Roy Neill Cox
Class of '64
Mr. Cox, age 68, of Huntsville, Alabama passed away Sunday, August 3, 2014. A life celebration was held Friday, August 8, from 1p-2p at 6102 Fairfield Dr. 35811
Summer in the City
by Barbara Wilkerson Donnelly
The way I remember it, Huntsville was much, much hotter when we were young than it is today, and I have a theory about the reason behind that oddity. You see, there were fewer people in the city. In fact, population-wise, Huntsville was still so small that it wasn’t even necessary to use its name when addressing an envelope. To simply write “City” would suffice. Now this lack of people meant more air space in which the heat could maneuver – to envelope you from head to toe and cause hot, salty sweat to roll into your eyes, stinging them beyond imagine. There was no feeling quite like running full-out on a hot summer day, legs pumping and blood pounding in your temples. Then, when that sudden “stitch” in your side finally forced you to stop and gulp in a deep breath of heat-heavy air, you could almost swear that your lungs had been scorched.
The heat was all-encompassing, but I was much more tolerant of it. Maybe it was because there were so many fun things to do and discover outside. I remember sitting down many times to a peanut butter-and-banana sandwich lunch, one foot on the floor, already pointing at the door for a quick getaway. We had oscillating fans in every room of the house, a couple of floor fans, and a huge window fan in the living room. Most homes had some sort of fans such as these, and every church pew was laden with hand-held, paddle-stick fans – usually courtesy of Spry or Laughlin Funeral Homes. We didn’t have an air-conditioner installed until I was around 15 years old, and I didn’t like it at all! When it was time for bed, I would shut the door to my room and push the windows up, breathing in the scent of roses under my windowsill. I fell asleep to the rhythm of the fan and the songs on my favorite radio station – (1550 on your radio dial) WAAY, of course. If I recall correctly, there was a commercial for the station which was a conversation between two beatniks (although it could have been Woody Beck and a friend) which went like this:
“Stay at 1550 and you’ll keep in touch.”
“What is this . . . in touch?”
“With the time and the temperature.”
“Oh, yeah . . . too much!”
In those days, cars didn’t have moon roofs, air-conditioner temperature dials, or remotes which would allow you to lower the windows before reaching the car! It was so hot when you opened the doors, the odors from the vinyl seats and dashboards and the rubber floor mats were stifling. Few automobiles had leather or cloth seats then. When the vinyl finally broke down and cracked from age, heat, and the sun, cloth seat covers were put on the seats, which, at the very least, alleviated the problem of sticking to the seat (Ouch!) in ninety-eight-degree temperatures. Some people used steering wheel covers, and others used those huge, faux-wood knobs (I think they were intended as a fashion statement, such as they were!), which meant that only your thumb and first finger were fried while steering!
For most of us, playing outside in those halcyon days of youth was better than any television program. At my grandmother’s house, my uncle would sit on the porch while all the neighborhood kids played kick-the-can and hide-and-go-seek well past dark, sometimes only stopping for a quick drink of ice-cold sweet tea (the kind of sweet that sets my teeth on edge today) to soothe the spirit and thwart the heat. It was a magic potion in a class all by itself. My grandmother lived with my aunt and extended family at 1014 (later changed to 1127) O’Shaughnessy Avenue – just across the street from Jerry Brewer, Linda Brooks, and Gary Kinkle, all from the class of ’64, who were some of my pals then. My aunt also owned the huge lot next door, so it was the logical house on the block for us all to meet, having numerous places to hide during the games. You couldn’t, however, hide from the mosquitoes as big as B-52’s! And just a short lull in movement served as a beacon, not only to the mosquitoes, but to the odd, short-lived breeze which would cause clammy goose-bumps to pop up on your skin. I suspect that God put the beauty and grace of lightning bugs on this earth to balance out the peskiness of mosquitoes. I still find them fascinating and almost ethereal.
I remember the “Dinner Bell,” which was a produce stand on a flat-bed truck. It would travel, bell ringing constantly, slowly down the street every morning in the summertime, stopping when the neighbors went out to buy fresh produce for “dinner.” This was the noon meal for most folks then, and at my grandmother’s house, it was enormous! She started preparing “dinner” not long after the breakfast dishes were cleared, and everyone came home from work to eat. There were sometimes 10-12 people at the huge, circular table for the noon meal. Looking back now, I marvel at how my grandmother managed to stand in the heat of that small kitchen for so many hours every day. Somehow she also managed to churn butter from the cow she kept and even had enough left over to sell to some of the neighbors.
