Week of October 26, 2005

Mississippi River

Hey Joe: One of my frustrations with the classy strip joints in Sauget is that none of the strippers will finish me off, even for a C-note. I'm told that the ladies of Brooklyn might be more willing to go the distance, especially at massage parlors. Can you verify this? And what is the general opinion of Brooklyn's adult-entertainment presence among longtime residents such as yourself?

Hugh Jardon, Centreville

[Editor's Note: Last week's question (reprinted above) proved too much for Prince Joe to respond to in one column. This is part two of his reply.]

Route 3 is a meandering state highway. Beginning at the Kentucky border, it works its way along the Mississippi River through many counties and municipalities before arriving at local places like Dupo, East Carondelet, Centreville, Sauget and East St. Louis, as it heads through National City, Brooklyn, Venice, Madison and Granite City, etc. en route to its terminus at Alton some twenty-odd miles from Brooklyn. Brooklyn was surrounded by railroad tracks -- the most vivid being the track bearing embankments that surround it. Similar to a horseshoe, the tracks engulfed the community and portions of Venice at varying heights, until the town was dwarfed.

When the Mississippi River is mentioned, most people think of Mark Twain. I beg to differ. I think of it as the Atlantic Ocean, when blacks were brought to America in chains. I think of National City, home of three of the country's largest meat packers. Here, cattle was brought from Kentucky and Missouri, etc. to be weighed and placed on the auction block to be sold to the highest bidder, like blacks during bondage. Because the owners of these stockyards hired blacks as cheap labor, the 1917 race riot in East St. Louis ignited. Across the Mississippi, Dred Scott fought for his freedom. In Brooklyn, the Methodist Church was a haven for runaway blacks from Missouri to escape bondage. Lovejoy School bears the name of Elijah P. Lovejoy, abolitionist of Alton, Illinois.

Presidents Abe Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt made great strides in helping blacks. For years blacks have been Republicans and now Democrats. Blacks, therefore, have been the source of their "P.O.L.I.T.I.C.S": People Oppressed, Livelihoodless, Isolated, Tormented, Insignificant and Castrated Subjects. Brooklyn, being America's first black town, is owed a debt by both national parties. By distinguishing the word "politics," this should answer the adult-entertainment question.

Prince Joe Henry, one of professional baseball's original "clowns," was an all-star infielder for Negro League baseball teams in Memphis, Indianapolis and Detroit throughout the 1950s. But up until the late 1940s, Prince Joe didn?t know anything about the Negro Leagues. His knowledge of organized baseball was limited to the Cardinals and Browns games he attended during his preteen years at Sportsman?s Park, accompanied by lifelong buddy Eugene "Gene" Crittendon, who could pass for white.

Perhaps Henry?s most vivid memory of those games: Upon entry, white ushers would politely escort the boys to a small section of the left-field stands reserved for "Colored." After climbing past several tiers of bleachers, they?d arrive at their stop, rows and rows behind their white counterparts.

Even at a young age, the boys were conscious of the double standard -- and determined to vent their disdain. The opportunity would arise with the urge to urinate. Rather than head for the latrine, the boys would edge their way to the front of the section and let fly. As the liquid foamed its way down the concrete steps toward the white kids, Henry and his pal would ease back and relax, politely rooting for the visiting team to beat the hell out of the Browns or the Cards.

After all, Henry and Crittendon hailed from Brooklyn, Illinois, a small, predominantly black township just east of the Mississippi River. So hospitable were the residents of Brooklyn that they were known to take in a rank stranger, treat him to breakfast, lunch, supper and a night out on the town -- and afterward, if he messed up, treat him to a good ass-whippin'.

Direct questions on any and all topics to [email protected]. If we don't like yours, we'll hit Joe with our own.

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