A TRIBUTE TO COACH CALLAWAY
by Norm Farthing, WHS '46
Don't know why, but for some reason this morning, I started thinking of my beloved football coach, Vernon Callaway. As memories of him flooded back into my head, I decided to sit down and write a little bit about it.
My first impression of him was that he was scary, and seemed threatening to me; a real disciplinarian who brooked no nonsense from his students. During my freshman year, because of the war (WWII), there was no school supported junior high sports program due to the shortage of personnel and equipment. Coach Callaway talked to the freshman boys and asked us to organize our own teams. He, in turn, agreed to let us play our games at Blakely Field, provide uniforms, and referee the games. Since most of us had been playing sand-lot football without pads or other equipment, we jumped at the chance for some real opposition on the field. We had teams from Welch, Havaco, Junior Poca, etc. - wherever there were enough boys to make up a team. Of course, Welch had the most boys to choose from, so we won all our games. Coach was smart, because even though there were no officially sponsored leagues in the county schools, he could at least use this means to scout the talent that might be available for the high school team in the next year. During this period of time, I lost my fear of Coach Callaway, and decided that I liked him.
Once I learned that he was no monster, my strange sense of humor took hold. He taught my mechanical drawing class when I was a freshman, and one day when he left the room, I placed a handful of thumb tacks in his chair. He came back into the room and sat down on the tacks. Without saying a single word, he immediately rose to his feet and left the room again. He never said a word about it.
As a sophomore, I was on what you might call the "second team" and really enjoyed the scrimmage sessions at practice. I played tackle, and a Sizemore boy played end. On defense against the first team, whenever they ran to our side of the field, we stopped them, either he or I making the tackle. Coach got angry at the first team and told them that he was going to carry the ball, and if either one of us even so much as touched him, he was going to kick the butts of all those who had failed to block us out. When he took the ball and started running at us, I did not even try to get him, but let the opposing line block me out. Not Sizemore though! He dumped Coach onto his back. Coach got up, lined the offensive linemen up and actually did kick some butts.
At a special party in 1979 paying tribute to Coach Callaway, he was presented with a bronzed engineer's boot. This is what he always wore to practice. A picture of him being presented with the boot is shown below.
As a senior, after the 1945 football season was over, I worked at Johnson's Super Cut-Rate Store, located next door to the parking building. Tobacco products were very hard to come by during the war, but I always had whatever I wanted. I didn't smoke, but would put a couple of cigars in my shirt pocket, knowing that when Coach saw them, he would gladly relieve me of them. One day I had two cigars in my pocket, but one of them was loaded. As usual, he stopped me in the hallway and relieved me of the cigars. The next morning, one of the guys said, "You had better hide, Farthing; Coach is looking for you." I managed to stay away from him until that afternoon, when he caught me. He grabbed the front of my shirt in both hands and pulled me to him, and I thought I was going to be killed. He looked me straight in the eye and then started laughing. After he released his hold on me, he said, "You son of a gun! Yesterday I smoked one of those cigars at lunch time, and saved the other for my after dinner coffee at home." I don't know if he spilled coffee or caused any damage when it exploded, and I know that it was a stupid thing to do, because he could have been driving his car and had an accident, but young boys don't think that far ahead.
Coach threatened death to any of us caught talking to girls, much less dating them, during football season. It was ten laps around Blakely Field if he caught you. I got married at age twenty and was walking down McDowell Street with my new bride once when on leave from the Navy. I could see Coach approaching from the other direction and subconsciously, I edged ahead of my wife so he wouldn't think we were together.
Many years later, at a class reunion at the then brand new Mount View High School, I got out of my car in the parking lot just as Coach Callaway was arriving. When he saw me, he came and put his arms around me. Someone going by asked, "What are you doing, Coach?" He replied, "Talking to my boy." If you played on one of his teams, you were "his boy," a fact of which I was, and am still, very proud.
At the time of the WHS 40's reunion held in 1987, Coach was in failing health, and was being cared for by his two sons, Mike and Tom. I called them and asked if some of us could pay him a visit, since he was unable to attend the reunion. The reply was, "Yes, but come in the afternoon, when he has had time to get ready for you." So, that afternoon, Jack Sizemore, Jack Farthing, and I visited with Coach and sat around talking over old times. It was during this time that I confessed to Coach that it was I who had placed the thumb tacks in his chair so many years ago, not that he remembered the incident, but in typical fashion, he chuckled over the story. Mike and Tom told us that he had been pacing the floor, waiting for us to arrive. When we left, there was a tear sliding down Coach's face. I never saw him again, he died the following year. I am sorry that more of his "boys" did not visit him when they had the chance. Well, maybe they did. I hope they did.
Norm Farthing, WHS Class of 1946
Coach Callaway Being Presented His Gold-Plated Boot in 1979
||Other WHS Pictures||