Monday, October 23, 2006

The Life and Times of James Elywon Hughes

James Elywon Hughes History

Married to

Jo Etta Gordon January 23, 1958

Chapter One

Born July 23, 1934, on a day when the temperature was recorded at 107. This was in the days before air conditioning or electric fans. He missed being born on his mother’s birthday by one day. Her birthday was July 22nd.

Historical Events of 1934 when Elywon was born.

12 oz. bottle of Pepsi was five cents.

Great Depression & dust bowl days

Alcatraz officially became a federal prison

Babe Ruth signed contract for $35,000. ($17,000 cut)

Shirley Temple appears in her first movie "Stand Up And Cheer"

Congress approved "Lindberg Act" making kidnapping a capital offense.

First nylon manufactured.

First Donald Duck cartoon released.

First x-ray of the entire body.

Dillinger gunned down in Chicago.

Bonnie & Clyde killed in Louisiana


New Comic strip begins - "Lil Abner"

First Laundromat opened in Ft. Worth, Texas

Historical Events of 1936 when Jo Etta was born.

First parking meters invented.

Gone With The Wind

by Margaret Mitchell published.
Forty hour work week approved (federal)

First transatlantic round trip air flight.

Boulder Dam (Now Hoover) began operation.

Life Magazine hits the stands.

Elywon and Jo Etta met at Arkansas State Teacher’s College, now UCA. They were married in Paragould, AR, on January 23, 1958 and went to Walnut Ridge to eat supper. They were still in their dressy clothes. They were laughing and having such a good time, not paying any attention to anyone around them and at one time Elywon made the comment, "I may not have enough money to pay for our supper. We may have to wash dishes". They finished their meal, went to pay out and the cashier said, "you’re paid out already". Elywon asked how that happened and she related that an older gentleman had observed them having such a good time that he wanted to pay for their meal. Elywon figures the gentleman overheard his comment about not having enough money to pay and may have to wash dishes.

Other history making events during growing up years of Jo Etta & Elywon:


They were children during World War II. Jo Etta’s father was in the Army near the end of the war and had to leave her and go overseas.

The atom bomb was used during their childhood which brought an end to the war.

Penicillin became available for use during the early 1940’s during the war.

Polio vaccine began to be given in 1954-55.

Elvis Presley was their teenage idol.

During the 1957 segregation crisis in Little Rock, Arkansas, Elywon took part in the enforcement, with the federalized National Guard troops.

Elywon was born in the house near Grandpa Hughes and lived there until he was a junior in high school. This was in the Pickens Chapel community. He started to school at the Pickens Chapel School near the Pickens Chapel Church. Elywon states he started milking a cow at 8-9 year old and had to milk the cow before going to school. Both he and Freylon walked three miles one way to and from school come rain, shine, or snow. He tells of many days when he would be soaked when he got to school and would stand by the old pot bellied stove to dry out. They couldn’t afford boots so they wore high top shoes and when it would snow, they would take burlap bags to wrap around the tops of their shoes to the knees. They wore this same pair of shoes until the weather got warm enough for them to go barefoot. The next pair of shoes came only when time to start school again. At the Pickens Chapel School, they played basketball on an outdoor court. This is where Elywon’s basketball history began. In the winter time to avoid this basketball court from freezing, thawing, and being too muddy to use, they would haul in sawdust from a sawmill to cover the court.


One of Elywon’s Pickens Chapel School stories is about the day when on his noon hour he was going down to the branch to catch red horses, a type of little red fish. As he was crawling through the fence, this girl came up and pushed him

and he hung his leg and cut it so badly on the barbed wire fence that he was sent down to the country store so they could pour some kerosene in to prevent infection. As a result of this, he still has the scar. He said this was his first experience of female brutality. He was nineteen years old before he would even talk to another girl.

When Freylon was in the eight grade, he was made janitor of the school and he and Elywon would have to go to school about an hour early every day because Freylon had to get there, sweep and clean the school and build the fire in the pot bellied stove. The teacher allowed Freylon and his cousin Truman Reed to take an afternoon off from school to go home to get their team and wagon and go to the woods to gather pine knots for use as kindling for the school’s heating stove.