My grandmother used to joke with me about growing potatoes in my ears if I didn’t get them good and clean. I used to wonder, however, about the disgusting-sounding “toe jam” she often complained of to my cousins! For years, I couldn’t figure out who made it, and why! The dirt was hot and dry back then, and it would kick up easily. Waves of heat rose from the asphalt like iridescent snakes. Rivulets of sweat would course down the neck, causing it to “bead up” into dirt globules, and it seemed as if the creases in our elbows and behind our knees were always coated with black streaks.
At my house, the heat was sometimes so overpowering that we’d sling a blanket over the clothesline and pin it to the grass with clothespins. We’d get inside just long enough to gulp down a glass of grape or cherry Kool-aid, and then we’d run through the sprinkler in our bathing suits. I remember being barefooted more than wearing shoes and stepping on more bees than you can shake a stick at! The boys would sometimes take off their t-shirts and shove them under their baseball caps to protect their necks from the sun. I thought they looked like the guys in movies about the French Foreign Legion.
There were several other ways to beat the heat in Huntsville during my youth. One of my favorite places was the pool at the Big Spring Park. Linda Ragland (class of ’64) and I were frequent visitors throughout the summer. We could stay all day for only a dime. She had a naturally-wavy, short haircut called a “Swan” – a sophisticated version of the D. A. (Oops! I mean “Ducktail.”), which flipped up slightly in back, thus resembling a swan’s tail. When we got out of the pool and her hair dried, it looked almost as good as it did before swimming! Mine didn’t. I remember laughing at those kids who tried to ease into the pool. There was just no way to get around the icy cold of that pool, other than just jumping in and hoping for the best. These were the same kids who ran to their mothers, blue-lipped with teeth chattering and knees knocking, begging for “ . . . just 5 more minutes.” I understood that completely. I did not understand why I craved Fritoes (something Tommy and I had in common) when I was at the pool, but never ate them any other time until many years later. They are still a favorite – especially in the summer on the water.
The other way to beat the heat was the air-conditioned movies – or the “shows” as we usually said then. Linda and I spent many memorable days, just chillin’, so to speak. My favorite theater was the Lyric, and my earliest memory of the price of admission was, again, only one thin dime. We didn’t even bother to ask what time the feature started, because we really didn’t care. We’d go in and start watching the movie no matter how long it had been on and then just stay until we reached that point again. Of course, most times it was a several-hour venture. Back then, more times than not, there’d be a double feature, each being two hours or so in length. There was always a newsreel, during which we could make a run to the concession stand for a nickel Baby Ruth, as big as a horse’s leg! If we were really lucky, they’d throw in a Three Stooges short. Saturday mornings, you could usually count on a cartoon carnival and a serial. My favorite was “The Marshall’s Daughter.” They didn’t stop the projector and turn the lights on either! It ran continuously, and they didn’t care if we stayed all day. We really got our dime’s worth in those days. It’s too bad air-conditioning isn’t that cheap today!
That was the sweetest air on earth during a sudden shower, with the raindrops pounding the pavement like miniature soldiers marching in a line, steam from the day’s heat escaping. But make no mistake about it, Huntsville was HOT – “. . . hotter than a matchhead” – when we were young. More and more often, memories of those days return in a rush, as another song says, “like a heat wave . . . burning in my heart.”
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Memphis, TN - Just got back last night from a three week adventure and am trying to catch up on things which happened while I was gone. I have a few things sent to me which I will share with you next week. I am still looking for some more Photobooth shots.
TV Westerns of the 50's and 60's
by John Drummond
The TV Western series "Cheyenne" aired 108 black-and-white episodes on ABC 1955-1963. It was the first hour-long Western, and the first hour-long dramatic series of ANY kind with continuing characters to last more than one season. It was also the first TV series to be made by a major Hollywood studio (Warner Brothers).
The series began as part of "Warner Brothers Presents", a program that alternated three different series in rotation. The first year, it traded broadcast weeks with the long-forgotten "King's Row" and "Casablanca." The show starred Clint Walker as the title character, Cheyenne Bodie, a physically large (6' 6", 235 lbs.) cowboy wandering the American West. Had he been born in Alabama (in 1927) rather than his native Illinois, instead of an actor he might have become a tight end in Tuscaloosa.
The pilot episode reveals that Bodie's parents were massacred by Cheyenne Indians, who then reared him. Bodie therefore maintained a positive and understanding attitude toward Native Americans. This first episode, titled "Mt. Fortress," featured a pre-Maverick James Garner as a guest star, on horseback playing a Captain in the Cavalry.
In the 1958-1959 season, Walker went on strike over a contact dispute. A virtual Bodie clone was introduced in the ABC time slot called "Bronco Layne," played by Ty Hardin, a native of Texas. The two series alternated in the same time slot from 1959-1962, with "Bronco" as the junior partner. Occasionally Cheyenne and Bronco appeared together in the same episode.
