Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Jim Taylor
Hall of Famer, Jim Taylor was often compared with Jim Brown, the Cleveland fullback, who played at the same time (1960s). There were many different viewpoints but Lombardi's summation was most succinct. "Jim Brown will give you that leg and then take it away from you. Jim Taylor will give it to you and then ram it through your chest!"

The last posting brought a number of comments, including one from a close EH friend who took issue with Paul’s belief that the game should be left alone with respect to changing the tackling rules.  It got me thinking more closely about those few years, so many years ago.  Paul and a couple of others shared further thoughts on the topic and I thought it might be interesting to do a little illustrated look back.  What fun this look back was.  

Paul wrote, 

"Gus, your recollections of our schoolboy football gear pretty much match mine.  It was pretty raggedy at Meadowbrook and I do recall there being helmets both with and without face masks.  I don’t think I ever played without a face mask, and wouldn’t have wanted to.

"I sent you a picture of my very first football team, a 1957 seventh grade gang at Richland Jr. Hi.  When we played Haltom HS as seniors in 1962, some of the kids in that 1957 picture were on the Haltom team.  They beat us 6-0.  If you look at the picture closely, you will see a mix of helmets with and without face masks.”


I suppose the reason those who played this game are very slow to accept rule changes that could substantially change the game is only partly attributable to tradition.  It’s also probably attributable to a kind of kinship with other players and a reluctance to accept rulings put forth by those who aren’t part of the club.  I think commercial pilots, doctors, and attorneys share similar feelings about external pressures encroaching on their specialized fields.

The following picture sequence clearly shows the evolution of football helmets from the 1920s to 1970.  A couple of things are apparent with respect to our recollections of the arrival of face masks; one, the arrival started from about 1956-57 and was essentially complete by 1960.  After 1960, it appears that changes to the helmet face masks are minimal—a little heavier, another few structural pieces.  The masks provided good protection from fists, fingers, knees, and assorted other body parts bashing the faces.  

I think current concerns leading to rule change proposals have to do with concussions resulting from head to head collisions.  Such collisions have always been a possibility, but I would suggest that they were rarely a regular occurrence...everyone playing knew those kinds of collisions could be dangerous and took care to avoid them as much as possible. 

As has been discussed elsewhere in this blog, within EHHS any given year, and therefore in essentially every high school in the United States, there were just a few boys and young men that actually “suited up” for competitive football.  There were more of them when they were younger, where most kids wanting to give the game a try had the opportunity.  I would estimate that about 5-6% of the EH male population those years had tried contact football at some point in their schooling....after all, it was one way to impress the girls with one's growing masculinity--a powerful motivator!

Each year there were something on the order of less than 1% of the total high school student body (at EH) on the field, playing the game in competition with other schools.  That percentage would decline at the larger schools, such as Paschal where the number on the field relative to their student population was something on the order of ¼%.  Extend and reduce those small percentages to college and professional football and it’s obvious that at the pro level, the players are rare birds, indeed.

Further, at the high school level, most of the lads had been playing organized, contact football for 6-8 years by the time they were seniors.  They had a good idea of what was effective and relatively safe for them to do.  And, of course, their experience increased the longer they stayed with the game.  The game as we know it got its start in the late 19th century.

So, while I’m sympathetic to the expressions of concern coming from interested observers and health care professionals, I would still suggest to them that while their concern is appreciated, please leave the game alone.  The lads understand the risks and even at the high school level, they understand the game much better than any of the unsolicited, well-intentioned advisers.  There's that kinship notion again.

Although I haven’t kept up with the game or with this current issue, while preparing this posting, it seems possible that over time, players and coaches may have begun to place an unwarranted trust in safety margins provided by their improved equipment—they may have started to use their heads with more abandon.

Further, it’s possible that those involved in playing the game might have overlooked a substantial increase in the brain’s momentum within the cranial cavity resulting from more aggressive collisions.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the matter.  And absent clear statistical evidence describing an increasing problem, I would still want the game left alone.  I’m relatively certain that Jim Taylor, shown at the start of this posting would agree.  It’s never been a game for sissies and the game's veterans at all levels probably retain the same pride in their participation as Mr. Taylor obviously reflects.  Perhaps it's just a man-cave thing more fully understood by those who played.

