Telephone visits with Red were a talk-a-thon and he was the host from his quarters in the Temecula, Calif. home of his daughter, Lanelle.
His non-stop stories were peppered with his hardy, infectious laugh. Red could tell one story after another, laughing every phrase of the way.
Many of his tales were of his siblings, among them my late father-in-law, Joel Clifford (Jay) Bollinger, and his identical twin, Horace Paschal (H), along with the other sons Charles Lavern (Cotton) and Conal Monroe, the oldest. There were two sisters, Kimmie, who held the title of oldest child and Ola Mae.
All of these siblings grew up in the northeast Texas, Red River town of Powderly in Lamar County, where that area’s version of a Lone Star State accent was machine-gun-rapid. Their speech was so fast that for years when Jay would talk about his sister Ola Mae, I thought he was saying “Old Maid” as in the old-fashioned term for unmarried woman.
All of the Bollinger boys were athletes, mostly baseball although Jay was also a basketball player and made his mark in life as a coach in that sport at Baytown Lee High School.
Red was a hard-throwing southpaw (lefthander to the uninitiated) pitcher and played amateur, semi-pro and professional minor league baseball well into the 1930s when, as he put it, “I finally ‘threw my arm away.’”
He also served in the Army Air Corps in World War II. After that mighty conflict, Red settled into family life and work at what became the Chance Vought Corporation, an airplane manufacturer in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex area.
AFTER RED lost his wife, Jackie, Lanelle moved him to Temecula in Southern California and set him up in self-sustaining quarters in her family home. Red maintained some independence until he lost much of his eyesight just a few years ago.
That didn’t deter Red’s optimism, however. When you were talking (listening) to Red, his infectious good humor kept things light and funny through what could lead to a phone-receiver-dulled ear in his normal two-hour visit with someone willing to spend the time. I did so delightfully many times. His stories almost always involved sports, particularly baseball. Red was not a football fan and he followed basketball up to a point, but baseball was his true sports passion.
He could tell some baseball tales and wasn’t bashful in talking about the supposedly-outlawed spitball, which Red said was the “go-to” pitch for most pitchers. “I can show you a bunch of ways to throw the spitter,” Red would say proudly (that meant how to hide the illegal “doctoring” of the baseball). For non-fans, that doesn’t mean Red was an “outlaw” pitcher. It means that pitchers have always (and still do) found ways to throw the spitball. It will make a baseball do crazy things and is next to impossible to hit.
RED ALSO LOVED football, especially the Dallas Cowboys. He would spend an entire day watching old games on the NFL Network. Although he played basketball as a youngster, he did not watch that sport, instead opting for his favorites baseball and football.
For the last few months, Red was in an assisted living facility and didn’t have unlimited access to a phone as he did while living with his understanding daughter, Lanelle. So, I didn’t get to have his 2-hour sports and life talk “show” visit every week before he went to that big ballpark in the sky where, I’m sure, his first start as a pitcher there was a perfect game. No hits, no runs, no errors — just a funny, laughing, staccato description of every pitch.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.