“But from the standpoint of wealth, there was a lot of community, a lot of people supporting and helping one-another.”
Born in the middle of World War II, Theodore Blunt grew up in Philadelphia. North Philly, to be exact. If you know anyone from North Philly, you know the distinction must be made.
Blount was a second-generation Philadelphian. By the time he came along in 1943 he was a second-generation Philadelphia native in a city where thousands flocked from places like the Carolinas and Virginia during the great migration seeking a better life and a relief from the oppression of the Jim Crow South. That’s where his mother’s people came from, and he believes his father’s as well.
But we know that Jim Crow in the South was complimented by de-facto racial segregation in the North. And Philadelphia was no exception. In the late 1930s, with a surging influx of rural African-Americans (known as Negroes at the time) and the Great Depression making things tough even for white folk, the city put up four housing projects. Two of them were made for Negroes and two for whites.
Blunt’s family moved into the James Weldon Johnson homes on 25th and Norris, and that’s where he grew up, and Simon Gratz High School is where he was schooled.
“It was a happy time where people did not realize they were poor by definition. They were only poor because they didn’t have the dollars. But from the standpoint of wealth, there was a lot of community, a lot of people supporting and helping one-another.”
Young Teddy played several sports, and basketball wasn’t at the top of his list. He played baseball, football and a sport very rare in the 1950s.
“I was an all-city goalie, so very few schools could score on me as a goalie,” Blunt remembers. “I was sought out as a soccer player at a time when most black folks weren’t playing soccer.”
There weren’t just few black folks playing soccer, there weren’t many Americans period.
Basketball, at the time, wasn’t far ahead for much of the country. The NBA was a shell of what it is today, but young Teddy had three influences that helped him round out his roundball game.
Marques Haynes of the Harlem Globetrotters, 76ers guard Guy Rogers and a Cheyney State player named Clyde West who was one of the top collegiate scorers in the country all impressed him as a youngster in North Philly.
Blunt impressed a man named Leon Whitley, who was back home after having gone to Winston-Salem Teachers College. He called up his old coach and told him about the young ball handling ace who might help his team out.
Gaines hit the road north to Philadelphia to check out Blunt and he liked what he saw. Enough to offer him a chance at a scholarship.