Draggin’ Main used to be an American teen-age rite of passage, be it in Clovis, New Mexico, or Rosenberg, Texas, or right here in the Shoe. And the Muleshoe Class of ‘69 did their fair share of wasting cheap gasoline making the circle back in the day.
I know this because I just listened to many stories from a variety of grown-up kids about doing just that. Johnny St. Clair invited me to come have lunch and visit with them at the Oneida Wagnon Senior Center today, Saturday, September 21st, the lunch being one of the scheduled activities to celebrate their 50th year as Muleshoe Mules.
The activities began Friday when Magann Rennels conducted a few interviews for Gil Lamb Advertising that afternoon. Then thirty-two classmates ate at the senior class pre-game meal and enjoyed the homecoming game against Brownfield. MISD Assistant Superintendent Dani Heathington provided a bus to carry the group from the Senior Center to the school for the meal and game; not all of them, however, are in this picture. Vicki Street Burch, classmate and English teacher at the high school, gave the group an informal tour of the building, which of course, looked nothing like the school they had graduated from! But the changes all created lots of reminiscing about what it used to look like and what they did there.
Photo courtesy of Howard and Cindy Crane Dale
It wasn’t a large group, but Johnny, Bobby Burge, Larry Calvert, and later Terry Hutton, not a classmate, but husband of one, Druscilla Damron, started Saturday’s activities with a few holes of golf.
At 10:30 people started gathering at the Senior Center to share more memories and stories. Classmates that did not make it to the meal and game last night also showed up, and more friendships were renewed and annuals were passed around to be signed. I was there to listen to stories and take a few pictures and see who among them I might know.
And sure enough, I did know someone-Trevor Ford! I asked if he had any memories he would like to share, and he launched into reliving the road trip he, Johnny St. Clair, and Roger Swint, took about a week after the graduation was held. First stop was Abilene, then to Austin to Barton Creek to see the hippies, and on to Houston where they spent the night in Memorial Park. Then it was three days on the beach in Galveston where Trevor fell asleep in a beach chair and woke up to a spectacular sunburn. From there they went to New Orleans, the only place they stayed in a hotel, and had dinner with Annette Williams Watson’s grandmother. Then it was back to Lake LBJ where they water skied for five days before making their way back home. And the trip only cost them $200 apiece.
And then the draggin’ Main stories came out. Back then the route generally started at the end of Main from American Boulevard heading south, make the turn-around in Vance Wagnon’s meat locker parking lot, back down to American Boulevard, turning left and heading west down to either the Circle Drive-In, or all the way down to Bill’s Drive-In, they would drive around the building and then head back east to start all over again, or perhaps stop to talk in the pig lot-the Piggy Wiggly parking lot. At least this was one of the routes- another involved a loop that crossed the tracks, and I am sure there were other variations. Chinese fire drills were also performed occasionally at one of the six stop lights in town back then. I was told the jet jockeys from Cannon would come over from time to time, join the parade and try to pick up the girls, and I suspect the loud, fast muscle cars of that era were put to the test to chase the interlopers off.
But on some of those trips, devious plots were hatched to add a twist to the night’s activities, like painting Ol’ Pete, also known then as the Glass Ass, a nice shade of lime green. Done in the wee small hours of the night by an enterprising group of senior boys and girls, the job was finished quickly, the group vanished the scene of the crime and then relished viewing the lime green mule in the following days until he was cleaned up. And no one seems to know who that job fell to. Not to the painters, because they got away clean as a whistle. The poor mule also had his nether regions, as it was put to me, painted red one time, and someone gave him a realistic touch by adding a fresh pile of manure in the appropriate position behind him.
I also heard about parties at the sand hills south of town and west of town, but I was sworn to secrecy about who might have been involved this particular event. It seems one night a group went out to the sand hills on Rabbit Road 2, alcoholic beverages were liberally consumed, a vehicle wound up stuck in the sand, and some boys left in another vehicle leaving the girls out there afoot. The girls had no choice but to walk to the highway where a city policeman happen to come by and gathered them up for a trip to the police station. One girl bravely called Mom who came and picked them up. At this girl’s house all the girls called their parents, and I suspect there was Hell to pay when they got home. The teller of this tale said she was in deep trouble since she was supposed to be a someone’s house at a slumber party and her family was traveling to Ruidoso the next day. Her dad was normally a gentle soul, she said, but wasn’t so pleasant about this, and the ride to Ruidoso the next day was anything but pleasant. In today’s world, I am not sure the police would have let them go home quite so easily, but I suspect the parents made up the difference.
Then there was the time the school flag pole was greased with STP, a nice, sticky, gooey engine additive. Trevor Ford was the student council president that year and it was senior day. Seniors came dressed in various costumes, and Trevor had on white pants, a serape, and sombrero when he was called into the office of Principal Tom Jinks, who wasn’t too happy. It seems the flag pole had been climbed, something inappropriate put on top, and then greased with the STP. Mr. Jinks read Trevor the riot act about the desecration the flag pole and gave him the job of cleaning it up. So here he was, white pants and all, cleaning up the gooey mess. Trevor said he never knew who the perpetrator was until now- none other than Tommy Lemons, who just smiled today when he was accused of the crime.
