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DDS:CB3 Dynasty Buddy Boy Blakelee: Good Ole Boy [Retired]

Started By Wayne23, Mar 28, 2014 12:31 AM

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Wayne23
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March 31, 2014

Jerome “Buddy Boy” Blakelee (May 1, 1917-March 30, 2014)

“The world of basketball lost a truly unique man today. ‘Buddy Boy’ Blakelee, who spent forty-three years coaching Division I basketball at various schools here in the south, ending up at Georgia Tech where he had great success, died today in his LaGrange, GA home, surrounded by his family, beloved wife of 73 years, Loretta Blakelee, son Jerome, Jr., and daughters Emmy Lou and Bobby Jo. He was 96 years old."

“WATL radio here in Atlanta has literally thousands of hours of programming on Buddy Boy Blakelee. Beginning on this Wednesday, WATL will present a weekly program on his life and career. Please join me, Jackson Lee, on Wednesday evenings at 9:00.”

(April 2, 2014)

“Welcome to ‘Buddy Boy’, an ongoing radio series on Coach Jerome ‘Buddy Boy’ Blakelee. I’m your host, Jackson Lee, and it will be my pleasure to be with you for this ongoing series.”

“I don’t hardly ‘member it a course but they tell me mah momma was in labor for like ta 48 hours afore I was borned.”

“And that was on May 1, 1917. Were you born in a hospital, Coach Blakelee?”

“Call me ‘Buddy Boy’. Hell no, weren’t nobody in our part a the state born in no hospital. We was all dirt poor. No hospital, no doctor. This old colored woman, a midwife sorta, would come ta the house an’ he’p out. Worked jus’ fine mos’ times. Course if they was complications I guess mebbe not but I got myself borned with no problems atall. Momma was up doin’ the chores roun’ the house by evenin’ they tell me.”

“And what kind of childhood did you have, Coa- Buddy Boy?”

“Damn fine one! We didn’t have nothin’ much, lived in a cabin with a dirt floor, but my poppa farmed our little spread an’ we had plenty a food. No money though. He sold a little truck down in LaGrange- our place was mebbe 3-4 mile northeast a there. Yeah, he sold a little truck, jus’ enough to keep us in supplies, you know, fertilizer, seed for the next crop, stuff we couldn’t grow er make ourself, that sorta thing. We didn’t have two nickels ta rub together. But we ate good. They was beans an’ corn an’ greens an’ taters, an tomaters, an’ squash, an’ all like that. We had apple trees, too. Fer meat daddy hunted. Time I was 9 or 10 I hunted with him- possum, rabbit, squirrel, duck- you name it. An’ they was this stream with some good eatin’ fish. We ate good.”

“So I should assume that your parents didn’t have much education?”

“None atall. Daddy could read enough ta get by. Don’t think momma could read atall. Leastwise I never saw her read nothin’.”

“And yet you somehow managed to get an education.”

“Well sir, they done passed some laws aroun’ that time makin’ it that ya hadta send yer kids ta school. Daddy didn’t like it none, thought it was a waste a time an’ it took us kids away from the farm- he needed the help. But it was the law and daddy always b’lieved in follerin’ the law.”

“And you liked school?”

“Well, they was a lot I didn’t like. The teachers was hellish strict in them days an’ they wasn’t shy about beatin’ us kids if we didn’t know the answer er if we acted up.”

“But…”

“But yeah, I liked readin’ stories an’ I really liked ‘rithmatic- thas what we called it, not math, like nowadays. An’ when we studied up on wars an’ such, I liked THAT a whole lot!”

“And so this son of uneducated parents-”

“Now don’t you make out that my folks was dumb. They wasn’t. They hadn’t had no opportunity ta git no education but they was smart as kin be.”

“No sir, I was only going to point out that your parents had no education but they valued it, and they made sacrifices so that you could get an education.”

“Thas all right then. Thas all right. Yep, thas what they done.”

“You had two brothers and two sisters.”

“Yeah but wasn’t none a them int’rested in getting’ a education. I was the on’y one.”

“This is Jackson Lee, WATL radio. After this commercial break we’ll be back…"

"Jackson Lee, WATL radio. We’re happy you’ve joined us for our first episode of ‘Buddy Boy’. Our plan is to weave in interviews with Buddy Boy Blakelee, and interspersed with that we’ll go through the story of his legendary career as first a player, at the University of Alabama, and then a coach at various schools in the South, ending up at Georgia Tech, where he gained fame with his great success.”

“So I was in I think sixth grade when the Depression hit. It was terrible for most folks but it didn’t change all that much fer us. Couldn’t get no poorer than we was, but the crops kep’ growin’. Wasn’t like them poor folks out West with them terrible dust storms. We was okay."

“Come spring a my eighth grade year the high school basketball coach come ta the door one night an’ told daddy I had ta go on ta high school. He said I was a good enough player- I’d played on the seventh an’ eighth grade team- that if I went an’ played high school ball they was a good chancet I would get a scholarship an’ go ta college free. Now ya gotta know I was 6’ 4” tall at that point in eighth grade and’ still growin’ like a weed. So a course Coach Johnson wanted me. They wasn’t nigh as many real tall kids in them days as they is now."

“Anyways ya could see daddy thinkin’ on this. It come outta the blue fer both a us, I tell you, I figgered after eighth grade I was done with education an’ back on the farm. Never thought nothin’ else. I liked school mostly but didn’t see no way I could go so I never even give it a thought. So daddy axed what part a the year was basketball season. When Coach Johnson tole him daddy said that was a time a year when he reckoned he could spare me. So there it was. I become a high school boy an’ I played ball.”

“And played well!”

“I grew ta be 6’8” an’ wide as a barn door, 275 pound as a senior. Couldn’t nobody move me. Oncet Coach Johnson learned me how ta play Power Forerd, I got so’s I was okay.”

“You were more than okay, Buddy Boy. You made second team all state as a sophomore, first team as a junior and senior, and were named state of Georgia player of the year your senior year.”

“Well, I had the best dang coach they was, an’ the other fellas on the team was a big part a all that. I’m mos’ proud a the fac’ we won the champeenship both a my las’ two years.”

“And the big name colleges came to call.”

“Lordy, lordy, they did! Seem like they was a college coach at the house mos’ ev’ry night fer a coupla months. We couldn’t hardly eat our supper in peace. Even some Yankee college coaches- not that I ever woulda gone up there.”

“You chose the University of Alabama. Can you recall why? There must have been a lot of pressure to go to Georgia.”

“They was- a LOTTA pressure. But Georgia didn’t have that great a basketball team. And Alabama at the time, this was 1935, had the best team in the whole South, even better than Georgia Tech which I didn’t have the grades ta go to, or at least that’s what I was told by Coach Johnson and them- about 'Bama bein’ the best I mean, not about my grades an’ Georgia Tech an’ that. So’s anyways, I took the scholarship from ‘Bama, an’ I played for Coach Stony Grey an’ the Crimson Tide. An’ I’m dang glad I did!”

