Friday, August 24, 2007

Greenie Fight Never Dies ...

Once upon a time I was an insider looking forward. Now I find myself being an outsider looking back. Actually, I am an insider and an outsider. Confusing? Allow me to elaborate.

I started school in 1941 at J. L. Giles Elementary, in the old South Park Independent School District in Beaumont. I reached South Park High School by 1949, graduating from there in 1953.

Many experiences transpired in my school life from 1941 to 1953. This account is not intended to list those events of my educational history. Rather, I am observing situations from the vantage point of being an insider who is living as an outsider. That’s right. I no longer live in the old South Park District, which merged with the Beaumont Independent School District. In fact, I no longer live in Beaumont. But I am still a South Park Greenie. Always will be. Thus I can say that I am an insider and an outsider.

Remaining a Greenie should be no mystery. If you were a Beaumont High School Royal Purple, then you always will be a Purple. The same things can be said about the French High Buffaloes, the Charlton-Pollard Bulldogs, Hebert Panthers, St. Anthony Bulldogs or whatever school you attended. There is that school spirit that you understand so well even though I cannot describe it adequately.

So, here I am, a 72 year old Greenie. I hear about many events that transpire in my hometown of Beaumont. Particularly, I am referring to the old South Park High School building. I drove to Beaumont and looked around the campus. Have you seen that high school building? What a lovely edifice. And that beautiful natural fence of majestic oak trees lining the campus is breathtaking. What a magnificent monument to the history of education in South Beaumont.

But, you know what? There is a buzz going around that some may think that the old high school building should be razed. The dictionary defines “razed” as, “to tear down or demolish.”

Ok, I’ve got two cents to spend so here they are. Do not destroy the old school building. That building is so much more than brick and mortar. Renovate the structure if necessary but do not change that stately outward appearance. The radiance of Greenie Spirit emanates from within that building. Therein is the pride of South Park.

While in Beaumont, I stopped at the Stadium Shopping Center and snapped a picture of the home plate plaque. Those Beaumont Exporters and the Texas League were brilliant in their day. I drove down Pipkin Street where I grew up. So much has changed. The Lamar Theatre on Highland Ave. looked like a stash of driftwood washed up on the beach. The old pool at Alice Keith Park is gone. There appears to be a new one there now but a bit of history has been removed.

Then when I saw the South Park High School building, what memories flooded my soul. They flashed through my mind like a VCR on fast forward. That building deserves to live. It carries not only the Greenie Spirit but the Spirit of quality education ever since the early 1920s.

As an outsider, I do not pay taxes there. I do not vote on bond issues. I am not involved with politics in and about Beaumont and Jefferson County. But as an insider … a Greenie insider, I say, “Find a way to preserve that building. Do not destroy one of the last beautiful reminders of an era now past but which shall never be forgotten.

The closing lines of the South Park High School Alma Mater say it so well:

“South Park, South Park,
Dear old South Park,
Time the change may bring,
Still the name of
South Park High School,
Evermore we’ll sing.”

Winston Hamby
Greenie '53

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Knot On The Head And A Nickel Ahead ...

Mr. Carl Dillon served in the U. S. Navy as a pilot during WW2. Following the end of the war in 1945, he was discharged as a full lieutenant. He began teaching algebra at South Park High School in 1950. I was a sophomore that year and was assigned to Mr. Dillon’s algebra class. This was the beginning of a fascinating relationship.

Mr. Dillon had a discipline method that I called the, “Yardstick on the Head.” If you were mis-behaving, he would ease over with his yardstick and whack you on top of your head. Not with the flat side but rather with the edge. Now that smarted. I received several goose eggs on top of my skull that year. So did Glendon, Billy, and several others of us “active” teenagers. He never struck a girl with the stick. Of course the girls never cutup anyway.

One day in algebra class, Mr. Dillon was explaining how that “X = the unknown.” I always wondered why we spent so much time trying to find the “unknown” and why did “X” almost always have to be the “unknown?” Why couldn’t we just deal with the, “known?”

