D.M: Okay, so today’s date is July the 6th 2016. I’m DeirdreMcCorkindale and I am doing the interview with Usher. Okay, so we will start.
O.O: His name if you wanted the real name.
D.M: Oh, maybe I should... John.
O.O: Yeah, they might not know you by Usher.
D.M: Yeah, I should remember that for the transcript.
O.O: John Olbey.
D.M: Okay, just make sure its recording -- it is recording. Good. Okay so thefirst question they would like me to ask you is, what is the name of the person you knew from the Chatham Coloured All-Stars?
J.O: What time?
D.M: The person that you knew?
J.O: Oh, my brother.
D.M: Your brother? Oh, can you just state the name for them.
D.W: What was his name?
O.O: Your brother’s name.
J.O: Oh, Clifford Olbey.
D.M: Okay. And where was he born and where did he grow up?
J.O: He was born 44 Scane Street.
J.O: And he grew up in Chatham.
J.O: And then he moved to Windsor.
D.M: Oh, okay.1:00
J.O: So, he made his home in Windsor.
D.M: Okay and do you remember how old he was when he made his home in Windsor?When did he leave Chatham?
J.O: He got married here.
J.O: So he was beyond marriage age—I think he’d be 25.
D.M: Okay, so can you tell me anything about his family, who they were whatthey did for a living?
O.O: There is Penny. Penny lives in Windsor, she’s retired. She worked atCanadian Tire and I don’t know you—know people had different jobs so they don’t stay at one place. Penny, and then there’s Clifford Jr. He’s in, 2:00Windsor. He’s blind.
J.O: Leonard was the oldest—he died.
O.O: No, he wasn’t the oldest.
J.O: Jimmy... Jimmy.
D.W: What did Clifford do?
O.O: Cliff Sr.? What did your brother, Cliff Sr., do?
J.O: Well he was a proprietor, part proprietor of a hotel in Windsor.
J.O: Was a, what was the... name of that place, the one that burned down Ican’t think of it.
O.O: I don’t know. See I’m not—they were older than me. I did know them afterwards.
J.O: It’s so far back for me.
D.M: If you don’t remember that’s okay. Proprietor of a hotel actually wemight even be able to... figure that out if it burned down too. What else did 3:00other people in your family do?
J.O: Well, George was the bell captain at the William Pitt Hotel downtown. AndWilfred started a business.
D.M: These are your brothers?
JO: He started a business making cement blocks down the street.
J.O: And he moved to Chicago.
D.M: Oh, he moved to Chicago? Okay.
J.O: And my sister, Dot, she moved to Detroit at a young age and she was in acleaning industry down there in Detroit. And she lived there all her life. She had two marriages and she survived both of them.
O.O: She ended up working for the city for the city of Detroit as an employee.
D.W: So, is that why you like me? Because my name’s Dorothy?4:00
O.O: That’s what she ended up doing. Then John, I don’t want to interferebut you must let her know that your brother George, when he worked down there at the William Pitt whatever, how he saved people when the hotel burned.
J.O: Yes, I forgot about that.
D.M: Oh, I didn’t know the hotel burned.
O.O: What did they call it, John?
J.O: The William Pitt Hotel. And it was a Garner House at one time. GarnerHouse Hotel and he was working there as a bell hop and it caught on fire.
J.O: And he was chasing everybody out of the hotel. Everybody had to hit thestreets so he went up in the elevator and on each floor he ran down the length of the building and back again, screaming and rapping on all the doors to get 5:00all the clients out. And he went up to the next floor and up to the next floor and he did that and when he finally finished he was overcome with smoke.
J.O: And I remember him coming home. I was just a young fellow and he was justburnt smoke all through his clothes, everything, and he was a kind of hero but it was quite a thing.
D.M: Okay, so the next question they want me to ask is, how important weresports to Cliff growing up? And what sports did he play?
J.O: Cliff, he was a runner.
D.M: Oh, he was a runner?
J.O: Very fast at track in school and I think that’s about all he wasinterested in, and baseball.
D.M: So just running and the baseball?
D.M: Okay, that’s good. Did any of your other family members play sports ordid they watch sports?
J.O: No, they didn’t. Well Wilfred did. Wilfred was a boxer.
