My family moved to Midland just before I turned six and I started first grade at West elementary, where Miss Carlson was my first teacher. My Dad was an engineer with an oil company. My two older sisters Ann and Pat taught me a lot. While there for six years Eddie Hendrix and I became best friends. Walking back from school each day we made up games and played in “Paradise Alley.” In the fourth or fifth grade we had barber shop quartet that won an Optimist club state championship in Fort Worth. It was me, Jay Doran, Bobby Dorman and Johnny Driver (I think)….four part harmony to two songs I still remember. After Mr. Everette in the sixth grade as my first male teacher, it was on to San Jacinto Junior High where my mother, Margaret Wood was a wonderful teacher. I was mostly interested in sports.
Because of an August 1st birthdate, I actually played an extra year of Little League Baseball, all for the green uniformed Buffs of the Northern League. The fields were on north ‘A’ Street, a short distance north of Bowie Elementary. My Dad was the coach and I played left field the first year, then shortstop after that. My Dad gave long speeches using a lot of words before and after the games. I had trouble understanding what he was saying but I recall he always seemed very serious and well meaning. Some of it must have taken effect because the Buffs were 36-0 for my last two years of Little League. Some of the parents gave my Dad a nice trophy commemorating that unblemished record. I remember Bob Stanley, Paul Mast (at third base), Steve Combs, Quentin Remy (only that last year) and Ronnie Bittick . Bob was later a good high school football player who was one of several from Midland who went to Texas on a football scholarship. Paul became a physician, Quentin, an architect. Maybe some of the other names from that good team will come back to me. My Dad also coached our all star teams which I had dreams of going to the Little League World Series. that was never to be. I thought we were pretty good but we didn’t get far in any of those years. Pony League was a big step up in competition.
With Coach Todd having retired from coaching, it was the first year for Coach Spears to take charge of the varsity. We had seniors Clyde Jones (RIP), Steve Melzer, Pete Creasy, and Randy Kerth. I was also a senior and joined the team right after football, just in time for the first game. Mack Lawrence and Ross Montgomery, both juniors, also joined the team right after football. We also had junior Doug Russell, the great swimmer, who in 1968 won multiple gold medals in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. As an aside, John McElligott and I both used to beat Doug as 12 and 13 year olds while swimming for the Midland Aquatic Club. I gave up swimming for other sports but John became a great swimmer himself.
I was very excited about going into Seventh grade, mostly about playing real football for the first time. That first season ( and the next in eighth grade also) I did nothing to distinguish myself except that many years later the significance of George Bush being my backup at quarterback took on new importance. Quentin Remy and I became fast friends for life. Both of us were best men in each others weddings many years later and we still stay in close contact. I had never seen a tattoo till our coach got in the shower with us…he had one on each butt cheek. We didn’t win all our games but we won our share. Gary Fultz was a halfback who used to revel in beating me to the line of scrimmage trying to hand off to him on the dive play. Gary was a real smart guy and VERY quick.
Eighth grade was more serious with Coach Callahan-both football and basketball. Pete Creasey broke a tooth and cried. Callahan asked him if it hurt (he said “no”) and he was asked why he was crying…he said it was because it was going to be an expense he didn’t think was fair for his parents. I recall Callahan being really impressed…so was I and I still remember that! We were better in both sports.
Ninth grade was more fun…except the coaches liked Jackie Hanks better at quarter back for the first game. I got it back after that. We threw the ball a lot and Quentin caught a lot of passes. I think we lost only one game-it was to Austin and their leader and QB Silverio Bernal. Silverio was a real good guy in addition to being a good athlete. He didn’t play in high school. We lost the Austin game by a point or two but we were on the one yard line of theirs when time expired…of course there was no game clock on the field and the referees didn’t tell us time was expiring. I lost my cool with James Brown on the bus on the way back after the game. He was singing or laughing or something and I guess I just wanted everyone to be as pouty and sick over the loss as I was. We had some height (John Adams and others) on the basketball team and did pretty well. That spring Bill Sallee, Quentin Remy, Ross Montgomery (who was only in the 8th grade) and I all got called up to go to high school spring training football. We all made the varsity for the upcoming season at MHS.
