Muhheakannuck Nations at Nu Schodack
The Making of a Sagamore
Never Called By His Given Name School Years
Different Sight His first grade teacher asked the students to each read in turn. When it was Brother's turn, he told a great story but it didn't match what was printed under the pictures. When teachers needed to communicate with his parents, they sent home notes pinned to his clothes, so the teacher pinned a note to his mother on his shirt about his reading. Frankie and the teacher conferred and Frankie taught him to read at home. Try as she repeatedly did, however, she could not teach him arithmetic. He would graduate high school with a second grade math level. He did not learn to count his change until he was an adult. He always knew if the change was correct, or not, but he couldn't explain it which at times left him frustrated and angry.
Knots In Cub Scouts he learned to tie many different knots from one of the men who had been a sailor. And he soon found a use for them. In his neighborhood, the police would chase kids for what, to the kids, was no reason. So Brother knotted some rope into traps and laid them, covered to avoid easy detection, along the sidewalk. Then he and his friends sat down to wait. They didn't have long to wait. A patrol car soon drove through the street. They spotted the boys, jumped out of their RMP, the boys took off running, the cops gave chase and ran over the traps which were rigged so the boys weight would not trigger them but the weight of the running cops would. The cops ended up in a tall tree where their hands were tied and their mouths taped. The boys put the cops' guns back in the RMP and closed the doors. Brother laid some more knotted rope and again the boys waited. The same thing happened when the next patrol car stopped and gave them chase. There were now 4 cops up in the trees and 2 black, green and whites in the street. After awhile, someone came to check the abandoned RMPs and they were towed away. No one knew where the occupants had gone. The next day, a plain clothes Detective Sergeant came to look for the officers. He finally asked an old man if he had seen anything yesterday. The man, with a tattoed number on his arm, nodded. The Sergeant asked the old man which way they went. The old man pointed up with his finger. The Detective walked around, looking up, and soon spotted the 4 men high in the trees. The Detective called for help and the cops were soon rescued. Brother got a l-i-c-k-i-n-g!
Neighborhood Feasts Every year, Pop and Frankie would host several feasts for the neighbors. Pop would go to the Hunt's Point Market and buy a ton of food, Frankie and the women would cook it up while Pop and the men set up tables in the basement and the courtyard. Then the residents of the building would be invited to the feast. People who smelt the cooking or heard about it stopped in and were invited to stay. One feast was held at the beginning of summer, coinciding with the strawberry feast, and another, the green corn feast, at the end of summer.
Dyslexic When Brother was In the second grade, one teacher's note home said that he had not done the homework as the teacher had written it on the blackboard. Brother insisted he had done as the teacher asked so Frankie told him to draw whatever the teacher put on the board. He did so the next day and brought it home to his mother. Frankie went to see the teacher the following day to show her what Brother had copied from the board. There was a great difference between what the teacher wrote and what Brother drew.Glasses were prescribed for Brother. However, the major problem was that he was severely dyslexic and didn't see things as other people did. Fortunately, his teacher was familiar with the problem, having a relative with a less severe experience with it. He soon lost the glasses and they were never replaced. Memory Trained He was in a school play every year in elementary school. In the second grade, the play was Scheherazade. He was the royal chef, delivering "Your royal pastries", bowing deeply to His Majesty, and splitting his pants (unscripted), causing the entire audience to erupt with laughter, even the teacher playing the piano. Another year, he played the captain of the HMS Pinafore. When asked why he got speaking parts, he said he was the only one who could remember the lines.
Black and White. One year, the Board of Education decided to classify all the students in the New York City Public Schools according to race. Allegedly, the objective was to see if the enrollments in each school were racially balanced between "white" and "black". This had some interesting results. Siblings in the same family could be classified differently. For example, at one Bronx school, a Japanese girl was counted as "black" while her brother was "white". Italians in one school were listed as "black" while in another, they were "white", whereas, Irish students in the same two schools were "white" and "black", respectively. This caused a great uproar among parents. And indigenous children were labelled "black" in Brother's school which nearly caused World War III. It was a fatal mistake to call Pop "Mukadai" [black]. It did have a postive result, however, in that indigenous families met their cousins in other tribal groups as many converged on the school to protest. Since indigenous families have survived in the Northeast by hiding right out in the open for 400 years, it was usually only safe to acknowledge the traditionalal ways within the extended family. This exercise by the Board of Education, however, caused a drop of the usual cautions, and they became more aware of each other's existence in New York City.
Corn Starch explained Brother became friends with a Chinese girl, Soy Ling, and was invited to her house for dinner. He learned that her mother also could not eat Chinese food. Soy Ling's mother cooked separate dishes for herself and Brother to eat. This would be a useful clue years later in determining why Brother couldn't eat certain foods.
