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Reminiscences 1
Home Up Reminiscences 1 Reminiscences 2 Reminiscensces 3 Reminiscences 4 Reminiscenses 5 Reminiscences #6 Reminiscence #7

Mary Lee Brady, Ph.D.










I remember very vividly the excitement and images following World War II, around years 1946-1947 when the soldiers and sailors, men and women, both Black and White seemed to all come home at the same  time (at least one in a flag draped casket).

These were the people to whom my classmates in Public School and Sunday School had been urged by teachers to write letters about our little lighted lives.  We lived in a coal mining town where most men, like my father, were coal miners.  They were mostly sons and grandsons of coal miners like the immigrant owner of Mathies Coal Company who had come over after World War I to open and mine coal, ... bringing his son Archibald. 

                                                Mathies Coal Company

Archie was born in Scotland, a star athlete in the school I would later attend and his father was one of the Great Scots in the region.  World War II was perhaps the last war in which the sons of rich men volunteered and served along side "the least of us" in American military forces.  And, like Joseph P. Kennedy, his son was also killed in the carnage of war and awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  The nation-wide celebrations following the unconditional surrender of Japan included a great gathering and memorial erection in my hometown which had lost the lives of many young men including Archie.  I was there perched on my father's shoulder and saw Frank Sinatra in a celebrity drive-by.

                                                     Archibald Mathies

I had turned six years of age in June 1944 but my mother and older baby-sitter (a preacher's daughter named Martha May Archie) among others had taught me to read and write letters to my cousin William and the Pope brothers since at least year 1943.  Dave Pope, my former Sunday School teacher before leaving for military service, was the Jackie Robinson of our little town having by age 19 years excelled in school, sports and community development of respect for teenage boys and girls.  Seems to me that in the 1940s, every little coal and mill town around Pittsburgh with sizeable communities of African-American men, women and youth, ... had at least one model Dave Pope and Nellie Archie (Reverend Archie's eldest of three daughters who in year 1926 was one of the founders of Mount Zion Baptist Church on a coal company owned lot near where I was born).       

I had a lot of help, having an older sister and brother, plus cousins and older boys and girls as neighbors but I also had the freedom to move among them with eyes to see and ears to hear in learning to tell my story about "what I had seen and heard." 

                                                BIRTH RIGHTS

I was born in Library, South Park Township Pennsylvania in year 1938 to father and mother William and Cora Atkins whose union also generated eight other offspring all born at home via an African-American midwife named Jenny Jackson.  Compared to at least ten previous generations, it was the best of times to be born a poor African-American in the United States but perhaps worse of times to be born a rich German Jew in Germany.

My birth year was the one in which far-sighted American believers began the March of Dimes campaign to fight the war against polio that had inflicted despair and pain on so many millions of people, such as the great Franklin Delano Roosevelt even before he became President of the United States, ... and an earthly savior in a world engulfed by the doctrinal evils espoused via many millions of men and women like Hitler, Tojo and Mussolini who the year before my birth had launched a genocidal attack on Ethiopia.

My father and mother had lived through the era of World War I wherein 50 million people reportedly perished, and had a lot of concerns about wars and rumors of war on the horizon of both Blacks and Whites in America.  They read the newspapers and of course wondered who and what would be next.  Would the fascist take over in places like Chicago and New York or down south where the Ku-Klux-Klan openly echoed similar sentiments against "perceived inferior people being born."

Within a few years of my birth, thanks to my mother and father, I had gained knowledge sufficient to understand a world existed beyond my yard and they feared polio perhaps more than any thing else. I would later learn that shortly after my birth, a baby named Roberta Wilson, a local preacher's daughter, was diagnosed to have polio and many mothers and fathers, including mine, would raise up prayers for their savior to offer salvation from the scourge of polio. 

One of their soon-to-be saviors was Dr. Jonas Salk at the University of Pittsburgh who would invent a polio vaccine to prevent the hated disease among children such as my Aunt Nanny and Cousin Henry who as children were crippled during the 1920s before I was born.  They were the kind of Messianic believers I have always admired. 

