It doesn’t seem like I am going to get away from my Pop’s story for a while, so I am going to ask you to jump on board and enjoy the ride. The last time we met, Sam was smirking over my discomfort while treating a skinned knee I acquired trying to outrun a street light that was about to determine my curfew. That curfew was just a part of growing up in the household of Sam and Alberta.
I think it is time to show you the softer side of Sam Lacy. I was a cast member in an Operetta at school. The play was ‘The Captain of the Guard,” and I was to wear a sword. My cousin Raymon had been a Cadet Commander and had a sword he used in that role. I borrowed this sword with the promise of returning it in good shape. Being a knucklehead, I enacted a scene from one of the swashbuckling movies with another knucklehead who was in the play. I was Captain Blood and Robin Hood rolled into one. The swords clanged, the blood in our veins flowed and then all of the make-believe heroics came crashing to the ground. The sword broke. I am not going to say I had an accident in my pants, but it was a near-miss.
I usually have a cool head under duress, but this time I was in full panic mode. I gathered the pieces and ran home. On the way, I thought about one of my neighbors, Mr. Neff. He seemed to be a pretty resourceful dude (little did I know he was also a stool pigeon). He said he would work on my problem—I didn’t know that this meant dropping a dime to my pop. At any rate, Sam picked up a new sword on his way home. No punishment, but I had to work it off. While working to pay for my stupidity, I could hear Sam Cook’s “That’s the sound of the men working on the chain gang.” This was Sam’s way of making a point. Point well taken.
On our block there was an alley. This alley was shaped like an elongated “C” and we took advantage of every inch. One end of the alley came out on the upper portion of the block, the other end came out on the lower end, and we played in it from coast to coast. There was a vacant garage we used as a club house, and if that garage could talk I would still be serving a life sentence at San Quentin.
Back in the day there were hucksters who were part of the landscape. These guys would come through the neighborhoods with their horse-drawn buggies loaded with fruits and veggies. They would sing out to let the neighborhood know they were in the block, and the women would come to the back door to make their purchases. On this day we heard one coming and hid in the club house until he passed. As he passed we sprinted out of the garage to board the wagon from the back and unload a little fruit. As I caught up with the wagon Mrs. Wilson raised her window and hailed him. He stopped and I ran into the back of the wagon. Not only was I busted, but I had a knot the size of a boiled egg on my forehead.
As I arrived home, Sam was standing there with the phone in his hand. I heard him say, “Okay, Mrs. Wilson, thank you.” He turned to me and said, “Why don’t you sweep the back porch to burn off some of that energy?” I really got off light, but I guess my pop was remembering his days as a juvenile delinquent. That was Sam, hard but fair.