Looking Back: Doesn’t seem like 40 years ago
It is a unique piece that is a running history of this town each week. It’s one of the first things I look at.
I am becoming of that age where events that I clearly remember as just happening are showing up in the 40-year category.
One item struck me last week that it was 40 years ago to that day that Fred Johnson had been hired as the new athletic director and head football coach to replace the departed Jim Gray.
That hiring changed the direction of Rockdale athletics forever.
I was a freshman and I can clearly remember Coach Johnson’s first day on the job—like it was yesterday.
It was late in the year, school was nearly out and most of us were in the gym (like we always were) and getting acquainted with out new basketball coach Gerald Adams, who had just been hired away from Hays to replace Duane Vincent.
Both coaches were playing with us, or should I say irritating us, because despite the fact that we were in our prime and they were ancient in their 30s, no one could cover them— especially Coach Vincent.
A manager was summoned to the gym—it may have been Henry Miller, I can’t remember for sure—with the news that the new football coach was up at the field house and he wanted everyone to join him for an athletic meeting.
We of course tried to ignore the orders as long as we could and lallygagged around while getting dressed and shuffled toward the field house.
When we got to the edge of the outfield fence at the baseball field, a stick figure of a man dressed in blue coaching shorts and matching shirt appeared at the top of the hill with a whistle in his mouth and started blowing it in short blasts, hands on his hips.
In between blasts, he began to shout, “move it, let’s go, hustle up.”
Looking in bemused amazement at each other, we stopped in our tracks.
Who is this guy and is he kidding?
The figure appeared again at the top of the mount. “Let’s go. Move it, I mean run.” Whistle blast.
As we slowly began to jog up the hill towards the football field, not nearly fast enough apparently, there were already people lined up in neat little rows on the football field, according to sport or status in the athletic program.
You did not want to end up in the quitters group—the line of shame.
It didn’t take us very long to understand that things were going to be a little different. To use an old phrase, there was a new sheriff in town.
Of course, the rest is history, the football team and track team captured state championships and under Coach Adams’ guidance, the basketball program thrived.
The 33 wins in 1975 is still the school record.
Despite the time that has passed under the bridge, Coach Johnson is still the winningest coach in school history, never even close to being overtaken.
Not to be forgotten, he brought in Lew Simmonds and Dick Weigand, who in a era where you didn’t have coordinators and not much of a staff, were almost as important as the head coach.
It can’t possibly be 40 years since we were running up that hill—seems like yesterday.
Here are five talented people who turn 55 this year: 1. Prince
3. Lyle Lovett
4. Ellen DeGeneres
5. Iris Guthrie