Saturday, June 27, 2009

Pssst...I Have A Secret...

I have decided at this time to release confidential information pertaining to the W.B. and the J.T., both of which were undercover operations of the P.S.G. during the 1940s.

Allow me to remind you that “P.S.G.” was the Pipkin Street Gang which I have mentioned numerous times in past columns. This organization was composed of twelve kids. All of us lived in the 1300 block of Pipkin Street located in the South Park area of Beaumont. Additionally, we inducted two guys from Church Street and one guy from Edwin Street.

You may recall that the guy from Edwin Street was David Matthews. His house was behind my house and down a few lots east toward Chaison Street. David had a vacant lot next to his house and that area made a good playground. Also he owned a football. Thus David was a shoo-in for membership in the P.S.G.

Anyway, the P.S.G. primarily was a group of playmates. We played hide and go seek, baseball, football, basketball, played with modeling clay (we called it “molding clay,”) and when the girl members were around, we played Jacks and Jump Rope. The girls loved for Jackie Garretson and me to swing a 12-foot rope in what they called “hot pepper.” Margaret Ann Burch was the “hot pepper” champion. I hate to admit it but those girls always beat the boys at Jacks and Jump Roping. But I digress.

Within the P.S.G. were smaller groups with special missions. One mentioned earlier was the W.B. This was the Wasp Brigade and we were proud. Only the fearless could be in this group. There were five guys in the Brigade. None of the girls wanted any part of it. This elite group was composed of Jackie Garretson, Sonny Collier, Malcolm Ward, Donald Ray Kidd and me.

Our self-appointed mission was to carry out house patrols in the 1300 block of Pipkin Street. When we found wasp nests, we would attack. Wasp nests on the eaves of houses or in vegetation such as hedges did not have a chance. We used mop handles with globs of mud on one end to “clop” over the nests. The nests would end up embedded in the mud along with any wasps that happened to be home at the time. We developed great expertise in keeping wasps out of our block. And the thing that amazes me to this day is that no one ever got stung.

I was proud of the W.B. Why? Because it was my idea. Do you think that someday the history books and encyclopedias will discuss how that Winston Hamby, when just 10-years-old, conceived and developed the Wasp Brigade of Pipkin Street?

Another interesting side note is that if we could find no wasp nests while on a mission, we would end up in a mud war. When the mud wars began then all of the P.S.G. would join in. Great fun.

Then we had the J.T. This was a small group of us who were Jump Troopers. Influenced by daily news of WW2 that was in progress at that time, we decided to practice for the day we might be paratroopers. So we climbed on the roofs of our houses and jumped off. That was quite a jump but not so bad when you consider we always made sure we were jumping into a patch of soft saint augustine grass. Again, no one ever got hurt jumping off of houses. But then the war ended in 1945, so we never were called to duty.

I’m proud that I was in the P.S.G. and the W.B and the J.T. Do you know why I kept this information to myself all these years?

Nobody ever asked.

Winston Hamby

Friday, June 12, 2009

"Time The Change May Bring..."

Dear Greenie:

Just want to express my deepest gratitude to you for being such a significant part of my life.
So many times I have reflected on our relationship.

The first time I met you was in 1946. I’ve got to confess that I did not know who you were. Do you remember the big football game that Friday night? That was my first football game ever. My parents took me to the game because my sister was a member of the South Park High School Greenie Cadets, that fabulous drum and bugle corps. They performed at halftime. We were playing the Goose Creek Ganders. I remember thinking that was an unusual name for a football team.

When time came for the game to start, our high school band played the National Emblem. Then we sang a song which I learned later was our alma mater. A portion of those words were, “Time the change may bring.” I am wondering now if that song was prophetic with all the changes we are seeing. Anyway, following the alma mater, someone led a prayer over the public address system. Remember how that no one made a fuss because we prayed? Do you think we took school prayer for granted?

Then the cheerleaders led, “Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar. All for the Greenies stand up and holler.” Everyone around me stood up and hollered so I did too. I asked my friend, Joyce Vick which team she was rooting for. She thought I was joking. But that is when and how I began to know you.

A few short years later I reached high school and became a Greenie in my own right, I was proud to wear your name. All Greenies proudly waved the green and white. All Greenies knew about you. We called you “Greenie Spirit.”

Greenie, it seems strange that from time to time people wonder what you look like. These same people seem to think that you are a thing. Do they not know a spirit when one is around? I knew a family whose son wrote the following:

“The sun that sets may never rise,
But Greenie Spirit never dies.”

He understood that you are spirit and not a thing. You live in everyone who attended South Park High School. And believe me, Greenie, I have been around many a school in my lifetime. My wife was a school educator for 30 years. I’ve been in and around the public and private education arenas all my life. Never have I witnessed anything like you. Your spirit in our student body was unparalleled.

As you well know, they want to demolish our old school house. That is one of the most beautiful buildings in Beaumont. Isn’t it unusual how that sometimes progress dictates destruction? Is that really progress? But I digress.

Greenie, you are an indomitable spirit and never will you be degraded to mere brick and mortar. Never can you be confined to narrow hallways and slamming locker doors. You will continue to live in our souls. Even progress cannot take you away.

By the way, what ever happened to your beautiful pendulum clock that graced the wall just above our trophy case? Mr. Floyd used to wind up that lovely timepiece every morning. I wonder how many seconds ticked away on that old clock through the years. As the news reels used to say, “Time Marches On.” I guess time dictates change. And change is what we are seeing.

Greenie, the ending phrases of our alma mater sum it up 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