Albert Jr. will always be our ‘Sonny Boy’

Published 12:32 pm Friday, November 22, 2019

When I was growing up here, whole families were friends. Not just the children, but their families were friends. Such was the case with ‘Sonny Boy.’

He was the first boy following a bevy of older sisters who had friends who treated him the same way that they did. He was everybody’s little brother. And though he was a “Jr.” — Mr. Albert Young’s first boy — we all knew him as “Sonny Boy” and said so all his life.

I last spoke with him at length at his sister’s funeral just three years ago. Lois Marie was his sibling closest in age to me.

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We played together, rode our trikes, slept over at each other’s house. And when my mother was in the hospital in 1968, their mother, “Miss Hilda,” one of her closest, dearest friends, came to Mercy Hospital to spend the night with her and me. My mother died that morning.

For all the years before then, we were friends. Insufferably older, we, “the women,” wrought our privileges over him. In a group near evenly divided, he was the first boy — and paid the price. Irrepressible and determined, he became my good friend like his sisters.

Albert Young Jr. was Mr. Albert Young’s boy, the house painter’s son. Our whole neighborhood knew them, and their house was ours. I’m sure his parents were the first to call him “Sonny Boy.” And it stuck and stayed. I suspect many never knew his real name, Albert Jr. But they all knew “Sonny Boy.”

I can still see his mother and my own, sitting in the swing on the front porch, relentlessly scatting away their children so they could have some “private” time. And talk.

As time went on, we all dispersed to school, careers, and marriages. Lois Marie went and lived abroad. Others were still growing.

Sonny Boy went to Gary, Ind., the fabled city of “The Music Man” — “not Louisiana, Paris, France, New York or Rome” — but Gary, Ind., where he hitched his rising star to an erupting black electorate in the person of Mayor Richard Hatcher, one of the first two elected black mayors of large cities in America.

He maintained influence there for years.

I knew he came to Chicago often, and though we never saw each other there, I knew we shared a history of small-town-born black children who were secretly and wildly urban. Yet both of us came home.

And I knew nearly all his siblings, with names now bittersweet to call, Willie Bell and Mamie Sue, Lois Marie, “Little” Hilda, Albert Ann and “Baby Kit.” And of their brothers, Sonny Boy.

I loved their house, in a “valley” I thought, on a corner just off Grove Street.

I loved its easy access, the noise and numbers, and their mother’s incredibly good food.

We grew up and old together.

But to all of us who knew him and who took him to his rest Friday, he’ll always be just ‘Sonny Boy.’

Our own and only one.


Yolanda Robbins is a community columnist for The Vicksburg Post.