Elywon told of his first experience with buying things on credit when he was about eleven years old. He was in the country store in Pickens Chapel where he observed a fellow coming into the store and saying, "give me a Pepsi and charge it". He thought to himself, "is that all you have to do to get a Pepsi?" So he goes to the store owner and said, "give me a Pepsi and charge it". He got his Pepsi and thought to himself...hummmm, that was so easy, I’ll try that again so the next day he did the same thing. On the third day Freylon came into the store and the store owner asked him, "did you know that Elywon is charging


Pepsis?". Freylon jerked the money out of his pocket and paid him and then he and Elywon had a little talk about how the credit system was used.

Elywon also had a bit of daredevil in him growing up because he remembers he and Freylon going by wagon and team to Letona for some reason. Elywon was driving and he came to this bridge. He pulled the horses over to one side of the road as he approached a bridge over a six foot drop-off. Freylon asked, "what in the world are you doing"? Elywon told him he wanted to see how close he could get the wagon wheel to the edge of the bridge. It seems that teenagers didn’t have brains in those days either.

Elywon learned at an early age how not to be mean to the live stock. When he was about nine years old, he was supposed to milk a bucket of milk for their family use and then turn the calf in to his mother to get his part. The mother cow began to kick the calf and try to keep it from sucking. Elywon got the bright idea that if he took a board with a nail in the end of it, he could break the cow from keeping the calf from sucking. So he got him a board with a nail in the end of it to stick her with if she tried this again. He got up on the board fence around the barn and Freylon turned the calf in to its mother. Sure enough she began to kick at the calf. Elywon came down on the cow a little harder than he had intended and drove the nail in the board into the cow’s back all the way to the board. She broke loose and began to kick and ran around the barn with the board which Elywon had hit her with flopping up and down. Elywon ran to the house crying and screaming to get his mother. He thought he had killed the cow. She came and got the nail out of the cow and poured some turpentine on her and Elywon lived


to tell the tale. The cow lived too but Elywon doesn’t remember whether or not he was relieved of his duty to turn the calf in to its mother after that.

Elywon hadn’t learned quite enough just yet how to not to treat the animals. He told of another cow who had her own idea of the direction she wanted to go when they got through milking and were trying to drive them into the pasture behind the barn. This particular cow decided every day that she didn’t want to go to the pasture, but around the barn in the opposite direction. Elywon got another bright idea of how to break her of this habit. He told Freylon to drive them out while he stood around there to hit her with his sling shot on the nose to make her go into the pasture. So here the cow came, and sure enough she was going to do her thing. He pulled his sling shot back and let her have it. Instead of hitting her on the nose, he hit her in one eye and put it totally out.

Elywon tells of the fatherly advice he received at about the age of eight for avoiding smoking cigarettes. It seems that one day Elywon stayed all night with his cousin, Billy Max Tucker. Billy Max slipped some cigarettes out of his dad’s pocket while he was asleep that night and the next morning he said to Elywon, "let’s run out to the barn a minute". When they got to the barn, Billy Max lights him up a cigarette, so he asked Elywon, "have you ever smoked a cigarette". Elywon told him "no", so Billy Max handed him his cigarette and told him to try it, so Elywon took a couple of puffs from it. After that they went back to the house to get ready for school and Billy Max’s mother started to button his shirt and smelled the cigarette on his breath. She asked him,

"have you been smoking" and he told her , "yes". She then asked "did Elywon


smoke any" and he told her "yes". They went on to school. That day Arthur, Elywon’s dad, went down to Billy Max’s house and his mother told him of the smoking incident that morning. So that night at Elywon’s house after supper, his dad walked out to the whipping tree (the tree he cut switches from to discipline his boys). He cut one of the last limbs left on the poor old tree and came back into the house. Elywon was watching him and thinking.."wonder what he is cutting that for", when about that time his dad jerked him up from the table and he commenced applying the fatherly advice. When he got to where there was only a handhold left to the switch, he stopped whipping Elywon and this warning still rings in Elywon’s ears.."don’t ever let me hear of you smoking again".

The farm boy stories of Freylon and Elywon also involved their wives Loretta and Jo Etta in later years. They had pasture land both on top of the mountain and along the highway below the mountain so at certain times of the year the cattle had to be switched from place to place. If the trail drive involved the old cows, they knew exactly where to go because they had done it several times. At this particular time, what is now known as Highway 310, was only a gravel road with less and slower traffic. This was also in the days before Freylon and Elywon owned a cattle trailer to use in hauling the cattle back and forth. At this time, the purpose of the cattle drive was to take the calves off the mama cows and bring them to the lower part of the farm on the highway so they could be picked up to sell. Freylon and Elywon got the calves separated from the mama cows and started them down the road off the mountain. Loretta and Jo Etta were stationed at the bottom of the mountain where the road met Highway 310. As Freylon and Elywon got the calves to the end of the lane just before starting down the


