Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Episode 16: 1979: A Part of History and Not Even Realizing It

Lobos, Blue Devils, and Mustangs presents: Episode 16

1979: A Part of History and Not Even Realizing It

In 1970, Longview ISD schools were one of the last in the state to integrate.  It was a trying and difficult process, and there were many on both sides who did not embrace the change. In the summer of 1970, some of the school buses at the bus barn were dynamited and set on fire as a response to the upcoming busing of students to different schools in order to “integrate” them. Some schools, mostly black, were closed to set up the integration process. Womack High School, Janie Daniels Northside Elementary School, and Rollins Elementary School were closed down. The black middle school became Hudson Pep Elementary. Black principals, teachers, and coaches at these schools were relocated and transferred to other schools. And of course, students, mainly black students, had to be shifted to different schools in order to “integrate” them.

I put the term “integrate” in quotes on purpose because the term means to bring (people or groups with particular characteristics or needs) into equal participation in or membership of a social group or institution.  Whether many of us choose to admit or realize it or not, this actually did not happen for a long time. Sure, Longview schools now had a mixture of black and white kids at every school within the district, but to say that everyone was treated equally and the same would be a joke. There were many administrators and teachers whom, although they now had to educate black students as well as white students, still felt and believed in racism and were prejudiced toward their black students. Many black students during this time felt ostracized by their white peers and many were believed to be trouble-makers just because they were black. There were many who weren’t even given the same opportunities as some of their classmates because “they weren’t smart enough” or “they were a behavior issue” or anything else to take the place of “because you’re black and I don’t like you”. I’ve spoken to relatives, friends, and co-workers who attended Longview High School during the early 70s and who also attended Longview schools when it was still segregated.  Many of them wish integration HADN’T taken place. And they were black. They felt they were treated way better in their black schools than they were when they started going to integrated schools. Many avenues which would have been open to them had they remained at Womack or Hudson were closed to them once they started attending Longview High School and Foster Middle School. Again, whether we choose to admit it or not, everybody didn’t receive a fair and equal education during that time because of the circumstances and people involved in the integration process. And it’s a shame.

Where am I going with all this and what does all this have to do with me and my classmates? I’ve earlier said that when I was in the first grade (1974-75), I attended East Ward Elementary (now Everhart). My family lived on E. Young Street at the time. I was only very vaguely aware that my next door neighbor who was the same age as me and in the same grade had to get up early in the morning to ride the bus to a different school called Mozelle Johnston Elementary. And I had absolutely no idea that I was supposed to attend the same school. But somehow, someway, my momma got some strings pulled and I was able to stay at East Ward. East Ward was literally right around the corner from my house; Mozelle might as well have been in a different town as far north as it was- actually it was outside the Longview city limits. I was able to avoid attending Mozelle that year, but ironically five years later, I was not able to do the same with the middle school right next door to Mozelle.

From 1974 to 1979, I was not aware of how many of my classmates had to attend elementary schools which were way across town or nowhere near their home, when there were one or two (and sometimes more) elementary schools that were closer. I was also not aware that many of these classmates who had to do this were black. How can one live on 15th St. and have to attend South Ward or Bramlette, when GK Foster and East Ward were right there? How can one live on Young Street and have to go to Mozelle or Valley View, both of which were on the north side of town? How can students who lived across the river in Lakeport be sent to Bramlette, when Jodie McClure was closer? And how can one say this is beneficial for our students/children when they are probably going somewhere where they are not totally accepted? To be sure, the 1970s were a traumatic time for most black students (and parents) in Longview because many adjustments had to be made just so your child got a fair education (or so you hoped or thought). It was also traumatic to some white students and their parents who weren’t used to being around black people period.  And this was a result of the integration process which started in 1970.

In 1979, the integration process was still taking place and causing some difficulties for some of us, including myself. Before school ended, representatives from Foster came to Jodie McClure and spoke to us 5th graders about attending Foster next year. We filled out schedules and various other forms, and we all basically assumed we’d all be attending Foster. Nobody from Forest Park or Judson came to our school. So, when the summer ended and it was time to go to registration, my momma took me to Foster to get registered.

I will never forget Mr. Newhouse, who either was the principal there or one of the assistant principals, looking for my name and saying, “He’s not listed here. Are you sure he’s supposed to attend school here?” My momma looked like she couldn’t believe this was happening, and told him yes. Then he asked where did we live, and she told him, and he got a real uncomfortable look on his face and said, “I think he’s supposed to go to Judson.” Now, honestly I had never heard of Judson Middle School until I had met Keith Taylor over the summer and he had told me that was the school he was going to. (Even though he lived out there in Fox Hill on the southwest side of town- go figure.) I had absolutely no idea where Judson was, but obviously my momma did, for she then said, “We’re going to the hill and see about this.” Momma was not exactly happy about this- in fact, she was about as angry as I’ve seen her up to that point. She went to the ESC building when it was on Court Street and sitting on a large hill, and while I sat in the car, argued futilely for my right to go to Foster. At that moment I had somewhat mixed feelings about the whole situation- I had heard that Foster was a tough school filled with bullies and kids who broke into your lockers and stole your stuff, but as I would later learn the hard way, all middle schools were like that. Keith had made Judson sound like it was a great school without all that, but seriously, how did he know that?

When Momma finally came out, she started driving northward. We got on Judson Road and I wondered just where in the world were we going? We never went down Judson Road for anything back then, and Momma was like, “You’re probably going to have to go to Judson. Let’s go and see what it looks like and the atmosphere.” At first, I was like, “Ok”, but then as we kept going on and on and on down Judson Road, I was like, “Where is this place?” Then we passed the city limits sign and I was thinking I didn’t want to go to Judson anymore; I’d take my chances with the bullies at Foster.  By the time we arrived at Judson, I felt like we had driven to Shreveport and back. It seemed as though we were not only in a different town, but a different state as well. We got out and went into the school cafeteria where registration was still taking place and I got to meet the principal, Mr. Brent Taylor, the voice of the Longview Lobos. He seemed really nice and his assistant principal, Mr. Gregory, also introduced himself and he struck me as the type of principal who did all the dirty work, paddling kids and whatnot, but really and truly, they both seemed friendly enough. I got my schedule and saw some classes I had not signed up for, such as Choir, “Advanced Math” and “Advanced English”, and I knew that those two classes were more than likely hard classes that I probably wouldn’t like.

