A Time Gone By – But Memories Remain

When my dad died, my mom and I moved to the West Texas town of Odessa Texas. For a kid from a school with less than 100 students in all twelve grades, I moved into an 8th grade class with an equal number of students. Had my dad not passed away, I would probably have grown up on the farm. His passing changed my life more than I could ever have imagined.

Odessa was in the heart of the Permian Basin. An oil town surrounded by sage brush and sand dunes. Talk about a culture change. These were the times of Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison, a local Permian Basin talent. But the thing I remember most, about that time, was Tommy’s Drive-In. On Friday nights and Saturdays, we would all pile into a car head to Tommy’s. This was exactly as it was portrayed in American Graffiti. These were the best of times.

You may wonder what this has to do with Panama. Nothing really. Only I recently received an email about a class reunion for the classes 1960-1965 to be held in Irving, Texas on September 13th of 2008. My high school graduating class was 1960. I can only assume that Irving was chosen, instead of Odessa, because most graduates left Odessa and many wound up in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.

Michael Moore created a website documenting Tommy’s Drive-In. I am sure that no one reading Chiriquí Chatter is familiar with Odessa Texas, but I am sure that others lived and grew up in the 50s and 60s and have similar memories of that time and the effect it had on their lives. You might enjoy dropping in th Michael’s site, if only to listen to some of the Roy Orbison’s songs that it contains.

In my senior year, Odessa split Odessa High into two schools, the second was named Permian. You may know Permian because of the movie Friday Night Lights. I had as many friends in PHS as I did in OHS.

The opening photo in this post is of my 1960 year book. It has obviously seen better days, but so have I. Still, the memories contained in this ragged album are some of the happiest memories that I have. I am sure those memories will never fade.

Following is my photo from that yearbook. It tells a great deal about me at that time. It shows that my life hinged around basketball and studies. “C” and “A” team basketball indicate that I was a member of the sophomore and senior basketball teams. I thought I could learn more by playing in a private league my junior year. That was a mistake, but I was able to return and make the senior squad the following year.

I considered being a member of the National Honor Society quite a feat considering my aunt had told me I would find school in Odessa very difficult. She was concerned that my small country school house would not have provided the background I needed. I always enjoyed school, except for English. Writing was something that really was a challenge for me. I guess some challenges are always with us. :)

This was a time of duck tail haircuts and flat top haircuts. I always wanted a flattop, but my hair never wanted to cooperate and as you can see, I compromised into a crew cut.

I always liked technical things and as the photo shows, I thought I wanted to become an electrical engineer. I really don’t know where that direction got altered, but I went on to enter college working for a degree in mathematics.

The following photo was my yearbook basketball photo. I find a couple of things interesting here. One you can see that current basketball shorts have changed a lot. I think most are knee length now. Maybe that is because a seven foot center in very short shorts would not look all that good on TV.

Another thing is that all photos were taken of us shooting a set shot. While we shot mostly jump shots, there were many that used a set shot as well. Today, a player would never get time to get off a set shot. I see the socks were falling down, and you can’t see the shoes, which I know were white Converse. No respectable basketball player would be caught in anything other than Converse.

I don’t know if I will make the reunion or not, but I am giving it some thought. I am glad I received the email from Michael Moore. It caused me to reflect on times gone by that were some of the best times I ever had.

22 thoughts on “A Time Gone By – But Memories Remain

  1. You’re braver than most, sharing high school photos. Last year I attended my fortieth high school reunion. I’d made the twentieth and thirtieth. In spite of what I thought, I had a great time at each of them. The irony of course, was that I was a ‘lost’ person. They couldn’t find me. In spite of my living about five miles from the high school. Luckily, they found my buddy who lived in Rochester, New York, and he gave them my address!

  2. You definitely need to go Don. I went to my 20th and 30th and will probably go the 40th. Even if you meet up with one old friend it will be worth the trip. And I ‘ll bet you are the only there who now lives in Panama. :-)

  3. This is getting really interesting, Don. As you now know from my blog, I have a weakness for the lives of ordinary individuals set against the backdrop of history. Will any more chapters be forthcoming?

    BTW, I LOVE American Graffiti and watch it regularly. Today we watched The Searchers. Not West Texas but supposed to be…

  4. Hi Ron. It could happen. September is a ways off.

    Hi Peter. It was a great time to grow up, and for me, Odessa was also a great place.

  5. Don Ray,

    I haven’t been to Odessa, but I’ve certainly heard of it over the years. There were people from that area at the University of Oklahoma when I was there (one from Monahans).