Anyway, my desk was on the side of the room next to the windows. Since we were on the first floor it was easy to look out of the window. And that is what I did. I looked out and there was a girls’ P. E. Class. They were on the front campus playing softball. Now you’ve got to understand that I was 15 years old and girls were very interesting creatures to me. The girls’ uniforms for P. E. consisted of white T-Shirts and green short-shorts.

There must have been thirty girls out there in green short-shorts. Now a guy does not often have such an opportunity as this. There were thirty girls. Do the math. That comes up to sixty legs in green short-shorts. Now let us reason together. Would you rather watch 30 beautiful girls in short-shorts play softball or listen to Mr. Dillon explain about the “unknowns?”

I was busy taking inventory of all the scenery when all of a sudden, “WHACK!!” Ouch, I was brought back to reality in short order. Mr. Dillon had interrupted his “unknown” discourse, walked over to my desk with his yardstick and “ker-whacked” me on the noggin. That one really hurt so I grabbed my one-foot Coca-Cola ruler and glared at him. He glared back at me and I showed him what was printed on my ruler, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” You know what? Mr. Dillon wrote me a Detention Hall slip and I had to stay in detention after school that day.

A few days later at noon, Mr. Dillon stopped by the ice-cream box in the school cafeteria to purchase an ice-cream bar from me. I worked in the cafeteria during lunch time. Ice-cream cost five cents. Mr. Dillon gave me a quarter. I picked up four nickels, showed him then placed them in his hand. But I only gave him three nickels. I palmed the fourth nickel. Mr. Dillon put the change in his pocket and walked away. I felt pretty smug. I had just shortchanged the algebra teacher.

After school, I went to him and tried to return his nickel. He said, “There’s no way you could have shortchanged me.” I said, “If I did shortchange you, may I keep the nickel?” He scoffed and said, “Sure.”

I respected Mr. Dillon for his military service and his algebra teaching was OK even though I didn’t agree with his “Yardstick Routine.” But after all was said and done, I am still ahead one nickel.

Winston Hamby

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Jones Spiked the Music ...

Lindley Armstrong Jones likely had quite an influence on your music appreciation values. Especially if you listened to lots of radio and regularly played 78 rpm records during the 1940s and early 1950s.

Lindley, whose nickname was “Spike” was born in 1911 and he grew up to become a popular musician and bandleader. He was nicknamed “Spike” because he was so skinny and his father worked for Southern Pacific Railroad. So Lindley became “Spike” relating to thin railroad spikes . The very name of Spike Jones became synonymous with crazy music.

Jones specialized in performing satirical arrangements of popular songs. Also, he would “rip” up ballads and classical works with gunshots, whistles, cowbells and weird-sounding vocals. During his early tours through the United States and Canada, his band was known as, “The Musical Depreciation Revue.”

I first heard about Spike Jones from my big sister, Ann. You see, when I was about 10 years old, Ann was 14. We had a record player and radio console in our living room. It was a Zenith floor-model. Ann had talked my dad into buying this music-playing piece of furniture because she wanted it. You know, big sisters have a way of getting whatever they want out of their dads. Little brothers don’t stand a chance. I even had to save up my allowance to buy an electric train for Christmas. Of course Santa Claus brought the train to me but I had to mail him the money to pay for it. Did you ever hear of anyone having to pay Santa for Christmas presents? Anyway, my sister just said, “Puh-leeze, Daddy,” and he bought her this console.

Ann loved to play her 78 rpm records at full volume. Now “full volume” was really loud if you were turning it up on a Zenith floor-model radio/record player console. Those huge twin magnet speakers in the lower portion of the machine would vibrate and the entire neighborhood could “enjoy” my sister’s music. Remember that in those days, there was little air-conditioning to go around. Most of the houses utilized attic fans that would pull air in through the windows and exhaust through vents in the attic. But with the windows open for air to come in, that meant there were open windows for loud music to go out. And it did. My sister constantly was buying new recordings to keep on hand her favorite songs of the day.

