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The Road to Gold

Olympic Gold in Dallas, 1979

Hey yall! We have finally arrived…my first blog post.

In 1936, the Olympic games began on August 1. Jesse Owens won 4 gold medals in the Berlin Olympics, hosted by Adolph Hitler…talk about irony. Since the Olympics started, I have been thinking of a caption to share this picture of Jesse Owens from a family vacation in 1979. No, Jesse Owens is not my cousin, that I know of. He is from Alabama, so it might be possible. So much history is represented in this picture.

I am the little girl, aka straight-faced brat, in the white top. I remember this day in bits and pieces. I remember being mad about my sandals. They were just brown sandals. To this day, I do not know why I hated them so much. I have since heard other stories about childhood shoe conflicts with my mom, apparently my love of a good shoe started young.

I remember getting out on the upper-level of a shopping mall style parking lot and walking very slowly because of my sandal irritation. I remember there being a frenzy to hurry up and take this picture because someone recognized Jesse Owens and “caught” him for a quick picture. That is my sister in the pink tube top and cowboy hat, my cousin Jaza in the red, my dad in back, my mom next to me and Aunt Ida next to my sister. The only person missing in the picture is my Unca Clarence, I think he was taking the picture. I wonder if he has a picture with him in it. Maybe I smiled in that one. Knowing me, probably not, but I will check.

I spent many a summer riding with Jaza in the back of whatever transport our parents arranged each year, my sister was older and didn’t always want or have to come. I don’t think this is the year that the motorhome my father borrowed caught fire in the Arizona dessert while I was in the bathroom, but maybe it was, I’ll have to check with my mom.

Although it seems like this post has nothing to do with publishing history books or Our Genetic Legacy (OGL), in my mind, it has EVERYTHING to do with it. I started OGL to show everyday people how they are a part of US history.

Jesse Owen’s life was not the stereotypical fairytale, real life rarely happens that way. He was a regular person with extraordinary talent. He was the son of a sharecropper. His grandparents were enslaved. He went from Olympic glory in 1936 to declaring bankruptcy in 1939. In 1955, he became the “a goodwill ambassador for US sports, traveling around the world to promote American ideas and the benefits of exercise. At the same time, Owens became a sought-after public speaker in his own right. He was appointed to the US Olympic Committee's board of directors in 1973, and the following year, was inducted into the Track and Field Hall of Fame and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”*

I am thankful for the ability to share this moment in time with others, not just to brag about the fact that I met Jesse Owens, but to make others look through the stories of their life and publish their photos and stories for future generations. Our stories are worth telling and sharing. Our stories. Our voices.

UPDATE: I just spoke with my mother and Unca Clarence to find out what they remembered. So, this was the trip where the motorhome caught on fire. This picture was a couple days before the fire. We were in Dallas, TX, on the way home to California from Washington DC and Niagara Falls. According to my mother and Unca, we were headed to a lookout area to get a better view of the grassy knoll where JFK had been shot. Memories are fuzzy about the exact location, but my Unca remembers it being attached to a hotel and the Hyatt Regency adjoining the Memorial Plaza was built in 1978 so we’re guessing that’s where we were. Turns out I’m not the only who remembers the parking lot. We coincidentally got in the elevator with Jesse Owens. He left his “people” to come with us to take this photo. The urgency to take the photo was probably real, the look on my face shows that I was not over my shoe crisis, so I am sure I slow walked to take the picture. I asked Unca Clarence if he had a picture with himself in it, and the answer is, "no." I tried to console him with photo cred but have now committed to photoshopping him into one of the pictures. Anything for my favorite Unca. So now you have the rest of the story (in my best Paul Harvey voice.)


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