This blog is based on a story of a young man by the name of Bernie Culbreth, I found him and lost him at the same time.
IN THE LOCKER ROOM: LOOKING BACK!
This story was written in the Afro-American Newspaper sometime in the early 70s. The story line: A young high school student/athlete who was trying to go to hell in a hurry (sounds familiar). Sports columnist Gary Lindsey was the author of this story. Gary was a sportswriter for the Afro.
His account is as follows:
Even if I hate to admit it after dwelling for sometime in the cold world of sports reporting whenever I come across a shattered locker room that has been rebuilt, I always have to tell the story.
This almost tragic event got its origin in the halls of Cardozo High School. Which for sometime had become a hot bed of controversy. Going to waste both scholastically and athletically was a wayward student by the name of Benjamin Culbreth, who seem unable to adjust to the policies set forth by the school administration. His was a common problem that is shared by many youngsters living under trying conditions that have a way of affecting one’s personality and generally well being. Bernie, as is his middle name, by which most refer to him, spent his 9 to 3 in the street instead of the classroom.
His almost every day attendance on the outside of Cardozo, soon resulted in his being suspended for absenteeism. However, Culbreth was’t just an ordinary youth who found things more to his liking elsewhere than the text book. He was an intelligent sort who held a low B average when he did show up for class. He also possessed one of the most accurate shooting eyes in the Public Schools. Cutbreth, unfortunately, with all this going for him never played a second of basketball for Cardozo. As a matter of fact he never returned to the institution although his teachers had petitioned him back.
He said, “I didn’t go back because I felt that those who didn’t want me would be watching every move I made hoping I would slip up. It was too much pressure for me.” Culbreth transferred to Bell Vocational in his junior year and led the Vocats to a third place finish while being selected to the All-Met Basketball Team.
One season later the nomatic athlete was off again to greener pastures at Pallotti High School and it independent govern program in Laurel, Md. Bernie said, ” They would not let me play anymore in the inter-high because my age eligibility had run out.” The transition from a school leaning toward job skills to one of a high academic standard was not easy at first. But Culbreth had already shown his true aptitude in a summer program called Upward Bound held at the University of Maryland.
In doing a complete about face, Culbreth quickly took over the scoring reigns of the league and was named MVP and led the school to its first winning season. He was grateful for the second chance that Pattotti offered him to make good in life. But he does not fool himself when he looks back at it all in his senior year to a friend he met on the streets of DC. He says, “Man I am going to tell you, if it had not been for Harold Bell I probably would not be where I am today.” I didn’t have the money to go to school and neither did my mother. I don’t have to worry about that now because he has helped me there to.”
With Bell’s support coupled with a sufficient degree of his own, Culbreth has a fairly secure future in the classroom these days. He has been offered scholarships to schools such as Colorado State, Southwest Missouri, American University, Howard University and Winston-Salem State & Bighouse Gaines (Bell’s alma mater). Culbreth, also won’t be missing any more classes. As a matter of fact he is not missing much of anything. He closed his cloudy high school career with a scoring average of 26.5 points a game for the school year.
Editor’s Note: Our life stories were eerie similar except I could only dream of a B average and a great jump shot. Bernie Culbreth’s story brings to mind Johnny Lloyd one of my young kids at Anacostia High School. There was Johnny Robinson and Stacy Robinson (no kin) were particpants at my Hillcrest Saturday Program. Stacy went on to become a high school and playground basketball legend in DC. Johnny Lloyd was trying to hell in a hurry. My high school coach Dave Brown called me and said “I have your twin over here. I need your help.” Lloyd was a high strung athlete with an ego as big as the ball he bounced around on the court.
With athletes like him, the only way to get his attention was to challenge them one on one. I teamed up with his mother and I shown up at his home one morning. She fixed us some breakfast and we walked to Anacostia Park his homecourt in the hood. I sucked him in by warming up with my left hand. I never let him see I was really right-handed. He took the bait and challenged me to a game. He had just scored 25 points against Eastern the day before and he was smelling himself.
First, I shut him down by making his deadly jump shot non-essential. He beat me to the basket several times on his quickness, but it was not enough to win. I kicked his ass good–several of his boys were eye witnesses. He begged me to play another game–never again. I now had his undivided attention.
Coach Brown would later ask me what did I do to get his attention and I told him. He laughed and said, “Lloyd’s whole attitude has changed. He has become more of a team player and his teachers claimed he had become a more thoughtful student. His grades were good enought for American University to offer him a full scholarship.
Johnny Lloyd got his act together and graduated from American University. He left the inner-city and he is now living up in the mountains in Ashville, NC. Lets keep it moving. In Suitland, Maryland there is a young man name Robert Glenn who lives on Luci Lane across the street from my late mother-in-law Elease Thomas. He had a basketball hoop attached to his garage door. We would see him in the evenings shooting hoops with his multi-colored basketball.
