My older brother, Zack Jr., and I were born in Pampa, Texas, in 1929 and 1936. Zack is seven years older than me. We lived at the end of Browning Street. During those years when America went through the “Great Depression,” we were fortunate, however, with my dad working for Magnolia Oil (now Exxon/Mobil). He was a driller in charge of a tall rig that could be moved or skidded around to wherever they determined was an excellent place to find oil or gas under the ground. Unfortunately, dad was gone a lot during those years, and it was up to Mom to raise us two boys.
I remember playing many marbles (I still have my favorite “steely” or shooing marble). The neighborhood was full of kids, and we played “tag,” “kick the can,” and “Monopoly.” We also played Blocks, Lincoln Logs, cowboys and Indians, cars (made of rubber), a great sand pile, and a swing tied to a tree limb! Lots to do, but no TV!
On the other hand, my brother was starting at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School, and by the fourth and fifth grades, he was playing tackle football. They were given a complete uniform with shoulder pads, pants to the knees with built-in pads, a leather helmet, and a red jersey with white numbers! My brother was big for his age, so he played in the line. They competed against the other elementary schools in town: Horace Mann, Sam Houston, and Baker. The schedule was six games, counting home and away.
Not only did Zeke (nicknamed by his fifth-grade teacher) play football, but he also played the saxophone in the band. He made the first chair with the sax. There were 40 band members, one drum major, four twirlers and a band director. Again, they had a complete uniform with a fancy white leather belt and a shoulder stripe over the right shoulder, red pants, and a coat trimmed in white. No hat. They practiced marching and competed against the other schools in town. They also put on concerts for the rest of the students and parents.
There was NO MORE football or band by the time I started at Woodrow Wilson. All the men had gone to fight for our country in WWII.
We kids did our part by helping in the garden, collecting the hen eggs, mowing the lawn, and saving our dimes to begin a savings bond. This money went toward the war effort. I crushed cans, delivered papers, wore hand-me-down clothes from my brother, and washed the car with one bucket of water and a rag. We played lots of sandlot baseball. I even furnished the bat and ball and extra mitt from my older brother.
Wellsir, we won the war in 1945, and everybody in Pampa went downtown to celebrate. Church bells were ringing, the fire station on Foster Street had its siren going, and Main Street was packed out with everyone hugging one another and shouting, “The war is over! The war is over! We won, we won!
Ah-h-h, those were the days.
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