It was Christmas Eve in 1967. William Lynn Weaver, 18 at the time, was walking in Mechanicsville, the neighborhood he grew up in in Knoxville, Tenn., when he saw a boy gliding down the street on a bicycle.
"Boy, that looks like my brother's bike," he mused.
When he got home, he asked his younger brother Wayne where that bicycle was. "It was down on the steps," he replied. But it wasn't.
The Weaver brothers tracked down where the boy lived — an unlit shack in an alley — and planned to confront him.
"Now, my brother and I, we're going to beat this boy, but my father was there and he said, 'Just shut up and let me talk,' " Weaver tells StoryCorps.
An elderly man with a cane answered their knock on the door. The home appeared cold and dark, and he had a single candle for light. His grandson, Weaver learned, was the boy who had stolen the bike.
"He was the same age as my brother, about 10 years old," Weaver says. "The little boy starts crying and he says, 'I just wanted something for Christmas.' "
They took the bike and walked home.
"My father tells my mother and she doesn't say anything," Weaver says. "She just starts cutting the turkey in half and all the fixings. She started packing it up. My father went to the coal yard and got a big bag of coal. And then he told my brother, he said, 'You've got another bike, don't you?' My brother said 'Yeah.' "
And the three returned to the shack in the alley, this time with food, some coal to provide heat and the bike.
"The little boy is just crying, but the thing that moved me the most was the old man. My father gave him $20, which was a huge deal back then, and said, 'Merry Christmas.' "
The man said thank you and broke down in tears, Weaver says.
"My father was a chauffeur, my mother was a domestic, so we didn't have a lot of stuff. And that Christmas, I don't even remember what gift I got, but I do know that made me feel better than any Christmas I've ever had."
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jud Esty-Kendall.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Each Friday, StoryCorps brings us the voices of people around the country. And listeners might recognize this one. It comes from Dr. William Lynn Weaver. Earlier this year, he spoke about being one of the black students who integrated his high school in Knoxville, Tenn., back in 1964. This morning, he remembers a Christmas he spent with his family when he was 18 years old in Mechanicsville, the Knoxville neighborhood where he grew up.
WILLIAM LYNN WEAVER: I remember walking up the street Christmas Eve. And I see this kid riding down the street on their bicycle. And I said, boy, that looks like my brother's bike. I get to the house. I say, Wayne (ph), where's your bike? And he said, it was down on the steps. I said, no, it's not. It's gone. It's a small neighborhood, so we find out where the kid lives who has the bike. And it's a shack in a alley. Now, my brother and I, we going to beat this boy, but my father was there. He said, just shut up and let me talk.
So we knock on the door, and this old black guy comes on a cane. The house is cold - only light he had was a candle. It was his grandson who had stolen the bike. So he calls him out. He was the same age as my brother, about 10 years old. Little boy starts crying and he says, I just wanted something for Christmas. So we get the bike and we leave. We go back to my house. My father tells my mother, and she doesn't say anything. She just starts cutting the turkey in half and all the fixings. She started packing it up. And my father went to the coal yard and got a big bag of coal. And then he told my brother - he said, you got another bike, don't you? Brother said, yeah.
So we went back with food, coal - so they'd have some heat - and the bike. Little boy just crying. But the thing that moved me the most was the old man. My father gave him $20, which was a huge deal back then, and said Merry Christmas. He said, thank you - then just broke down in tears. My father was a chauffeur. My mother was a domestic. So we didn't have a lot of stuff. And that Christmas, I don't even remember what gift I got. But I do know that made me feel better than any Christmas I've ever had.
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GREENE: Dr. William Lynn Weaver remembering Christmas with his family 50 years ago. His interview will be archived in The American Folklife Center and at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.