Wilson Gym was named for  the townspeople. Our biggest battle was fighting local kids, who constantly tried to sneak in, or fought to stay in. 

Early on it was used for concerts. College campuses were the scenes of some great shows in the ‘70s. We had the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Earl Scruggs, and the J. Geils Band, and many more. 

It wore thin quickly. Outsiders wrecked our new home. The “Tams” shined their shoes on my new Fred Perry tennis shorts (from my locker) Booze, dope, hell, copulating was commonplace. 

The staff objected, but we were over run. My final straw was the night of the great Eagles show. 

My volleyball class had been assured the gym was ours until the piano player took over at 3:00 pm to tune. As we entered the gym the tour manager said no, the piano player was tuning now, at 1:00 p.m. 

The manager and I argued briefly and he stated, “Man do you realize you are messing with the Eagles?” 

My class applauded my response: “The Eagles can fly in ever diminishing circles until they fly up their own assholes, we are having class.” (A la Paul Newman’s description of the Poona Lagoona bird.) We pushed in. 

***The text is from PLAY IS WHERE LIFE IS (t. parham )


The passage below is from an earlier book i wrote. About the jukebox and me. And Coach Bill Morningstar. ‘Star called recently asking if i wanted the jukebox back? He had it for ten years plus. enjoyed it, but needed the space. “Should I just junk it?” he asked.

It had some problems and Bill didn’t want to mess with it too much. Give me some time I said, And let me see if it is worth fixing.

The internet led me to Thorpe Music Company in Rocky Mount, NC. Jimmy Thorpe said “… I can fix any of them”!

Net result is that I now have the box in our garage. Coach Star had painted it black and it shines. Mr. Thorpe tuned up things up I didn’t know existed, put a new needle in her and drove her to Emerald Isle.

Quite the Dollbaby, Margaret and I are still laughing about this old friend. Bill had more country on it than me. But still a lot of originals. My stuff is rock and roll, starting in 50’s and taking off circa Motown (Supremes, Temptations. Ray Charles plus some olders. Folk, Dylan , Beatles piling in. Later here comes fFleetwood Mac, Bob Segar, Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris, and tons of great 60’s plus classics. Music is quite a hobby and shifting the records around again has been delightful.



The Juke Box

My first job paid $4600 a year in 1964. The only affordable housing I could find was a back room at Mae Hollowell’s Beauty Shop. A plumber named Luther Gott occupied the other rented room. Luther like philosophy aided by ancient age;
        “Sex won’t kill you, but running after it will wear you down.”

Joe Robinson, Carolina tight-end in the 1963 Gator Bowl, was rooming with a Tar Heel family. They charged him $5 a week. Joe and I decided to look for an affordable bachelor’s pad.

I found one. In a new concept for Wilson, North Carolina, Briarcliff Apartments were new and quite nice. My good friend, Jean Peake, suggested I move in with a guy named Phil Nordan. Phil was a liquor salesman.

        We were having a great time, car, Briarcliff, twenty-six years old and coaching. I was  paid            little. Sometimes that bothered me, but mostly I was doing okay.

        Then a bump. Joe got drafted. Phil got married. I was back on the street.

        I moved into all I could afford. Varita Court, downtown Wilson. I slept on a chaise  lounge until Jean heard about me. She sold me two single beds for $12.50 each from  hospital storage. The beds and the jukebox were my only furniture.

        The juke box featured a green light bulb. I located it so I could sit on the fire escape an  throw beer cans at the Shell Station chimney located below me. “Like a Rolling Stone”  was #1, “ A Whiter Shade of Pale”, “Since I Lost My Baby,” “Mr. Tambourine Man” and  other great 60’s music were my roomies. I was lonely. The total utility bill was $3.48 one month.

        I was the only male in the three story building, in apartment “R”. There was an elevator with a stroke-ridden black man named Jesse sitting in it all day. Most of the tenants were widows. They peered out their doors as I put the jukebox on Jesse’s elevator. Jesse giggled.

        Everyone ought to live alone for some period in their lives. It’s not all bad, but I didn’t  like it in Varita Court.

 Excerpt from “Play is Where Life Is”

The jukebox mentioned in this passage was a “god-send” of sorts.

