Wednesday, December 14, 2005


(Run originally 8/2/04 on our old site)

It does us good, I think, to look back at this time of the year, and reflect how things have changed – hopefully, for the good – in our lives. It NEVER hurts to remember from whence we came.


This probably will never be a movie or book title, but I think I gotta tell it.

Judy Deener signed my annual with some really nice thoughts, including the statement, "You should not have quit basketball". I had not gone out for basketball until my senior year, and made the team only by virtue of the fact that Dean Langford, Bryant Quattlebaum and Bob Fletcher (all really good athletes) decided not to play basketball their senior year. Then in about mid-season, I quit the team. There were several reasons, in addition to the fact that I was not good enough to get much playing time, but here is "the rest of the story.”

In that period, it would be an understatement to say that we were poor. We were tenant farmers on a one mule farm, and money was not one of the things we had, so I am completely without recollection as to where I got my tennis shoes to start basketball that year. Surely I did but, soon after the season started, my shoes went missing. So, each day I had to scrounge around the locker room to find an old pair of discarded shoes to wear. Of course I had to do this in a hurry, since a 5 minute break didn't allow much time before coach expected us on the court. Then, after practice, I would try to hide the shoes somewhere so that they would be there the next day. Well, they were rarely in the same place, so every day I had the anxiety of whether or not I was going to have shoes that day. We did have "locked up" baskets, but they were so insecure that you could pull shoes out between the top of the basket and the shelf above.

So, why didn't I just buy a pair, or get a pair of the school-furnished shoes? Well "buying" was not an option, and school-furnished shoes was not something I was aware of. I do clearly remember the other team members getting fitted for shoes, but no one told me I could get free shoes, so I did not go to the area where the fitting was being done.

Can you imagine the trauma of not being ready for practice and having to admit to the coach that I had no shoes? Well, after several weeks, I solved it by quitting.

I think this did have one good aspect: I think my quitting allowed Charles Dean Hunter, our "thirteenth" man, to letter as a sophomore or junior.

Well that's the story. I hope some of you will you will get this to "Deener" so she will understand a little better as to why I quit basketball my senior year.

With best regards to all of you.

Freylon Coffey SHS '54

Tom Pry footnote

A lot of us “worked our way” through high school. Robert Miller (now-D.D.S.) and I got our lunches our freshman year working in the lunchroom. When we went into band, I earned my band tuition by working the copy facility for the band, while Robert, George Payne, and a few others schlepped band equipment when we went on trips in order to “pay” theirs.

But Freylon’s experience takes the cake, and I can’t imagine what he went through during that period (and I hope the buttwipe that swiped his sneakers suffered from bad feet the rest of his miserable life).

The funny thing, though, was I don’t think any of us felt particularly “underprivileged” or “deprived.” Even the line between “townies” and “(censored)kickers” tended to get blurred. Some people had more money than other people: that was life. It made us neither better nor worse than our classmates, just a bit less able to socialize as much as some of our peers. Some of us lived in four bedrooms and three baths, some of us lived in four rooms and a path. Had nothing to do with us as human beings, or students at SHS.

In fact, I think the one time I was conscious of a financial divide was actually after I graduated from SHS and spent my one year at what was then A.S.T.C. None of my high school classmates lived in my dorm, none majored in Music, so we didn’t have much to do with each other. However, for some unremembered reason, I was over in the room of one of them one night, with several others gathered, and we were waiting for someone. Some of my ex-classmates started playing that dumb game where you make poker hands out of the serial numbers on the money in your pocket, winner taking all the bills … and they were playing with $5 bills.

More money changed hands in that game than my parents could afford to send me every month. Strangely enough, I didn’t feel underprivileged: what I felt was disgust that this bunch had no idea of the labor that lay behind that money (I was making a buck an hour at the radio station, and less than that on my “band scholarship”).

In five years, that was the one and only time that the difference in economic status between some of us and some of the others so much as crossed my mind. That this is so is due to the fact that, to their credit, it never bothered the more well-heeled of our classmates, either and, looking back, I can make only the roughest of guesses as to which families had Money and which didn’t.

Thanks, gang!


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