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.

Next: More memories

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Fall 1978 - I Love Football Part 2

Fall 1978- I Love Football, Part 2

In August, 1978, my momma bought something which would not bring me or my sister much joy in the next 4 or 5 years.

She bought a piano.  

At first, my sister and I were excited, because we both liked music and musical instruments- I had a guitar and a harmonica at the time- until she said the dreaded two words we did not want to hear: PIANO LESSONS.

To this day, I have no idea why Momma bought the piano, other than to make my sister and I learn how to play it, but then I don’t know where she got the idea that we wanted to learn how to play the piano in the first place. I know I didn’t express any hidden desires to be the next Beethoven, Liberace, or Stevie Wonder, or someone like that. And in all honesty, I would have rather took guitar lessons than piano lessons since I already had a guitar. The only kids at the time who were taking piano lessons and who were advanced enough to play the piano better than some grown people were Mary and Gaila Farrier, and neither I or my sister were jealous of them because of it.

At first, my sister and I were like, Well, we might as well give it a try, and we went into learning how to play the piano with a positive attitude. Our teacher was a lady named Mrs. Goree, and she knew exactly what she was doing. In other words, we had worksheets, workbooks, homework, and of course, we had to practice, practice, and practice. We started out with the kindergarten book and lessons, and we couldn’t progress to the first grade level until we passed everything and proved we could handle and play on the “kindergarten” level. It usually took a year to progress to the next level, so by the time I started the 6th grade, I would have been ready to go to the first grade level in piano-playing.  All of those worksheets and workbooks were like a cold bucket of water on our desire to learn how to play the piano, but we didn’t say anything and grudgingly accepted it as a part of the process.

Then we started attending Jodie McClure, and I discovered the joys of playing football. Playing the piano was OK, but playing the football was WAY better. Then one day, our PE coach passed out some sheets to all of the boys. I looked at it, and it stated that there would be tryouts for the Jodie McClure Mustangs football team, and that we needed our parents’ permission and signatures to be able to tryout, practice, and play organized football against other elementary schools. As I read the sheet, learning how to play the piano fell even further down the list of things I wanted to do, like down to “cleaning up vomit” levels. I couldn’t wait to go home and ask my parents if I could play football; I didn’t think they would actually mind. Usually, in the past, if there was something I wanted to participate in, such as cub scouts, they usually let me do so. This would be my first time asking to participate in a sport, but I didn’t foresee any problems. So, of course, I ran home and shoved the paper in Daddy’s hand and asked him if I could play football, thinking it was a done deal and he’d just sign it. Imagine my surprise when he said, “Ask your mother.”

I started getting a bad feeling about all of this, as my desire to play the piano waned even more, but I went and asked Momma anyway, and this is what she said: “Well, you know you can’t take piano lessons and go to football practice at the same time- (I should’ve asked, why not-? But I was not up to living dangerously yet-), so I’m going to give you a choice- you can either continue to take piano lessons or play football. You can’t do both. I’ll give you a day to think about it.” Actually, she was giving herself a day to think about it, not me- I had already made up my mind what I wanted to do, and it did not involve sitting on a stool pecking at some keys. She kept the sheet and didn’t sign it, so I wondered that night whether or not I really had a choice.

I found out the next day when she took me to piano lessons. She asked me if I had practiced, I told her, “No”, and I told her I had thought about it, and that I wanted to play football instead of taking piano lessons. My momma got that frown on her face, and she let me know that I would NOT be playing football, but that I will be taking piano lessons, because she had already paid for the lessons, and that was all there was to it. As you can imagine, I was VERY unhappy with that, and I can remember that day as clear as yesterday. I did not participate in piano lessons that day, and I even went home and said something to Daddy about being made to do something I didn’t want to do compared to something I wanted to do, and how all of this was going to make me look like a sissy and a punk and so forth, but Daddy was like, Your momma has spoken- ain’t nothing I can do about it, and for the first time in my childhood life, I felt like I was being forced to do something I did NOT want to do over something I WANTED TO DO, and it was very unfair.  Because of that, I never did like taking piano lessons, and it showed. I’d wind up progressing all the way to third-grade level, but by then, I was only halfway-trying and burned out, and finding all kinds of reasons not to go to piano lessons. My sister kept going for a time after I was finally allowed to quit, but even she got burned out after awhile and stopped going.

