"There was always some professor at the YMCA on weekends. Langston Hughes used to have these poetic sayings and we’d learn about them. They would always make us aware of the black heroes. They didn’t say what they were doing but they wanted us to be aware. Joe Louis used to come out and visit during his heyday.
"We weren’t allowed to go downtown because it was segregated back then. But we had a beautiful Y on the north side. We had a tumbling teacher named Charles Parker. We had whites come over to teach us but we couldn’t go to their Y. But we had everything we needed. On Saturdays they had basketball games all day. I used to take a bologna sandwich and watch games all day. During the summers I went to YMCA camp.
"At the Y we played every kind of music. Red Garland, the famous piano player that played with Miles Davis, was going to the Y at the same time. And Red had a little boys’ band at the Y, so I played clarinet in Red’s band. When I was a junior or senior in high school, Red used to hang around the school. He was older than us. And always playing piano. I knew Red very well.
"I wanted to play sports. That was the fashionable thing to do. At the YMCA my daddy took me away to play the horn. Guys would say, 'Man I thought you was going to be an athlete. Why are you messing with the horn?'"
Copyright Susan Cross, August 2009
It sounds to me like Leroy's dad knew what was best for him.