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JIM ‘PAPPY’ MOORE: 1963 – An Ominous Autumn

By Jim “Pappy” Moore

(Fourth of a five-part series.)

We survived Hurricane Carla in 1961. We survived The Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Little did we know 1963 had even more in store for us.

As 1963 began we were concluding our eighth-grade year. I was running track in the spring. John Grier and I had been in grade school together from 1958-1961. We had run together on a quarter mile relay team where the best of our elementary school competed with the best of all the other elementary schools. John was always the fastest boy, and that didn’t change in Junior High School. 

I ran the quarter mile – the 440, and the half-mile – the 880. I had respectable numbers but John was always faster. I got interested in high jumping when the western roll was still dominating that competition. I was taught by ninth grader Tommy Deal, who would go on to become a very good basketball player at Lufkin High School. 

John and my friend Lynn Parker would go on to dominate Pony League baseball with their hitting.

Our eighth-grade year ended as we looked forward to our ninth-grade year. We would be the big dogs on campus now! We would be on the real football team, not just the eighth-grade team that was merely junior varsity. Joe Stringer from my seventh-grade class would anchor the offensive line. Big, strong, smart and likable, Joe was the quintessential offensive lineman.

Over the summer I got a Cushman Eagle scooter. I could ride it to and from school every day of my ninth-grade year. I would arrive and park it right beside the Shop where I had my first class of the day with Mr. Browning. I would putt-putt-putt my way to and from school each day. I had my beginner’s license, which allowed me to start driving under the watchful eye of my father. I would later take Driver’s Education from Coach Louie Phillips and would get my full license at only 14 years of age. Life was looking good. 

I enjoyed Algebra in Mrs. Nelson’s class and Science with Mr. Killam. Choir continued under Mrs. Carter.

We football players had the time of our lives, going to out of town games, getting to appear at pep rallies, enjoying the glory of playing, such as it was. Gary McClendon, Dennis Vansau, John Wade and Morris Parrish were in the backfield. John Grier played end on offense and defense. Joe Stringer at center. We had fun. 

Fall 1963 got past October without any hurricane or any threat of war in the Gulf of Mexico. Then one day in late November something happened while we were at school. No one knew exactly what it was, but all the teachers became deathly silent. We sat quietly in our classrooms as the principal, Mr. Mason, announced over the loudspeaker that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. All remained quiet. Some of the girls and some of the teachers wept. Time passed.

During the 6th period, the final period of the day, I sat solemnly in Mrs. Wooten’s English class. She had started teaching ninth grade English that school year. Mr. Mason came on the speaker telling us “President Kennedy is dead.”

The funeral would be the following Sunday. Everyone watched it at home on their television. It was a grief-ridden event. In the meantime, Lee Harvey Oswald would be first charged, then assassinated on live TV. The assassination of the president. The assassination of his alleged assassin. It was all more than fourteen-year-old kids could comprehend.

Young people rebound from these things probably quicker than adults. When you are young, life is mostly about you and your friends. The responsibilities of adulthood seem far away. You have some of the benefits of adulthood, but few of the duties. I could drive. I could go places. I could work and make some money. I could enjoy my time at school. Life went on.

Copyright 2023, Jim “Pappy” Moore. All rights reserved.

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