Monday, January 30, 2012

First Coaches - George Mitcham, James Willingham, Dub Graves

During the time we attended EH, our experience was influenced by a number of different individuals…classmates, teachers, coaches, K.O. Vaughn, and Roy Johnson, conspicuous among them.  And for boys, certainly those participating in organized sports, perhaps the most memorable of those influences were the coaches.  They shaped the character of our teams and set the agenda for many, many hours and months of our lives.  And as described in my Dub Graves article, they could also contribute something of a vision for the future.

This brief essay chronicles the early history of the first EH varsity football coaching staff, including a few subtle changes, and ending with their eventual departure after the 1967 season.  Most of us had an experience with them that lasted only 1-3 years, then left for college or life, and never returned, or if we did, it was an infrequent visit to a school that no longer reflected the one we had known.

1959-60, Year 1.

Coach George Mitcham got the job as Eastern Hills’ first head coach.  Bill Ellliott joined him that first year as assistant coach as Eastern Hills competed in the 3A district that year.  Elliott had been Mitcham’s assistant at Handley High School for several years during the 1950s.  After this one season, Bill Elliott returned to Handley Junior High which was still in the same building as the former HHS.

1960-61, Year 2.

This was the first year that EHHS competed in 4A against Ft. Worth’s largest high schools.  Coach Mitcham was joined on the coaching staff by James L. Willingham as line coach and W.A. “Dub” Graves as backfield coach.

1961-62, Year 3.

No changes to the coaching staff this year.  Ronnie McBee, “B” Team coach leaves at the end of the school year.  He returns to EH in 1967,

1962-63, Year 4.

No changes to the coaching staff this year.  EH won its first 4A-5 District Championship.


1963-64, Year 5.

No changes to the coaching staff this year.

1964-65, Year 6.

No changes to the coaching staff this year.  The picture below is the only one I've found that shows the coaches in their typical attire while working each afternoon out on the practice fields.  A bunch of old duffers (about 35-39) that kept themselves in very good shape.


1965-66, Year 7.

No changes to the coaching staff this year.

1966-67, Year 8.

EHHS won its second District championship in 4A-5 this year and the season was the last one we would recognize as the same lineup of District opponents since the school first entered the City’s 4A league.

This was Coach Graves’ 7th and final season as an Eastern Hills coach.  Graves, 38, left the Ft. Worth ISD to work for a local credit union for the next 25-years. 

Roy C. Johnson, the first EH principal, left his post for another ISD assignment at the end of this year.

1967-68, Year 9.

This would be the last year Coach Mitcham and Coach Willingham served as EHHS “A” Team coaches.  Mitcham, 40, ended a 20-year coaching career to take a position as Vice Principal at one of the ISD’s other schools.  Willingham, 43, became the District’s Assistant Athletic Director.  Coach Ronnie McBee returned to the school in his previous position.

At the end of the school year, K.O. Vaughn, 55, retired after 30 years with the FWISD.  He had been the North Side band director for 16-years before becoming a Vice Principal at J.P. Elder Jr. High, then at EHHS.


Note, from a Wikipedia article:  "Dating back to 1910, the UIL only governed white schools in Texas.  From 1940 to 1970, an era of racial segregation in Texas, the Prairie View Interscholastic League (PVIL), headquartered at Prairie View A&M University, served as a separate parallel organization for African-American public high schools in Texas.

"In 1965, the UIL agreed to admit PVIL member schools for competition.  Black schools began UIL competition beginning in the 1967-68 school year. After the 1969-70 school year, the UIL fully absorbed all PVIL member schools, the majority of which would later be merged with their white counterparts."

1968-69, Year 10.


For those of us who were around for the 1962 season, the new additions to the coaching staff are nearly astounding.  Jerry Sadler was the Head Coach of the North Side team that handed us our only District loss that year...and Raymond Davila was his team's quarterback!  Davila was voted the District 4A-5 outstanding back for the 1962 season.  I think he played football at Baylor.

Hmm...Davila was our age.  Don't know about you, but in 1968 I was about 9000-miles west of Ft. Worth collecting combat pay...see how those various deferments worked?  In school--deferred; married--deferred; employed in a critical defense industry--deferred; Reserves--sort of deferred; Daddy with political connections--maybe Germany or an erstwhile journalist; with children--even more deferred, etc.

1968.  Gone are Johnson, Vaughn, Mitcham, Willingham, and Graves.  It was a different locker room, to be sure.

Adios

Friday, January 27, 2012

Booster Club Football Brochures - 1961 & 1962


1962

Note:  I've been considering writing something of my own personal recollections about each of these guys.  However, to date I've been content to let the coaches' contemporary descriptions stand on their own.  They are accurate and objective.  If there is enough interest expressed in my personal recollections, then perhaps I will consider sharing them.  Some of them I knew quite well; others only slightly.  I recall no more, nor any less bonding as friends on those practice fields of so long ago.  For the most part, each guy pictured was intently focused on doing his very best to win a spot in the starting lineup, and thus get to play the game.  I don't think seeking glory had much to do with it; rather, it was an amazingly common interest in seeking excellence in one's own athletic performance.  When those individual goals came together as a team effort, some remarkable things could happen...and did.


