After being held back for the seventh grade, Gene “enjoyed school pretty good the remainder of my school days.” Sports became a big part of that enjoyment, and Gene “played all sports the school offered.”
He lived about five miles from town, so Buck, his horse, continued to be an important part of his life.
Ferrell: “You said you rode Buck a lot.”
Gene: “Oh, golly. Yeah, that’s how I came to Eustace until Dad let me drive finally.”
Ferrell: “What did you come to Eustace for?”
Gene: “Ball games or anything. Gals would ride him [Buck] while I was in the ballgame,” and Dad chuckled at the memory.
Ferrell: “So you rode him up to town to play football?”
Ferrell: “And then girls would ride while you played football?”
Gene: “Yeah,” chuckling again.
Dad liked to remember those times, when to hear him and his future wife tell it, he was quite the ladies’ man, the “best kisser in town,” Hilda Noble Foster said on many occasions.
Playing football was only part of it, I learned.
Gene: “It was mostly basketball, at night, you know.”
Ferrell: “I guess I really didn’t realize you played much basketball.”
Dad took a long pause and started to be a little confused. I think he meant that during his senior year he didn’t play as much because he and four or five other guys moved to Dallas to work and attend night school.
Then, Gene went back to basketball. “Back then you didn’t score over 30 points hardly. Down at Malakoff we was in a tournament and scored six points in the last quarter. I never will forget that.”
Ferrell: “Who were you playing?”
Gene: “I don’t even remember who we was playing.”
Ferrell: “I bet you can remember the kind of shots you took. . . . For the six points, what kind of shots did you make?
Gene: “Mostly [and he made a shooting motion with his right arm and hand], I was too short to dribble hardly in there. Mostly, what do you call them?”
Ferrell: “Jump shots?”
Gene: “Yeah, jump shots.”
Ferrell: “I bet you banked it off the backboard.”
Gene: “Some of them. Yeah.”
When I was younger he had tried to teach me the importance of banking in a shot off the backboard. It seemed to be his favorite shot. Then, sitting in his recliner in his living room at age 88, he tried to demonstrate his favorite shot, talking about the ball coming to him in the corner of court “over here,” as if the living room were a court. “I could hit them long ones. That was my main shot because I was so short going in.
Ferrell: “So, a corner shot from the left side or the right side?”
Dad pointed to his right. I’m not sure which corner he meant.
Gene played wingback and end in football. At the time, teams commonly ran single-wing and double-wing offenses.
“I had two games that were highlights of my playing career,” Gene wrote. He played on the first Eustace Bulldogs team to beat its rival, the nearby Mabank Panthers. The other big game came against Jesuit High School of Dallas. I grew up hearing stories of this game. Jesuit played big time football with bigger players than the small Eustace team from the country. Gene was about 5½ feet tall and about 140 pounds. Against Jesuit, he caught 16 passes. He talked about how beat-up and sore he was the next day–one of the proudest events of his life.
As for school itself, at the midway point of his senior year, Gene only needed two courses to graduate. He decided to move to Dallas, enrolling at Crozier Tech in order to finish high school with night classes and work during the day.
I asked Dad why he moved in the middle of the year. Why not wait?
Gene: “I don’t know, Son. Cause you could work. We went to night school.”
Ferrell: “Where’d you work during the day?”
Gene: “I started out at Sears & Roebuck. I worked, it seemed like it was two weeks. I couldn’t go to work anywhere else without a birth certificate, so I had to get a birth certificate, and then I went to work at Murray Gin.”
As for finishing his schooling, Crozier Tech was housed in the former Dallas High School Building at 2214 Bryan Street in Dallas. Upon completion of the term and the needed courses, Gene’s Crozier Tech credits transferred to Eustace, where he graduated with the Eustace High class of 1944, the class he had attended school with since the seventh grade.
Dad took the job at Murray Gin before he went into the Army. As a result, he would have a “guaranteed job when I come back there.”
Copyright © 2020 Ferrell Foster