After all that, Momma and I left, and on the way back home, during the next 20-30 minutes, I was at the first major crossroads of my life and I had to make a decision. Momma said that I didn’t have to go to Judson if I didn’t want to, and that I could go to Foster- but the only way I could attend Foster was to use my grandparents’ address (who were living in Longview at the time and whose home was in Foster’s so-called district) as my permanent address. Unfortunately, the way Momma worded it made it seem that I would have to live with my grandparents, and I did not want to do that. Rather than explaining what she actually meant (just using their address, not living with them), she wanted me to make a decision right then and there, and so I said that I would go to Judson.

For the next three years, I would develop a love-hate relationship with Judson; My 6th grade year wasn’t too bad, but my 7th grade year was pure hell, and my 8th grade year was somewhere in between. Sometimes I wish I had went to Foster. Or even Forest Park, which I knew nothing of this school until we played them in football. In fact, after the first couple weeks of school, in which my locker got broken into twice, somebody stole my PE shorts and t-shirt, I had classes with nothing but white kids who I didn’t know, and in which some 7th and 8th graders had called me names I had never heard of, I was wishing I was at Foster, thinking it couldn’t be no worse than this, even if had to and could move in my grandparents.  However, I had made my choice and was stuck with it.

In many ways, looking back on this period in my life, the choice was made for me. In 1979, after almost 10 years, integration was still going on, and my classmates and I were a part of that. Why would you send black kids who live out there near I-20 to Judson? Why would you send those who lived across the river to Forest Park? And the only way to get there is basically riding the school bus, which was 35-40% of the hell I experienced. It was all done in the name of integration. I don’t recall seeing any white kids who lived on the northside being bussed to attend Foster. And for the most part, the white kids usually went to the school which was closest to them. One notable exception were those white kids who attended Hudson PEP and who lived on the northside, because Hudson PEP was the elementary school for exemplary students.  But other than that, black students were the ones who had to be bussed and sent to different schools not necessarily around the corner.

Did integration help or hurt? We may never really know the answer to that question, unless we look at it individually for each person. In some circumstances, it helped, in some, it didn’t. I can’t say I totally enjoyed my three years at Judson, because I didn’t. A lot of times I wished I was somewhere else. However, not all of it was bad. I made some friends which have lasted to this very day. I got to do and take part in some things in which I might not have had a chance to do anywhere else. Plus, I did accomplish some of my goals I had back then. So I will end this chapter by saying this, Integration should serve to create fellowship among all the different races and help and create equal opportunities for all those involved- When integration does more to hurt than help, then you’ve got a problem.

Please feel free to comment below and share some of your experiences of that particular time!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Episode 15: Longview Grows 1976-1980

Lobos, Blue Devils, and Mustangs presents:
Episode 15
Longview Grows, 1976-1980


The city of Longview went through some MAJOR changes in the late 1970s. The exodus north from the middle of town was beginning to take place. Everything went from being situated in downtown, along Mobberly and High Streets, and along Highway 80/Marshall Avenue to Judson Road, McCann Road, and the Loop. When we lived on Young Street, we very seldom went on the northside of Longview, because there wasn’t all that much on the northside. (At least, that’s what we thought.) Everything was on the southside, or south of Marshall Avenue. Longview’s population would go from 40,000 (est.) in 1960 to approximately 45,000 in 1970 to 62,000 in 1980. Let’s look at some of the changes which occurred in Longview at this time.

1. Longview High School moves from downtown on Whaley Street to the Loop in the Fall of 1976.

I cannot imagine LHS still being in downtown today; that would probably be a mess right now. So, this was a move which needed to be made at the time. The school was built basically near the intersection of the Loop and Airline Road, which, back then, Airline was basically a two-lane barely-paved road, and the Loop was being widened from two lanes to four lanes in certain spots. Hawkins Parkway didn’t exist back then. Airline just curved around a couple times before going north, so there was plenty of space for LHS to grow and expand in the future. At the time it was built, only the main building was in place. The rest wouldn’t come until later.

2. The Longview Mall opens in 1978 on McCann Road and the Loop.

Unknown fact: The original spot considered for the Longview Mall was the corner of Eastman Road and Whaley Street, north of the railroad track, across from where UPS is today. Again, I don’t know how well that would have worked- obviously, there was more space in its current location, but those of us who lived on the southside at the time wanted the mall built there off of Eastman Road. If the mall had actually been built right there, I doubt it would have lasted too long at that location, and ultimately, it probably would’ve moved further north in the long run anyway. The opening of the mall was the beginning of the end of Longview’s downtown being a major shopping area. JC Penney’s, Dillards’, Sears, and Bealls would move into the mall from the start, and with the exception of Bealls, the stores are still major parts of the mall to this day. Chick-Fil-A is the only restaurant which is still in the mall and which has been there from the beginning. The building and opening of the mall would mark the beginning of the Loop becoming a major source of shopping centers, restaurants, and major businesses. And this would lead to more people moving into northern Longview.

3. Regional Hospital is built on the corner of North 4th Street and Hollybrook Drive.

Longview for a long time only had one major hospital, that being Good Shepherd, so when Regional Hospital was built, due to the growth of the city, it was badly needed.

4. A Target store is built across from the mall on the Loop.

After the high school and mall was built, different businesses started appearing on the Loop in between Judson Road and McCann Road. Businesses such as Target, Hobby Lobby, Long John Silver’s, Burger King, Hastings, Barron’s Book Store, and Albertson’s started making their marks at this time. Also, a shopping center consisting of Brookshire’s and Howard’s (Gibson’s) opened on Judson Road right off the Loop.

5. Different streets are widened, lengthened, built, or had a name change, bringing about even more growth.

a. Judson Road was widened from a 2-lane road to a 4-lane road in 1978-79.
b. 16th Street (MLK Jr. Blvd) was widened from 2 lanes to 4 lanes.
c. Birdsong Street was lengthened from High Street out to FM 1845 (Loop 281).
d. US Highway 259 became Texas 31 from Interstate 20 to South Street, connecting with Spur 63 and ending at Highway 80. Instead of going through town down Highway 80 which it did in the 1970s, US Highway 259 was rerouted coming out of Kilgore down Interstate 20 and connecting to Eastman Road heading north.
e. FM 1845 became South Loop 281.
f. Gilmer Road became a major spot for businesses, apartments, and restaurants.
g. Fairmont Street is lengthened from McCann Road all the way to the Loop.
h. Bill Owens Parkway is lengthened from the Loop to Highway 80.
i. North 4th Street is lengthened from Hollybrook Drive to the Loop (and later all the way to Eastman Road).
j. Whaley Street is lengthened from downtown all the way to Eastman Road.