Of course, I didn’t go to school and brag, “Hey! I take piano lessons!” That would’ve been stupid. I didn’t tell any of my friends. I’m sure they asked me why I wasn’t playing football, but I can’t remember what I told them, other than possibly, My momma wouldn’t let me. Although I was short and on the small side, I was discovering I was pretty good at playing football whenever we played outside, either at Jodie McClure or in my own front yard. My class, Miss Stone’s class, played Mr. Taylor’s class 7 or 8 times that year, and we lost only once. Everything thrown to me I caught, and I scored a few more touchdowns. I also discovered my favorite position: playing cornerback or safety on defense, because I loved intercepting passes. I liked tackling, too, but I got a charge out of making interceptions. That was exciting to me. And, as I read more books and magazines, as I watched the Cowboys on TV, and listened to the Longview Lobos on the radio, I became more and more interested in the sport and I became a student of the game. I started cutting out pictures of football players out of the newspaper and magazines, and making a scrapbook out of all of them, and drawing pictures of football players, football fields, and anything relating to football.

Of course, my newfound interest in football just thrilled my parents; it thrilled them so much that they felt like it was taking away from what was really important: my grades and piano lessons. So whenever I got in trouble, whenever I made a bad grade or didn’t do my chores, they’d take away most of my football-related stuff, and I’d be grounded from going outside and playing football with my friends. (I never was grounded from piano lessons, go figure.)

I was 10 years old, so puberty had not hit yet. I was still reading comic books and collecting football cards, and I still had quite a few toys, but things were a-changing. My daddy had retired from the service, so he was home for good now. My momma was letting me know early I was going to have a difficult time becoming a teenager, and my sister was just happy to have a nice teacher, decent friends, and her daddy back home. So in the Fall of 1978, and on through to the Winter of that same year, while most of my friends played for the undefeated Jodie McClure Mustangs, I sat unhappily at a piano, wishing for the day I could wear the green and white colors of the Longview Lobos, and doing something I’d enjoy doing.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Fall 1978 - I Love Football Part 1

Fall 1978- I Love Football Part 1

Considering how much I love football today, it’s hard to believe that there was once a time where I didn’t like football at all. (If the Cowboys keep screwing things up, I’ll revert back to my early childhood.) But when we lived on Young Street, I was attending East Ward Elementary, and I do not recall not a single time where we went outside and played football. It’s just as well; 1st and 2nd graders probably didn’t (and don’t) need to be playing (tackle) football anyway. In Abilene, the only thing kids played on the base were soccer and baseball. Plus, kickball and dodgeball were really popular. We tried to play football a couple of times, but it seemed that over half of the boys had no idea on how to play the sport; I know I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, never did touch the football, never tackled anyone, and I just didn’t like football at that time.

When we moved back to Longview in the summer of ’78 and I started attending Jodie McClure, things began to change. I quickly noticed that Jodie McClure had a football team, the Mustangs, and that if you were a Mustang, then you were a somebody. The Mustangs were a very good football team. However, the seeds for my eventual love for football were planted a few years earlier:

When I was little, we used to go visit my daddy’s Aunt Thelma (my grandmother’s sister) in Marshall. I’d play with her grandkids, Cory and Lisa, who were around my age, or if they weren’t there, I’d sit down in the house and look at the various interesting objects around the room. If there was one thing Aunt Thelma was crazy about, it was the Dallas Cowboys. Whenever we went there during the fall on Sundays, the TV was always on the Cowboys’ game. ALWAYS. She was very much into the Cowboys, yelling and cheering when they did good and screaming and booing when they did bad. When I was 7 years old, it amused me more than anything else, but when I turned 9 years old, after watching everyone get excited about Dallas winning the Super Bowl (and watching the game myself), I started getting more than just amused. I started getting kind of interested in the sport. I had liked baseball more than any other sport, but in 1978, that slowly began to change.