I came forth from my mother's womb in an era when most African-American babies outside big cities of the northeast were not born in a hospital under physicians care.  It would be no small wonder to me that Jenny Jackson's great grand-daughter became a medical doctor with genetic traits handed down through three generations of functional Christian care-giving via her mother, grand-mother and great-grandmother. 

It is what I refer to as a church without walls wherein men and women are devoted to healing the sick and other Messianic functions beyond ritualistic worship, dancing and singing on Sunday morning.  I have always attributed my successful birth and that of my siblings to a labor of Christian love by believers like my mother, father, Mrs. Jenny Jackson and the Pittsburgh Coal Company physician (Dr. Graham) who came while I was being born.  And, in those days the real church women came to help mothers of new-born children by affording care and comfort to the others including fathers.  My father would later explain to me that before and after the wise men came to visit the Christ child, ... good women like the inn-keeper's wife were there helping Mary and Joseph in our first Christmas.   For him, the birth of Jesus was a reference point in his life and that of all he valued: life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

So it has been in my life to wonder and pursue matters of interests and passions in learning and love that existed long before my birth all the way back and beyond the generations of chattel slavery, ... at least that is how I choose to believe as a freeman able to think freely, unlike enslaved minds in otherwise free bodies.  It is amazing indeed that traits other than appearance are passed from generation to generation, ... as with movements in spirit of Christ, like stanzas in a great unending musical symphony generating a world in which we, even doctorates of sciences and philosophy, must live until the body is dead.  No one knows for certain where energy of life comes from or goes, ... Einstein said "energy can neither be created or destroyed, but can be transferred." 

I have long held the view that Jesus more or less said the same in explaining physical and meta-physical existence for later-day believers in the immaculate conception and resurrection.  And, since my beginnings in Sunday School during the months preceding the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the teachings of Jesus have inspired me to wonder about the world into which I was born.   I believe my birth in Pittsburgh region was transferred energy to matter for a purpose, perhaps not as greatly desired, .... but even so to live a useful life within and beyond the geography of the region and its three great rivers that join together in a great down-flow to the Mississippi River beyond the blues in Memphis and jazz of New Orleans into the Gulf of Mexico and out into the wider world of oceans, seas and continents accessible only via gaining knowledge!  So, in my earliest years as a child I was taught to read, learn and wonder about people and places I did not know.    

My mother taught me to read before I ever entered the public schools and by five years of age, ... Sunday school readings allowed me to do so with other children.  I was the third born child of Cora Lee Hill Atkins who was  a former teacher in Virginia where she was educated and allowed to teach before her sojourn into the Pittsburgh Region that did not allow women of color to teach school. 

By my fourth year in the public elementary school, she had taught me that in the beginning of Pittsburgh it was established as Fort Duquesne by the French government, and then renamed Fort Pitt by British colonial government and its colonials during the French and Indian War of 1753-1759 mainly from Virginia including hundreds, if not thousands of enslaved men classified in British military records as pioneers.  She was determined that I should not feel excluded in school geography classes of Miss Lawson with the many pictorial views of White men surrounding George Washington the other pivotal character in American geography lessons for children.  I learned about the Lewis and Clark Expedition via my mother who included the man named "York" who was courageous, strong and Black.

American historians and teachers still tend to dismiss them simply as slaves, not ever courageous men, as though any other functions such as fighting and dying on fields of battle such as "Negro Mountain" did not matter.  Mama said, "it was the "first movement" of African heritage folks into the Pittsburgh region, and you can tell your teacher (Miss Masineri, 6th grade) that I said so!"   My mother knew her own history of people distorting and denying factual information in attempts to enhance their own sense of superiority over perceived inferior attitudes and behaviors of African-Americans stereo-typed to be monolithic.   

It was in the fifth grade that I learned use of the term "pioneers" was used to designate young men engaged in labor intensive and risky work in officially sanctioned new territories.  Thousands of enslaved and freemen were used as pioneers in building the first all weather road across Pennsylvania to defeat the French.  She perked my interest in Virginia history and and how Black men like my ancestors were used by men like George Washington to perform difficult and often very dangerous work like cutting down trees, digging water wells, and moving rocks and dirt to make roads for wagons to travel.  By the fifth grade, I was politely ignored by the teacher (Mrs. Mounds) when I insisted that many pioneers were Negroes from Virginia.

