Welcome to the real Friday Night Lights. For those of you who have not seen the movie, read the book, or seen the television series, here’s the real story from one of the participants way back then. This is my eyewitness account. Yes, I was there! Along with the rest of my graduating class of 1966 from Permian High School (PHS) in Odessa, Texas, in the heart of the Permian Basin and oil field country, and, of course, our underlings, all the freshmen, sophomores, and juniors that just happen to be going to school there that year too. It was an incredible senior year and here is my version of part of our story of the class of 1966.
This post was put in motion by a discussion last Friday night (how appropriate) in our only local bar here in Liberty, SC, a Craft Beer and Wine Bar known as the Hops and Harvest, owned and ran by Donna Garrick, who has somehow managed to build a Cheers-like community out of it. One of the patrons, Shannon Swanson, an executive of our local Meals on Wheels facilities, was at the bar and full of questions. A few days earlier I had talked with her and the executive director, Kim Valentin, about maybe doing some volunteer work. Not delivering meals of course, as I only ride a bicycle or Harley. Neither suited for delivering meals. Then, a couple of days later, I had run into the both of them again in the bar, not so unusual I guess when you are the only bar in town. Kim wasn’t here tonight. It was just Shannon and her husband. At any rate, Shannon had Googled me, found my website, and read where I had mentioned in one of my posts, I’m guessing, Friday Night Lights and being part of it. She was curious and had all kinds of questions, including what I was doing in a small town like Liberty, SC? Our discussion soon caught the interest of the other patrons and then evolved into a lively discussion with all of us. It was a small group.
Another motivator for writing this post, and maybe an incident example of Jungian synchronicity, I had just been contacted via FB Messenger by one of my fellow PHS ’66 graduates, Tim Sledge, who had just recently published a young children’s book, http://<a href=”https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BTRPSJFZ?psc=1&linkCode=li1&tag=lifequescouns-20&linkId=982c7dcd917c23ae9aee74f1a83b5b95&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_il” target=”_blank”><img border=”0″ src=”//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B0BTRPSJFZ&Format=_SL110_&ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=lifequescouns-20&language=en_US” ></a><img src=”https://ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=lifequescouns-20&language=en_US&l=li1&o=1&a=B0BTRPSJFZ” width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” /> ,that coincided with my granddaughter’s (age 4) and great grandson’s (age 5) birthdays. They each received a copy from me to read to them. I got to thinking about both Shannon and Tim, and PHS’ Friday Night Lights afterwards. I had told Shannon in our discussion about the tornado incident with Tim in our discussion.
First, a couple of caveats though: These are the events as I remember them, and it was a long time ago! Many of my fellow classmates are friends on FB, are still kickin’ like me. I’m sure if any of them read it, they will correct me where I’m gone astray here. I just happen to still have my year book from that year, and this is where the images below come from. Second, I was not on the football team, just a very enthusiastic fellow senior fan and supporter.
As an aside, which I am bad about doing, which used to drive my genetics undergraduates bonkers, with, Dr. Yardley, Is this going to be on our test, questions. I can remember walking down the hall in front of the cafeteria when I heard that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. It is a traumatic memory burned into my mind, just as is the moment I heard about 9/11 as I coming up to the house on our farm and my oldest daughter came rushing out to tell me. These memories still bring tears to my eyes when I think about them, and right now, as I am writing. Back to PHS ’65–
The start of the school year was September, 1965. Again, I’m thinking, back then we began the school year in September, not in August as is done in SC. As we started out that year, we had no idea what a spectacular year it would be in sports. Not only did we win the state championship in 4A football (PHS is now 5A), but also went to playoffs in basketball and baseball that year too, and did pretty well in tennis and track as I remember. Tim was student council president and I was on the newspaper and student council. Here are three of the year book’s football page spreads from that year:
One of my most vivid memories from that year was a group of us going to one of the playoff games in Lubbock, TX, and playing at the Texas Tech University’s stadium. Must have been with Texarkana High School and the semi-finals, which we won 28-21. It was a dark and stormy night…
Several of us, including Tim Sledge mentioned above, Julie Murphy (Stillwell now), Linda Cox, who was dating Tim later married, Jennifer Collins who had moved to Lubbock but we had gone to school with in Odessa, and maybe, Johnny Colgin, and/or Jay Miller, all of whom can be found on FB. We were at Jennifer’s mother’s apartment before the game when a tornado hit, a warning went out across the city, and the lot of us squeezed into a closet underneath the stairs. It was dark but cozy. I hated being bunched up with the beautiful ladies. But alas, all good things had to end. The tornado passed, we came out of the closet, and headed for the football game. A fond memory. I do not remember much about the game per se, except that it was exciting and, of course, we won.
We went on to play and win the state playoffs against San Antonio’s Lee HS, 11-6. Now THAT was a tough win and game! They were good. Just not quite good enough. Lee, like Permian, has remained a football power since then, along with several of the other teams mentioned in the TV series. Texas high school football is awesome! Almost college level. I remember vividly watching as our All American linebacker, #67, Glen Halsell, in one of the home games, literally bear-hugging the other team’s receiver and throwing him out of bounds–at a full run. The crowd was stunned, as was the poor pass receiver. He was okay though. A little shaken from the play as I remember.