“And that concludes our first episode of ‘Buddy Boy.’ In putting together this series we’ve gone over WATL radio tapes dating from 1972 until the present. Some of the voices you hear speaking with Coach Blakelee are former radio show personalities here at WATL. Occasionally the voice is mine. We’ve woven interviews with Buddy Boy Blakelee with sports stories and other such. Please join us next week at this same time when we’ll talk more about Buddy Boy’s youth, as well as his time at the University of Alabama. Thank you for joining us.”

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(April 9, 2014)

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, this is Jackson Lee and you’re listening to ‘Buddy Boy”, the life of Coach Buddy Boy Blakelee. We were very pleased with the large audience our first episode drew and thankful for the many positive comments about the program. Let’s begin this week with a continuation of the interview between former WATL radio personality, the late James Broadstreet, and recently deceased Coach Blakelee.”

“Coach, where did the name Buddy Boy come from?”

“Now thas a funny story. I cain’t say I ‘member this but it bin tole ta me so many times I feel like I DO ‘member it. I was two year old. My daddy knew even at that young age I just loved ta tag along with him. If he was doin’ chores where he could keep a eye on me and I wadn’t likely to git inta nothin’ dangerous, he’d take me along fer a hour er so. It hadta cost him precious time draggin’ me out ta the fields then back in ta momma, but he was a good daddy an’ he done it. Anyways, on this one day he looked over at me playin’ on the floor an’ says he’s goin’ ta do some weedin’ and’ do I wanna come. I says yeah an’ he says, ‘Well less go, buddy boy.’

“I reckon little me foun’ somethin’ comical in that. They tell me I commenced ta laughin’ an’ laughin’ an’ couldn’t stop, jus’ kep’ sayin’ ‘buddy boy, buddy boy, mah name is buddy boy.’ An’ from then on thas what it was. Nobody never called me nothin’ else, not even at school. I was Buddy Boy Blakelee. Still am!”

“That’s a great story, Coach. Tell me, because this kind of thing always makes me curious. You didn’t have a basketball at home as a youngster?”

“No, we didn’t have no toys a any kind, too poor. Hell, I didn’t know they was such a game as basketball ‘til they started havin’ us play it aroun’ sixth grade in gym class.”

“So you never practiced at home?”

“Not at that age. Not ‘til high school really, when they give me a ball an’ come out ta the house an’ put a hoop in on a big, tall pole, summer after eighth grade. An’ there weren’t much time ta practice even then- not ‘til college really.”

“And yet somehow, by your sophomore year of high school you were good enough to gain state wide recognition.”

“Yes sir, thas true, but they is a few reasons fer it. First like I done tole ya, I was tall, an’ I was wide. Couldn’t nobody move me out. I got near the basket I was gonna score. They couldn’t stop me. An’ at 6’8” I couldn’t hardly miss from that close. Then, I had a tree-mendous coach an’ I was always a good listener. Coach Johnson taught me that little lay up, an’ how ta throw in a head fake er two but mix it up, not do the same thang ev’ry time, an’ a kind a half hook when I was a little futher out, but more’n that he taught me how ta play Defense, how ta box out an’ git position fer rebounds, how ta fill the lane on D, how ta set a pick on O, an’ how ta run the floor on a fast break so’s I didn’t git in the dribbler’s way, how ta pick up somebody else’s man in man ta man D if they got rubbed off by a pick- about a bazillion other things, all a which I have always tried ta teach my players too.”

“But again, you could only practice most of those things at school.”

“Thas true, an’ daddy needed me on the farm so’s I on’y got ta practice durin’ our team practices, usually an’ mebbe fer a hour or so after. Since it’s dark outside at that time a year wasn’t much in the way a chores ta do at home so daddy didn’t care if I was ta stay late. But remember it was a four mile walk ta school an’ a four mile walk back, so when the days was longer daddy didn’t want me hangin’ around school playin’ a game when I could be home he’pin’ out. He s’ported me playin’ on the team cuz he WANTED me ta go ta college an’ this was the on’y way, but he didn’t s’port me not he’pin’ out at home. So outside a basketball season I on’y got ta practice cuz coach Johnson- an’ I got no idea how he done this- anyways, he made it so’s I got credit in gym class fer goin’ outside an’ playin’ hoops durin’ gym class, whilst the other kids was doin’ whatever the gym teachers had ‘em doin’. I could practice durin’ study hall, too. Ol’ Coach was a crafty one! One other thing he tole me ta do that he’ped. He said write out all the things I learned at practice- all of ‘em. When I had the time he said ta read ‘em ta myself an’ in my head, jus’ practice doin’ ‘em- doin’ ‘em perfec’, but in my head not fer real. Soun’s kinda crazy but I really think it he’ped me a whole lot. When I commenced ta coachin’ I tole my players ta run through all a that when they got in bed at night. Lots of ‘em tole me they thought it he’ped, too.”

“Still, it’s amazing to me that someone who practiced so little wound up being a great high school player and very good college player.”

“Like I said college was diff’rint. They was all kindsa time fer praciticin’ durin’ college.”

“How did you manage to find time to do your homework in high school?”

“Well sir, it warn’t easy. The days was mighty full up. Still an’ all I knowed if’n I didn’t git the work done I wadn’t goin’ ta no college so I foun’ the time. Lotsa nights I fell short on sleepin’ time but it couldn’t be he’ped, an’ I allus bin a real strong feller so’s I was okay most a the time. Now an’ then I jus’ hadta go ta bed early though, kinda make up fer the lost sleepin’.”

“And your grades were good?”

“Daddy an’ Coach both insisted on it. I was ‘spected ta git mostly As with mebbe a B er two here an’ there.”

“And you did?”

“Oh yeah, I did. I know I sound like a stupid ole sh- mud kicker but I didn’t have much trouble really. They was this chemistry course an’ I worked harder in that one than in anythin’ else I ever took in high school an’ college too- got a C, my on’y one in high school er college. Other than that it was almost all As. I got a B+ in calculus an’ another one in physics in high school- I liked physics but the teacher on’y give out one er two As. Nobody made no never mind about the C in chemistry. Most kids flunked that one an’ Coach ‘splained to daddy that the C I got there was a real good grade considerin’. In college I got a B in a music class. Don’t know how I done that good in the class though!”

“This is Jackson Lee at WATL radio. We’re going to break for a commercial message. When we return James and Buddy Boy will discuss Buddy Boy’s playing career and lots more. Stay tuned…”

“Buddy Boy, we’ve talked a little bit about your basketball career at Stone Mountain High School.”

“Them was good days!”

“Your team was very successful.”

