Return to Longview – July 1978
In June of 1978, my daddy retired from the Air Force. We were living in Abilene on Dyess Air Force Base, and we had lived there for the last couple of years. During that time, I’d seen a few of my classmates move away due to their father or mother being transferred elsewhere, and it was usually kind of sad, especially if it were one of the more popular classmates, but for some reason, I never had given it a thought that it might happen to me…until it did. I knew we were going to move even before school had ended, and for me and four of my other classmates, it was very, very sad. I will never forget the last day of school; my entire 4th grade class was crying because five of us were moving away and more than likely we were never going to see one another again. (And to this very day, that was the last time I saw my classmates from that school year.) My best friend was a guy named Robert Duff. He was my next door neighbor, and for the last year or so, we had done everything together- We played baseball, kickball, soccer, we were in the same cub scouts group, we collected and traded comic books and baseball cards, had races on our bikes, walked to and from school together, and other things 4th grade boys did at that time. If he hadn’t moved next door to us the year before, I’d have probably wanted to move away sooner. But, as it was, I enjoyed living in Abilene for the most part, and I felt I was blessed to have a buddy like Robbie and I really got along with everyone in my class.
So, in other words, I did NOT want to move. But of course I had no say so in the matter, and the movers came and got everything less than a week after school was out. My memory is a little bit hazy as far as how long did it take to find a place to stay- we stayed at a motel in Abilene for a few days before heading east, and then there was a period of time where we were out looking for a house and staying with my grandmother. My parents have told me that it was between Longview, Marshall, and Fort Worth as to where we would wind up staying, and the favorite (for my parents anyway) was Marshall because that’s where both of them were from. My daddy told me he sent letters to the Chamber of Commerce’s for each town, and the only one to respond was Longview. (Is it any wonder Marshall has never grown beyond 20,000 people?) There was a lady who helped us find a house, helped Daddy find a job, and who basically made things as easy as possible on starting to adapt to life outside the military.
In July 1978, after looking at numerous houses, we moved to a house on Margo Street and gradually settled in within the next couple of weeks. My frame of mind during this period was basically one of sadness, because I missed my friends in Abilene, and I knew that things were going to be totally different compared to living on a base. I had been in the cub scouts and had just moved up to Webelo boy scout status, but I knew in my heart that was over with. Plus, although I didn’t really think about the friends I had when I attended East Ward two years before (such as Joanna, Jennifer, John Young, Mary, Deyavor), I knew it didn’t matter anyway because I was going to a new school right down the street from me- Jodie McClure Elementary School- and I didn’t know anybody who’d be going there. And I was only going for one year anyway because I was going to the 5th grade and I’d be going to middle school for the 6th grade next year. So the way it eventually wound up, I attended three different schools in three years. All this before I turned 11 years old.
I was into comic books and baseball cards, and in Abilene, I would trade comic books and cards with different guys, but in Longview, I didn’t see anyone who even looked like they had read a comic book or touched a baseball card. So, basically I was thinking, What am I going to do? I’m going to be miserable living here- I wish we had never moved away from Abilene! Yes, I was thinking along those lines, until one hot summer day, as I was exploring the backyard (which, in time, would be the most interesting part of the house), a little kid around my sister’s age came down the hill from next door, and asked me what my name was. I told him, and I asked him what his name was. “Tony” he replied, “Tony Lilly”. As it turned out, my sister and he were the same age and we all became friends. His family had moved next door a month before we did, so we all were basically new to the neighborhood. Then he said something which turned the tide as far as my attitude on living there went. “I have an older sister. Let me go get her so you can meet her.” He brought his sister over, and when I saw her, I instantly forgot about comic books. She introduced herself- “My name is Carla.” One thing Abilene did not have much of was black girls, and after looking at and meeting Carla, I began to wonder just what all did I miss living on a base. Carla was a little more than a year older than me, and she was going to the 6th grade. And though I would never admit it back then, from the get-go I was attracted to her, but I kept my feelings to myself seeing that I was 9 at the time and didn’t really understand why I was feeling the way I did anyway.
Carla, Tony, Poinsettia, and I played together almost every day that summer- we played kickball, rode our bikes, and explored the backyard for frogs, crickets, rolly-pollies, and anything else we could find. There was a swamp with a pond and a trail back there, so it was never boring playing out back. We also played something that not many kids play today, if at all, and that was jacks. Carla and I would almost always either sit in the driveway, or on the porch, or go inside sometimes, just to play jacks. I know that it wasn’t exactly a boy’s game, but I really enjoyed playing jacks with Carla, for obvious reasons. Carla used to wear these shorts which really were Daisy Dukes before Daisy Duke even existed, and they were a big time distraction and caused me to lose more times than not. Or maybe I won…Anyway, Carla and Tony, mostly Carla, made me forget my depression over moving, and I wound up enjoying that summer more than I expected.
I almost enjoyed it more than possibly any summer ever, more than any future summers in my life, if possible. One day, Carla suggested we go and walk down the trail and…enjoy life, so to speak. I was shocked and intrigued at the same time, and after a little prodding, I agreed and got ready to go from 9 years old to 18 years old in a matter of seconds. So we was just about to go on our way, when my mom, who was probably looking out the kitchen window anyway, called out to me and basically told us to stay in the backyard (where she could see us). That would be the first and last time Carla would suggest anything like that (I think), and we went on to playing jacks, which no longer was interesting to me.
Next: Jodie McClure and Football