Summertime is the universal best time of year. When I was young, without the regiment of school and its responsibility, I was free to pursue my favorite things like adventure, friendships and romance. My two best summers were 1974 and 1976.
In '74, RBoy (a loyal reader of my blog) and I got summer jobs at DisneyWorld. From the minute the Greyhound bus dropped us (and our suitcases) off at their employment office, every day down there was filled with great times.
Two years later, in 1976, to celebrate the bi-centennial, I went cross-country. In a combination of riding Greyhounds and hitchhiking, I spent 68 days touring the U. S. and Canada, and even spent an afternoon in Juarez, Mexico. In so doing, I had a continuous flow of positive experiences and met wonderful people.
Interestingly, my brush with greatness, (meeting Dub Jones) is the only event that crossed-over into both summers.
WILLIAM AUGUSTUS "DUB" JONES, WAS BORN ON DECEMBER 29, 1924, IN ARCADIA LOUISIANA. AFTER STARRING AT TULANE, JONES BECAME THE SECOND OVERALL DRAFT CHOICE BY THE CHICAGO CARDINALS. HIS PRO FOOTBALL CAREER STARTED WITH THE MIAMI SEAHAWKS OF THE ALL-AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE IN 1946. HE ALSO PLAYED FOR THE AAFC's, BROOKLYN DODGERS THAT YEAR AND IN 1947 TOO. FROM 1948-1955 HE WAS WITH THE CLEVELAND BROWNS OF THE NFL. IN HIS ONLY ALL-PRO SEASON, (1951), HE SCORED 6 TOUCHDOWNS IN ONE GAME. THIS FEAT HAS ONLY BEEN EQUALLED, BY ERNIE NEVERS AND GAYLE SAYERS.
While working at Disney in '74, RBoy and I became friendly with two girls, (Debra and Dee) from Ruston Louisiana. After the summer, I kept a written correspondence with both of them. Two years later when I told them that I was coming across the country, I was invited to their homes.
I spent my first day in Ruston, at Debra's. Her family owned a farm on the outskirts of town. She and her family gave me full rock-star access to the inner workings of middle-America and the agricultural lifestyle, (the sight of seeing a cow give birth has been permanently etched into my psyche).
The next day was spent in town at Dee's house. She took me sightseeing and my tour included a visit to Grambling University. The highlights were; buying a tee-shirt at the school bookstore and watching their famous marching band rehearse.
Our next stop was to the Louisiana Tech campus. The show stopper there was the athletic director's office, (as a New Yorker, it was a shock to me, that we were able to just stroll into this gentleman's unlocked office). Then it was a bigger surprise to see the room crammed, like a shrine, with Terry Bradshaw memorabilia laying around, unattended.
Back in town, I was taken to former major leaguer Wayne Causey's house...but he wasn't home. To offset my disappointment, we went to the grand opening of a Baskin-Robbins. The corporate giant had refurbished Ruston's decayed train depot and converted it into an 1890's themed ice cream parlor. This was big doings for the little town...and it seemed that "everyone" was there. That notion had to be true because we had to wait several minutes before being served. While I was enjoying my pralines and cream in a sugar cone with one hand, and holding my yellow Baskin-Robbins balloon in the other, Dee asked if I wanted to meet Dub Jones.
When I asked who he was, Dee chuckled, "He's Bert Jones father."
Now Bert Jones--he I heard of. Jones was the star quarterback of the then, Baltimore Colts. I guessed she was running out of local hot-spots so I agreed to meet this guy.
I was taken to a busy lumberyard. Though the beehive of activity, Dee and I were immediately greeted by a mountain of an old man. He was about 6 foot 6 with a cut physique and a hard but friendly, leathery face. Dee introduced me to Mr. Jones. He removed his work gloves to shake my hand and said, "Please, y'all can call me Dub." Simultaneously, his massive, calloused bear-claw felt like it had crushed every knuckle I had.
What was funny about him was his voice. He was not only overly loud, but he really sounded like the cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn. For those of you who aren't aficionados of Warner Brothers cartoons, Foghorn Leghorn was a rooster who was apt to loudly boast of his exaggerated feats.
So when Dee informed him that I was from Brooklyn, he said something to the effect of, "I say boy, did I ever tell you that back in '47, I used to play football for the Brooklyn Dodgers?"
I looked at him and thought; get a load of this bullshit artist. After all, the Brooklyn Dodgers WERE a baseball team. It's a good thing I didn't say what I was thinking--because if you think I can be a wise-guy now, you should have seen me back then.
Two months later when I got back home, I began to tell my father the story. He was like a little kid, "You met Dub Jones! Did you get his autograph? Let me see the pictures!"
I said, "You heard of this crackpot?"
"Crackpot? He was my idol when he played football for the Brooklyn Dodgers."
"You mean baseball, right dad?"
"No" he said. "After the war, there was a football team here and Dub Jones was the greatest. A few years later when he was with the Browns, he scored 6 touchdowns in one game."
I felt like an idiot. And now 31 years later I feel like a bigger moron because I looked up that "old man," Dub Jones on Wikipedia and discovered that in 1976, he was 52...well guess how old I am now.