6. Maude Cobb Convention Center’s groundbreaking ceremony takes place on September 7, 1982 and opens January 20, 1984 after much controversy of where to build it. 

Originally it was to be built on (or in) the southside of Longview in an area where a lot of houses would’ve been torn down, but the majority of the citizens of Longview voted against that idea, so it was built instead right next to the fairgrounds, and it has been there ever since.

7. There were some businesses on the northside, however, which had been there for a long while:

1. There were at least three Brookshire’s grocery stores on the northside: There was one located on Judson Road, at the corner of Judson and Johnston Street. There was another one on McCann Road in the Brookwood Village Shopping Center. And there was one on Pine Tree Road off of the Loop.
2. The Kroger’s on Highway 80 was built and opened in the early 1970s, after the Spur was built from McCann Road to South Street.
3. A second Bodacious Barbecue opened on North 4th Street in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
4. A Buddies/Winn Dixie opened on the corner of Eastman Road and Alpine Road.
5. Walmart was on Judson Road also, about a block from Brookshire’s.
6. A K-Mart was built on the corner of McCann Road and Glencrest Lane.
7. There were, of course, Dairy Queens everywhere, on McCann Road, Alpine Road, Highway 80 in Pine Tree, and North Eastman Road to name a few. However, Longview would not get their 2nd McDonald’s until the 1980s, when one was built on the Loop next to the mall.

8. Finally, many manufacturing industries grew and prospered during this time, marking a period of high employment and employment opportunities abound. 

Eastman Kodak was probably the top paying job available during this period, but there were other plants either continuing their runs of success or making a name for themselves: Stroh’s, Marathon LeTourneau, Trailmobile, Trinity, Fleetwood, Stemco, Data Com, and LeBus.
These are probably just a few of the changes Longview went through in the 1970s into the early 1980s. There were probably many more around this time, but these are the ones I can recall. Next, I will begin my look back at the Judson Middle School years, and why did I have to go there in the first place?

Texas Eastman

Longview from the County Fairgrounds

North Longview from Lobo Stadium

Monday, March 5, 2018

Jodie McClure Memories Episode 14- The Home Stretch

Jodie McClure Memories- The Home Stretch

Cafeteria Food

School cafeteria food sucks today in most places. Today, kids (and teachers) are fed pre-processed food that has to be warmed up and which tastes like cardboard. No salt, no seasoning, nothing fried; just what they call “healthy” food. Bottom line, it’s terrible now. Back then, the highlight of the day was eating in the school cafeteria. Jodie McClure had one of the better ones, and the workers sincerely cared about what they feeding us. Mrs. Owens, my classmate Renee’s mother, worked at Jodie McClure back then in the cafeteria, and she helped put out some really good food. My sister and I normally took our lunches to school, but on certain days, we almost would beg our mom to let us not take our lunches and eat whatever was on the menu that particular day. Especially on Wednesdays and Fridays. Wednesdays meant fried chicken, hot rolls, mashed potatoes and gravy, peas, and a decent desert. We’re not talking no generic, tasteless crap; we’re talking real food which was fried and/or baked with care. The chicken and mashed potatoes tasted really good, and the rolls were probably the best rolls I’d ever ate. In fact, since the 5th graders always ate last, if there were any rolls leftover at the end of the lunch period, we’d just about run back to the line just to get them when it was announced that there were some left. Even if I’d brought my lunch that day, I’d still jump in the line for the leftover rolls. They were that good.

Fridays was hamburgers and fries day. Plus, one of the most underrated pieces of chocolate cake was usually served that day. Hamburgers were my favorite food back then, so as long as it was edible and tasted good, I would eat it. It did not taste bad at all, and it tasted like a hamburger, not like something totally different (like mackerel and brown gravy- brother/sister private joke). One thing me and the guys would do back then with our burgers would be to put our french fries on our burgers along with the lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and onions. It was delicious. Speaking of delicious, the chocolate cake had a taste that I’ve never experienced before or since. Sometimes there’d be slices of chocolate cake left over at the end of the day, and I’d run and grab two or three of those, too. They tasted better than Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker any day. I truly miss just how good they were.

Return to East Ward

For one day (actually one evening), I got to return to the school I attended in the 1st and 2nd grades. On Halloween night, East Ward Elementary held a Halloween carnival not only for their students, but for students from other elementary schools as well. At least, I guess that was what they did; maybe I was an exception since I used to go there. Anyway, I put on my Batman costume that I literally had begged for the last couple of years after being a devil and a clown the previous Halloweens. I don’t remember what costume my sister had on, but she went along, too. When we arrived, everything was situated in the cafeteria; they had games, bobbing for apples, and a “haunted house”, which was the school stage. I saw and (barely) recognized a few of my classmates, who I hadn’t seen since we were all in the 2nd grade, and because of that length of time, we kinda had a hard time talking to one another. It wasn’t hard to talk to Jennifer; I talked to her mostly- but Deyavor, and Joanna, and JohnYoung, and the rest, I just said “hi” and that was it. I did have fun, and for one night, I missed East Ward Elementary.

