â€œMy first impression of Keyon was that he seemed
to be pretty cool. Looked like the type that was able
to get along with.
I thought to myself, â€œIf we were going to be
schoolmates, I might as well get acquainted with him.â€
Uniondale was your typical suburban hamlet on
Long Island in the state of New York. Population;
approx. 16,000 in 1979. It was a diverse town,
unincorporated, so there was no mayor or city council.
Instead run by the Town of Hempstead and police were
maintained by Nassau County.
However, the fire department was a volunteer
service, so people who wanted to become a firefighter
had to train on their own time. And taxes were
reasonable for middle class families. The school
district was called, â€œthe Uniondale Union Free School
Districtâ€. Not sure whether that was a dig on labor
unions or not, but it was surely worded to make a
statement to everyone working there.
The biggest attraction of the area was the
Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Yes, that
coliseum. The home of the New York Islanders of the
National Hockey League. Iâ€™m not into hockey, but
theyâ€™ve been pretty good the last few years. They
just might win the Stanley Cup one year.
It used to be the home of the Nets when they
played in the American Basketball Association (ABA).
Back then, they had one of the best teams in the
league, including Dr. J, Julius Erving. He was a
hometown guy and went to high school just across the
bridge in Roosevelt.
The Nets won two ABA titles and was going to
kill it when they joined the NBA. But after the merger
in 1976, the team was forced to sell Dr. J to the
Philadelphia 76ers. They never recovered and left for
New Jersey the next year before eventually moving to
August 10, 1979 â€“ It was a hot summer day when
our brown Pontiac Bonneville station wagon drove down
Jerusalem Avenue on the way to our new home in
Uniondale. My younger brother Todd and I sat in the
back staring out the window as the moving truck
trailed closely behind us, in tow.
Dad was driving while mom was listening to some
music coming out of the radio. While looking out the
window, I noticed that there were a number of stores
along the way that would be my go-to stop for
groceries and other items. We then passed a 7-Eleven,
a pizza parlor, and a strip mall with a supermarket.
The two vehicles make a right turn south on
Uniondale Avenue. We continued along until we got to
Northern Parkway. We then made a left turn onto the
street. The neighborhood was lined with Cape Cod
similar houses. It was a common design for houses
made after World War II.
Finally, we arrived at our new home, 724
Northern Parkway, and it was NICE! The grass was
perfectly cut to perfection and a pretty bright green.
A 25-foot maple tree was in front in-between the
sidewalk and the street. The fully bloomed leaves
would be a welcome natural air conditioner for us that
We parked in front of the one family house and
the main entrance had big numbers on display. The
moving truck drove further ahead and stopped in front
of our station wagon. One of the moving men, a tall
muscular dark-skinned man with a bald head got out and
helped the driver maneuver the truck around, backing
it into the driveway.
Now parked in the driveway, two other heavyset
and younger looking men jumped out of the moving
truck. One of the heavyset men opened the back door
to the truck and they started unloading the furniture
and taking it inside. My parents, both excited, got
out of the car and just stood in awe of their
purchase. They worked so hard to get to this moment
â€œIt’s so beautiful.â€ Mom said while putting her
arm around dadâ€™s waist.
â€œIt sure is,â€ dad replied, â€œEverything we
dreamed about when we looked at it two months ago.
Finally, after all these years, our dream home.â€
My dad, William Parker, a tall, handsome 39-
year-old black man, worked in sanitation for the City
of New York for 18 years. Working his way up the
ladder to supervisor, he was pulling in big money,
which was unusual for men of color.
Dad was the enforcer. If my brother Todd or I
got out of line, he would whip out the leather belt. I
was 16 at the time and was getting too old for that,
but Todd still endured that punishment. Despite all
that, dad still loved us. He just wanted to make sure
we were not following the wrong crowd.
My mom, Alice Parker, has a pretty brown
complexion, 36-year-old, was a nurse at Cumberland
Hospital in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn. She
started nursing in 1969 after getting her Associates
Degree at New York City College of Technology in
Brooklyn. She was a clean freak and made sure my
brother and I did our chores.
Together, my parents saved their pennies and
nickels for this moment. We were your typical middle
class, African-American family. My name is Clayton
Parker and friends call me Clay, and if I had to do it
all over again, I wouldâ€™ve been more enthusiastic
about the move.
Yeah, I know. My folks were doing this for my
kid brother and me. But letâ€™s face it. When your
parents tell you that youâ€™re leaving your best friends
and the comfortable settings of Lafayette Gardens
Apartments, itâ€™s a big adjustment. As a 16-year-old
kid at the time, youâ€™ve got to imagine that I was not
very happy with the move. And when I got out of the
car my dad immediately noticed.
â€œWhat’s your problem, son?â€ He asked me as I
leaned up against our station wagon with my head down
and fiddling with my fingers.
I mumbled with an attitude, â€œI don’t understand
why we had to leave Brooklyn.â€
My response pissed him off.
â€œNow we’re not going to go through this again.
