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St. Nick's Outlaws

By Jim Colombo


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Copyright 2001 Jim Colombo


 Chapter 63

It was a sun washed morning in West Oakland. The bell rang at ten minutes

before ten announcing worship was fixin’ to begin. The Church was an old wooden

building with a new coat of white paint on the corner of 89th and Telegraph with a steeple

pointing to heaven. Pastor Franklin greeted the member of the congregation as they

walked up the stairs to the vestibule. He had a broad smile and said, “Mornin’, welcome

to the Lord’s House.” The congregation consisted of ladies, children, and gentlemen

suitors. Most of the men folk didn’t have the gumption to leave a comfortable bed and

some were nursing a hangover. Young men courting a lady attended. At ten the organist

began to play “Rock of Ages.” The choir began to sing.

“Good morning brothers and sisters of Trinity Baptist Church. Join in and sing.

The Holy Ghost is a coming to fill your hearts. Praise God,” said Pastor Franklin.

“Praise God,” the congregation replied.

Ida and her mother Sarah attended each Sunday. The congregation and Pastor

Franklin respected Ida. because she was a college graduate, an independent black lady,

and helped those who couldn’t read or write. She was a blessing to the community.

Service consisted of readings from the Bible, singing hymns, and Pastor Franklin’s Sunday

morning come to Jesus sermon. He was appalled at the lack of men attending church,

and lectured about the backsliders who waited for others to carry their load, referring to

civil rights. Black men had to stand and be part of the movement. If they didn’t care about

the future of Blacks, then who would?

Service ended with the choir singing “Rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham.” Ida

waited for Pastor Franklin. He thanked each member and invited all to fellowship at the

end of the service. Ida approached him and asked if he knew a family who would qualify

to be foster parents for the three children in her custody. He said he would make inquiries.

Ida thanked Pastor Franklin and joined the congregation gathering in the meeting

hall. Sunday mornings consisted of church service followed by fellowship with the

congregation. It lasted two hours. Pastor Franklin had a fish fry at noon and all were

welcomed. The meal consisted of greens, cornbread, and fried fillets of batter-dipped

fish Lemonade was served. Ida and Sarah helped serve each Sunday. Pastor Franklin

made the rounds every Thursday and Friday to grocery stores to collect fish, vegetables,

and broken cookies for the Sunday meal. Many of the congregation donated their time

and money to the church. The church was their second family. Ida was serving cornbread

and cookies to the kids. She remembered what Hillard and Brown spoke about. Freedom,

if not now, then when? Pastor Franklin spoke about the black crusade for freedom. The

black mindset was changing to militant. Before black they were colored. Before colored

they were Negroes, and before that they were slaves. Was it a lack of will to fight back.

Years of frustration under the heel of the white man was a heavy load to carry. Ida

believed that education would make the difference. It would be her generation that would

step up and fight for civil rights.


It was Jim’s eighteenth birthday and Lupe cooked French toast and fried Mexican

sausage for breakfast. Scraps came by because he smelled the sausage, and pranced

around Lupe. Scraps had learned to discerning time with regard to breakfast and dinner.

Jim teased Lupe that soon Scrapes would start reading the Sunday paper instead of taking

of taking a dump on it. Scraps paid his dues and caught his fair share of mice.

After breakfast they went to church. On the way home from mass Jim told Lupe

about Suarez joining the team. Lupe said that his ex-girlfriend was dating a guy from

Riordan and wanted to meet Suarez. Jim told her that after the next game he would

introduce her to Suarez. They walked to Mission Street and Jim introduced Lupe to Tic

Tock's nineteen cent hamburgers burgers. A shakes was nineteen cents, and fries were

eleven cents. They dined for buck with change. Then they walked to Woolworth’s and

bought a bag of roasted peanuts for thirty cents. Every now and then there is a craving

that only that special something can satisfy. Lupe asked Jim if they could go back to

Woolworth’s and get a frozen banana. Bulls-eye. That hit the spot. Were that spot is

located is a mystery, but the frozen banana knew were the spot was. They walked to

Dolores Park and sat at their favorite bench. Jim faced Lupe and said, ”Now that I’m

eighteen, I have to sign up for the Selective Service.”