Getting Ready for Middle School

One day while we were sitting in Mr. Taylor’s science class learning about atoms or something, Mr. Taylor told us he was going to have a middle school student come and talk to us about what to expect in middle school. He was going to be a former Jodie McClure student of course, one of Mr. Taylor’s favorites, and he was coming in to put some fear in us, I guess. I had no idea who the student was going to be, because this was my first year at McClure and I didn’t know any of the older kids who had attended Jodie McClure before I came, except for Micheal and Mark Simmons, Willie Simmons’ twin brothers, who stayed down the street from me. My classmates had a feeling of who was coming to speak to us since they knew him, and so when he showed up the next day, they weren’t too surprised.
Of all people, it was Tommy Davis.
I wouldn’t get to know Tommy until a year later, but I remember clearly that it was him who came and spoke to us that day. Why he wasn’t in school that day didn’t occur to any of us back then, and we were more interested in what he was telling us anyway. Looking back, there are two things which come to my mind now- First, he was going to Foster at the time- That would change less than a year later for a bunch of us sadly- Second, his sister, Nancy, was and is my classmate, but she wasn’t attending Jodie McClure at this time- she obviously was at Hudson Pep. I don’t know if Tommy had ever attended Hudson Pep, but I know he went to Jodie McClure. Anyway, Tommy was telling us about all the homework he had every night, how you had to get to your classes before the bell rang or you’d get a tardy (first time ever hearing that term), how you had seven classes everyday, how you had lockers that kids would break into and steal your stuff, how lunch only lasted like 30-35 minutes, how much bigger Foster was compared to Jodie McClure, and how the bigger kids would bully you, and so forth and so on. After hearing all that, I was wishing I could stay at Jodie McClure another two or three years.
Anyway, later on, somewhere in April of 1979, some representatives came to the school to visit with us fifth-graders. Both Miss Stone’s class and Mr. Taylor’s class met in the school cafeteria with these people, who said they were from Foster Middle School. They wanted us to fill out some sheets based on what we were going to be taking in the 6th grade. I remember putting down all regular classes, we had to have a PE class, and a music class. I put down choir because all they had was choir, band, and strings to choose from, and my current experience with the piano was souring me on all musical instruments. And although I signed up for regular math and English, I got changed to Advanced Math and Advanced English. Either that was my mom’s doing or they looked at my grades and decided that I should be taking those classes instead. I didn’t care one way or the other at the time, but later on, that would change. I looked forward to going to yet another school, my 5th in the last 6 years, and yes, that statement was pure sarcasm, but little did I know I was in for a sad surprise with that as well come that August.

PE Blues

PE at Jodie McClure was mostly fun, but there were a few dark moments, too. PE usually occurred after lunch at around 1:30 every day. We used to start off PE by doing exercises, jumping jacks and all that, before we would go run, play football, kickball, or basketball. Our coach was named Coach Stroud, and if you were to look up the word “redneck” in the dictionary, you’d see a picture of him with the cherry-red nose and with some tobacco in his mouth. I don’t want to say he was racist, but I don’t think he liked black kids all that much, not unless they were great-to-excellent athletes, and even then, he basically just tolerated even them. I got off to a poor start with him at the beginning of the school year when he decided that I wasn’t doing my exercises right and so he decided to hit me with his paddle (board). I wasn’t the only one who got hit, but I’d imagine the rest were used to him and his ways; I wasn’t. So I was mad. This happened somewhere around the first few weeks of school, but by the time school had ended that day, I’d forgot all about it and I never did tell my parents about that. Later on, Coach Stroud was timing us in the 40 and 600, and seeing how many sit-ups, push-ups, and pull-ups we could do, basically just doing track stuff, and he said, “Anybody who walks on any of the runs will get busted (paddled)!” I took him literally, figuratively, seriously, and whatever other adverb one can think of, and ran my butt off. I had to run the 600 three times in one day, and I ran it each time without walking not once. And coming in first each time. Then I noticed that some of my classmates were walking, in the areas where Coach Stroud couldn’t see them. And here I was running like a fool. This particular day, though, I would pay dearly for it.

When I got done, I sat on the ground totally spent. It was like I couldn’t get my breath. Plus I was more thirsty than I’d ever been. We went inside and I went straight to the water fountain and I just about drank all the water out the water fountain. And I still was thirsty! And I still was breathing hard like there was absolutely no oxygen in the air. Daphne asked me if I was allright, and I told her I’d be OK, but I felt absolutely drained. I had never felt like that before, and when I went to sit at my desk, I sat there hot and feeling like I wanted to throw up. Miss Stone let me go to the restroom, but before I went, I stopped at the water fountain and slurped down some more water, but all it did was make me feel worse than ever. I went into the restroom and proceeded to throw up everything. Somebody went and told Miss Stone I was throwing up, she had my mom called, and my momma came and got me early from school. Usually I would’ve felt better by the following day, but for the first time, I didn’t. The next day, I did something I had not done since I was in kindergarten: I was absent from school. I had never missed a minute of school from the second semester of my kindergarten year all the way up to the fifth grade- I’d had bad colds and still went to school, or been sick only for a little while, but not enough to stop me from going to school. But this was the first time I could not and did not overcome what was wrong with me. I just kept throwing up, I couldn’t keep anything down, and pretty soon I was dry heaving non-stop. Obviously I had gotten extremely dehydrated, and it took me a while to recover.

When I got well, I was back running and doing everything everybody else was doing, only this time, I paced myself and made sure I had enough liquids in me. We played basketball a couple of times, but I had no idea what I doing (it was the first time I had ever played basketball). We also played kickball, and we usually played Mr. Taylor’s class, but unlike football, we probably came out even as far as wins were concerned. We had people like Robert Taylor, Charlie Templeton, Orlando, Marion, and Roy who could kick the ball high and far, but as for myself, everytime I tried to kill the ball, I’d wind up kicking it straight up in the air, it would usually get caught by somebody, and I’d be extremely pissed off.

A few times though, I did really good. Once, we had one of those days where everyone on our team was kicking the ball far and over everyone’s heads, and Mr. Taylor’s class couldn’t get any of us out. Our stronger kickers were kicking for some of our weaker kickers, but I went up there and kicked for myself. And for the first time, I kicked a ball that went over everyone’s head and way out into the outfield. I was so stunned that I only got to first place because I stood there and admired the kick instead of taking off running. After I scored, a couple of the girls wanted me to kick for them, and I didn’t let them down, I kicked the ball far both times. I thought that this would be the start of something great, but the next day, I kicked another pop-fly and got out.

Another time, I came up again and decided I was going to kick it far or else. Else was kicking it hard…right to the pitcher. The pitcher was Billy Craig, one of my least favorite people at the time, and he got the ball and ran toward me as I ran to first. I knew and could see from the look in Craig’s eyes that he wanted to nail me with the ball, preferably in the head or thereabouts, and so I timed it just right: Just as he threw the ball, I hit the ground (dove on my stomach), and the ball went flying over me into the next county. Billy cussed and ran after the ball, while I went tearing around 1st and 2nd base. When I got to 3rd, he still hadn’t retrieved the ball, so I headed home. He got and threw the ball to Tracy George, who threw the ball at me just as I slid into homeplate. Though the ball hit me in the head, I was safe, and my class celebrated like I’d won the Super Bowl.