 

1961

These brochures show the players that the coaches had identified as their most promising prospects for the coming seasons.  Having their pictures published in one of these brochures was a substantial achievement for those pictured...there were almost as many on the "A" Teams who did not get their picture published and many of them also played a significant part in the success of the teams. 


Adios

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

First String


The previous article illustrates the trek of a few youngsters as they progressed from their earliest exposure to organized sports to their encounters with the culling process at EH that thinned the herd into its eventual “A” Team.  That same process was at work long before we went through it and has continued in the nearly half-century since we left—at almost every school in the country. 

As you watch your college and professional football games, maybe you would keep in mind that the players you are watching at that level are very rare birds, even the dorks.  The best of them are almost a work of art in their own right—and it’s a renewable resource.  There will be another batch next year, and the next!

Even after entering EH, there were subtle additional goals and barriers set in front of each boy still in the hunt for a spot on the team.  I’m not sure they were so much there by design as they were there by practical necessity.  For instance, having played on one of the “B” Teams did not ensure a spot on the “A” Team.  Recall that each year there were just over 40 on the “B” Teams, but only about 20 openings on the next “A” Team.  I think the number on the “A” Teams were limited by UIL regulations to something on the order of 45…and there were 2 classes available from which to choose, as well as an occasional extraordinary Sophomore and a talented transfer or two, such as David Bane.  And it was in the coaches interest to be sure they had a supply of returning Seniors each year from the previous year’s team.  Actually, it was a necessity; otherwise the next year’s team would be completely inexperienced.

Once you passed the “B” Team cut and progressed to the “A” Team, there were several more goals for which to strive.  First was the recognition of getting your picture and a short bio published in the Booster Club brochure.  If you were in it, you knew you had the coaches’ attention, if not…well, your tenure on the team could be tenuous.  Inclusion in the brochure had the additional benefit of being an unmistakable ego boost.  However, there were only 24 players shown in the 1961 brochure and 30 in the 1962 publication.  They could be viewed as the coaches best pre-season estimate of who was going to letter that year.  But, they were not always accurate because there were always a few who either showed poorly or others who greatly improved after those brochures were printed.  It was a very fluid situation.

Depending on how well you had done in Spring training at the end of the previous school year, your status with the team was ranked by the coaches in an unexplained manner.  And following a 2-week pre-season conditioning period that started in the miserably hot days of late August, the starting lineups were announced.  Those lineups were never fixed and always subject to change, depending on individual performance and any subsequent injuries.  The coaches were always focused on having the very best of their players on the field for each game. 

The team pictures in the previous article usually show 35-45 team members and those pictures were usually taken sometime late in the season (note the few injured players at the ends of the rows in some of them).  However, if you ever counted the names on the game programs, in 1962 you would see 34 names.  The difference between the 45 shown in the 1962 team picture and the number printed on the programs account for the number that could not fit into a City bus for the short ride to Farrington Field!  The bus carried 34, and that was how many players were permitted to suit up for a game.  If the game was held out of town, a “traveling squad” was picked which were a few less than 34; perhaps 28, if I recall correctly.  So, in those 2 events was another “cut” of sorts.  If you read a lot of “Rudy” in this, you’re right.  Getting picked for the traveling squad or being permitted to suit up for a local game became another small goal for an “A” Team player to achieve.


First Stringers never gave these situations much thought, but for those who were on the cusp of making the team or being dropped off, those hurdles were very important indicators of one’s status relative to others.  Of course, the next cut off point was the qualification for earning a letter.  Of the 45 shown in the 1962 “A” Team picture, just 23 earned that 1962 “E.” 


Starting with our 1962 team, Coach Mitcham had the photographer take a pair of “First String” team pictures showing the usual starting teams, both offense and defense.  It was probably seen by him as a tribute to his starters, the ones who logged the most playing time on the school’s first city championship team.  Of the 22 positions shown, there were 16 different players—6 of them played “both ways,” offense and defense.  The result was a fine image differentiating the first string players from the larger supporting squad…and yet another subtle goal for future aspirants.

Actually, the starting players could vary somewhat from one game to the next.  This was due to there being a few players at certain positions who were very evenly matched.  If this week’s starter was faltering, there was a second stringer right behind him standing ready to take the position.  Of course, injuries could reorder any starting lineup at any time. 

Someone recently suggested that the football teams were a kind of school social club beyond their common interest in playing the game.  Something like that may have developed in the years following ours as I do recall some circa 1980s stories reporting that kind of atmosphere nationally.  However, I think the most accurate description for these teams was that they were similar to a light infantry squad.  Each player was well trained, depended on the others to do their jobs, and trusted his team mates.  In general, the team members had been playing ball together for several years.  Most of them had girl friends to occupy their free time and I have no knowledge or suspicion of there having ever been any drinking and drug use. 
 