“What’s that?”

“Every eighteen year old male has to sign up with the Selective Service and in a

few months I’ll be taking a physical. Then I’ll get classified and anyone who is classified

1A is eligible for military service. Guys in college are 1Y, and guys like Suarez are 4F.

Anyone having a 1A status has about six months before getting drafted into the Army.

I shouldn’t have a problem because I’m going to college. If things get worse in Vietnam,

I’ll join the Navy. That’s safer than the jungle and the booby traps.”

“I don’t want you to go.”

“If I continue in college, get a masters, and we get married, I don’t think we have to


“I hope not. I know that they don’t take guys with kids.”

“When we get married, we’ll have a family. I don’t think we have to worry.”

Jim and Lupe spent the afternoon at the park watching kids flying their blue, red,

and yellow kites with long white tails that dodged and weaved in the sky. A man with a red

wagon pulled by a tan pony sold peanuts, candy, and pink popcorn. Lupe liked the pink

popcorn. The kids liked petting the pony. A lazy day in the park enjoyed by all. Shadows

from the trees were edging towards Jim and Lupe sitting on the bench. It was late

afternoon, and time to walk back to Lupe’s apartment. They arrived before five o’clock and

sat at the kitchen table. Jim looked at the clock and said, ”Any minute.” Scraps started

scratching the porch door. It was officially five o‘clock and Lupe opened the porch door

and a wooly ball fell at Lupe’s feet. “How’s my boy?” asked Lupe. Scraps pranced and

rubbed against Lupe’s legs for dinner. Jim sat and watched Lupe rub Scraps’ tummy while

Scraps did a back stroke and floated to kitty heaven each time. Jim was admiring Lupe

and he was sure that she was the lady that he would grow old with.

For Jim’s birthday Joe, Mary, Lupe, Rosa, and he went to his favorite place for

dinner, Dot and Al’s on Castro Street. Al always served Jim a big plate of veal cutlets

with corn, hot biscuits with honey, and mashed potatoes covered with brown gravy. Lupe

hadn’t eaten veal before and ordered the cutlets. Joe had the blue plate special: pot

roast. Mary and Rosa had fillet of sole. Al gave Jim a big slice of apple pie with two

scoops of vanilla ice cream. Lupe helped Jim finish the ice cream. Jim was uneasy all

night because the previous year everyone in the restaurant sang “Happy Birthday Day” to

him. He told Joe he would go only if Joe promised that no one would sing during dinner.

Joe kept his word, and as Jim and Lupe got up and started walking to the door, everyone

in the restaurant stood and sang “Happy Birthday Day” to Jim. Al sang the loudest and

Jim got embarrassed. Lupe hugged Jim. Joe said,” I kept my promise. We waited until

dinner was finished.”

Al walked over to Jim and said, “Happy Birthday Day.” He put his chef’s hat on

Jim and put his arm around him. Dot said, ”Smile.” The flash momentarily blinded a

bewildered looking Jim. It was a night to remember.


“Is that you, child?”

“Yeah, mama,”

“How’s my girl?”

“Fine, mama.” Ida closed the front door and put her briefcase down. She hung her

coat in the closet.

“Guess who came by to pay us a visit just when I was making an apple pie?”

“Who, mama?”

“Pastor Franklin. He walks in and says, ‘That sure smells might fine, Miss Sarah.

Is that apple pie I smell?’ and I say, sure enough. Sit a spell while it cools. He tells about

this family, the Johnsons. He wants you to meet them after service in the meeting hall.”

“I hope they qualify as foster parents. I‘ve been praying extra lately. I feel so sorry

for those kids, mama.”

“Child, you doing the best you can. Ain’t there no other place for them children?”

“They’re in the guest area in the back away from the others, mama.”

“Well let me finish up with what I was telling about. Pastor Franklin said the

Johnsons were good folks from East Texas. I think Brownsville. Well he said that they

never had kids and they’re in their early forties. Lester works for the railroad and Elsie

works at the paper factory. .Elsie’s mama lives with them and she can mind the kids after

school ‘till Elsie get home. They’re God fearing folks.”