One of the basketball stars was a young man named Larry Jones. Jones was called “Chief” because he was a handsome, “Indian-looking,” 6 foot 5 inch, 210 pound stud from Mt. Olive. I casually mentioned that I would like to find a jukebox. Maybe that would help with my loneliness in Varita Court. Jones said, “I’ll find you a jukebox.”

A week later he said he’d found one. “How much do they want for it?” I asked.

Surprised he asked, “You want to pay for it?!”

We did find one, to buy, for $100 from a black guy named Kay Wooten in Fremont, North Carolina. It was a 1954 AMI Wooden. Not the Wurlitzer Double (?) Circler (?) but it would play. Loud. It was too big to mount in a Corvette, but I do believe that I could have competed with the Wilson “Boom Boxes of 1968”.

I painted it red and kept it throughout my kids’ stay with us. When they left, I sold it to my good friend Bill Morningstar, the golf coach at Elon.  “Star” is a pinhook, he’ll buy anything. Mostly old cars. He painted it black. Macho. And he still has it.

You could rotate 40 records. The list below are some of the AMI Selections of 1968-1988.

1. Like a Rolling Stone-Bob Dylan
2. Cleo’s Mood-Jr. Walker and the All-Stars
3. Whiter Shade of Pale-Procol Harem
4. SInce I Lost My Baby-The Temptations
5. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down-Joan Baez
6. Yesterday-Ray Charles
7. The Weight-Jackie DeShannon
8. Light My Fire-Jose Feliciano
9. Any Day Now-Chuck Jackson
10. Ain’t That Loving You Baby-Jimmy Reed
11. Silver Threads and Golden Needles-
12. Walk On By-Dionne Warwick
13. I’ll Be Doggone-Marvin Gaye
14. Hey Joe-Jimi Hendrix
15. Sweet Baby James-James Taylor
16. Rescue Me-Fontella Bass
17. Baby Love-The Supremes
18. Good Golly Miss Molly-Little Richard
19. Don’t Be Cruel-Elvis Presley
20. Fire Lake-Bob Seger
21. What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am-The Tams
22. Born to Run-Emmylou Harris
23. Get Rhythm-Johnny Cash
24. Get Back-The Beatles
25. Honky Tonk Women-The Rolling Stones
26. I Still Miss Someone-Emmylou Harris
27. He Stopped Loving Her Today-George Jones
28. Knock On Wood-Eddie Floyd
29. Take Out Some Insurance-Jimmy Reed
30. Little Help From My Friends-Joe Cocker
31. Lay, Lady, Lay-Bob Dylan
32. Roll Me Away-Bob Seger
33. Still the Same-Bob Seger
34. Stand By Me-Ben King
35. America-Ray Charles
36. Georgia-Ray Charles
37. Busted-Ray Charles
38. Maybeline-Chuck Berry
39. Somewhere Over the Rainbow-Jerry Lee Lewis
40. I’m Walking-Fats Domino
41. Jim Dandy-Lavern Baker
42. Rave On-Buddy Holly

                                        “Music can save your very soul.”
                                                        -Don McLean, “American Pie”




The movie, GENIUS , is the story of author, Thomas Wolfe and his editor,  Max Perkins of Shribner’s Publishing.

One scene’s set is a speak easy in Harlem.  Wolfe, exasperated at Perkins  lack of vices, finally tries music?

Wolfe:  What kind of music?

After a long pause and thought,   the famous editor ventures  “…well, I like FLOW GENTLY  SWEET AFTON!”  Of course the lyrics of this song are from a poem by  Robert Burns.  Known  widely almost hymn-like.  And done in somber fashion.

Wolfe responds by going to the band’s director, putting a bill in his hand as  requests the song.