These “First String” pictures are found in each of the CLAN yearbooks of 1963-1964-1965-1966. after which the pictures were no longer published.  Coach Mitcham’s tenure lasted just one more year, through the 1967 season. 


Subsequent to the 1962 picture, all others were taken with the helmets removed, so you could see the faces.  But, you know I prefer the helmets-on shot…that’s what our opponents saw.

Adios

Sunday, January 22, 2012

First EHHS Football Teams

Pictures used to illustrate this piece have come from old yearbooks and one scan is from a private collection—if you have a HQ scan of one of these teams that could improve the picture quality, please send it in. 

For those of us who played on one or more of these early teams, this story was not at all obvious at the time.  For me, there were elements of participation with these teams that provided both incredible highs and crushing lows, and of course, a range of emotion in between.

Starting in the elementary grades, kids possessing some natural athletic skills began to emerge.  Sand lot baseball games probably identified the early stars…they were the kids picked first for the softball teams each recess period.  There were always a couple of kids in the group that no one wanted because in addition to having no skills, they often showed no interest, either.  These teams were generally made up from within a single class having about 15-20 boys from which to pick…so, the choices were few—the girls played jump rope in another part of the playground back then.  Inevitably 1 or 2 “stars” would emerge from each class.  A few of them were just boisterous kids with no particularly notable talent, but there were also a few genuinely gifted youngsters among them.

At the start of 7th grade Junior High, kids having an interest in playing the game were first exposed to school sponsored contact (tackle) football, pads and all.  Kids already identified as lacking athletic skills didn’t bother trying out for the team, but since each Junior High grade was made up of perhaps 6 or 7 different former elementary school classes, the total potential talent pool had expanded to perhaps 90-140 boys, including among them, perhaps 5 or 6 budding “stars.” 

Of course, there was also a significant number of the middling sort who liked to play and held on to some hope that they would grow and improve to a point where they, too, could win a spot on the team.  Winning a spot on the “team” and ultimately, winning a letter was the end goal.  From the start of the 7th grade, there was a school team that not only competed on behalf of the school, but also served as an example of what was possible even for the middling sort, at least for a year or two.  It was that possibility that kept a number of kids coming out for the team each year, often well beyond the point where they should have “hung them up.”

This 1959 Meadowbrook Junior High team picture below shows all 3 grades, 7-9, together.  I counted about 80 kids and circled those I recall who later became EHHS lettermen.  The green circles are those who lettered with the 1962 Ft. Worth championship team and the white are those I recognize from the 1963 & 1964 EH teams.  Of interest is how few would ultimately survive the culling process to follow at EHHS.  Handley Junior High would add about 1/3 of this number into the process and William James JH would add a few more.


“B” Teams

When we reported to the EHHS football locker room as Sophomores in August 1960, we encountered an entirely new world than the one we knew a year earlier at Meadowbrook Jr. Hi (or Handley, or William James).  For the first time, we saw the 17-year old Seniors and they were really big guys, while we 15-year old Sophomores were still pretty skinny and awfully light in comparison.  To my eyes, all the 1960-61 Seniors were new faces as I had not been at Meadowbrook to see them 2-years earlier, while in the 7th grade.

For us Sophomores, waiting for us was the EHHS “B” Team and Coach Ronnie McBee, a tall, slender, yet solid man, about 30.  He had a deep, resonant voice, a cocky attitude, and was in firm control of about 41 of us.  Almost immediately he divided the 41 “B” Team aspirants into 2 groups and assigned them the team names, Rinky Dinks and Raiders. Generally, the 41 "B" Team youngsters were the Junior High lettermen from Meadowbrook and Handley.  That Junior High letter was the first culling of the future "A" Team varsity Highlanders.

At the time it was obvious that Coach McBee had selected the best players for the Rinky Dink team and the Raiders…well, the Raiders were the scrubs, probably slated to be cut from the following year's "A" Team tryouts.  I’m pretty sure that the “A” Team varsity coaches, Mitcham, Willingham, and Graves, took no part in making that division.  However, in reviewing the pictures with older, adult eyes, I can see that the 18 Rinky Dinks were mostly the starting team players the previous year at the 2 local Junior Highs, Meadowbrook and Handley...plus a couple from William James and a Junior transfer from Waco who, due to residency requirements, was ineligible to play on the "A" Team, Biff Flatt. 

Not obvious at the time was that although ours was the school’s 2nd “B” Team, it was the 1st year the boys were divided into the 2 distinct groups.  The year before, 1959, the very 1st EHHS “B” Team consisted of 42 boys, but they were kept in a single group.  Recalling Coach McBee’s persona, it is likely that during the first year he determined that he no longer wanted to fool around with scrub players, knowing that essentially none of them were destined to play a significant part on an EHHS varsity.  The second cut had been made. 

