I met some of the Harlem Globetrotters as a young waitress working for the Luau Restaurant in the Irondale/Eastwood area on the outskirts of Birmingham. It must have been around 1970.
We waitresses tallied up our tickets in a little cubbyhole that opened out into the dining room. I always had trouble figuring percentages for tips, so one of the big guys followed me into the little area and showed me a simple way to do it.
By then the cubbyhole and its entranceway was crowded with waitresses and really big basketball players who were making us laugh. These men were real gentlemen who were so nice they have stayed a fond memory all my life.
I don’t know that Meadowlark Lemon was there. I knew of the players. Everybody did. But I couldn’t tell you their names or identify them. I did watch them occasionally because of the jaw-dropping moves they made on the court, It was pure art, a show with drama, comedy, suspense, you name it. It was entertainment in its purest form. But I have never been a sports fan, so I never followed the players.
But in all the years since that lesson in percentages at the waitresses’ cubbyhole, I have not heard a breath of scandal connected to any of these men. I even did a cursory search online just now. They were celebrities with the right stuff — real men who set a good example for all races and all people. They were friendly and outgoing as well as kind to struggling waitresses who had no influence anywhere. And it wasn’t done in a patronizing manner. They just seemed to fully enjoy the moment, person to person. Not like celebrities to nobodys.
So that’s my little vignette into the lives of the Harlem Globetrotters. Just a passing moment that they enjoyed, but surely forgot, though they left a lasting memory.
As I said, I don’t know if Meadowlark Lemon was there. He could have been. He could even have been the one who taught me percentages. I wish I knew. But even if it wasn’t him, as a member of that awesome team, I know he was a good and talented man. And I, as well as the world, will grieve his passing. There are too few men left like him.
Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog, in public duty, and in private thinking . . .
From the poem, “God Give Us Men” by Josiah Gilbert Holland