Memories by Eric Moore- Part 1

Notes by Prissy Pense-Moore:
I have been asking Eric Moore (John’s brother) for his take on the Moore boys’ childhood stories for several months and, as you can see in the attachment, he and Beth finally got the time to sit down and give Beth the chance to put his memories to paper. It is beautifully written and I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes and I’m laughing out loud while I’m reading. Eric was always so good at telling the stories of some of their adventures. I’m sure everyone else will enjoy them too – and probably be able to relate to many of the adventures.Although I didn’t know John’s family while we were children, I heard these stories many times during John and my 22-year “courtship.” I didn’t have brothers but did grow up around male cousins so I could still relate to some of the shenanigans myself. I will use Eric’s stories as a launchpad to tell some of the stories of our family and growing up in Midland. The crazy, funny stories is what made growing up in West Texas so unique and character building.Eric’s document is pretty long so I will break it into several postings. It seems to have several natural breaking points.Enjoy the reading.

Written by: Eric Moore with the aid of Beth Moore

Introduction:Charles Hall asked Eric a while back if he would submit a blog about what it was like to grow up in Texas, especially Midland and play little league baseball. We had every intention of submitting something right away, but Eric’s not been in a good place the last couple of years health-wise. Prissy Pense-Moore, wife of Eric’s brother John, recently sent us an email encouraging us to participate in this wonderful endeavor and she attached the chapters on Little League Baseball (“Boys of Summer”), written by Charles Hall. It was like stepping back in time and being a nine-year-old boy in Midland again – at a Little League game! His story (which is absolutely writing at its best!!) was just the inspiration needed to get started because our thought was how can we NOT participate and share Eric’s story?

Charles suggested Eric also write about experiences and memories related to his family, how his parents met, what his dad did, where all the Moore boys were born and how they ended up in Midland, what life was like being an older brother to John and playing sports together plus both of them being coached by their dad in little league baseball, Eric’s experiences playing numerous sports (both in junior high and high school) and the influence some of his coaches (beginning with Little League and ending with his football days at Midland High School and Texas Tech) had on his life. Charles suggested Eric talk about some of the teachers and friends that impacted his life, his career path, and where he is right now in his life.


Early Years: Eric Moore

Written by Eric Moore with the aid of Beth Moore

Eric’s fondest memories of his childhood always center around his love for his family, especially his dad, Charles Hurtte (Red) Moore, and sports. He spent a lot of one-on-one time with his dad fishing, hunting, and playing baseball, his favorite sport. Red was born and raised in Houston, and as a young college student he was a catcher on the varsity team at Rice University, progressing to playing on semi-pro teams that traveled all over Texas.

Eric’s mom, Eugenia (Jean) Franek Moore, was an accomplished swimmer and her biggest claim to fame was she swam against, and BEAT, Babe Didrikson as a teenager. Babe went on to swim in the Olympics. With World War Il on the verge of breaking out, Jean’s family decided to send her to the U.S. (alone and on a cruise ship) when she was 16. She moved in with an older single woman near Rice University, who became her tutor and mentor. Because of her limited English, Jean enrolled in a public school, advancing from the first grade ail the way through high school in approximately 11 months. Jean was always timid about letting anyone know she was from an Austrian/German heritage. Her goal was to be as “American” as she could, but she never quite lost her European accent.

Red and Jean met while swimming in Galveston (Jean always bragged to her sons that she had a good figure and was a knock-out and that was what caught Red’s eye on the beach in Galveston!). They were married shortly after during the height of World War and with the high demand for oil & gas, Red was able to avoid military duty after he left Rice University to pursue a career as a geologist with Standard Oil. He took information from geographic teams and plotted possible drill sites for oil. This launched a career as party chief on a seismic crew, which began with Standard Oil, later known as Humble Oil, Exxon Oil, and finally Exxon-Mobil: the only company Red worked for. Their married life began in Houston and his career as a “Doodlebugger” took them all over Texas and New Mexico. They had 3 sons: Charles was born in San Angelo, Eric was born in Houston, and John was born in Kerrville all 22 months apart.

Little League Days: Eric Moore

Written by Eric Moore with the aid of Beth Moore

Of the three Moore boys, Eric and John were the two most interested in sports. John was always in the shadow of Eric and wanted to be wherever Eric was, and doing what Eric was doing, John was a good athlete because his heart made him a super player, whereas Eric was more athletic and his abilities far exceeded his age group – even as a young boy. His first memory of playing a sport was in Little league baseball as a shortstop and pitcher while living in San Angelo at 9 years old, with his dad coaching the team. Eric and John both learned some amazing coaching skills from their dad and took those skills into their adult years. What Eric remembers most is that Red was very gentle, and he never screamed or yelled at anyone. He was very hands-on in teaching young boys how to play baseball and many of them turned out to be super players.

