By John McElligott
I spent the First Grade at St. Ann’s in Midland, but changed schools for the second grade. In those days, my mother worked at the Terminal Independent School System as a part time substitute teacher, so I requested a transfer. My brothers, Tom and Bruce, already went to school there. Tom tells me that my dog, Roof, and I slept on the ground outside the school window waiting for the bell to ring at 3 pm. We wanted to make sure both got home OK.
The decision to transfer was both good and bad. Here is why.
The good was that I was the smartest student (according to me), and could outdo most of the students… except for the girls. In addition, I was the best, or at least one of the best, athletes. So much so, I hung out with the 6th grade basketball team. I was there every day watching Ray Pierce and Billy Bob Rust practice. I would chase the balls for the players. Then one day, Ray was handing out jerseys to all the players. When he saw me standing there, he threw me one, too. I asked him what it was for, and he said “John we have a Home Game at 3:00 pm”. Ray added, “You need to be there”. Well, I put on my jersey. It hung down to my sneakers. I was so short at only 6 years old. Ray was 5’2″ and Billy Bob was a giant at nearly 6 foot. Billy Bob was skinny as a bean pole, too. He was so skinny, if he turned sideways and stuck out his tongue, he looked like a zipper.
The game started, and I watched and chased balls that went out of bounds just as I did in practice. Billy Bob was kicking ass, and Ray was a bullet. In the last few minutes of the game, Ray put me in the game. He said go stand over there and he threw me the ball. I nearly shit in my pants. I dribbled the ball a few yards while my heart beat out of my chest. I then looked up and there was Billy Bob under the basket with his hands in the air. So, I threw the ball to him and he went up for a lay-up and scored 2 points. The whistle blew and the game was over! I had my very first assist in a game. I don’t even know if we won or not. However, the guys picked me up and held me over their heads. Right then and there, I knew I liked being a star!
The next highlight as a second grader was a track meet at MHS Track and the football field. All the speedsters from all the schools were present. I was the only one that did not have on the latest track sneakers. I also was in pants and not shorts. Well having been a star basketball player at TISD, I knew I was going to win! I was placed in the middle lane next to a 2nd grader named Judd Walton. We were the same size, but he was decked out in the finest sport’s attire I had ever seen. Looking at the holes in my pants, I knew my star power was about to fade. And sure enough, Judd won, and I came in 3rd or 4th place. Boy, this was a major downer for me …The newly crowned Basketball star from Terminal Texas. Well my brother, Tom, would make up for that at St. Ann’s later when he and Benny Burleson set records not just during the game but also in the pregame free throw practice. The two of them never missed!
So did the new shining star stop with a defeat by a class athlete from Sam Houston Grade School? No, without a rest, I won the “Story Telling Contest” at TISD- 2nd grade, and would be going to the final championship round at Lamar Elementary. Competing there would be a boy or girl from every grade school in Midland. Now, I had an idea who they were, but I would meet the challenge even though my star was not as bright. A story was read to a large group of us kids and then each of us had to go on stage in front of the judges and recite the story. Now this is the funny part. I won the “2nd Grade Story Telling Contest” that day. However, I did not find out about the results until I was 22 years old and returned from my service in the military. I was looking through some newspaper clippings my mother kept and found the announcement. “John McElligott 2nd grader from TISD won the contest”. Bill Connery from Sam Houston Grade school MISD won 2nd place. Bill and I grew up together and became good friends. Since I discovered this accomplishment when I was a grown man, I was not that moved. However, I did get a big laugh while drinking a cold beer. Eventually, I did let Bill know that I had kicked his ass, but he did not remember the event by then.