††† The informal tour was already under way when I showed up last Saturday at Brownwood High School to take photos of the presentation of a gift to the campus from the Class of 1968: four magnificent Lions heads that are destined to hang near the schoolís entrance and in the student center.
††† Someone must have given me a once-over and come to the conclusion that I am a contemporary of theirs.
††† ďAre you a member of the Class of 1968?Ē that person asked.
††† Well, as a matter of fact, I am Ė but not of Brownwood High. I graduated from a school in New Mexico. But I got to Brownwood as quickly as I could, three months later to enroll at Howard Payne.
††† Still, I couldnít help but put myself in these alumniís shoes. The majority of them were leaving Brownwood, probably, just as I was arriving Ė heading off to college or the military or just to seek brighter lights and bigger cities. I was surprised to learn that a handful of local residents in the group Ė folks I have come to know through their numerous contributions to the community Ė are my age. I always thought they were younger.
†††† The class membersí gift came out of their 40th reunion when attendees realized they had never collectively given something to the school. They remedied that oversight in a big way, and it got me to thinking. Iím not sure my class ever made a gift to our school; if so, I wasnít part of the process. And itís not like the school didnít need help. I was in the first graduating class that went all three years at the new campus, and parts of it were literally still under construction while we were attending.
††† During his comments as the campus tour proceeded last Saturday, BHS Principal Bill Faircloth mentioned the host of academic honors the school has collected, adding that in just one week Ė which is tomorrow night Ė the first Lions team to win a state football championship will be inducted into the Gordon Wood Hall of Champions. That 1960 team ended years of sports frustration, and started a championship tradition in which these graduates were solidly involved as they grew up in the 1960s.
††† Having gone to school in another state, I didnít have the privilege of experiencing such times as a player or as a student at BHS. Even if I had been living here, Iím confident I didnít have enough talent to even sit on the bench of the most pathetic football team in Texas. So, I canít tell you what it was like to be a member of a team coached by Wood and his gifted assistantsÖ people like Morris Southall, Kenneth West, Royce Blackburn, the late Don Martin and others. But I did come to know most of them off the field while they were still coaching and then after they moved into other careers in education or in business.
††† No, I canít speak of what it was like to be a teenager with Wood and his group of coaches as mentors. But I can speak of knowing them as church members, community volunteers, school administrators, respected business people and basically good human beings. I can also report that they remember individual studentsí achievements and the potential they showed as youngsters many years after they graduated. And that includes students who werenít involved in varsity athletes. Years later, they continue to be interested in hearing about former studentsí achievements as adults. I really didnít need proof, but there it was. For them, it wasnít only about studentsí winning in sports; it was also about their winning in life.
††† It has been 50 years since that first ragtag Brownwood Lions championship football team changed the course of history in this community. Today, in retrospect, itís easy to see how that came about. On Saturday, those gridiron heroes will be saluted by the Hall of Champions that Gordon Wood himself established before his death.
††† Meanwhile, from my perspective, the current group of coaches Ė equally skilled and just as dedicated to preparing young people to win not only in sports, but also in life Ė is diligently working to equip todayís generation of Brownwood High students with the tools they need not only to win now, but also to win in life later. The beat goes on.
††† You donít have to have experienced it first-hand to appreciate it.
Gene Deason is editor of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Friday. He may be reached by e-mail at gene.