mountain, instead of going down the hill, about half of the calves went south down the fence line and the other half went north down the other fence line. At this point they had a split trail drive. Freylon chased his half about a quarter of a mile south until he could get around them and turn them back up the fence line toward the road. At the same time Elywon chased his about a quarter of a mile north until he could get them turned around back toward the road. Both herds got to the road at about the same time when Elywon’s herd decided they wanted to go south and Freylon’s herd decided they wanted to go north, so here they go again. They did a reverse maneuver until they got the calves together again at the same time and decided to turn them back down the lane where they had started from when they separated them from the mama cows. They turned them into a separate pasture and called someone to come pick them up. Loretta & Jo Etta stood wondering what in the world is taking so long. They did eventually learn what happened. That was the last trail drive they ever tried off the mountain.

On a more serious note regarding things that have happened at the farm, Elywon had an encounter with "that still small voice" inside. He had started him an orchard at the end of his pasture on the south side. He had set out two apple trees and five peach trees. One day he had been over to check out the orchard and was returning to his truck parked in the road between his two pastures on the mountain. It was a summer day just after a thunder storm had passed over. The lightening and thunder had stopped already. As he was walking toward his truck, he heard something within himself saying, "go check the apple trees". The voice was very strong but he thought to himself, I have already checked on my apple trees. The sensation was so forceful that he decided to go back


to the apple trees. When he got to the first one, he looked at the apple tree and said to himself, "it looks just like it did a while ago". He walked over to the other apple tree and looked at it and said the same thing. He turned around and started out of the orchard. When he got about four steps out of the orchard, there was an explosion that sounded like a stick of dynamite and a bolt of lightening came out of the sky and hit the oak tree that he would have been underneath had he not heeded the "still small voice" and gone back to check the apple trees

The lightening came down the tree and ran into the barbed wire steepled into the tree and turned it red hot for two or three hundred yards. It ran into a telephone box and burned a line for a quarter of a mile down the hill.

Chapter Two

Elywon’s Education - After Pickens Chapel School

Elywon continued going to Pickens Chapel School until the consolidation with the Searcy School System when he was in sixth or seventh grade.

When Elywon was in the ninth grade, which was considered junior high school then, at Searcy, his PE teacher asked him why he wasn’t out for basketball. Elywon told him that he lived out in the country and had no way to stay after school for practice. Elywon’s PE teacher encouraged him in saying that he was as good as anyone out for basketball and asked if he would come out for basketball if he had a ride home after practice. Elywon told him yes. The PE


teacher said he would check to see if he could get him a ride arranged for the next day. He did make that arrangement and Elywon went to practice that day. When Elywon got through basketball practice that day, the bus driver with the route to Letona, Pickens Chapel, and Sidon had returned from his run to pick Elywon up and make a second trip to take him home. That began Elywon’s history of basketball and coaching.

One incident Elywon remembers when he started playing ninth grade basketball is that he wore long-john underwear. He didn’t want the city kids to know he wore long-john underwear, so he talked his dad and mother into letting buy some boxer shorts like the other kids were wearing. They gave him the money to buy some boxer shorts to wear so at noon he went downtown and bought them. He came back to school, went into the bathroom and changed. He took his long-john underwear and put into the top locker he shared with another boy. At the end of the fifth period, as Elywon approached his locker, he noticed that his locker partner was already there with the locker door open and Elywon watched as a long-john arm begin to trickle out of the locker all the way to the floor with a foot still hanging in the top of the locker. He noticed it startled the locker partner and he jumped back and then grabbed the underwear and threw them back into the locker and slammed the door in hopes that no one else had seen what happened. Elywon walked right on by his locker that day and went to his last class without his books because he couldn’t face his locker partner at the moment. After school was out he ran into his locker partner outside and he asked, "Hughes, what in the world have you put in our locker"? Elywon pleaded innocent, and said, "is there something in our locker"? When the boy had gotten on his bus, Elywon


went back to the locker to secretly remove the underwear, never telling the locker partner any different.

