News » Ask a Negro Leaguer

Brain Freeze

Summer in school, summer not.


Hey Joe: Do you think it's good or bad that eighteen Metro East school districts will start classes in July? Aren't summer vacations beneficial for both students and teachers?

Edna Krabappel, Springfield

Years back, teachers and students had a seemingly pretty good rapport. Now all hell has broken loose. Just recently, students from one school held Mayor Francis Slay's office hostage during a sit-in protesting a state takeover of St. Louis city schools. They felt a takeover would affect their chances of graduation. Ultimately they made a trip to Jefferson City to ask lawmakers for help. I couldn't have been more sympathetic. I truly believe that one should have a voice in deciding his or her destiny.

In reference to teachers and students returning early to the classroom, I certainly would like to hear what both sides have to say about this. After all, the students are employers and the teachers are their employees. (If you think this is untrue, let all the students disappear from the classrooms.)

Now, I'm not too familiar with the reason for this early return to school; therefore, I would be unable to render a fair opinion. But some of these things I've been hearing — including busing, desegregation, charter and magnet schools, especially in the St. Louis area — seem to recall days long gone. Obviously they aren't, and children suffer the consequences. I remember certain St. Louis public schools, like Beaumont and Central high schools, were viewed as charter or magnet schools. This was when they were lily white and the school board was controlled by whites as well. At the same time, blacks attended Sumner, Vashon and Washington Tech and were forbidden to compete against whites.

Sometimes I wonder why the Negro Leagues get such attention on the basis of the the travails and denials the teams encountered when the same was accorded blacks, socially, right in their own back yards. East of the Mississippi River, black kids were bused from East Carondelet (which was right across the street from Dupo High School) through East St. Louis to attend black schools in Brooklyn and Venice — the latter of which had a school "provided" for blacks. After integration in 1968, white flight took place. Venice High School is now closed, and after East Side High was integrated, it became predominately black. This is the same situation that occurred at Beaumont, Central and other schools.

I suppose the point I'm trying to make is that these institutions were and are components of the so-called educational system, but the credentials teachers have earned only apply to math, English and reading. They do not cover everyday history. Therefore, students will never learn the social aspect of life. In other words, teachers who claim they are educators are really unfocused, and students will never learn the truth. To sum it up, seemingly teachers and students have been on long vacations, so now it is time to go to work. p>

Prince Joe Henry, one of professional baseball's original "clowns," was an all-star infielder for Negro League baseball teams in Memphis, Indianapolis and Detroit throughout the 1950s. But up until the late 1940s, Prince Joe didn?t know anything about the Negro Leagues. His knowledge of organized baseball was limited to the Cardinals and Browns games he attended during his preteen years at Sportsman?s Park, accompanied by lifelong buddy Eugene "Gene" Crittendon, who could pass for white.

Perhaps Henry?s most vivid memory of those games: Upon entry, white ushers would politely escort the boys to a small section of the left-field stands reserved for "Colored." After climbing past several tiers of bleachers, they?d arrive at their stop, rows and rows behind their white counterparts.

Even at a young age, the boys were conscious of the double standard -- and determined to vent their disdain. The opportunity would arise with the urge to urinate. Rather than head for the latrine, the boys would edge their way to the front of the section and let fly. As the liquid foamed its way down the concrete steps toward the white kids, Henry and his pal would ease back and relax, politely rooting for the visiting team to beat the hell out of the Browns or the Cards.

After all, Henry and Crittendon hailed from Brooklyn, Illinois, a small, predominantly black township just east of the Mississippi River. So hospitable were the residents of Brooklyn that they were known to take in a rank stranger, treat him to breakfast, lunch, supper and a night out on the town -- and afterward, if he messed up, treat him to a good ass-whippin'.

Direct questions on any and all topics to If we don't like yours, we'll hit Joe with our own.

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