We played ‘zackly a hunnert games in my four years- I started on varsity fer all of ‘em, and we won our league every year. We went 18-4 first year, went ta the state ¼ finals. My second year we was 21-3, lost in the finals by four points. Junior year 24-2, won everythin’, and senior year was 28-0 an’ we won it all again. So 91-9 all in all. Not too bad.

“To say the least! Coach Johnson always said you were the best player he ever coached. When people asked why he said there were a few reasons. You talked about being a good listener and that was the first thing he always said. He said you were hungry to learn and because of it you learned to make the best possible use of your size. He then went on to say you were one of the smartest he ever coached, and that you were ‘game smart,’ able to adjust instantly to changing situations on both offense and defense. He said there were never many who could do that.”

“Well, Coach allus said, ‘Be ready. Anythin’s libel ta happen. When it does, give up the plan an’ react. I done that when I could.”

“Coach Johnson talked about your maturity. He said most high school boys get in their own way by making poor decisions, but you never did.”

“Don’t know ‘bout never but they was a lot ridin’ on getting’ good grades an’ getting’ ta be as good a player as I could. Yeah, I tried ta take it real serious. Sometime the other players or jus’ other school kids made fun but I didn’t mine that. Daddy allus tole me that kids done that an’ not ta pay it no never mine. Me bein’ so big an’ all if it got too bad I jus’ put a mean look on my face, started walkin’ towards ‘em real slow, and’ watched ‘em scatter. Didn’t hafta do that too much though, an’ I wouldn’ta hurt nobody, that ain’t my way. It warn’t nothin’ really. Kids is kids.”

“So no wild parties, drinking, smoking?”

“I kin honestly tell ya that I never tasted alcohol, tabacky nor any kinds a drugs ‘cept what the docs give ya when yer sick- never even oncet.”

“Never tempted?”

“Now I gotta say I ain’t never understood why ennybuddy is tempted. Ya got this one body. It gotta carry ya through fer yer whole life. Why in the name a thunder would ya want ta do things that is jus’ gonna mess it up? Don’t make no sense. I allus tried ta eat right too, same reason. I ain’t never managed ta git enough sleep but thas about my on’y bad habit far as takin’ care a my body, an’ I try ta catch up on the sleep when I kin. I preach all a that real strong ta my players. Some listen, some don’t.”

“But you’re not zero tolerance?”

“No I ain’t. Like I said a minute ago, kids is kids. I’m a Coach an’ ta me that means I’m a teacher, a father figger, a role model. Kids screw up, make mistakes, iss normal. A good teacher er parent don’t abandon ‘em. I don’t either. Now, there comes a time when ya gotta say ta yerself that the kid ain’t really gonna be able ta foller the rules. When that time comes I cut ‘em loose, but I cain’t he’p feelin’ iss a failure fer me as well as the kid. Iss on'y happened twice in all my years. I still think about them two kids, wonder how they're doin'. Wish there was a way ta know, mebbe ta help if need be.”

“And when you get that call that one of your players is in trouble?”

“Oh lordy. I’m right there- hospital, police station, wherever. But you want ta see the look on the kid’s face if he really did mess up. It’s like I’m a avengin’ angel er somethin’. I start in tellin’ ‘em this ain’t the time ta discuss consequences but that time is gonna come. Then they look like a puppy what got caught peein’ on the floor. I do what I kin ta take care a the problem an’ ta make sure they get what they need, good hospital care, a good lawyer, whatever. When it all calms down, wether a day, a week, a month later, we have us a little talk, and that consequences thing gets tooken care a. Now most kids don’t screw up but once. They’s smart enough ta learn from it. When that happens iss fergot. The ones who don’t learn? Well, three strikes an’ yer out. Third time ya mess up, pack yer stuff, yer gone. Course if the first one is a BIG thang, vi’lent crime er somethin’ that bad, then ya on’y git one strike.”

“But not drug problems.”

“I’m against drugs. But from what I’ve seen pot ain’t no worse than alcohol- I’m against that, too. I wouldn’t kick a kid off the team fer either one- usin’ I mean. Sellin’ would be a diff’rint thang.”

“We wanted to talk about your playing career today, Coach, but we never quite got to the college days.”

“Next time?”

“Next time it is.”

“We’re running a little late so I’ll, just say goodbye from Jackson Lee at WATL radio. Tune in at 9:00 next Wednesday for more of Buddy Boy. Goodnight.”

#3

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(April 16, 2014)

“Hello again everyone. Welcome back to WATL radio’s weekly presentation of Buddy Boy, the life of Coach Buddy Boy Blakelee. Back in 1987 then WATL radio personality James Broadstreet did a year long, half hour weekly series with Coach Blakelee. The series won a host of regional, and several national awards. We’ve been playing excerpts from that series here. We’ll continue to do that, and as time passes we’ll go to other sources to detail the life and career of Coach Blakelee. Here are James and Buddy Boy once again.

“Coach, you spent four years playing basketball at the University of Alabama. We’d like to talk about those years today.”

“I was lucky ta be there at that time. They was good years.”

“You arrived on campus in the fall of 1935, played through the ’35-’36 season right through to graduation in 1939.”

“Long time ago. Diff’rint world in lotsa ways.”

“We hope to discuss that for a bit as well.”

“What was this like for you, Buddy Boy? You lived in a rural area, on a farm. Went to a small high school- 57 in your graduating class. Then suddenly you’re at a huge university with thousands of people living in close proximity.”
“Gotta tell ya, when I got ta Stone Mountain High I thought it was the biggest place I ever seen- an’ it WAS! (laughs) So goin’ ta the campus at ‘Bama? It was quite a adjus’ment I tell you. People ever’where, thousands of ‘em! Mah first roommate was from Montgomery, a real city slicker. In them days they didn’t have no dorms just for athaletes an’ they didn’t do nothin’ ta have them room tagether er nothin’ like that. Well anyways this did not work out. I wound up sleepin’ an’ stayin’ down in the lounge in the basemint. Almos’ quit an’ went back home. Forchunitley Coach Grey found out early on, an’ he swapped me out to another dorm an’ I roomed with Bobby Russell, another freshman ball player. That was much better. Bobby come from a bigger place than me but it wasn’t no problem. We got along good right from the start. Them first few weeks was hell though.”

“And what about the campus, the classes, things like that?”

“Well freshmen classes was perty big, usually lecture halls with maybe 100-200 kids. Alls ya could do was take notes an’ hope ta make some sense outta ‘em when ya got back ta the dorm. I allus read ‘em over first chancet I got an’ rewrote stuff in my own words. I thought that he’ped me understand better. Coach Grey had study halls an’ tutors an’ I used them tutors an’ they saved me. I got 3 As an’ 2 Bs first semester, an’ without the tutors there jus’ ain’t no way that woulda happened. After that I kinda got used ta the way things was an’ it got easier but I wasn’t never afraid ta use them tutors when I needed ‘em.

