Kareem's Memoir & Bio

1988

My neighbors
We got to know virtually everyone on our street, Maple Court. We didn't meet them in-person but Tina and Mark told us about them. There were the "secret agents" who mysteriously were only seen on occasion leaving their house. One of the people wore a uniform with a badge. We never saw them working in their front yard or washing their cars or anything else. Then there was Scott and Bruce who lived further down the street. They were two older brothers, probably college students, who allowed us to play 4-square on their driveway. Then, we were introduced to Heathe, a mischievous dude with red hair who had a vociferous, younger sister named Beth. Tina and Mark also introduced us to Pemico. Pemico was probably the youngest girl we played with on our block. She and Beth played together often and occasionally we included them with the rest of our gang. Then there was Quinn and Kyle who were two boys who lived a few houses down from us. Their dad was a dentist and looked very much like the famous news anchor, Bernard Shaw from CNN. Quinn and Kyle's mom worked at a high school. The two boys were kept after by their grandmother who would always be seen walking our block in search of them. She would be heard yelling “Quinn, Kyle, ya’ll get home now!” They also owned a beautiful German Shepherd which we watched grow up from a puppy. Her name was Sheba. Sheba was certainly not the only dog on our street. There was Meeshka, an Alaskan Malamute, who was owned by another one of our neighbors Kenny. Kenny was an older bare chest dude who always kept busy under the hood of his many cars and trucks parked at his house. Forest also had a dog which was a German Shepherd. Directly across the street from my house lived "T". T would stay inside his house most of the time. His father would routinely play darts with several other older guys in their garage. We also shared the block with celebrities. The parents of the R&B group Club Nouveau lived across the street from us as well. The lead singer’s father GKenny rogersrady owned a motorcycle and was often seen returning home on it. Occasionally, we would hear the group practicing their music in their garage. David and John were two other kids who lived on our block. John was tall, lanky and into sports and his brother David was short into video games. Whenever the two brothers argued, David would go somewhere and hide. They were fun to play with too. Their mom was a teacher who worked at El Sobrante Christian School and the father worked in an office somewhere and he looked very much like Kenny Rogers.

Halloween
Maple Court came alive every Halloween season. My high school buddy Rich and I decided to put together some sort of Halloween scene on our street. While everyone else was setting up the traditionally cheesy displays with plastic ghosts, pumpkins, witches and orange lights, I decided to take it a step farther. I wanted to create something scary and unusual. Rich and I came up with wanting to simulate a horrific murder scene borrowed from the movie Friday the 13th. With the help from my buddy Rich, the scene was very convincing. I had to seek permission from the Hercules Police Department to use many of our props. I first chose the location in front of my home the first year but later moved it to the end of our street at the cul-de-sac. There was more room there. The scene involved a ghastly image of Jason Vorhees (Friday the 13th character) hanging in one of the olive trees. There were several of his victims lying nearby. Simulated blood flowed in the area. We used my father's truck as a rescue vehicle complete with flashing red and blue lights and a siren. Police barricade tape was used to cordon off the display. Rich was dressed in a paramedic costume while I wore a full firefighter gear. Many of the trick-or-treaters were fascinated by what they had seen. We also noticed that we had outdone ourselves. We wanted people to come and see the display but we noticed that many cars were seen driving toward us only to suddenly turn around and drive away. They thought something terrible had actually occurred.

The rescue of Baby Jessica
WJessica McClure rescuehenever a major news event occured, the television news stations made sure that we had "live" footage of the story. It was no different back in the late 80s. One such news story that our family and everyone else seemed to be so familiar with at the time, was when a little 18 month old girl fell into an undergound well in Texas. We stayed glued to the television for almost three days after several attempts were made to rescue Jessica McClure. Than, she was finally pulled out of the well and was alive. I remember how everyone just cheered and yelled in celebration.

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It was a such a chilling story. She's apparently married now and still lives in Texas.

Watching the 1988 OlympicsFlo Joe lace suit
One summer, I happened to watching Flo Joe compete during the 1988 Olympics in the Seoul. Normally I dont watch sports shows like this but after reciving a phone call from a high school friend, Lyn, we both were watching it together. It was the moment when Flo Joe ran the 100M run in her white lace body suit. Ordinarily, it would not have been all that interesting to me with the exception that Lyn and I talked about the event and got a kick out of it.

The Olive Fights on Maple Court
During the summer months on Maple Court, we eventually met the other kids who lived across from our court on Hemlock Court. Arnell and TJ usually came to our street to visit Tina and Mark. All of us went to their house and solive treewam in their backyard pool. It’s hard to say how street competitions ever get started but we had one between the kids who lived on Hemlock Court and those of us on Maple Court. It was the day of the Olive berry fight! Kids were hiding behind cars in various hidden locations. The object was to protect the cul-de-sac from the infiltration of the kids from Hemlock Court. They had no idea that we had more kids than they had from their Hemlock Court. The battle was on. We were well protected with garbage can lids as shields. Berries went flying. After about twenty minutes, we eventually drove the Hemlock kids back to their court. Hemlock Court had been defeated.