“I know who you’re taking about Mama. They sit in the back in church and help

clean up after Sunday lunch. Mama, I think my prayers are answered.”

“I hope so child.”

Ida walked into the kitchen to get a glass of ice tea. She noticed that half of the

apple pie was gone. Pastor Franklin liked Sarah’s baking. Sweet potato pie was his

favorite. “Say, mama, can you bake a sweet potato pie for Pastor Franklin for Sunday

church service. I sure do appreciate what he’s one.”

“Sure enough, child.”

Ida opened the porch screen door and walked out to the old sofa on the shady side

of the porch. She sat, removed her shoes, and relaxed. The cool breeze from the bay

was soothing. Ida closed her eyes and drifted away from West Oakland to her fantasy

paradise in the South Pacific.


Friday St. Nick’s played Poly High School, one of the weaker teams, and won

11-2. Coach Meyer let Duke pitch five innings to get the win, and Mendez finished the

game. Woody played all of the game because Bobby’s foot was still sore from last weeks

injury. Woody got his first hit and the players no longer called him whoosh. After the game

Jim introduced Lupe to Suarez.

“Hi, my name is Gilberto, but you can call me Gil.”

“Hi, Gil, I’m Lupe. I went to all of the games last year and saw you play second

base. You were good.”

“He still is, Angel,” said Jim

“Thanks. I remember seeing you last year at the games. Jim’s a lucky guy.”

“Thanks, Gil,” said Jim.

“Hello, Senorita.”

“Well, hello. Are you Spanish?”

“Si, just south of the border,” said Woody.

“The guy gets his first hit, and now can speak Spanish. You’re amazing, Woody,”

said Jim.

Woody smiled and he and Suarez left Jim and Lupe.

“You guys call each other by your last names, but Augie and Duke?” said Lupe.

“I never thought about it. Maybe because they’re leaders.”

“How about Woody?”

“He’s not an Outlaw. He’s one of the guys on the team.”

“What’s the difference?”

“He wasn’t there the day it began. He just started on the team.”

“I guess you have to earn it.”

“Yeah, Angel. It takes time to earn respect and trust. A player thinks about the

team, not himself, and each player pays the price of sacrifice to be a champion. I love you,

and I respect Augie. It’s a bond, a promise I made to you and guys like Augie. I gave you

my heart and I gave the team my soul.”

Lupe hugged Jim and they walked to the bus stop to catch the 37 Corbett. It was

daylight savings time and the sun gave an extra hour of light. Jim and Lupe arrived at

her apartment just as the sun set.

St. Nick’s was undefeated. They had beat Saint Ignatius. If they beat them again,

then they would have swept S.I. in all three sports. St. Nick’s had won the first half of the

baseball season. Ten down six to go. If they won the next four games, they would win the

city championship.

“There’s a letter from Santa Clara on your bed,” said Mary. She hoped it was good

news. Jim was excited but nervous. He walked into the bedroom. It was a white

envelope with a mission printed in red ink alongside the return address. Jim sat by the bed

and held the letter for a couple of minutes. He was nervous. Inside of the envelope was

either good news or disappointment. If it wasn’t meant to be then so be it. He opened the

envelope and the first word he saw was “Congratulations!” Jim’s heart began to pound. It

continued to say the he was accepted and needed to reply by the end of May to reserve a

seat for the freshman year at University of Santa Clara, September, 1964. Jim called Lupe

and told her the goods news. She was happy for him. Then Jim walked into the kitchen

with the letter and showed it to his mother. “I’m proud of you, son.”

Joe opened the refrigerator and offered Jim a beer. “Congratulations, son.” They

sat at the kitchen table and Joe read the letter. “ You’re the first one in the family to go to

college. When will you find out about the scholarship from the Son’s of Italy?”

“In a couple of weeks, dad. I guess it’s okay to have a beer once in a while.”

“Sure. Now that you’re going to college you’ll have more responsibilities,”

Jim and Joe sat for a while and savored the moment. Jim called Lupe again and

they talked for a half an hour about their future. When Jim went to bed he said, ”Thank






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