Paul added,

"Although I didn't play as much nor as well as I would have wanted, the time I did play was a significant experience in my life and I've given it quite a bit of thought over the years.

"Every play was choreographed on a chalk board and later on a mimeographed handout sheetEvery player at every position had an assigned task for each and every play.  While it may have looked like chaos to a casual observer, it wasn't and isn't.  

"Most play assignments singled out a specific opposing player that you had to handle...either by blocking or tackling him.  Often there were more than one opposing players that you had to deal withA defensive player would not often know what to expect or from where...there was a guessing game going on, nearly every play.  So the prime assets were quickness, decisiveness, and athleticism. 

"The thing about the game that kind of awes me even today, is that football was more a metaphor for life than we likely knew at the time.  Every time the ball was/is snapped there are as many as a dozen personal wars occurring on the field.  And each of those wars are conducted at a sort of primal level, each participant seeking supremacy of the moment.  Doing it well was exhilarating.  As you pointed out, not very many folks have had the experience and I agree...leave the game alone."   


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Little Boy, Don't Use Your Head

I asked a friend of ours who had some EHHS experience with this game and here's his reply: 

"Gus, you’ve posed an interesting question.  I haven’t paid much attention to football for many years.  The game I played hasn’t been around for a long time. 

"Max had better hands than mine so he got a lot more opportunities to carry the ball than I did.  However, one of the coaches gave me this picture shortly after our game with North Side and it looks like I was a practitioner of lowering my head into a defender.  Coach Graves often yelled, “Crunch their sternum,” and Coach Willingham always bellowed, “Where their head goes, their body has to follow.’  So, to the best of our ability, we crunched their sternums and moved their heads out of the way.

 "The second picture came to me by some means that I’ve forgotten, but it sure shows the traffic we had to contend with.  By the time we got to this age, our moves were pretty instinctive which meant we used our heads.  I suspect the newly proposed rule has come by way of some T-ball coach or maybe a Soccer Mom.  My own opinion is: Leave the game alone.

"The next picture is one that I always viewed with mixed emotions.  It shows Max and I at the end of the season, in peak shape, and looking forward to taking on the Dallas champions.  But the headline kind of bugged me.  It reads as if Coach Mitcham is having trouble getting his thoughts through our skulls, but it really referred to the next being his 100th game as a coach.  

"And one more from my personal collection.  It’s a wonderful publicity photo taken, I think, just after the great Paschal win and we were flying high.  That’s a pile of fine kids and standing behind them, a great coach--my favorite."

Two of these guys were Juniors, Class of 1964.  They were Ray Avery and Steve Rose, both of whom were All-District players the next year and both of them, outstanding kids.  We had a superb line.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Handley High School Scrapbook

This post will illustrate some of the images of the Handley High School campus over the years it was in service before EHHS.  They come from a fine collection of early Handley yearbooks gathered together for viewing and download on the fine 1959 Handley reunion site kept by David McConnell. 

A few of my EHHS classmates may have had parents that also attended this school. Let me know who they were. Dona B's Daddy graduated from here in 1937, went off to WWII, then came back to teach some of us at Meadowbrook Elementary. 

Miss O'Dell was a fixture in this building for many years before we encountered her at EH. 

Ted Harris' dad was a long serving teacher and administrator here, too. 40% of our first coaches came from here, and some of our most influential teachers also hailed from Handley.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Handley High School – Class of 1955

I don’t know any of these people, they are 8-years older than the EHHS Class of 1963.  However, after running across some remarkable Handley Elementary class pictures of the future HHS Class of 1955, there appeared to be a convenient way to illustrate Handley’s scope in our years at EHHS.  

