Littlefield classmates stoking the coals of old memories
Ray Westbrook | Avalanche-Journal
If parents, teachers and store owners could know how indelibly they would be remembered half a century later by the children who pass their way, their jobs would suddenly seem monumentally important.
Freddie Webb, Class of 1961, Littlefield, is one who remembers:
“Of course, in our younger days, everybody remembers the School Store. It was called the School Store — it was across the street from high school, and even the little elementary students could go up there and have lunch,” she recalls today.
“That’s usually where we bought the school supplies because the people who owned it would stock our school supplies for us — for when we needed anything. The Big Chief writing tablets in the early years … you could go in at lunch and they always had hot dogs ready. I believe you could get a hot dog and a Coke for 25 cents.
“They had them wrapped in paper, and had them in that warming place — you could smell them when they would open it up to take those out.”
She remembers, “My Mother would give me 30 cents, and I could have lunch, and take a nickel and buy a handful of candy — they would put it in a little sack for you.”
Webb remembers that she was an impressionable child, and teachers were some of the people who impressed her. “I think of the ones I loved and the ones I was afraid of all through those years. And then when I grew up and looked back, those I was afraid of were really sweet people. There was one … I really didn’t think she was human, I was so scared of her. She really had her bluff in on us.”
As an adult, and with the lights of perspective turned on, that teacher also had become one of the sweet ones.
The Littlefield Class of 1961, which 50th anniversary co-organizer Sharon Collins remembers had more than 90 members originally, plans to meet at 5 p.m. Friday for dinner at the MAC Building. Then they will attend a homecoming game between Littlefield and Shallowater at 7:30 p.m.
“I’m just a weird guy who didn’t play football, but we were football crazy,” Gene Bitner remembers. “Our arch rival was Levelland, the Lobos.
“We held our own back then.”
He wasn’t attracted to sports at all as a player, though.
“They announced in third grade that the state was going to require physical education classes, and that did not impress me at all. I had a rather miserable fourth grade.
“But then in fifth grade, I happened to be talking to one of my friends, and he said, ‘Did you know that if you get in band, you don’t have to take P.E.?’ And I said, ‘You know, I’m going to look into that.’”
Bitner played a cornet in band for eight years.
For entertainment, there was always a movie at the Palace Theater in Littlefield. It was a popular hangout.
In later years, an attempt to raise money to save the Palace building failed. “It’s just a vacant lot now,” Bitner said.
His family was not wealthy, and he found it necessary to work afternoons after school. “I worked at the radio station. We had Distributive Education, and the older boys would get out of school at noon and work some place for on-the-job training.”
He eventually became a teacher.
Most of the Class of 1961, though, remember the basic, nearly universal form of entertainment: they dragged Main Street. They still refer to it as Main Street, even though it is Phelps Avenue now.
“It was so much fun going downtown and riding up and down the street honking at each other,” Collins remembers.
“I had a lot of friends, and we had so much fun together.”
The dragging downtown was one of the things that ended with their generation. “Gas got too high. They don’t do that now,” Collins said.
There was music in those years, also: “We loved Buddy Holly and Elvis of course. In fact, I have Satellite Radio in my car, and I listen to the 50s station all the time,” she said.
Ken Pounds, now of Amarillo, graduated in 1960, but married into the class of 1961 because his wife, Carol, is one of the members.
“We were like any other small town — there were a few fights, there was football, all the sports. We had Levelland — that was the big one when I was in school.”
He figures that generation’s music was the best.
“Elvis Presley was big, and we had — in my estimation growing up in that time period — we had all the cars and all the music, and nobody’s ever had it before, and nobody’s ever had it since like we did.”
Pounds was also interested in radio at Littlefield.
“I worked at the radio station there in Littlefield, KVOW, with Waylon Jennings. He was a disc jockey and I was a flunky.”
Pounds also recalls participating in the prime entertainment of Littlefield in the early 1960s:
“I drove a million miles up and down Main Street.”
And he recalls the Palace: “One of the first movies that my wife and I had a date for, was ‘Operation Petticoat,” and I think it was Cary Grant and … I don’t remember. That’s a long time ago. You cannot find good movies now.”
There were other diversions: “Yes, we came to Lubbock to the Hi-D-Ho. Of course that was a big deal after we got to be seniors in high school, to drive over there, because there were a lot of those Tech freshmen girls who were over there, so we had to come see about them.”
His wife remembers Main Street in Littlefield was the real meeting place, though. “We would get in a car and ride up and down Main Street and wave at the boys,” Carol said.
The drag, as the class called it, was so popular that traffic was heavy on a Saturday night, according to Webb.
“We drug Main Street from one end to the other. It would be bumper-to-bumper on Saturday night and Sunday. We would start at the courthouse and go all the way down Main Street, go down to the corner and turn around in front of Nelson’s Hardware store and go back up the street.”
Cars sometimes suffered in the slow traffic. “If the car started getting hot, we would go off of Main Street and ride around a big area, and come back up Seventh Street to Main Street again.
“It was because of all that idling up and down Main Street,” Webb said.
The Palace Theater was a close contender for Main Street.
“When we were a little younger, I saw my first horror show, and I still think about it to this day, because it was my first and only one that I ever paid money to go see. It was ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon.’ We wore the 3-D glasses — it was a big deal. But you see it now in the old classic movie channel, and it isn’t anything.”
It may have been the exhilaration of the moment that made it memorable, like the food at the School Store.
“I can still remember those hot dogs — they were the best hot dogs in the world, and I have never had one since that was that good.”
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