I still remember that she refused to post my pictorial drawings on the wall for the PTA Open House, ... claiming I handed it in late or not at all such as the other five African-American children in my class of about 25 students.  It was my first experience in group punishment and never learned whether my fellow Sunday School classmates were culprits that generated her "teacher rage." 

Black boys were almost always singled out with terms such as "all of you, get over here" or some other command that meant those of us deemed birds of a feather. We learned to stick together, walking to and from school, on the play-ground and most certainly in the class-rooms.

More likely and normally it was Billy Quivers held back from the previous year in her class. He was not a bad kid, just unable to read, write and count beyond a second grade level.  His mother mother had died a few years before and his dad (Mr. Quivers) was too sickly for work in the mines and remained intoxicated on most days and nights.  Billy's oldest sister ran the household, worked in a Pittsburgh factory and he did not have to attend Sunday School,

... wherein women like Mrs. Ruth Green (adult daughter of Deacon Rufus Fields, Sunday School Superintendant and Chairman of the Deacon Board).  She and my mother always asked us about our school projects for PTA Open House always a big occasion when all the Black Church ladies came to see and talk to the teachers.  But, they were reluctant to interfere or inject themselves into dysfunctional households wherein daughters often struggled to be a mother or father to their under-age siblings.   

In those days of old and gold Christian women's clubs like the (Library Women's Club that I observed growing into their golden years), ... men like my father worked hard and dangerous jobs to support families of activist Christian women.  It was common for such women to coordinate information between neighborhood mothers, Public Schools and Sunday Schools about project requirements like the PTA.  My mother would later explain the main purpose of women congregating was not simply to worship Christ but to nurture HIS body and spirit in the children around us.  She believed, and so do I, the most important lessons for young mothers and their children to learn at a very early age is how to learn "love ye one another" especially in one's own generation of life on earth.  Anytime and place that tens, hundreds and thousands of boys enter the age of puberty with envy, hatred and even a willingness to kill one another, ... is bottom-line evidence of non-communities, though called or imagined by any other description.   

                                        Sunday Schools

Sunday schools were critical to usher little boys and little girls into the fellowship resident in the body and spirit of Christ. She doubted the public schools could ever overcome the fallacies of uninspired mothers and children.  If the mother is not inspired to read every day, how on God's earth, can anyone rationalize that a child will receive inspiration to do so?  Or be motivated to value reading?  Good teachers and schools can help educate but can not provide "mother wit."  Her privately held view was that even though babies should be born of love between their mother and father, ... they, like all life-forms, are born very selfish.  The love needed in their bodies and minds for growth required nurturing long before entering public schools and the challenges of Christian dogma of enlightened believers, more or less, hold forth the belief that introduction to teachings by Jesus at an early age is the best path to tolerance and friendship among youth. 

My mother felt that beginning of each classes' public school day with a bible reading by the teacher and pledge of allegiance was very important for children, Black and White, Jewish and Christian, boys and girls to perceive themselves as having something in common to like and tolerate each day.  She lamented that for a classroom teacher, the day always ended as it began in the eyes and minds of the class. Nothing in, nothing out! 

In fact, by age of puberty, whether in Africa, the Americas or Caribbean, boys with mothers who do not know, like or love one another in the philosophy of Jesus (not pretentious priests), ... are at risk of not only disliking fellow boys but also quite capable of harming them. Mothers are the key, and bad mothers generate bad offspring more often than not by denial or destruction of fatherhood in a decidedly abnormal process of unlinked behaviors by father and mother in child development. 

I had the great advantage of a decidedly paternal union in Christ that yielded not only me but siblings, cousins, friendships and stability for my growth and development from birth, ... completely through the hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and yearly processes of nurturing, indoctrination, motivation and education to employment and deployment into a world of wonder.  Like Reverend Jesse Jackson more or less has said quoting his grandmother, "we were not poor, we just didn't have money." 

