It was June and warm. I had the windows down of my Dad’s car. It was a white 1960 Chevrolet Bel-Air. I was a brand new high school graduate planing to screw off the summer and wait for college to start. I was driving home from a friend’s house in Norwood. I was driving north east on Duck Creek road. Waiting at a traffic light I heard it.
Craziness was happening in another neighborhood. I could not remember exactly why recently, but I could remember that it was before MLK and RFK were killed. Dad and I were heavy into amateur radio (ham radio) at the time. I remember him and a bunch of other guys providing secondary emergency communications for the Cincinnati Police trying to contain the riots in Avondale.
For me, a seventeen year old white kid who went to a Catholic high school and who had no black friends, it was a scary thing to hear from the car next to me waiting at the light. There were several guys in the car. I ignored them. It was about five in the afternoon. I did not challenge them. The light changed and I drove away.
Fifty-five years later I can still hear that guy’s voice. Memories like this come back triggered by other events I see on the news. Memories come back triggered by comments that I have read on social media. Cincinnati has had many riots over the years. I found this article to help me remember why some guy in the next car was calling me “Whitey”. It has been a very long time since I had read or heard the name Posteal Lasky Jr. Avondale blew up with riots centering on Rockdale and Reading after police arrested his cousin for protesting at the corner of these two streets in the heart of Avondale.
For fifty years afterward I did not drive north or south on Reading road in Cincinnati because in my mind Avondale was a scary place. In 2017, however, it was the most direct route from our new home in Reading, Ohio to my wife’s neurologist. He had offices in the U C Health building near the University of Cincinnati. I drove down Reading Rd. to his office one day in the fall of the year. It is just another crowded part of the city I live in. I am seventy-two now, not seventeen.
Things change. Sometimes they change for for the better and sometimes not. Some biases we hold dear. Some we let go in time.
We are shaped by our memories whether we want to be or not.