Elywon remembers that the city kids didn’t accept the country kids when consolidations began taking place. After the encouragement from the PE teacher for Elywon to go out for basketball and practicing for a few weeks, he went down to the gym one afternoon for practice. None of the players nor the coach were there. The high school coach asked why I hadn’t gone with the junior high team. Elywon told him he wasn’t aware he was to go anywhere because no one had told him anything about it. They apparently had slipped off without him to a scrimmage game at McRae. The rest of the season Elywon states he would only get to play a minute or two if the team was way ahead or behind. At the end of the season, district tournament came up and one of the starters was sick. It was either play Elywon who was 6’1" or a player who was about 5’5", so Elywon got to play in three games in the district tournament. After this tournament, Elywon was chosen as All District player by the coaches.

By the time Elywon reached the tenth grade, he began starting on the first team. By this time, a lot of the senior team players wanted to "be on Hughes’ side".

Elywon began to play football for the first time when he reached the tenth grade. The football coach arranged for Kiwanis, Rotary, & Lions Club members to take him home after practice. He says he kept the bench extremely warm that year. He also went out for tract with shot put and discus.


By the time Elywon reached the eleventh grade, he was a starter in foot ball and basketball. In the eleventh grade, he made the All District basketball team. The principal called him in one day regarding his D in geometry. Elywon told him that he had a D and had "passed it". The principal told him, "you are going to take it over and bring that grade up so that you won’t have a D on your transcript and will have a better opportunity to go to college".

A funny thing happened during his senior year at one of his basketball games when Searcy played at Conway. Elywon’s mother Gladys Hughes was sitting in the bleachers near some other ladies who were sizing up the players warming up out on the court before the game. Gladys heard them say, "you don’t have to worry about #23 doing anything, he is too fat legged". After the game was over and Elywon had scored about 35 points, Gladys stood up to leave and said to these ladies, "#23 didn’t do to bad for a fat legged boy, did he", never letting on that Elywon was her son.

During Elywon’s senior year, he won second in the district shot put and got to go to the state and won third in state shot put. In football his senior year, he was All District.

In one game against Beebe that year, he ""discovered" a fumble, picked it up and ran forty-five yards for a touchdown. The Searcy High School team went on to the state playoffs and during the game against Boonville, Elywon recovered another fumble, picked it up, and ran it forty-five yards for a touchdown. The Searcy team got beat in the states finals by Stuttgart.


Elywon was all district in basketball in his high school senior year. He got a full basketball scholarship to Beebe Junior college. He went two years to Beebe Junior College and in his sophomore year, he was voted best athlete by the student body.

Elywon continued his education at Arkansas State Teachers College, (now called University of Central Arkansas), at the beginning of his junior year. He continued to play basketball and after the season was over, the basketball coach entered the team in a men’s AAU basketball tournament to be played in Little Rock. After this tournament, Elywon made the All State AAU team. The Arkansas State Teachers team won the tournament and got to represent Arkansas in the National AAU tournament played in Denver Colorado.

The college track coach went along with the basketball team to watch them play at the AAU tournament in Little Rock and got to talking to Elywon as the rode down there. He asked Elywon if he had ever participated in tract and Elywon told him he had done so in high school. He related his participation in the shot put discus and the track coach then asked Elywon, "how far did you throw the shot"? When Elywon told him, he said, "you just lettered in track". He asked Elywon to come to the gym the next afternoon so he could talk to him. At that time he told Elywon he would like to have him out for tract. Elywon then went out for tract. That year, which was his junior year, he won the AIC shot put and also in his senior year. In basketball during his senior year at Arkansas State Teachers, Elywon made the all AIC team. In his


senior year, their team was invited to an invitational tournament in Portales, New Mexico, where he made the all tournament team. The teams entered in this tournament were, Portalis, New Mexico, West Texas State, Southern Illinois University, and Arkansas State Teachers College. During Elywon’s senior year at Arkansas State Teachers, he set a record for the most free throws in one game at 23. Elywon graduated from Arkansas State Teachers College in 1957 and took his first coaching job in Paris,

Arkansas, where he coached senior high basketball, junior high football and track for eleven years. While in Paris, AR, one of his basketball teams won the district high championship for the first time in the history of the school.

While attending Arkansas State Teachers, in his junior year, he met Jo Etta Gordon who later became his wife on January 23, 1958. Jo Etta graduated in 1956 as a teacher and went to St. Louis where she taught a year, then returned to Risco, MO, where her parents lived and taught there for a semester before she and Elywon were married and they both then taught in Paris, AR. Some of Jo Etta’s students in Risco threatened Elywon’s life for taking their teacher away from them and taking her to Paris, AR. Jo Etta taught fourth grade while in Paris. It was in Paris, AR, where both of their daughters Dana & Ann were born.

