The Swim Team, Midland Aquatic Club (MAC)

By John McElligott

John (left) and Bruce (right) McElligott July 1956

I joined the swim team at age 6. I swam at the old Pagoda Pool and despite my age, I was placed in the 12 year old age group. Yes… I did come in last! I swam in that age group until I was 9 years old at which time the Midland Aquatic Team (MAC) formed and was coached by Wade Whatley. My brother, Bruce, always swam breaststroke. I swam everything including butterfly, backstroke, freestyle, and individual medley relay. This is also where I met Doug Russell and Bill Wood. Both of these guys became famous. Doug was not only a High School All American, he won the Olympics. Bill became a great quarterback at MHS and later a successful attorney.

I was a member of the team up to the age of 12. When I was 12, I was able to set a few records. That same year, I also lost my first race. After setting a national record in butterfly, I ate lunch and quickly lost the same lunch during the finals. That afternoon I came in 3rd beaten by the future All State swimmer from Austin and Doug Russell.

Listed below are some of the members of the MAC:
Bucky, Mary and Jerry Herndon
Tom, Bruce, John McElligott
Brownie, Marcia, Anita and Alan Queen
Simone and Roger Walker
Bob and Bill Connery
Penny and Mike Gerdis
Scott and Cherry Adams
Olin Davis
Larry Parks
Wayne Kaiser
Margie McCall

Now Margie and I swam  in Amarillo at a meet at one point. She sent me a news article about the meet. Perhaps she can be tracked down in Dallas along with her little brother, Archie. 

Following my 12 year old swim days, I left the team and concentrated on baseball and school. I was starting at Alamo and ran into Coach Don Foglesong, who was my PE instructor. He was built like a little gorilla without all the hair and could do anything a gorilla could do, including running and flipping from stand point. Coach Foglesong was an Olympic diver and tumbler. He recruited John Duff and myself to be tumblers for Alamo. We did an exhibit at the MHS auditorium. I did ok, but Duff jammed his neck and that is all I remember.    The Donald had just finished his Masters Degree somewhere , and was an amazing coach at Alamo.

Well 9th grade ended, and I ran away that summer. When I came back, Coach Foglesong was the new coach of the MHS swim team. He recruited me at once. Doug Russell was two grades behind me so I had some breathing room. I also ran into Jodi Givens, who became my mentor. Jodi was a senior, a football player and swam butterfly with a dolphin  kick. Well , Jodi taught me how to do the dolphin kick followed by the double dolphin kick. This is when I started keeping up with Jodi, and came close to beating the Odessa High “fly guy” at district the next year. Jodi was a godsend for my career in swimming.

More to come!!

John McElligott 1956
John McElligott 1956
John McElligott 1956

All American Relay Team 1962- Midland High School

Lt to Rt John Braun, Star Man (John McElligott), James Dunn, Rocket Man (Gere Gaige) 
This is the relay team that won the 1962 Texas Relay event. We were in the 7th lane since we qualified last for the finals. Thanks to Rocket Man turning on his boosters and passing a little gas at the finish of his back stroke.  Never seen Gere go so fast.

Just a bit more information… none of us knew that we were All Americans until Harry Miller told us almost a decade later. WOW.

Senior Year Sept 1962- May 1963

Written by John McElligott

The last year was fun, fast and full of excitement, but nothing compared to the summer with George McBride, Mike Murphy, Arvol Brown, and a host of younger classmates from a younger generation. I spent that summer running around in a Speedo.

Thank God, I took summer school English under Mr. Cummings from LHS and not from Francis Carter, MA Rice University. I told my brother, Bruce., not to miss summer school but he was in love and did not have time.

Well I did graduate on time! Bruce waited until August of 1963 since he and others did not make the cut due to that class. Plus, my summer school experience was made easier since I gave Mr. Cummings kids a ride home from Hogan Pool several times a week. Good life guard!! Wearing a Speedo all the time had its advantages, and unfortunately, underwear will never be the same. 

My best and most fun class was Biology with Mr. Hoyle and my lab partner was Gracie McIntyre. We smoked the class since we both loved the class and smiled all the time. 

Swimming became my passion and Gere Gaige, Don Goodson and I became captains of the team.

In addition Gere Gaige, James Dunn, John Braun and I won the University of Texas Swim Meet Medley Relay in the fall of 1962. Competing from the 7th lane (last to qualify) we kicked ass and took names. No one wins the relay championship in the last lane since you swallow more water and usually default. But the Rocket Man (Gere Gaige) blasted off and James kept us even until Starman (me) blasted off followed by the Junior on the Team, John Braun, who never looked back and we won hands down.

Years later when I came home from the military, Harry Miller said we made HS All Americans. Something I loved to hear even to this day.  

The rest of the year was hanging out with Todd Southern, Bill Buskirk (AKA Buzzard), and Bill Cumbie. Mike Murphy and Arvol took up their normal school projects… Acting, singing and, in Arvol’s case, lecturing women on his still famous romance stories. Todd and Buzzard became swim team partners and travel comrades to Juarez and Balmarhae. Now, Bill Cumbie reunited me with Billy Pitman who’s family lived behind Bruce and me in Terminal. We had a evening program where Billy bought the beer and Bill and I (underage) drank most of it on old back roads between Midland and Terminal. Interestingly, when I came back from the military and a student at NTSU (after leaving Baylor), I worked for Billy and WG was a salesman.
Now going back to my senior year… swimming was my life and MHS won district and Doug Russell began his quest to the Olympics. I hope Gere Gaige can add to this wonderful last swimming season. 

I made my way to Odessa College where I met up with Paco aka Nugent Brasher and this is when I found out I was smarter than I thought.

Now September 6, 1963 was when I became a father, and this was a difficult but delightful change in my demeanor and dedication. I knew I would not be a great partner, but I was determined to become the best father and friend to my son and he was the little brother I never had.

(*See in later years “The Best Deal I Ever Made”). 

Again, Nugent was my mentor and soon I knew my son and his mother needed benefits. So that spring of 1964 when Nugent left Odessa College, I joined the Navy and we never saw each other again. However, what Nugent taught me made me want to excel no matter what I was attempting the rest of my life.

More to come. Hopefully Paco will add to the story.