Supporting that approach was another not so obvious fact…no more than about 20 boys from each class ever became “A” Team players on those early EHHS varsity football teams.  And perhaps only about half of them would play enough to earn that coveted “E” letter.  The “A” Team coaches set the final procedures and standards by the way they managed their varsity.  Their principal interest was to find the best players for the 22 starting positions and back them up with the best of the next year’s senior class players, who were then Juniors; the result being, "A" Teams consisting of about half Seniors and half Juniors.

The Rinky Dink – Raider approach lasted only 2-years, 1960 and 1961, before it ended when Ronnie McBee moved on and was replaced by Coach Johnny Howerton in 1962.  For those on the Raider teams, it was made clear nearly every day that they were not of any value to the EHHS football program.  They were not issued numbered jerseys, were kept apart from the Rinky Dinks, and used only as Rinky Dink live practice dummies.  They were the “Rudy” group well before there was a “Rudy.” 

In retrospect, McBee’s judgment was pretty accurate.  Only 4 of the 23 Raiders went on to earn their “E” where 13 of the 18 Rinky Dinks did so, some of them more than one…those 13 boys earned 20 letters, meaning that 7 of them lettered as Juniors.

These “B” Team pictures show 3 of the first 4, EHHS 4A-5 All District players (red stars)…one each from the 1959 "B" Team, the 1960 Rinky Dinks, and even one from the 1960 Raiders.  The 4th All District player skipped “B” team altogether and went straight to the “A” Team as a Sophomore.  He was Sam Scott. 

Under Coach Howerton, the 1962 “B” Team was once more combined into one group, but the number was reduced to about 30.  Either way, the 42 boys wanting to continue playing football were effectively reduced to about 20 final “A” Team survivors in each class.  So, as you view the following “A” Team pictures below, you are seeing a pretty select group of boys who each got their start as one of about 300-350 young kids (2-grades) on an elementary school playground and who had survived a relentless culling before getting to put on their varsity jersey.  Only about half of them in each picture would ultimately earn their “E” letter jacket.

“A” Teams

Although my take and greatest knowledge about the EHHS football program began with the 1960 season, there was one earlier team…the first EHHS varsity that played its season in the 3A league as it had as Handley High School before its closure.  The school was quite small that first year and it had to wait one year before neighborhood growth took EHHS into the 4A-5 district of Ft. Worth’s largest schools.

Included in this section are the last 2 HHS varsity teams in order to illustrate that much of the Handley program actually made the transition to the brand new EHHS.  Several details are worth noting in the HHS team pictures.  First, by 1959 Handley was graduating only about 80 seniors (only about half of them boys), which meant that the coaches had to draw on the Junior and Sophomore classes in order to find enough skilled players to field a credible team.  In so doing, you will see a number of Handley players on the teams over a 3-year period, including the first EHHS team in 1959. 

Second, there are a number of families that provided siblings to those Handley teams; and lastly, the Handley coaching staff became the first EHHS coaching staff…George Mitcham, Bill Elliot, and Ronny McBee.  Bill Elliot would stay only that first year, before he returned to Handley.

1957.

1958.

1958.

This 1958 Poly team picture shows the next to last Parrot team to play as the sole East Side representative in Ft. Worth's District 4A-5 before EHHS opened.  I don't see anyone in this photo who transferred to EH the next year to play on the first EHHS varsity team.  So, that suggests that the 1959 EHHS team was entirely a Handley show.

However, I do see several older brothers of those we did know at EH during the early 1960s.  There's Pat Wadlington, Susie's older brother; Ronnie McCoy, Danny's older brother; and Jack Morris, Phil & Roby's older brother.  There are also some familiar names such as Thompson, Priddy, and Buckman who may have been related to some of our classmates, but I'm not sure of that.

1959.

This is the 1st EHHS varsity “A” Team.  It was essentially a Handley High School team carryover from the closing of Handley.  Although I recognize a few Meadowbrook players among them, I think most of the ex-Meadowbrook players of this year elected to attend Poly and play their football there.  Anyone with better information than this, please straighten me out on the story.

1959 - Coaches
They had been the coaches of the HHS teams above for a number of years; George Mitcham the head coach, Bill Elliott, his assistant.

1960.

This is the first EHHS 4A-5 team to play the large Ft. Worth high schools.  All the Handley High players were graduated and gone by this point.  Coach Elliot returned (I think) to Handley Junior High and George Mitcham remained as head coach.  He was joined this year by new coaches, James Willingham and Dub Graves.

34 players are pictured, 24 letters were awarded, 11 of them to Juniors, 1 of them to Sophomore Sam Scott.  The school's first 4A-5 All District player.  Kip Miller is #30 in the center of the second row.  The season record was 3-6-1 overall and 1-4-1 in 4A-5.