On the way home from Dyess Elementary School, I was walking with a friend of mine named Ronald Hernendez (I believe). He was Hispanic, the only one in the 4th grade at that time, and he had some cards in his hand. We stopped at a trash can, and he was about to throw the cards in it when I asked him what did he have in his hand. “Football cards”, he replied. “Do you want them?” “Sure, I’ll take them.” And thus began one of my hobbies- football card collecting. I had no idea what the stats meant on back of the cards, but I was willing to learn. And thus ended was my collecting of baseball cards- I had a few but I gave them to my next-door neighbor when I moved away. I probably should’ve kept those cards, considering their worth today. Anyway, I started out with about 40-50 football cards, and the only players I recognized were Robert Newhouse of the Cowboys and Ken Stabler of the Raiders. The first seed had been planted.

We went to go see Aunt Thelma one summer day in ’78, and I went and sat in a bedroom since Cory and Lisa weren’t there. I looked around and there was a giant Cowboys poster on the wall, and she had a bunch of football magazines and Cowboys’ magazines on a shelf. I sat there, and since I loved to read, picked up a magazine and started reading it. I’d read until it was time to leave, and I would put the magazine back up, wanting to finish it, but having to wait another time. It got so that every time we went to see her, I’d go in that room, get a magazine, and start reading it. Slowly, but surely, I started understanding the sport of football and why the Cowboys were so popular. Winning the Super Bowl earlier that year obviously helped the Cowboys. Just from reading the magazines and studying the poster on the wall, I learned who the players were. From Roger Staubach to Tony Dorsett to Drew Pearson to Charlie Waters, I learned about everyone who was playing for the Cowboys at the time. Then one day, Aunt Thelma asked me if I wanted the old poster and some of the older magazines. (She wanted to make room for the new ones.) I said, “Yes!” And the second seed had been planted.

A little bit before the first day of school, Momma took me to Brookshire’s when it was on Mobberly Ave. Usually I’d want a comic book or a candy bar, but this time I didn’t want either one. I went to the magazine rack and picked out a football magazine and asked her if I could buy it. Roger Staubach was on the cover as I recall, and it was mildly surprising that my mom let me buy the magazine if only it was because it wasn’t a comic book (which she didn’t really care for). I remember taking it home and reading it from front to back, then cutting pictures out from it to glue on paper. (I called myself making my own football book.) Then later on, maybe a couple of weeks later, at that same Brookshire’s, I discovered that they sold football cards wrapped up with the piece of gum. And I started buying those- I never chewed the gum; I’d throw it away or give it to my sister, and I’d keep the real treasure, the football cards. The third seed had been planted.

And so it came to pass that when we had PE at school, the boys would play football and the girls would play kickball. It would be my 5th grade class vs. the other 5th grade class (Miss Stone’s class vs. Mr. Taylor’s class), and as I would discover and learn, the rivalry was fierce. I had a vague idea of how the sport was played, but at least I knew what I was doing and what the rules were. We had a couple of games before the Mustangs officially had their tryouts and games, and in the first game, our class won, 14-7. I didn’t do anything except go out for passes on offense, and cover the one person the other team was not going to throw the ball to, and it was boring. I didn’t even touch the football, and I remembered why I didn’t like football before.

