Monday, June 28, 2010
While cleaning out a spare closet recently I found these letter jackets hanging behind some other things—hadn’t seen them for years. Boy did they bring back the memories. After taking a couple of pictures and looking them over--they went back into storage…my offspring will have to decide what they want to do with them.
For a lot of kids, like me, winning a varsity letter was a real challenge and a keen goal. There were a few who seemed to cruise effortlessly through competitive sports and collected several letters…those were the gifted athletes. Others of us had to spend literally years in the heat, cold, and physical trials in the pursuit of a letter and even then, there was no guarantee of winning one.
Coaches kept the records and made the final choices for awarding the letter jackets. First team players always lettered, but for others on the teams it was a closer call. On reflection, the coaches had a tough job deciding who lettered and who did not. There were a few seniors each year that did not letter even after making the varsity teams and playing the sports all those years. Rules were rules and the lesson learned was that achievement could be an elusive goal.
Football letters were limited to 24 each year, both in high school and junior high. There were 10 basketball lettermen and 14 baseball lettermen; the numbers for those sports seemed to change a bit from one year to another for reasons I don’t understand.
For a 1950s boy, all sports began about the 4th grade, with pick-up games between the neighborhood kids. Little League baseball began about age 10, PeeWee football began about the same time, and the school sponsored flag football was played in the 6th grade. By then you had a pretty good idea of which kids were good at sports. Contact (tackle) football started in the 7th grade and from there on, there was a 6-year run, ending the senior year, for one to earn some letters or just a letter. Individual growth and maturity was extreme and uneven during those years.
Actually, getting a letter jacket was kind of anti-climatic. They were distributed at a school assembly and celebrated at an evening dinner (always cutlets) in the school cafeteria. The end of a season was both a relief and a let down. For a footballer, after 4-months of almost daily after school exertion you abruptly had nothing to do unless you were on the basketball team. However, I clearly recall being pretty worn out at the end of the season and a number of us were injured.
The best thing about those letter jackets was having a girlfriend wear it. That way you could let her show it off while you not-so-subtly signaled your claim to the girl. However, if you didn’t have a girl, they weren’t worn much because usually within a few weeks you were off to high school or college where the jackets were seen as kind of juvenile, so they went into the closets.
The jackets pictured above represent a couple of firsts which should be of interest to an East Side historian. The Meadowbrook jacket has a patch on the sleeve marking the school’s 1959 Ft. Worth city football championship—the first football championship in the school’s history. And the Eastern Hills jacket has a similar patch on the sleeve marking the school’s 1962 Ft. Worth 4A-5 city championship—the first 4A-5 football championship in the school’s history. In those days 4A consisted of Texas’ largest schools…5A wouldn’t appear until some years later.
I’ve always considered having had the privilege of playing Texas High School football as a significant experience…they make movies about Texas Schoolboy football, don’t they?
In fact, there are 3 movies that I can recall, you've probably seen them,
Varsity Blues - cute, shows the spirit, story a bit fanciful.
Friday Night Lights - accurate, based on a real story, well done.
The Junction Boys - Texas schoolboy football as I remember it.
Friday, June 25, 2010
When General Petraeus sat for his 2007 confirmation hearing, I couldn’t help but be curious about the huge collection of ribbons on his uniform. Most of the Vietnam veterans must be retired by now and for a professional warrior there hasn’t been much war going on since then. I wondered what all those ribbons could be.
A quick scan of his military awards list told me that they were mostly the kind of awards commonly given to a fast track soldier on the rise—pretty, but of modest substance. I suppose the accumulation of a chest full of ribbons is necessary for a high ranking military commander, lest the soldiers he commands look in askance and wonder what the heck the dude has done.
I thought a side-by-side comparison of General Petraeus with another General of the same rank from the WWII period might be interesting.
Each general has 9-rows of ribbons; I didn’t count each individual award but would estimate the total to be about the same. One general has a command pilot wing and the other has an infantry badge of some kind along with a jump badge and a helicopter assault badge pinned below the ribbons. LeMay’s career spanned 37-years. Petraeus has been a soldier for 36-years. Both rose to the 4-star rank.
O.K., so far, so good. However, as always, the devil is in the details. Just listing the names and descriptions of all those ribbons would cause anyone’s eyes to glaze over. But it would be instructive to take a brief look at their respective careers.
