New Basketballs and a Sense of Fair Play
The next year, in 1963, while attending 8th grade at Lincoln – Woody Larson(image on left)came into my life and the lives of the kids in our impoverished neighborhood on the “north-side”. Woody worked for the Hospitality House Boys Club (as it was known then), a Christian organization supporting at-risk youth in North Minneapolis. Woody and his assistant Ron organized an after-school basketball program at the school. The two men brought in new basketballs, nets, t-shirts took a real interest in getting to know each one of us. They told us that hard work, fair play, discipline and persistence were worthwhile qualities.
Hospitality House Youth Development Helped Our Neighborhood Feel More Safe and Made My School Tolerable
Moreover, although I can’t explain why, The Hospitality House Boys Club had a profound effect on my development. Woody and Ron were not only awesome representatives of the spirit of competitive athletics but many times, as we witnessed, the men stopped some of the bullying and intimidation that some of the guys were going through at Lincoln.
My brother Dean and others in my family, particularly Mom, did their best to encourage my personal development as I was growing up. But often we take inspiration from more objective voices, outside of the family. Mr. Woody Larson and Hospitality House Youth Development, for me, was that voice, showing me that good exists, even in bad places. One voice, pitted against a choir, it seemed.
My Gospel Singing Gig
Mr. Larson also helped us form a Gospel singing group. We sang at churches and really anywhere that would agree to let us sing. The group was about 8 – 12 strong. My favorite song was “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho”. “And the walls came tumbling down,” Lowell Thompson would sing in his big baritone voice.
Author’s note: Mr. Woody Larson passed away on January 12th of 2013. I will remember him as a man whose individual efforts, in my opinion, delayed the onset of race riots prior to the one that occurred in 1967, in our North Minneapolis neighborhood. His work with at-risk youth – especially black – is still legend at The Minnehaha Academy, where he taught for many years.
Other than your parents, who helped you feel “safe” during your childhood?