Thursday, November 25, 2021

Grateful: Memories of Music, Football, Basketball, and Friends, Neighbors

Thanksgiving 2021—Last night as I went to sleep I wanted to write something to remember this Thanksgiving by…I fell asleep amidst of sea of memories of present-day loving friends and neighbors as well as those from my earliest childhood…the flood of smiles as I recalled the scenes in my mind gave me restful slumber, until my alarm went off at far-too-early o’clock today.

I’d probably spend the entire day compiling the full list of happy times but I’ll remind myself that dear friends tease the length of my memories, as I remind them I type quickly, but I get their drift. [Left: Two of my 'boys' who are now grown men.]

I grew up on an “almost” cul se sac in San Antonio, except that it had no circular ending with houses in a horseshoe at the end. It was likely more accurately known as a Dead End street, Dawnview Lane. There were five consecutive streets that dead-ended into a sea of barbed wire fence parallel to our solid chain-link fences creating the barrier between our homes and the cattle and horse or two that were our nearest neighbors on the other side of us. It was the best of country living in the midst of suburban San Antonio and I thought everyone had that scene at there homes, for a while at least.

Country living and country music, though, were two different things. I was, without a doubt, born to live and love for rock music, first the fun pop rock and later, with an appreciation for more intense music. An early concert at the Municipal Auditorium introduced me to what would become “package shows” where 10 different stars of the music on the radio traveled together across the country performing their current radio hits for the “kids” assembled in the audiences, generally for the low ticket price of $3.00 per person.

My first concert was the tour of the Grand Ol’ Opry at which I saw (and got to meet) Skeeter Davis, and that’s a story of its own for another day. It made my entire childhood to do that and I remember how she told me she was really ‘ok’ when she sang “The End of the World” and for me to remember her smiling as she sang it. You’d had to have known my mother for how that came about, but then that was just Mama being a Mama.

Not all of country music appealed to me, but some of it took hold. My ears were fixed on KTSA and KONO with DJs “Cousin Brucie” and “Howard Edwards” introduced me to the latest songs on the pop charts, but I also loved Easy Listening and KITE radio (the AM sister station to the future rock station KEXL on Doubleday Broadcasting) too. For the record “My” Cousin Brucie wasn’t the one of New York fame, Bruce Morrow; it was Bruce Hathaway…there was also Captain K, Sheldon Kosharek, the helicopter pilot who flew the KTSA safety bird.

A U.S. Marines Toys for Tots concert would be another trip to the Municipal Auditorium and on that package show were The Buckinghams, Your entrance fee was a new toy for children as the U.S. Marines took care of the entertainment fee for you.

San Antonio’s own Sunny & the Sunliners,

Archie Bell and the Drells (from Houston, Texas, who dance just as good as they walk!)

and many more.

Even though I was usually listening to Howard Edwards on KONO (dial 86, 86, 86) (“Hey, how you, fair dinkum?”) and then you’d hear the drag races being advertised on KTSA coming up, “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!” you’d just start assimilating the little jingles of the station IDs in your head as part of the songs you loved because they were being brought to you by the DJs (so you thought before you ever knew about A&R guys, promo men, and other unseen forces who helped radio programming along back in the day).

All these memories bring me to my final topic of the morning: football. In just the last year or two, it seems some people have come to discover that deep within the heart of this music lover lies the heart of an abiding sports junkie. On the dead-end street I grew up, all my neighbors had sons except for one, and she was a mean girl.

I remember on Saturday mornings we would all ride bikes or just play in the front yards of our homes until noon, where everyone went in for lunch. When I would come out after lunch, the guys were all gone and stayed that way until after church the next day. I couldn’t figure out where they all went. This went on for about three weeks, until I asked Douglas (one of my five neighbor guys) where they all went to on Saturdays. “We watch football,” he said. “What’s that?” I asked. He explained it was what guys enjoyed doing on Saturdays and Sundays. “Oh,” I answered. “Will you teach me how to watch it?”

He said, “I don’t know much yet, I’m still learning, but my Dad can help us!” So the next day after church, Mom and I were invited and went to their house. The two Moms visited while I was a willing pupil with the boys (Jefferson, Douglas, and Andrew, all named for American leaders) and their dad, Ray. He was a wonderful teacher. It started to make sense. I liked music more but the game was starting to take shape for me and I learned enough watch a few weeks in to understand who the best players were on some teams.

