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 Reflections on Gleason School History

Dudley "Butch" Sanders

Any time there is a program to be presented at the Gleason School which requires an address, one name always comes to mind first for writing and presenting that address. That name is Dudley "Butch" Sanders,  a former teacher and coach at Gleason School. The following address includes excerpts taken from the "Homecoming '50" address,  which was written and delivered by Mr. Dudley Sanders during the football field dedication on Friday, August 29, 1986.

There is no way to tell all the stories of all the classes in the short time we have. . . the stories of your own class or your own team could fill a whole night, but let's hit some of the high spots and repeat some of the stories.

Homecoming '50 - boy that sure sound like a long time, 1929 - 1959; and it is a long time. . . but you know some of the folks of the class of 1929 are still up and around and full of life. Was this class the beginning of football at Gleason? Did Muncie Cochran's punt really go back over his head and lose 10 yards? Did Spencer Taylor's brick toting punishment move more bricks than any other company? Did you play basketball in the flour mill and in the old White's garage? Did you have a football queen and royalty? Did you have a girls  basketball team? Did Frank Margrave score Gleason's first touchdown? To the Class of 1929, we say thank you; you got us on our way.

With the early '30's came the heart of the Great Depression, but Gleason School began to make a name for itself even during the hard times; and  by 1934, a Gleason football team became the most feared team in West Tennessee. They had 11 wins and 0 losses; the best record ever compiled by a Gleason football team. If you don't believe me ask Lew Heath (an all West Tenn.) or ask Check Fowler (a fellow who proved that you don't have to be big to play football). To the 1934 team, you have given us something to shoot at for 24 years, and we haven't beaten your record yet.

The '30's moved on, C.C. Camps, unemployment and trouble with the school furnace. If the school furnace at Gleason had been a nuclear plant like 3-mile Island, the world would have been destroyed several years ago! Hardly a week went by without an explosion; and Mr. Summers, well, he looked like "Gleason was the first school to integrate." 1939 ended that decade and ended the football career of the first three Wray boys: Buster, Thomas, and Bob. One of Sam and Bertie's boys had been on every team from the beginning  until 1939.

No one is going to say who was the best football player Gleason ever had; but when they name some of the better ones, "Buster Wray" is always mentioned, as well as, Thomas, Bob and Jug (later in the 40's).

We can't close the 1930's without saying a word about the 1938 boys basketball team of 8 who advanced to the West Tennessee tournament at Whitehaven. . . Aylor, Edwards, Fowler, Bell, Margrave, Wray, McCaleb, and Brooks. It is going to take us 31 years to have a boys team to go farther than the '38 team, and the rules were tougher in those days. Is it true that "Maud" Fowler has to give the Greenfield scorekeeper a facelift or a nose transplant?

And our girls basketball players of the 30's. . . seems like I can remember names like Vinson, Alexander, Hobbs. You girls were some of the very good players and some very good teams.

Well, here comes the 40's and World War II. It wrecked homes, families, ball teams, schools, and lives. But the spunk of Gleason folks prevailed. And how did things go at school? In 1940, we moved across the street from Hamilton Field and began playing football on an 80 yard field just behind the study hall; teams that might be called "Chicken Brawner Era". And 3 of those 4 years were very good years.  There were easy opening games with Murray, Kentucky and Martin. Basketball made progress too. A new pot belly stove was added in the gym, giving us a total of two, and we had hot water one time in the gym, the day the dressing room caught fire.

This caused teams to play at home; the home schedule helped to avoid using too much gas. This made it rough on some nearby schools to the north 45 - 0 and 30 - 0all in the same year. Players began to get mail for the first time; mail that said" "Greetings, You have been drafted!" One draft call took 5 juniors who were starters on the football team of 1942. And even though school was dismissed for cotton picking during the fall of '43 a group of volunteers and one of the finest coaches (Logan) who ever lived kept football going at GHS. Then Christmas 1943 - the coach and a great principal left to join the U.S. Army. Everyone remembered his deep - belly laugh and the clearing of his throat to warn  you he was around.

The 40's moved on. . .  there were direct messages that read. . . The War Department deeply regrets that your son is missing in action and or is a prisoner-of-war. Sometimes the even more dreaded news was the message - killed in action. . .  John Edwards, Jack Parks, Gerald Brooks were all killed in action. Later during the Korean War, Bobby D. Phelps lost his life. Taken as prisoners of war were Randal Bobbitt and Joe Bell.

