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180910 September 10, 2018


John William "Billy" Byrom
LHS '65

    I found out late Saturday about the passing of Billy Byrom, LHS '65. The only information we have at the time is he died from his long term issues with heart disease. His daughter contacted Tom Bush to let him know, and Patsy Hughes Oldroyd forwarded the information to me. Collins "C.E." Wynn also confirmed the passing and asked me to share the following story with his classmates.

1960 Lee Generals Football  
(The Second Season of Generals Football)
“Fuzz” Collins (CE) Wynn
LHS '65

NOTE:  I have had this article in mind for some time but news of Billy Byrom’s passing today caused me to recognize the importance of completing it for submission.
     In 1960 the building and facilities that would fully become Lee High School in 1964 were still rudimentary in many ways.  We have all joked about how good life was being seniors throughout our Junior High and High School years and that was mostly true.  But there was a downside in that the school (our school) was never finished – there was always something being modified or added to accommodate the growing student population each year.  Construction was part of a never-ending cycle.

    Which is as good a way as any to introduce our football team from 1960.  Just like everything else, we were rudimentary in the ‘very’ sense.  Since the school did not yet have a gym or dressing rooms or anything else to support girls and boys’ athletic programs, we used the area directly in front of the office and behind the auditorium stage as the football dressing room.  It was all very temporary, we had no lockers and used folding chairs scattered around that area to hold our gear between practices and our clothes during practice.  I recall it smelled awful due to the accumulated sweat, grime and ammonia which accrued on the uniforms during the course of practices and games.  The school office was directly behind the scene of the group photo on the left and the dressing room would be behind on the right. 

    Although we had as good of uniforms as was normal in the day, I would not say they were outstanding.  Most of the time the players just had to make do for themselves.  If something was torn or otherwise needed repair, then home to mom they went.  Coach Myhand was a one-man staff and had all he could handle even with the help of a few parents.  During the summer and on the in-season practice days the uniforms and equipment were just left there on our individual folding chairs each day.  On game weeks we each took them home for our moms to wash and clean and we reported to the stadium (generally Goldsmith-Schiffman Field) dressed and ready to play.  Even transportation of the team was a family affair; each one of a group of parents would provide cars and drivers for out-of-town games. (I remember my dad driving 4 or 5 of us down to Gadsden for a game and buying us all a little something to eat afterwards.)  We rode to the games in clean uniforms and home in dirty ones.

    There were two versions of our uniform:  the one shown mostly white and the blue shoulders; and another that was mostly gray with blue shoulders and it may even be they were for two different years.

    I am particularly fond of this photograph.  Who wouldn’t be?  These are all 13-14-year-old young men who are just beginning to chart the courses of their lives.  This was our very first opportunity to become each a man among men even on a junior high school level.  The lessons about bonding and teamwork were not lost on anyone.  Several of these young men went on to distinguish themselves serving on the real-world teams of the US military.
Some of these young men remained in Lee football throughout their high school years.  Others, by whatever experience that befell them, left the team prior to graduation.  Families move; interests change.  The roster in this article is incomplete but filled in with as much information as is available.  Please feel free to fill in whatever additional information you may have.

    Enjoy the 2018-2019 football season wherever you are and whoever you are!

"Magic in the Air"
Memories of the Madison County Fair
Barbara Wilkerson Donnelly
LHS '64

   ( Editor's Note: With September upon us, Barbara suggested we reprint her story about a favorite activity of this time of the years.)

    As a very young child, I knew that not too long after I blew out my birthday candles in August, the Madison County Fair would arrive. Perhaps my excitement was even higher because of this anticipatory period. All I know is that there was nothing quite like it! Maybe there still isn't.

    Even the air took on a different feel and smell. We were just coming into Fall, and the evenings were crisp and cool. It was probably the first time I wore a jacket in the evenings after a long, hot summer in Alabama. Long before arriving at the fairgrounds, the searchlight was visible -- a beacon to all the fun ahead.  I loved the Scrambler, Round-Up, Tilt-a-Whirl, Spook House, Ferris Wheel, and (gasp!) the Bullet, although I finally got smart enough to avoid the latter when the seat belt broke during a ride. My friend, June, and her sister, Gail, were in it with me, and we almost lost Gail. She ended up in the floor, and June and I crossed legs and held her in! I remember the year the double Ferris Wheel arrived. Wow! Even though I loved it, it was very scary to rock at the top. The Carousel, however, was always my first stop. I would pretend that the horses had been enchanted by a witch and, at any minute, they just might turn back into real horses. 