"Cheyenne" aired for seven years, producing only 108 episodes b/c of repeated alternation with other programs, and being out of production during Walker's contract dispute. The actor became unhappy playing a role he felt he had exhausted, complaining to reporters that he felt like "a caged animal."
In 1957, "Cheyenne" was a co-winner of The Golden Globes Award for Television Achievement." It is now shown twice every weekday on the Encore Western channel. Seasons are available on DVD from Warner Home Video and Warner Archive Collection.
1) Clint Walker was actually 1/4 Cherokee Indian. Take note, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) who was admitted to Harvard b/c she claimed Minority Status as a 1/16 Native American Indian.
2) In 1954, Clint Walker appeared briefly in a Bowery Boys short film titled "Jungle Gents" playing Tarzan. His role was only 20 seconds long, wearing a loincloth and beating his bare chest with a Tarzan yell, scaring the be-jeezus out of Huntz Hall.
3) He was in a 1969 film, "Sam Whiskey." opposite Burt Reynolds, which no one remembers.
4) Clint Walker played the part of Samson Posey in the 1967 film "The Dirty Dozen," a World War II film which most of us REAL MEN recall, starring Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, John Cassavetes, Trini Lopez, Ernest Borgnine, the ex-NFL running back Jim Brown, and George Kennedy. GREAT FILM; tons of testosterone.
From Our Mailbox
Subject: Lee Lunch Bunch
Judy Fedrowisch Kincaid
As those of you, that attended the last LLB (Lee Lunch Bunch) get-together in April, will remember we voted on making a couple of changes to our get-togethers at Logan's. For the past three years we have tried to meet the last Thursday of the month in April, August, & December. But the past two December get-togethers ran into a snag due to the Christmas holidays. And when we moved the get-together to January, we have been confronted with bad weather. SO....we voted to change the LLB get-togethers to just two a year - April & October. Still the last Thursday of each of those months and still at 11:00 a.m., in the "fireplace room", at Logan's on Balmoral Dr. Which means the next LLB get-together will be October 30, 2014. So mark those calendars!!!
Subject: 50 Reunion
Linda Kinkle Cianci
Though I graduated in 1966, I am very pleased to know there will be a reunion to commemorate the 50-year aniversary of the first graduating class of Lee High School. This historical event could not happen in any other year but 2014! Thanks to all those who are committed to planning this celebration.
Subject: Class of '64's 50-Year Reunion
Many thanks for your article about the upcoming reunion for the Class of ’64. As a member of the class of ’66, I truly appreciate my elders paving the way to graduation. All of you were trailblazers and certainly deserve to have your own party this year. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the event, which we will be attending September, along with sister-in-law Joan Graybill Lucas, Class of ‘64. Thanks, as always, for keeping us informed and sharing the FamiLee ties that bind.
As a follow-up to Brooks Glover’s question about the event, below are the details as of mid-June. I am not involved in planning the reunion, but wanted to share this info with anyone who had not seen it.
LEE HIGH SCHOOL FIRST GRADUATING CLASS 1964
we are fami-lee!! We are celebrating!! we are special!!
we are: “still crazy after all these years!!!”
We will be celebrating the First Graduating Class of one of Huntsville’s Historic High Schools on September 26-27, 2014
Friday Night Social:
Embassy Suites Hotel in Downtown Huntsville on The Big Spring Canal EVENT HEADQUARTERS
2nd Floor Hospitality Room
6:00pm – 10:00pm Casual Dress for tonight
Light snacks, limited sodas, and water provided, Cash Bar Available
Cost: $40.00 per attendee if attending Friday night only
Saturday Night Dinner:
Embassy Suites Hotel in Downtown Huntsville
Really Nice-Great Food-Plan to Enjoy…….and have a Fun Time!!
6:00pm Check In/Cash Bar Dressy Casual for Sat Night
7:00pm Seated Dinner
Musical entertainment, Karaoke and Personal Performance by Anita Palmer (former singer with Time Machine)(Time Machine will not be performing for this occasion)
Catered by Ruth’s Chris’s Restaurant - Sit-down served dinner
Class Photograph will be made for separate purchase
ACOMMODATIONS AVAILABLE: Blocked Rooms at the Embassy Suites: 20 suites blocked; 1964 1ST priority;
$119.00/night, must reserve early; all rooms will not be held until Sept; specify LHS 50th Reunion Code#636
Complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast included, Complimentary Shuttle to and from airport
Located Downtown on the Big Spring Canal with great outside spaces for sitting and gathering and easy walking around Big Spring Park.