Brooklyn is no place for a teenage boy to be growing
up. I want the best for my family. This is something
we’ve been planning for a long time to happen.â€
My kid brother, Todd, was only 9, and he is all
excited. He is looking at the house with wide eyes.
â€œIs this where we’re staying at, Daddy?â€ Todd
â€œYeah, this is it, son. You’re gonna have lots
of room to play with in the back yard. Lots of fresh
air and plenty of friends for you and your brother to
I interjected. â€œI’m gonna miss all my friends
And dad replied, â€œYou’ll get plenty more friends
here in this neighborhood, Clayton. Now why don’t you
go help your momma get unpacked?â€
I just walked away, disappointed and helped mom
get the boxes out of the station wagon and into the
house. I was in the living room unpacking boxes while
admiring a large window with a view of the bay.
Meanwhile mom noticed the movers getting a bit clumsy
with the crystal table. She was possessive of her
â€œHEY! Be careful with that table! Itâ€™s very
expensive and I donâ€™t want to lose it!â€ Mom firmly
â€œSorry, maâ€™am. Weâ€™ll be more careful.â€ The
tall baldheaded muscular mover apologized.
â€œI paid a lot of money for that table, and it
better not have a scratch on it.â€ Mom sarcastically
Once I was done unpacking, I went upstairs to my
bedroom. The movers had placed the mattress and box
spring against the wall. I plotted on how the room
was going to look. I looked at some of the loose
boxes and noticed a circular mailing tube. I opened
it and took out the first poster, Reggie Jackson
a.k.a. Mr. October.
Iâ€™d been a NY Yankees fan since 1976 the year
they won the pennant. I went nuts when Chris Chambliss
hit that home run to send the Yankees to the World
Series. The next year, Reggie Jackson slugged three
home runs on one pitch each.
Dad was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan and loved
watching Jackie Robinson Play. He was hurt when they
left Brooklyn for Los Angeles and he vowed never to
watch another baseball game ever again. Even when the
Mets came to town in 1962, Dad never could root for
them or any other baseball team.
I looked at the walls in my bedroom and tried to
figure out where I could put Reggieâ€™s poster. I
finally placed it on the wall on the left side next to
the window. I then began hearing music coming from
the house next door. I loved the music, so I popped
my head out to hear what it was.
The music of â€œA Taste of Honeyâ€™s â€œBoogie, Oggie,
Oggieâ€ was blasting from the stereo on the top floor
of our neighborâ€™s home. The bedroom window was wide
open, and I could see huge posters of Julius Erving,
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, George Gervin and other
basketball players from back in the day on the wall
around the room.
I later found out it was my new neighbor, Keyon
Mitchell, a 16-year-old African-American boy. He was
a phenome in the world of Uniondale Basketball and was
a star on Turtle Hook Junior Highâ€™s (Now Middle
School) undefeated squad. He liked to wear the best
clothes and name brand shoes.
After admiring his posters, Keyon put on his
best basketball sneakers (Pumaâ€™s), Leviâ€™s jeans and
Dr. J T-Shirt and started singing along to the song.
â€œGet on Up on The Floor â€˜cause Weâ€™re Gonna
Boogie, â€˜Oggie, â€˜Oggie â€˜til We Just Canâ€™t Boogie No
He turned off the stereo and continued to sing
the lyrics. Keyon then grabbed his basketball and
walked downstairs to the kitchen. There, Keyonâ€™s
mother, Janice Mitchell, a beautiful woman in her late
30s, was washing dishes. Keyon walked by.
â€œKeyon, Where you headinâ€™?â€, she asked.
â€œIâ€™m gonna go play some basketball at Uniondale
Park.â€ He responds while spinning the basketball on
his index finger.
â€œOh, no youâ€™re not. Youâ€™re going down to the
basement and get some steaks from the freezer so we
can get the barbecue started tonight.â€
Keyon became annoyed from being distracted,
â€œI heard that! Donâ€™t you be cussinâ€™ in my
House! Now, do as youâ€™re told!â€
â€œOkay, mom.â€, Keyon said as he walked down the
stairs into the basement.
The basement downstairs was unfinished. Lots of
storage and boxes laid across the room. The furnace
and water heater were situated in a corner. The
Freezer was located right under the stairs. However,
there was a sound system. A Panasonic stereo and
amplifier, a turntable made by Technics, and four 2-
foot speakers. There was a speaker in each corner of
the basement. Keyon looked at the record on the
turntable, â€œGood Timesâ€ by Chic.
Keyon couldnâ€™t resist temptation. He took the
basketball and put it down on the floor. He then
walked over to the stereo and turned the power button
on. The light turned on from the stereo and Keyon put
on the headphones, not realizing the volume control on
the speakers was on high. Keyon put the arm of the
turntable on the record. He then takes the record and
moves it back and forth with his left hand, on a
certain break part of the record making it sound like
With headphones on his ears Keyon didnâ€™t realize
the sound traveled full blast throughout the house.
â€œKEYON! I THOUGHT I TOLD TO BRING UP THOSE
Janice was livid.