One day as I was approaching the house I heard laughter. Not just a little laughter from one person but lots of loud uncontrollable laughter by several individuals. The closer I got to the house the louder the laughter became. It turned out that my sister had fallen in love with some of the crazy music of Spike Jones and his band known by this time as The City Slickers.

The song causing the laughter was, “The Flight of the Bumblebee.” Of course Spike Jones’ rendition was quite different from the original written by Nicolai Rimsky-Koraskov in his opera, “The Tale of Tsar Saltan.” It seems that the soloist on Spike’s recording, playing a tuba, could not quite get going. Everytime he began his solo, he would have to stop and sneeze. This tickled the other band members to such an extent that finally they could do nothing but laugh. And laugh they did, for nearly two full minutes. Even today most folks of that era refer to the recording as, “Spike Jones’ Laughing Record.” Read more about this madman of music at

Later in life I purchased for myself a nice RCA Radio/Turntable/Cassette Console. When my daughter saw it, she wanted it so I gave it to her. After all, she said, “Puh-leeze, Daddy.” Go figure …

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise

Monday, August 06, 2007

I M A Collector's Item, R U ?

Webster’s Dictionary defines a collectors item as, “… an item whose rarity or excellence makes it especially worth collecting.” With the foregoing in mind, consider the question, “Are you a collector’s item?” Even if you’re not, you no doubt live close to one or more. Especially if you live in Beaumont.

For example, I am a collector’s item because I am a South Park Greenie. They are not making anymore Greenies. This means that Greenies are growing rarer with the passing of each day. And they are not making anymore Beaumont High Royal Purples. Nor or they making anymore Charlton-Pollard Bulldogs, Hebert Panthers, French Buffaloes, Forest Park Trojans or Beaumont Charlton-Pollard Jaguars

Get the picture? Times have changed. Schools have closed and/or merged. I have been away from Beaumont for years but as I understand it, there was a merging of South Park, Hebert and Forest Park resulting in West Brook High School. Then there was the merging of Charlton-Pollard, French and Beaumont High culminating in Central High School. Later Ozen High School opened. So currently there are the West Brook Bruins, the Central Jaguars and the Ozen Panthers.

But just think of all the collector’s items there must be in Beaumont. Search the internet and you will see that all of those original schools are still having reunions. We may be down but we’re not out.

Have you ever considered auctioning yourself on E-Bay? There’s a lot of collector’s stuff on that web site. Just think of the ads we might see: “One Greenie, used but still kicking and breathing. Will sell to the highest bidder.” If you are a Purple and ever wanted to own a Greenie, you could just check out E-Bay and see what gives.

How about this one, “Hebert Panther with lots of growl left.” Or “French High Buffalo … hurry, this one won’t last long.” Or “Charlton-Pollard Bulldog that loves to feast on Panthers.” Well you get the drift. If we are becoming rarer with the passing of each day and if truly we are collector’s items then we should act like it.

And who can predict what is down the road for the Beaumont schools? Let’s say that in about 20 years, West Brook merges with Central. Would we have West Central Brook or Central Brook West? And of course should that occur there would no longer be the Bruins or Jaguars. Maybe it would be the Central Brook West Blue Bears or Golden Kitty Kats. Given enough time, it could grow to be pretty confusing.

Just for a real stretch, let’s say that one day Home Schooling becomes all the rage. Let us imagine that every home was responsible for educating its own children. How many homes would have enough children for a football team? Or even a baseball team? There would of necessity have to be more “one-person” sports. Each family would have one tennis player. How would you like to be the newspaper sportswriter keeping up with all of the individual Home School athletes? Can’t you just see the size of the sports section? There would be page after page describing newsy sporting events such as how Tom Smith beat out Oliver Snodgrass for the Franklin Street Golf Championship. Or how that Harry Snyder advanced to the bi-block ping-pong playoffs. Talk about confusing.

But I suppose the collector’s items of this current day should not spend much time mulling over such things. We will not even be here. Our grandchildren and great grandchildren will have to figure it out for themselves.

Besides, when you have pro-sport situations like Giants playing Dolphins and Tigers squaring off against Blue-Jays, I don’t think our grandkids can do any worse.

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise