Sometimes I'll follow up by phone with readers who've written to me. This letter about Kinloch came to me after one of my columns about the history of Brooklyn, Illinois. I thought this letter was awesome because I'm a history buff myself.
I think it's worthy of being printed in this space so other people can read it, too.
I am a history buff, and what follows is a token of appreciation to you and RFT.
I am a 48-year-old ordained minister and sergeant of police. I told you earlier that I work for the City of Kinloch. Your article on Brooklyn, Illinois, really inspired me. I am from Oakland, California, but I grew up within a township in Oakland that reminds me of both Kinloch and Brooklyn. I love my people and I always want to do whatever I can to help them flourish. The youngsters in Kinloch think I am too hard, but if they grew up in the era that I grew up in they would understand that my only concern is to see them better themselves.
When you called me the other day, I really did not know who you really were. I looked you up on the Internet and found out that you are one bad dude. My father passed in January of this year and he was an avid baseball fan. He used to tell me about the Negro League and about players like you who should have been granted the opportunity earlier to play in the major leagues. If I had told my father that I had spoken to Prince Joe on the phone, he would have said, "OK son, speak to me when you awake from your dream."
Anyway, the City of Kinloch, as I learned from the Internet and from several much older people, is the oldest African-American city incorporated in the state of Missouri. It is also the hometown of California Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
Due to a buyout by Lambert Airport, most of the people in Kinloch sold their homes, and Kinloch lost 75 percent of its population. The population is now 449. There was a time when the people of Kinloch did not have to leave the city of Kinloch to have their needs met. There were grocery stores, funeral homes and plenty of doctors, dentists and mechanics in Kinloch. They had their own public schools also. I have met people who have lived twenty or thirty years and never left the boundaries of Kinloch. They actually had never been to St. Louis city.
President Roosevelt took his first plane ride ever out of Kinloch Field. The first experimental parachute jump in the world took place at Kinloch Field. Major Albert Lambert purchased the 500-acre field and renamed it Lambert Field.
We have a great mayor in Keith Conway, who has a vision for the city; and a great police chief, Donald Hardy, who is a native of East St. Louis and a retired homicide detective with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
Everett James, Kinloch
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. If we don't like yours, we'll hit Joe with our own.