Living on 'One Tough Block' Celedonia "Cal" Jones grew up in Harlem during the 1930s. When he was 9 years old, his family moved to a new neighborhood. Being the new kid on the block wasn't easy.

Living on 'One Tough Block'

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And let's hear a memory now of a very different piece of real estate: in Harlem, during the Great Depression. The account comes from Storycorps. That's a project crisscrossing the country, recording everyday people telling their own stories. We hear them every Friday morning here on MORNING EDITION.

Celedonia Cal Jones tells this story. He came by with a friend to talk about growing up. His family lived in Harlem in the 1930s, and they moved to a different block when he was 9. He quickly learned how the new neighborhood worked.

Mr. CELEDONA CAL JONES (Former Resident, Harlem, New York): The first day that I moved into the block, and I came out to play, this fellow comes up, and he says hey, my name is Dickey, what's yours? So I said, well, I'm Cal, and I put my hand out to shake and he - bang, he hits me in the eye.

I said all I wanted to do was be friends.

He said and that's how we start friends in this block.

(Soundbite of Laughter)

That was the kind of reception that I got moving into this block.

And I remember this day, it was like 95 degrees or something. It was really hot. My brother and some neighbors that lived in the building was talking about - what we going to do today?

So he said, let's play box ball. And it was hot. So he said, it's too hot to play. And my brother said, I guess it would really be something if someone tried to run around this court in this weather.

And so this fellow, Gordon, said eh, it wouldn't bother me. My brother Joe said, I'll bet you can't run around the court 52 times. So Gordon says yes, I could. I bet a dime.

Mr. ROBERT HARRIS (Former Resident, Harlem, New York): That was big money.

Mr. JONES: That's big money. So Gordon starts running around the court, and people are beginning to come out, and they see Gordon running around. It must have been almost 100 degrees by that time. People said what is that fool running around the court for? You all better stop him. He's going to fall out. Well, Joe bet Gordon 10 cents that he can't run around the court 52 times. Say what, how many times is it now? They said 19. And this crowd is building up.

Meanwhile, he's running around the court 28, 29 times - and as he'd pass, he'd say to Joe: You better have my dime.

And I said to Joe: Joe, where are you going to get a dime to pay him?

Joe said, I don't know.

He's going 49, and he's barely making it around, so when he hit the 50th time, my brother Joe says, I don't have a dime. I'm not going to pay you, and we can fight right now.

(Soundbite of Laughter)

Mr. JONES: And he's standing up to tell Joe, I'm going to hurt you, Joseph. Come on.

(Soundbite of Laughter)

Mr. JONES: Joe was dancing around like Joe Louis. Oh that was - I mean, that's the kind of block it was. That was a tough block.

(Soundbite of Music)

INSKEEP: That's Celedonia "Cal" Jones, with his friend Robert Harris, in New York City. This interview will be archived at the Library of Congress and at the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture. You can subscribe to the Storycorps podcast by going to

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