It was around this time (1953) that the family finally settled in Midland, toward the end of Eric’s 6th grade. Eric started first grade in New Mexico at 5 years old, always putting him in a position to be the youngest, so in order to catch up the family held him back to repeat the 6th grade when they moved to Midland. It turned out to be a great decision. Eric matured very quickly, and by 12 years old he had reached a height of 5′ 9″ and towered over everyone. The only other kid as big as he was was Billy Owens, but his athletic skills had not developed fully.

John and his friend, Charles Hall, decided at 10 that it was time for them to play little league baseball and wanted to be on Red’s team. Tryouts weren’t going well for Charles and he felt since he was sent to the far outer field his chances of playing with John were slipping away. However, after a while a kid by the name of Charles Moore came up to him and told him he had been told to come pick some players to try out for his dad’s team and he needed to report to the other field. Seems there was a rule that each team had to have a designated number of younger 9 and 10 year olds on each team to balance it out, and John and Charles both realized their dream of making Red’s team and playing with John’s bigger brother, Eric, just might come true after all.

Since Eric’s brother John was always his shadow, Eric taught the younger guys everything he knew about baseball – batting, pitching, catching, fielding balls, and playing shortstop, John improved quickly and was soon assigned to second base playing next to Eric, who played shortstop (when he wasn’t pitching). The two of them turned a lot of double plays together, especially since Billy Owens was on first base and John McElligott was catching. Eric remembers the first time John McElligott played catcher behind home plate in all his catcher’s gear and he pitched to him. He was so little that when he squatted down with pads, a baseball glove, and mask on, all you could see were the whites of his eyes and the ball as it was headed toward him! He managed to connect with numerous pitches from Eric, though, but the balls were thrown so fast and hard that when caught they generally knocked him on his behind. He was determined to be a good player and according to Eric he did become a great catcher.

Football:Eric Moore

Written by Eric Moore with the aid of Beth Moore

Saturdays in Midland presented themselves as days to ride bikes all over town hanging out with friends, looking to pick up a game of baseball or football. It all depended on who showed up, and where, but the property where the Moore boys lived on Louisiana fit the bill for both sports because of its immense size, so most of the time they ended up there.

Eric first started playing football at San Jacinto Junior High in the 7th grade. The group of guys he played with (and remembers the most) were Jody Givens, Rodney Satterwhite, Knox Nunnally, Billy Owens, and Sammy Vaughn. A new junior high (Alamo) opened at the beginning of their 8th grade, but luckily most of them were still able to play together. In the 9th grade they all reunited to attend Midland High School and once again play together. They received strong, excellent coaching from Coach Selbo during their junior high years due to his taking several of the strong players under his wing and instilling good skills in them. He went on to coach at Lee High School in the fall of 1961 when a second high school was built.

A new rule was implemented the beginning of their freshman year that allowed freshmen to play varsity football. Eric, Jody Givens, and Rodney Satterwhite were the only ones chosen that first year. Tailback and halfback were the positions Eric played most of his high school years. Besides football Eric was able to participate in several sports in high school – track, baseball, swimming, and tennis, to name a few, but he was always available to help John and all the younger guys improve their skills … after all, they had a lot of catching up to do.

Eric and John attended high school summer football practice together the summer before Eric’s junior and John’s freshman year. Eric played several positions but at one particular time he was punting and, as usual, John followed suit. Whatever Eric did, John did, so he also became a punter. The two were put on separate teams and John was chosen to punt to Eric. On one particular day he punted the ball to Eric with perfect precision and alignment. Eric caught the ball, ran the entire length of the left side of the field behind the screen, and was headed for a touchdown. John saw his chance! He was his team’s last hope of stopping Eric! He set himself up in Eric’s lane, crouched down with both hands open wide, grinning from ear to ear in anticipation. When Eric saw John looming, he lowered his shoulder, faked to the left, totally ran over him, knocking him to the ground on his back, and scored! When John came to, he said, “WHAT??!!! WHAT JUST HAPPENED??!!!“ He was in utter shock! “That didn’t just happen!!! I HAD HIM!!”  Not only was John’s ego completely crushed that he wasn’t able to take him DOWN, his bruised pride was totally shattered… That moment, in Eric’s opinion, was John’s introduction to NEVER trying to take down a senior, much less an older brother. They never forgot that moment … and through the years John continually tried to “take down” his older brother (unsuccessfully I might add). Even into their late fifties John tried to wrestle Eric and take him down, but all John could manage was to “sit” on Eric and hold him down with his weight if he caught him off guard.

The Moore Boys and Their Adventures

Written by Eric Moore with the aid of Beth Moore

The Moore boys were in elementary and junior high school when they first discovered they could blow up things with TNT, dynamite and other explosives. Through ads in comic books you could order fireworks via the mail that came in a wooden box that measured 12 inches by 12 inches by 4 feet long. It was loaded with all kinds of firecrackers, M-80 is, Roman Candles, Eighty-Eights, Cherry Bombs, Lady Fingers, and TNT. One of their first discoveries was that they could fish without using fishing poles. They used explosives but quickly figured out Dynamite had just too much punch and totally blew up the fish. As it turned out, firecrackers had a special coating on them and held up better under water with a lot less of an impact. Their summer family vacations were usually spent in the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico where they fished in crystal clear water. It was easy to spot where the fish were nesting so they threw the Eighty-Eights and Cherry Bombs over their nests, waited for the explosion (which stunned the fish and give them a concussion!!), and used nets to scoop them out of the water. Triple the catch in a shorter period of time!!! All the better eating!!!