However, in the 2nd game, things changed for all-time. We were losing 7-0, and nobody on our team was catching the ball. Our QB, Robert Taylor, was frustrated and seemed to about to give up throwing it period, when Roy (Craine), who I didn’t know at the time since this was very early in the school year, told Robert, ”Why not throw it to him?” (Which was me) “He’s open all the time.” Robert shook his head ok, and although I wanted to do more than run up and down the field, I was a little apprehensive about having the ball thrown to me. But Robert said, “Hut!”, and I took off running down the field. Nobody was covering me. Robert watched me all the way, then let loose a deep pass. I was thinking, Oh Lord, let me catch this. It seemed to take forever to come down, with two of Mr. Taylor’s students bearing down on me, but when it did, it hit me in the hands, I juggled it, and I fell down backwards with the catch. My team went crazy- it wasn’t a touchdown, I had fell and was touched down, but it was a long pass and catch. Even the girls had turned and looked and were cheering me. I thought, Whoa, this is pretty cool. On the very next play, things got a LOT more COOLER. On what was basically a slant, I scored the first touchdown of my life. This time I caught the pass cleanly, sliding on my knees even, and soaked in even louder cheers. We went on to win that game 28-7, and I had caught four passes in all. The seed had sprouted leaves and fruit- that being my love for football.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Fall 1978 - Jodie McClure Elementary

Welcome to Jodie McClure - Fall 1978

On August 28, 1978, my sister and I attended Jodie McClure Elementary for the first time. This would only be my sister’s second school she had attended up to this point; this would be my fourth. We had no idea what to expect, other than we didn’t know anybody that was going to school there, except for our next door neighbor, Tony. Tony would also be going to the 2nd grade along with my sister, but Poinsettia was still scared of just about everything that had to do with Jodie McClure, and she was not looking forward to going at all. Myself, I had been the new kid too many times to be afraid, but I still was apprehensive about what to expect.  At least the school was right down the street from my house; I could walk there with my eyes closed. However, my momma and daddy both took us to school that first day, and so as we entered the building, we were shown where each grade level’s classes were, and I took a deep breath and said to myself, Here we go again.

We went to Poinsettia’s class first, and we met Poinsettia’s teacher, Mrs. Elder. She was a large, heavy-set black woman who looked like she didn’t play not at all with little kids, and Poinsettia almost had a panic attack when she saw her. But Mrs. Elder, although she really didn’t play when it came to behavior and learning, would turn out to be one of the nicest people we’d ever meet, and Poinsettia would enjoy going to her class and grew to be one of Mrs. Elder’s favorite students.

Then we went to my classroom, which was on the opposite end of the school. The 4th and 5th grade classrooms were in that hallway, and my class was the last classroom on the right. My teacher turned out to be someone who was in their very first year of teaching. So, as it turned out, my teacher and I, along with a couple of other kids, were new to Jodie McClure. My teacher’s name was Miss Stone, who turned out to be the chief of police’s daughter. She was young and pretty, and really looked anything but mean. But as I and my classmates would learn as the year progressed, Miss Stone might look petite and nice, but she could be tough and mean when she had to be.

I liked Miss Stone from the very first day of school. One thing she did was let me, a boy named Douglas Coats, and another boy named Willie Harper, know that we were all new and that we had that in common if nothing else. I looked around the classroom and saw most kids were talking to one another, and that they obviously had known one another for quite some time. I sat in the desk closest to the door, to the far right in a row; Doug sat in the desk next to me, and Willie sat right behind me. That first day of school, I talked mostly to Doug, and just mainly kept to myself.