By the time I reached aged 13, my brother was 15 years old and we both had the strength and wisdom to comprehend abilities to do more to help ourselves earn more money for love of home.  We learned from an older generation of so-called day workers and travelled to an automatic carwash that flourished on use of muscular boys en-route to becoming men, ... with the desire and stamina to keep up with older uneducated men (mostly from Pittsburgh's Lower Hill District) washing upwards of a thousand automobiles per day when the sun was shinning and faces smiling for dollar plus an hour. It was a world of Black men who improvised their behavior each day, ... in a lot of places where color not only mattered but also dictated cultural customs as to who boys could not aspire to be such as apprentice, journeyman or master craftsman in a skilled crafts union.   

I learned in those traveler years that outside the coal mines and mills throughout the Pittsburgh region including African-Americans living among more than a hundred towns in Western Pennsylvania, ... were many Black boys trying to become men among many thousands of day workers who essentially lived hand to mouth and day to day dependent upon construction, waste disposal and even farm owners. 

It seemed to us that men who were day-workers were too frail, small or sickly (especially alcoholics), ... for the physical rigors and stress of working as mill workers and coal miners where the pay was much better but labor intensive teamwork requiring upper-body strength and stamina.  For day workers such as my brother and I, ... it was 20 cents per hour less than the men who worked every day but who welcomed us as future minded Black youth with a lot to learn about being chosen.  Being on time, rain or shine, standing at attention and possessing work boots usually convinced the foreman we were prepared to work.

Being one of the "chosen" people was always a sense of great pride to me but a source of despair by smaller boys from my town not selected.

Boys forever remember not being chosen, and some never overcome the feeling of being less than, ... which is the reality of American hardball they must learn to play by learning to be good at something of value to self and others. 

In a very short time, we learned that most of the regular day workers in the car-wash, earning from $1.20 to $1.35 per hour in 1952-1953 were routinely hauled into magistrate court for failure to pay enough child support.  Some had been jailed and burdened to pay off their court fine plus overdue child support.  Most lived with their relatives, ... very few with wives or girl friends and hardly any had relationships with acknowledged children.  What little money earned was consumed in petty gambling, playing illicit numbers, drinking at favorite Hill District bars where bad women from down the Mississippi River were known to sell pleasures that included use of heroin and marijuana. 

 'Bridge of Sighs' between County Courthouse and Jail

And most obviously, any money given was to a sister or some other woman loved most, ... not the one awaiting child support.  Almost without exception the claim most often heard was the child at issue was not via them but rather a false claim by the mother to welfare and law authorities.  Most amazing in listening to this generation of men without means to hardly shelter and feed themselves, ... was the constant expression of laughter rather than anger about otherwise serious implications of avoiding women and judges seeking their money. 

I later learned the real perversion was in public policy enforcement that women receiving welfare assistance could not have a man, even the father of her children, living with her.  It was an excellent example of punitive judgments in law by people with authority who spoke often of their Judea-Christian heritage, ... but reserved Pauline Christian redemptive judgments for White folks deemed deserving of Christ. 

Our week-end de-facto church service was about listening to what others had "seen and heard" such as buying good shoes, reading baseball box scores, comparing athletes, learning about jazz bands and heroes like Billy Eckstein, ... and even the tribulations of serving in the navy as laborers and mess stewards during World War II.  One man called "Shock" for alleged shell-shock and steel plate in his head from an attack by Japanese planes, ... was a frustrated drummer unable to read music. 

He claimed to be a member of Pittsburgh's famed "Musicians Club" where everybody allowed to sit in on a jam session was somebody to be respected for being able to improvise, ... a higher calling in the Lower Hill District where men admired musicians much more than they did improvising preachers who by contrast were most appealing to family minded working women.  In fact Pittsburgh musicians had a lot in common with Hill District preachers also "up from down home" where improvising was a way of life among the gifted and talented.

His ritual during break and lunch periods always included at least a few minutes of drumming on an empty 55 gallon barrel, and if in a really good mood he would improvise like famed Pittsburgh vocalist Eddie Jefferson on above left who recorded with the band of James Moody, putting words to popular instrumentals such as Moody's Mood For Love.