â€œUh Oh.â€ Keyon mumbled out loud after realizing
he was in deep trouble.
â€œSORRY, MOMMA! Iâ€™M ON MY WAY!â€
Keyon abruptly turned off the stereo and lowered
the levels on the sound. He picked up his basketball,
headed to the freezer where he grabbed four packages
of steaks, and walked up the stairs slowly, hoping he
doesnâ€™t get the wrath of his mom.
He opened the basement door.
â€œYou Know One of These Days Iâ€™m Gonna Take That
Stereo Away from You!â€
Keyonâ€™s having a hard time carrying both the
steaks and the basketball at the same time.
â€œYouâ€™re always sorry, Keyon. Youâ€™re So
distracted, you canâ€™t even put two and two together to
make fourâ€¦and put that basketball down!â€ Her final
demand which he does.
Upon doing so, Keyon notices the moving van
â€œWhoâ€™s moving into the old Sullivan house?â€
â€œTheyâ€™re a family from Brooklyn. Your father
and I know them from way back. You were a baby when
we lived in Lafayette Gardens, so I doubt youâ€™ll
remember them. Weâ€™re having dinner with them later
tonight. And youâ€™ll be going to school with their
oldest son, Clayton.â€
â€œCool.â€ Keyon said. â€œIâ€™ll see if he wants to
play basketball with me.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know, Keyon. They may still be
packing. Listen, I want you home by six, Keyon. Got
â€œI got it, Mom. Later.â€ Keyon says while
exiting the house.
Keyon left with the basketball in his hand. He
was hoping to not only have a new neighbor but a new
The moving men were done with the main furniture
and were leaving the house. My neighbor, Keyon became
curious. He started walking toward the house,
dribbling his basketball along the way. Dad noticed
Keyon in the front yard and walked out to greet him.
â€œMay I help you, young man?â€ Dad recognizes
Keyon. â€œOh, hi Keyon. How are you today?â€
â€œIâ€™m good, Mr. Parker. My mom was saying you
were moving in today.â€
â€œYeah, weâ€™re just moving in.â€, Dad replied.
â€œAll the heavy stuff is done, so itâ€™s just the boxes
My mom, seeing Keyon and Dad, walks out the
house to meet him.
â€œOh, hello there Keyon. Whereâ€™s your folks?â€
â€œMy Momâ€™s at home cooking. My dadâ€™s at work.â€
â€œYou excited to have us as neighbors?â€,
â€œYeah, I Am. Youâ€™re probably be better than the
family that used to live there.â€
â€œYour father and I go way back. He told us
about the house being available back in January and we
had to take a look for ourselves. You havenâ€™t met my
son Clayton before, have ya? Iâ€™ll call him out. Heâ€™s
about your age.â€ Dad Said After His Rhetorical
My dad then called for me to come outside. The
whole time I was in the doorway seeing Keyon talking
to my parents they had no idea I was scouting them.
My first impression of Keyon was that he seemed to be
pretty cool. Looked like the type that was able to
get along with.
I thought to myself. â€œIf we were going to be
schoolmates, I might as well get acquainted with him.â€
â€œCLAYTON! COME OUT OF THE HOUSE! WE GOT SOMEONE
FOR YOU TO MEET!â€, dad screamed out.
I played it off like I didnâ€™t hear him the first
time and walked out the house to joined the
conversation. Dad immediately introduced Keyon to me.
â€œKeyonâ€¦ this Is my son, Clayton.â€
â€œHi.â€ I said, â€œBut you can call me Clay. Only
my folks call me clayton.â€
Keyon put up his hand to give me a â€œHigh-Fiveâ€
handshake and responded, â€œItâ€™s Cool.â€
Mom was still in overdrive with the move. We
had pretty much everything in place.
â€œClay, is your room done?â€, mom asked.
â€œYes, Mom.â€ I politely answered.
â€œWell, why donâ€™t you go and play basketball with
Keyon and get to know him.â€, she said.
I tried to get out it by saying, â€œIâ€™m not much
of a basketball player, momma.â€
But my request went ignored. Dad wanted me to
get involved in making as many friends as possible.
â€œThatâ€™s okay, Son. We got most of the important
things unpacked. The most important part of moving is
starting new friendships. Besides, weâ€™ll be over for
a barbecue at the Mitchellâ€™s place tonight.â€
â€œItâ€™s alright, Clay.â€ Keyon interjected, â€œWeâ€™ll
be home by 6. I promise.â€
As we left, Keyon passed me the basketball, a
Spaulding, NBA quality, completely inflated. When you
bounced it, you can hear the rubber pounce, and it had
a funny smell.
â€œThis ball smells like pure rubber.â€, I stated
after getting a good whiff of the ball.
â€œThatâ€™s a new ball.â€, Keyon said. â€œI purchased
it last week at Modellâ€™s. Someone punctured my last
one. What weâ€™ll do is play â€˜21â€™, no free throws, and
â€œIâ€™ll try to play catchup.â€ I said, knowing Iâ€™d
never make it to 10 points.