As ta the campus they did a orientation for a few days afore classes started. They give us a map, walked us roun’ campus a few times, tole us about the school- stuff like that. I spent alla my free time jus’ walkin’ roun’ the campus with that map durin’ them first days. By the time classes started I knew my way roun’ the place. Navigatin’ streets an’ city type a places is way diff’rint than navigatin’ in the woods though. It jus’ never has seemed natural ta me. I ain’t never bin lost in the woods but I still git lost alla the time in cities. Anyways, I learned ta git where I hadta git ta but if I hadta go ta a new place I dug out that ole map!”

“And what about college life in general?”

“Now that was another adjus’mint. I spent my life outdoors as a kid. Bein’ indoors almos’ alla the time wasn’t anythin’ I was ever gonna be comf’table with. But I got used ta it. Got outside fer a walk ever chancet I got though- I still do that, need ta! The food was diff’rint, still southern but richer, kinda heavier. Raised meat like from cows an’ pigs an’ chickens is diff’rint from game. My body took a while ta git used of it, an’ tell the truth if I kin get me some game, rabbit, deer, anythin’ like that? I still like it better. Other thing is they was way more meat. When ya hunt the portions is small. Ya fill up on soup an’ bread an’ veg’tables. They was plenty a food though, ya could go back as many times as ya wanted so long’s ya et what ya took, an’ at that age thas what counts.”

“Did you go to mixers, dances? Meet any girls?”

“I’m embarrassed ta say so but I shore didn’t know nothin’ about meetin’ er talkin’ ta girls. Back home I dated Linda Lou Hawkins durin’ most a junior an’ senior year, but she was jus’ like me, a dumb ole country gal, good as gold but not suffisticated. These here girla at ‘Bama made me feel like a idjit which I s’pose I was in lotsa ways. At them mixers they’d come over bold as brass an’ start talkin’ ta me, no doubt cuz I was so big an’ strong lookin’, but I couldn’t say two words ta ‘em, so afore long they’d drift off. I stopped goin’ ta them mixers right quick. They was music concerts though an’ I really liked them. Didn’t matter what kinda music, I went, an’ I allus enjoyed it. Not them thar stage plays though. Usually had no idea what the hell they was talkin’ about in them, didn’t get the jokes ner nothin’.”

“But you became more sophisticated, grew intellectually and socially.”

“Well, ya stay in a envir’mint ya git more comf’table, ya git ta whar it ain’t so strange. I guess I kinda did that after a couple a years. I wasn’t never gonna really fit in but it got way better.”

“And with girls?”

“Well, I met Loretta in March a my sophomore year an’ she’s the only girl I ever cared about, then, now er forever,”

“We’ll want to hear all about that but let’s save it for another time. And the team?”

“Well that made it all worth the trouble. I was a good high school player but I had a lot ta learn at the next level. Lucky fer me Coach Grey was a real patient teacher. An’ his assistant, Mutt James- they was on’y one assistant in them days, worked with the big guys. He was tough on me but he really learned me what I needed ta learn. Wasn’t but four big guys on the team. The Center was a senior but the other three of us was all freshmen. So Power Forerd was wide open. I intended ta win the job an’ I did, mos’ly cuz I was so dang strong. One a the other two had a Small Forerd’s body an’ he was no competition ta me. The other guy was big, but not as big as me, and frankly, he wasn’t a bad player but he was dumb as a ox. I figgered I’d beat him out cuz I learned the sets an’ the formations an’ the plays an’ all that. He seemed like he was never in the right place on O ner on D, an’ I was jus’ ‘bout allus in the right place- didn’t do the right thing necessar’ly but at least I was where I’s s’posed ta be. So yep, I started all four seasons at’Bama, jus’ like I done in high school.”

“The team wasn’t very successful that first year.”

“Lordy NO! We won about 7 games an’ lost a pile. It wasn’t much fun. But we was learnin’. It was a young team. Our Point Guard jus’ wasn’t up ta competin’ at this level an’ big as I be I know that the PG is the most important guy. Anyways, we had four freshmen and three sophs on a eleven man team so we was bound ta have trouble. It ain’t like now when they play a year er two an’ go off ta the pros. We was there fer the full four. Coach Grey knowed he had a blue chip Point Guard comin’ in fer my soph year so he knowed better days was comin’.”

“Jackson Lee, WATL radio. Back after this word.”

“Buddy Boy, you put up good numbers as a freshman.”

“I did. If I ‘member rightly I got about 8 points, 8 rebounds.”

“8.4 points per game, 8.2 rebounds, that’s right. So year two was better?”

“Fer the team it was. Fer me not so much.”

“Why was that?”

“Well, ya don’t see much a this these days, but back then the shoes we played in give about as much pertection as ballet slippers. I got a bad ankle sprain a week before the first game a the season an’ it hobbled me all year. Never did heal completely. Ankle injuries was very common until when the shoes got better, and they was hard to git over. The trainer would tape up the ankle an’ ya could play, but ya couldn’t cut, ya couldn’t go at full speed, an’ the dang thing still hurt. After the game ya had ta ice it, an’ keep icin’ it ever chancet ya got but they wasn’t no ice ‘cep’ in the gym, but the pain was perty much there alla the time. Wasn't nothin’ ta take but asp’rin neither.”

“Your numbers went down, 6.5 points. 7.1 rebounds. They didn’t keep records but I assume your playing time went down as well?”

“Oh yeah. I played when I could an’ never let Coach know how much it was hurtin’ but he was sharp enough ta know an’ he played me accordin’ly. We wound up third in the league an’ I always have thought we’d a bin first if’n I was muself. Not ta brag, it’s just that my back up wasn’t as big or as strong. He worked hard though.”

“Still, the team had a good year. But your junior year, the 1937, ’38 season, was when things really started looking up.”

“They did. They did. I got healthy in the off season. And by then I was with Loretta so I was happier than I’d ever bin. I’ve allus bin a happy guy. I figger ya on’y go roun’ oncet so ya gotta try ta enjoy it. But when I met Loretta I started ta know what real happiness is.”

“The team went 17-6, won the conference tournament. Then the Point Guard got hurt in the early minutes of your first round NAIA game- that was the big tourney then and there were 32 teams.”

“An’ that was that. It was his ankle, jus’ like me the year afore that, an’ he couldn’t go. He tried a couple a times but then Coach jus’ pulled him and said wait ‘til nex’ year. Without Jesse we was screwed. Lost by about 20.”

“Jesse Smith, ‘Bama Point Guard, and in the U. of Alabama basketball Hall of Fame along with Buddy Boy Blakelee and some other hoops greats. You had 8.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.”

“Yeah, I was healthy an’ happy, an’ it was all jus’, I don’t know, it was easy, natural. Felt that way all season.”

“You were named second team in the conference.”

