its seventy-five years as an accredited high school, Saltillo
fielded a football team only one year. The year was 1945, the year I enrolled
there as a ninth-grader. The Japanese had just surrendered unconditionally a week
or so before our term began. |
War II veterans were returning, eager to resume their civilian lives. Guy
McGill, who served as superintendent during the war years, and several returning
veterans began working to organize the first football team at the school. However,
the school’s meager budget hardly provided enough money for the equipment the
team would need. As it happened, McGill learned that the school at Talco
was buying new uniforms for their team. The superintendent there offered the old
uniforms to Saltillo at a bargain
price. The deal was made, and the Saltillo Lions soon began practicing.
McGill, who had taken a leave of absence from his teaching job, came back to the
school each weekday after school to coach the team. He played on the varsity team
at East Texas State Teachers College (now Texas A & M University-Commerce) fifteen
years before. Two or three men from the community volunteered to help McGill.
The flat prairie land north of the school building was ideal for a football
field. The problem was that it was overgrown with weeds. One afternoon McGill
required every boy in the ninth grade and in the grades above that to report to
the field. He ordered us to form a line and then march forward one hundred yards,
pulling every weed that grew in the field. I did my share, though I was somewhat
resentful at being called on, since at eighty-five pounds I myself was no football
After a short practice period, McGill arranged a game with the
Winnsboro Red Raiders on their
field. The Saltillo team went
by bus on a weekday afternoon. None of the other students had a chance to watch
our team in its first appearance. Of course, Winnsboro’s
team, representing a school more than twice as large as ours, won handily.
week or so later the football team from Cumby High School came to play on the
new field at Saltillo. There
were no bleachers; a few fans drove their cars to the edge of the field and parked
their cars with the hoods facing it. Some sat on the front fenders during the
game, but most of us stood on the sidelines. Some of the Cumby students exchanged
insults with students from Saltillo.
I cannot recall which team won the game.
There was considerable optimism
for a few weeks among the students and the townspeople. There was even talk of
a marching band that would perform at the games.
But fate intervened,
and the football equipment was destroyed in a fire when the gymnasium burned to
the ground. Basketball resumed its former prominent place as the sport that encouraged
the most athletic students, boys and girls, to compete with the other high schools
in the county.
shoe horses, don't they?"
Guest Column, February 21, 2011
Columns by Robert G. Cowser