Carolina’s Junction Boys… 50 Years Later
I delivered the following remarks at the 50th Reunion Dinner of The Carolina Junction Boys… held Thursday – April 11, 2019 at UNC’s Finley Golf Course.
A group of former UNC-CH “student-athletes” shared a Life-altering experience in The Spring of 1967. They were not formally “The Junction Boys” 50 years ago. That did not happen until 2004…
Former UNC QB Gayle Bomar used that column to “reunite” his classmates / teammates in an ongoing e-mail communication group that now includes 40+ men.
The Weekend of April 11-14 coincides with Mack2.0’s first Spring Game and 50 years since the Class of 1969 graduated.
Get comfy… it’s kinda long.
On behalf of each of you… I’d like to welcome all of you to tonight’s get-together. We appreciate the time… expense… and interest that each of you are donating to be here this weekend. We hope the Weekend fulfills whatever expectations you have for it.
I’d like to especially recognize the dozen or so of you brought your “daughters” (wives!) with you tonight. That Daddy / Daughter sharing is a nice touch… (Pause for polite laughter…)
I’d like to begin with two “suggestions” for the next few days.
#1 … Take time to walk around campus and Franklin Street. There was more to your four years here than Navy Field and Kenan Stadium. For sure there have been a lot of physical changes in the past 50 years. … to which I say “Look in a mirror … there have been a lot of physical changes there in the past 50 years.”
Ehringhaus Dorm is still intact. Bricks and concrete tend to endure…. The Old Well is older… The Rathskellar fell victim to numerous Dept of Health and Sanitation violations ten years ago… and George Barkley’s Texaco (and George Barkley) are both long gone.
“Dr. Tommy” (Dempsey), you do know that you have a plaque in your honor in Wilson Library? Apparently you and Rusty Clark are the last two UNC “student athletes” to enter Wilson Library for purposes other than (1) to pee… (2) to troll for coeds… or (3) to get out of the rain. You mighta wanna take a selfie with your plaque.
#2 … Make a concerted effort to avoid “politics” in your conversations with those you are reuniting with after half a freakin’ century. The full spectrum of socio-political opinion is represented in this room. We are all the sum total of our individual life experiences and 50 years is a LOT of experiences.
If you feel compelled to violate this suggestion… remember I warned you… instead of cussing Trump or Obama simply insert Carmody or Spooner and no one in this group will be offended.
When I wrote The Carolina Junction Boys back in 2004, I thought everyone knew the origin of that name. Wrong.
In 1954, new Texas A&M football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant put 100 Aggie football players on school buses and took them to a West Texas hell-hole named “Junction, Texas” for a 10-day Survival course to test their love of Football. … Of the 100 that went… 38 “survived – AKA The Junction Boys. The other 62 decided they had greater priorities in Life than “Bear” Bryant-style Football.
I did NOT write that column in 2004 with this reunion in mind. Rather, I simply thought it would be “interesting” for my national audience largely of Baby Boomers sports fans… an inside look at “the sausage factory” of college football circa the late 1960s.
Apparently it was / has been judged so. It is the 3rd most read of my 2,000+ Incredibly Insightful Columns.
#2 is a lurid account of Jimbo & Candi Fisher’s Divorce which found 30,000 new readers when Jimbo moved to aTm.
#1 is “Did Carolina Marry a Stripper?” written at the height of UNC’s Great Unpleasantness following Marvin Austin’s Infamous Tweet and Subsequent Institutional Tumult. That one attracted a LOT of UNC fans and pretty much VERY Anybody But Carolina fan on the planet.
Granted it was a long time ago… but do you recall how all-knowin’ and wise in the ways of the world you were at 33?
“33” was how old Bill Dooley was when he was named Head Coach at UNC in 1966-67.
Other than Lee Haley and Billy Hickman, the rest of Dooley’s Wild Bunch of psychopathic assistants were also only in their early 30s. They had the power to make your life a living hell but, in truth, they were makin’ it up as they went along. Who knew…
A Quick Aside… Do you recall a bulletin board across from Morris Mason’s equipment room? Each week “they” would put up posters of that week’s opponent. There would be head/shoulder pictures of their offensive / defensive starters… who you would be facing that Saturday.
It was either 1967 or ’68… and we were going to play Ara Parseghian’s Notre Dame. They had just played Michigan State in a “Game of The Century”. Playing lowly UNC was NOT “a game of the century” by any stretch of any imagination.
I remember staring at their pictures and remarking to John Lacey… “They don’t have necks…”. They didn’t have necks and many of their names ended in “…ski”. They looked like an AryanBrotherhood Family portrait or mugshots of “C Block” from San Quentin. …We had two guys what weighed 250 and that wasn’t all muscle.
Mr Lacey noted… “This might not be the sort of motivation Coach Dooley intends…” . Indeed!
I’d like to share stories of three young men. I think the relevance to tonight will be obvious.
Neal Reed was an Indiana high school “phenom” in both basketball and baseball in the late 40s. His story coulda been Bobby Plump in Hoosiers. As good as he was in basketball… Neal was really good in baseball. The Yankees were very interested…. talking about a Rizzuto to Reed combo.
Neal Reed’s future in professional baseball was a virtual certainty … but first there was his military commitment.
On his 18th birthday in the Summer of 1950, he enlisted in the Marines. Six weeks of “basic” at Camp Pendleton and he was on a troop transport to Korea… for a “not officially a war”. The high school “phenom” was now a US Marine rifleman.