Another time I made three straight outs- I was playing third base, and the first kicker up kicked a ball up in the air on the other side of 3rd base. I ran and caught it, and that was the first out. The next kicker kicked one in between 2nd and 3rd base. The shortstop tried to get it, and it went over his head…and right into my hands. I had to slide to my knees to make the catch. That was two. The next kicker came up and kicked one up in the air on the 3rd base side again, and this time I had to run down the line and make a running catch. I’ve never forgotten that because everyone was impressed.

We had more athletes in our class than Mr. Taylor’s class, and we’d try to do incredible things like double plays. If I played first base and somebody was on first, I’d cheat a little more toward 2nd base, hoping the ball would be kicked straight to me, and I’d tag the person running to 2nd base, then run to first base and tag it. A one-man double play. I did that a few times until I got someone hurt (Bridget Wallace was running to 2nd one time, and I got the ball and tagged her a little too hard and wound up knocking her down- I forgot about the person running to first and checked on Bridget, apologizing the entire time while asking if she was allright.), then I stopped trying to do it. We’d also try to make diving catches, leaping catches, throw the ball behind our backs, run without stopping, and stuff like that, which probably caused us to lose more games than we should have.

Final Farewell

The last days of school at Jodie McClure were spent having our class picnics and attending award ceremonies. I received three or four awards that year for different things, but the one thing I remember about the award ceremony was that Momma had me wearing these hideous blue and yellow checkered pants which looked way more ridiculous than anything a circus clown would ever wear at the top of his game. It was horrible, and I was smiling like I was styling. Awful.

During our class picnic, me, Rhonda, Chris Edwards, Tammy Allen, and another student were sitting with Miss Stone. The picnic was held outside on the eastern side of the school, and the rest of the class were in different spots- I heard that some of them were sitting (hiding) in the bushes and not doing any eating. However, those of us who were sitting with Miss Stone got to know her a little more better (we learned she was the daughter of the Chief of Police), and she got to know us a little better, too. I’ve mentioned before that although she was white, the black kids adored her. She treated everyone the same, and didn’t judge us or make assumptions based on race or skin-color. We had some teachers (and a coach) at Jodie McClure who did just that. However, Miss Stone did not have a racist bone in her body, and she was probably the nicest teacher I’ve ever had. And she knew her subjects. We had her for spelling and reading mostly, and I don’t think it’s no accident that my sister and I became really good spellers because we both had Miss Stone for our 5th grade teacher. My class was her first ever class, and she told us she would never forget us.

She didn’t lie. Seven years later in May 1986, I went to go see my favorite teacher of all time and give her my graduation invitation and to thank her for helping make my 5th grade year as enjoyable for a new student as it could be. She was still in the same classroom and when I came in there, she knew exactly who I was without me telling her. She gave me a hug and told me how proud she was of me, and other than my parents saying it, her saying it meant more to me than she or anyone else would ever know.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Jodie McClure Memories Episode 13: Memorable Field Trips

Continuing the Jodie McClure Elementary memories of 1978-79:

Episode 13
Memorable Field Trips

Another memory I have of my time at Jodie McClure are the field trips we used to take to different places. We went to places that they wouldn’t even dare think about taking elementary school kids today. In fact, if I wanted to discuss it at length, it’s a sad commentary of how low discipline and accountability has fell within our schools today, and it also shows how my generation was raised to respect our elders, parents, teachers, etc., and how today’s generation of kids and their parents have not made that a priority. But that’s a soap box for another time. Back when I was in elementary school, we got to go on plenty of field trips to many different places. I can remember when I lived in Abilene, we went to the base airport control tower and got to see not only an incredible view of the base itself, but also what those who worked in the tower did and what their jobs were. It was very interesting to say the very least- especially having to climb what felt like ten stories of stairs and then climbing a real long ladder to reach the top. We got to see a few of the jets take off, and that was really cool. Of course, we also went to places such as the zoo and the city museum, but going to the base tower was probably the best trip of all at that time.

We also had our share of interesting field trips when I was at Jodie McClure. We attended a symphony at T.G. Fields Auditorium, and I also remember going to a magic show which I believe was also held at T.G. Fields also. (However, it might have been held at the school in the cafeteria. I don’t really remember.) I look back on those times and I don’t think the entire school went at one time; I think it was just the 4th and 5th grades on certain days and K-3rd grades on other days and/or times. I’m pretty sure it was done this way back then because Longview had around 8 or 9 elementary schools at the time (Let’s see: Jodie McClure, South Ward, Pinewood Park, Ware, East Ward, GK Foster, Bramlette, Valley View, Mozelle), and I’m sure that each school basically was K-5th grade back then, so each school sent the assigned grade level students on the field trips. I can remember seeing a lot of kids I didn’t know or recognize on these field trips from other schools who were to become my future classmates at Judson and LHS. I couldn’t tell which kids came from East Ward, but I’m sure all of my old friends from the 1st and 2nd grades were there also. I can also remember that for the most part things were organized very well and that there weren’t many issues of kids acting stupid or doing stupid things. The teachers from all the schools really kept things under control back then.

One day, we went on a career-based field trip. This meant we went to places where we might want to work at, or become someday. We went to the fire station (the one which used to be on Mobberly), and to Good Shepherd Hospital.  No, we didn’t go into any patients’ rooms thankfully; we went to nurses’ stations and the cafeteria and laundry room- which were safe for kids. We walked and mainly looked around, and we knew not to touch anything, so there weren’t any problems. But there were two other places we went to that day which not only brought back some interesting memories, but also let me see the total irony in it today as I write these words.

