By John McElligott
I started 5th grade with an excitement I had never experienced. The summer before school started, lots of friends came to Terminal. I also went to the O’Neil’s & Rodney Schultz’s home to visit and swim. For some reason coming to Terminal was a real treat for them. My mother’s cooking was a big incentive since she was 100% Italian (Sicilian).
When friends would come over, Bruce and I would take them out for exploration of the Scarborough Ranch just west of the airport. We chased rabbits, caught rattle snakes, swam at twin ponds and tried to get home before dark to eat pasta. Then start all over the next day. Depending on the time of year, we would go to the VFW pool and swim. The pool was on the far side of the airport by the north runway. Not often, but on at least two occasions, there were planes that crashed. Someone from the pool would run out and save the pilot from burning to death. It was never me or one of my friends, but we watched in awe. The rescuers would return to the pool with severe burns to their hands and arms. Someone always took them to the hospital in Midland.
Then there were really exciting things like going under the airport runway drainage tunnel which was 3 1/2′ by 3 1/2 ” and was a mile long. Everyone who came to spend the weekend insisted on going through the tunnel. The tunnel was full of runoff water from the old army barracks where we lived. Now, we knew it was dirty, but thankfully we never saw a human turd go by. It certainly smelled like one was headed there shortly. Getting to the other side was a 1 hr stooped walk, and you wore your sneakers all the way. Once on the other side, we went to the VFW pool. Of course, my dog Roof lead the way and let us know quickly that our shoes stunk like s–t. I knew this when he smelled the shoes and took off running to the shade by the snack bar. We did let them dry and washed them when we got back to the barracks. On the way home we took the long way around and not though the drainage pipe. Most parents in Midland threw the sneakers away but not mine. We just kept wearing them until September when we would get a new set of sneakers and one pair of new jeans and two shirts.
School started and I was the youngest in my class. Sister Jean Marie was our 5th grade teacher. Most below from the first grade continued in school but I am not sure how they matriculated. I will make a comment about each one as best I can remember.
- Harry Miller :Now a Doctor (DVM) and my best friend (besides my brother Tom)
- John Bergman: Always a gentleman and scholar.
- Jack Abernathy : Different, funny and animated
- Henry Goblet: Stuck me with a pencil in the hand and I still can see the scar.
- Mike Byrne: Great guy and always smiling.
- John Byrne: different and a frustrated musician
- Richard Hughes: Reminded me of Ichabod Crane
- John Franklin: A good student and head strong to the end of his days. Great family See the RIP story by his brother Ben Franklin (aka Purdy)
- Bill Kasson: all around jack of all trades, quiet and liked to ride things with less than 3 wheels.
- Bernard Grube: The only person Harry Miller new something about, but I knew nothing (Bernard if you read this give me a call)
- Arthur Woodbe: Not excitable for sure
- Ann Kennedy: Red headed, vocal, unflappable most of the time and smart.
- Lucille DeDe Neuslle: Not sure what she looked like but with that name she must be French and beautiful.
- Marjorie Chase: Sweet, Sweet and was the nicest person I ever knew. That is until she started dating Harry Miller. Then she was much different. ?????
- Cathy Culligan: Another girl who you never ever forgot. Her brother and her had the same face
- Jacqueline : Your guess is as good as mine. I do like the name!
- Jeanie Price: Sister of Johnny Price and not kin to Jim Price. Very pretty with black black hair.
- Randy Byrne: Very vocal and smart and could move fast. Had to be fast due to having to smack John and Michael and runaway.
- Sheila Wilson: Again, not sure what to say
- Paula Deusse: Made it all the way to MHS and we never forgot her. Her face never changed since the 1st grade.
- Cathleen Hill: Cute and could sit quietly all day without saying a word. I bet she makes a good wife
- Mary Kay Boyd: tough and still is today. I followed her since grade 1 and still see her posts.
- Susan O’Neill: My very first girlfriend who I gave my chain and disc to. Not sure if I got it back.
- John DiGulio 4th grade: Fast, very smart, good altar boy who could kneel straight up longer that me and Joe O’Neil together.
- Joe O’Neill: Most influential person in my life. He and brother Kevin were frequent visitors to Terminal and likewise me at their house. Still love to hear him talk about Notre Dame. I am a supporter just because of the O’Neill family.
