You never know what they’re going to say

No idea what triggered this, other than just plain getting older, but I got to thinking about all the people I’ve interviewed for The Reporter over the past 36 years.

Have I ever been fortunate!

And I’m not talking just about the celebrities although I’ve met people like Nolan Ryan, Alan Shepherd and Jerry Clower.

If you don’t know who Jerry Clower was I feel sorry for you. He was a, uh, philosopher.

But I’m talking more in the vein of people from our town, tremendous people who made an impact on many lives.

And so many have said things that stayed with me through the years, long after they were gone.

Dr. Philip Young was one of those people. I interviewed him when he retired. I’d known him all my life but I had no idea he, and some of his medical corps compatriots had made First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt faint when they performed an operation for her on a South Pacific island during World War II.

(She was okay.)

That interview had a really nice moment after it was over. A nurse grabbed me and, un-prompted, said: “You know, Dr. Young has this gruff exterior but I’ve never met anyone with a more caring heart. He was a ‘nurse’s doctor’, someone who’d get down there in the blood and the nasty stuff with you.”

What a nice tribute.

Speaking of legendary doctors, I think about Dr. John T. Richards and his wife, Betty, buying each other medical equipment for birthday and Christmas presents, so he could establish his practice here when they first got started.

In 1994 and 1995 I wrote an 18-part series on World War II veterans to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of that war’s last two years.

It was sobering. We got into some memories we probably shouldn’t have. But I recall incidents fom that series which were ironic, almost humourous.

Leander Fuchs told me he had never been out of Washington County (Texas) before going into the army. So, of course, they sent him to China.

Perry Luetge, a Milam County farmer before and after his military service, went into the Navy and ended up on a tiny ship hunting down Nazi submarines in the North Atlantic.

I was puzzled. “Why the Navy?” I asked him.

Perry’s eyes twinkled. “I heard they had a lot of that walkin’ in the Army. I wanted to go someplace where you couldn’t walk too far.”

He accomplished that!

There was nothing humorous when I interviewed Willie McDade, an African-American Rockdale resident who served in a segregated Army.

I asked a (rather stupid) question: “Were they afraid the black and white soldiers wouldn’t get along?”

He looked at me with wisdom in his eyes. “I think they were afraid we would get along.”


On a much less serious vein, I never go into the elementary gym without thinking of a story longtime Rockdale ISD Tax Collector Gus Johnson told me.

In the old days the tax office was located on the inside steps to the gym stage. To get there you had to enter through a door which also led down a separate flight of stairs to the girls athletic dressing room.

Rockdale men were raised right.

“We had guys just freeze in their tracks,” Gus laughed. “They’d see ‘Girls’ above the door, stop and not know what to do. I had to walk out, grab them by the arm and drag them into my office!”

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