1960 - "A" Team Coaches 

1961.

This is the second 4A-5 team, the school's third varsity.  The coaching staff solidified their program this year, and it is about this point where traditions and coaching philosophies began to become apparent.  It is also the first team that included as about half of its members, our Class of 1963...those who had survived McBee's "B" Team Rinky Dink/Raider culling process.

39 players are pictured, 24 letters were awarded, 9 of them to Juniors, 1 to Sophomore Roby Morris, and there were no All District players named from this team.  EHHS' first 3-year letterman, Teddy Gober earned his 3rd letter this year.  The season record was 4-6 overall and 3-3 in 4A-5.

1962.

This is the first EHHS Ft. Worth 4A-5 District championship team and the school's fourth varsity.  There were no coaching staff changes as the school's football program continued to mature.

This season's first victory over Ft. Worth's perennial powerhouse, R.L. Paschal (8-7) remains a bright memory to this date (2012) in many old timers' minds.

45 players are pictured, 23 letters were awarded, 5 of them to Juniors.  The school's 2nd, 3rd, and 4th All District players were Sam Scott #35, Paul Shields #86, and Bob Keener #70, each of them shown in this picture.  Sam Scott became the school's second 3-year letterman.

The season record was 7-3 overall and 5-1 in 4A-5.  The team lost its first venture into the Texas State Playoffs, 0-7 to Dallas Samuell, which brought the overall season record to 7-4.   

1963.

This EHHS team, the school's fifth fielded its team the year after we '63s left.  It must have been somewhat difficult to labor in the shadow of the previous year's glory, but they did a good job with it.  There were still no coaching staff changes and the school's football program continued its maturation.

46 players are pictured, 30 letters were awarded, 14 of them to Juniors.  Apparently the Ft. Worth district coaches and local press started taking EHHS seriously this year as they named 5 Highlanders to the All District team--Steve Rose #64, Ted Harris #24, and Ray Avery #53, each of them returning starters from the 1962 championship team; also, Junior Mike Flowers #55 and Ted Moberg #32.  Roby Morris #10 became the school's third 3-year letterman.

Ted Moberg was a fine football player who had been singled out at Meadowbrook, as an 8th grader (see the Meadowbrook picture above), to play with the school's varsity but never quite developed to his highest potential until this year.  In retrospect after studying the teams for the piece, it is clear that his great misfortune was to be slotted just behind one of the school's early standouts, Sam Scott.  When Ted finally got his chance, he made the most of it and was named to the All District team as both a halfback and a fullback.  Note:  This is one of the subtle facts that are often lost to history...very important to the individual, but utterly lost in life's larger sweep.  There were a few other stories like this one in these pictures.

The season record was 5-3-1 overall and 4-2 in 4A-5.  Unfortunately, the 2 District losses were to Paschal and Arlington Heights, who no doubt were focused on ensuring that EH would not embarrass them again in 1963.  

All District 


Just earning a spot on an “A” Team was an ambitious goal and then winning a starting position was a fairly rare achievement experienced by very few.  It’s quite likely that any notion of achieving any further recognition was not at all on any kid’s mind.  However, near the season’s end the coaches and sports writers would cast their votes for the best players at each position in the city district consisting then of 7 schools—Paschal, Arlington Heights, Carter-Riverside, North Side, Poly, Tech, and EHHS.  The results were published in a late November, Sunday paper, along with a listing of others who polled the next highest vote totals. 

An offensive and defensive team followed by a listing of the honorable mention players was the usual published format.  The All District players were usually not too much of a surprise because the coaches’ scouting reports used all season had usually highlighted those same players as the best on the opposing teams we met.

Eastern Hills’ entry into the 4A-5 district in 1960 was generally viewed by the Ft. Worth sports community with some low regard.  We got no respect, as Rodney Dangerfield liked to say.  The accompanying collage shows the EHHS All District picks during its first 5-years; the lack of respect seems apparent in the slow start EH got in placing some of its players on the teams.  

The Coaches 

One of the more enlightening aspects of this study has been to both recall and discover small changes in the coaching staff over the first few years in EHHS history.  Those of us who participated with some of these early teams generally knew of our particular 1-3 year period of involvement, but little or nothing of the years outside those we were there. 

Whatever 3-year period picked, members of a team will generally recall just those coaches for whom he played.  However, the movements of the individual coaches over a wider time span in those early EH years tell an interesting story.
George Mitcham got the head coach job at Handley High School shortly after his graduation from TCU in the early 1950s.  His assistant coaches there were Bill Elliott and Ronnie McBee.  Mitcham and Elliott became EHHS’ first varsity coaches in 1959, while McBee coached the “B” Team.

Bill Elliott returned to Handley Junior High for the 1960 season and as EHHS made the move up to 4A-5, Mitcham was joined at EH by James Willingham and Dub GravesPrincipal Roy Johnson most likely played an active part in recruiting the new coaches.  Both Johnson and Graves had been coaches at Tech some years earlier. 