Then the house across the street from me sold, and Susan and Stacy were the two daughters who moved in, and I lost touch with football for a while. They were sweet and fun to play with and we usually played "school." Eventually they moved, and a young Army widow with four daughters moved in, ages 5 to 18, and they were great to play with, too.

My bff Ronnie would ride his bike over from 5 streets away and he taught me how neighbors could fix things around the house. There was always some little thing that needed doing at my house and Ronnie set about early to showing me how easily it could be done (it was when he did it. I was encouraged by his example.) When he got a Mini-bike to ride over on, my rules were that I could ride on it only in the driveway and not the streets.

I followed my rules and he patiently drove me up and down that driveway, then there was a go-cart he had (same rules), and back then the driveways were actually long enough to enjoy the ride. Then Ronnie grew up and played drums professionally in addition to all the other jobs he had; hardest working guy I've ever known! Eventually we all grow up and move away somewhere.

Flash forward to my discovery of professional basketball and professional bowling on TV! I fell in love with basketball because it moved so fast, and the players jumped so high in the air they were like acrobats. And there was nothing more satisfying to watch than a good slam dunk.

I loved the voice of Chris Schenkel as he built suspense for various tournaments. It was all about the voice…and then there was professional golf…and the voice of Jim Nantz. Oh, heavenly days, Jim could read the phone book and I’d want to buy a copy. By Sunday afternoons, I discovered the NFL on CBS and immediately I loved the backstories of players and their pathways to professional football. The Cowboys and Coach Tom Landry became my benchmark to how a professional football team should comport themselves during and after the games. Things have changed “slightly” since those days.

But the good news is those grand old days of the NFL on CBS have been beautifully and carefully preserved by my friend, Rich Podolsky, in his new book, “You Are Looking Live!: How the NFL Today Revolutionized Sports Broadcasting.” This book is exciting, insightful and a perfect behind-the-scenes look at how this groundbreaking show began and transformed through the years.

These days my neighbors are still among the things in life I’m most grateful for. Some live on the same block as I do. Others live just a “few” blocks or states away, but thanks to Facetime, Skype, and other means, we are all “together.”

My 9-yr-old pal Facetimed me two days ago of his own accord. He said, “It’s been too long since we last talked. How are you doing?” I love that boy. And his little brother and his little sister. We discussed important topics (basketball, of course) like the Golden State Warriors. For a 9-yr-old, I’ll bet you’re thinking that he’s all about “I like the so-and-so team because they have a cool mascot.” Nuh-uh. Forget it.

We discussed upcoming team acquisitions and possible trades during and after the season and why he thought ‘x’ was a good decision and why ‘y’ was a useless trade to make because he mostly rode the bench and wasn’t much of a team player. It’s just one reason I love him, we have such intelligent conversations, but I’m the one learning from him. He’s picked up my vast years of knowledge by absorbing ESPN One-on-One documentaries and YouTube videos. And he has been known to correct me (politely) when I’m wrong. He and his little brother and youngest sister are a joy to watch grow up and they bring me love, hugs, and joy.

These days, I have “holiday” cherubs who are special to my heart from two families, older and younger. My older boys came from when I moved in on this block and they were all under the age of 5 and their older sister had started school. Watching them grow up and seeing them at the holidays playing in the yard or showing up at my front door in some new cool Halloween costume (with their friends).

I loved watching them grow up. Today they tower over me, but they’re still “my guys” of whom I’m incredibly proud. Older brother is in Colorado, and next brother just completed his tour of duty in the Navy and next brother is a semester away from his degree in HVAC and welding certifications.

My newest “neighbors” are precious, three in elementary school and one in pre-K (going on 22!), and I’m having fun all over again watching them grow and learn and love each other. I think I’ve found the Fountain of Youth again. Watching the children all get along so beautifully fills me with joy and happiness that is unparalleled.

Of all the things I give thanks for this year, wonderful colleagues at work locally and around the country by e-mail, dear friends around the country who are as close as AT&T and Skype bring us, neighbors whom I adore, and the chance to see happy families grow up loving God and loving life…my cup runneth over.

And now, it's time for the Cowboys to beat the Las Vegas Raiders. I have plenty of work to do while it plays in the background...I'm thankful for Jim Nantz broadcasting today and for Tony Romo telling me what the QB is thinking he'll do next. Some things never change! Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and may you have a day to remember forever, over and over again.

1 comment:

  1. You are so blessed and I am happy to have you in my life. Eve's Fund is grateful for you as a person, friend and professional. With loving thanks.