Elywon started out teaching both boys and girls PE in Paris, AR. The school system then hired a girls PE teacher which freed Elywon to teach PE at the grade school in the mornings. This was an experience of a lifetime for Elywon when he found himself with the responsibility of ninety-nine first graders


-- some swinging on monkey bars, some playing on the slide, and one little boy rebelling to the point that he said, "I’m going to see my mama and daddy" and

took off down through the playground with Elywon having to run after him to bring him back. Elywon had given instructions for them to form a circle but to no avail. There was another grade school teacher on the playground to help corral the kids. When she saw that Elywon had no control at all, she knew what to do. She began flailing her arms and saying, "how many of you can do this, fall in behind me"? They all began to follow her and soon she had them in the circle. From there they continued with the PE class.

During this PE class, it was customary for the lady teacher to go with the first grade girls to the bathroom and then on to class and Elywon would go with the boys. Elywon discovered one day that it was obvious one of his little boys did not have indoor plumbing at his house when he found the little boy hanging by his armpits over the side of the commode with the seat lid up, his little rear end touching the water in the commode. The little boy looked up and said to Elywon, "coach, this water sure is cold".

During this first grade PE class, one day Elywon was going to teach them a new game. There were two new little boy students who were full blood Indian. The name of the game was Brownies & Fairies but Elywon thinking at this age, they wouldn’t know what a brownie or fairy was so he changed the name of the game and said, "this morning we are going to play cowboys and Indians". Immediately he saw a little hand go up and the little boy said, "coach, I is an Indian". Elywon had to think fast but come up with the solution and told him, "well, today you can be a cowboy".


It was while Elywon and his family lived in Paris that they took a trip to visit Jo Etta’s grandparents, Edd & Dolla Holloway in Formosa, AR (Fingertown). When they left to return to Paris, Mr. Holloway came out with a bag full of cats, a mother cat with three kittens. He asked Elywon to drop them off along the road somewhere. Dana and Ann found out right quick that there was a mother cat and some kittens in that sack and threw a fit when Dad started to drop off the cats along the side of the road. Consequently they took them on home with them to Paris. As kittens will do, one of them got up into the Elywon’s vehicle and one day he left for work and apparently the kitten fell out underneath the vehicle and was run over by the wheel. It wasn’t long after Elywon got to the gym when he got a call from Jo Etta telling him that one of the girls had come in crying. "Mommie, Mommie, something is wrong with one of the kittens, both of his eyes are on one side of his head". She didn’t realize the kitten’s head was smashed.

After eleven years at Paris, Arkansas, Elywon & Jo Etta both took teaching jobs in Kennett, MO, nearer to where her parents lived in Risco, MO. Elywon coached ninth grade football and basketball. Jo Etta taught fourth grade.

One of the funniest things to happen during Elywon’s coaching days in Kennett was the day he taught one of his students not to chew tobacco while riding the school bus back and forth to ball games, etc. It seems that Elywon had gotten word from the bus driver that someone was chewing tobacco on the bus trips and spitting on the floor which made him have to clean it up. Elywon knew who


he could trust to snitch on the tobacco chewing culprit so he dropped a few hints around for someone to let him know who was doing it. One night they were returning from a ball game and were about fifteen to twenty miles from home. Sure enough, a snitch came to Coach Hughes and said, "Coach, so and so is chewing tobacco". Elywon got up and went back to where the boy was sitting and asked the other boy who was sitting with him to move up to his seat near the front because he needed to talk to so and so. So this boy did as he was told and took Elywon’s seat near the front of the bus. Elywon sits down beside this boy and just visits with him for the next fifteen to twenty miles. Elywon never mentioned even knowing the boy was chewing tobacco but knew he was and was obviously having to swallow all the tobacco juice since he couldn’t spit with Elywon sitting there beside him. Elywon never again knew of anyone who chewed tobacco on the school bus. If they did, they certainly didn’t spit on the bus floor.


Blogger jim coffey said...

Great story - loved reading it.

You mention Freylon many times in your post. Are you referring to Freylon Coffey my father who is from Searcy, AR?

For privacy reasons feel free to reply directly to my email remove the spaces to get the real address

jimcoffey62 at yahoo dot com

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "Freylon" in E. Hughes story was his brother, Freylon Hughes.

Freylon Coffey, SHS '54

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a player on Coach Hughes' district championship team in Paris in 1958, I can attest to the great influence that he had on his players. He is a man of great moral character.

Jim Fox

5:31 PM  

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