    My wife got the farthest traveled at her 35th reunion since we were on home leave from Indonesia. Perhaps you’ll be the one from farthest away if you go.

    I missed my 20th & 30th reunions because of living overseas and getting lost even though one of my classmates knew (but likely forgot) how to contact my parents. Maybe we’ll have a 35th this summer, but I’m not holding my breath.

  6. Hi Tuxi. I played several basketball games in Monahans.

    They are holding it in a good place. Since both of my kids and all the grandkids are in Texas, I have more than one excuse to go.

  7. Don Ray:
    Are you a reader of Larry McMurtry? I think you’d love his memoir Walter Benjamin at the Diary Queen, Reflections on 60 and Beyond. It is about Archer City, Texas.

  8. Hi Tom. No, but I will check him out.

    I just looked, and while I didn’t recognize the name, I know all of his works. I haven’t read them, but I have seen most in the movies. Lonesome Dove was one of my favorites. I will have to look for the one you recommended.

  9. He is a great story teller in all of his novels, but “Walter Benjamin” fits into your background perfectly. You’ll probably be shedding some more tears. :)

  10. Definitely try to attend your Class Reunion. It’s always good to meet old classmates and update information on one and all. And as you’ve pointed out, it’s also another reason to visit family and friends in Texas. Thanks for sharing with us more about you and your years in high school.

  11. Tom recommended good reading choices. Also by Larry McMurtry of interest to Texans: In a Narrow Grave and Still Wild. He is prolific, but I like his Texas books best. I, too, grew up Texas (Beeville) and went to my 35, 40 and 50th reunions. There is something special about each of them. I hope you will attend and let us know all about it.

    P.S. Love the Tommy’s Drive Inn site. Thanks.

  12. I totally remember you telling stories of Tommy’s Drive In and wishing I’d grown up in the 50’s. Go to the reunion…I know a great place you can stay that’s only a 3 hour drive!

    Oh, and the shorts…dad, really!

  13. McMurtry grew up in Archer City which is just south of Wichita Falls. It is a typical farming community where when the young folks graduate they go to Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, Oklahoma City or some other large city. He has bought several old buildings and has stocked them with all sorts of books. People from all over come to Archer City to buy books. McMurtry’s first movie, The Last Picture Show, was filmed in and around Archer City and Wichita Falls. The movie captures the essence of the time period. Did you know McMurtry wrote the novel which went on to be made into the movie, Hud, starring Paul Newman?

  14. Hi Don,

    I found your pic in my 59 ohs annual. I was a junior that year too but didn’t graduate.

    I did go to tommys about every night though. When I first went there it was Frank Greens then tommy bought it. We just hung out there looking for friends and whatever else that came up. Kinda like aimless youth I guess. We had a good time though.

    I found Michael Moore’s site about Tommys and Odessa. I left in 59 for the Navy. After the navy I came back for about a year but Things had changed and I had too I guess so I went to Houston. I am in Shepherd Tx just north of Houston now. Guess I’ll stay here.

    I sometimes think a lot about Odessa and all the people I knew and wonder what happened to them.

    Mike writes ab out Carlton Trigg. I knew him well. He and I were good friends. I found Neil Eppingers obituary yesterday. I really liked Neil and would have like to have seen him again. Just couldn’t find him.

    I did find Earl Camp last year. He is living in California. He doesn’t go by Buddy anymore. i9 tyalk to him regularly. Joe Cook is still in Odessa and has a good business there.

    Take care and like your story.

    Bill Philpott

  15. Hi Bill. I pulled out my 59 annual and found your photo. I recognize your photo. I don’t know if we are unique, but UHS brings back a lot of great memories to me.

    I had forgotten about it being Frank Greens, but that rings a bell too. I remember going to another drive-in also, but the name fails me. I also remember eating many bar-b-que sandwiches at Underwood’s bar-b-que. When I went to Bowie Jr. High, I would go there often for lunch.

    I appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment. Any plans on going to the reunion?

  16. Just curious if anyone from this 60’s time remembers a family by the name of Kvale?

  17. Hello Don Ray,

    I don’t remember a lot about yesteryear, but I do remember a miniature golf date I had with you FIFTY years ago.

    You were such a nice boy, and it’s a sweet memory that I cherish.

    Jannifer

  18. Hello Jannifer. It is always nice to hear a voice from the past. I hope life is treating you well. Look for me on Facebook and lets catch up.

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