Single in 1965 I never cooked. Married in 2021 –still can’t. When my roommates Joe Robinson and Phil Nordan and I got off work someone would eventually say “lets go eat”! Next would be “where do you want to go?” Then ” I don’t care Anywhere is fine with me.” Then, “me either”. Next–“…nah–i don’t want to go to parkers.” Followed by 6 or so suggestions and rejections. Then we’d go to THE GOLD WEED.

Several of the high school football coaches would often be there and football was often the topic. Lesley Farris was the owner and would join us. One of the Coaches told Lesley not to tell them how to coach the team and they wouldn’t tell him how to ccok the beans.

This isolation period reminds me of those days. What to eat tonight? Bless my bride, Margaret . She has been a trouper. My five year old grandson on his checklist admitted “… I didn’t do too well on vegetables1” Me either James.

So after this morning’s “what are we going to eat tonight?”Followed by several personal staples (bean salad, rice, mac and cheese, burgers, spaghetti) were culled) I offered “… anything, but don’t ever put a goddamned brussell sprout in front of me again.”

That’s when the pan hit me.

Hang on –the vaccinations are working.


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”




Rocky Covington didn’t come from a big family.   Actually he was an only child and a bit of a “late arrival “ at that.  He looked like his dad.  Who, like Rocky, was a tall good looking man with a southern gentleman’s demeanor.  He did possess a salty side and would take a drink.  Most often with Mac Adam’s Father.  Mac and Rocky were cast together pre-teen and remained lifetime friendship.  Mac was with Rocky at the onset of his fatal illness recently.  For years both delighted in telling tales on their Father’s shenanigans.

Once on a “fishing  trip” the 10 year old sons  were asked along.  Rocky said about noon the Fathers’ left to “go pick up some lunch”.   Left to fish at the local county fishing pond, the boys initially pretended they knew how to catch the proverbial big bass.  Or a bream. or a Catfish, or a Goldfish.  Not so, and they then played on the banks till nearly dark.  Now concerned they sat and waited.  Eventually here come the Dads in an altered state (3/4 crocked). 

Riding home the grownups remembered they had to provide their bounty of fish for the evening meal.   They headed to the local fish market and “silver hooked” some  fish  {“ Hey Ed, just give anything you got left”. )

During the meal, thinking maybe they’d pulled it off, Rocky’s Mom asked “…just explain to us how you caught these flounder in Miller’s pond???

Mr. Covington was at a lot of our games.  We often laughed at each other.  Once I took a younger date to the game and was about to pass him in the lobby.  He said ,”Hello, Coach.  My- your daughter is a lovely young lady!”

Bobby Gilmore was Rocky’s college roommate and teammate, and friend of all their adulthood.  He was from the same town where my dad was  the Baptist minister.  Alma Gilmore brought all six Gilmore kids every Sunday.  Early on I knew Bobby was a player.  His favorite early tale is about my Mom getting a speeding ticket going to Southern Pines for a high school basketball game i was playing in:   “Hurry, Mrs. Parham, it’s about time for the game to begin!”  Oops, red-light.

Bobby told this story every time Rocky hosted us at North Myrtle Beach.

Which was two or three times a year, for many years. 

We told the same stories over and over.  Rocky, Bobby, me and Larry Schwab hardly ever missed the “Rocky conventions”.  Sandy treated us like kings. Pud Hassell brought Alton Hill several times.  George Owens, Nick Serba, Danny Thompson, Lee Laughlin, Wayne Norris were teammates at  Atlantic Christian College in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  They came occasionally.  Norris was a younger teammate whose status became like a meteor rise on his first visit.  Wayne played on the second freshman team  I coached.  On one of our golfing “attempts” Wayne loaded my golf bag into a cart with him.  From then till now Wayne has watched over me like a son.  He did impress me on the back nine.  At the turn he politely asked. “Coach, do you mind if I have beer”.  In a few minutes he appeared with two six-packs.  I thanked him for buying beer for everyone!  “Well, no—I brought them another bag.”  I counted 9 empties he had consumed in our golf cart on #18.  Stopping to eat Wayne ordered 3 double Jack Daniels cocktails.  Then, properly oiled up, it happened.  Wayne told the “monkey story”. It is our all time tale, but no one can tell it like Wayne and I won’t attempt to.

Our table of six was told to calm down the laughter or leave.