The Mitcham-Willingham-Graves staff remained together through the 1966 season, after which Graves left to take a position outside the Ft. Worth ISD.  Mitcham and Willingham coached one more year in 1967, then both left and were replaced by Jerry Sadler, the long-time North Side Coach...see the collage to the right. McBee and Howerton remained on the coaching staff.

The coaching staff we knew during the first 5-years remained fairly intact through the 1967 football season.  The Class of 1968 saw the last of the school, we in the early classes saw at the very beginning of EHHS.  Also leaving with the coaches was K.O. Vaughn, the school's first Vice-Principal; Roy Johnson, the first EHHS Principal left with the Class of 1967, a year earlier.

One of the more interesting new arrivals Fall 1968 was Raymond Davila.  Davila and Sadler had been Coach and student quarterback on the North Side team that had blown EH out during the 1962 championship season, 6-years earlier...see the program highlight at right. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dub Graves 1928 - 2012

Coach Graves left us last night
R.I.P. Dub
 

Was there ever anyone as cool as Dub Graves? With a build sporting a six-pack before some of us knew what to call it, Coach Graves was a tanned, muscular Adonis who moved about our hallways with us. Always in good humor, his attitude seemed to radiate the fact that he loved his job and his life.

And why not? Dub Graves turned 34 during our senior year and was still single, although he never seemed to lack for female company. Could anyone ever forget that fine ’56 or ’57 turquoise T-Bird convertible, often with a hot blonde seat cover? I have no idea where he lived, but I think it was on the West Side. During the summer he could sometimes be seen out on Eagle Mountain Lake working on both his wooden Chris-Craft, and on his tan. Those who saw him at our 20th reunion saw a white haired version of an older Adonis, still full of it.

As a coach, he was far and away the best athlete on the coaching staff. As a teacher of American History, I would have to venture a guess . . . not as good as Mr. Sills. Dub was also one of the P.E. teachers and if I were to venture another guess . . . he didn’t like that too much. I think he much preferred to coach the school’s athletic teams. To amuse himself during our senior year, he instituted the “Tough Tail” contest in his P.E. classes. This contest established an award of sorts, for the guy that took the most licks during a semester. I don’t know how long that went on, but was always surprised that it drew some active “competition” for the trophy.

Never did know what his "W" name was...Walter, maybe.  But his middle "A" name (Anath) was always visible.  However, I recall his stern warning that he would not tolerate any mispronunciation of that name.  You had to think a little about that one, but soon enough you realized that he most likely had some problems along the line with others mangling it into anus...wow, Walter Anus...no wonder he stepped around that one.

He taught me an effective way to block down field by launching myself into a safety's chest.  Coach Graves made it look easy, but for me it was a little more difficult...I didn't have the coiled springs in my legs he still had at age 33.  He did leave me with one of his little poems, one that I remember to this day.  I can't remember the cardinal dates in my family life, but I can remember that little ditty, word for word.  He made one up for each guy on that '62 Highlander team and read them at the season's end banquet.  How I would love to have the words to all or some of those little poems.  They were styled in the same manner as Cassius Clay, then the boxing champion, was using to promote his early career.  Clay later became Mohammad Ali, of course. 

During the 1950’s, Dub had flirted with a professional baseball career, and had been a varsity back with the University of Tulsa football team. He was a favorite of Principal Roy Johnson from some previous school district assignment they both held, I don’t know what jobs Dub held after we left, but by the time we held our 20th reunion in 1983, he was in public relations for the teacher’s credit union.  He was quite a character...an unforgettable one.




This is the turquoise color T-Bird I recall Coach Graves driving around EHHS.  My clearest memory is of him with a blonde alongside, pulled into the small low area between the shop doors and the tennis courts above.  Football players exited the locker room from a door in that same area and frequently saw Dub sitting there in his beautiful T-Bird, a great looking blonde by his side.  I think he married this girl sometime after we left EH…and another one bit the dust!  His obit mentions that he had been married 47-years.

I left EH an 18-year old with a broken heart—my first love, a flop.  Fortunately, 18-year old broken hearts are resilient and after reaching into whatever character reserve I then possessed, managed to recover. 

There’s really no way to credit anything or anyone specifically for whatever reserve one draws on to repair and adjust to ongoing life, but could there be any real question that Coach Graves had planted a vision in me and contributed something of himself to my recovery?  A couple of years after leaving EH with that broken heart, I had rounded up my own convertible and a blonde seat cover.

Thanks for the insight, Coach Graves…..and Thank you God!    


Abandon Ship!


Friday, three days ago, the Italian cruise ship, Costa Concordia, struck rocks near a Tuscan island off Italy's Mediterranean coast.  Aboard were over 4200 people and to date the losses appear to be fairly minimal.  However, the pictures of such a large ship on its side are striking.