My advice to the young ones who love sports like so many of us have is simple: “Just keep pecking away at it”, the core is solid. You have to sandpaper some. Young coaches particularly. And keep learning.
An example of this is a new book that I mentioned on the blog. THE SPORT GENE by Sports Illustrated David Epstein. Any young coach (and most old ones) will glean much from this painstaking look at where elite athletes come from. Nature or Nurture? Genes or hard work? Gladwell’s “ten thousand hours” or Grandpa? I have taken some “nuggets” the book (below) hoping to direct some to this fascinating new source of research and insight into the world of sport.
• Michael Jordan, Muhammed Ali, Michael Phelps, Ursain Bolt, Steffi Graf, Veronica Campbell- Brown, Kenyan (“Kalajins” specifically and VERY interestingly) marathoners, Jamaican runners, pole-vaulters, and many more: HOW DID THEY DO IT? And an update; Kenyan finished in 5 of the top 7 spots in the Boston Marathon—2014. Our “American” winner was actually from a small country neighboring Ethiopia.
• What is the link between pain and emotion in “elite” athletes? How can they “play hurt”?
• Blacks and swimming?
• White men can’t jump? Or white men can’t reach? What makes J.J. Reddick unique in the NBA?
• Tiger Woods and practice with his father.
• Why train runners in Denver.
• Why did the “cattle thieves” have so many children?
Have I stirred your interest enough for you to search out THE SPORT GENE? Trust me on this one. PS: “Men are twice as likely to be left-handed.”
While I’m at it here’s another one worth checking out: DAVID AND GOLIATH by Malcolm Gladwell. This book of course was on the top of the bestseller list for a lengthy period of time. An admitted Gladwell fan (see OUTLIERS, THE TIPPING POINT, BLINK and others) I mention this multi-faceted book for number of reasons. First of all it is a good read with a lot of implications for a lot of areas. But I’m mentioning it here because of its connections and comments on sports. And families.


Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, DAVID AND GOLIATH has an interesting viewpoint regarding one’s choice of instituions for pursuing higher education. He suggests being a
” big fish in a little pond” yields better results than the other way around. Being in the top third of your class breeds esteem, whereas being in the lower third (albeit a third with fine students) often discourages those who are always looking up at those who out-perform them.
I don’t remember a lot said at some 45 commencement speeches I attended.   One statement I do remember was that the best way to become educated America was in good small colleges in America.   Gladwell further acknowledges that even at some of our very best schools, exceptions are made. And often these exceptions are given to athletes. And while many exceptions are given  “…thinking we are doing them a favor”, he suggests maybe the results are not the outcomes we would want.
Having been involved in college athletics for some forty plus years,  Gladwell makes one ask questions, since so many exceptions go to athletes. Are we putting these youngsters into situations they cannot they cannot function or feel positive in?
The real value of athletics lies in the lessons learned therein. Doesn’t the student have to be capable of, and willing to learn the lessons? Choosing the right school seems critical to marginal students and athletes.


UPHEAVAL by Jared Diamond deals with several different nations and crises they confront.  Chapter 9 deals with the USA and asks “What lies ahead for the US?  Strengths, and the biggest problem.”

*Wealth-Geography-Advantages of democracy-Other advantages-Political polarization-Why?  Other polarization.


Below are notes I took for myself as reminders from the text:


  1.  Wealth- size and resources.  2.  Military -10 Nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.  France has the only other.  3. “Wedge shaped” geography and temperate zones for agriculture.  4.  Waterways —shipping by water 10-30 times cheaper.  Rivers plus great lakes.  Plus  Atlantic on one side, Pacific on other is unique, and with barrier islands also to protect us.  4.  Advantages of democracy (Churchill’s quote–worst form of government except for everything else tried.  Citizens can propose, and debate. (Vietnam, Germany/Hitler), Less civil violence.  5. Compromise.  6.  Federal govt. 50 states differ (turning right on red – Calif, assisted suicide, pot, tax rates, ) 7. Citizens control the military.  8.  Limited overt corruption, but covert is bad i.e. the influence of wall street, lobbyists, illegal contributions. 8. Public investment in education, technology, research (half of major top 10 scientific univ in U.S.), Infrastructure. inventions. 11. Immigration.  surprise!  1 of 3 nobel prize winners from U.S. are foreign  born.


“The first, and I feel the most ominous, of fundamental problems now threatening American democracy is our accelerating deteriorating of political COMPROMISE.”

2.  ELECTIONS:  Diamond quote:  “If a country has a constitution or laws specifying democratic government but the country’s citizens don’t or can’t vote, such a country doesn’t deserve to be called a democracy.”

3.  INEQUALITY:  Again, a quote from the book: “Sadly the problem is making itself worse; economic inequality has been increasing, and socio-economic mobility has been decreasing, in the U.S. over the course of recent decades.”

4.  INVESTMENT:  Education/more on prisons.  Declining performance of students.   Working two jobs.

“The result  is that the U.S. is losing its former competitive advantage that rested on an educated workforce, and on science and technology.”

Page 379

QUESTION:  When will the U.S. take its problems seriously?

ANSWER:  When powerful rich Americans begin to feel physically unsafe.