OLA Bazaar There was an annual bazaar at Our Lady of Angels on Sedgewick Avenue. Brother would take change out of his jars and climb the stairs to Sedgewick. He put a dime on every number in a booth so he won every time. And he won the big prizes: mixers, irons and ironing boards, washing machines, etc. Most were sent to relatives in Virginia, Chicago, Florida and elsewhere through the US Post Office, without postage, as usual. A couple went to his mother Frances.
Deadly Aim - again Brother was in a class with "troubled kids", where the teacher would throw things, such as erasers, at students not responding as the teacher wished. One day, the teacher was throwing a ruler at an emotionally disturbed female student. The girl, quiet and withdrawn, was not responding at all. As the teacher went to throw the ruler, Brother threw a knife and pinned the teacher's arm to the desk. The teacher picked up a chair and attempted to throw it with the other arm. A second knife pinned that arm to the desk. He normally carried 4 knives, one up each sleave and one in the pants leg in each boot. Fortunately for the teacher, Brother was extremely accurate. Pipe Sleeping When relatives came, Brother usually lost his room. He took to sleeping on the pipes in the basement with a pillow, a blanket, the dog and the cats. It was the cats who gave him the idea.
Thomas Indian School The family considered sending Brother to Thomas Indian School a New York State run institution on the Cattarugus Reservation in Erie County. Pop wanted Brother to go there and was being pressured to send him but Frankie had reservations and finally said "no". The school was originally incorporated as The Thomas Asylum for Orphan and Destitute Indian Children in 1855. Thomas Indian School was closed by New York State a year later, in 1957.
Gangs. Brother never belonged to a gang. However, he and some other boys hung out and traveled together to avoid trouble with gangs who were everywhere. One day, they were just walking along the street, 2 by 2, and were picked up near the Bronx Zoo. It just so happens that in this instance, they were on the way to a fight. The boys were taken to the Brooklyn House of Detention and held in a cell on an upper floor without being processed. Brother separated the bars at the window enough to let them climb out through the window. All escaped except two who were too drunk to climb down the wall.
"Mr. Uppity Nigger"Another day, as "Electricity" was walking along a road, a man called him an "uppity nigger". He told the man "It's 'Mr. Uppity Nigger' to you." From that day, the man always called him "Mr. Uppity Nigger". That is, until Pop came to Glasgow for a visit. As usual, Pop walked 10 to 12 paces behind his son to see what he was up to. This day, Brother encountered the man on the road and received the usual greeting. It is not known what the man said to Pop but the family never again heard the man call a person of color by that term.
The Grizzly and the $5 Pop gave him $5 a week spending money.One day, a grizzly cub came to Maggie's garden. The cub attached himself to Brother and began following him around. The grizzly even followed him to town, to the local candy store, helping himself to the candy. However, he began to eat so much candy each trip that it was costing "Electricity" $5 a trip. It was decided the bear was too big to remain in Glasgow and it became a resident of the Prince Edward Park Zoo. Another time, Aunt Mary decided she was missing $2 from her pocketbook. Brother was accused of taking it. He couldn't understand why she would think he would take her money and pulled the $5 Pop had given him out of his pocket to show he didn't need her money.
Junior High Years: Color Divides
One day, the Klan was having a meeting at a local church. Brother and his cousin watched the Klan members arrive in their sheets and go into the meeting. However, several were late. As they arrived, they were knocked out and strung up on lamp posts and in nearby trees as if they had been hung by their necks. However, Brother had found another use for his knot training and they only appeared to be hung. There were ropes around their trunks, supporting their body weight. The rope around their necks was for effect only. About half a dozen clan members were strung up this way, still wearing their robes and hoods.When the meeting broke up, the Klan members were amazed at the scene they saw as they left the church. They went around looking under the hoods of the hanging men. Brother joined them, peeking under the hoods, saying, "Oooooh".
Pop came down from the Bronx for a visit. They heard the Klan was going to hang the sheriff's wife for being too nice to dark folks. So the Indians got together and drove their Cadillacs out to the spot to rescue the sheriff's wife from being hung by the Klan.