LeMay joined the Army Air Corps in 1928. He had been retired from the Air Force about 9-years when Petraeus graduated from West Point in 1974 —a retirement that was forced by LeMay’s rigorous disagreements with Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and Presidents Kennedy & Johnson. General LeMay was a consummate warrior and couldn’t stand the Ivy League, by-the-numbers statistical approach to command furthered by McNamara. LeMay had flown the missions over Germany during WWII, while the Harvard educated McNamara, then a captain, had worked in the AAF’s statistical office charged with pouring over the bombing results and making statistical reports. LeMay’s strident nature was lampooned in the press of the sixties, depicted in the 1955 film Strategic Air Command, and lampooned again in the film Dr. Strangelove.
General LeMay’s service included the award (3-times) of the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Silver Star, and a host of other combat awards along with some of the inevitable political awards for high command. His command pilot wing indicates that he had flown over 2000 hours and held air command positions. He led the legendary Eighth Air Force mission to Schweinfurt-Regensburg in 1943, commanded the 20th Army Air Force B-29 raids on Japan in 1945; commanded the 1948 Berlin Airlift; commanded the Strategic Air Command (SAC) from its inception; was Chief of Staff United States Air Force during the Cuban Missile Crisis; and accomplished most of this before General Petraeus was born.
General Petraeus graduated from West Point in 1974 and was assigned to Italy (Note: Vietnam was then still a hot zone!) and similar assignments during the 1970’s; he was an academic earning his PhD and a general’s Aide-de-Camp during the 1980’s; as a battalion commander in the 1990s he suffered a chest wound in Kentucky when a soldier tripped and accidentally discharged his rifle, he then went on to command Operation “Uphold Democracy,” a 6-month exercise to help stabilize Haiti after a Haitian coup, followed by several Executive Assistant posts in Washington which rounded out his 1990’s service; since 2000 he has seen some service in Bosnia, broke his ass (sorry…his pelvis) on a parachute jump, and continued his work as a modern military manager as he successfully led the “surge” in Iraq.
So, there you have it. Some chests full of ribbons are different than other chests full of ribbons. The devil is in the details and each person is a prisoner of sorts, to his time slot in history.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
The accompanying picture came from a 1962 Clan yearbook and provides a good aerial view of not only the school grounds but also of some of the surrounding neighborhood. My family was not one of the earliest to settle in the area so I always wondered how old, some of the “older” houses were as I drove around the neighborhoods.
Note the YELLOW direction indicator in the lower play field. Meadowbrook Drive is behind us just beyond the lower left corner; the toll road is a mile or two north; Ft. Worth is to the left; and Handley is behind us off the right lower corner.
Generally, the entire housing stock north of EHHS (the Eastern Hills section) was constructed from 1954 to 1962. Along Weiler Blvd. on the left or West side as you go North out of the picture were some nice older homes with some acreage that were generally built during or just after WWII in the 1940s. A good looking little sophomore named Angie Meer and her brother, Kurt lived in one of the fancier homes there, and Steve Helmricks’ family settled in one of those older houses when they moved to the area about 1961.
Jesse E. Roach, founder of the Cattlemen's Steak House (c.1947), lived in the house adjoining the north boundary of the school grounds at the intersection of Weiler and Danciger. He was about 62 at the time and owned 4 restaurants, 2 of them in Dallas. Sometimes you could see over the fence and catch him out sunning by his pool. To my knowledge, he never socialized with any of us or walked over to see what was going on.
A number of the houses west along Meadowbrook Drive toward the Meadowbrook Jr. High School, including those surrounding the golf club, and those South of Meadowbrook Drive were built during the 1920s. One on Queen St. is for sale now and it was built in 1891.
Subdivisions behind Meadowbrook Drive (N & S) date to the 1940s and early 1950s. I think Gay Burton’s family lived in one of the large older homes that may have dated to pre-WWII. If I recall correctly, her home was located across from the Meadowbrook Golf Course club house. Others in those neighborhoods were Phil Nixon, Susan Begley, Mike Grizzard, and maybe Larry Guthrie.
By the way, the golf course was originally a private club opened in 1922 and was known as the Meadowbrook Country Club—it was about 40-years old when we graduated. The club apparently failed during the Depression and was then given to the city. I played it a few times and ran a sled down the “3-humps” as often as enough snow fell to permit. Some of us worked on the construction crews when it was rehabilitated in 1962.
