When one reaches my age, memories swirl beneath the surface to rise when an event brings them from the recesses my forgetful brain.
When I pass an old haunt while visiting back home, there is a tidal wave of memories crashing in my head. Fortunately due to today’s technology, the memory ticklers are frequent even though I am in the Southwest corner.
On Facebook’s Castle Heights Military Academy group page, there recently was a photo of Heights’ faculty lined up with shovels. Initially, it saddened me because most have passed on, but as alumni added comments, and the memory waves crashed on my brain.
Col. Leonard Bradley was the Heights’ headmaster, always in control, gracious, and concerned about every student. His son Bobby was one of my best friends. His eldest son Leonard is someone I looked up to then and now, and I admire the other offspring as well.
I still envision Don Franklin, a football hero who was kind to this kid.
Major Robert Hosier had one of the greatest accents ever (although Col. Ingram’s Virginia accent remains my favorite of all time), and Major Hosier, the super swim coach and his wife were two of the nicest people I knew in Lebanon.
Major Sweatt’s biology class and the great frog dissection still make me smile. His son John, a post graduate took this sophomore under his wing my first football season. Stroud Gwynn, the football coach, was a true champion of Heights. I still consider Jimmy Allen a good friend. He seemed to be a coach in everything I did athletically.
Jimmy Hatcher and Burke Herron stand together in the photo. Jimmy, a class ahead of me, was also one of my best friends. After Heights, he and I commuted to Middle Tennessee together.
In August 1962, Jimmy invited Burke Herron and me to join him on a week in Daytona Beach. I readily agreed realizing Burke, a faculty member, would it make easier for my parents to say yes.
We took off in Burke’s 1960 Ford Falcon. The other two carried just a little more than the $55 (before credit cards) in my wallet. Now, my budget would just barely get us one tank of gas. We stayed at the Frontier Motel at the south end of Daytona Beach, bought a week’s supply of shrimp, hot dogs, and cereal at a local market, and hit the beach.
Jimmy and I chased waves and girls while Burke basked. Of course, Jimmy was more successful with the girls. We also hooked up with some Auburn football players waiting for pre-season training and played touch football on the beach twice a day. The jukebox at the motel pool played Ray Charles at night. A full moon gleamed down on us.
It was a fantasy gone real: perfect.
Then we had to trek back to Tennessee. We headed north and stopped for lunch at my family friends’ house in Douglas, Ga. After lunch, we launched the Falcon north to Atlanta to stay with Burke’s friends for the night. But the friends were out of town.
We didn’t have enough money for a motel so we used most of our remaining money for a tank of gas and three cups of coffee and headed north again, swapping out as driver periodically. Tired from the travel, we rolled down Falcon’s windows as we climbed into the mountains. The harkening of autumn and the car’s speed blew a cold wind through the cab keeping us awake.
Finally, three tired fellows pulled into Lebanon past two in the morning. Our plan was to call my parents from Rose’s Café (roughly on the site where Wiggin’s Jewelry is today) to let me in the house. We dug into our pockets to find we had one nickel between us. The pay phone in Rose’s cost a dime. We would have wished for a cell phone if we knew what they were.
Reluctantly, we climbed back into the Falcon. Burke and Jimmy dropped me off in the driveway and departed. I rang the door bell on the side entrance. Shortly afterwards, my father let me in the door, a tired and broke high school graduate returning from an adventure. Oh yes, I did have a nickel in my pocket.
I have many good memories of Jimmy and Burke, but that week will remain perfect in my mind forever.
Jim Jewell is a writer and retired Navy commander living in San Diego and working for Pacific Tugboat Service. He was the director Navy’s West Coast leadership training and has been an consultant in executive coaching, teambuilding and organizational development. Jim still calls Lebanon his home.