J.O: And he was in Toronto working as a Pullman porter. Anyway, he became theCanadian champion.
J.O: In his weight in the army -- that’s after he joined the army. Then theysent him to the west coast and he was a light heavyweight fighter.
D.M: Wow, I am learning a lot today. Okay, so for Cliff do you know when and,you don’t have to give me an approximate date on this, when he started playing with the Coloured All-Stars? 7:00
J.O: I was gone.
D.M: Oh, you were gone. Okay well that’s fine. Do you know how he came toplay with them?
D.M: Do you know how he came to play with them, like how did he get involvedwith them, do you know?
J.O: Oh, well guys used to knock around in the ball park. I lived on ScaneStreet. And there was Stirling Park—that was just beyond the next row of houses, and a swimming pool there, a supervised swimming pool and that’s where all the kids hang out.
J.O: So there was a diamond there and you’d choose up sides and play ball.
D.M: Okay, that makes sense. Did he ever talk about how the team was formed orhow they joined the Ontario Baseball Association?
J.O: I have no idea.
D.M: Okay, what positions did he play?8:00
J.O: He was right field, that’s where he played.
D.M: Was he known for any particular skills or anything distinctive about his playing?
J.O: No, pretty good fielder, that’s all.
D.M: Okay. Do you remember any memorable events about him playing? Was theresomething particular when he was playing that was really memorable that people talk about or...?
J.O: I was twelve years old and I was a ball boy and I chased balls on thefence. I can’t think of anything memorable about his activities.
D.M: That’s okay.
J.O: They were in a different age group than me.
D.M: Yeah. Can you tell me, do you remember anything about the team itself9:00their style of playing, what they were known for?
J.O: Yes, I knew the team and they’re very well etched in my memory. I knewthem all and they got Don Washington from Detroit. He was the solid heart of the team. He was catcher and he was like the field manager and had brought a short stop from Detroit too. I know the third baseman, King Terrell. I knew the second baseman, Flat Chase and the first baseman was Ross Talbot—he was in the chicken business after that, and my brother was in right field and Gouy Ladd was 10:00in center field.
J.O: I remember the ball team because it was quite a thing for me there. Ispent all my time in the park you know?
D.M: Yeah. So what were people’s reaction to their playing like did they havea lot of fans? Did they have a lot of spectators?
J.O: Yes, they had a lot of fans. They didn’t have much to start with, justthe local groups and the families and the people around the park. But as they got better they started playing these teams out of town.
J.O: And there was a man that owned the pool hall. He sponsored them for...uniforms.
J.O: Now they’re dressed up you know and they travelled as a team and theyplayed as a team on and off the field and they were quite a rowdy bunch. 11:00
D.M: Did he talk about what he enjoyed about playing baseball, why he likedplaying baseball?
J.O: He didn’t talk to me. [laughs] I was just a kid.
D.M: Okay. Did he talk about any challenges or difficulties with the team likewere there any difficulties like maybe getting places or people’s reactions?
J.O: No, they would be mad maybe, come back angry sometimes and then say someincident had happened but most of the time they were good.
D.M: Did they say why they were angry when they came back a few times?
J.O: There was anger within the players.
J.O: For some of the treatment they received.
D.M: Oh, I understand.
J.O: But they kept it to themselves. They didn’t, they didn’t, bellyache12:00because that’s the way things were.
D.M: Yeah, I can understand that. Did he talk about travelling with the teamlike what their exhibition games were like? Stories about travelling to other towns, anything like that?
J.O: There was a couple of times I got a ride with them but as I say the adultswere separate from us and after the games they had their fun. But it was hard getting a ride sometimes. And they rode by cars, traveled by cars and then one time they rode in a truck to Strathroy and that was being, oh I don’t know 13:00what it was Jakey and Solburn, your friend Jakey.
O.O: Oh, Eves?
J.O: Yeah, Eves. He had a truck and he liked baseball and he carried them one day.
D.M: Okay, so when they won what I am trying to figure out, this question isworded weird. When they won what was the reaction in Chatham? Did they have a lot of support if they’d win elsewhere?
J.O: Oh, yes.