The first year Midland ever had two high Schools was 1961. Austin and about two thirds of San Jacinto Junior High were assigned to Midland High and Alamo and about a third of San Jacinto went to the “new School”- Lee High School. Neither school had very many seniors but there were some good ones. I remember Carl Schreiner at Lee and at MHS, among others we had Steve Thomas, Ferrell Davis, Jeff Edwards and the head coach’s son, quarterback Mike King. I was one of three sophomores on the team with Quentin Remy and Bill Sallee and Ross Montgomery was the only freshman. Splitting the schools like that made both teams weak that first year and we just weren’t very competitive. I think we finished 3-7 and it certainly didn’t help that Mike broke his collar bone after the first game and was gone for the season. It resulted in me getting to start three years at quarterback. I always thought Coach King liked me. We improved as a team and gained confidence as the year went on. One of the best memories is that first game against Lee, which we won 15-6. This would never happen today, but there I was, barely 15 years old, calling every play we ran. The coaches just didn’t do much play calling in those days. Poor Steve Thomas, I ran him off tackle probably 25 times that day, and occasionally would call Ferrell Davis’ number on a reverse or an option. I think Quentin caught four or five passes that day plus one I threw to him for the two point conversion. Remember I said I thought Coach King liked me? Here is one reason why. His son Mike had to wear a weird cast on both shoulders all year after his injury. Of course he couldn’t play or practice. He wanted desperately to get into that Lee game, however. After we scored the first touchdown, he talked his Dad into letting him come in to kick the extra point, which he had been working on a bit in practice. I was the holder. Mike kicked and it was good, but just after the ball left his foot, Sammy Flornoy came in to try to block it, flew past me and the tee and cut Mike’s feet out from under him. Mike flipped over and He and Sammy were in a pile. Without any hesitation as they hit the ground, I dove into Sammy and threw a punch (probably my first ever) into his chin. The refs didn’t call any penalties. A few days later when the team gathered to review the film, and many times after that, Coach King would get to that part and then run it back over and over again. I can still hear the click and the whir of the projector. Coach King was the kind of man ( as were Sam Cox, Stan Cobb and other coaches we had) that all of us just wanted to please. I was sure glad to have had that opportunity. Thinking back on it now, I realize that there was, of course, no time to think about whether to do that or not- it was just a reaction. I think it must have been “something in the water!”
The way I recall it, the fall seasons in both 1962 and 1963 were not only times that indelibly imprinted unforgettable memories on boys headed for manhood, they were near brushes with greatness. In ’62, with senior leadership of Joe, Hurley, Bill Cumbie, Robert Stanford, Joe Berneathy, Bob Stanley, Harry Miller and a few others, the highlight of the year may have been a 21-20 victory over the San Angelo Bobcats at Midland Memorial Stadium. A two point conversion pass to Sophomore sensation Ross Montgomery was the winning score late in the game. That was the first brush with greatness and although it was followed by a few tough losses, the season ending 43-14 victory over the cross town rivals and long time friends Lee Rebels was a game the bulldogs put together a great effort in. Had as many teams been allowed into the playoffs as is common these days, that was a team primed and ready for a deep run.
I always thought I would go to the University of Texas and play football. I was sorely disappointed when the offer just “kept not coming”. I had offers from some smaller schools and a lot of interest from Duke, who ended up telling me that maybe a year of two in junior college would be better for me to begin with. Then came New Mexico Military Institute. They had me out for a visit and it seemed pretty exciting! I just turned 18 on August 1st and was there for QB camp August 15th or so. I had no idea about the seriousness of the military aspect until I began to settle in there. We had a really good team. Most of the top drawer athletes were there on one year deals from the three service academies. I played quarterback there just a few years after Roger Staubach, just for example. We came within one very close loss to making it to the Junior Rose Bowl. I had a good year, more running than passing but still more passing than high school. I actually played all three sports that first year, although I was so late getting to basketball, I practiced a lot more than I played. In baseball, I was the third baseman and we were a winning team.
Chapel Hill North Carolina is a LONG way from Midland, Texas. There weren’t many Texans around when I was there from 1966 till graduation in 1968, but it was always really fun just BEING from Texas. It was, at the very least, a conversation starter. I loved my time and experiences there including those wonderful hills and trees, the life long friendships, and the fascinating history that spoke from so many places there. Of course it was special to my ears to hear both the history and the people speak with a such a delightfully pleasing southern accent.