Wives came often.  Ann Barbour Schwab got our attention when Larry told us she “gave my dog away while I was here last time!”  Larry was a good guy and funny.  And he was wide open when paired with Rocky and Bird Gilmore on Friday night.

One Saturday morning I wrote in the condominium guest book:  “Larry Schwab made DOUBLE DIAMOND LAST NIGHT!”  A Navy vet, Larry was famous on campus for taking a knife away from an enraged and drunk student who was threatening to slice up the dean of men.

Coach Ira Norfolk sent me to Rockingham to see Rocky’s teammate, Greg Whitman.  Whitman went to Western Carolina, but Rocky was discovered and offered  a grant.

Norfolk roomed Bobby with Rocky.  It was a strange time, with Vietnam, integration, drugs, “the 60’s” mentality contrasting with the marine lifer, Norfolk— demanding a war like mentality of his players.  No jeans, military haircuts, the five man weave, “ defense is from the heart”.

I coached these varsity guys only one time.  When I announced to the team that their coach had badly ruptured his achilles tendon, and “come up lame”, guard Ed Carraway deadpanned: “Shoot him” . I  had forgotten that Bobby Gilmore had gone to a funeral and I drove him to UNC-Wilmington in my Corvette.  Our guys wound up tied at the game’s near end and we had possession.  I called a time out (my first coaching move of the game) and began to  draw up  a play on my clipboard.  Larry Jones put his hand on my pencil and said, “You got six offensive men on your diagram!”  Stunned,  I listened to Clyde (Stallsmith) say, “Its okay Tom, we know what to do”.  And they did it.  My 1-0 college varsity win percentage record can never be broken.

Our convention agenda rarely changed:  Check in at Rocky’s Friday noon or a little  later.  Snacks, drinks, and tale telling begins.  About 7 we are on to Rossi’s  restaurant.  “Mr. Covington how are you?”  Same everywhere in Myrtle Beach area.  Then the onslaught.  3 or 4 drinks, an appetizer  tray that really could have ended the eating.  But didn’t.  Friday nights were howl night and more tales there remain untold.  Saturday began at the Pancake House.  No matter who came along, our host of big appetites, Mr. Covington wowed them with his breakfast in take.

On to golf.  Once in a while Rocky’s mentor and great friend, Paul Miller, would play with us.  Paul, a member of North Carolina’s Sports Hall of Fame, could play everything (he did in high school, followed by quarterbacking at UNC.)   Rocky didn’t seem to me early on to be a natural at golf.  A year later though, he was much better.  The next year, hey—he gets it!  I shouldn’t have been surprised.  Perhaps his dominate characteristic has been dogged persistence.  Why not golf full bore!  Lessons, lots of practice, volume of play, great equipment.  One of  the toughest shots —under 100yds wedges soon awed me. 

I shouldn’t have been surprised in the least and it began after his sophomore year.  I had been lifting weights regularly.  Sheepishly he approached me and asked about helping him get stronger.  I agreed and showed him some workouts and lifts that I was guessing he could profit by.  Honestly I had been impressed with Rocky as a young naive southern kid who was scared to death of Norfolk.  Many were. Me too.  Jones wasn’t. Stallsmith nor Carraway cowered .  Gilmore did everything right anyway.  I hadn’t really seen the heart of Rocky.  Pretty soon everyone noticed.  He bulked up and bumped heads.  From there on out, combining training and some work on basketball skills, he was a double figured, tough small forward who held his own on a fine team that won 34 of 39 games at home.  This may have been the hey day period for the Carolinas Conference basketball.  Integration brought Henry Logan.  Michael before Michael.! Gene Littles, Dwight Durante, M.L. Carr, Bob Kauffman, World B. Free.  Henry Logan’s record breaking 60 point night against us, was always revisited.  42 points in the second half.  Nick Serba:  Did he DUNK THAT?  Stallsmith:  Yea, he dunked it.”

One other venue drew me closer  to Rocky and Bobby.  We all went to New York one summer to work and hopefully play summer league basketball.  Bob Paroli was Headmaster at NEW YORK MILITARY ACADEMY and he hired me, bringing also Gary McMahan and Richard Swanker from the college.  NYMA was located near the city.  We brought in  guest speakers such as Bill Bradley, KC Jones, Norm Sloan, etc.  There were 370 inner city kids, yankees to the  core. NYMA incidentally was the school Donald Trump went to and said he’d received military training comparable to John McCain.  We did have one water fight.  We played basketball for the FELLACHELLO’S PIPERS.  BIG JOHN FELLACHELLO was a plumber and we had a lead pipe wrench on our shirts.