J.O: When they won the series the last series and they came into town they wereriding on the sides of the cars and everything and the whole town was jammed at King and Fifth Street to meet them. And they just hollered and cheered them 14:00because nothing like that had ever happened in Chatham before and they had all kinds of white fans, coloured fans.
D.M: So, people from all over not just this area].
J.O: They were all Ontario winners and everybody jumped on the bandwagon. [laughs]
D.W: Some excitement in Chatham.
D.M: Okay. When did he stop playing for the All-Stars?
J.O: I don’t know.
D.M: Oh, that’s ok—you don’t know you don’t know.
J.O: I don’t know when the team broke up.
D.M: We already kind of covered this at the beginning but maybe we can go overit again in case I forgot anything. Would you like to share anything about his life after he played with the All-Stars? Making a living, his family life? We went over this a little bit but do you have anything else to add to it? 15:00
J.O: Well, he went to Windsor.
J.O: And he worked at the Prince Edward Hotel, and then he was walking down thestreet one day and there used to be a fellow that travelled all over the United States and Canada and he threw money away. He’d get a hotel, nobody knew who he was and he’d throw money out the window and Cliff happened to be going down the street and seen the bills floating and anyway he got a thousand dollars. He ran right to the bank. [laughing] Just as fast as he can go. You know what, guys are laughing at him, yeah, “that’s just junk” and he just run and presented it at the bank and got half of the money but he won a thousand dollars... didn’t win it. [laughs] That fellow travelled for years giving 16:00money away.
O.O: It was in the paper.
D.M: It was in the paper?
O.O: Yes, it was I heard about it. I was quite young and I think we weremarried when he got--but I remember hearing about this guy. But he had all kinds of money and I guess anybody who was around was able to get it or was lucky enough to be around.
D.M: He’s not still alive is he because I’d like to... [laughs] So did hecontinue to play sports after the All-Stars or did he kind of stop after that?
J.O: He didn’t play anymore.
D.M: Okay, did he encourage others in his family to get involved in sports --you guys, his children anybody?
J.O: We had a junior team.
D.M: You had a junior team?
J.O: Yes, it was the Pythagoreans, they called it and there was a club, a17:00Masonic lodge in town and some of the sons of the players and the young people in there decided to play ball and put this team together and that was the name they got, the Pythagoreans.
D.M: The Pythagoreans.
J.O: Yes, the Pythagoreans. It was something to do with some mythical figurethat they knew something about. It was in their lodge and that’s why we took that name.
D.M: Okay. How do you think sports affected his life?
J.O: Well, I don’t know. He was a happy go lucky guy and he met a lot ofpeople. He was at home no matter where he went and he, when he went to Windsor 18:00and once he got that money he started working in this hotel that burnt down and he got a share in the hotel and the hotel burned down anyway. And when I came home from overseas he was a numbers man. You know what a numbers man is?
D.M: I know a little bit about it but I have never understood how it worked.
J.O: Well, you buy numbers.
J.O: He had customers all over the place and it’s based on the races.
J.O: The official race track news is published in the paper everyday and youhad a number and whatever your number placed you got so much on your money, and some people played heavy and some people played. He’d go around with a book. 19:00It was illegal of course.
J.O: [laughs] He said he knew every alley in Chatham and Windsor.
O.O: It’s almost like the lottery, now isn’t it?
J.O: When they started gambling legally around here they just about went out of business.
D.M: Thank you for explaining it to me, because I’ve always heard about itbut I never understood how it worked, so.
D.W: But can you imagine a thousand dollars back in that day, how much that’s worth?
D.W: What a thousand dollars would be?
J.O: Oh, lots of people win that much.
O.O: There was Sagasta Harding playing ball with the All-Stars. Maybe Johnafter you’ve finished with him he might be able to tell you about him.
O.O: I don’t know if you wanted to know about him though.
D.M: They probably do, they probably would.20:00
O.O: He was one of the oldest ones—Sagasta Harding was one of them.
J.O: Oh yes.
O.O: Then they went to Romulus and brought him to Toronto to the first BlueJays, and he threw out the ball.
D.M: Oh, I think I saw the newspaper article.
D.W: But then it’s nice to hear it from John.
D.M: This is, I prefer -- I like talking to people a lot better than justreading the newspaper.
O.O: He was a relative of mine, as well you know, and he would play the pianoat [inaudible] and he would play the organ at the church in Romulus.
