By: Mike Morris (Class of 58′)
Since I graduated MHS in 1958, I am friends with Dr. John’s brother, Tom. He told me of this site and, even though I do not know but a few folks whose stories are being shared, I can relate to the exictment of their childhood and teen advntures. I was invited to share some of my rememberances of those
growing up years in my life in hopes of adding to the entertaining reading that this site has so richly produced. As you will hopefully see, my adventures can apply no matter what year you graduated!
My family came to Midland in 1951 and I began attended Crockett Elem. in the latter half of the 5th grade. Housing was non-existent and we rented one for about six months until a new one came available on Maple Street. Seems this was a new addition at the time, however, the builders were just throwing up these small, rectangular boxes as quickly as possible…most of them were two bedroom, one bath (really tiny) and around 1200 square feet. The builders chose to paint them in pastels of all color combinations, so that area got named, “Easter Egg Row”. Although that really didn’t matter to me because the house was new, smelled of fresh paint and I had my comfy bed and a Mom who was a real good cook. Since my Dad was a petroleum geologist, he was not home very much because he was always “sitting on wells”, as he put it. Sadly, in his later years, he would lament about not spending enough time with me in my formative years. However, I had a “STRONG” Mom who kept me in line, if you know what I mean.
My first recollections of Midland are of a yard full of goatheads, (couldn’t go bare footed), dust storms, and tumbleweeds which were very abundant during the high winds, and at times, so much soil in the air that it got really dark if they came during the day. Also, dust storms really did a number on my sinuses! I hated that!
My Mom had a unique drill whenever she saw a towering wall of dirt rolling into town, usually from the North. We all had swamp coolers back then, so she would hose down the pads on that thing real good, wet some towels and then we would stuff them around the windows (roll outs, ugh) and doors, and then turn the cooler blower on high. In her mind, she was pressurizing the house so this would minimize the dust invading the house. Well, this worked for a little while until the dirt hit the wet cooler pads and sealed them over with a layer of caked-on mud! What a mess that was. I can picture Mom now waving that water hose out in the height of the storm with her head scarf whipping all around her face, attempting to rinse the mud from the pads. Accordingly, she hated dust storms!
In the 6th grade, I began meeting and making new friends. A new boy started school about a month into the school year. His name was Louis Holiman and we hit it off right away. We remained friends until cancer took him at age 58. He never quit smoking! We were both new kids in town and we loved riding our bikes to go exploring the neighborhoods and discovering the vacant fields to the North of where we lived. The airport was one of our favorite spots to visit because it was on the edge of town at that time, and a good ride. And on the way, we would ride by a skeet shooting range and would go jump into their huge mountain of spent shotgun shells…so deep that we could completely submerge ourselves so that no one could see us from the road. And there was an old M-1 military tank nearby that we would play on and our imagination would run wild fighting all enemies to defeat.
Our sixth grade teacher and coach was a man named Coach Kay. He was a giant of a man to us back then, and a good person and teacher. If you ran in the hall, though, you could expect a couple of sonic speed paddle licks with just enough pause between licks that your legs would begin to quiver as your hands were on your knees. He had the timing down pat for a real meaningful punishment experience. Not too many guys EVER ran again, including me! Ahhh, for the good ole’ days! I think they file charges now days!
We had the Little Olympics back then where all elementary schools competed in track and field events with each other. Back then, I was really small (thin), but fast, (legs from the bike). One day, Coach Kay dug a pit on the playground for us to try our hand at the long jump. Back then it was called the broad jump, but I guess those words began to offend some folks who just took them the wrong way…we didn’t know. Anyway, all the 6th grade boys lined up and took turns to see just how far they could fly into the fresh-dug dirt pit. I was close to last in line, so I got to observe all of the different styles of the jumpers. This one kid, Eddy Klebow, really had long legs and had jumped the longest so far. I knew that for me to beat his jump, I was going to have to turn on the afterburner and get as high as I could when I made my jump. My turn came. I started the run, building my speed gradually, remembering that when I hit the jump board (a board Coach Kay had dug a place for right before the pit where all jumpers had to start their jump), I had to do my best to get as much height as I could if I was going to make a worthwhile jump. I reached the jump board and launched myself as hard as I could. To my amazement, and to everyone else watching, I hoped, I cleared the entire pit and landed in the grass on the other end of the pit. I thought Coach would ask if I was OK, because i hit the ground pretty hard, but all he said was, “Well, I think we found our broad jumper”.
Another thing I learned to do at the time was how to do a back flip by running up the brick wall of the school, flipping all the way over backwards and landing on my feet. I never got caught doing that, but I thought it really impressed my peers. If I had done it wrong, I’m sure the sidewalk would have probably broken something on my body. Lucky, I guess. Consequently, that’s when Klebow blessed me with the nick name, “Clown”
Between my house and town, there was a spooky (at night) stretch of road we called Midland Draw. I guess it was dug as a relief for floodwaters if it ever flooded. I never saw any water in it as long as I lived there. At that time it was just a dirt road, deep draw that was about an eight of a mile from end to end. But it seemed like forever if you were biking across it at night because there were no street lights along the way. So, when you crossed it at night, you wanted to build up as much speed as you could going downhill into the draw, aim for the street light at the other end, and hope you didn’t get winded before you made it across. My friend, Louis H. and I had gone to see a movie downtown one evening. A strong wind storm had come up that night while we were in the movie. On our way home, we were anticipating going across the dreaded draw, and had a plan to go across a fast as we could go, side by side. At that age, our imaginations were working overtime. But to make matters even worse, the movie we had just seen was “The Thing”. Note: James Arness, or Matt Dillon, played The Thing long before Gunsmoke. So, when we got to the draw, we stopped to see if we could see anything. Pun. It was DARK and the wind was blowing hard from our left, and we just KNEW that The Thing was going to jump from the night and ambush us at the deepest point of the draw! We finally worked up our nerves and took off peddling as hard as we could, side by side. The deeper we got into the draw, the cooler the air got, which just added to our fear factored racing hearts. We had made it half way across and it was cold and the wind really began to gust, when, in an instant, The Thing blasted us off our bikes from the left. He was all scratchy and we just knew we were going to be eaten alive! But it was just a well timed tumbleweed that had so wildly attacked us in the dark. We didn’t laugh about that event for months to come. Even now I can taste the fear we had at that moment. Funny what you remember!
More to come later.