 KC Jones died last week.   I had  hosted him in New York and took him to the bank to cash a check.  He played in the pickup game following his speech (ask me about that classic), and almost tore Gilmore’s head off with a no-look pass.  Lots of tales came back from NYMA.  We were glad to get back to NC.  Yet we learned a lot. 

And I haven’t even started on Larry Jones stories.  Bobby and Rocky were best at Jones tales. The toughest was the wreck.

We’d stay on the balcony  and watch the girls (Rocky’s binoculars) and the sun go down. Pizza and tv games.  Gilmore  a State fan, a Democrat, Rocky -Carolina and GOP.

Back to Rocky, 150 lbs , and ready to go home.  Paul said “you gave him confidence”.  We began to talk in the weight room:  Coach, what do I do about acne ?  I’ll call Dr Gloria Graham.  What should I major in?   Pete’s a helluva guy isn’t he?

Persistence?  He took it to another level.  Academically he was our first Academic All American.  He was Class President,  Later he told BB&T to shove it and showed them last month’s check for 15 grand.  Paul will tell you legendary stories about his professional life.  Rocky almost died and fought back with TWENTY surgeries and rehabs that were cruel.  He had big appetites,  and was an American and religious with the same zeal.  Ask Paul.

I  could type out 100 favorite stories we spun over and over. If you see one below that your are curious about call me or Bird.  Better still I’ll list a few and the best ones to tell them.

  1. The Monkey-  Wayne Norris
  2. Ronnie spills Daddy Ira in mud at ECU—Bobby or Scooter Griffin.    Bernie Capps.  Me and Bobby.
  3.  Bernie Capps.  Me and Bobby.The Sig Eps—Eddie Gwaltney and/or Gary McMahan
  4. Raleigh nites and citizen-band girl chasing—Watson Hale
  5. Which party was he talking about?  George Owens.
  6. Don’t hit me baby, cause I feel bad.  Gilmore
  7. Alton wins the 220.  Bird.
  8. Scooter’s car.  Scooter
  9. Jones and Henry Logan —Bobby
  10. The Guilford game.  Russell Rawlings or CJ Holliday.
  11. Jones —Will he dunk it?  Russell Rawling
  12.   Jones and the juke box—Parham
  13.  The Sig Eps—Eddie Gwaltney and/or Gary McMahan
  14. Raleigh nites and citizen-band girl chasing—Watson Hale
  15. Which party was he talking about?  George Owens.
  16. Don’t hit me baby, cause I feel bad.  Gilmore
  17. Alton wins the 220.  Bird.
  18. Scooter’s car.  Scooter
  19. Jones and Henry Logan —Bobby
  20. The Guilford game.  Russell Rawlings or CJ Holliday.
  21. Jones —Will he dunk it?  Russell Rawlings
  22.   David Worthington —Parham, George Owens
  23. 23.Stallsmith and time clock and false double fouls.  Parham
  24. 24.The highlight film. TP
  25. 5.  The New York night prowler—Gilmore


  Alton’s knee. Bird

  1and1/2 vs Lenior Rhyne. Bird

Schwab wrecks the van. Bird

  The shoot out at Appalachian.  Parham  Yankees baseball.   Mickey Mantle.  Baseball cards.  Bobby.

  IRA tales.   Dorm doused.   Bird

  Collapsed crutch.  Again—Bird

.  Cliff and James.  “”  “

  Norbie, Pfohl and Hemby—Herb Monson, and Boom Box tale.  tp

Okay—Rocky had very little biological family.  But he had families of friends.  His professional family is one of the most impressive of any individual business.  Truly a family.  (Paul Miller: “He was a rock star and influenced thousands.)

His Sig Ep fraternity was a fine family of good kids. Rockingham was a family. Sports were a family.  His religion was certainly a family.  Atlantic Christian College, now Barton College was as near to his  heart as family.  One  he supported generously.  i like to think these families were much like the grouping concept of his business.  He was the patriarch of a large group of family like groupings.  One  was our gang.

He made a family of college mates and teammates.  He worked at it.  He always worked at it.

