My dad was just my dad, he wasn’t this powerful giant that you all have come to know. He is the guy who loved to drink milk and beer. My mother said that when she first met him and visited his apartment, he had 2 items in his fridge: a gallon of milk and a can of beans. I am surprised he didn’t have beer in the fridge, but that’s another story for another time. Albert would challenge me to a milk race every time he visited. I do not believe he would let me win for the sake of winning. I believe that if I were to ever win it would be a true victory that I could genuinely celebrate.
He is the dad that introduced me to activities that otherwise I would not have been exposed to. Al would pick me up on a Friday and I’d have no idea where we were going, and I didn’t care. I knew there would be some adventure that I would have never experienced before, and every time I was right. He would take me to winter and summer campgrounds in Wisconsin where I would meet other children of different cultures. I was introduced to tobogganing, ice skating, KP duty, tether ball, and boating. These are all activities friends in my circle were not normally exposed to. My father also purchased great gifts for me. He wanted me to be exposed to unique activities that were designed to promote exploration of ideas.
There was never a dull moment, even when we were just spending time at his apartment. I remember I had to sleep in a bed that came out of the wall. He had only one bed, so needless to say, we slept in the same bed. I had to be about 5 or 6 years old. I learned that he grinds his teeth when he sleeps, I do that too. If I had not had that sleep over experience I would not know where that came from.
Periodically, my dad would take me to political events. There was the time when Dr. King was speaking at City Hall and my father was walking super-fast to get there. My little legs did all they could to keep up with him. When we got there, it was a huge crowd waiting to hear Dr. King speak. My dad picked me up and put me on his shoulders to move through the pack of people. All I remember is that my father broke through the crowd and we were standing in front of the planter that Martin was standing on. Dr. King extended his hand to me and introduced himself. He said a few other words, I’m sure he askied me what my name was. I am sure I told him, and that was it. I remember he was smiling the whole time.
Albert also took me to an evening event where I sat at a round table with a bunch of people I did not know. There were people on stage talking, singing and presenting awards. After the event, my dad came to the table and took me backstage. When we got there Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte were talking. Albert wanted to make sure I met them. I recognized them both from movies and such. At the time, I did not understand that I was meeting two icons of who I am in hopes that Raby Chats will lead to a second introduction.
When I was around 10 years old, my dad had an official sized pool table with all the trimmings in his living room, and because he was an organizer he also had a double sided green chalkboard that flipped, also in the livingroom. There were no seats or anything to sit on. I suppose when he had meetings guest would sit on the floor, not sure. At any rate, my dad taught me a few tricks of the trade. He taught me how to hold the pool cue and how to chalk it up. He also showed me how to use the bridge, even though I was much too small to manage the bridge at the time, these lessons have come in handy for me over the years. I don’t get to play often, but I do love the sport!
I also met Harold Washington way before he became mayor of Chicago. I met Harold when he was an Illinois state senator. Albert took me to his office in the spring before I was scheduled to enter college that year. That very day, Harold gave me a $2,500 scholarship that I wound up not being able to use due to the conflict of having 2 state issued grants, I accepted the larger grant.
There are many more stories I can share, but if I did, I wouldn’t have time to hear your Al Raby story. Please chat with us and share your story with the Raby family. We are looking forward to it!