The Men On Wabash Cove, and other cities across America!

The Men On Wabash Cove, and other cities across America!

   I never wondered about what it meant to be a dad because I had a fine father by the name of Theodore Roosevelt Johnson that made it look as easy as breathing.  As early as I can remember we lived in an all Black neighborhood in Memphis Tennessee with strong male figures all around us. Being the youngest of 7 children, 5 brothers and a sister, I was surrounded by a plethora of hard working Black men of all sizes, shapes and shades.  I’m proud to say, my neighbors all had two parent households.          

  The neighbor to the left of us was Don Johnson, and he had a daughter named Toni.  Don worked for International Harvester and his wife was the beautiful Mary Kay lady. They  always had the finest clothes and cars including a pink cadillac, but more importantly, he always had the hookup.

 To the right of us was Reverend Taylor.  I don’t remember Mrs. Taylor.  I guess because they didn’t have any children but they had two German Shepherds that ruled his yard.  The boys in the neighborhood usually played football in our backyard because it was the biggest in the neighborhood. However,  when the football would go over the fence into Rev’s yard, we would all debate who was going to jump over the fence to get it.  It was almost like a rite of passage to be able to jump the fence and retrieve the ball without getting ripped to shreds by the German Shepherds. It was always a planned attack because we would have to distract both dogs to get to the ball and of course, speed was of utmost importance.

  By the way, Don Johnson, the neighbor to the left of us also had a dog named She Wee that terrorized us, but for some reason, only one boy could tame that little dog and that was Marvin Jeffery.

  Mr. Myers, on the other side of Rev. Taylor was a kind man, who went to work everyday hoping to carve out a piece of the American Dream for his family.  He had two sons and a pretty cigarette smoking wife. I later realized that he drank a little too much but he was never visibly drunk or mean and always maintained his family. Hindsight that may have been why his sons later exhibited addictive behaviors as well. 

  Mr. Wilson lived next to Mr. Myers with his family of 6 children, 3 girls and 3 boys.  His oldest daughter Zelda, raised Annette at the home where she and her cousin Carolyn grew up as sisters.  They were around my age so they were playmates growing up.  The children all grew up to do very well too. 

   Mr. Leo Savare was the scientist in the neighborhood and his wife was one of our elementary school teachers.  All the children in the neighborhood looked to them to help solve the mysteries of the world and if he couldn’t, we knew for sure that one of his 3 kids would.  The whole family was very smart, light, bright, damn near white.  So we felt like we had a little diversity in the hood.

 Mr. Harris and Mr. Baptist were almost like ghosts. They worked long hours and were very quiet in their interaction with the neighborhood.  Mr Harris died early so he was missed. The only time I saw Mr. Baptist was when he would get his mail.  He did bless me one day with some wood he had on the side of his house.  I was building something, I can’t remember what it was but he helped me.  I’m glad I had the courage to ask him for the wood. 

  Across the street from Mr. Baptist was Mr. Pearson, the father of my best friend, Michael.  Mr. Pearson had 3 children; 2 boys and one girl. However, he took care of everyone’s boys.  He had us all playing baseball. One summer he took us to St. Louis to see the Arch and a baseball game.  Baseball was his younger sons Michael’s ticket to college. Michael attended Fisk University & pledged Alpha Phi Alphi and became a commercial banker. 

 Next door was Mr. Booker and he had two daughters and he was kind of a fix-it guy who preached.  When he passed, he left the house to his daughters.  He probably had at least one television from everybody in the neighborhood still in the house when he died.   

   Next door to Mr. Booker was Mr. Jeffery.  He had three sons and they were all great athletes.  His divorce from Mrs. Jeffery was the first time we had to experience divorce in our neighborhood.  It wasn’t easy, especially for the younger sons. My friend was Rodney, the youngest. We fought as young boys.  I threw the first punch but he won the fight.  He went to college and became an engineer and pledged Omega Psi Phi. 

Next to the Jeffereys were the Sartors.  Mr. Sartor worked at the Post Office. His wife’s twin sister lived with them with her two sons. The youngest son Kenny, burst my lip when we played 4 square cause we kept getting him out.  I probably was talking too much smack to a boy twice as big as I was.  Mr Sartor was an honorable man that worked hard to support both families in his home. 

  As children we used to talk about all the men in the cove depending on who was privy to the conversation, we always talked positive about each others dad even though we were not blind to their shortcomings and always knew more than we let on. The fathers on my street were all men. and there was always a lesson to be learned. All these men had an impact on my life in some aspect of what was good bad and acceptable. Regardless to the daily struggles of being a Black man in the 60s, they took care of their families, they took care of their homes, and they protected the neighborhood.  Rarely did we see police in our neighborhoods. As we grew older and did, we knew them all because they went to our schools.

  It is a must for this next generation to get back to family first.  They must see two parent family homes with more frequency.  They must see what it means to be a father on a regular basis as it will help to shape them to become productive citizens, to say the least.  The kids that came off of Wabash Circle grew up to become just that, productive citizens.  We had some that didn’t quite fair as well but I can name them all on one hand but they all still had a sense of respect for others.

  To all the fathers that were before me, I want to say thank you for helping to shape us into the men that we became.  I have tried to pass on the many lessons that you taught me along the way.  My hope is that our next generation will be just as my fathers’s generation was, family men, providers, men of honor and dignity. 

  I can still hear my father say, “Son man is not broad shoulder and narrow hips. Man is responsibility.” 

  Thus, In my opinion anyone can be a baby’s  daddy but it takes a sense of responsiblity to be  a live in dad, a committed husband and a role model for the boys that may be watching. After 37 years of marriage and raising 4 productive citizens. I have concluded,  it may not always be easy, but it’s worth the sacrifice.  With a help mate, and the grace of God You can do it! Marry the mother of your children and start your families! Stay strong young men!

 Happy Father’s Day!!!

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