Since this is Father’s Day weekend, I want to give tribute to my grandfathers. My maternal grandfather, who I called Pop-pop was a lot of fun. When I was preschool age, I spent the weeks with him and my grandmother, while my parents worked 40 plus hours to save money to buy a house. He would get down on the floor and play with me. My mother told me he use to let she and her siblings wash and put all kinds of gooky grease in his hair to my grandmother’s frustration. When I was in elementary school, he got a job in Asbury Park, New Jersey. He roomed there during the week and came home on weekends. When he could not come home, my grandmother would take me and my cousins sometimes to see him and spend some time at the Asbury Park beach.
Pop-pop’s formal education did not make it past elementary school. He worked jobs as a waiter and in household service. He always made extra money working as a server at banquets and large private parties in people’s homes. As my uncle grew up, he took him on these “side jobs” to earn extra money. My late uncle continued to do extra work outside of his main job working at private parties and banquets until he reached his senior years. Pop-pop died when I was in 10th grade.
My paternal grandfather who I called Grand-pop lived a long life. He died when I was in my early 40s. I do not think his formal education went too far past elementary school. After my grandmother passed, he continued to live in his North Philly home well into his 90s. One of my cousins lived with him for a while. After that, my aunts, uncles, and my father would check in on him daily. He eventually went to live with one of my aunts. He was serious and no-nonsense. He did not mellow until he reached his 80s. Grand-pop did all right for a black man raising 5 children in the 1920s and 30s. He was a partner for a few years in a tailoring business. My late father told me something about 7 years ago, that astounded me. Are you ready for this? Grand-pop was never without a job during the Great Depression. He worked down at the now defunct Philadelphia Navy Yard. My father told me he would bring home bags of free government beans and rice to give out to the neighbors.
Grand-pop’s home was the home of firsts in the neighborhood. My father said they were the first to have a radio. People would hang around his home inside and out to listen to the Lone Ranger. Grand-pop again was the first to have a television in the late 40s. My mother’s first TV viewing was at his home. Into the early 70s, one channel continued to work on that TV. Grand-pop was one of the very few blacks in that neighborhood in the 1940s that owned a car. I just learned a few years ago that he was a registered Republican. He died a month before his 99th birthday.
Both of my grandfathers were of the old-fashioned stock. They saw and experienced far more racism than I have or ever will. Grand-pop served in WWI. The armed forces were very much segregated and there are many accounts of awful treatment of black soldiers by the military back then. Both sets of grandparents remained married till death parted them. My paternal grandparents’ marriage lasted for approximately 65 years. My grandfathers were both strong and loving men in their households and have left great legacies. It’s a shame that too many men, young and old today do not begin to posses the qualities of these two wonderful family leaders. They were “Great Kings” in my family.