Friday Night Lights – Dating Sandy Martin was Friday Night Lights at the Church of Texas High School Football, followed by Saturday afternoon at Galveston Beach, and/or Saturday night at the Gulf Freeway Drive-in. Sam Rayburn’s football team had grown into its own over the first three years of the school’s history. Finishing dead last in 1964, they struggled through the 1965 season with only four wins and a tie; but 1966 brought Travis Jaeger into the position of starting quarterback and Joe de Leon continued has a star wide receiver. The Texans’ offense was small and very fast and more than made up for a mediocre defense. After a heartbreaking 20-21 loss to the #1 state ranked team from Baytown, the “Baby Beef” Texans won every game by an average margin of seventeen points. Galena Park upset Baytown in their last game of the season, and Rayburn was scheduled to face the last place team from Pasadena High for their final triumph. Our district championship would be a tie and the final outcome determined by total net offense. Sam Rayburn needed to win by at least thirteen to win the district so the question was not if the Texans could win, but by how many points.
Sandy and I sat in the stadium packed with nearly 10,000 rabid Texas High School football fans and witnessed not a triumph but a tragedy. After a quick Texan touchdown drive to open the game, Pasadena’s defense played their hearts out. Joe deLeon was injured in the first quarter and Travis injured his throwing hand on the same play. There were interceptions, fumbles and long runs on punt returns; but no one scored anything until the second half when the Texan running back dropped the ball on the ten yard line and a fat Pasadena lineman scooped up the fumble and waddled into the end zone. Pasadena missed the extra point so the score stood 7-6 Rayburn.
With only seven minutes left to play, Travis and the Texans needed to put another fourteen points on the scoreboard. The next drive resulted in a long missed field goal and Pasadena took possession on their 32 yard line with five minutes remaining. Four plays later Rayburn’s punt return put the ball on Pasadena’s seven yard line. A quick touchdown and we’d still have time to win the district, but noooooo!!! Travis was blind-sided throwing a short screen pass; Pasadena intercepted and took the ball out to mid field.
Three long minutes passed and against all odds the Pasadena kicker set up for a 45 yard field goal. We lost the game 9-7 and lost the district with a ten and two record.
The Drive-in – The drive-in theater was the creation of chemical company magnate Richard M. Hollingshead in 1932. He applied, for a patent of his invention, and in 1933 he was given U.S. Patent 1,909,537. Hollingshead's drive-in opened in June of 1933, in Pennsauken, New Jersey. It offered 400 slots and a 40 by 50 ft screen. He advertised with the slogan, "The whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are."
By the early 1960s there were 4,000 drive-ins across America. For a couple of bucks a whole family could watch a movie, but the real customer gold mine were teenagers who found drive-ins ideal for dates. In the late fifties, Bible thumpers were tagging drive-ins as immoral "passion pits" and with their headlines already written American media took up the crusade.
By the time that Sandy Martin and I were steaming up the windows of my Chevy and wrestling with her girdle at the Pasadena Drive-in, a police cruiser roved around the lot. Not that police were required to protect Sandy’s virtue, the combination of her girdle and pantyhose were more than adequate for the task at hand.
The only movie I can remember from all those Saturday night forays was Michael Caine and Shelley Winters in Alfie. Sandy loved the Burt Bacharach title song and insisted that we watch the flick before we started fooling around in the back seat. I should have paid more attention to the film because it was a weird preview of the next ten years of my life.
Monterrey and Sandy’s Amethyst – “Mac” kept building up vacation days at work and with Mom working at Sears we had extra money so we decided take a short trip to Mexico over Thanksgiving holiday. As I remember our trip took us south through Corpus Christi, the King Ranch and Reynosa to Monterrey. While Rick and the folks explored the tourist spots, I was allowed to wander the streets on my own. Riding the noisy buses I hooked up with a young Mestizo gal named Isabella from Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León. She spoke pretty good English and became my impromptu guide to Mexico beyond the museums and tourist trap hotels. She introduced me to my first real tacos, enchiladas and mole and helped me buy an Amethyst pendant for Sandy’s Christmas/birthday present.
Altogether we spent two afternoons and early evenings together and when Isabella picked up a book at a stall in the open air market place, I bought it for her as a token of gratitude. That evening we went to a hole in the wall restaurant for a quick snack and came close to finding trouble. Six or eight tough looking guys sat drinking beer and playing cards and chess at two tables in one corner of the place. We’d just sat down and ordered, when one of these rough customers snarled something in Spanish that was clearly an insult directed at us. Isabella made a short reply and told me we should leave.
As we stood up a huge black man who was playing chess snapped at the tough guy and then apologized to Isabella and invited us to stay. With my limited Spanish I picked up barrachos, perdone, por favor, quedarse, gustarle, and comida, and when we sat down I made a show of ordering beer for the whole crew, “Cervesa por los hombres por favor.”
Before our meal arrived we were invited to join the men and the huge black man, Caesar, offered a game of chess. With Isabella serving as our translator, we played, drank beer and ate for over an hour. They turned out to be hard core Marxist union men and I learned more about Mexico at that table than I’d ever imagined. Everyone was smiling and shaking hands as we bid them, “Buenos tardes,” and Caesar laughed and added, “Recordar lo que vi aprender la raza.”
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