I would often tease him, asking him, “boy do you really know what you are doing with that ball?” He would just smile and laugh. There were times he would have several friends playing with him–he was unstoppable. One evening Hattie walked over to one of his games while I sat on the steps and watched.
She came back and told me she had asked, “Who was in charge and the best player?” Little Robert immediately stepped forward and said, “I am” and no one challenged him. We both laughed and I said, “I think Robert is tripping”.
One week later I am sitting on the front porch watching him shooting hoops all by himself and I walk over to join him. After about 10 minutes of shooting around with my left-hand (Johnny Lloyd), he says, “Mr. Bell, do you know anything about this game”? I smiled and said, “A little bit!”
He challenges me to a one on one–no layups allowed. I think he thought this was his homecourt advantage. He even gave me the ball to take out first. I was somewhere in my 70s around that time. I decided the first one to score 10 baskets would be declared the winner, but he wanted 15 baskets, I said, “no way”!
Hattie was now watching from the front porch and yelled, “I hope I don’t have to call 911!” I was making jumpers from the sidewalk and when he got the ball I was blocking everything he tried to shoot. The final score 10-2. Everytime he saw he would ask for a re-match, but it never happen.
I lost Robert somewhere between high school (Bishop McNamara in PG County) and Morehouse College in Atlanta. My mother-in-law had come down with dementia and she went home to be with the Lord in 2015.
The summer of 2019 Hattie and I decided to ride over to Luci Lane to check on my brother-in-law Charles and his daughter Perri. It was a bright su shiny day and we spotted Robert and his parents sitting on their front porch. We waved hello and rode down to the circle only to discover no one was home at my brother-inlaw’s. I turned around and started back out. Hattie ask me to stop so that she could say hello to Robert and his family.
I pulled over to the curve and made a call on my cell while she visited with the Glenns. Several minutes later to my surprise Robert was standing in front of me smiling from ear to ear. I said, “What’s up little man what are you doing now?”
The next words out of his mouth were, “I will be graduating from Moorehouse in February. I am a part of the 2019 class whose student debts have been paid off, thanks to philantropist Mr. Robert Smith.
I remember saying, “Congratulations”. His next words brought a bigger smile to my face when he said, “Mr. Bell thanks for always being a role model for me!” Hattie returned to the car and she was wearing this big smile. Her first words were, “Did Robert tell you he is in the 2019 graduating class at Moorehouse that just had their student debt paid off?”
Hattie is an educator and has a Master’s Degree in Physical Education from Indiana University. She taught at Bennet College in Greensboro, NC before settling in the DMV in 1967. She was so happy you would have thought Robert was one of her students. His words to me were both inspiring and uplifting, which proves, you never know who is watching–big brother or little brother–PRICELESS!
Let me introduce you to Hillcrest Saturday Program, Harrison Playground and Kids In Trouble benefactor, William Butler III. aka ‘Poochie’. He later became an entrepreneur businessman. He landed a job in the corporate world with Washington Football owner, Dan Snyder. He own Snyder Communications, before the Washington football team.
In November 2019 I invited Poochie, Nelvie and Prince to be my guest at the Miracle Theatre on Capitol Hill in NE DC. It was for the debut of my documentary trailer “Muhammad Ali & Me!” Along with others who were a part of the Kids In Trouble saga, he was invited to come on the stage to say a few words. My 100 years-young aunt Elaine, vocalist Robin Sugar Williams, Poochie and Prince and the late Daryl Pennington who read a Proclamation from Congressman Steny Hoyer were the highlights of the program.
Today Poochie can be found in a Virginia suburb married to his lovely wife Nelvie and a proud father and grandfather. His latest parental enterprise is his only son. Prince a student/athlete at Hayfield High School and member of the football team. He excells and plays the position of Line Backer, defensive end and defensive back like he owns them. He is also an excellent special teams player. I watched video of several of his games in 2019, he is fearless and loves to hit!
On my birthday May 21, 2019, Poochie and Nelvie invited me and Hattie to their home for a birthday lunch. We took a tour of their home and they surprised me with a new HP laptop. Talking about a happy birthday!
Prince has been recruited by Harvard, Princeton, Georgetown, Virginia Tech, Alabama among others. Did I forget to mention that he is also an excellent student?
Despite the recent convid 19 outbreak and the Virginia high school football season looking and sounding like it has been cancelled, Alabama Coach Lou Saban didn’t let any grass grow under his feet, after a 2019 visit he picked Prince as one of his top recruits for the 2021 crimson tide football season.