Fred Cole Remembers: Moving to Roselle, Archer Cole, Ozzie Beard, Al Pogue
Earlier, I posted Remembering Archer Cole on Father’s Day where I recounted how our father first met Ozzie Beard and Al Pogue on the tennis courts of Roselle, NJ and how that near chance encounter shaped our family’s life in Roselle. Now my older brother Fred Cole recalls the same events but goes into more detail of our family’s move from Linden, NJ to Roselle, and about how Ozzie and Al became his friends and influenced him.
From Linden to Roselle
Poignant memories of our first days in Roselle. I remember Dad going over to play with Ozzie and Al that day. I wasn’t sure where it was going to go, but Arch always seemed to pull the rabbit out of the hat and he sure did this time. Shaky on his first strokes, and looking out of place in his sandals, he slowly began hitting some shots well. Well enough to begin his tennis days again and forge, as you so aptly describe, a great existence on those courts and in Roselle for all of us. I remember our first days in Roselle when we moved from Linden with particular clarity. July 30, 1957. The moving van was so full Mommy told Hank, you and me that we had to drive our bikes to the new house. Who knew from surreal when you’re 10, but we drove out of town on our bikes like three gunslingers riding out of Dodge at the end of the movie never to return. We passed St. Elizabeth’s playground, Dobson Park, the old synagogue, drove up Roselle Street, crossed St. George Avenue into Roselle, up Chestnut Street and pulled up to our new house at 814 Chestnut, never looking back. I think only one kid, Anthony Carvalho, even knew we were moving. We had just left our lives by bicycle!!! Strange sensation if there ever was one. Mom was amazing that day. She had the whole house set up in a reasonable fashion by 5:30 and we had a usual supper like nothing had happened. When I asked Mom many years later how she pulled off that trick, she told me that when she was a kid in Brooklyn, her family would move every six months or so because the first month’s rent was free. They were so poor, they needed that one month cushion to exist and they moved often, setting up many new apartments in one day as she did years later for us. There we were…new place, playground across the street, big back yard with a fish pond full of fish, fruit trees, real grass and a grape arbor. Holy smokes, we had hit the jackpot.
Archer Cole in the Headlines
The next day, however the bubble burst as it so quickly can in childhood. Headlines about Dad’s appearance before the Congressional hearing in Washington hit the front page of the Elizabeth Daily Journal all the way across the top of the paper. Arch’s radical politics hit Roselle in only two days, something that had deeply dogged me during our last year in Linden . Somehow, I thought moving a mile and a half to a new town where no one knew us, would hide that wound , but the newspaper that day only opened it more deeply. “As luck would have it” however, there was a silver lining I was able to grasp that has stuck with me since that day. There was a photo of Arch in the paper walking down the steps of the capitol building right under the headline. He was looking full face into the camera, head held high. This was in vast opposition to many mob and political figures who in similar moments would cover their heads with their jackets so as not to be identified. I could see Arch was unafraid of who he was and even as a 5th grader, it gave me great belief in who he was, a feeling that persists until this day. As you said Steve, Arch berated the committee concerning their focus on his politics. According to the transcript, he spoke with such great force, that the congressmen asked him to clam down as he asked them why they were not focusing on the poor treatment the workers received from the shop owners. He was 39 years old and giving congress a piece of his mind from his great belief that working Americans deserve better. In this regard, Arch and all the people in their trade union movement, were way ahead of their time.
Al Pogue and Ozzie Beard
Al Pogue and Ozzie Beard:These two African Americans, Negroes we would have called them, 1957 is that far away, were two of the most substantial people I have ever known. They are two people for me who I met as a boy and our friendship carried over until I was in my mid 20’s. they talked to me often of matters no one else did: the world, art, politics, sports, relationships, their families and their own joys and problems. Great part…I could do the same with them about myself. They gave me their young man’s perspective on things around us that were vital for me to hear as a teenager. It wasn’t parental or authoritarian it was caring. These two accomplished men, Al a great artist (and I mean great for real) and Ozzie a chemist and local politician, really liked me and I basked in their affection and the confidence their friendship gave me. To play tennis with them was like hitting with a pro because I had seen them play so well for so long. I realize now that in the late 50’s and early 60’s these two men who were in their early to mid 20’s were grasping not only with who they were, but in the pre-civil rights era just before King, I truly believe from what they talked about to me, that they were groping with race as an existential issue in an era when there were few cultural guideposts to lead them. They were on their own in this regard and it is with proud respect and actually amazement, that I think back to how bright, positive, forward thinking, and honest they were about it. I remember Al saying he was unhappy with race in America and that his life was very affected by white attitudes. This was a painful and guilt ridden moment for a white teenager, but it revealed true feelings and a trend of thought that was just around the corner for all of us. I was much better off to have had my feathers rustled than to go around deaf and dumb to what was right around us in the black community in Roselle. The shame of course was that each Al and Ozzie died so young and that we lost their voices, their perspective and of course their tennis games which tied us together for so long.