Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Charles Berry, Twain Morrow, and Bill Blocker

CJ64Mr. Charles Berry was the principal at Meadowbrook, and a fine one he was. He was an imposing man – tall with silver hair combed straight back with a high part, as was the custom in his youth during the 1930s. He had a flattened nose that could have only come from playing football without a face mask.

I never saw his written signature, but saw plenty of his stamped signatures. He always signed his name “Chas. M. Berry”, and it took me years to realize that the first part of the signature could be interpreted as “chasm”-- much like Al Kaline’s name is “alkaline”.

Mr. Berry’s philosophy in running a school was to pinpoint leaders from the student body and let them run the school with his guidance. The Student Council made a lot of decisions on the day-to-day problems of the school, and we felt we had a real voice in its operation. He also appealed to our finer natures, and it worked. For example, we might have been the only school in Fort Worth without locks on the lockers. He would always tell us that we were not that kind of school or that kind of people – we don’t steal from each other.

The result was a self-policed, safe school. Mr. Berry was the kind of man you didn’t want to disappoint.

He was later promoted to be the principal at Paschal High, and the promotion was well-deserved. Mr. Berry made a real difference in our lives.

The assistant principal and head coach of everything was Twain Morrow, who was naturally called “Too-Too-Twain” by the students. He was a reserved man who wasn’t necessarily likable, but did receive a lot of respect. He looked sort of like a more handsome Victor Mature with a straighter nose. He became our principal when Mr. Berry moved on, and the school transitioned with nary a hitch.

The assistant coach for everything was Bill Blocker, an emotional, outgoing sort of guy who tended to fat, had squinty eyes, a very upturned nose, and was naturally nicknamed “Piggy” (but never to his face!). Coach Blocker was a UT graduate and had been the manager and part-time player for the UT baseball national champions of 1950. He became the head coach in our 9th grade when Mr. Morrow took over as principal.

He was famous for giving out nicknames to his players. For example, Al Lewis became Alkali, Ted Moberg was Titty-rump, Roby Morris was Robo, I was “Johnny” (but I think because he couldn’t remember my name and probably thought it was Johnny), and so forth. When we were seniors at Eastern Hills, Al and Ted came out as co-captains for the coin toss against Poly High. The referee was none other than Coach Blocker, and he greeted them with “Alkali, Titty-rump, how you boys doin’?” -- much to the consternation of the Poly captains.

I played third-string center for him. In 9th grade I weighed about 120 pounds and was about 5’4”, and I wasn’t very fast or very good. Years later my wife and I went down to Austin to see Texas Tech play Texas. We checked into the old Alamo Hotel before the game and there in the lobby was Coach Blocker. By this time I was 6’2” and weighed about 185. I introduced myself, and very much to my surprise, he beamed and said “Johnny, you played center for me!” I was stunned that he could remember a very non-memorable player, but that is the kind of guy he was. Unfortunately, he died young not too many years after that from a heart attack.

To the boys, these three men were the heart and soul of Meadowbrook Junior High. We were fortunate to have men like that to help show us how to be men.

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