I was 11 years old, walking home from 5th grade at Jane Long Elementary with some classmates. I wish I could remember who was in our group, but it may have been some nearby neighbors like Sherry Traylor, Jo Beth Barkley or Sue Ann Yeargain. The date was October 24, 1956, a comfortable autumn afternoon, when we heard a huge crash and looked up. Two planes had collided in the air above the Permian Estates. Suddenly airplane parts and body parts began to fall around us! I dashed home, across Thomason Drive, up Howard Drive, yelling to my sister that their had been an explosion and I was going to look around. No policemen or fire trucks had arrived yet, but groups of children wondered around the 7 block area. Later we would learn the military jet, containing an instructor and student pilot, were on a training mission from Webb Air Force Base in Big Spring. The Cessna carried a father, mother, infant, and parents of the mother. All 7 passengers died.
I did not know how to read, write, or even how to count. I was 5 years old and scared to death. I sat down as straight as I could and interlocked my fingers on top of the desk. I looked to my right. Skipper Goulet was down below me and Joe O’Neill, Harry Miller and Cathy Colligan were at the end of the row. They all were staring straight ahead at a black board with letters from top to bottom. I later found out the writing on the board was all capital letters. A very pleasant Nun introduced herself as Sister Jean Marie, and she called upon me to point out the letter “A”. I stood up and saw the first letter in the upper left corner and the last letter in the lower right corner. Not knowing anything, including my ABC’s, I picked the first letter at the top left. I was so proud of myself for picking the correct letter. I had become a student!
I looked around and saw a beautiful girl with long blond hair. Her name was Margery Chase, and to her side,a boy named John De Julio. I decided I needed to meet them. There were some big boys in the class, as well, who soon became my playmates. My only saving grace was that I could out run them all.
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.
After a successful second grade career at Terminal Independent School System, Star-man (Me), transferred back to St. Ann’s with a feeling of being indestructible.
Sister Soteras told me “John you are in charge of setting the clock on my desk everyday.” I said “OK, Sister”, and she handed me the wind-up clock. Thank God that Joe O’Neal and Harry Miller were sitting there. I turned and said “What do I do?” I could not tell time since I never had to with Mom, Bruce, Tom and Roof around all the time. So, Joe and Harry showed me what the little and big hands on a clock or watch meant, and how to wind it up. So, on my first day, I, “Star-man”, became the official time keeper for the 3rd grade class at St. Ann’s.
Later that day, I realized that I could not read, write or count as fast as my new classmates. I was quickly instructed not to go to recess or lunch. I was tutored by the nuns until I passed the next rounds of test. Even still, I realized that I was still D—-A– of the class.
The 4th grade proved to be a challenge since Sister Michael John was a better athlete than any boy or girl in our class. In addition, she was super strict. Sister MJ, as I called her, was young, pretty and put us boys through kneeling drills quite often (and me it seemed all the time).
What made the 4th grade different from the 3rd grade was the girls were getting much more attractive and we exchanged discs. This was a custom that suggested a childhood relationship often that seemed like love. It did not last long so… I guess not. I would mention the girls by name but some are no longer with us or I cannot find them via my long list of friends. However, is was a feeling that started to chip away at my priestly aspirations. Now getting my mother to pay for a disc that said “John” was like asking for a new car. But she bought one for me and my brother Bruce. I did exchange discs, and felt like a glowing handsome star with a girlfriend, who now was known as Miss Star Girl.
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.
Having just been expelled from St Ann’s in May of 1957, and just finishing my 10 year old baseball summer season with Charles Hall, John Moore, Scott Rogers, Sammy Brown, Tom Fisher, Bruce McElligott, Jerry Rogers, Troy Roberts, Clifford Johnson. I turned 11 that September. My teacher at North was Mr. Jackson who had a flattop and always had a pack of cigarettes in his pocket. He did his own paddling and was always smiling. There was another 6th grade class with Mrs??? that Janet Seawrite was in and I was her biggest admirer. Bruce and Johnny Jones were in that class as well, I think, along with Bekki Maier and Jacki Reed.
Click to Listen to Elvis Presley, “Love Me Tender”
Friday afternoon North Elementary 6th Grade 1957. Our 6th grade teacher had talent contest and Ellen McCaslen sang “Love Me Tender”. I told my mother about Elvis and she went out and bought the album. Shortly after that I got my first kiss ever from Ellen.