"People are trapped in
history, and history is
trapped in them..."

essays

williams I Remember
Ronnie Williams

Ronnie is a poet, writer and avid reader; he is very interested in the arts and learning the history of all people, particularly people of African descent. Although he believes that “people are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them,” he believes it is possible to be an objective observer of history, to see the “big picture” regarding how events, organizations and countries came to be. His life is a continual quest for knowledge and wisdom.


Pasadena, California. The 1950’s. I remember my four-year-old birthday party with my mamas’ girlfriends’ children playing and laughing around the homemade ice cream grandma just made and the gum drops, peanuts and balloons, all just making my birthday party a special day I’ll never forget. And every Fourth of July we would watch the fireworks from the veranda of my grandparents’ house with our blankets wrapped around our black bodies ’cause it was just kind of cozy to do so: be wrapped in blankets in the heat.

Yeah, I remember big time just looking out for Grandfather to drive home in his 1940 Ford with the big headlights and the horn that sounded like the word “honkers” or the Canadian geese that sometimes flew over the house during their migration.

I remember the old washing machine with the turning rollers in the middle that were used to drain the water out of the clothes when we pulled the clothes through. My mother and my sister would work that machine together over grandma’s house ’cause Mama couldn’t afford too much of anything ’cause my father left when I was two and my sister was one. Yeah, I remember all of that living back then around the 50’s in Pasadena.

And the shoes I had to wear…just one pair ’cause Mama couldn’t afford to buy me two pairs, and the shoes had to have thick soles so that they would last a long time no matter if there were holes in the soles. If I got caught in a big, wet, deep puddle, “Oh, well…! I’ll just put some thin cardboard inside of the shoe and keep on truckin’ down the road.” And maybe, just maybe my Grandma would see the condition, and she would give my mother some money to buy some shoes. Usually that did not happen unless I worked hard for a couple of quarters at my grandma’s house. Yeah, I remember those days.

I remember the fruit trees all around the city and knew where all were located and probably could draw you a map of the location of every one. There were pomegranates, apples, oranges, guavas (in the front yard at grandma’s house), tangerines, wild bananas, Concord grapes, lemons, pears, and nectarines that I picked only when they were ripe and edible. You see, I didn’t want to come home with my pockets filled with fruit because there would be a whole lot of questions I would have to answer.

I remember Rueben Trujillo, Gary Acevedo, Gloria Castellano and her sister Barbara, Bobby Mayweather, Jay Fujihara, Joann Ota, Ted Matsumoto, and the “Surfer Boys” at my high school, John Muir. My high school had every race and shade that encompasses the world, and we were tough, not soft like some rich white boys we knew with big-time money. Yeah, we’d go surfing with borrowed surfboards from white boys we knew at school. These white boys never turned us down, and would say, “That’s’ Bitchin’, Man!” or “Did you see that dude turn that wave? Bitchin’!”

Yeah, I remember the Zoot Suit-wearing guys with their long chains hanging out of their pants pockets. The slant back Chevy cars with puttering mufflers that sounded like a war was going on in the neighborhood.

I remember Mr. Gold who had an antique store down on Colorado Boulevard off Fair Oaks Avenue near the park where I played chess. I’d buy stamps and old coins from Mr. Gold from his antique store because he told me some day you are going to have a lot of money if you save your stamps and coins.

Well, I had to sell my collection to pay the rent.

But back then, Pasadena was a town or city where everything a person needed he could get it if he applied himself. The times they were a-changin’. And they couldn’t stop the change.

And now I’m a 63-year-old man who likes to write poetry and tell stories.