Robert Holmes (RH): After we’d moved to Edison, there was a resentment that we had broken into the community. I remember a private swim club that had a policy that any person who participated in the Memorial Day parade would be allowed in the pool, even though they weren’t a member. I was in the band. I was 13. I arrived at the pool on Memorial Day having marched in the parade with my uniform still on, and they called the police. We now have managers of the pool and the police department standing there saying to my mother, who had brought me there, ”Your son cannot go into this pool.” She said, ”Why not? His classmates are in. The band members are in. Why can’t he go?”
She then stopped and said, ”Son, you see the turnstile? I want you to crawl under it and go into the pool.” I looked at my mother; I looked at the police. My mother said, ”Son, climb under the turnstile.” And I will tell you that as a 13-year-old, I was more inclined to do what my mother said than to be afraid of the police. So I did it. I heard, ”Lady, you’re gonna have to go get your son. He can’t go in that pool.”
And I remember her words distinctly to this day: ”If you want him out of the pool, you go take him out of the pool. And by the way, as you take him out, you tell him why he can’t go in the pool today.”
Those were her words to the police. No one came, no one got me out, and I stayed in the pool. I think like a lot of African American people at the time, my parents were looking ahead of their own generation to the next. So I’m not sure they were trying to break those barriers for themselves. I think they were deciding we’re gonna do something so that our children will have a better life than we have for ourselves.