Alum Jerry Jackson reflects on how the university and city have changed through the years.
It was Dec. 19, 2022, when visions of sugar plums started dancing in my head – not about the upcoming Christmas goodies, but instead about the post-yule Texas Bowl clash that would pit my Red Raiders against the Ole Miss Rebels on Dec. 28, which also would mark my 90th birthday. A Raider victory would be the greatest birthday present imaginable. After all, I had heard that Texas Tech was the underdog going into the conflict in Houston. But glory be, the 42-25 victory the Raiders fashioned in taking the Rebels out behind the woodshed was the sweetest of outcomes.
Yes, I “discovered America" Dec. 28, 1932, in the family home at 2502 Ave. H in Lubbock. Now, I know what some of you may be thinking: there is no Avenue H in Lubbock. And you would be right, as the street's name was changed to Buddy Holly Avenue by the City Council years ago. And to top things off, that 2502 home address is bogus because that stretch of street has been denuded of structures, leaving only dirt that's a stone's throw away from a traffic exchange. Ah yes, progress. The way we were, etc.
But just for fun, I'd like to reminisce about Lubbock and Texas Tech during my growing-up years, and I hope you may discover a few nuggets of historical interest.
First off, my dad was boarding a cow named Bossy at our Avenue H home when I was a toddler. This took place because my dad's friend was unable to keep her. All of the product she produced from milking was consumed by our family. A problem developed one day, though, when Bossy plowed through the makeshift wire fence Dad had constructed, strolled across the street, then accidentally fell into the grease pit at Harry Hazel's Mobil filling station. Fortunately, she wasn't injured, but it took a crane and some manpower to bring about the rescue. Silly cow! Embarrassed bovine!
After a few years, my folks moved to what they referred to as "Grandma's house" because the owner was my paternal grandmother. The house was located on 16th Street if I recall correctly, and its backyard bordered the playground of the Central Ward elementary school that my dad – who was born in March of 1899 – attended many years before. The school's fire escape stretching from its second story to ground level was a slide where my older sister Shirley and I amused ourselves. Bolstered by courage, we would climb to the second story, sit on waxed bread wrappers, and descend at "warp speed" of sorts.
And oh, yes, Bossy was still with us at Grandma's house, and at one point she upset our mom big-time. Mom had washed and hung out various items on the clothesline, including a prized embroidered tablecloth. Apparently, it looked good enough to eat so Bossy broke though the wire fence once again, glommed onto the prized tablecloth and gleefully headed down 16th with it. Watching mom chase Bossy down the street was amusing indeed.
After a year or so in Grandma's house, it was on to a rental house on Avenue J on the south side of downtown Lubbock, just a short walk from the shopping area. Avenue J to the north of downtown wasn't far away from the Avalanche-Journal newspaper and a sports arena where my dad would take me to witness wrestling matches on occasion. Now, I'm aware a certain amount of fakery takes place in professional wrestling, but a certain amount doesn't. After all, one of the "name" wrestlers I witnessed during that era was a guy named Danny McShain, who took pride in his many injuries, including various broken bones. I recently visited the Wikipedia website to learn, “He used a piledriver as one of his ring moves, in which he would hold his opponents upside down and then drop them head-first to the ring floor. McShain attributed the piledriver to the deaths of two opponents." And they call this activity "sport?"
My dad built a new house at 2003 Ave. R for our last family home. We moved in Sept. 1, 1939; I remember the date because it also was the day Hitler unleashed his Stuka bombers on Poland. The location of that home was perfect, as it was two or so blocks from Dupre Elementary, which I attended from first through sixth grades, and Lubbock High School, from which I graduated in 1951. It also was near the Rock Garden miniature golf course on 19th Street, where as a preteen I worked at my first paying job dragging sand "greens" at 25 cents an hour.
The Texas Tech campus, meanwhile, was a couple of miles away. My main mode of transportation during that time was a '37 Chevy sedan. My paying jobs during my four years of college at Texas Tech allowed me to keep my head above water financially, helped along by rent-free bunking at home. A buddy of mine during this time was James Sides, whose dad owned Dairy Queen establishments on 19th Street and College Avenue (prior to its "graduation" to University Avenue status, as I recall). James' help jobwise was a boon. James also happened to be a crackerjack running back at Lubbock High, scoring two touchdowns to beat Baytown and win the state 4A championship in his senior year. He went on to Texas Tech to star as a fullback who reportedly never lost any yards rushing throughout his playing career.
The last half of my job experience while at Tech was facilitated by alumnus Billy Phillips. He was active in the Asbury Methodist Church. It also was my church and was located two blocks from my Avenue R home, across the street from the aforementioned Dupre elementary school. Billy was the chief accountant at BMFP Construction, the "big-project" firm in Lubbock at the time.
The projects that BMFP pursued while I was a part-time employee there included the Great Plains Life Building, which at 20 stories was billed as the "tallest building between Fort Worth and Denver." It was the revered downtown structure from its construction in 1955 right up until a monster tornado hit May 11, 1970, and twisted the huge structure (which then sat empty for five years until it was renovated and revived as the Metro Tower). That twister killed 26 people and damaged 9,000 homes, causing at least $250 million in damage.
BMFP also completed the razing of the downtown First United Methodist Church to build a new one while I worked there. The church later sustained little damage from the tornado. Divine providence, maybe?
The company built two major Tech campus projects that were benevolently spared from the tornado's wrath as well. A vintage arena that students laughingly referred to as "The Barn" because of its unsuitability for Raider basketball games and cultural gatherings was replaced by a beautiful auditorium off Fourth Street, just west of the football stadium's parking lot. Years later, a beautiful arena was built on the west side of campus and is home to the men's and women's basketball programs as well as other events each year.
In closing, I'd like to pass along a little football-related anecdote involving Pat, my wife of 61 years, who I met on a blind date around 1959 if not 1960.
After a two-year stint in the Army, I settled in Snyder, 90 miles southeast of Lubbock. I worked at figuring production of gasoline, butane and propane at a local plant before becoming sports editor of the Snyder Daily News. I roomed with a fellow named Dub Holt, another Texas Tech graduate who was a school district speech therapist, and a third guy about our age who owned the house. Dub was periodically dating a Texas Tech student at the time named Jan Preston, who was Pat's roommate – and later maid of honor and soloist when Pat and I tied the knot in the Bowman Chapel of Lubbock United Methodist Church.
The site of our first date was Tech's football stadium where the Raiders took on the Houston Cougars. Pat happened to mention that she had once before attended a football game pitting Texas Tech against Houston and she recalled it being a low-scoring game like, uh, 1-0. Well. Dub and I just looked at each other and grinned in agreement that that was the only score that it couldn't have been. And to this day I tend to remind Pat of her faux pas. (That's because I'm a scroungy guy!)
I look back with glee on my life long ago in Lubbock – and the shellacking of Ole Miss by the Red Raiders that was the perfect birthday gift.
Jerry Jackson graduated from Texas Tech in 1955.