“Yeah. That was a real thrill. I was all goose bumps when Coach tole me.”

“All right. Jackson Lee again, WATL radio. That’s about all the time we have for this week. Next week, Buddy Boy’s senior season, and a wonderful interview about how he met, fell in love with, and won Loretta, the love of his life. Please join us next Wednesday at 9:00. You won’t want to miss this episode.”

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(April 23, 2014)

This is WATL radio, and I’m Jackson Lee, here with our next episode of Buddy Boy. We’ve packed a lot into this one so let’s go right to the tapes from 1987, with James Broadstreet and Coach Buddy Boy Blakelee.

“Coach, before we get to your senior year, let’s talk about you and Loretta.”

“My favorite topic!”

“You met her fifty years ago, in 1937.”

“An’ I ‘member it like it was yesterday. Luckiest day a my life! I’d be workin’ in the car wash if’n I hadn’t met Loretta.”

“I’m not sure that’s the case but I do know how much she means to you. It’s a beautiful story. Tell us the beginning.”

“Twern’t nothin’ all that special ‘bout the beginnin’ ‘cept ta me, I s’pose. Sophomore year an’ I got talked- nagged inta goin’ ta one more mixer. So I went. Kinda stood roun’ hopin’ nobody wouldn’t talk ta me, spesh’ly not girls. I’s better than I was as a freshman but I still wadn’t real good at talkin’ ta girls- not even close to. But now I’m known on campus. Bein’ a athalete an’ all, which is why they wanted me there in the first place. Students went ta the games in them days. They was brawls over gettin’ tickets even when we had a bad year like we just done, and we wadn’t nothin’ compared ta football! Anyways, girl after girl come up ta talk. I talked with ‘em, much as I could, but they didn’t stick around so I guess I didn’t do a whole lot better than before. Then, just as I’m lookin’ at my watch an’ happy ta see the dang thing’ll be over in about 20 minutes, up comes this honey haired doll. I had tried ta kinda train mahself not ta git too excited ‘bout perty girls cuz I was so cussed awful at knowin’ how ta talk ta ‘em but this one? Yeah, she caught my eye- hers was blue- still is.”

“Hi Buddy Boy, I’m Loretta Walker. I’m a freshman, hope to major in journalism.”

“Nice ta meet ya, Loretta. I’m hopin’ ta be a high school hist’ry teacher an’ a basketball coach when I graduate (not bad so far). How come ya know mah name?”

“I'm a big basketball fan, Buddy Boy. Teachers do such important work. Why history?”

“Well ma-am-”

“Please call me Loretta.” (Man, that smile!)

Okay, … Loretta. Well, I allus bin int’rested in hist’ry. They’s so many stories. I think ya git kids ta pay attention by tellin’ them int’restin’ stories. Then ya kin teach ‘em what they gotta learn an’ it ain’t so painful fer ‘em.”

“That’s a great plan, Buddy Boy. I think you’ll be a really good teacher.”

(All this time I’m tryin’ ta come up with a way a askin’ her out but I’m scared spitless an’ nothin’ is comin’ ta mind. Then they announce that its’ time ta leave.)

“Dang! That shore went by fast.”

“I really enjoyed talking with you, Buddy Boy.”

“Yeah, me too. It’s the best time I ever had at one a these dang things.”

“That’s sweet of you.”

(Then there’s this awkward silence an’ I blush cuz I can’t think how ta ax her, I jus’ CAN’T!)

“Buddy Boy, do you like music?”

“Yes ma-am- I mean yes, Loretta. I go ta ev’ry concert they is on campus- that is if I ain’t got practice er such.”

“Well, I was thinking that I’d love to go to the concert next Saturday if someone wanted to ask me. It’s the Dorsey Brothers. They’re such a big name band and I think they’re great!”

“I wanted ta go to see them, too… I’d be real happy ta take ya ta that, Loretta… if ya’d go with me.” (Hardest thing I ever done.)

“I’d love to!”

“They kicked us out then so I walked her back to her dorm. She kept me talkin’ somehow an’ she talked too. I said good night at the door and she leaned in and kissed me on the cheek. It about paralyzed me fer a while… like fer the rest a the night an’ mosta the next day. Well, the mixer was Saturday so the concert was a whole week away. It was prob’ly my worst week as a student ever. I couldn’t concentrate on nothin’. An’ the time would NOT pass ‘cept durin’ practice cuz yer so busy then ever’thin’ else goes away.

“Fin’ly Saturday come. The whole date was about perfect. We walked across campus ta the concert. It was just a wonderful night, not too hot but not chilly neither. Loretta wore this powder blue dress that showed off her figger. She was on the thin side, jus' the way I like 'em, an' I thought she was plumb beautiful in that dress. Loretta shore knew how ta git me ta talk an’ I remembered ta be perlite enough ta ax her about journalism an’ about what else she might be int’rested in. Turned out ta be gardenin’, ‘specially flars, roses an’ them, walkin’ outside when it ain’t too hot, an’ readin’, some a that about hist’ry. I made REAL shore ta remember ‘bout them int’rests. We had good seats for the show an’ it was jumpin’. We was practic’ly dancin’ in our seats. On some tunes the whole audience got up on their feet an’ did dance at their seats. On the way back I axed her if she wanted a ice cream an’ she did which was great cuz it meant I got ta spend more time with her. I can’t b’lieve it but I actually said that ta her. It kinda slipped out cuz I never woulda had the nerve. Well she broke out in this huge smile an’ took my han’ an’ held it the rest a the way ta the ice cream place, an’ did it again on the walk back ta her dorm. I don' know that I ever bin happy as I was when she done that.

“When we got ta the door she talked before I could.”

“I had a really nice time tonight, Buddy Boy. I’d be really disappointed if you didn’t ask me again.”

(If I’m dreamin’ don’t wake me!)

“Yes ma-am, uh Loretta. I’d really like that a lot. Ya gotta know I ain’t no good at this, I got no idea how ta go about it.”

“That’s kind of cute, actually. I am so sick of all these boys who pretend to be so sophisticated. Tell you a secret?”

“Sure.”

“They usually don’t know any more than you do. They’re just a little braver.”

(I smiled and blushed at that.)

“I just have to kiss you when you do that. An’ she did. I offered my cheek, she turned my head an’ kissed me. I mean really kissed me!”

“Okay, Buddy Boy, here’s what you do. You go on back to the dorm and you think about where you want to take me next week-”

“Gotta be Friday though, the team’s outta town on Saturday.”

“That’s fine. Anyway, on Tuesday- can you see me on Tuesday?”

“Shore, I don’t see why not. I gotta study though, it’s a busy time.”

“I’m getting to that. On Tuesday you come and pick me up right after supper and we go to the library to study. Then maybe you can buy me a soda pop. How’s that sound?”

“Like I died an’ went ta heaven.”

