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This column is from January, 2009.

The Mirror is blessed with a stable of both local and distant writers who sometimes have good ideas at the same time. For example:

Columnist Pappy Moore expounded on Jan. 17 about his dislike for Billy Mays, the all-too-present TV commercial pitchman who is not a pirate but could easily be called Blackbeard — except that no self-respecting pirate would have such an irritating high-pitched voice.

Tumbleweed Smith, writing below here in this edition, expands his dislike for Billy Mays to take in the whole world of TV commercials. Both he and Pappy preempted my future column on the Mays phenomenon. May’s success evidently bears out the advertising maxim that little drops of water and little grains of sand can wear away the hardest stone.

Pritchett Correspondent Jim Eitel wrote in the Jan. 21 Mirror about the successful 1941 Buckeye football team. It was a bare bones account that is supplemented in this issue by a fuller history written by Mary Lee Baird and Joe Blount, who were seniors that year.

Joe was too modest to recount some of the accolades he got in The Mirror that season, when he played tackle.

My father, Russ Laschinger, was the sports writer that fall, in addition to being publisher, bookkeeper and sometime printer, among other duties. Of the Oct. 3 game that Gilmer won over Judson, 38-0, he wrote:

Murphy Lee, Sonny Hamberlin and W.A. Phillips scored on “three of the most thrilling touchdown jaunts seen on the local sod in many a day.” And, “Blount was a terror to the Blue Devils all night, turning in some of the most quick thinking and aggressive defensive plays of the entire year.”

Winning on Oct. 10 at Pittsburg, 13-0, the Buckeyes had their toughest regular-season game. End Ray Reid scored one of the touchdowns on a Statue of Liberty play.

Today’s Buckeyes and their fans may be surprised to learn that in that long-ago time, a Thanksgiving afternoon game was a tradition.

By beating Winnsboro 20-0 that Nov. 20, the Buckeyes gave Coach Leonard Pickitt his first district championship.

It was the first time since 1933, when Gilmer won bi-district over the Odd Fellows’ Home at Corsicana and then defeated Texas State Home in the same city for regional that the Buckeyes had gotten out of the district.

My dad’s Looking ‘em over on the Gridiron column said the man to be singled out against Winnsboro was W.A. Phillips, and the old standouts in the line were outstanding again: Blount, Huggins, Pilcher and Smith.

Of the Dec. 4 bi-district game at Gladewater in which Gilmer defeated Van, 7-0, he wrote:

“Twelve iron men. Twelve. Count ‘em. Clinnon Baxley, Joe Blount, Gene Smith, B. J. Bullard, Dude Huggins, Paul Pilcher, Ray Reid, Sonny Hamberlin, J. E. Thweatt, W. A. Phillips, Murphy Lee and R. H. Barrett. Shout their names and sing their praises to the skies. For it was these 12 stalwart Buckeyes who snatched glorious victory from what seemed certain defeat from an inspired, rough and ragged crew of Vandals to determine the bi-district winner for Districts 19-AA and 20-A.

“A crowd of 1,700 thrilled to the play of these most evenly matched teams ... Van was ahead on 20-yard-line penetrations when a seemingly hopeless pass from Sonny Hamberlin reached 40 yards into the arms of Ray Reid on the Van 2-yard line.”

The game for the regional championship the next week was almost an anti-climax.

The Mirror reported:

“All Gilmer closed for the game, which the Buckeyes won, 51-0, the season’s biggest score.

“They proved themselves probably the greatest Class A team in Texas this year of 1941. Those fans who have followed the Buckeyes’ every game have seen them rally with an invincible spirit whenever the occasion demanded it . . . Gilmer scored 369 points to 6 for opponents (Emory).

The Buckeyes were also regional champs in 1930, beating Mart, 13 to 6, and in 1929, winning over the legendary Mighty Mites of Fort Worth’s Masonic Home, 25-6.

ONLY TWO OF the 1941 Buckeyes returned for the next season, Sonny Hamberlin and Gene “Bird Dog” Smith, who were co-captains. That team won the bi-district championship over New Boston, which, according to Joe Blount’s memory, had a line anchored by big Dan Blocker, later known as Hoss Cartwright on the TV series Bonanza.

By the fall of 1942, the World War II exodus of male Gilmer High students to the armed forces had begun in earnest. And it also extended to male faculty members of an eligible age.

AS FAR AS I can tell, there was one Gilmer High annual produced between the 1920s and the post-WWII years.

I guard that 1943 Buckeye, published when I was a sophomore, more intensely than any of the other books I have acquired in a long lifetime. Thus I am able to look at it today and see that by the spring of 1943 all the regular faculty members and administrators were women.

The only man pictured is Supt. John Avery, who doubled as football coach. By the end of the war he was also teaching physics and college-level math courses, including trigonometry and college algebra. Theoretically there were no advanced placement courses for high school students then as there are now, but Mr. John was not one to let that stand in his way.
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