va. The slogan was so right on target. Much To Fight For.
Similarity: I read and glean news from weeklies from back in the day and I write little sayings ( I know that should count)
Highly Favored Savored Sayings by Vicky Daviss Mitchell :  Blind affection is hauntingly  problematic for the soul. Wake up your senses, they are there for the long haul.
Attending many Conferences Reverend  C.C. Somerville was well known for his sermons and lectures. One of his most famous sermons was "The Rooster With Two Dead Heads."
He also wrote several books, The Farmers Boy, My Brothers, and Uncrowned Queen : a treatise on the Negro woman Of America.

This one's for you Gerald and your soulmate MaryEllen.  Arizona had to weep when you two moved away to California.

Happy Birthday Reverend Doctor C.C. Somerville ... I would like to think he smiled and said " Same to you Vicky"  

Monday, January 10, 2011

Man Of Steel, Man Of Might: Arizona's John Henry Lewis

John Henry is a black man who has been portrayed as a real man and also as myth. Be he real or a myth he is represented in song as a man of strength who helped in the building of laying tracks for railroads.

A steel driving man they say bigger than life. He was said to weld a 30 or 40 lb hammer as he raced along side steam powered drills. He and others like him used hammers and other tools to forge through mountains and rock. He died doing what he did best. Driving Steel!!!

This leads me to another John Henry. John Henry Lewis!. This one is from Phoenix Arizona. He did not forge through mountains and tunnels to build the railroads but he used his hard as a rock fists to pound through opponents and fight his way to become the Light heavy weight Champion.
John Henry born May 1st,1918 to John E and Mattie Lewis.

The family moved to Phoenix Arizona from Los Angeles when he two years old.  At the age of four John Henry already had a pair of special made gloves to fit his hands.
As a youngster he and his brother Christy attended Booker T Washington grade school.
After school they would rush home so they could box and train with their dad. People in the industry were amazed with John Henry's boxing skills as well as his brother Christy.

Listed below is the 1920 census when the family lived on East Washington Street. John Henry's father is listed as a barber and actually learned his trade from his father Nathaniel (click to enlarge)

In 1930 the family was still living on East Washington but without father John. (click to enlarge)

When the brothers attended Phoenix Union High School they were in the school band and also were adept in all sports.

As John Henry matured he won fight after fight after fight as shown in this Pittsburg Courier news article in October 1932

and again in  San Francisco in August of 1933 he showed them what he could do to an established fighter
John Henry has quite the family. His father John is an accomplished trainer who has managed quite a few boxers. He was born on Feb 14th 1850 in Akron Ohio to Nathaniel Christy Lewis and his grandmother Almira G Griffin was active in the underground Railroad.

His fathers uncle was Tom Molyneaux who won his freedom by fighting and eventually fought for the championship in England.
 Born in 1784 to parents enslaved by a wealthy Virginian plantation owner named Molyneux, Tom because of his size and strength was selected to engage in prizefighting matches with enslaved men from neighboring estates, a practice common during that era.  Often planters bet substantial sums of money on the outcome. Tom ultimately participated in a match involving a wager of $100,000.  When he won his grateful owner granted him his freedom and a present of $500.

One of his other uncles, John Lewis of Youngstown Ohio, was considered one of the greatest fighters to ever come out of Ohio.

I remember other fighters that came out of Arizona. Fighters like Zora Foley who had his chance when he fought Ali.

Although this next fighter is not from Arizona, it is worth the mention that Lewis and Louis both were fighters. He was born May 14th,1914,the same month as John Henry Lewis.