Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Adventures of Dakman! Episode 13

Sometimes you just gotta be creative-

Last Sunday, our heroes were trapped during a life-and-death struggle (playoff life-and-death that is) with the Wentzer and his gang of Dirty Birds. What had been a walk through the park had turned into a major brawl. Dakman and LVE, the Boy Wolfhunter,  are overcome, tied up, and left to face fire and a bunch of mad birds. Can Dakman and LVE escape the Wentzer’s clutches?

“Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na Dakman-
Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na Dakman!”

Dakman and LVE are surrounded by fire and birds that are flying around them trying to peck them to death.

LVE: Holy Birds of a Filthy Feather, Dakman! The Legion of Doomsday Defense and the Z-Men are down, and we’re surrounded by fire and a bunch of birds, which look like eagles!

Dakman: Yes, LVE- this is a horrible usage of our nation’s bird. I was off the mark with my Dakarangs, which went over everyone’s heads and wound up igniting those Christmas trees, causing this (cough) terrible fire. Our compatriots may be down, (cough) but all isn’t lost…..yet!

LVE: Holy Smoke, Dakman! You have a plan?

Dakman: I always have a plan, old chum. If I can reach these Dak-bombs of mine in my utility belt, we may have a chance to win this….yet!

LVE: Holy Out-of-the-frying-pan-and-into-the-fire!! What good will those do??

The Wentzer: You’ll never escape, Dakman! Never! The Super Bowl trophy will be ours AGAIN!!! Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!

Dakman: I got them! Here goes-!

Dakman throws three Dak-bombs high in the air. Suddenly, someone comes flying in from nowhere to CATCH them!

The Wentzer: Oh no! Is it a bird?

LVE: Is it a plane?

Dakman: No, it’s SUPER-COOPER-MAN! He catches everything I throw! (Except for the Dakarangs.) Glad to have you here, Super-Cooper-Man!

Super-Cooper-Man: Glad to be of service! First, I’ll douse these flames with these giant buckets of Gatorade I found next door, then I’ll get rid of all these birds!

The Wentzer: Does anybody got a piece of RAIDERITE???

Gruger-Hillster: No- Grudenmaster got rid of all of it!!!

The Wentzer: Damn him!!!!…By the way, WHO THE HECK ARE YOU???

Super-Cooper-Man puts out the fire and the birds. He frees Dakman and LVE. That leaves the Wentzer and his unknown men to be taken care of.

Super-Cooper-Man: Go to it, Cowboy Crusaders!

LVE: Holy Licking-My-Chops! I thought you’d never ask!

60 minutes plus 10 minutes of overtime of knocked out, choked out, and crying Eagles later:

Dakman: Great job, everyone! The Wentzer and his men are out like fullbacks, Jeff Fisher, and run-and-shoot offenses!

LVE: Good one, Dakman.

Dakman: Thank you. Call Commissioner Goodell and tell him to send Chief Garrett to come get these scum. Our job is done.

Because over the horizon lurks….LEX LUCK!!!
And he wants to add the Cowboy Crusaders to his hit list!
Will he succeed where so many have failed?
Will he be the one to stop Garrett from clapping??
Will he set the ultimate trap and keep our heroes from reaching the playoffs???

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween!!!

In honor of the classic "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" and to celebrate the Halloween season, here are a few images:

What happens when you cross Halloween, World Geography, and Charlie Brown together?

And here are a few clips from the book itself:

"Ummm, NOOOO."

What did everyone get?

The Great Pumpkin(s): "SO YOU DON'T BELIEVE IN MEEE? BOOOOOO!!!"

Let's get this party started right.. now...!

"Let's bob for apples! I'll go first!"
"Yeah, go first because you've got the biggest mouth for it! Ha ha ha!"

Let's see, the pumpkin's head should look like this...

Charlie Brown: "STUPID $%^&& *@## %%$$##S"


"Did he come? Did he leave us toys and candy?"

Sally realizes she has missed out on getting Hershey bars and Warheads-

The gang leave Linus behind-

Linus is a broken man-

No Goobers, no glory, no Great Pumpkin

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.