Hank's home run
My father was a twin. He and Uncle Roland both attended what was then the College of the Ozarks in Clarksville on the G.I. Bill. With millions of American troops returning home from World War II – without jobs – many of them chose to go directly into college and let Uncle Sam pay the tab.
I remember Coach Rex Yerby at Alma commenting on being a freshman right out of high school playing football against all those veterans. “They had all been to war, and so football was pretty tame stuff to them. I was just a tackling dummy until they graduated.” Ozarks had instituted a school of pharmacy especially for the G.I.'s and during my youth it was pretty well guaranteed that anyone who sold you a prescription would have learned his craft in Clarksville.
Daddy and Uncle Roland had been given a love for music by their parents. Grandma played the piano and they were active participants in the county singing conventions that were popular in those days. (Remind me sometime and I will sing for you Grandpa’s rendition of “Jolly Old Crow.” It is a classic.) Being twins, and both being good singers, the boys were well accustomed to performing long before they got to college. Thus they both majored in music and went on to become choir directors.
Back in those days, the pay for high school teachers was on a nine-month schedule, so they had to find something to pay the light bill through the summer. One thing the twins would do was to teach shaped-note singing schools around the country. My aunt remembers that at least one summer Uncle Roland taught six back-to-back two-week singing schools, helping folks learn how to negotiate their do-re-mi's.
One year in the 1960s, when I probably was in junior high, Uncle Roland loaded up his two sons, added in my brother and me, and headed off for the Atlanta-area in a little Dodge Dart that was a right cozy environment for four active boys on a long trip. They were still working on the interstate highway system back in those days, so the drive took a little longer than it would today.
The highlight of the trip came when our host invited us to go see the Atlanta Braves play. The Braves were a well-traveled franchise. The Boston Red Stockings were incorporated in 1871, and by 1912 had changed their name to the Braves. By the 1950s, they had lost much of their fan support to the Red Sox, Boston’s American League team, so they moved to Milwaukee. Once again, however, dwindling fan support forced the franchise to move and in 1966 they relocated to Atlanta.
When the Braves moved south, they brought with them one of the all-time greats, "Hammerin’" Henry Aaron. During his years in Atlanta, Hank was moving up the all-time career home runs list. At that time, Babe Ruth held the record at 714, and Hank encountered some fan resentment as he chased one of the more hallowed records in baseball history.
Anyway, for a group of boys who loved baseball to get to go to a major league game was a thrill beyond description. And lo and behold, if Hank didn’t come through for us and knock one out of the park right there before our very eyes. Sometimes you are in the right place at the right time.
I do not have any great-grandchildren (yet), but when I do, I can tell them that I got to see Henry Aaron hit a home run – and that is saying something.