Those Were The Days: The Great Sturgean Stag Party of 1953


Every spring around the end of April, my life-long friend, Ben Sturgeon, would invite some of the guys over to spend the night at his home. We would all bring our bedrolls and pillows and after “fun and games” sleep on the floor wherever a place could be found… all other events were canceled (including girls). You just didn’t miss this most prestigious annual occasion.

I am about to reveal a tale of eight sophisticated Pampa High School sophomore guys in the spring of 1953. The participants included Bill “Cro” Culpepper, Robert “Clem” Fleming, Jerry “Smack” McNaughton, Bill “William” Fullenwider, Jimmy “Jimbo” Ayres, Marion “Stony” Stone, Ben “Chugbutt” Sturgeon, and me, Gary “Zeke” Griffin. I shall not take the time to discuss how we each received our nickname. That is a story within itself: I will say that we were all proud of our labels and wore them with honor.

Now, on with the story: We all met at 6:00 on a Friday night at Ben’s, dropping off our gear, squeezing into the Sturgeon’s station wagon, and heading to the LaNora Theater. We were in for a treat that evening because we were going to see a new “Technicolor” movie. Afterwards, the eight of us headed around the corner to the Coney Island for our fill of hotdogs, chiliburgers, cherry cream pie, and a big Nehi Orange. Since we were instructed to get home the best way we could, we set out walking our way back to Ben’s. The weather was clear and warm, just right for some mischief… Down Main Street we went.

It wasn’t long until some upper classmen drove by in a black sedan, and a “shouting match” occurred. When they suddenly stopped and started piling out of the car to come after us, we took off running… eight guys who shortly before were macho men suddenly became scattering rabbits. I remember thinking “Come on feet, don’t let me down now!” We flew past Friendly Men’s Wear, Crystal Palace, and Berman’s. Cut across the street to the alley behind J. C. Penny’s, Gilberts, Woolworth’s, S&Q Clothiers…crossed Francis Street, cut through the junior high school grounds. Behind us we could hear the shouts from that black sedan still in close pursuit! Crossing Browning, we were only about a block ahead. We headed down one of the side streets; I don’t recall which one. I will never forget the fear I felt at that moment. Now, only about 50 yards ahead of our doom, the eight of us scattered down both sides of the street and into whatever yard available. Clem went up a huge cedar tree; Chug dove behind a large evergreen shrub, and then crawled on his hands and knees into a greenhouse. Smack was going over a backyard fence while I was busy scrambling under a four foot hedge with Cro right behind me: I didn’t see where the others had gone into hiding, but I knew later that night we would all share our experience, if we survived this ordeal.

The night air became really heavy as we lay under that shrub trying not to breathe as the feet of a huge upperclassman by the name of Buddy Cockrell ambled right past us. I swore If I lived through this treacherous event I would “kill” Clem and Smack for mouthing off to those guys… although I do recall, maybe, shouting something like “O yea…you and what other pantywaist!” (That was 50’s slang for “sissy” or a guy with feminine tendencies).

Well, anyway, we survived. No one was discovered, so it was on to Ben’s abode. We moved on cautiously keeping a sharp lookout for that black sedan but taking time for each of us to excitedly tell where he was hiding during this hair-raising experience.

The house was empty except for the eight of us. Mr. And Mrs. Sturgeon and Ben’s sister, Mary, were away for the night. Mrs. Sturgeon left plenty food and drinks so we settled in and got things rolling. After shedding our sweaty clothes…caused by that black sedan chase…we sat down to play penny ante and blackjack in our boxers.

The card game suffered a cruel end, as our conversation turned to, what else but, girls. Of course, someone had to ask a really dumb question; someone else throws a pillow; and the darndest pillow fight begins. After a lamp takes a direct hit, we re-evaluated our situation. The living room has to be totally cleared of all furniture, etc. And this we do in record time. Lights are turned off, and bedlam begins! In the black of the night, someone started shouting “Wait, wait, stop, stop!” After fumbling in the dark for the switch, the dawn of reckoning turned on. And what a sight! Feathers floating, a feather stuck to sweaty skin, feathers around the ceiling light, feathers EVERYWHERE! It was like standing in a beautiful snowstorm. Everyone just stood there mesmerized by the beautiful sight. Then a gagging sound brought us back to reality. Clem had sucked in some of the feathers and Cro was beating on his back trying to help him dislodge them, which he finally did. Ben was in shock and well on the way to a stroke! This was the “Mother of all pillow fights.”

After cleaning up feathers for well over an hour, putting the furniture back in the living room, hanging pictures back on the wall, and getting the okay from Foreman Ben, we “crashed” onto our beds, thus ending The Great Sturgeon Stag Party of 1953. I still chuckle whenever I get a “flashback” of that event. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that Ben said feathers kept showing up from time to time in the living room for the next three months.


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