Blue Blazes Celebrate 50 Years
"1962....Looking Back to When the Blazes Were Formed....."
by: Bobby McDonald
Is there anyone still around that can remember lining up at the Sulphur Springs Bowling Alley in the fall of 1962 for your little sugar cube vaccination for Type I and Type III Polio? Some 13,00 county residents, or 80% of the total 18, 594 Hopkins County residents, took the vaccine to protect them from the dreaded disease, that has all but been abolished, today, through modern medicine. Local doctors and health care officials were pleased with the local response, and, of course, the paces to administer the vaccine were "segregated." Yes, the African American families lined-up at Douglas School, while their white counterparts were shifted through the lines at the bowling alley, causing a "traffic jam" on the north service road, to the relatively new, Interstate-30.
Meanwhile, across town at the then one-year old Sulphur Springs High School (now christened Sulphur Springs Middle School and soon to be a school for 3rd and 4th graders, on Bell Street, another group was lining-up and getting ready for a "show stopping" performance. The fall term of the Sulphur Springs High School marked the first season of the Blue Blazes Drill Team. Forty girls had braved the heat and "throng" of sore and tired muscles, to bring the drill corps to fruition for the first year. All forty members would perform for the first home football game, which held a packed stadium in Buford Park. The Blue Blazes joined the High School Cheerleaders, the Wildcat Marching Band, and another new organization, the Cheerettes, a pep squad, in adding color to the home football games.
1972 Blue Blazes
In a pre-game review, the newly formed Blue Blazes, under the direction of Mrs. Phyllis Sulcer, made their first appearance at a noon Rotary Club meeting in Sulphur Springs. In a September '62, front-page article in the local newspaper, Rotary Club program chairman, Gilbert McGrede, introduced the group to the membership. "The Blue Blazes were presented by their director, Mrs. John Sulcer, who said the girls had accomplished in a short time more than she had hoped for during their first year," the article stated. "Mrs. Sulcer indicated that the organization consisted of 40 girls and their first performance would be at the out-of-town Wildcat game at Dallas Rylie." The Blue Blazes went through their routine in two groups, because of the restricted space available at the Women's Building. They wore blue uniforms, with short skirts, tan belts and gauntlets, and white western hats. The white boots which would complete the outfits had not arrived from the supplier, yet!"
The five officers of the Drill Team performed a separate dance routine and were dressed in gold uniforms, with white accessories," indicated the article. "Local Rotary Club members described the performance as 'something similar to the Las Vegas showgirls'!"
The fall of 1962, also found the Lilly family celebrating 40 years of local participation in the movie theater business. The Mission theater featured Elvis Presley in "Kid Galahad," and Hi-Vue Drive-In was showing Rock Hudson in "The Lawless Breed," and Cary Grant and Doris Day in "That Touch of Mink." Steve McQueen's "Hell is for Heroes," was the feature film, the next week.
Certainly, some matrons in Sulphur Springs felt the drill team uniforms were much too risque for their daughters to be a member of the corps. However, the local paper noted that Jackie Kennedy had been captured by photographers, while vacationing in Italy, in a revealing "one-piece" green bathing suit!
President John F. Kennedy was the president in 1962. Ralph Yarborough was the state senator and Wright Patman, the state representative. On the national news scene, Sam Rayburn, longtime Speaker of the House, was being honored post-humously with a postage stamp being issued by the U.S. Postal Service and Russians had just launched a space ship into orbit, and was featured in a front-page story entitled, "Russians Whirl Around the Earth. Of course, there were people across Hopkins County that "swore it wasn't so!"
A new Miss Texas has been named and she was Miss Penny Lee Rudd, from the neighboring city of Marshall. Billy Sol Estes, the agricultural wheeler-dealer, had just been indicted by a Federal Grand Jury for his involvement in an agricultural scandal that had "rocked" the national agriculture scene. Local dairyman, T.D. Harness, had three registered Jersey cows that had been recognized for producing outstanding milk records on official DHIA testing. "Fancy Observer," "Superb Rebecca," and "Bluebird" were quoted as being "top of the line" Jerseys. Dairy feed could be purchased at C.E. Wingo and Son, on Mulberry Street, for $2.90 a cwt.
Can you remember not having the League Street overpass? It was opened in September of 1962 with the reason for its new construction being "the increased motor traffic in Sulphur Springs and proximity to the new modern Sulphur Springs High School."