(She smiled again, and kissed me again.)

“Okay, go now. I can’t wait for Tuesday to find out where you’re going to take me on Friday.”

“How’s 7:00 on Tuesday?”

“How’s 6:30?”

“Even better.”

“Back in them days girls had curfew. Needed ta be back in the dorm at 10:00 on week nights, midnight on weekends. Sounds crazy now but that’s the way it was, right up ta the ‘60’s in lotsa places. They could sign out ta be back late but they better remember ta sign out, an’ with a good excuse, by at least 48 hours ahead. Like I said before, diff’rint world.”

“Okay, Buddy Boy, what a great story this is. But let’s save the next part for another time and switch to talking about your senior season.”

“Okay by me.”

“WATL, Atlanta radio. Back after this.”

“Welcome back. After the very good ’37-’38 season expectations must have been high for the Crimson Tide.”

“Sky high. Too high really.”

“But the team had a great season, and you had a really exceptional season.”

“I did. It was a great way ta go out. But team success is more important an’ we had a outstandin’ year.”

“You averaged 17.4 points, 12.9 rebounds, second in the nation.”

“Missed first by 7 rebounds, but I’ll take it.”

“The team won their first 14, lost one and then won the rest in the regular season, and the conference tournament as well.”

“Yep, 23-1 goin’ inta the NAIA, an’ a #3 seed. We played #30 St. Bonaventure an’ beat ‘em 56-43.”

“You were the star of that game.”

“Biggest game a my career. They didn’t have nobody taller than 6’4”. I got 31 points an’ 22 rebounds. Never had no numbers like that before or after.”

“Then came Idaho State.”

“Yep. 53-37. They was never in it. I had about 20 points an’ 10 RBs as I recall.”

“21 and 11. Now the round of 8. What was it like on campus?”

“Well, we didn’t git back ta campus. We played, Friday, Saturday, an’ then Central Missouri on Sunday but we’s tole that it was jus’ crazy. People was tryin’ ta fine short wave radio ta hear the games. Them what got it had like dozens a people crowdin’ roun’.”

“So you’re 25-1, in the round of 8.”

“Yep, alls we knowed about Central Missouri was what we seen, er what Coach seen in their game which was just after ours. They was big, two guys my size, both big an’ strong. Coach thought they was weak at Point Guard an’ if we used pressure they’d fold. Took a while but they did. With about 4 minutes left it was tied but their Point had 4 fouls an’ was tired from havin’ our guys hangin’ on him the whole game. He committed a charge an’ that was that. The back up was a freshman who hadn’t played but a few minutes all season an’ Jesse Smith stole it from him three straight times an’ scored ev’ry time afore their coach called a time out an’ put his Shootin’ Guard at the Point. By then we’re up 6 an’ there’s like 2 ½ ta go. So ev’ry time we get the ball we hold it until they foul us. Wadn’t no shot clock in them days. We make the shots an’ win by 11 an’ now there’s four teams left, and we git ta go home fer a few days.”

“And you were greeted like war heroes.”

“We was. Cant’ tell ya how many people was waitin’ when the bus pulled in at 1:45 in the mornin’. No curfew that night, or if they was mosta the girls broke it. I know Loretta did!”

“ You had 15 and 10 in that game. Next up was San Diego State.”

“Yep, San Diego State in the round a four. We went back ta the tourney which it was in Kansas City. Left Friday afternoon after classes. Got there late at night an’ slep’ ‘til 10:00 then had kinda what we now call a walk through at 11:00 an’ the game at 7:00. We was in the first game.
San Diego State was the best team we played all year an’ we knew it. They was 27-1, we was 26-1 but they played tougher teams. They had great guards. They had some big guys but they was skinny, runners, but not tough inside. I figgered I’d have a field day.”

“And did you?”

“Nope. Their stragedy was ta not let the ball git inside an’ they didn’t. I hardly never touched the ball. But our little guys was hittin’ shots, an’ when they missed I was shore getting’ rebounds, so it was okay. Fin’ly at the end, we went on a little run ta win by 14, but it was a whole lot closer than that mosta the way.”

“ You had only 6 points, but 14 RBs. And that put you in the title game.”

“It did, Southwestern. Man oh man. They was 27-2, we was 27-1. What we knowed about them was that they played ball control, keep the score down basketball. They would hold on fer as long as it took until somebody got open. Sometimes they had the ball fer 3-4 minutes, sometimes even longer. Their Point was terrific. Seemed like he could see the whole court while he was dribblin’ outside, waitin’ fer somebody ta git loose. It was exhaustin’ ta play D cuz ya knowed if ya messed up fer a second he’d see it an’ yer guy would be scorin’ a basket. At the half they was up 18-17. Lowest scorin’ game I was ever in. An’ it was borin’. All the fans ‘cept theirs was booin’ ‘em when they held on ta the ball but they didn’t care. The stragedy was workin’ an’ thas all they cared about.

“Coach tole us ta hang tight an’ not make mistakes. Ta make sure we got good shots cuz we wasn’t gonna git many of ‘em.

“We won the jump ball at the half- yeah, they did that then, but missed our shot an’ the RB went long an’ they got it.

“They then commenced ta hang onta the ball. After a good four minutes without them even lookin’ at the basket we knowed we hadta do somethin’. I went out an’ fouled the Point. It was a hard foul but a clean one. Least I thought so. The ref didn’t see it that way an’ he called a technical on me- this was afore the flagrint foul rule. I was amazed. That was the on’y time that ever happened ta me an’ it wadn’t right. Coach went a little crazy an’ they called a technical on him! He kep’ it up ‘til mebbe a half second afore they was gonna call another ‘un an’ then whirled roun’ an set on the bench. Wouldn’t even look at the stupid refs. Southwestern’s Point made all four shots, an’ then they got the ball back.

“We was in big trouble an’ we knew it. A five point lead in a game like this was like 15 in a reg’ler game. Coach couldn’t call a time out to instruct us cuz we couldn’t git the ball. Fin’ley he commenced ta yell out, “Take some chances! We gotta git the ball! Take some CHANCES!”

“We did. Before ya know it we was down 9, and they was about 6 minutes lef’. Then Coach DID call a time out. We’d knocked it outta boun’s an’ thet give him his chancet. He tole us it was now er never. We had ta gamble. Jesse said he thought he could read when their Point was gonna pass lef’. The guy did some little head move. Coach said that Jesse needed ta go with the feeling and break to where he thought the pass was goin’. The guy I was playin’ was usually the target fer that partic’ler pass so Coach tole me ta step in when Jesse broke ta the side.