    There were the oddities that we visited each year, such as the "motorcycle guy."  He would start out slowly at the bottom of a huge cylinder, circling upward faster and faster until he reached the top, where we stood -- mouths agape. I used to think the girls at the girlie show were, as Rainman once said, "sparkly." When we were hurried past the barker ("Step right up, folks!") by my grandmother, the song "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," was always playing. Funny -- they weren't usually shaking. Just standing there, usually chewing gum, with bored, far-away looks on their faces. I remember asking my mother, when I was still quite young, “Why do men want to see them?” She explained as best she could. When she told me the part about why these women worked at such a profession, adding that sometimes they had no other way to earn money and might have little children, my heart went out to them. Surely no mother would have wanted her child to have to see this show, much less live with the carnie. There were smells which permeated the air -- sawdust, popcorn, peanuts, hot dogs, candy apples, manure from the pony rides, and my favorite, cotton candy. I was convinced that it was magic. Think about it -- a little bit of sugar, a few drops of food coloring, and voila' -- heaven on a paper cone! And you couldn't even hold it in your mouth very long. It just sort of disappeared as if it were never really there! Sort of magically!

    One of my favorite evening activities was Bingo. There was a caller who, every year, would say, "Under the O -- sic-a-ty six." Strange -- the things you remember. There were all kinds of games designed to take your money, but if you were lucky, you could walk away with some pretty cool prizes, too. I still have some really great pieces of "carnival glass" that my grandmother won pitching pennies at dishes. This one was difficult because most of the plates and saucers had been highly waxed. You had to make sure that your penny dropped from above the plate or saucer, but didn’t scoot in from the side. The latter was a sure ”roll on into my wallet” said the barker to the rube. If you ever heard carnie folk yelling, “Hey, Rube,” they were calling for their carnie friends’ help. Some customer(s) was getting out of control and they needed help with the “rube.” There were a couple of games at which I did do well. The ones where you shot corks or water from a water gun at a target. I learned to compensate for the rigged sights and came home with many prizes from these games. I still enjoy competitive shooting.

    One of my enduring memories of the games was one night when I got hung up playing the coke bottle game -- the one where you use a small stick with a hook on the end to set a prone coke bottle back up into place. Simple, huh? For the guy running the booth, maybe, but not for me, and before too long, I had spent about $5.00 with nothing to show for it. The guy stopped suddenly and said, "Listen. I'm going to tell you something. You cannot win at this game or any other like it unless WE want you to win. You remind me of my daughter, and I wouldn't want someone taking her money like this. I'm going to give everything you lost back to you, but you have to promise not to play any more games tonight." I did promise, and I kept my word. Whenever I hear people make negative comments about the "carnie folks," I usually tell this story. I'll bet that fellow never knew he'd made such an impression. I’ve often wondered about him through the years – whether he got to see his daughter, whether she accepted him as her father. Her mother had remarried, and the girl seemed enamored of her stepfather – or I should say “his money.”

    As I got older, I would go to the Fair with friends. It's difficult to believe that $10 could keep you happy for hours back then, isn't it? I started noticing things then that I'd missed in earlier years. For instance, the "sparkly" girls were somewhat shabby. I began to wonder just what had brought them to this place in their lives. Sometimes the men and women who ran the booths looked hard around the eyes, and many of them reeked from cigarette smoke and liquor. But I also noticed that they often had a friendly, easy-going way about them, too. Many times I came away with nice prizes (a blue dog almost as big as I was!) from throwing softballs at cats -- a game notorious for being rigged. Carnie folks are just folks like everyone else.

    It's been too many years since my children were small enough to need adult super-
vision at the Fair, and somehow through the years, I found other places to go, other things to do. But -- in the not-too-distant future -- I have visions of more wide-eyed little people who'll be anxious to spend the day pitching coins at dishes and being ushered quickly past the girlie show by their grandmother.

    Too many memories -- so little time. It just so happens the Fair is in town this week, and there's a searchlight outside my window breaking the stillness of the night sky. It beckons to the memory of an enchanted carousel, a thousand laughing voices . . . and the magic of cotton candy.

        Memphis, TN -  We morn the loss of another classmate, Billy Byrom, this week. Billy was known to most everyone in the school and his smile will be missed.

    This week Barbara Wilkerson Donnelly's story about her memories of the Madison County Fair starts a series of other stories about the same subject. All these stories were printed long ago in the Traveller, but their memories are still fresh in our minds. I hope you enjoy them.

    I think the email problem resolved itself. Let's hope so. I will send out my normal mailing this week and hope everyone on the list gets it.


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