Age gnaws at life without respite,
Another wrinkle, another grey hair,
August 15, 1956. Football practice at Dreher High School begins.
A blazing hot sun. Sweating and gasping for air. Eating dirt and chalk. Chewing grass.
Locker room smells. Practice uniforms washed once a week…if they needed it.
Coach Red Myers blared and glared, and beat us with his cap. Those were the days of discipline and dedication.
Those were the days of three yards and a cloud of dust. Passing was frowned upon, as were girlfriends and sympathy. Defense won games.
Coach Charlie Stuart taped ankles in the locker room, going over assignments point-by-point. He was our only source of encouragement, but only rarely.
Pep rallies in the auditorium. Bonfires in the parking lot.
Pre-game meals of dry steak and potatoes.
Silent bus rides to the stadium. We had to get our minds on the game.
Butterflies and stomach knots.
Our Blue Devil team was small, fast, smart, and determined. Troy Evitt, George Criddle, Dean Fowble, and I were the fastest runners in the state.
Jesse Russell at 133 pounds was the fastest, meanest center in high school football.
Jim Waites, Bill Boyd, and Lee Rhame were the heaviest on the team at 185, and they were backs.
Allen Folline and Dick Rockafellow were lean, agile ends. Blockers and tacklers, not pass catchers.
Julius Smith, Kirk Woodlief, Bill Snipes, Jerry Fuller, Jerry McDaniel, Frank Turner, and Robert Madden were raw-boned linemen. Coach Myers taught them, “Never give up. Get up and go. Never give up!” It was a painful lesson they learned well.
Shand Gause, our student manager, was always there. He controlled the equipment room and provided a link between the coaches and the players.
Thanksgiving afternoon, 1956. The final game of the season.
Drum Major Jim Cherry and the marching band (including Henry Martin, Tommy Wainner, and Woody Woodruff ) played as we entered Memorial Stadium before a packed house of 7,000 fans. The cheerleaders (Jack Taylor, Jo Kirven, Lee Tigner, Sally Blackmon, and Mary Alva Ruff) led us onto the field.
In the stands, as always, were Principal J.K. Blum, Assistant Principal Arlie Whittinghill, Athletic Director J.K. Henry, most of the faculty, our parents… and our dates for after the game.
Captain Henry Asbill called the coin toss, and the mighty Blue Devils took to the field.
That day we defeated Coach Jim Pinkerton’s Columbia High Capitals for the state championship.
Only three teams had scored on us all year. Our only loss had been to Orangeburg when Reggie Logan, a future Georgia Tech star, returned a punt for a TD late in the game.
Lee Rhame was named South Carolina Back of the Year. Henry Asbill went to the Shrine Bowl and Allen Folline to the North-South Game. Troy Evitt and I received local and state honors.
The smell of the grass, the sound of the whistle, and the cheers of the fans bring back strong memories from 58 years ago.
Memories of peg pants with side flaps, white socks, penny loafers with taps, brush cuts and duck tails, crinolines and merry widows, Bo Diddley, Studebakers, Packards, the Bee Hive, the Cotton Patch, shagging, and cherry Pepsis.
Those were days of innocence for most, raging hormones for all. I remember it well.