Then came August 6 and August 9 of 1945, the atomic bomb, and the formal surrender in Tokyo Bay in September. Finally, many of the boys began coming home. The Gleason spunk was aroused again - and quickly! Within six weeks after the war was over, some Gleason folks got busy. They got light poles, somehow secured some heavy wire which was very scarce at that time, and got a few light bulbs; and Gleason played its first home game under lights. The newspapers paid special tribute to Butram Bell, Toby Bell, Claude Steele, "Possum" Trantham and Thomas E. Poyner for their efforts in getting our first lighted field. On the night of Oct. 13, 1945, the new lighted field was officially dedicated as Parks and Edwards Field in memory of Jack Parks and John Edwards. The opponent for the dedication game was Dresden and they came in with 0 points and left the same way while we had 19 points.

Old Gymnasium 1946

We thought things were bad when the dressing room caught fire, but they got worse - with a little help - the old gym fell in, and we had the era of "outdoor basketball".  Yes, they played under the trees out on the tennis court. Breathing the fresh air put a new spirit in our basketball players especially our girls. And as the '50 started, the girls, under Wendell Reed, started a girls basketball dynasty that is still going strong today.

The 1950's marked the beginning of another era. J. T. Moore came to Gleason as Principal in 1952 and directed the Gleason School for 30 years. Few schools have had such strong leadership for so long.

Along with a strong faculty, the Gleason School has been fortunate to have solid representation on the Weakley County School Board with board members like W. I  Reed, Murrell Finch, Buford Wray, and Roy Lee Hodges.

The limited number of courses offered has not been a serious problem because Gleason High graduates have been successful in many fields of work. Class reunions and the annual "Tater Town Special" bring former students back to Gleason and many hold important jobs and positions in the communities where they live.

Gleason High continues to have good football teams and has been in state and conference playoffs and has been invited to special bowl games.

Even though football still has the top spot, many rank the excitement and interest generated by the basketball teams of 1969 as one of Gleason's most memorable achievements. Both boys and girls teams advanced to the state tournament, and the whole town followed both teams.

The 1979-80 school year marked J. T. Moore's final year as principal having served in that capacity since 1952. Vernon Dunn also left that year to assume his job in the Central Office at Dresden after many, many years as an excellent mathematics teacher and assistant principal. Clarence Barham  became the principal upon Mr. Moore's retirement.

In 1980 - 81, the old left-armed school desks saw their last days and were replaced by new more colorful models.

Probably the greatest change in recent years is the new school building which was moved into during the 1982 - 1983 school year. Few communities the size of Gleason have a school plant that will match the facilities at Gleason.

Upon moving into the modern lunch room housed in the new school, the old detached lunch room was concerted to a field house for the Bulldogs.

Although Gleason High School may not be as large or offer as many subjects as some, it has the greatest number of lifelong friends who met in those good ole' carefree days of the past eighty-two years that the public school has existed. This history is written for us to remember, cherish and renew those days, times and friends of the past in this "Homecoming '86" Celebration"

The history of the Gleason community provided in Oakwood-Gleason: A Look Back provides an account of Gleason's history up through the time the book was originally published. As some 20 years have now passed since its publication, Gleason Online is providing a "History Update" feature, for each section of the book, for those wishing to add important historical information relevant to the Gleason community. Contributions can be submitted via E-mail attachment by clicking on the "Website Visitor Comments" graphic, provided above.

I just read the article by Dudley Sanders on the History of Gleason Football. It was very interesting to me as I was part of that football history. I am attaching pictures of the 1940 Gleason High School team. Hope someone will enjoy seeing relics of the past. The articles brought back may memories - Bill Ray
 

Gleason High School 1940 Football Team

Front Row: L to R - Buford Wray - Joe Travis - Jack Parks - Randal Bobbit - Bobby Ethridge - Bill Ray - Billy      Garret

Back Row: L to R - Warren Maddox - Marvin Dillinger - Ben Sawyer - Ralph Brawner - Joe Brown (Coach)

 

 Gleason High School 1940 Football Team

Front Row: L to R - Joe Bobbit - Thomas Almond - Ron Sawyer - Ralph Brawner  - Marvin Dillinger - ? - Coy Fowler - Albert Wainscott - Billy Garret - Alex Edwards

Back Row: L to R - Wilmot Fowler - ? - Randal Bobbit - Bill Ray - ? - Buford Wray - Bobby Ethridge - Warren Maddox - Joe Parks - Joe Travis - Joe Brown (Coach)

 

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