Fred Cole Remembers: Moving to Roselle, Archer Cole, Ozzie Beard, Al Pogue

My Brother Fred Cole

My Brother Fred Cole

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.

Heart of Stone, by Al Pogue

Heart of Stone, by Al Pogue

Sidewalk Superintendent, by Al Pogue

Sidewalk Superintendent, by Al Pogue

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.

See Also  Al Pogue, Roselle Role Model and

11 comments

Clyde E Simms

A great remberance, filled with thoughtful insight. Al, Ozzie and others taught us individually and collectively that what was, did not have to be what is, but there is a what could be we could work our way towards. Developing our physical skills was great, but development of our mental skills would always serve us even greater.

Steve Cole

Thanks Clyde. We’re still fighting for “what could be.” I bet that in your coaching you play a similar role with your players as Ozzie, Al, and others did on the courts and fields of Simpson field.

Valerie Reynolds Love

Beautiful. I came much later but still hold dear the lessons learned on those tennis courts when kind of elders chose to share so much more knowledge than just the game. They taught me to always play with some one better than you because they can only make you stronger and better. I still use that philosophy in my professional life.

    Steve Cole

    Valerie, thanks for your comment. If you read my post on the “Also By Steve Cole Page,” you will see I considered the men on the courts, especially Al Pogue, my role models. I could just sit there and listen to them all day, even if I didn’t get a chance to play. That was the bonus, to play with them, and learn from people who could really hit them.

Renee Langer

This article is so good to read. My sister has a beautiful painting and a great sculpture made by Al. We all love his art. thank you for this warm memory.

Neal Pogue

Thank you for this post Steve. It’s such a blessing to hear wonderful things like this about my father Albert Pogue whom passed away when i was very young. Gone way too soon. He was a great man; father, husband, artist, sculptor, inventor, and was an exceptional baseball pitcher as you may already know besides being a tennis player. Almost went pro. Towards the end of his life he had invented a game derived from chess called Press. Did you ever get one? If he had lived, i can only imagine the things he would have accomplished thru all that he was creating. He was driven. He was an amazing person and his greatness is always confirmed thru the stories from people that he touched with his talent and soul. I’m like a sponge whenever someone mentions their experience with him. There’s always a new story to hear. I’m grateful. Thank you for helping keeping my fathers legacy alive. One of the things on my bucket list is to create a gallery showing of all his art. Reach out to as many people as i know and word of mouth thru others to see if they will let me borrow it for the duration of the showing. I think that would be amazing. Thanks again! All the best to you.

    Steve Cole

    Neal, like you, I always love hearing about your father, Al. As I think you have found from another post of mine, I considered him a role model for me growing up. You know, he would get kids like me into the Simpson Field football games for free, by letting us “help” him put the lime down for the lines. Of course he could do it without us, but he was teaching. He’d have us stretch out a string tight along each of the yard lines so that he could follow along its straight path with his machine that spread three inches of the powder. Exactness, this was a hall mark of his. Without boring you with details, I can tell you that in the many years I worked with database, exactness was always a factor. I never knew of his Press game, but as a lover of Chess I would be interested in finding if it is still available. There’s a chapter in my book called Checkmate that includes an annotated check game, though the title refers as much to the dialogue as the game. Listening to Al, my father, and the other tennis players like Ozzie Beard talk politics, I must have picked up on some similar conversations.

    As the anniversary of Al’s passing on the 27th is coming up, I wonder if you would share to your FB timeline this post of my Brothers’ recollections, within which there is a link to my own similar rememberences. Today I will be adding a link to my poem, Al Pogue, Roselle Role Model.

    It’s so great to be in touch.

    Steve

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