The City Track & Field Championship Trophy always went to a Black High School, usually East Tech. 1959 didn’t change the trend. West Tech usually finished fourth. When the athletes were called to the high jump event, I striped down to my West Tech t-shirt and shorts and trotted over to the high jump area.
I’d won the West Side competition every year since the 8th grade. Confident, I warmed up along a grassy oval, took a few practice jumps, and sat down. After the first three heights, I remained the lone white jumper. One contestant hadn’t shown up. His teammate called out, “Porter Passes,” every time the his name was called.
Before the 4th jump, a large intimating black teen from Glenville High strolled up still wearing his sweat suit. I cleared the height. The name Porter was called, and the new arrival grunted. “Pass.” I shivered, because he was glaring over at me with disdain. Porter’s teammate shuffled up next to me and said, “Don’t mind LarMoy. He’s foolin’ with you. Trying to give you the evil eye.”
Whatever the look meant, terror increased my trembling. I barely cleared the bar on jump 5. Richardson, Porter’s teammate, Porter, and I were the only two other jumpers in the competition. Porter’s turn came. He eyeball me and said. “Pass.”
The 6th jump would tie my personal best. Both Richardson and I missed the first two of three jumps. Porter rose at the sound of his name. He pointed at me. He took four quick steps to the bar and cleared it still wearing his sweat suit. He cleared it with several inches to spare. Needless to say, Porter took first and Richardson and I tied for second.
On the ride home, I realized most black teenagers were more muscular, faster, and heavier than I was. I also realize they called each other the N-word at will, like saying, “Pass the ketchup.” If I ever did that, I’d be in big trouble. Not a chance I ever would. In my house no one cursed. My mom wouldn’t allow it.
Two weeks later, I was invited to receive my medal at WJW-TV downtown. Medalists stood in a line by event. Porter wasn’t there. When it was time for Richardson and I to receive our awards, the sportscaster spent a moment interviewing Richardson. He gave us both a medal, but other than reading my name, didn’t say a word to me.
When I got home, my mother threw a fit. “He ignored you. Those announcers favor the blacks, so they won’t get sued.” Frankly, I didn’t care. I got to be on TV, and I had a medal. Still, her words affected me. When events I observed during my life seemed to go in that direction, those words came back. Not until I was much older could I see how events in the lives of blacks affected them the same way. I never saw Porter again.