Jared Diamond’s new book (May 2019) deals with crisis.  His chapter on his fears about the United States includes this sentence:

“The first, and I feel the most ominous, of fundamental problems now threatening American democracy is our accelerating deteriorating of political compromise.”




Burt Lancaster as Bob Starbuck in THE RAINMAKER (1956): “…BUT DON’T ASK FOR DELUGE!”

Hurricane Florence got us (Emerald Isle and lots of North Carolina). Luckily we could bolt for Son Dan’s home in Raleigh. Thanks for that.
We went one day to the North Carolina Museum of History. I was unaware of the artist/football star, Ernie Barnes, or his dual status as both. The museum’s exhibit of his artwork stunned me. Native to nearby Durham and a graduate of North Carolina Central University, his work portrayed the time I grew up in small town NC, but of a different culture. As I viewed his large showing of work, it looked vaguely familiar and yet different. It was.
Ernie died at 70, April 1990.
I went to Atlantic Christian College, now Barton College, from 1959-1963. And returned there as a teacher/coach/administrator until 1985. And served in similar roles at Elon College/ now University until 2004. Lots of changes. None more than in the sports world. Integration the most volatile. No football at ACC during my stays. And the only black guys I played against was when we played college basketball against military teams. As an assistant basketball coach, I was proud to help recruit ACC’S first black players–Clifton Earl Black, and Jimmy Jones of nearby Conetoe (pronounced kah nee tah) NC. Great young men. Black broke almost every record we had. Many followed and while I stopped coaching basketball I taught almost all of them. Being a small school you got to know the kids well. Speedy Gainor, Stan Lewter, Lorenzo Jones, George Bell, Richard Battle, Damien Carter, a few of these new friends. As Athletics Director, I knew the girls too–Cindy Wall, Sheila Keel, Annie May Wooten. Good people and players. A kid from Murfreesboro, William Bogues was 5’11” and led the Carolinas Conference in rebounding! Say what? Saw it!
The small town where I went to high school played 6-man football,and, while I loved playing, it didn’t resemble what awaited 25 later at Elon. Almost immediately I supervised the team’s trip to Orlando to play a tough Central Florida team. Many had never flown. The team operated in “herd mentality”. My small tennis teams sort of wandered around wherever.
As I saw these guys and their coaches work, I really appreciated them. Kyle Wills ramrodded the work-study players, a majority of whom were black kids. I watched them in their blue work suits clean the post-game gym with precision.
And as much as I loved those ACC kids, football guys are just different. I never missed a game at home. And they made it a great learning experience. Somebody said John Bradsher became a General in the US Army. I don’t doubt it. Everybody loved Dwayne Clark. I did too and wept at his funeral. Stanly Hairston, Russell Evans, Al Hendricks, Ronnie Purcell, Jeff Slade, Gino McLamb,
Willie Williams, Grady Williamson. Our defensive backs and receivers were often just a little smaller than those at big schools. I marveled at Arketa Banks, and Steve Ferguson. Leo Barker was a super coach and others too many to name.
Over those twenty years we played North Carolina Central University, Barnes alma mata. DR. Leroy Walker always spoke. BIG HOUSE GAINES and I sat together all day at the NAIA BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS in Kansas City in 1976 . The first of 8 games that day began at 11am, the last at 11pm. Coach Gaines and I watched all eight. We ate 3 meals plus at the concession stand. Popcorn, ice cream, pretzels, cokes, hot dogs, candy bars. Coppin State (with Joe Pace) won the NAIA. Big House won the concession contest.
Arthur Ashe was the Jackie Robinson of tennis. He spoke to Elon on PROPOSITION 48 in 1988. For years I have bought every copy of his DAYS OF GRACE I have found. I gave many of these, his most personal perspective of race in America, to those great kids I coached and taught. My thanks to Arthur.
I don’t know how long the Barnes exhibit will remain in Raleigh. I encourage its viewing and study. Mr. Barnes is well known in the art and football world. One book of his history and work is FROM PADS TO PALETTE (By Ernie Barnes). All football. When I finish I am sending my copy to Elon University Football. What a story.

P.S. for fun google 6-man football in Texas. going strong with scores in the 70 point range. I believe Crowell High School has had the best program.
P.S.S. Just purchased the new biography, ASHE, on Arthur Ashe. Into first 200 pages, and so far, so good. tp