Black History Month

I want to tell you a bit about Doug Rirosky.

He was a Black man, a good friend, and he helped me and my family while I was a graduate student at UCSB by providing high paying construction work for me on weekends. I would go to his house and we would get in his pick-up to drive to the job. We talked; or, Doug talked and I listened.

Doug told me a bit about this past while we were traveling in his old pick-up to the jobs on weekends. As a young man he faced serious challenges as a young Black competing with whites as a labourer in Chicago. To keep his job in those days Doug had to work harder and faster than his white colleagues. He could do so. He was the strongest man I ever knew. I want to tell you a few stories about Doug.

One: As my family were getting ready to leave Santa Barbara for my first full-time teaching position, Doug called me into his kitchen one night after a marvelous dinner, prepared for us by his wife, Callie. He said, “Bob. I found these old suits and thought you might be able to use them in your new job.” I remember thinking “if these were yours they will never fit me!” We were quite different in size and shape.

He presented me with two complete suits – each with two pairs of pants – and said “try them on.”

I did. They fit perfectly.

He had sized me up, ordered the suits from a local tailor, and gave them to me for wearing in my new teaching position.

I hugged him. And cried.

Black History Month.

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