Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Coaches

George Mitcham, James Willingham, and Dub Graves were the entire coaching staff for Varsity football during our years at EHHS. Coach Willingham also coached the track team, and Coach Graves coached baseball. Ron McBee was the basketball team coach and also coached the JV football teams. Johnny Howerton replaced McBee sometime during our years at EHHS, as McBee went to another job—building houses, I think.

Mitcham was a quiet spoken, not too forceful type, while we nicknamed Willingham, Coach Roaringham. He had a booming, raspy voice that he relied on for crowd control. Graves was the jock of the trio, as he had an athletic build and kept himself in top physical shape while the others seemed to be trending into the more sedate life style of married life. They were married, Graves was not.

In reading the 1962 football brochure, I see that Mitcham and Graves graduated from Poly the same year, so they must have played on the same football team about 1945 or 1946. Both of them were All-District backs. That’s odd. I recall them as not being very close. Mitcham had the bearing of an organization manager, while Graves did not. However, Graves was the better athlete. Willingham seemed unfazed by either of them and simply went about his business coaching the lines. They were all good coaches and good examples.

During our Senior year, the school’s 4th, we won the district football championship, the first in the school’s then short history, and posted a 7-4 overall won-lost record. To say we had no offense would be an understatement. Our total season scoring averaged about 1-point more per game than we allowed our opponents. We had a good defense, though—some of our opponents had very good offenses that could have posted some very high scores were it not for our good defense.

During our football season, the Cuban Missile Crisis played out. I vaguely recall some of the girls rushing about, half in earnest, looking for a quickie marriage, I suppose not wanting to . . . well, if you were watching the news then, it did appear that we might not survive much longer and they probably felt that some things postponed, needed to be done. One of my neighbors was recalled with his Army Reserve unit and shipped to Florida for several months as part of a potential invasion force. I think there were about 100,000 of our soldiers assembled in south Florida that fall.

While not coaching, Mitcham watched over some study halls, Willingham taught American History, and Graves watched over some P.E. classes. Coach Graves might have been pressed into teaching some history as well—I don’t recall for certain.



Phil Nixon said...
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JMR said...

I recall several of us on the football team being in Coach Willingham's history class. When we got bored with history all any of us had to do was to ask Coach something about football and he would immediately veer off into an involved discussion about football. It got to be fun to see how quickly and completely we could distract him.

Anonymous said...

Coach Willingham got peeved with the 3 or 4 football players in our history class and separated us, placing us at each corner of the room. I think this was the lunch period about mid-day. Trouble was that two of them were ends and another was a half-back. All of them were accustomed to catching a football so, Max brought in a ball of foil one day and the game began. While coach was turned to the chalk board, that ball of foil started flying over the class from one corner to another until he started to turn around to see what the chuckles were about. Seeing nothing, he turned back to the chalk board and the ball started flying again. This repeated a few times until Max threw a bullet just to the right of Willingham's head. That hard ball of foil smacked the chalk board with a sharp report and fell straight down to the floor at Willingham's feet. Coach hardly missed a beat, stopped his writing, and picked up the foil, surveying the class of grinning faces. He didn't even ask...he knew who did it and he was grinning, too. Max, with the only straight face in the room, asked him a question about the upcoming Friday night game. And that ended the history lesson for the day! We talked football until the lunch bell rang.