First, we went to McDonald’s, of all places. Back then, the only McDonald’s in Longview was on Highway 80/ Marshall Avenue, and it was, by far, the most popular hamburger restaurant in the town, with the possible exception of Dairy Queen. (There were Dairy Queens all over the place back then.) We didn’t go there to buy anything; we went there to see how they make the hamburgers, fries, etc. I don’t think any of us had any money on us anyway, but that didn’t stop us from being really, really hungry. As we watched the cooks fry the burgers, half of us had already decided this was where we wanted to work someday. And they wouldn’t even have to pay us; just give us all the cheeseburgers, Big Macs, and fries we wanted. I’m sure Ronald McDonald or whoever ran McDonald’s back then would have said, “Cool!!” I look back on that now and wonder just how much those cooks were being paid back then. The minimum wage couldn’t been no more than $2 dollars and something. Come to think of it, those cooks (who looked to be in their 30s and 40s by the way) did not look too excited to be there, especially doing all that in front of twenty-something hungry little kids. The restaurant manager of course was gung-ho about the whole thing and making the job sound like it was the best job in the world. The funny thing was we actually believed him. Then, when we became teenagers and started high school and started working at McDonald’s or similar places, we realized that it wasn’t the best job in the world. Not even close. One can only eat so many burgers and french fries until it doesn’t matter and then you’re sick of the stuff. So, if one decided that when he or she became an adult, they weren’t going to work anywhere and just lay on their parents’ couches until they got put out, or decided to make money without working a honest job, well, that brings us to the OTHER place we visited.

Incredibly, we visited the GREGG COUNTY JAIL.

I am very serious. They actually took a bunch of us 5th graders into the actual jail. The jail where today, no one goes to unless they are an arrestee (prisoners) or arrester (sheriffs, deputies). I look back on that and think, There’s no way in you-know-where they’d do that today. There are prisoners’ rights, and kids’ safety, and sheriff and deputies’ safety, rules, rights, and so many other issues to worry about now, things they didn’t even think about back then. I remember the cells were bars and glass, and some were double barred and double glassed. Some you couldn’t even see into the cells. I remember for the real dangerous ones, you had to look through a small rectangular glass to be able to see them. Of course, we were all taking this kinda seriously, and the girls were very afraid to say the very least.  Most of the prisoners didn’t react when we came in there, they just sat there with blank looks, some were asleep (or pretending to be asleep more than likely), while a few just waved and that was it. There were blacks and whites in there, so there wasn’t no majority of any particular race. But of course, you had to have a couple of fools who acted like that’s where they truly belonged, because they decided to start yelling at us and scream, “We’re going to get you kids when we get out!!! GROWL!!! HAHAHA!!!” Then they started banging on the bars, or glass, just to make sure they had our attention. The girls nearly peed on themselves when they did that, and I’ll never forget Rhonda literally jumping into my arms like Scooby Doo seeing the boogeyman or something. Myself, I wasn’t exactly the man without fear right at that moment, and I was very thankful that there were bars and glass separating us from them, or else it would’ve been chaotic with kids running around all over the place from prisoners, who probably would not have been running after us, but running to GET OUT.

But the main thing about all this is this: they were trying to show us 10-year olds that this is NOT the place you want to be when you grow up- not unless you want to be a sheriff or something like that. And most of us realized that right then. I remember thinking, I ain’t never coming back to this place. I’m pretty sure we all thought that, and for a few of us, sadly, we came back to stay awhile.

Field trips were fun back then, and a great way to break the monotony of sitting in school doing schoolwork and learn about places we probably would’ve never visited on our own. Again, there is no way they’d do this now, and it’s a credit to the teachers and us students how we acted on those trips back in the day.

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The Gregg County Courthouse and Jail at the left

Monday, February 5, 2018

Jodie McClure Elementary Memories 1978-79 Ep12

My Memories of Attending 
Jodie McClure Elementary 

Becoming the President

In October 1978, Kelly Herron, the class president, came up to me and told me that she and her family were moving out-of-town, and that I was going to become the class president in her place since I was the vice-president. I was like, "Ok", and I wondered what was I supposed to do since I'd never been the president of anything before. Well, basically all I had to do back then, was act like a leader, lead the class in the pledge sometimes, in prayer before we went to lunch sometimes, help some of my classmates with their work, help grade papers, and act as kind of a go-between between Miss Stone and my classmates. Really, not very much. Who became the vice-president in my place? Why, none other than Rhonda Jackson, who was a big help to me in our class' activities.

Number One With A Bullet

There were a couple of unfortunate incidents which took place in class during my 5th grade year. One of them involved Orlando Humble, whom I was somehow related to via marriage and someone whom I got along with only sporadically at that time. Orlando could somewhat be kind of a prankster back then, but sometimes his pranks were definitely not funny and probably made sense only to him. One day, we were all getting ready to either change classes or go to lunch, when all of a sudden, BANG!!! It sounded like somebody had shot a gun right there in the classroom. The girls screamed (even the tough ones like Tammy Allen, Daphne Thompson, LaShanda Robertson, Kim Harris, and Rhonda), and Miss Stone turned a shade of red I had never seen before. She was shook up. Well, we came to find out that no one had a gun in the room, thank God, but Orlando had a bullet, and I guess he was trying to show out and scare somebody, because he threw the bullet on the ground, it ricocheted and made a loud noise, and it wound up going into the ceiling. Mr. Taylor and his class came running to the door, and it was determined what had happened and who done it in a matter of minutes. Orlando, whenever he did something that was wrong, stupid, senseless, moronic, etc., would usually have a defiant and amused look on his face, like he was proud of what he had done. However, on this day, I think even he realized he had gone too far, and he looked like he was about to cry. Miss Stone had to leave the room for a while, and Mr. Taylor came in there and lectured us about the dangers of playing with bullets and guns, and the way he was talking, you would have thought it was Judgment Day. The rest of the day was very subdued, and Orlando got suspended from school for a very long time.

The Coat Conspiracy

Another unfortunate incident which occurred and involved yours truly happened in the late Spring. We had gone to the cafeteria for lunch, and on certain days before lunch ended, Miss Stone would send either Rhonda or myself to go open the classroom door, and either bring something from the classroom or to just have it unlocked so the class could enter the classroom after lunch. On this day, Miss Stone sent both Rhonda and myself to the classroom to retrieve something (I can't remember what it was), which was a good thing considering what happened a little later. Anyway, we went into the room and of course the lights were off and it was a little dark, and we got what we came to get and got ready to leave. I stopped because I thought I heard something in the closet. The door to the closet was closed, and I thought that maybe it was a rat or something. I went to look in the closet with Rhonda right behind me and opened the door, and lo and behold, it was one of our classmates, a girl named Lynita, who seemed to be hiding in the closet. "What are you doing in there?" I asked her. She replied, "Hanging up my coat." She had a coat in her hand and looked to be doing just that. I noticed a bottle of glue on the top shelf and briefly wondered why it was there. "In the dark with the door closed?" I said. She said something silly like she can see in the dark as good as in the light, and then she asked me and Rhonda not to tell on her because she obviously didn't go to lunch and had hid in the closet the entire time. So, we said, "Ok", and we closed the door and left her in the closet. I seriously didn't think she was doing anything terrible, I had always felt she was a little crazy anyway, and maybe she liked sitting in dark closets to meditate or something. I felt like she would come out as soon as the class came back from the cafeteria, which she did, and nobody but myself and Rhonda would have known the difference. 