J.O: They had a special holiday game in Toronto. They got all the vets theycould find of the team and they honoured them there. At the Toronto Maple Leaf 21:00where they play—
O.O: At the Rogers Center.
D.W: Did you go?
J.O: No, I didn’t.
D.M: Okay, I am going to word this a little differently because of the way theyworded this question but were sports really important in the black community here.
D.M: Were sports really important in the black community here?
J.O: Yes, it was.
D.M: Yes. Why was it important to the community?
J.O: Well, I think it was a sport you didn’t have to have a lot of money.
J.O: And you could get out with a raggedy glove and one glove and when you comein from the field the glove went down on the ground and the fielder from the 22:00other team used the same glove. And our teams out there you see, so there was not enough money there for everybody to have a nice shiny glove. It was good because there wasn’t much money floating around and it got the guys together.
D.M: Did Cliff ever talk about any difficulties within... the sports communityover time? I think they mean racism. They are not saying it here but I think that they mean racism. Did he have a hard time at all, that you know of?
J.O: I don’t think they had a hard time as a team—they might have beenrejected in some instances.
J:O: But when you’re with a bunch of guys and you’re... solidified, youknow, nothing fazes you. You know, insult them back or doing anything they wanted to, nobody could hurt them.
D.W: No, what also you gotta remember, these were... no little people likeOlive and I. You’re talking about Earl Chase, a good-sized man, talking about Gouy Ladd, who was a good sized man, and Flat Chase and who else, and I mean these were....
J.O: Big Boys.
D.W: They were, and so to somebody that was going to come at them, they betterbe pretty sure of what they were doing right?
D.M: Okay, that makes sense.
D.W: So that’s what he’s trying to say.24:00
D.M: Okay, so overall what do you think was the significance of the ColouredAll-Stars? Like what do you think I guess they are kind of asking, what’s their legacy? What’s so important about them, I guess?
J.O: I think there’s an importance because they there was an important factorbecause they could do something together.
J.O: They could get together and do something because they were unwanted on theother teams in Chatham. There’s lots of ball teams that flourished around here but there was no coloured team and when it was formed, it became a unit that was well known. And I know they all had pride in their accomplishments. I think it 25:00left a legacy that lasted for quite a while anyway, until the boys were gone.
D.M: Has the Coloured All-Stars, are they a part of your family history and memories?
D.M: Are they a part of your family history and memories?
D.M: Not really. That’s okay.
J.O: Not a prominent one.
O.O: Don’t you want to remember them?
J.O: Well yeah, but I mean I don’t…
D.M: They’re not a significant…?
J.O: It’s not a subject of conversation... do you remember that play he made? [laughs]
D.M: Have any members of your family been involved in any of the publiccommemoration? So, for example the 50th anniversary celebrations or the recognition game in 2002? So, was anybody in your family involved in any of those? 26:00
D.M: No. Okay. Is this a story that you think that more people should knowabout and why? Do you think more people should know about this?
J.O: Oh yes
J.O: Yes I think it’s nice that you’re doing this. I don’t know how farit will go.
D.M: Hopefully pretty far ’cause they are being pretty extensive with this so.
O.O: It’s good so that the great-grandchildren, coming up, playing ball, can know.
J.O: ’Cause a lot of people don’t know about it.
D.M: I didn’t know about it until I got involved with the project and I grewup here and I didn’t know anything about it.
D.W: I didn’t know nothing about it.
O.O: A lot of times they didn’t, well I just heard some things what Johnwould tell me you know, I didn’t either. 27:00
D.W: I just knew the men and I know that you played with the Panthers [to John]Didn’t you? Alan’s team.
D.W: I don’t know, I just remember ’cause I’m 1943.
O.O: See I didn’t come to Chatham ‘till 1949. Well I might have known somethings that was going on but I, you know.
D.W: But I remember now. I don’t know what position you played but I rememberyou [referring to John Olbey], Mel Cross, Earl Chase, Horace Chase, Charles Hurst, Rodney Williams.
J.O: Yeah, well some of those guys come along behind me, you know. You knowthose guys were young. I’m over the hill, you know. 28:00
D.W: Well I knew you come out there and you threw some balls with them.