                                                Moody's Mood For Love

I like August Wilson, but his stories about garbage collectors and lesser men on the Lower Hill District of Pittsburgh are not the only way I remember the Greater Pittsburgh Region of over 100 communities where African-Americans lived, loved and raised families in pursuit of goodness among their offspring.  So far as I know, the great writer never wrote about the sensational conspiracy carried out in the deliberate destruction of Mother Bethel AME Church as the landmark symbol of Black activism in the region, especially the Hill District?   How ironic it is to see a memorial placed on Centre Avenue to commemorate a protest gathering in 1968, but no mention or even knowledge of far more significant Hill District events, such as Martin Delany organizing residents to stop slave catchers from kidnapping "the least of us."  The monument erected by the City of Pittsburgh is a testament to grass-roots ignorance and make believe matters of relative insignificance.

A lot of folks had relatives who lived on the Hill District and my Aunt Adaline Kyle Atkins Brown, a Republican Ward Leader in Democratic Party controlled Pittsburgh, is perhaps best remembered for allowing the great saxophonist and other gifted children to practice their music lessons in her basement on La Place Street for hours on end.  Other club women did similar good deeds for their fellow mothers, especially music loving AME folks who believed in education, practice, training, testing, ... not a lot of resting like non-believers like to do.

I knew Stanley Turrentine and his trumpet playing brother Tommy but they were too old for me to consider as my friends, ... always practicing music with a religious fervor.  The Turrentines, so I was told had come up river to Pittsburgh from down in Tennessee, maybe Memphis where music and preaching were almost one and the same big sounds. 

Stanley would later say that Illinois Jacquet was the musical influence in his earthy blues like sound, and his ancestry and talents likely epitomized source generations and movement of jazz up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers into places like Pittsburgh where so many jazz greats were born, ... God knows, practiced, practiced, practiced, practiced and heard music where none had existed before. 

The 1880 census data below suggests the Turrentine sound may have began in Memphis long before he was born in Pittsburgh during 1934.  One thing for certain, Stanley's story did not begin with him and my interest is that his music helped tell the stories of a lot of wandering souls we now know existed for a purpose God only knows.  Our hope is that African-American heritage and cultural centers in Pittsburgh and elsewhere will work to help tell the story of sights and sounds that brought the gifts and talents of men like Stanley to full-term for others to enjoy.

 Name RelationMarital StatusGenderRaceAgeBirthplaceOccupationFather's BirthplaceMother's Birthplace
 Gil TURRENTINE  Self  M  Male  B  43  TN  Farmer  TN  TN 
 Levity TURRENTINE  Wife  M  Female  B  41  AR  Keepinghouse  TN  AL 
 Nulene TURRENTINE  Dau  S  Female  B  19  AR  At Home  TN  AR 
 Edward TURRENTINE  Son  S  Male  B  17  AR  Farm Hand  TN  AR 
 Thomas TURRENTINE  Son  S  Male  B  15  AR  Farm Hand  TN  AR 
 Martha TURRENTINE  Dau  S  Female  B  13  AR  At Home  TN  AR 
 Lizie TURRENTINE  Dau  S  Female  B  10  AR    TN  AR 
 John TURRENTINE  Son  S  Male  B  7  AR    TN  AR 
 Joe TURRENTINE  Son  S  Male  B  4  AR    TN  AR 
 Bascom TURRENTINE  Son  S  Male  B  1  AR    TN  AR 
 George NEAL  Other  W  Male  B  60  VA  Farm Hand  ---  --- 
 Thomas HARDY  Other  S  Male  B  30  AR  Farm Hand  ---  --- 
 Thomas GEORGE  Other  S  Male  B  19  AR    ---  --- 
 George THOMPSON  Other    Male  W  41  AR    ---  --- 


Like their father and mother, both brothers were musicians but nothing like the kind of non-practicing "wanabee or could have been" type Black jazz masters normally characterized by novelists and Hollywood screen-writers.  Music is hard to procreate, and much more difficult than writing a story.  In fact, Pittsburgh's famed Musicians' Club was a free night school for young men and women who wanted to be good at their crafts, ... both instruments and voice.  Music, like preaching, in the 1930s-1950s of Pittsburgh was considered to be a higher calling that could be evidenced in a very few minutes.  Preachers and musicians without training could be quickly identified by people who knew their faith and loved sounds of instruments and voices made good by study and practice to achieve goodness.

