7th of a series
MY FIRST YEARS OF TEACHING
MY FIRST YEARS OF TEACHING
(AND FINDING TRUE LOVE)
Coaching in Henrietta ended with a 15-11 record. Not bad for a first-year coach, and what I learned from that first year's experience is still with me today. My gym was a small structure that looked much like the bowling ball runway, it was so narrow: a long shot could be made from the free throw line on the other end of the court! I had three basketballs to practice with, and nineteen boys to produce the JV and varsity. One of the boys I invited to play was a polio victim who had one foot that "dragged" when he walked. I encouraged him to join the team. Two of my eighteen-year-old kids were fathers of infants, and each of them drove himself to games with wife and child accompanying. This was the last year for Henrietta to have a high school. I have gone back several times to reunions to revisit old times.
Before all that, though, during one of my frequent trips to Lexington, I spied a beautiful young lady walking from the Mattingly Store to the bank. I remember her long hair that struck her about mid-back, bouncing with each step. This was just an observation by a red-blooded American boy, and I didn't pursue this any further at that time. Later I was in a friend's wedding in Wellington. As I brought in a gift that evening, who should be handling the receiving of gifts but that beautiful young girl! I said nothing to her at the time, but I did go to a mutual friend and inquire about her. Later we were introduced and I asked her out. So began our relationship in 1956. We married May 23, 1959.
She was of Italian descent; their family was "run" by her dad, Dominic Pessetto. Watching her dad talk to the neighbors in Italian was an experience for me. The wine and home brew he made wasn't my favorite thing, but I obliged. As time went on, I got so I could tolerate it.
In 1957, after my first year of teaching, I joined the U.S. Army Reserves in Lexington: I served six months of active and five-and-a-half years of ready-reserve duty. I belonged to a 105 Howitzer Battalion, but since I could type, I spent my time as a payroll clerk. For my six months of active duty I served in Fort Leonard Wood and Fort Smith, Arkansas.
I met a lot of good people at this time, some with college educations like me, but many of them had limited education. A black kid in my barracks from Mississippi would come to me and ask me to read his mail from back home. These letters came from his relatives and his girl friend. He found reading very difficult at best, so I would read the letters aloud to him in private. Sometimes I'd write back to his family for him. This was an eye-opener for me as I learned about the south and the obvious disadvantage offered black people of the 50's.
At Malta Bend, I taught Social Studies, and coached sports that included softball, basketball, and track from 1958 through 1960. Girls were also included in sports there, and I learned very quickly the difference in coaching girls: I found I had to speak softer and more calmly, because at the end of our first basketball practice, there were a lot of tears and sniffling going on. So my learning process continued.
My coaching was successful in both girls' and boys' basketball. Both years I was there, we lost girls due to pregnancies, which was sort of sad for several reasons. The second year I was there the boys had 27 wins, 3 losses; the girls had 8 wins, 8 losses.
This was the school year Virginia and I were married, and we purchased a 55' trailer that we parked in the Superintendent-of-Schools' back yard.
Click HERE for the next and final chapter of this inspiring story: The Rest of his Career.