Charles realized that if you emptied the gunpowder from various fireworks into an empty toilet paper roll, connected it to a fuse, and lit it, that it would explode. Soon they got tired of the small stuff and decided it was time for something bigger. They found a huge tree stump and theorized it would make a significant explosion if they blew it out of the ground. Charles knew he would have to do his calculations carefully for this one due to its immense size (about 4 feet across and 2 feet high). He guessed they’d probably need to place SEVERAL toilet paper rolls in the lower area of the stump and if he put a 5 minute fuse on it that should give them plenty of time to run and find cover. Soooooo„. once the stump was sufficiently loaded they lit the fuse and ran as fast as they could for cover!l It wasn’t long before the KABOOM!!!!!  Never in their wildest imaginations did they think it would be this great. What happened next was astonishing to the three of them!! Not only did they blow the stump completely out of the ground and up into the air, it literally and EXPLODED blew EVERYWHERE – into millions of pieces!!! WOW!!! All they could think of was what they would blow up next….

Charles continued to experiment, build, create, tinker, invent, and explore, and his discoveries got bigger and better! The greatest discovery of their lifetime was Charles finding out that if you fill prophylactics up with acetylene gas they get HUGE and can extend up to 4 feet long and almost a foot wide. He took a test tube (beaker), drilled a hole in the bottom of it, ran electrical wire through it, filled the beaker full of water, and attached a cork to the wire at the bottom of the test tube so that as the water drained out slowly, and as the cork made its way to the bottom of the beaker the connection would cause a spark, igniting the explosion. They just had to make sure that once the prophylactics were released into the air that the water dissipated slowly enough from the test tube that they got high enough in the air before all the water ran out and they exploded.

They couldn’t WAIT to try out Charles’ new invention! One night they decided “tonight’s the night” and filled up several prophylactics and headed toward the city limits to set them off. They had to go a long way because they had to be sure no one was living in the area. Of course, not knowing what to expect since this was the first time, it seemed to take FOREVER for the prophylactics to get high enough. All they could think of was that they hoped this was a big success. All of a sudden – PPH HOOFF!!!!! As the prophylactics started to explode the sky between Midland and Odessa lit up in a ball of flames that stretched for MILES!!! WHOA!!!WOW!! All three jumped up and down, yelled, hugged each other and congratulated themselves on their success! YOO HOO!!!!. In unison the three of them decided they HAD to do that AGAIN, so they jumped in the car and headed home to make more bombs.

However, as soon as they got back on the highway and had driven a short distance, they heard sirens blaring – tons of them!! They passed fire trucks, police cars, ambulances, and numerous other rescue vehicles. Uh-oh!! Maybe it wasn l t such a good idea to do that again, especially not tonight. They made a quick decision to head straight for home since it appeared the entire town was headed out to see what in the world happened. On that drive home the three boys made a pact to NEVER EVER TELL ANYONE what they had done. Not one person, and they all agreed they would take their secret to their graves. As far as Eric knows, the police and fire department never knew or suspected it was them. The next day they heard everyone talking about the plane that had blown up over the Midland-Odessa Air Terminal. YIKES!! They had no idea they were that close to the airport.  Oops!!!  Well, at least no one got hurt and there was no damage done, right?  Nothing was ever mentioned again about the night a plane blew up over the airport among the three Moore boys…

As far as Eric knows, Charles and John lived up to their end of the agreement and never told anyone what they had done. However, a few years ago Eric let the cat out of the bag and told some friends about it. We agreed it was just too good a story not to tell. Eric gets a huge kick out of telling it every single time he does. It truly is one of his best ones because people laugh like crazy, especially when you actually get to hear Eric tell it. This is the story I had in mind when I said earlier that I hoped I could capture Eric’s humor and tell his stories well enough to do them justice. After all, a story this great HAS to be told. Besides, it happened 60 years ago and if the truth be known most everyone that saw that explosion has either died or can’t remember it.

WRAPPING IT UP:Eric’s Memories-Part 3

Written by Eric Moore with the aid of Beth Moore

After retiring from Exxon Red became a Realtor and he and Jean had a successful real estate business for many years. Red went in for back surgery when he was 63 hoping to improve his quality of life so he could enjoy his retirement years, but unfortunately a blood clot formed in his lungs and he passed away before he could even come home from the hospital. Jean continued to work the real estate business for several years, retired and continued to reside in Midland until she passed away in 1999 while still living at the home the Moore family loved and cherished – 2701 W. Louisiana.

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