J.O: We started the Pythagoreans, then it became the Panthers because theMasons didn’t want anything more to do with us.
D.M: Why did they name it the Panthers? I’m just curious, just asking. Whywas it called the Panthers -- do any of you know why?
J.O: I don’t know why. Somebody come up with an idea—just the Panthers. Itstarted with a “P.”
D.W: You didn’t know that they were over there playing?
D.M: I didn’t know till Dennis told me when we were at the event with thepaper. He told me about the Panthers, so I didn’t know about that either. 29:00
D.W: But Alan did try you know. Who was before Alan? There was other coaches...
J.O: Yeah, I remember him catching... trying to catch. He played with someteams around here. Of course by the time he come along the teams were intermingled all over.
D.M: Okay, so the last thing they want me to ask is if you have anything elsethat you would like to add about Cliff?
D.M: Anything else you’d like to add? Story you think we should know?
J.O: Nah. [laughs] He was in the numbers.
D.M: See, I like that story. I like that story better than the baseball thing.
J.O: When I came home and I got off the boat there was nothing around here, so30:00I decided to go to Windsor. And I went to Windsor and walked into the place where the bar was and there was Cliff -- he’s running a poker game. Stopped: “Olbey, yeah that’s Olbey! Hang around for a minute.” [laughs] I hadn’t seen him for five years you know. But I mean, I waited ‘till they were all done and the game broke up and we got together and he said, “I’ll go get some money”. So he went to the hotel where he was staying in—Drake Hotel. It was a small hotel in Windsor and he went to his room and there was an old 31:00cedar chest—not cedar, just an old chest, you know the old kind that were bound with metal.
J.O: Raised the lid on it—and it was full of money—full of money. And hetook some money.
J.O: He’s still in the numbers game you know and he was running a poker gameon the side. And he said, “I gotta take some money.” I said, “You crazy leaving that there in that scumbag of a hotel.” “Ain’t nobody gonna bother me,” you know just like that. And nobody bothered him either. He was well known. So we went out and had a good time. I asked him if he knew anything where 32:00I could get a job. He said, “You go on back to Chatham, boy. There ain’t nothing here for you.” Nothing here for you—he didn’t want me in that type of activity.
D.M: Environment yeah.
J.O: You know? And he sent me on my way.
DM: Did he make good money running the numbers?
D.M: Did he make good money running the numbers?
J.O: Yes. Them guys used to strut around. I remember the guys come, big fellowthat come down here and he went with the Binge girl for a while.
J.O: Reid, he was a big numbers guys and he was a friend of Cliff and all theseguys had big, big, money, pockets full of money, all them guys. Strutting around 33:00everybody knew them.
O.O: But yeah, he had a business on the side as well, like a Laundromat, youknow how they would be in that, a front.
J.O: Yeah, always had a front.
D.M: I like this story better than the baseball story.
O.O: Cliff was such a likeable person, he was so funny. Like I remember himplaying the lottery, you know how you could buy those tickets and he’d hit the jackpot.
J.O: $40 000
O.O: $200 000 plus he had that other thing on the side. He went to Las Vegas.He lost $40 000 but he didn’t mind, you know. He said well he won the $200 000.
D.M: So he was kind of lucky then, eh?
J.O & O.O: Yeah
J.O: What to see his picture?
D.W: That’s enough to make you sick.
O.O: Said, “oh my 40 000.” [laughs]34:00
D.W: And here you are trying.
O.O: I guess that’s the way his life, you know, if that’s the way you were,and that’s the way you played and everything, that’s nothing you know. But he was such an enjoyable person, likeable person. See I came along later since John, Usher, was youngest I, you know. [inaudible]
J.O: [shows picture] Sharpest guys in town.
O.O: That’s the family.
J.O: Him with his shirt out. That’s Cliff.
D.M: When was this taken?
J.O: This was taken, we all used to go to Windsor and the Emancipation Dayparade and all that stuff in Jackson Park. It was a big day. And we’d get together, and we’d get together over to Smiley’s house -- his house. 35:00[points] And this is my sister and this is George, older than him, and who’s this? This is my brother Wilfred and this is my brother Smiley and this is me. This my sister—she lived in Detroit. Look at them pants. [laughs]