Gordon Roberts was born in 1927, and he grew up in the Oakwood Avenue neighborhood. As a young man he was successful athlete, playing both basketball and football at Orange High School. He also played for the Orange Triangles, a semi-professional basketball team in the regional Negro League. The Triangles played in Orange until the mid-1960’s and are fondly remembered.
Having basketball leagues divided by race was one example of segregation that Mr., Roberts experienced. For example, African American kids went to 9th grade at the Colgate School prior to going to Orange High School, while the white kids went straight to the High School. The movie theaters required African Americans to sit in the balcony seats and there were several restaurants that refused to serve blacks.
Despite these restrictions young African Americans had plenty to do to help them stay out of trouble. The Friendship House and the Oakwood Avenue Y’s offered endless opportunities for sports, recreation and hanging out. They also offered the chance to interact with neighbors and adults. “Kids could stay at the Friendship House until it got dark, younger kids could stay at the ‘Y’ until six, and the older ones until 8, and the men’s side was open until ten or eleven, thus creating a progression, with men looking out for the older kids, the younger kids looking up to high school kids, the high school kids looking up to people like [Hall of Famer] Monte Irvin.”