Almost immediately, reports were in circulation of the ship’s captain behaving in a cowardly manner as the ship was foundering.  Tuesday, this morning, recordings of radio transmissions between his company’s dispatcher and the captain began to broadcast over news media.  The recordings appear to support the earlier reports…the captain had abandoned his ship among some of the first of those subsequently recovered by rescuers.


Having served, in the distant past, as a member of a blue water ocean-going crew, I have some modest knowledge of those who go down to the sea in ships.  There’s about 60,000 miles of modest sea-going knowledge sitting somewhere in my ROM.

This old salt’s quick thoughts are: (1) it’s dumb to be that close to a shore unless leaving or entering a port; (2) current day super size cruise ships look awfully top heavy—they fail my stability eye-ball test; (3) the captain, age 52, is a card-carrying member of the Italian chapter of the FBG; (4) there are no mitigating circumstances in this event; (5) how big is that lumbering beast?

The Costa Concordia and the USS Reagan are about the same size, nominally 114,000-tons.  Each is nominally about 1000-ft long; the Reagan is incrementally larger in both dimensions.  Center of gravity and moment arm, two fundamental concepts taught to every Freshman future engineer, determine a floating vessel’s stability.  It would be desirable to have the CG located underwater on the keel.  However, that is not possible.  The next best design would place the CG as low as possible and would preclude stacking too much weight high above the waterline. 


Although this current event appears to be a matter of stupidity and not a CG issue, I think the CG issue is worth planting near these dramatic images, as it’s a question that has long dogged my acceptance of fun in the sun cruising.  It has always seemed to me that a large, top-heavy cruise ship would be inherently unstable in a heavy sea-state--stabilizers and such notwithstanding. 

Add in the presence of captains like this current character who are legally the absolute “authority” aboard that ship while it’s in International waters, frequent main propulsion failures, frequent food poisoning, frequent missing passengers presumably gone overboard, foreign non-English speaking crews, and a few other troubling conditions…nope, I’m content here onshore. 

Before a Navy ship is deployed to foreign waters it always undergoes strenuous sea trials to prove the integrity of its systems and structures.  Some of the most dramatic trials are the high-speed runs with throttles full open, the props thrown into full reverse while at full speed, and high speed turns as the Reagan is doing below.  Note both the list and the demonstration of the vessel’s stability.  It’s probably making in excess of 35-knots…I think the rudder is thrown to its full travel in that direction, so it’s bearing the full force of all that water pushed against it by a quickly moving 114,000 ton vessel…that’s a lot of stress on the rudder and its support structures.

Draught is another stability contributor.  The more the better; however, the more you have, the fewer the ports that can handle the ship.  The Reagan has a 37-ft. draught; the Costa Concordia, 24-ft.

The pictures coming in from this event are fascinating…I’ve never seen anything this dramatic before, nor thankfully did I ever see a ship sink.  Images of a sinking ship have always struck me as a spooky scene, and these show some remarkably clear views of the underside of those top-heavy vessels that trouble me so.  I would like to see more mass hanging under the water line.


Settlement Offers:

No. 1:  Refund cruise fare plus 30% discount on all future cruises!
No. 2:  $14,000  (28 Jan 2012).

Previous Recent Events:


Underway !

Friday, January 13, 2012

K. O. Vaughn & THE PADDLE


Someone wrote to ask why I had not yet done a piece on Kenneth O. Vaughn, the first EHHS Vice-Principal. I had a reason, but it was a little difficult to express because my thoughts of him involve a larger, more complex body of thought than just a few anecdotes and observations. The fact is, when I think of K.O. Vaughn, I’ve always recalled him as the “Enforcer.” He was the school’s disciplinarian, which in our time meant….THE PADDLE! And since corporal punishment in public schools has been a lively topic over the past decades I’ve thought it worth a rational treatment.

Mr. Vaughn was a skinny, relatively tall Ichabod Crane-type of guy; energetic, always jovial, neither quiet nor boisterous. He roamed the halls with a smile on his face, but behind that cheery smile many of us knew that he was really, “the enforcer.” As the enforcer, he was the academic teachers’ go-to-guy when they had a discipline problem with someone. In my recollection few, if any, academic teachers wielded a paddle themselves…Mr. Vaughn took care of that for them. You knew that behind that mousy or meek female or male teacher, lurked the possibility of a trip to Mr. Vaughn’s office and in short order, a stinging backside.

As the pictures accurately portray, Ken Vaughn never quite managed to find a suit that fit very well, so although he was a neat and clean sort, he always had a bit of a frumpy look to him…at least to my eyes. However, you can credit him for handling a job that appears to be currently employing 6 or 8 people to accomplish similar duties at a school that still has about the same number of students. To my knowledge his boss Roy Johnson, didn’t directly involve himself with discipline matters.

