My generation was raised in predominantly-White neighborhoods which comprised of Polish, Jewish, Italian and Irish. Our schools were predominantly-White starting with elementary, Herron Hill Jr. High and Fifth Avenue High. At that period of history, we were “colored” or Negroes and we attended neighbor schools. Our White neighbors were not just friendly, but referred to as friends.
In our household there were three boys and my father assigned us shovels which were used primarily to remove snow from the walkways of senior citizens, White and colored. I can recall in the early 1940s my parents had accumulated enough money to buy a house, but were unable to get a mortgage (not unusual for us). There was a certain White merchant who was a customer of my father, and a person who at a point in my father expanding his business had lent daddy some money, which was paid back six months sooner than it had been promised. My father went to this person and explained the difficulty he and my mother were having, and before he could ask did he have a solution, the man said, “allow me to call my bank.” The call was made and three days later my father and mother went to the bank they were referred to and returned with a check that they were able to buy two houses. We rented one and our family moved into the other.
My father had always had respect and admiration for Jewish people in particular. I can hear him as I write this column, saying, “Jews are an example of fortitude, they were enslaved, brutalized, killed, dehumanized before the birth of Christ, but they did not allow anything to deter them, and we as a people must take a page from their book and refuse to allow anything to get in OUR WAY.” We listened to daddy as we grew to manhood and womanhood, because we never judged persons based on pigmentation. I never saw racism around every corner and under every rock. In the Army during the Korean War I served two years and my best friend was an Italian from Brooklyn, New York, named Joseph Deluca. There were some difficulties about our friendship from some Whites and Blacks, but Hop was able to resolve whatever the issues might have been. In the year 1946 or 1947 while a student at Fifth Avenue School, I met a youth whom I did not see as being White or Jewish, but an exceptional student, and we developed a mutual respect for each other and it grew over the years. There were a number of years that we did not see each other, but one day in Squirrel Hill we ran into each other and the rest is history. I know him, know his track record, have the utmost respect for him as a man, husband, father, grandfather, professional, politician, public servant, man of his word, man of conviction, one of my best friends… CYRIL WECHT, PhD.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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