Well done.        Coach


‘Small, Special and Family’ – Barton Celebrates 90-Year Affiliation With Conference Carolinas


Story Links

WILSON, N.C. – As the only remaining original member of Conference Carolinas, Barton College serves as the shining beacon on the athletic hill as the league celebrates its 90-year anniversary on Dec. 6, 2020.

Founded as Atlantic Christian College in 1902, the school did not field an intercollegiate sports team for the first five years of its existence. Then in 1907, a rag-tag group of baseball student-athletes, under the auspices of first-year coach James (J.J.) Walker, became the first team to represent the college on the athletic field of competition.  

In what amounted to a half cup of coffee, Atlantic Christian posted a 0-2 season record. So much for grand openings.    

Yet, the school continued to add sports to its modest athletic program over the next two decades, including men’s basketball (1914), football (1920), boxing and men’s tennis (1928).

According to unofficial sports historian C.J. Holliday, the football team unveiled a first-ever Bulldog mascot in 1928. Named “Mutt,” it should be noted that the dog was not an English Bulldog full breed but, indeed, a mutt.

Then at the height of the Great Depression, the school joined its first-and only-athletic conference. Atlantic Christian College President Howard Stevens Hilley, a Rhodes scholar and Oxford graduate who would preside over the college for 29 years (1920-49), attended a meeting of school Presidents from Appalachian State, Catawba, Guilford, Elon, High Point and Lenoir-Rhyne at the Washington Duke Hotel in Durham, N.C. on Dec. 6, 1930. When the meeting adjourned, the North State Intercollegiate Conference (the forerunner to Conference Carolinas) was born.

For Barton College (renamed in 1990), it’s a marriage that has lasted 90 years. To put that into proper perspective, Duke and North Carolina have belonged to the Atlantic Coast Conference for 67 years (ACC was founded on May 8, 1953), while South Carolina accepted the invitation to join the Southeastern Conference on Sept. 25, 1990.

Beyond being the elder statesmen of Conference Carolinas, Barton continues to thrive in league competition. The Bulldogs captured the conference’s coveted Joby Hawn All-Sports Cup three straight years from 2002-03 through 2004-05, and claimed national championships in tennis (1979 and 1984 NAIA) and men’s basketball (2007 NCAA Division II).

A church-affiliated school with an enrollment of 1,200, former four-time NAIA Tennis Coach of the Year Tom Parham credits the school’s athletic prowess and longevity to two words: humility and pride.

We are such a small school with a limited budget compared to many of the other programs,” said Parham, who steered Barton to a pair of NAIA National Championships and 11 consecutive conference crowns during his tenure (1964-83). “Wilson was a nice little tobacco town filled with teachers and preachers. Not a lot of big money folks. But we still managed to be successful. It was the quality people at Barton that made the difference.”  

Parham, who also served as Barton’s athletic director from 1983-85, was the architect behind the school’s first national championship in any sport when his 1979 men’s tennis team ran the table in the NAIA Tournament.

In many ways, that national title opened the door for many Barton athletic teams to bust down barriers and flourish.

I think we made a real statement to the other sports on campus,” said Parham. “We showed our kids that you can be as good as anybody in America. Of all the legacies I left at Barton, this one is the one I’m most proud of.”

And unlike most college tennis programs, that 1979 squad was composed primarily of American-born players. One of those student-athletes was Tom Morris, a two-time All-American and the No. 1 singles player for the Bulldogs for four straight seasons.  

Morris, who was inducted into the North Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame in 2010, later enjoyed a sterling coaching career. He was a four-time Conference Carolinas Coach of the Year in leading Barton’s men’s team to six conference championships and women’s squad to four league crowns. He later coached East Carolina’s women’s tennis team to the most victories (320) in school history over 22 seasons and also guided the men’s team for the Pirates to 68 wins in six years.

Parham said Barton’s culture in athletics began to turn in the early 1970’s with the hiring of David Atkins as Athletic Director in 1972.

We were overmatched for a long period of time,” said the legendary tennis coach. “I think we were eighth out of the eight conference teams in overall sports success for 20 straight years. We went through the tough Vietnam era, where our previous Athletic Director wouldn’t let the student-athletes wear long hair or even jeans. When Atkins came in, he supported women’s athletics and the recruiting of minority and international athletes to the school. Before long, we went from eighth to first in the conference.”