In December 1950… 18 y/o Neal Reed and 30,000 US and allied troops fought 120,000 Chinese/North Koreans for 17 days in sub-freezing temperatures at The Battle of Chosin Reservoir. One of the 2-3 bloodiest military battles in US military history. A Battle of Attrition… did “we” have more bullets than “the enemy” had soldiers? We did… but the young “phenom” was seriously wounded.
His wound was not permanently disabling for “a normal life” but it ended his athletic dreams. Six months after enlisting… his military and athlete’s career was over. He shifted from athlete to coach…
In 1966 Kentucky’s “Rupp’s Runts” played Texas Western in a landmark NCAA Championship… Those “Runts” including Wildcat legends Pat Riley and Louie Dampier had been recruited by Adolph Rupp’s #1 Assistant – former Indiana “phenom” / former Marine – Neal Reed … … Not a happy ever after ending… Yet.
Hand-picked by Rupp to succeed him as UK’s Head Basketball Coach… Neal fell victim to internal UK athletic dept “office politics”. Passed over… he moved to Los Angeles where he joined John Wooden’s UCLA staff during its 10-year NCAA dominance.
The Universal Deification of John Wooden notwithstanding… all was not as it seemed on the surface in Westwood.
Being on the inside at the pinnacle of College Basketball at Kentucky and UCLA, Coach Reed saw “how the sausage was being made”. The hold-your-nose Situational Ethics reality was not for him. And this was the mid 70s.
But he loved the game of basketball and he loved mentoring to young men. Neal Reed moved to New Orleans where he enjoyed 25+ years of success as a high school coach and mentor to 100s of young men…
Neal Reed – Former Indiana “phenom” … wounded Marine rifleman … Big Time college coach at UK and UCLA … and New Orleans high school coaching legend, now in his late 80s, is retired in Beaumont Texas with his awesome wife – Judy – and quite remarkable children / grandchildren nearby… Life Is Good!
… and VVIP copies of BobLeeSays delivered to “Coach” each week for his enjoyment and comments.
In 2006 Danny Hindman was a legit BMOC at Westfield High School in suburban Indianapolis. 6’5” 220 lb … “Prince Danny” excelled in both Football (WR) and Basketball earning conference and district honors his Jr / Sr years. Big Ten coaches came acallin’. Purdue and IU among others offered schollies… Even “The Butcher of Kenan” had him down to Chapel Hill for a visit. … Big Time College FB beckoned Danny Hindman.
His love of “Football” notwithstanding… he wanted a different college experience. He chose paying his own way to Division III Wheaton College outside Chicago. Wheaton doesn’t offer athletic scholarships but it did offer competitive football and a full “small college” experience.
His four years as WR at Wheaton included Div III playoffs each year AND the teammate / locker room camaraderie he REALLY enjoyed about Football.
Last September, Danny and I sat in the upper deck of Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium with 85,000 Badger faithful. UW’s Camp Randall is considered one of College FB’s “bucket list” experiences. … As 85,000 cheered “their Badgers” I asked Danny…
“Do you ever regret passing on this…?” … The Wheaton Thunder’s McCully Stadium seats “around 5,000”.
He smiled… “Once or twice early on, but I’m very happy with the choices I made…”
Those choices included six of his former Thunder teammates as Groomsmen at his wedding in 2016.
Danny Hindman is now a Presbyterian minister with a campus ministry at The University of Wisconsin… father of The World’s Greatest twin daughters – Call Signs Twinkle & Scooter… an Incredible wife. Oh… and a for-real Internet Legend as a Father-In-Law. … Yaaa Hoooo!
Do you guys recall Joe Brown? Joe was part of UNC Basketball’s freshman class of 1965. His more heralded teammates were Rusty Clark, Bill Bunting and Dick Grubar.
From the small Western NC town of Valdese… Joe, at 6’6″ 215, was “the best there’s ever been in Basketball” around Valdese. He was “in-demand” by area college coaches especially by Dean Smith and Davidson’s Lefty Driesell. Joe chose UNC.
Joe Brown was “good”… “really good” but during his 4-years at UNC… in addition to Clark, Bunting, Grubar there was Bob Lewis, Larry Miller and Charlie Scott. Joe was a member of three ACC Champions and three Final Four teams but always as a reserve.
I asked him recently if he ever “regretted his decision”. He coulda been a star at so many schools.
Joe smiled and replied… “No not a bit. I have great memories of those years and made lifelong friends… It all turned out very well.”
Suppose that Spring of ’67 had never happened. Suppose Jim Hickey had stayed on and UNC Football remained what you signed on for? … Suppose…
Life doesn’t work that way…. Change Anything and You Change Everything.
I leave you with the lesson from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life…
George Bailey had exciting dreams of “seeing the world” and a life of great adventures …but circumstances were otherwise.
George had to stay in Bedford Falls and run the family business. His brother was a war hero… while George ran “a small town savings & loan”. … When Uncle Billy fails to make a bank deposit, George loses the business… even his mundane life is ruined. … He stands on the icy bridge contemplating ending his broken dreams and circumstances.
His Guardian Angel Clarence intervenes showing George how “Wonderful” his life really is… how much he has meant to others… despite it NOT being The Life he envisioned for himself.
The Spring of ’67 changed many of your dreams … Now – 50 years later – I hope you can look back NOT at “What might have been”; but at What Has Been …What IS.
And… like Neal Reed … Danny Hindman … and Joe Brown
Be Happy with The Way It Turned Out.