- Jim Price: Quite handsome and talented. So talented beyond our wildest expectations, “Can’t Get No Satisfaction” you will never guess what became of Jim Price.
- John McElligott: Star Man
- Bruce McElligott: Star Man’s older brother and protector of Star Man.
Football season started and I had my own locker in the stinkiest abandoned room at the very end of the hall toward the principal’s office. This smelled like the sewer tunnel under the runway with stinky uniforms and Jockey Straps hanging in all but my locker. I was 9- going on 10 and very short, but very fast. Bruce was slower and taller, but smarter.
Practice was very hard and painful. The 8th graders were much bigger on our team than on the other teams at Cowden and San Jacinto. Now the 7th grade teams were a pushover since our 8th graders got to play with us 5,6,7th graders. I played 2nd string right half back along with my brother Bruce. Marty Buckley a 7th grader started on both the 7th and 8th grade teams. We played on weekday afternoons since we were not in the MISD. I stood out against the 8th graders on offense and defense since they could not see me coming out of the backfield. Also, we all wore different jerseys. Mine was one that a NDU player threw to me at a SMU/NDU game. It was # 99 and when I tucked the jersey in my football pants it looked like 00. (Joe O’Neill’s Dad got me and my Dad the tickets. I have been a fierce NDU fan ever since).
Now my biggest play was playing the Cowden 8th grade team. Bruce and I were playing safety and Bockey Huggins broke through our line and linebackers. So Bockey was headed for a clear touchdown until he saw me near the middle of the field. Bockey zeroed in on me and cut across straight at me. Bruce was on the far left of me. All I could see was his eyes drilling a hole in my head. So being an X- Rocket Man I just waited. Bockey’s left elbow was pointed at my face (no face masks back then) and just before he was about to break my nose and teeth out, Rocket Man went down on one knee and put my helmet in his crotch and lifted up. That’s all I remember until I came up holding the ball. Bockey was lying on the ground holding his Johnson saying typical Bockey words that I cannot repeat.
Bruce covered the ball and I was OTL and sat out the rest of the game. I will never forget Bockey’s eyes. I did not see him again until 1970 at NTSU in Denton, TX. Bockey was a senior and worked for the Sheriff’s Department. I did not bring up that day on the football field when a 5th grader got to bust the nuts (literally) of an 8th grader on the gridiron. I don’t think his voice got higher in High School but he was still single at NTSU. It was then I discovered why some football player’s are called “Nut Cutters” After that day, I never ever used the nick name Star Man ever again.
That was the most memorable day of my football career and the one and only time I was knocked out by a runner who veered off course to get his nuts cut off by a 5th grader.
Now the sad part was at year’s end. As usual, I was doing my stupid class clown stuff when Sister Jean Marie took me into the hall. One of the other sisters were in the hallway with the Principal. My ear became an object that one of the Nuns began to twist. Suddenly, I became Star Man again. I did a full fist rotation in the air with my eyes closed and just happened to hit the habit of the nun twisting my ear. I was freed from the ear hold and ran down the stairs, down the 1st floor , and back up the stairs to the stinky locker room. Holding my breath as best I could I got in my locker and closed the door. I left the school when the final bell rang and I went home. Luckily, my mother had not been called!!
The next morning I grabbed a can of dog food and an opener. I went outside, got my dog Roof, and headed out to the Scarborough Ranch and twin ponds just west of the airport . I now became a runaway kid. I did not want to go back to school. It reminded me of the day that while playing with a golf club at Joe O’Neill’s country club, I wacked John D’Gulio’s ear in half. I cut school the next day but did not run away. I saw John the next day and he never mentioned the incident. He was one tough cookie.
So, this was my first of 3 runaways in my life. It lasted through lunch splitting a can of dog food with Roof, and sleeping under a mesquite bush, and watching planes come and go knowing one was my Dad looking for me. Later, before dark, Roof and I went home. By then the school had called telling my mother I would not be coming back to St. Ann’s for the 6th grade. It was the end of the year and I truly don’t remember if I ever said goodbye to all my classmates. In looking back, they were great kids and classmates. I can say when I started my 6th grade in public school, I was way ahead of them for a while anyway! Needless to say Star Man never resurfaced again. (I don’t think).