Driving 18 Wheelers Some of his cousins were driving tractor trailer for HB Haines and RJ Reynolds. He began driving in the yard, moving trailers around as the yard foreman directed. He was too short to reach the pedals or see over the steering wheel. So he sat on phone books with wood blocks strapped to his feet. The foreman liked the way he drove and did as he was told. He obtained a North Carolina driver's license and became part of the caravan with his cousins, delivering cigarettes and underwear across the South to Texas and north through the Blue Ridge Mountains up to New England. It was during this time, that he really felt the effects of racial and other discrimination. On the road, he discovered there were three kinds of rest rooms: one for "white" folks, one next to it for "colored" folks, and a sign pointing around the back saying "Indians and dogs", for him and his cousins. One day, passing through a small town, the caravan was stopped for doing 3 mph in a 2 mph zone. They were all immediately taken to a Judge's house and fined before they were allowed to continue. So the caravan travelled armed. Even Brother had a shotgun, the end of which he stuck a few inches out the cab window whenever stopped by the law. They also began carrying 2 way radios so they could call for help.One night driving in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Brother heard a train whistle and stopped his truck well before the grade crossing. The driver behind him went in front of him, however, and was driving across the tracks as the train came through. The man survived but the trailer was wrecked. Trouble Maker Walking along, Brother came across a man who had been strung up by the Klan and left. He was still breathing so Brother cut him down. Brother was ostracized by most of his family for causing trouble. Another time, a man menaced him while mounted on a horse. In self defense, Brother punched the horse in the mouth. Horse and rider hit the ground. He was the troublemaker from the North. Normal LifeHe went to John Peter Tetard Junior High School 143, between Sedgewick Avenue and Kingsbridge Terrace at 231st Street in the Bronx. This period of his life seemed fairly normal to him.He liked movies and went every chance he got. He would usually watch the movie many times, sometimes all day. This was beneficial for his grades since he had great difficulty reading. He would write his book reports from the movies he saw and received good grades for them. He did well in junior high. One day, he and a Cherokee cousin were running around the track at DeWitt Clinton High School, when a coach from Clinton noticed their speed and clocked them doing better than 100 yards in 10 seconds. The coach spoke with their parents and they began running in citywide track meets with high school students. Brother ran with duck taped sneakers as he couldn't afford to replace them. He usually came in 2nd after the Cherokee, but once the Cherokee wasn't at the meet and Brother took first place.
He was called the "Karate Kid" in junior high.
One of his classmates, Freddie Poufile, invited Brother to his house for supper. Freddie's mother was serving spaghetti and meatballs in tomato sauce. Brother, Freddie and Freddie's Dad all passed out during the meal. Freddie's family on his father's side blamed his mother. Brother woke up in the hospital 2 weeks later. The diagnosis was that he had Kyles syndrome, that is, he became drunk from eating tomatoes. Smoking tobacco is the antidote. The doctors tried all kinds of cigarettes, beginning with the mildest. Mentholated cigarettes didn't work at all. They finally settled on Viceroy. At first, Brother had to smoke just to stay awake. Eventually, he only needed to smoke after he ate anything with tomatoes. Prior to this, he thought smoking was a dirty habit. Both Frankie and Pop smoked. The incident was registered with the Center for Disease Control and Brother was #16 or 17 registered with the condition. He was around 11 years old. He would smoke for the rest of his life. In 2006, however, Mike drastically decreased eating tomatoes as restrictions on smoking increased. It was made illegal to smoke within 25 feet of a restaurant. DIfficult to walk 25 feet when drunk off tomatoes.
High School Years
One of the things Pop and Brother had in common was they didn't keep track of what day of the week it was. One day, Pop told him to get up and go to school. He dressed and walked to the corner to get the bus. The bus driver told him there was no school but let him on bus with his school bus pass, as Brother insisted. Pop had told him to go to school. When he got to Roosevelt, it was closed. Brother called home and told Pop school was closed. Pop told him to go across the street to Fordham. Frankie overheard Pop and told him to tell Brother to come home. It was Saturday.
One day, when Brother came home from school, his parents were in front of the building. Pop said "Did you go to school today Stupid? Brother replied "Yes Sir, and I came home the same way." and took off running down the block, with Pop chugging after him, trying hard not to swallow his cigar. Frankie and the neighbors were laughing so hard they had trouble remaining upright. The WaldorfOne of the opportunites Brother enjoyed while attending Roosevelt was to go to the Waldorf Astoria for two weeks to learn cooking. The Waldorf keep him for the rest of the school year as a pastry chef. When asked what was the most significant thing he had learned at the Waldorf, he said: "To burn my hands 10 times [with very hot water] before touching anything in the kitchen." He made lemon meringue and other pies for the Waldorf clients, occasionally bringing home a lemon meringue pie for Pop who always thorougly enjoyed his favorite pie. Barbara Ann also enjoyed them even though her face would blow up as she ate the pie. Both she and Brother were allergic.
I.Q.The school ran a series of tests, called the Iowa Tests. He and a number of other students the school thought were below average did much better than expected on these tests. Some did so well, in fact, they were in the highest percentile. He was also given an IQ test. He took the test by filling in the boxes on the answer sheet without bothering to read the test booklet. He scored 200. Since he was known to be a dummy, they asked him how he took the test. He told them. They had him take the test again. This time several teachers sat there watching him. He had to read each question, then fill in the box with a pencil. The score was the same.