The fallen hammer
One summer day, Tina, Mark, Justin, my sister and I discovered that there was a major construction project underway in Refugio Valley just below the hillside our house was on. The area appeared to be very close to our play area where we were building a treehouse. We wanted to investigate the construction and so we took short cut using one of the fire trails to get to the area. When we arrived there, we noticed that tractors and bulldozers had ruined the location where our treehouse was being planned. We returned home to get our tree fortshovels, plywood, nails and hammers and went back to our treehouse that was now covered with tons of dirt and tree limbs. We worked hard trying to clear those limbs and reclaim our area. Before long, we decided to move our project to another spot in the same construction zone. Not once did we ever think that we shouldn’t be there because of the potential danger of construction equipment. The equipment was never in operation while we were there. Our treehouse construction took place over a span of several weeks. As our project continued, we found that we needed to do something about the water coming into our work site from a nearby creek. We excavated and piled tons of dirt at the site to stop the creek. We were successful. The water had been rerouted away from the future location of our treehouse. When it came time to work on the actual structure of the treehouse, we knew that it required a lot of wood but very little planning. We dragged pieces of plywood to our work site for the construction. We occasionally injured ourselves during our project. As we were getting closer to completion, our creation was starting to look like a bonafied treehouse.

One summer day at our work site, Tina was working on the ground beneath the half-finished treehouse. Another one of our buddies, Justin, was working up in the structure above her. The tree house was at least thirty feet high. Justin was apparently using a hammer for his portion of the work when he somehow lost grip of it. The hammer fell hitting Tina on the head. Suddenly, all hammering and sawing came to a halt. None of us moved. All eyes were on Tina as she grabbed the side of her head and covered her face. She was obviously in pain. At that moment, we basically had two concerns; we concerned about Tina and if she was hurt badly. The other concern was what she was going to do to Justin. Our attention shifted from her and turned toward Justin who had a look of fear on his face - Fortunately, Tina turned out to be okay and Justin only suffered a humbling chewing-out by Tina.

Our tree house property is now the site of the City of Hercules Swim Center.

The Pond at Refugio Valley Park
On those summer days, our neighborhood buddies would accompany us to Refugio Valley Park to go fishing in the pond. Surprisingly, this pond was stocked well with Bluegill, Crappie and Largemouth Bass. The water was in very good condition before Hercules's population exploded in the 90s. You could stand next the pond and see schools of veRefugio Valley Park Lakery large Bluegill and Largemouth Bass. Kids would go there every weekend and use their jigs and other kinds of artificial lures or live bait to catch fish. Fishing here was actually very good. It was so good, that one time I would even put two hooks on one line and catch two fish simultaneously. The Bluegill were usually 1-3 lbs.. Most of the time, I used mealworms and sometimes redworCrappiems. Bluegill loved mealworms but had a hard time nibbling them off the hook. Crayfish were populating the pond as well. All you had to do was walk by lake and suddenly catch a bright red "crawdad" shooting back to its underwater burrow. Over a period of a decade or so, the quality of the pond plummeted. Soon, it was very hard to catch fish there anymore. There were fewer ducks and geese now seen there compared to earlier years. Even crayfish found it hard to proliferate.

Our family church
My sister, brother and I grew up in the church life. After attending our first church which was Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Oakland, our uncle started his own church in Richmond, along Main Street. Our small church maintained its organization even as the size of its 15-voice choir often outgrew the size of its congregation. While we had the traditional Sunday morning service, on occasion, we would have we called our "3 o'clock service" which was our Sunday afternoon service. Most of the family on my mother's side would attend church to support the family's new church. It was called New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. Our uncle, Uncle Ivory was the head pastor of the church. For short period of time, my godfather, Hiawatha Powell was the assistant Pastor. At this location of Richmond, we had several incidents that made our stay there very interesting. We were robbed twice. The first time, the perps stole several "carryable" items like money, televisions, microphones and speakers. The second time we were robbed, they took more time and carried out our piano, acoustic drums, and upright organ. When we held the traditional new year's eve church service, the celebratory gunfire was amazing. It sounded like we were in a warzone. The rounds could be heard hitting the roof, while we were inside praying. This church would relocate to another location on Alamo street in North Richmond. It's there today. Our new location in North Richmond, prompted us to take unusual precautions in order to protect our church and its equipment. It didn't take long before our new location was hit again by robbers. My mother, sister and I were the only ones at church one evening as we were getting ready for choir rehearsal to start. As we entered the front door, I noticed that there was a grocery bag setting next to an open window in the sanctuary. There were electronics inside the bag. I quickly advised my mother that we should leave because I thought we were being robbed. We quickly exited the church building and called 911. Several Richmond police officers arrived and searched the sanctuary for us. The robbers were never found. Since then, we have purchased an alarm system and added a security fence.

TV time
While we were playing with our buddies and hanging out with other peers, we continued watching television. We would always talk about the now considered "stupid commercials" that we remembered so well. For instance, Crest toothpaste came out with a new variety of fruity flavors to encourage kids and teens I suppose, to brush their teeth better. It was called Crest for Kids.

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Their TV ad was funny and another catchy tune. Coca Cola

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continued with their very musical and very hip commercials. They came out with a new slogan, "You can't beat the feeling." And yes, it wasn't all about food and drink; we also saw the deodorant Sure making its way on the scene with a memorable TV ad.

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Aside from commercials, there were several other TV events that became the talk of the town. The first Geraldo broken nose was when a talk show hosted by Geraldo Rivera became the place of a huge brawl that was broadcast on live television. Geraldo ended up getting his nose broken by a thrown chair.

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I watched his show occasionally as they usually were very interesting and volatile as his guests were usually gang members, KKK members, etc.

After the Space Shuttle Challenger accident two years before, the NASA program was put on hold and all Space Shuttle launches were called off. This year, the program resumed with the first launch of a new shuttle called Discovery. Soon the launches became routine although everytime we watched one, we kept thinking about the Challenger accident.

 
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