But, it was always so very dependent upon mothers to make matters other than money matter most to the child.  From Mozart to Coltrane, the process remains the same, ... practice, practice, practice and be ready when given an opportunity to perform.  The Black women who had waited, like my Aunt Adaline and the mother of Stanley Turrentine.  They waited and wanted through the depression and war years for their construction and mill-worker husbands to bring home the good life being enjoyed by White men at standard wages well over a few dollars per hour, ... and were sorely disappointed within five years of the world war's end in 1945. 






Adaline's husband, Lloyd Brown was a cement finisher from Indiana, with wavy Black hair, and was allowed to join the finisher's union as a token but in the winter months often waited in vain for a call from the union hall. 

He was told by one fellow White unionized cement finisher of Sicilian heritage who was nearly his same color/complexion, "Brownie, its too bad you are not Italian."

By mid 1950s, most high-school graduate guys in my age-group of African heritage youth wanted out of the Pittsburgh region, ... and for those who did not go off to college, the primary route "out of Dodge" was the U.S. military with mostly integrated functions and opportunities since end of Korean War.

President Harry Truman, as Commander-In-Chief in year 1948, faced with a long extensive cold war, as a military necessity, ... ordered the Armed Forces to materially and racially integrate its thousands of Black and White designated military units, ship crews, bases, forts, and training facilities. 

World War II had clearly illustrated and debunked carefully crafted media myths about inferior and superior men, ... orchestrated by organized racism dating back to at least the American Civil War and made holy hell in post-World War I Europe in generating World War II that very much enveloped Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe via air, land and sea sons of the fathers. 

More than a million Black troops from Africa, Canada and the Caribbean had not only helped the British and French overcome the Axis Powers of Germany, Italy and Japan, ... but the million from America proved their blood was just as red and robust as any others fighting for life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.  A lot of Africans from Ghana, Jamaica, Nigeria, Kenya and even little known colonies like Sierra Leone and Gambia were essentially impressed into services in places like Burma to build jungle road and rail links between India and China.

Black men had been in U.S. military forces since at least year 1776, ... and, not to be confused with proponents of other causes, had never sought social integration but rather functional equality of opportunities to perform in combat, combat support and combat service requirements.  The war in Korea made the order achievable in realities of the Marine Corps retreat down the Korean Peninsula and bloody battles on places like Pork Chop Hill where all blood flowed red, ... and men were classified by their courage and skills, not color and prejudices.  But, outside the military and professional sports, ... change was slow to come and too late for many young Black women.

The Korean War that killed a lot of Black and White men did not seem to make any difference in the Pittsburgh region mills, mines, factories and construction industries.  Tens of thousands of Black women were paid about six dollars per day plus trolley fare for working as domestic servants, ... without social security benefits or unemployment insurance.  By ending of the Korean War in 1953, ... the majority of young Black men in the region did not know "which way was up."  Working in the mills and mines like our parent's generation until blind, cripple or half crazy from drinking too much trying to remove dust in their lungs.  It was a scary observation for me and my friends, and a viable alternative only if a dearly beloved teenage girl-friend became pregnant to make marriage and mills/mines a family affair. 

Cultural change of the worst kind was being generated in Pittsburgh by a lot of very unhappy women, including those who had served in the Women's Army Corps and returned home to learn the only jobs possible for them were as factory workers at Federal Enamel making pots and pans for a $1.20 per hour.  Or household domestic work for $6.00 per day plus lunch and trolley fare.  By contrast, the women I observed on the Lower Hill were not fashionably dressed and seemingly even in those early post-war years rarely in female clothes. 

And, as out where I lived many women played the illegal numbers policy game every day in hopes of getting lucky and receiving cash to make them "happy."  Numbers carriers (with names like Babyface), collectors and bankers like Gus Greenlee had established a daily cash flow of thousands of dollars received from both men and women hoping to get a "hit" on their number, not unlike the modern lottery game now made legal.  Greenlee also owned a baseball stadium and club, the Pittsburgh Crawfords, and he owned and operated the famed Crawford Bar and Grill, a club wherein the best jazz musicians in America often came to perform.