Anyway, the next day, I had totally forgotten about Lynita and her closet issues, and I had my mind on other things such as kickball and 4-square. We were working on our math work when I noticed that Miss Stone had left the room. Then, the next thing I know, Mr. Taylor had entered the room and told all of us he wanted our attention. He looked totally pissed off and I thought, What has happened now? The way Mr. Taylor was talking about "something really serious has happened", one would've thought Orlando was back with a couple of guns this time. Then Mr. Taylor said it was something that happened to Miss Stone. We all looked at one another. What happened? Did she have a heart attack? Is she dead? We were getting scared until Mr. Taylor said, "Or more specifically, to Miss Stone's coat. Somebody poured a whole bottle of glue into her coat pockets."

The class gasped. Me, I turned around and looked at Rhonda, who sat right behind me. She looked at me, and we didn't have to say anything to each other- we knew who had done it. While Mr. Taylor went into his fire and brimstone speech about vandalizing other people's property and the wages of sin being death, I didn't have to think about whether or not I would tell Miss Stone, because I was going to tell her anyway. I just wondered if Rhonda would back me up. I didn't have to worry about that because as soon as Miss Stone had sent the class to PE, Rhonda and I went to her at the same time and let her know what we'd seen the day before. Miss Stone did not look too shocked; she knew that there was a small part of the class who did not like her, which included Lynita, and she had narrowed it down to one of them anyway. Rhonda and I couldn't understand why anyone would dislike Miss Stone- she was in her first year of teaching and was nice and fair, and only hard on us when she had to be. I don't recall her paddling anybody, and most of the time she was happy and we really had fun learning in her class. When I look back on it now, it's interesting to note that the kids who did not like her were all white (Miss Stone was white), and maybe they didn't like her because she got along with her black students way better than them. We truly adored her, and to this day, she's my favorite teacher of all-time. But I had no idea why they'd treat her this way. Anyway, we told Miss Stone, who told Mr. Taylor, who told the principal, who pulled Lynita out of class, and like Orlando, who disappeared for the remainder of the year. Later on, one of the other students in the "I Hate Miss Stone" club got caught putting (or trying to put) Miss Stone's tires on flat, and he got put out of the picture, too.


From the time I was born to my attending Jodie McClure, my parents had always kept my hair cut short. Always. Living on base, I imagine not only did all of the daddies have to keep their hair cut short, but the sons, too. I can only recall two boys who had long hair living on base, and both of them had moved onto the base in the middle of the school year, and both of them were step-kids. Other than those two, everybody else had short hair, and not a single black boy had an afro. I didn't think about or care whether or not my hair was long or short when I was real little. Momma would take me to go get a haircut, and that was that. So, again, I didn't think about it-

Until I started attending Jodie McClure.
Then I noticed I was the only one who didn't have an afro. I know I shocked my momma when I told her I didn't want a haircut anymore; I wanted it to grow. So, she didn't take me to the barbershop. Every day I used a pick and tried to fluff it up, but it looked like it just wasn't growing. I was a little distressed at first, then Momma went out and bought an afro-kit, which consisted of some cream she rubbed into my hair, then let it sat for a certain amount of time, washed and rinsed it out, and viola! Instant afro! Momma had to plat it up overnight for it to stay, and the next day, I was excited to be able to go to school with an afro for the very first time. Well, at first I was excited- then I was scared. What if it looked lopsided? What if it looked stupid? What if the kids laughed at me? I got so scared that I put on a jacket with a hood, and I kept my hood on over my head for most of the morning. However, finally, Miss Stone told me to take the hood off, and everyone saw how much my hair had grown. The girls, Daphne, Rhonda, Tammy, LaShanda, Kimberly Harris, and Sherry Mapps were all impressed, and the boys were like, Welcome to the club, it's about time. I liked it so much that I kept it until halfway through the 7th grade. Then I got my hair cut and got laughed at severely.

You're Blind and You Can't See

Another physical change I went through at Jodie McClure was my vision. Somehow, it had gotten worse. Previously to Jodie McClure, I had always passed my eye exams, then all of a sudden, here I am in the 5th grade, and I can't see. Which meant hearing one of the worst things a 10-year old boy doesn't want to hear (besides, "You're taking piano lessons." Or, "I'm going to whip your butt."):

You're going to be wearing glasses!

There were a couple of kids in my class who wore glasses, but they didn't wear them all the time. In fact, they barely wore them at all. Because they knew they'd be called everything from blind to four-eyes. I was very unhappy at the thought of wearing glasses and being called those names, and I felt I would no longer be popular (and be  popular in all the wrong ways). There was no way to avoid it, so by that Spring, I was sitting in class with glasses on, and of course, the kids called me Four-Eyes and Blind Mellow Jelly, and I only wore my glasses when I had to the rest of the year. Which means I barely wore them-

Fight! Fight! Fight!

For a while, there seemed to be a fight almost everyday at Jodie McClure, usually afterschool for whatever reason. And it seemed the 4th and 5th graders had the majority of the fights, again, for whatever reason. I can remember 4th grader Staria Cleaver fighting the whole world it seemed, I remember her and Benita Loyd had a really good one one time, and I remember LaShanda and Daphne having a fight in the bathroom back then. Unfortunately, while I would love to say I didn't have any fights at Jodie McClure, that would be a lie- because I contributed to the quota of fights held at that school that year also. I was just fortunate I never got into any serious trouble for the fights. The first one I had was with a boy named Tony, who was white and in my class, and who really wasn't a violent person, he was just fat. I don't know what we were fighting about, nor can I recall, I just remember punching him in the stomach, and it bouncing off. We were both probably just having a bad day, and we got along after that. We actually got along before that, and we were friends, so I think it was just a bad day all the way around when we fought. 

