I attended my 50th high school class reunion, Cuthbert High School’s Class of 1962, this weekend. Cuthbert is a small town in southwest Georgia, a little smaller now than it was in 1962. There were 42 of us in the class of ’62. Of those 42 individuals, 9 are known to be deceased and 5 are “unaccounted for” (no contact). Of the remaining 28 class members contacted, 20 attended the reunion. That’s a rather remarkable 71.4%.
I had only seen a couple of them since our 10 year class reunion and I would have been in trouble had there not been name tags. I was a little nervous about attending, fearful that I wouldn’t recognize anyone. However, I did recognize 8 without the aid of a nametag or hint.
Once the ice was broken the most commonly heard words were “Do you remember….?". Many stories were recounted, some probably “enhanced” over the years. Some of the things I was accused of being a part of were nowhere to be found in my memory. I don’t know whether I was guilty as accused or repressing the memory! Some of my high school memories are vividly etched in my mind and I can replay them at will. Others are somewhat vague and I remember only bits and pieces while there are periods of time that I have no recollection of whatsoever. Unfortunately, there seem to be too many of those blank spaces.
What I do remember best was playing football for Coach Fred Tucker and I was very happy to see him at the reunion. Although somewhat terrified of him in high school I had a great deal of respect for him. I would do, or at least attempt, anything he instructed me to do. One day in practice I went left instead of right (or perhaps vice-versa). He called me over to him and asked if I knew my right from my left. "Yes sir", I said. He told me to stick out my right foot. I did and he stomped it with one of his brogans. He then told me to stick out my left foot. I did so and he stomped that foot. Then he said, "Now, do you think you can remember your left from your right?". "Yes sir", I replied.
He would sometimes make up some really crazy plays. One of them required me to argue with the referee through out the game regarding the spotting of the ball. At some point, late in the game I am sure, I was to act exasperated, turn to our center and say, "Hand me the ball." With all of our players standing statue-still (to avoid a motion or off-sides penalty) I was then to start stepping off yards and see how far I could get before the other team realized that we were actually running a play and tackled me. When I began to step off the yardage our opponent's coach began jumping up and down on the sidelines and yelling, "TACKLE HIM, TACKLE HIM!". His players were confused and didn't know what to do. They looked back and forth from the referee to their coach, unsure of what they should do. If this was not a "real" play they could be penalized for unnecessary roughness or unsportsman-like conduct. Before I could get past their last 2 defensive players they decided that they were more afraid of their coach than they were of being penalized and I began running. After about 2 strides I was tackled by their whole team. We got a first down but could never run that play again that season!
I was amazed at Coach Tucker's recall of particular plays in some of the games. My 64-yard punt return for a touch down against Turner County he vividly described except he turned into an 85-yard jaunt when he recounted it. He did accurately describe the wall of blockers that enabled me to score those 6 points. The Turner County coach had earned his coaching “wings” under Coach Tucker and for the “teacher” to beat the “pupil” by a score of 6 – 0 made him extremely happy.
He even remembered the nicknames that he gave to all of his players. These names were usually based on some characteristic of the player, which made it easy for him to remember. I was “Little Doc” because my father was a physician. Some of the nicknames were a little less dignified, such as “Wormy”. I can’t recall any of the other nicknames.
At 86 years of age, Coach Tucker’s mind is surprisingly nimble and quick. He still coaches and has been coaching continuously for 64 years. He is hoping to do so for at least 6 more years and tie the record of 70 years set by Alonzo Stagg. I certainly hope he makes it.