“It worked. We stole four times in the next coupla minutes an’ scored ever’ time. Wasn’t no three pointer back then so we was now down 30-29 with about a minute ta go. In that last time out Coach tole me ta foul my man if we was down with less then a minute ta go. We were, he got the ball, I fouled him, makin’ shore no stupid ref could even think about callin’ it a hard foul. This guy was their worse foul shooter, somethin’ like 52%. Don’t ya know he makes both ends a the one and one. So now we’re down three. Jesse comes down, drives ta the hoop hopin’ ta get fouled fer an old fashioned three point play, the on’y kind there was then. It don’t work but he hits the layup an’ we’re down one again with 15 ticks left. I know my guy’s the one ta foul but it takes a little time. I fin’ley get him with 6 left.

“He misses an’ I git the rebound. I git it ta Jesse who brings it down but we gotta hurry. We do. Southwestern is playin’ us tight an’ doin’ a real good job. Jesse looks inside but I ain’t open so he takes a seventeen footer an’ it misses, hittin’ the front rim an’ bouncin’ WAY high. As it comes down I try ta tip it. It goes in but the refs say it was after the clock expired. Ain’t no tapes ta check in them days. They was film but it hadta be developed. The two refs (on’y two in them days) put their empty heads tagether an’ say yep, the clock done expired an’ Southwestern dang well won, 32-31.

“A week er so later when the films was developed it looked like the refs was right. It ain’t easy ta tell but it looked like my hand tipped the ball just a mini-second after the clock run out. Gotta live with it either way but all these years later I still once in a while have a nightmare about it.

“Now unnerstan’ the NIT started in 1937. The NCAA started in 1938. We was in the NAIA, which had been around fer a while. There wasn’t no big hoopla about bein’ “We are the champyuns” an’ all that but what we was playin’ fer was as close to the national title as they was. Ta lose it by one point, ta a team that wasn’t as good as us- if they was they’d a played reg’ler basketball not that slow it down crap- well, that hurt… a LOT. Oh well, life goes on. And with Loretta ta console me it was hard ta complain. Hell, mostly it was still hard but havin’ her in mah life he’ped.”

“And on that note we’ll say goodnight. WATL radio. Join us next Wednesday at 9:00.”

#5

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(April 30, 2014)

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to WATL radio’s presentation of Buddy Boy. I’d like to announce that last Wednesday’s program was the highest rated show in WATL history. Thank you so much for making that possible.”

“Buddy Boy, you wound up with 80 points, 72 rebounds for the five game NAIA tourney, and were named most outstanding player, which almost never happens to a member of the losing team. Yet your playing career ended on a sad note, so near and yet so far.”

“It was a honor, but tell the truth it didn’t ease the pain a losin’ any. Now’days it’s a very precious thing ta me, means a lot. At the time I was devastated, ‘spesh’ly when I thought the refs had blew the call at the end. It he’ped a little when we seen the film an’ it looked like they got it right after all. But on’y a little. I knowed I’d played my last game a serious basketball that I was ever gonna play in my life an’ that shore made me sad.”

“How did Loretta help?”

“How many ways is they ta he’p? She cheered me up, she talked ta me about coachin’ which I would be doin’ soon, an’ about how much Coach Grey had taught me an’ I was ready ta be a real good high school coach. She made me laugh when I didn’t think I could. She just kissed me inta givin’ up a bad mood sometimes. Lotsa other ways, she was always full a ideas. Still is.”

“And so your college days came to an end.”
“They did. An’ as they was comin’ ta a end, durin’ the very las’ week a school, I kinda surprised maself.”

“How did you do that, Coach.”

“Well, Loretta was a year behind me. She still had a year a schoolin’ ta do.”

“And?”

“And I had been debatin’ perposin’ ta her. But I was still the same ole Buddy Boy, scared ta death. Now Loretta an’ me had been goin’ tagether fer more’n two years at this point. We was close as could be. How in the world could I think she wouldn’t say yes? Well I was shore she wouldn’t say yes an’ I was scared. But I couldn’t leave campus without perposin’. Scared as I was I was too scared not ta. I mean I didn’t have a teachin’ job yet, didn’t know how fer away I’d end up. I wanted ta be engaged ta be married up afore I got separated from her. So I done it. I walked her down ta the lake- they was a beautiful lake on campus. I sat her down on a bench, away from the other folks what was there, an’ I dug in my pocket fer the ring. Wadn’t no fancy thing. I didn’t hardly have no money. But when I shopped I thought it was easy the pertiest one I could afford. Anyways, it was what I had. I took it out, like I said, and I asked her ta marry me. She give me that million dollar smile a hers and asked me what took so long. She thought I’d do it at Christmas. Then, when she actu’ly said yes- I made her say the word, I was so happy I cried- right there in front a her. An’ I tole her I was the happiest man what ever lived. An’ I b’lieved every word I said. An’, jus’ so’s ya know. That cheap little engagemint ring? After all a these years, ever’ time I offer ta buy her a real expensive one which I can do easy now, she says no way! This one means the world ta her. I guess that means more’n the world ta me. I get her other expensive jewelry instead, like ear rings an’ bracelets an’ pins an’ such.

“Well I got a job at a perty good school in Montgomery which was nice but it was near two hours from campus an’ that wadn’t good. But Montgomery was a good newspaper town so’s I figgered Loretta would git a job easy when she graduated. We was gonna git married soon as that happened, plannin’ a early June weddin’. Course that’d be in her home town, a little tiny town between Decatur an’ Athens. That’d be a long ways fer my fambly ta come but I was determined I wanted ‘em ta. Pa said he couldn’t leave fer more’n a day, an’ how was he s’posed ta pay fer train tickets fer ever’body, an’ how was he s’posed ta afford hotel rooms fer ever’body? Good questions!

Me an’ Loretta talked all a that over. They wadn’t no easy solutions, an’ we needed one. Fin’ly her poppa said that it wadn’t no big deal ta him an’ his wife where we all had the weddin’. Seemed ta him havin’ it on campus was like about halfway between fer his fambly an’ mines an’ we could prob’ly arrange ta have folks stay in a dorm at that time a year sense they was empty. So there wouldn’t be near the expense. I was touched. He was doin’ fine, money wise, so alla this was fer my fambly. If he was that kinda man, one who thought about other people afore hisself, I was surer than ever that I done made a good choice fer a wife. Not that there was ever enny doubt!

It worked out. Daddy found the money somewheres. I shore didn’t have none to give er even ta loan him.

“So on June 8, 1940, my Loretta an’ me was married in the Baptist chapel on the campus a the University of Alabama, an’ we had the reception in the gym where I played my games. They was a pot luck dinner which give all a us better food than enny caterer coulda come up with. Alla our famblies was there an’ quite a few friends, an’ it was jus’ the mos’ beautifulest, wonderfulest day ever. We drove down ta a five day honeymoon in New Orleans, getting’ there at about 8:00 that night. The beginnin’ was wonderful an’ the whole marriage has been. Loretta is the boss a the house an’ she tells me what all ta do. But she’s allus right so it ain’t no concern.”

