I’ll probably get sent to the woodshed for some of this. Last Thursday it was my privilege to attend the TISD Foundation luncheon where two longtime friends were honored.
If you know the pair, C.C. is the talker of the two.
One of my distinct memories of C.C. was his hats. Much like the ones sported by former Dallas Cowboys football coach Tom Landry.
Both men have been a source of great encouragement to me in my adult life.
My arrival at Robert E. Lee was as a junior. My desire was to play basketball on the R.E.L. squad. It was something I had dreamed about from a young age after watching the likes of D’boy Johnson and Verdell Howland (who went on to play for Abe Lemons at the University of Texas) play for the school and in pickup games down at the Y.M.C.A.
The Y had some great leagues for kids in those days. It would be what Little Dribblers is to youth basketball now but with less parity.
My first game was in fifth grade. I think we were the Celtics and we came up against the Bullets. We should have known something was up when the team arrived wearing warm-ups that looked to be made of silk. Murray Thompson was the coach and the team pressed full court for the entire game.
We were beaten by the score of 44-4. Many of the kids from Y ball ended up playing for area schools including Lee, JT and T.K. Gorman. Some names I recall were Trey Snider and Chris Curtain at T.K.G. Lee had Clay Thompson, Clay Stanley, Fred Elder and myself. J.T. had Perry Edwards, Pythias Young and I can’t remember if their post, Booker Cook played Y ball.
Back to the principals. When I arrived at REL as a junior, each high school had just completed construction on new varsity gyms. The roof at ours leaked from the beginning. It was not as well-designed or as nice as the one at JT and subsequently people around town named the two gyms after the principals. More on that later.
Billy and C.C. and I were reminiscing about the fire at John Tyler causing the two schools to have to conduct classes on the Lee campus. Lee students would attend classes from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and JT students would go from 1- 6:30.
I remember the student government people doing great things to welcome our visitors and the cheerleaders tied yellow ribbons around the trees all over campus.
I thought my early exits were going to mean a lot of time at the lake that spring but before the idea gathered much steam my dad let me know I would be spending my afternoons answering complaint calls in the circulation department. Buzzkill!
Not many people know that for years C.C. had a nickname by which he was known to most folks in town. When he left the school district he took to his initials but many people were stuck in the habit of the old nickname.
This brings us to the names of the two gyms. The Lee gym was known affectionately as “Billy’s Barn” and the JT gym was affectionately called “Pinky’s Palace.”
It was good to see Billy and C.C. appropriately recognized for their lives of devotion to our schools and this community and I share in the gratitude of the thousands of others who recall their important contributions.