The next one I had was with someone I didn't get along with until we attended high school. He was in Mr. Taylor's class anyway, and so therefore, he was the enemy, and well, at the time, I just did not like him. His name was Billy Craig. Billy was very much a prankster and kind of a bully back then, and he really did things to agitate. We were having one of our football games, Miss Stone's class vs Mr. Taylor's class, and it had been raining. The coach told us to go play touch football due to the ground being a mess because of the rain, and so that's what we were doing. At least, some of us were. I caught a pass and started running. Instead of tagging me, Billy decides to grab me and throw me into the biggest mud puddle this side of Highway 80. I was a total mess. Worse, my momma had told me that if I got my clothes dirty that day she was going to give me a butt-whipping, and so anyone could see that I was angry. Billy laughed as though that were the funniest thing he'd ever seen, and I jumped up and hit him in the head with the football. "You SOB!!!" I yelled. We lounged at each other and our teammates had to pull us apart. Billy was way bigger than me, but I didn't care- I wanted to beat the devil outta him. I also recall that no one on my team was laughing, and that Marion, Roy, and Robert were about as mad as I was. Marion wanted to fight him, too. He and Robert were holding me back, but the way he was acting, you'd have thought he got pushed into the mud, too. (Of course, the coach was nowhere around.) I left the field and went into the building and into the restroom, took my clothes off, and washed them in the sink. I squeezed them out, put them back on, and sat there at my desk hoping they'd air-dry before it was time to go home. That made me even more angrier, sitting there cold and damp.

The last one I had was not really a fight, but more of a war of words. Bad words. Once again, it occurred during PE, but this time we were in the cafeteria playing 4-square. 4-square was a game in which four individuals would be in four squares like a box, and each person would hit the ball to another person in a square, kind of like ping-pong, except there's no net and you're using a kick-ball and your hands instead of a ping-pong ball and paddle. The ball must bounce once in the square before you can hit it to someone, but if you miss it, or it bounces more than once or not at all, then you're out. Those of us in Miss Stone's class always tried to make it where it was four of us in the four squares, then we'd monopolize all four of the squares and not try to get one another out. If a member of Mr. Taylor's class had a turn and was placed in a square, we'd go all out to get him out. Marion, Roy, Robert, Charlie Templeton, Shelby Murphy, and myself- we were all good at that, and it made the guys who were in Mr. Taylor's class mad.

So one day, it happened to be me, Marion, and Roy getting rid of members of Mr. Taylor's class one by one until we could get Robert or Charlie or Shelby into the game. Finally, it came down to Tracy Buchanan, who was left before Robert could get into the game. Marion and I set Tracy up, and bam! I hit a ball which went straight between his legs and out. Marion and I high-fived each other, and Robert came in. To say Tracy was livid would be an understatement. He was really pissed off at me thinking and believing I couldn't do that again in a million years. I told him I could do that whenever I wanted to and that he couldn't talk because he was the one on the sidelines and I wasn't. However, he kept talking and getting more and more angry, and I wasn't backing down, either. When the game was over, he still was talking, and so was I, and everyone was surrounding us like there was the possibility of a fight. Finally, he said something like why don't I meet him afterschool so we can settle this, and I said, fine, I'll be there. Of course, we were calling each other names, bad names, I was saying things that if my momma had heard me, she'd have slapped me down into the ground right at that spot, and then we went to our respective classes. I was mad, but not as mad as I'd been with Billy. And because of that, as I sat there, cold reality began to set in. I really did not feel like fighting Tracy afterschool. Not at all. I wasn't scared of him; Actually, I was more scared of my parents than anyone. I knew I could get in some serious trouble for fighting. And if I got in trouble, part of it, if not most of it, would have been my fault, and my parents would have dealt with me accordingly. So, when it came time to go home, I left the school and went straight for the house and didn't look back. I thought I would catch it the next day, but nobody said anything, and Tracy and I basically buried the hatchet and became better friends as a result. 


The girls in both 5th grade classes were for the most part bigger and taller than most of us boys. In fact, almost all of the girls were taller than me at the time- Heck, even my sister was gaining on me and everyone in my family was letting me know it. I wasn't concerned; I didn't think I'd be short for the rest of my life. But in my class, the girls were definitely taller, and it wasn't even close. I had to look up to girls like Sherry Mapps, Tammy Allen, Bridget Wallace, Lisa Miller, Wytaine Smith, Regina Davis, Sheryl Perry, and someone whom I'll never forget, Daphne Thompson. Daphne was the first truly aggressive girl I'd ever met, and she was something else. She made it up in her mind back then we were going to be friends, and I'd been a fool to argue with her. One thing for sure back then: since we were friends, she was very protective of me, and she wasn't scared of anybody. If I had been a girl, I wouldn't have wanted to fight her either, because she could fight. I knew she could've probably beaten me up if she wanted, but thankfully, she didn't. She talked to me everyday, and I did like talking to her. Sometimes she'd come by the house and say hello, and my parents really liked her. My parents would tease me about her, but we were little kids back then and we never went no further than just liking one another. 

I have two memories of Daphne back then which will never go away. One was that in class, we used to play this game called 7-up just about every Friday. And almost every single time, either Daphne would push my thumb down when she was up, or I'd push her thumb down when I was up. The only times we didn't would be when someone beat us to the punch, but I remember doing it almost every time because she'd almost always would pick me. 

My other memory is one that is kind of funny and one which led to the entire class thinking we liked each other/went together. One day during PE, the boys were play-fighting and/or wrestling the girls, and it was pretty even. We were out in that field on the side of the school, and we were all going at it. It wasn't anything malicious; we were all having fun. Anyway, Marion and I were basically watching each other's back, and Daphne had decided to attack Marion along with another girl. I saw this, and I ran and jumped on Daphne's back and pinned her to the ground. She seemed to be mad about this, and I quickly let her up, but she said she was not going to forget what I had done. About a month later, the class headed for PE- but this time, we were having it in the cafeteria. Somehow, I was the first to arrive in the cafeteria, and so I walked over toward some seats. The next thing I know, somebody jumped me from behind, and before I knew it, I was pinned to the floor by none other than "I'm not going to forget this" Daphne. And she had me pinned good and told me that this was payback for when I jumped on her back. I tried to get loose, but couldn't. Then, the rest of the class came in, saw us on the floor, her on top of me, and well, little minds went crashing into the gutter. Daphne finally let me up, but her revenge had been complete.

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