Everyday I'd see all those millionaires at the club and I'd be asked about them. But I always remember what my grandmother told me and I didn't care whether they were millionaires or not. Grandma said everybody should be treated the same. And I always did that: treated everybody the same.
I got married when I was fifteen to Josephine, who I am still married to. We now have all these kids, I being the father, she the mother. But even after I was married I'd always talk a lot to my grandma, Mrs. Evie Mixom. She'd say, "What are you gonna be, Beau Jack?" (Everybody, even my grandmother, always called me Beau Jack though my right name is Sidney Walker. I don't know why, rightly. Beau Jack is just the nickname I somehow always had.)
I'd tell her, "I don't know, grandma. I want to either be a preacher or a fighter." And she said, "Whatever you be, Beau Jack, you be a good one. If a preacher, a good preacher; if a fighter, a good fighter."
I kept up fighting in those battle royals all along, and one day when she says what do I want to be, I told her, "Grandma, I wanna fight."
So she thought about that and said, "If you want to fight, all right. Way back in slavery time a great-grandfather of yours was a No. 1 man at fighting. And if you wanna be a fighter, Beau Jack, maybe you can be a No. 1 man too.
"But always keep God first. Don't think you are on your own. Make me that promise and I don't mind if you're a fighter."
But she died six months before I went north to be a fighter. So she, my Grandma Mixom, never knew what a well-liked little feller I became in sports. Now or any time I would give a lot for her to know that.
Fifty members of the golf club each put up $50 so I could be a fighter. The idea was that no manager in the New York fight business could then cheat me out of the money I earned. That's the kind of good men they were, putting up that money to help me get started and trained right.
That year, when the club closed, Mr. Milligan took me with him up to the Longmeadow Country Club, up in Springfield, Mass. He was steward up there in the summertime, just like he is steward at the club down here in the winter. He said he could get me a job days as a caddy and that would mean I could train nights.