For those from Handley or others who might not have known about the pleasures of sledding down the 3-humps hill on the Meadowbrook Golf Course, it was a fairway near the club house on Jenson Rd. The drop was fairly high and from the top, if the snow conditions were right, you could get a pretty long ride, descending over 3 distinct small hills. At the bottom, the run opened into an expansive plain giving plenty of room for the run out. A lot of kids came from all directions when the snow fell, so it was also a good social event and a terrific memory.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Kendall was a talented athlete who, as I recall, played basketball and baseball on the EHHS varsity teams. Not many would remember that he was also the star quarterback of the 1959 Ft. Worth championship Meadowbrook Buffalo Jr. High team. However, I think he injured his back before entering EHHS and didn’t play football after Meadowbrook. The Meadowbrook championship was a big deal since it was the first time the school, built in 1936 (23-years), had won the city crown.
In the interest of protecting folks' privacy, I generally avoid referring to anybody in the present time; however, Kendall has put himself on the net in a pretty public way. Here is a link to one of his video clips.
Danny was a smallish, wiry end on that same Meadowbrook championship team and played a couple of years at EHHS on the JV teams. His older brother, Ronnie, played on the 1958 Poly football team with Susie Waddlington's older brother, Pat, and Roby Morris' older brother, Jack.
Danny’s strongest trait was his sense of humor which was probably the sharpest in our class. I think he was the original instigator of the “MUMBLE” which was invoked during school auditorium assemblies.
Principal Roy Johnson was a favorite target of the mumble and I don’t think he ever figured it out. While Mr. Johnson was speaking from the auditorium stage, Danny would call out under his breath, “MUMBLE” and very soon most of the auditorium was in a low roar as the kids repeated…”mumble, mumble, mumble, mumble.” Mr. Johnson would stop and look over the crowd with a puzzled look.
It was a brilliant bit of harmless rebellion.
(Gus note: I really love these two, an irascible old fart & credible Wordsmith and a first-rate humorist not too bad with the words himself. And to have encountered them at the beginning of their run was something special.)
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Found this article while going through an old Handley Jr. High newspaper someone posted to the net. Suzanne was our choice for Miss Eastern Hills and was well-liked, friendly. In fact, I think we voted her as class favorite each year we attended EHHS.
Jon was a gregarious kid with a ready wit who played on the football team every year. I didn't know Jon or Suzanne very well, so haven't much more to say about them. They're probably relieved.
Friday, June 18, 2010
It sometimes helps to put things into their chronological perspective in order to better understand them. Mrs. Tannahill was our chemistry teacher and so far as I can recall, she was a good one. She was energetic, moderately acerbic, and a bridge-nut. Her manner was brisk and good humored.
I struggled in her class, but then again for some reason I never really liked the study of chemistry. The back story of Sara Tannahill was her penchant for playing bridge. When you entered her classroom, you first walked toward the back of the room via an aisle that was flanked by the lab tables on the right and the chemical storeroom on the left. The student desks were at the back of the room and Mrs. Tannahill’s desk was hidden to the left behind the storeroom wall.
Steve Means, Paul Shields, Sam Scott, and Paul Tate are some of those who come to mind as filling out the foursomes for a game of bridge when time permitted—there were likely some others such as Bob Dillard and maybe David Bane also learning bridge that year. This was usually during Mrs. Tannahill’s free period in the afternoon. That chemistry room was ideally designed to hide the bridge table, which was Mrs. Tannahill’s desk, as it hid the game from being seen from the hallway through the door window. I think she also locked the door.
I found Mrs. Tannahill’s fraternization with students a bit puzzling, but now that I’m much older I think I’ve figured it out. She wasn’t much older than we were…she was a kid herself. Born in 1934, she was only 28 when we were seniors. Sara Tannahill taught for a year or two at Poly right after college and took the job at EHHS shortly after the school opened.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
For years, try as I may, I cannot get my tulips to fully bloom before the damned squirrels eat them. Now, I’ve never been much of a gardener…plant it, if it grows—good, if not—try something else. Actually, I subscribe to Gallagher’s philosophy: If you water it and it dies, it’s a plant; if you pull it and it grows back, it’s a weed!
I have a copy of Stanley Marcus’ second book, “Quest for the Best” standing by in my reading room for occasional reference. Written about 1979, Mr. Marcus’ words seem now like a nostalgic window on a much more genteel past. He discusses a variety of finer things and laments the degradation of our circa 1979 society.
In one of the paragraphs I read the other day, Mr. Marcus extolled his patrician enchantment with the tulip fields of
At an earlier time in my life I might have planned a special excursion tacked onto a European trip to see something like those tulip fields blooming in
The picture below is more representative of my own experience with tulips.