Lindy Kerr Schuster had been class secretary and was in charge of class money. For all these years she diligently held on to their class funds, all $215.37 of it, and had a file cabinet drawer full of bank statements to prove it. She finally grew tired of dealing with it and convinced Johnny that it was time to do something with the money. So today that money was finally spent to help pay for the luncheon meal catered by Leal’s. But if you ever need someone who can be trusted over time, Lindy just might be the person you are looking for.
A typical weekend for this crew might include Friday night football and Saturday night dances at the VFW Hall, many times with live bands and drinks surreptitiously consumed out in their cars. On Sundays after evening church kids would be loaded into someone’s trunk or hatch-back car and slipped into the drive-in movie for free.
I was told about the Owls, a group of girls who were given that name for chanting “Who-Who” at an unsuspecting and innocent boy in school. Annette Williams, Sue Pylant, Vicky Hennison, Vicky Kelly, Debbie Burrows, Kathy Williams, Connie Julian, and perhaps a few others, spent many a slumber party, dance night, and school time together.
When the meal was finished, a group picture was taken before everyone made their way to the Heritage Center for a tour there. With this many people, the shot had to be taken at a distance, so I also did a quick close-up by sections to see everyone’s faces. All except the man in the red shirt in the back, for which I apologize.
As everyone was leaving, the rain was starting, which shortened their chances of see all the structures at the Heritage Center. I was told most people were able to see the Santa Fe Depot and some made it to the Janes Ranch House before the downpour put a stop to the tour.
I went back to the Senior Center at 7 p.m. for the scheduled dance, but instead found three groups leisurely sitting and sharing more stories. The rest of the classmates were still out having supper, so this gave me a chance to listen to more stories myself. Again, names will be withheld to protect the guilty, but the guilty agreed that everyone would probably know who was involved anyway.
Two girl friends decided that as seniors they should skip school at least once before graduating and worked out an elaborate plan to do just that. The school would call the parents of absent kids to check up on them, so the first step of the plan was to wait till both sets of parents were going to be gone for the day. One of the girls just stayed home because her parents left the house very early that day; the other one had to wait till her parents had left so no one would be home to answer the phone, so she went to school, got into the make-up kits in the theatre department, and made herself up to look sick, went to class and gave an Oscar-worthy performance that she was sick and needed to go home. When they said they would call the parents to come pick her up, she whined that they were out of town, so the school had someone take her home, where, much to her surprise, Mom and Dad had not left yet! So the convincing performance continued, the parents left, and she called her friend to say the coast was clear. The friend answered the phone pretending to be the housekeeper or someone, fearing it was school calling, but was finally convinced it was her friend on the phone. The girls got together and dressed up, gloves, hat, the works, and headed for Clovis. The story was going to be that they were models driving through town, but when, they pulled up to park, they had the misfortune of picking a space right next to one of the mom’s best friends! By the time they made it home, Mom knew. Nothing more was said until the next day at school when they heard their names on the intercom and they were called to the office. Mr. Jinks lectured them and seriously told them their misdeed could very well keep them from graduating-which was a week away-and how foolish their behavior had been, and then sent them back to class with their hopes for the future completely crushed. The next day arrived with still no other punishment, and of course they graduated on time. But they weren’t at all sure for a while, punishment enough as planned by the adults.
Before the skipping sting, these same two girls came up with the idea that they needed a school souvenir before they went out into the world and decided on a glazed brick that was losing its grout in the girls’ restroom and would come out of the wall with a little help. It could be used as a doorstop in their room at college. Every time they went in, grout was scraped out with a fingernail file. When it was obvious that was taking too long, one of them slipped in her dad’s large steel file from home that would get the job done quicker. Which would have worked, had English teacher Lucy Faye Smith not come in and caught them hard at work. I don’t know what they wound up with as the souvenir, but it wasn’t that brick.
As seniors, this bunch of kids pulled a lot of pranks, but they weren’t bad kids, just typical teenagers who were inventive, and like most teenagers thought what they were doing was fun. It all seemed like a good idea at the time, right? And we have all had moments like that, haven’t we?
I asked about other teachers they remembered, and this group mentioned Burl Block, the Spanish teacher, Kerry Moore-yes-the same Kerry Moore!-Betty Jennings, Wayland Ethridge, Elizabeth Black, the art teacher, Mr. Stegall, the math teacher, Ruby Lee Kerr who taught English, Eric Smith, who did advanced chemistry and sciences, and Keith Taylor whose woodworking classes made the sets and props for the theatre productions. The consensus was that they all were fortunate to have had these people in their lives.
By 8 o’clock more people had showed up, music was turned on, and a few couples took advantage of it and danced, but the visiting circles never broke up. The visiting going on tells me this was a successful reunion and everyone was still having a good time. I said my goodbyes and made my exit.
I have no idea when the party ended, but I think they all went home with happy memories to tide them over till the next reunion.
Thanks to Johnny St. Clair, Trevor Ford, Vicki Burch, Lindy Schuster, Annette Watson, Cindy Dale, Sheryl Sullivan and all the others who shared stories and helped me with this story.