As a relative newcomer in 8th grade to the Meadowbrook crowd, Handley, to me, was just a school name on a ribbon that we had to go out and beat in a football game.  Unlike some of my Meadowbrook classmates, I had had no experience with the Handley kids while playing summer Little League, or at church.  When I first saw the Handley contingent at EHHS, fall 1960, they were just another group of strangers.  I never had any idea how many of them there were…all the way through EH.

All I knew was that there were some new good-looking girls to add to the pool that came in with us from Meadowbrook and some big new boys to compete with for a spot on the football team. 

Thanks to the amazing work of David, a HHS’59, who has posted full scans of Handley yearbooks going back into the 1930s, it’s relatively easy to visually illustrate Handley.  This 1955 class consisted of 75 grads which was at the upper end of a usual range of 50-75.  By comparison, George Bradford reported that his EHHS Class of 1960 consisted of 60 Handley cohorts who came over to the new school to become about half of the first EH graduates. 

The elementary class pictures of this same group of kids may illustrate something else that I’ve been told by others; that being, Handley was generally considered by the Meadowbrook parents as being poorer and that it offered a lower quality education than did Meadowbrook.  Note in a couple of the class pictures that some of the boys are barefoot (grades 3 & 5).

That the Handley neighborhoods of the time were more rural than Meadowbrook was a fact.  Also, that the houses tended to be smaller is a fact.  However, insofar as I can determine from observation and conversations with others, the education the Handley kids received might actually have been somewhat better than we got at Meadowbrook…it was at least on a par.

>>Now, if one of you Handley Dorks who graduated as a '63 Highlander will get off your duff and scan a series of Handley Elementary class pictures of your classmates, I can do another posting like this one, only with familiar faces !  (A '62 or '64 would be fine, too!)<<

How the Handley kids fared at EHHS will be included in an upcoming series of the EHHS social order. 

Adios - By the way...those barefoot boys look exactly like I looked from the last day of school each year until they dragged me back to start again the next fall.  I think I have a very faint recollection of the teachers permitting barefoot boys on the last day of school at least a few of those years.  So, maybe it was some kind of tradition in certain circles.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Quintessential Texas - Spring Bluebonnets

One of the neat things about the net and Facebook is that some of my friends have been putting up some great bluebonnet photos recently.  What's better than a Longhorn in a field of bluebonnets?

...or a chicken...but, be careful...

 ...one guy added...watch out for the fire ants, too.

Oh yes, this is a very good day !

What now?  Lost 'em or can't find 'em ?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Handley Junior High Superlatives

Handley, in 1959-60, was in its first year as a stand alone Junior High school; the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades were moved to the new Eastern Hills school building.  The yearbook in which these pictures were published was a paperback publication, Meadowbrook didn't have a similar book.  

And following just behind us were members of the future EHHS Class of 1964 who shared the halls with us for a couple of years.


Rules For Guys

At last a guy has taken the time to write this all down. Finally, the guys' side of the story. (I must admit, it's pretty good.) We always hear "the rules" from the female side. Now here are the rules from the male side.

These are our rules!

Please note ... these are all numbered "1" ON PURPOSE!

1. Learn to work the toilet seat. You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down. We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear us complaining about you leaving it down.

1. Sunday sports. It's like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.

1. Shopping is NOT a sport. And no, we are never going to think of it that way.

1. Crying is blackmail.

1. Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one: Subtle hints do not work! Strong hints do not work! Obvious hints do not work! Just say it!

1. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.

1. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

1. A headache that lasts for 17 months is a problem. See a doctor.

1. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become null and void after 7 days.

1. If you won't dress like the Victoria's Secret girls, don't expect us to act like soap opera guys.

1. If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us.

1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.

1. You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done. Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.

1. Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.

1. Christopher Columbus did not need directions and neither do we.

1. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

1. If it itches, it will be scratched. We do that.

1. If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing," we will act like nothing's wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.

1. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.

1. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine...Really.

1. Don't ask us what we're thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as football, other women or cars.

1. You have enough clothes.

1. You have too many shoes.

1. I am in shape. Round is a shape.

1. Thank you for reading this. Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight; but did you know men really don't mind that? It's like camping.

Author unknown