Barton, which has held the mantle of last surviving charter member of Conference Carolinas for the past 31 years when Catawba departed in 1989, also benefited greatly from the unswerving leadership of former Athletic Director Gary Hall, who assumed the reins the same year Catawba left the conference. Hall is  the longest-tenured AD in school history (1989-2015) and still holds the title of Emeritus Athletic Director.

Also serving as chair of the physical education department and head men’s soccer coach, Hall oversaw the expansion of intercollegiate sports from nine to 23 (including cheer and dance) that are offered today. His experience at Barton actually started in 1978 when he enrolled as a student, so he has been a keen observer of the growth of Bulldogs athletics for 42 years.

One of the real pivotal moments at Barton was when we and Conference Carolinas changed our affiliation from NAIA to NCAA Division II in 1995,” said Hall. “I was chairing the league’s AD Committee at the time and I’m very proud of the fact that all of the schools wanted to move as a unit because it was in our best interest to seek Division II affiliation.”

Hall harkens back to the 2002-05 period as a seminal time in Barton’s athletic history.

Years earlier, we decided that we wanted to be competitively successful, not only gender equitable but sport equitable across the board,” he added. “We set the goal of winning the conference’s all-sports award. When we won the Hawn Cup three years in a row, I remember us taking a photo in front of the Bell Tower on campus featuring all our student-athletes, support staff and coaches. That photo became a banner that hung in the gymnasium for quite some time. It was very rewarding because everyone pulled for each other, fulfilling a very unifying goal.”

Hall credits coaching continuity as key to consistent success for Barton’s sports programs.

Another goal that emerged significantly during those years was finding stability in head coaching positions,” said Hall. “We began to have people serve for longer periods of time. They stayed and produced results. And we hired and retained good support staff as well.”

The other catalyst for Barton was when its men’s basketball team won the 2007 NCAA Division II Championship in Cinderella fashion, erasing a seven-point deficit in the final 39 seconds in the title game to beat Winona State, 77-75.

Hall remembers the incredible swell of support for the team upon their return to the Wilson campus.

Our mayor, Bruce Rose, called me up right after the game. He said the city had just purchased an automated phone notification system and asked if I was okay with him testing it by notifying the community of the team’s itinerary coming home. I said yes, but little did I know that thousands of residents would respond by lining the highway and gathering on campus!

Another person with long ties to Barton athletics is Russell Rawlings, whose first memories of the school’s teams came during childhood.   

I grew up in Wilson and first started going to basketball games in the mid-60’s when Wilson Gymnasium first opened,” said Rawlings. “I‘ve had an affinity for Barton athletics ever since.”

It’s no wonder Rawlings is such a Barton fan. His life has been intertwined with the college for seven decades. He attended then Atlantic Christian College from 1974-78 while also covering its sports teams for the local Wilson Daily Times. Then he joined the school as Alumni Director in 1984, serving in that position for four years. Later, he moved to Barton’s public relations and development offices for a 10-year stint from 1990-94. Since then, Rawlings has served as an athletic board member and volunteer alumnus, and has filled the master of ceremonies role at the school’s annual Athletic Hall of Fame banquet for the past 35 years.

With that breadth of institutional knowledge, Rawlings is eminently qualified to make comparisons of Barton athletic teams over several generations and eras.

I think the growth and visibility of the athletic program has been the biggest change,” said Rawlings. “And beneath that are individuals and teams that bookmarked that transition over the years. I credit the administrators for their awareness, dedication and importance placed on athletics, which has made it all possible.”

The former sports writer expressed a particular fondness for the 1979 Bulldogs’ men’s tennis team that won the NAIA National Championship and its colorful coach, Tom Parham.

It was the first Barton team to win a national title,” he said. “I was particularly close to that team and the coach, as I covered it for the newspaper. Parham took a program from the ground and showed the school and the town what was possible. Beyond being a great coach, Tom was such an interesting person. He was a brilliant scholar who also loved music. He tried to hide his amazing competitive spirit, but I would get a glimpse during matches. We’re still good friends to this day, and as far as I’m concerned, the line for great Barton coaches will always form behind him.”

While he still cherishes those Bulldog teams of his childhood, Rawlings claims the school’s athletic prowess has made a quantum leap in the 21st Century.