One of Mr. Vaughn’s regular tasks was to patrol the student parking lot to ensure that no one left campus without having a proper pass. Get caught without a pass…the PADDLE! He also patrolled the hallways during a school assembly in the auditorium to ensure no one ducked out of a remote doorway to go play pool, instead. Get caught ducking out…the PADDLE! And during lunch periods he would patrol the few local food joints to snare anyone away from school without a lunch pass. Get caught eating away from campus without a lunch pass…the PADDLE! You get the idea. I think he was also the de facto school truant officer which gave him more opportunities to swing the PADDLE!

Ken Vaughn coached the tennis team during the spring so, it was said that he had a good swing. He was an accomplished musician who had some kind of connection with the Carswell AFB band which visited the school to perform once or twice each year.

As it was at Meadowbrook Junior High, the male coaches at EHHS handled their own discipline matters, which were almost an ongoing event, especially in the PE classes. At the Junior High, the shop teachers were notorious enforcers, but at EH, I think they weren’t quite so active. To understand the inconspicuous role the PADDLE played in our public school matriculation, you would almost have had to have been there. In my own experience, it was a constant threat from the first day of the 7th grade until graduation 6-years later.

Of the coaches, only Ron McBee and Dub Graves were enthusiastic wielders of the PADDLE. Both of them were mostly employed as PE teachers, each of them having a full day of classes, so there was an ample supply of potential miscreants. The other coaches, George Mitcham and James Willingham would swing a paddle now and then, but neither of them were nearly as prolific as McBee and Graves. Mitcham looked after study halls each day and Willingham taught American History.

Members of the school athletic teams could be targets, but not very often and never for trivial reasons as could be the case in the PE classes. However, of the 6-licks I got over my 6-years in the risk zone, 3 of them came from Coach Willingham…and I was completely innocent! It was Phil Nixon’s fault and I never really forgave him.

While in the showers after football practice one afternoon, Phil thought it would be funny to throw a wet towel at Coach Willingham, and so he did. The towel, heavy with water, hit Willingham in the back of his head with a resounding splat and nearly knocked him over, ass over tea kettle. Willingham, an easy going sort, slowly turned around with a wide, exasperated grin on his face and asked who did it? None of the 8 or 10 guys in the shower replied, including Phil, the culprit. O.K., says Willingham…3 each. And Phil never said a word, nor did anyone else. It wasn’t so much that we wanted to protect Phil as it was a kind of adolescent camaraderie where we just wouldn’t give up a team mate. We did get a towel for cover, but it didn’t help any and for the record, Willingham didn’t swing very hard.

An 8th grade shop teacher delivered my first fiery tap…talking, as usual. And K.O. tapped me twice for some trivial offense reported by James Ledbetter, our resident EH Aggie. Can’t say I learned anything from those assaults, other than to be more careful about getting caught doing trivial stuff and that in my particular case, public officialdom was 50% flat wrong and only marginally right another 35% of the time. That 8th grade shop teacher nailed me fair and square.

After we left EH and during the tumult of the sixties that included the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s Rights movement, and Vietnam, the issue of school paddlings came to the fore of public discourse. It was only one of a number of anachronisms in our society. Our generation reasonably asked that if we were old enough to be called to war at age 18, why weren’t we old enough to have a beer in the local pub? Similarly and more pointedly, the same reasoning was applied to the voting age…we could be forced by the draft to go far away to kill and be killed, but we could not vote on those responsible for taking us into the war—both the voting age and the drinking age then was 21.

All those anachronisms were addressed and changed—if there is one substantial thing our generation contributed to improving conditions within our society, I would nominate that it was us who firmly pressed our elders and authorities with the question WHY? It was a reasonable question to which there was often no rational answer.

Men like K.O. Vaughn represented the last gasp of a dying institution … beating or threatening to beat our children into submission. I recognize that comment is a bit harsh and not really representative of the type of man K. O. Vaughn was. He and the others highlighted in this piece were all good-humored men, also fair and credible contributors to our secondary education. Smacking young fannies was an ancillary activity in their daily routines and probably of marginal effect in dispensing discipline. However, as the historian, Shelby Foote, liked to say (paraphrased), “there is nothing so conducive to maintaining a polite society than the threat of a punch in the nose.” Perhaps it’s the absence of the threat of a tap on the rear that has, in part, led to the sad state of affairs in our public schools today.


K.O. Vaughn retired in 1968 and his departure was appropriately marked with the dedication of that year's CLAN...


Either that same year, or the year before, Roy Johnson, Coaches George Mitcham, and James Willingham, also left EH. Coach Graves left in 1966 to work for a local Credit Union, where he stayed for 25-years. Many of the teachers we knew during our years there were also gone; after 1968 the school was substantially different than the one we knew. Many of us were starting our families, trying to hang on to those coveted II-S draft deferments, or for some of us, an all-expense paid trip to Southeast Asia was our award following receipt of a snail mail message from our local draft board.


Adios