The Old-Timers carry own long tradition of brotherhood and camaraderie which stems over half a century
The Old-Timers began fellowshipping in the mid 1940’s and are still carrying on that monthly tradition today. This very unique group of Black Brotherhood most recently converged at inductee Conrad Strong’s house in Plantation. Typically, The Old-Timers gather to exchange greetings, tell a few tall tales, and share in some spirited libations. Old-Timers pictured include-seated l-r: C.B. James, Otis Davis, Sam Rogers, Milton Isreal, Garth Reeves and Robert Edwards. Standing l-r: Ellis Canty, Sr., Bobby R. Henry, Sr., Melvin Hawks, Eddie Flucker, Bernard Freeman, Conrad Strong, John Williams, Thomas Jones and James Freeman.
By Charles Moseley
What happens when a band of merry old men who are still very young at heart share their collective experiences with a group of its more contemporary members? You get a perfect blend of new ideas and wise experiences.
What results is a unique group of individuals who are all making contributions to their families and communities; some unheralded and others nationally known. The glue which keeps these brothers from other mothers together is a bond based on a tradition of service and admiration each member has for each other.
On a recent visit to a social gathering this reporter had the unique opportunity, the privilege, to get a glimpse inside the world of special group of men known as The Old-Timers.
The late great comedic luminary Richard Pryor was known for having a unique ability to craft a story which would put his audiences smack in the middle of one of his “fascinating stories.” In one such monologue Pryor recalls,” You don’t get to be old being no fool!” On the flip side, It also has been said that, ‘There’s no fool like an old fool!”
Originally many of their member’s origins stem from the Bahamas Islands, as characterized by their customary breakfast meal comprised of boiled fish and grits, a traditional staple eaten by natives of that Caribbean island. Ironically that tradition is still carried on today as witnessed at their most recent meeting.
Today they also reflect the diverse cultures inherent in the group as reflected in a luncheon soul food buffet, complete with barbeque ribs, collard greens, pigeon peas and rice, corn on the cob and what self-respecting gathering would be complete without homemade red velvet cake, compliments of the host Conrad’s wife, Edna.
Depending on how you look at it, to the casual observer, the Old-Timers might appear to be a bunch of ‘old fools’ just having a good time; however upon closer examination, nothing could be further from the truth. Old-Timers range in age from 50-year-old Conrad Strong, a recent inductee to one of its earliest members and elder statesman, Garth Reaves, Sr., a very spry 95-year old, who has been a member since he was in his 50s.
These gentlemen represent a cadre of kindred spirits who have not only experienced a few things in life but help shape social change and made historical contributions to society, some well worth noting.
Members hail from all over the United States, some born and bred locally and others from Chicago, Nassau, Bahamas, Chicago, Georgia, and all parts of Florida. Some Old-Timers are college educated and graduates of Bethune Cookman and Florida A & M University’s, respectively. Others are trades-men, while others represent fraternal and Masonic organizations and still others who have no formal organization affiliations.
Their membership includes a laundry list of Who’s Who in South Florida. They represent all walks of life; some educators, some businessmen, a former decorated law enforcement official, Longshoremen. Some Old-Timers are considered among the leaders in their respective industries.
Take for instance fellow Old-Timer Garth Reaves Sr., the publisher of The Miami Times; he helped guide Dade County’s Black community during the 1950’s, throughout the civil rights era, and beyond. His contributions in the arena of social justice are still being felt today. The legacy he crafted representing “The Black Press of America,” serves as a role model for young publishers today, including fellow Old-Timer Bobby R. Henry, Sr., publisher of the Westside Gazette Newspaper in Broward County.
Reaves is a walking historian who probably has forgotten more than most of us have experienced in life. He shared one moment in history that he numbered at the top of a long list of his memorable experiences.
“I recall a time when we (Blacks) could only go to one of the 28 beaches that we had in Dade County until we decided to take a stand that we were not going to tolerate it. A group of us decided that we would integrate once segregated beaches.
“I would tell young folks today to keep their eye on the prize and don’t give up the fight. Some of our people think the fight is over, but the struggle never ends. As soon as we make three steps forward, we go five backward. Too many of our young people don’t realize it but education is the key to achievement in life.”
The name of this very diverse group could have very easily been known as The Trailblazers based on their laundry lists of achievements.
Old-Timers member Otis Davis, 82, was part of a group of brave young men who integrated the City of Miami Police Department and the first Black homicide detective on the police force.