As a teenager, I often walked up Center Avenue from the down town trolley stop, pass Mother Bethel AME Church standing majestically among the "28 Black Mother Churches" for nearly 300 Black churches in the region, ... to visit my Aunt Adaline on La Place Street and was almost always amazed at dozens of boys in my age-group standing idle in front of the New Grenada Movie Theater.  She cautioned me to never walk by without greeting or acknowledging them, ... which later generated inquiries as to "where do you live" and "where you going?."  Their pride and joy was knowing various jazz musicians like Art Blakey and James Moody, and the many famed players on their Hill District professional baseball team.

My answer next time past New Grenada and the most common question was "Do you know Stanley?" That was Pittsburgh wherein normal Black boys identified each other by common friendships.  Without exception they were always dressed in suits and ties as on parade to extent that I once inquired of my aunt who advised such boys were dressed by their mothers in the best of clothing and shoes.  And they stood there to get attention, ... distinguished from hoodlum gangs of high-school dropouts that roamed the streets at night in wolf packs looking for other boys to fight.  Indeed, bad boys by bad mothers knew better than going home and interfering with whatever was occurring.  Welfare mothers not only had legal power to evict fathers but also to manipulate courts into sending post-puberty (so-called incorrigible) sons to so-called reform schools, normally for labor as farm-hands where they learned to fight and even commit rape of weaker boys.   

File:George Benson 2009.jpg

In fact, I remember now that most day-light boys had hair straightened long before the fad of Jerry Curls or current practice of braiding their hair like girls do.  No, I do not imagine they were so-called "Gay," ... but rather ones with disabling identity conflicts imposed by mothers to "look good to others."  It was clear to me even then that such boys who so-called "bopped" rather than walked like men could not be engaged in any sweaty and dirty endeavors such I was used to thirteen miles away. 

After a few such trips up the avenue, most knew my face well enough to know my Aunt lived on La Place and I was from so-called "out in the country."  It was years later before I learned the vast differences between the Lower Hill District composed of the Black poor and the Upper Hill District where more affluent African-Americans lived. They attended different schools and churches.

They were neither bad or lonely boys.  The guys I saw on a regular basis standing in front of the Grenada were rebels against nature itself in ways they looked, talked, walked and acted.  They were unquestionably their mothers' sons and had something no Black guys growing up with me ever had, ... a weekly allowance of money to spend.  My Aunt Adaline explained that many Hill District mothers sacrificed and gave their sons money so they would not be tempted to steal and get into trouble. 

She said it was impossible for boys to earn money because they needed working papers from the city, drivers licenses and someone to hire them, ... unlike "out in the country" where I lived.  Uneducated mothers had unintentionally raised them to be inferior and dependent on luck and women, ... believing as they did that straightened hair, expensive clothing and shoes, and often wiping a handkerchief over their mouths when talking, mattered more than mind matters like doing good by helping others not simply looking good like a peacock preacher on Sunday morning television shows.  

Raising up boys, from the time of Jesus until now in Pittsburgh and elsewhere in the world, ... the pursuit of goodness often entailed delaying many measures of happiness by father and mother until adult-hood of the child. When a mother or father's pursuit of personal happiness over-rides or supplants pursuit of goodness in their boys, ... it is ultimately a cause for war within the society, normally by schools, courts, police and prisons.  And, so it evolved in Pittsburgh's Lower Hill district following World War II when ruling White society (especially Roman Catholic dominated labor unions such as the American Federation of Labor and Iron Workers of America) did not keep their war-time promises to mass admit Black construction and skilled craft workers for equal opportunities to earn or learn in the private sector. 

                                            Pittsburgh Hill District

By time of the riots and burnings in Pittsburgh's Lower Hill District that followed death of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 the have-not sons generated by disgruntled men, "my color but not my kind," ... did not care about "the White man's property, laws or even one another."  The illegitimate sons of "The Farm Hands in my generation" vented their rage and for a night gloried in avenging the fathers, ... not Dr. King.  In reality the burnings and riots gave powers that be good reason and mass public support to finish tearing down the blight and eyesores of a past most wanted to forget, ... and dispersed more welfare and pharmaceutical drug dependent mothers and children throughout the region for boys to men to raise hell in new places like Homewood and Wilkinsburg.  By beginnings of the 1980s, the influx of crack cocaine among thousands of new young mothers of generation #67 assured most would "go down, not up."

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