The second day of school, Miss Stone moved us around. Doug and Willie got moved, but I kept my desk. In front of me, a girl turned around and introduced herself to me. Her name was Tammy. Tammy Allen. We started off being friends at Jodie, talking to one another everyday when she sat in front of me, we would attend the same church later on, go to LHS together, and we’ve been friends ever since. She was the first person who wasn’t new like me who I became friends with. We worked together and laughed together until Miss Stone moved her to the front of the classroom, which really didn’t make me too happy. Then right behind me sat Rhonda Jackson. Rhonda and I would be friends all the way through Jodie, Judson, LHS, Kilgore College, and SFA, but we started out at Jodie also as friends who talked everyday because we sat in front of/behind each other. Rhonda was (and still is) cute back then, and she was not conceited about it at all. Plus, she was very athletic. She could probably kick the ball further than I could back then. Next to her sat Kimberly Harris. Kimberly was a short, very petite girl, who used to call herself picking on me almost everyday, but it was done good-naturedly, and I’d pick on her right back. The way we acted back then, you’d have thought we liked each other, which might have been true. But I never found out for sure. Kim moved away after our freshman year in high school, and by that time, we had gone in separate directions.  Next to me (for a short time anyway) sat Marion Burton. Marion was probably my best friend in the 5th grade, although Tammy and Rhonda and a couple of others who I haven’t mentioned yet were also close to me back then. Marion was funny, down-to-Earth, and pretty smart. We used to call one another “buddy” or “buddy-ro” all the time, and anytime we had to do things which required partners, he was always my first choice. I kind of lost track of Marion when he went to Foster, and when we entered LHS, he was somewhat different from the person I knew at Jodie McClure. Still, he was a cool guy and someone I really enjoyed being friends with. Another classmate of mine whom I became close to at Jodie was Roosevelt “Roy” Craine. Roy and I became friends rather quickly, and he and I usually would walk home from school together, along with his best friend who was in the other 5th grade class taught by Mr. Taylor, a guy named Tracy George. One thing we all learned about one other was our love for sports, mainly football, and we’d have football games, kickball, and later basketball games in my front and backyard nearly 2 or 3 times a week. Roy, Tracy, and I have stayed friends to this day, and I really hope we can get together someday and play a basketball game just for old times’ sake.

Other classmates who were in my fifth grade class and who I became friends with as the year went by included Robert Taylor, Charlie Templeton, Daphne Thompson, LaShanda Robertson, Shelby Murphy, Chris Edwards, Tony Reardon, Sherry Mapps, Marty Rives, and Kelly Herron. In the other 5th grade class, although our classes were in competition with one another, I became friends with Danny Polk, Tracy George, Wytaine Smith, Sheryl Perry, Bridget Wallace, Evelyn Johnson, Renee Owens, Keithen Andrews, Donald Jones, Greg Patton, Ozella Johnson, Tracy Buchanan, Shelia Deutsch, Regina Davis, and Dee Dee Brewer to name a few. And of course, there were a couple of classmates who I just didn’t get along with for whatever reason. More on them later.

When I look back on my 5th grade year, the number one thing which amazes me is how quickly I made friends with my classmates and without sounding conceited, how popular I was with my classmates in such a short period of time. I say this because I was (and kinda still am) a naturally shy person, and I didn’t approach anyone, they all approached me and wanted to get to know me, probably because I was a new black kid. I remember drawing pictures of super-heroes and football players when I didn’t have nothing else to do, and everyone was impressed with how well I could draw. I can remember all the guys wanting me to draw pictures for them to put in their binders, mostly football pictures. I can also remember how impressed they were at the grades I was making, which were mostly A’s and a few B’s. Miss Stone would let me go around and help some of the classmates who needed help, and not only was it greatly appreciated, but it really seemed to help those who needed it. I really think my classmates liked me more than I thought for that, and it showed where before the end of the month of September, my classmates nominated me for class president.

I was truly surprised at the nomination, and it actually came down to me and Kelly as to whom would win the title of president. The loser would automatically become the vice-president. I lost by one vote, and it’s funny now, but the one vote I lost by was the one I cast for…Kelly. I felt like she deserved to be president more so than I did because she had been at Jodie McClure since kindergarten, and she was smart and nice and friendly, and just a decent person. Of course, most of my classmates/friends didn’t see it that way, and they were mad at me for not voting for myself. But it didn’t really bother me one way or the other, and I’d rather Kelly won anyway. As it turned out, a couple of weeks after the election, Kelly came up and told me she and her family was moving to another town and that in the order of succession, I was going to become the class president. I just stood there in shock and then I wished her well.

Next time: Part 2

Jodie McClure Elementary School, 2008