Barton sports have grown exponentially in the last two decades,” he said. “The 2007 national basketball champions generated more enthusiasm in the community and on campus and there’s greater support now. I’m also very impressed with the current administration. We have the perfect president (Dr. Douglas N. Searcy) for the time we’re in. His enthusiasm, leadership and ability to get things done is tremendous. He and our Athletic Director (Todd Wilkinson) are a great combination.”

Rawlings also credits the school’s investment in improved facilities, more scholarships and notable coaches as a major part of the equation.

In those early years, we had no facilities. The teams played at the local high school or recreation center. I think our affiliation with the conference also spurred growth because the league provided a measuring stick for us. You could point to the other schools in the conference and say ‘this is where we want to get to.'”

Adding yet another veteran voice to the Barton conversation is C.J. Holliday, the unofficial sports historian whose 50th Graduation Reunion at the school was postponed this year due to COVID-19.

An avid researcher of Barton sports, Holliday has been known to dig deep into old newspaper files and game programs to unearth new findings about his beloved Bulldogs. He speaks fondly of his days as a student when he became a fan.

It was very exciting,” he said. “We played Appalachian State, Western Carolina, High Point and other good teams. Back in those days, there weren’t many NCAA Division I schools, so NAIA coaches had a chance to recruit some really quality players.”

Such future NBA stars like Lloyd “World B.” Free (Philadelphia 76ers) and M.L. Carr (Boston Celtics) played in the conference in those days.

When schools like Western Carolina came here, the gym was filled,” Holliday recalled. “We beat some good teams like Georgia Southern and Old Dominion. Atlantic Christian had a run-and-gun reputation and played an exciting brand of basketball.”

Now some 50 years later, Holliday continues his love affair with the Barton Bulldogs. He offers an explanation for his long-time affection and loyalty to the program.

For me, it’s just about being a fan,” he said. “I just love the college and the people there. It’s a small, special place. Even as a fan, you’re treated like a big fish in a small pond. You have an opportunity for so much access and recognition. You become part of the family.”

The same can be said for Barton’s 90-year affiliation with Conference Carolinas. Small, special and family. The Bulldogs have set the example as the conference’s patriarch member since 1930.

Bob Rose is a longtime sports public relations executive who has worked for the San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, the NFL Cardinals, Cal, Stanford and other organizations. Conference Carolinas’ official storyteller, Rose will incorporate unique features through his “Body, Mind, and Soul” series into the 90th anniversary celebration.Print Friendly Version


The days sure have become very similar. There is a moment that is apparent , quite easy to recognize. Actually it’s symptoms are pre-virus. My wife starts throwing things at me.

That is the day we ride. Now. No restaurants, movies, friends over, flights, shopping. But you can drive. Where matters not.

Yesterday was it. Early rise and off to anywhere. Then “..,let’s go ride the ferry to Oriental.” (NC). Agreement is non-negotiable.

Ordinarily we read gas prices aloud. Political signs were the big item this time. Most of these are about the same size and red, white and blue. Imagine.

Oriental had a large number with both parties represented. Next one to be counted looked similarly flag like. As it became readable we both laughed out loud:




Getting closer to reorganization.  The third edition of THE LITTLE GREEN BOOK  of TENNIS is done.  It is the first third of the new blog site.  Hopefully the new ordering of blogs will make it easy as it goes from beginners, to high school and tournament players, to talented juniors, to college tennis aspirants, and up.  Help for coaches and teams.

We are still working on the mechanics.  The next third comes from PLAY IS WHERE LIFE IS.  Town lore and people  from five small North Carolina towns at the core of this third.

The final source is largely from  A LEVEL OF THINKING.  From dark to light,  serious to entertaining.  This material concludes the twenty some “columns or categories”  each of which reads as an independent “chapter”.   Now one is able to skip from chapter to chapter by choosing and clicking on the preferred column located  to the right on the website home page.


I watched both conventions. The Republican show left several impressions:

  1. Few masks and no real spacing.
  2. . Reminded me of cult behavior. Think Jim Jones, Guyana, and 900 lemming.
  3. But the real base, or true cult members weren’t there. The KKK, QNON, White Supremacists, Hell’s Angels,etc. weren’t the cats given the front row seats. Or at least they didn’t wear their suits and hoods.
  4. Didn’t see Mary Lea Trump or Maryanne Trump’s speeches.
  5. One positive: Melania’s second attempt wasn’t Michelle #2.

At least Trump doesn’t stutter, or his speech would have lasted 5 hours.