Oprah: Did you wonder when your father would come get you?
Quincy: Exactly. He was the only one I could depend on. My brother didn't think Dad was coming back.
Oprah: But after your father came to get you when you were 8, he kept his promise to never leave you again.
Quincy: He did. My mother was in a sanitorium, and after we'd returned to Chicago he took us to see her a couple times. Then one day he said, "We're outta here." We packed a few things and took a Trailways bus all the way to Seattle. When we stopped in Idaho on the way, whites wouldn't serve us in their restaurants—this was in 1943—so we had to find a black home. Until then I hadn't really been around white people, but on that trip I became aware that they treated us differently.
Oprah: Before then, you hadn't perceived yourself as a colored boy in a white world?
Quincy: That was my first glimpse. When we finally arrived in Seattle, we had to take a ferry to Bremerton, then drag our suitcases three miles up a hill to Sinclair Heights, a section of homes built for blacks during World War II.
Oprah: What was your father there to do?
Quincy: Work as a carpenter in the Bremerton shipyard—like everybody else.
Oprah: And when you arrived, your father said, "Here's 50 cents to find yourself something to eat," then he went off to work.
Quincy: Yes. And you know what's funny? My brother and I, who were used to being by ourselves, felt empowered. We were going to take over this place!
Oprah: So you moved to Washington, and shortly after, your father married your stepmother, Elvera. That really shook up your world, right?
Quincy: Oh, yes. Back in Chicago, my father had done some work for the boxer Joe Louis, and after winning a fight, Louis gave Daddy his boxing gloves. I didn't care about the gloves—I wanted the BB gun of my friend Waymond, who lived three doors down from us, so I traded Daddy's gloves for the gun. After my father wore my butt out, he went to get the gloves—and he came home with Waymond's momma, Elvera! Once we moved to Washington, Elvera and her three children came to live with us.
Oprah: I read that Elvera made a big distinction between you and her own children. Did you feel motherless?
Quincy: We didn't just feel motherless—we were motherless. When Elvera came, it was like the Third Reich moved in. We had to wax floors and wash windows every day! That lady was rough. There were times when my brother and I, not really understanding what we were thinking, would try to figure out how to poison her—it was that deep.
We Hear You!