The Football Season officially opened with a scrimmage with Cooper and Terrell, and the first game being held at Dallas Rylie. Coaches were Johnny and Jimmy Dobson, and Boze Ansley. The Wildcat Varsity Squad featured 42 players and were highlighted by stand-out players, Miles Bramblett, Bobby Meador, Larry Palmer, Charles Lewis, Jerry Haney, and Jerry and Joe Brown. The first scimmage found the Cats "whipping up" on a small Cooper team, to the tune of 36-12!
Mrs. Jimmy Dobson was supplementing her husbands coaching salary by giving piano lessons, in her home, and encouraged children to "come participate in music!" Miss Janet Adair was hostess for the 1962 Hi-King Klub meeting in her home, for September, and all senior citizens were advised that their "Old Age Pension" checks would reflect a $3.00 increase in pay, beginning in October of 1962.
The Sulphur Springs State Bank was extolling the virtues of their new and convenient "motor bank" that featured a "drive-in window!" County Butane, a business operating on Main Street, advertised a "Hardwick" gas range for $129.95 and Jim Master's was offering "easy terms" of "no down payment and 24 months to pay" on their new Kelvinator refrigerator/freezer. Quicky Food Store had a real bargin with a giant box of Tide for only 39 cents. Fresh ground beef was featured at 29 cents a pound and coffee was only 47 cents for a one-pound can.
Parents who enrolled their children in school during the fall of 1962, could take advantage of the "back to school" specials at the new Bealls Department Store, where boys reversible jackets with "perky shoulder and collar trim" were only $15.95. Boys "Saddle King" jeans were three pairs for $6.50 and socks were two pair for 88 cents. Shirts were priced at $3.98!
Jack Gibson, SSISD Superintendent, revealed that there were 2350 students enrolled in the district, in the fall of '62, and High School Principal Truman Drake, was expecting the high school enrollment to reach 700 students. "Some individual classes have as many as 45 students, in them," reported Drake. "And, as expected, the sophomore class was the largest in the school's history!"
Two churches in Sulphur Springs were marking historic progress, as the First Christian Church had voted to have a ground-breaking ceremony for a new church on North Davis Street, and the Davis Street Baptist Church was building a new building, reflective of the deep and abiding faith that existed in Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County.
Negro schools reported that they had record enrollments in the fall of 1962 and, of course, it would be yet another five more years before school integration would be completed in the Sulphur Springs ISD. The African American students went to Douglas School and announced that they would be having a seven-week vacation for cotton picking, as they had already completed seven weeks of school during the summer months to off-set the holiday!
Dr. Martin Luther King and seven of his Civil Rights Marchers had been arrested an fined in Albany, Georgia, for violating city ordinances while conducting a prayer vigil. However, they were given suspended sentences. Mrs. Juanita Clayton and Mrs. Dorothy Kendricks had each just earned Masters degrees and were teaching at Douglas School.
Mr. Billy Connor, Mr. Sterling Beckham, and Mr. Roger Arnold, county agriculture teachers, had all been recognized for their outstanding teaching skills at the state Vocational Agricultue Teachers Convention, held in Dallas.
Other Sulphur Springs High School happenings in 1962, included the "twist" being the most popular dance at the high school dances. Mary Ann Prim was the drum majorette and the "Cat's Tale" editors were Mike Jackson and Judy Chapman. The Christmas Parade float featured Kay Young and a theme of "Home for Christmas." Sally Mayes was the 1962 Homecoming Queen and Sandra Wilson was the Head Twirler for the "Golden Girl Twirling Corps." Tommy Griggs portrayed "Frank Fontaine" in the annual talent show and Dennis Morris was president of the National Honor Society. Benny Mays was President of the Student Council in 1962 and Ronnie Irvin and Nancy Fisher were heading up the FFA and FHA, respectively.
Such was the life in Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County, fifty years ago, in the autumn of 1962!
Certainly, many things have changed, as the Blue Blazes Drill Team marks its 50th Anniversary. The Blazes will perform in the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center, on Friday and Saturday nights in the annual Spring Review, and a reception will hosted in the exhibit hall of the Civic Center, on Saturday night, honoring present and past Blue Blazes Drill Team Members and Sponsors. The Blazes invite everyone to come out and celebrate the occasion!
Over 2000 young women have been members of the Blue Blazes Drill Team, in its 50 year history, in Sulphur Springs.
"Responsibility is one of the major objectives that the drill team has always striven to teach," reflects Mrs. Edna Mabe, the longest sponsor of the organization. "Participation in the corps has always been a means of teaching young women leadership and responsibility. If you come to practice, before and after school and give-up your weekends, then work on the routines at home some more, you learn what it means to develop a sense of responsibility to yourself, other team members, your school and community!"
Congratulations, Blue Blazes,
On Your 50th Anniversary!!!!