“And so you started teaching and coaching.”

“I did. Well actu’ly I coached an’ taught fer a year whilst Loretta was in college.”

“How was that first year.”

“It was awful. I didn’t git ta see Loretta near enough. I had trouble figgerin’ out how ta be a teacher. I was way too easy goin’ an’ the kids run all over me. The basketball team was awful an’ they run all over me. I tell ya it was mighty discouragin’.”

“What turned it around?”

“Nothin’ turned it roun’ ‘til Loretta come ta join me the next year.”

“Let’s stop for these messages. We’ll be right back.”

“So Loretta turned it around?”

“Yeah, she did. She knew what a terrible time I’s havin’ cuz I tole her ‘bout it ever time I got ta campus that first year so’s when she got ta Montgom’ry after the honeymoon she started in ta teachin’ me how ta run a class an’ a team. Now she wasn’t no teacher, like I said, but like allus she knowed how.
In our life tagether she has allus just knowed how. She practiced me, showed me how ta control kids what didn’t want ta be controlled, taught me how ta use my natural friendliness without gittin’ took advantage of. Taught me how ta git kids on my side so’s it wasn’t cool ta be bad in my class.

“An’ the second year it was like I was a whole other person. I took charge a my classroom. Oh they’s allus gonna be some trouble in a classroom but now I knowed how ta nip it in the bud mosta the time so it wadn’t no big deal. Kids learned, I told my stories, mos’ ever’body seemed ta like me, an’ it was great. The team listened, I was able ta teach ‘em now they was listenin’, an’ we had a winnin’ season. As it turned out the on’y losin’ season I had as a high school coach was that first one. I still wadn’t a great coach but I was a much better one an’ I was learnin’.”

“You wound up coaching high school basketball for eleven years.”

“Yeah, I couldn’t catch a break. I felt like after six I was ready ta move up. I applied fer all kinds a college jobs, but nothin’ an’ nothin’ an’ nothin’. Part of it was the war.”

“How’s that.”

“Well, we got inta the war durin’ my third season a coachin’. Now soon as the season ended I went down ta the recruitin’ place to join up. Figgered it was the right thing ta do. I didn’t wanta leave. I mean Loretta an’ me was married fer like almos’ two years at the time an’ we was happy as kin be but hell, the world was fallin’ apart. So I jus’ nat’rully thought I had ta he’p out. Well I was rejected.”

“Why is that, Coach?”

“I was too tall. They had a rule, the Army did, an’ the other services too. Ya had ta be at least 5’ 2”, an’ no taller than 6’ 5 ½”. I was 6’ 8”. The recruiter looked at me an' tole me ta leave. Well I tole him back ta fudge the height thing. He said no. If I was 6’ 6”, mebbe 6’ 6 ½ he could get away with it, but at 6’ 8” it warn’t even close an’ there wadn’t no way. Turned out he was right. Follerin’ year I was drafted. They sent me fer my pre-induction physical. I jus’ got in the door an’ a Sergeant noticed me right off.

“Son, you too tall fer this man’s army. I’ll take ya down to 3C an’ we’ll do the paperwork an’ send ya on yer way.”

“Well I tole him like I tole the recruitin’ guy about lyin’ ‘bout my height.”

“I admire yer spirit son, but we ain’t got no uniforms ta fit ya an’ we don’t ‘zackly do no custom tailorin’. Come with me.”

“I was classified 4F an’ out I went. Now, when I got back ta home turns out people wasn’t very understandin’. They was sure I was shirkin’ my duty an’ they wasn’t quiet ‘bout sayin’ so. Warn’t nothin’ I could do ta defend myself. I tole the story an’ that but it didn’t he’p with most folks. They b’lieved what they wanted ta b’lieve an’ that was that. I stayed fer another year but then Loretta an’ me moved onta a teachin’ job in Birmin’ham fer the ’43-’44 school year. It prob’ly hurt Loretta’s career as she had jus’ got a permotion, an’ she had ta start at the bottom again, but she never complained, jus’ went an’ foun’ a job right away. We was dirt poor, a course. School teachin’ an’ coachin’ didn’t pay nothin’ at the time an’ newspaper work was even worse. We got by, an’ we didn’t care anyways. We had each other. Well, then she got pregnint. Little Jerome junior was borned in May a 1945. I took a part time job at a hardware store that was willin’ ta do without me durin’ basketball season. That he’ped but we was makin’ less’n when Loretta was workin’ so things was rough. We moved ta a cheaper, smaller apartment, but it was still tough. We made do, an’ we done without. Still, we was happy. We loved each other more’n ever an’ we shore loved little Jerome.”

“And so.”

“Well, in January a 1948 Emmy Lou come along, an’ then in November a ’49 Bobby Jo completed the fambly. We was so poor by this time it woulda been terrible if we let it. We didn’t let it, an’ Loretta’s folks started he’pin’ us out some in ’48. They could afford it, an’ they wanted very much ta do it. I had no choice but ta accept unless I wanted my kids ta go hungry. Loretta went back ta work in 1950 but baby sittin’ costs meant what she made didn’t add all that much ta our income. Still, it was somethin’. An’ I stayed at the hardware store.”

“And then the phone rang.”

“Fine’ly! In June a 1950, with about two weeks left in the school year, Coach Grey called. Seems U. of Alabama had increased the budget ta pay fer a second assistant basketball coach. Coach Grey wanted me. Said I was his first choice. Now, I’d got ta be quite a good coach. Last three seasons my team had gone ta the state title game each year an’ won it the first an’ third year. So Coach wasn’t bein’ sentimental nor nothin’ in wantin’ ta hire me. We’d kep’ in touch over the years, an’ he allus axed me ta work his summer camp so that give him a little chancet ta see what was I like as a coach. Anyways, the pay was $1,500 a year more’n I was makin’, an’ at the time that was a huge increase in pay. It meant Loretta n’ the kids an’ me would live a lot better than we was. An’ no more hardware store neither. I jumped at the chancet.”

“And you stayed five years.”

“They was happy years. Jerome got ta be ten year old by the end, an’ Emmy Lou seven an’ Bobby Jo five. I had managed ta spend jus’ a lotta time with all of ‘em an’ them is memories I cherish.”

“You’ve said you were ready to be a head coach in Division I after three years at ‘Bama.”

“Well I was. Coach learned me so much in them three years that I was ready. After year three I applied fer nine jobs. I thought I was qualified fer ever’ one of ‘em. I got on’y two interviews, an’ neither school seemed that int’rested. Then after year four it was kinda the same. Eleven open jobs, all over the south, on’y three interviews, Finalist fer one job but didn’t git it.”

“And in ’55 you finally connected.”

“Yep. Thankfully Central Arkansas give me a chance. Fortunately fer both sides, as it turned out.”

“And we’ll hear that story next time. Jackson Lee, WATL radio.”




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