(pictured above: Winston Lake Family YMCA legend Mo Lucas is all smiles at the deejay table during the branch’s recent holiday party.)
Sixty years after he made his deejaying debut at the Winston Lake Family YMCA, Moses “Mo” Lucas returned to his post behind the turn table on Friday, Dec. 6.
The 86-year-old was all smiles as he spun tunes for Winston Lake seniors during their annual holiday luncheon.
“It brings back memories, baby,” he said with a wide grin.
A well known music aficionado, Lucas has more than 20,000 records in his personal collection, some of them dating back to his college days, when he first began deejaying to make ends meet.
“That’s what I went to school on, that’s the way I paid my way through school,” he explained. “Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, I used to have gigs.”
Decades ago, Lucas played at the weekly dances at Winston Lake, which was then the Patterson Avenue Y, on Thursday nights; attendees paid 25 cents admission to dance the night away. Lucas got a third of the proceeds.
“Back then, the teenagers didn’t want nothing but slow music,” he recalled. “They didn’t want nothing fast.”
Lucas, who celebrated six decades of service as a Y employee and volunteer this year, is the unofficial father of the branch.
“He is the history of this Y, because he came from Patterson Y here,” noted Branch Director Terry Matthews. “He’s just got a vast history and he just loves the people. He’s a part of the Y.”
Lucas is a constant presence at the branch, so much so that Winston Lake staffers call to check on him on the rare days he doesn’t show up.
“I come to the Y everyday,” he said. “I come down here everyday just to be around people. I’m a people person.”
Over the course of his tenure, Lucas has mentored hundreds of young and not-so-young men and women, including city native Michael Terry, who grew up in the Piedmont Park community. Lucas started a stepping group as a means to keep young people occupied and engaged in something positive. Terry was among the famed “MoLuc” steppers who performed synchronized moves at parades and events throughout the state and region.
“I was 14 when I started stepping. We didn’t have anything to do in our neighborhood, so it kind of saved me,” Terry related. “He would drive the bus through the neighborhood and all the kids that wanted to get on the bus could get on the bus – free of charge … at one point, he had over 600 kids in his programs.”
To honor Lucas’ legacy and influence, Terry, now 41, has created a documentary, “The Mo Lucas Story,” which is slated for release next spring, and The Mo Lucas Foundation, which carries on Lucas’ tradition of providing free services for youth, including a drum line, step team, rifle team and marching band. Although he didn’t grow up around Lucas, Tony Verdell, who partners with Terry on Mo Lucus Foundation projects, said he has learned a lot just from being in his presence.
“You sit and listen to him, he’ll teach you something,” the Lexington native said.
Young Foundation participants performed in the Winston-Salem Jaycees Holiday Parade on Saturday, Dec.7 in celebration of Lucas’ 60 years of service to the community.
“You can’t forget about 60 years that somebody’s done something,” Terry said. “We all know we’re ready to retire in 30 years, but to come back and give 30 more, that is really something – that is so important.”
Terry orchestrated Lucas’ return to deejaying at the luncheon, as a way of thanking the octogenarian for his many contributions. Matthews said Winston Lake was happy to oblige one of its most enthusiastic family members. Though he may not be as steady on his feet as he once was, Lucas is fond of reminding Winston Lake staffers that he’s still got it, Matthews said.
“He will on occasion kick his leg up to make sure we know he’s still able to dance and as he says, ‘cut a rug,’” Matthews related with a grin. “He’s just an amazing person. He just means a lot to the whole Y family, not just at this branch, but at all the branches. His legacy is very much one to be admired.”
Lucas took time out to enjoy a home cooked meal provided by the Winston Lake staff before returning to spin. Given his reputation, no one was surprised that Lucas was drawn to the art form; making people smile has always been one of his best talents.
“He is a true servant, not just to the YMCA but to the Lord,” Matthews said of the veteran mentor. “He is the epitome of what I think a man should be.”