OrientationHe worked nights serving as his father's porter, sweeping and mopping all floors of the building. Pop would also ask him to take care of other buildings whose supers were sick or away. One day he fell asleep in music appreciation - it was boring to a musician. He was sent to Orientation which was like going to detention permanently. The students just sat there. The primary rule was to be quiet. This was to become a 7 year plan to graduate high school. He would read whatever he could get his hands on in Orientation and sleep when he felt the need, He was offered a chance to participate in the Montclair, NJ project, an experimental learning program, and was the only one to complete it.
GingerBrother took the 20 bus to Roosevelt. One day, as he got off the bus at Kingsbridge Road and Kingsbridge Terrace, Ginger, the Doberman tied up across Kingsbridge Road decided to chase him. Brother took off with the dog following but Ginger stopped a few houses before Brother's building. The next day, Ginger was tied up more securely but the same thing happened. This went on for several days. Someone reported it to the 50th Precinct.That day, when Brother got off the bus, Ginger again broke the restraint, and boy and dog ran right past the RMP parked at the corner, with Brother's green wool coat flapping, even with his textbooks in the pockets.The following day the cops were ready. They parked across the sidewalk. This time both boy and dog ran over the RMP and down the block. Ginger's master had begun chaining the Doberman, so Ginger was now dragging a chain. One day Ginger almost caught Brother but only took a bite out of his green wool coat. A few houses before the house where the Doberman stopped every day lived a man who had been watching this daily. He even set up a lemonade stand. Pop heared about it and came to take pictures. And all this time the man with the Doberman keep strengthening the dog's restraint. Finally, the chain was so strong that Ginger broke the pole it was attached to. So now it was boy with green coat tails flapping, dog, chain and pole going down the street.
The NY Kingsmen went to the NY State American Legion Championship Contest in Syracuse in 1968. Members slept 4 to a room. The other horn players were afraid to wake him up. She was there as a chaperone for the color guard, so they asked her to wake him up. She stepped into the room and he woke up immediately as she always did when her mother stepped into her room each morning.
Loss of the Elders
She took the train to Harlem but turned down the wrong avenue going to the funeral home. She stopped short when she realized this and was immediately joined by a man at her elbow asking if he could walk with her. She said yes as she walked back to the corner, knowing what they would see the next street over. They quickly walked the short block to the next avenue and as they turned the corner, more than a hundred young men were gathered in front of the funeral home and along the street. The man disappeared and she went into McMillan's. She was surprised to see that Uncle Bill looked so much like Barney. Aunt Muddy [Margaret Lewis] also departed in 1967 and was buried with Granny in Butler. Uncle Truc [Clarence Thompson Lewis] died in July 1967.
Returning from the American Legion State Championship in July 1967, Mr. DeVito, a Kingsmen quartermaster, wasn't feeling well and rode in the back of the equiment truck so he could lay down. At the next rest stop, it was discovered that Mr. DeVito had died.
This was a signal, although not consciously recognized as such. She took several actions which changed things in her life and others, ending and beginning relationships.
On August 10, 1967, Pop suffered an apparent heart attack. An ambulance was called but none came. Brother ran down the block, twice, to the 50, speaking with the desk officer each time, but no one came. After 4 hours, Barney breathed his last in this life.
She knew her time had come and was immediately ill. She had been going in and out of sweltering heat and the freezing cold of air conditioned buildings, commuting on hot trains to Manhattan from Richmond Hill, then working all day in the cold, with a hot break for lunch, then traveling the hot subway to air conditioned Gertz for her evening job, then to the hot apartment on Atlantic Avenue, and now developed pneumonia. She went to a doctor on Springfield Blvd. for something to fight her fever. She was given 2 prescriptions, one turned out to be for a cough syrup and the other a pain killer containing codeine which she didn't need since she rarely felt pain. The codeine was to be taken 2 every four hours. Without realizing what she was taking, she took 2, then 2 more 4 hours later. She felt as if the weight of the world was on her chest. She had trouble breathing and had to walk the floor until the effect wore off.
The Saturday after Pop's funeral, the Kingsmen had a contest. After they came off the field, since he was in mourning and she was on medication, the chaperones put them both on the bus. They sat together in the third seat on the drivers side. The chaperones got them a cup of vegetable soup and a cheeseburger which they shared. When they had finished the soup and the burger, he said "Now we're married." She asked "How So?" He said, "It's the custom of my people. When two people drink out of the same cup and eat out of the same dish, they're married." She knew this was what was supposed to be so she accepted it as fact. She said "ok." Mr. O'S gave them the book "There is a River" by Thomas Sugrue shortly after Pop died. They both read it. They then read every book thay could find on Edgar Cayce, even traveling to Virginia Beach to learn more.