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Born May 18, 1953; got saved at Truett Memorial BC in Hayesville, NC 1959. On rigged ballot which I did not rig got Most Intellectual class of 71, Gaffney High School. Furman Grad, Sociology major but it was little tougher than Auburn football players had Had three dates with beautiful women the summer of 1978. Did not marry any of em. Never married anybody cause what was available was undesirable and what was desirable was unaffordable. Unlucky in love as they say and even still it is sometimes heartbreaking. Had a Pakistani Jr. Davis Cupper on the Ropes the summer of 84, City Courts, Rome Georgia I've a baby sitter, watched peoples homes while they were away on Vacation. Freelance writer, local consultant, screenwriter, and the best damn substitute teacher of Floyd County Georgia in mid 80's according to an anonymous kid passed me on main street a few years later when I went back to get a sandwich at Schroeders. Had some good moments in Collinsville as well. Ask Casey Mattox at if he will be honest about it. I try my best to make it to Bridges BBQ in Shelby NC at least four times a year.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Gaffney Spartanburg, October 17, 1969

Cherokee Chronicle
Gaffney, South Carolina

     Friday, October 17, 1969 was just three months shy of the end of the first year of the Nixon Administration. But in Gaffney South Carolina nobody was thinking much about Nixon, Vietnam or even Woodstock just a couple months before. Gaffney and Spartanburg were both undefeated and were playing that night at Wofford Stadium in Spartanburg.

     An intense rivalry, Spartanburg had beaten Gaffney the  year before in steady rain 27-7 for the first time in the decade after the two team hadn't played for three years. A Gang attacked a Spartanburg student after a Basketball game in the winter of 65, one assailant alleged to have brandished and made contact with blows with brass knuckles. There was always tension, an element of social class differences and resentment in this meeting.

    It was also an end of an era. Legendary Gaffney Coach Bob Prevatte, and his charismatic Line Coach Wayne Whiteside were in their last fall on the sidelines for the mighty Indians. It was the Second year of full integration of Gaffney High School--just two years before the school sponsored its annual "Confederates Ball in full regalia for the Lost Cause; the last year of Mr Seaborn as High School Principal and the final year of Gaffney's noble School Superintendent J. Paul Beam. It was the end of a decade though a case could be made the 70s didn't start in Gaffney till the class of 72.
    As Bob Dylan said, The Times They were a Changing.

   But,Gaffney was "all in" in one accord against Spartanburg and ready to display mastery on the field.

    In Eight years from 1960 through Billy Ray Rice's fall of 1967 Gaffney had only lost 8 games. They won the state title from 60-65 though Greenwood disputed the title in 1961, though Gaffney had no losses and Greenwood had one.

     Some reports were the crowd was at ten thousand but others onsite talked about it being the most packed game they ever played in. It was likely there were 12,000 there or more. Both teams were undefeated coming into the 7th game into the season of 69, though Gaffney was ranked Number one in the State and Spartanburg was fourth due to a tie in one game.  It was billed as the number one offense in the state (Spartanburg) vs the Number One Defense (Gaffney.). But Gaffney was to turn every thing on its head except a disputed final score.
       Spartanburg scored on its first possession with the fortunes of the number one gainer  Ray Monroe. Gaffney knocked Spartanburg QB Sanders out of the game for the entire 2nd quarter and mounted a 70 yard drive ending in an eleven yard scamper by the Indians Johnny Dawkins to tie.. During that assault Gaffney QB Parker got the wind knocked out of him--Robb Sartor remembers going to Parker and in colorful language, saying get up, We need you; but backup Richard Spencer came in for four downs. 
      Gaffney Blocked a punt and was back in business at the Spartanburg 26, got the 15 where Richard Spencer hit a 33 yard field goal to go up by three. They threatened again and with 11 seconds to go at the four yard line Spencer attempted another field goal and missed.

     Spencer remembers the field goal attempt before the half. He was lined up on a hash mark, a difficult situation short range and counted just ten men on the field. He said rather than chance a blocked attempt Sburg coulda possibly run in the distance of the field right before the half he missed it on purpose, the only purposeful miss of his career. 
     As an example of the "integrity" of the contest, here are notes Fender Brown, then a writer for the Gaffney Ledger sent me: Quoting:  Gaffney, late in 4th quarter, Gafffney deep in Spartanburg territory 4th down short. Donnie Ray Littlejohn lines up at right end gets clearance from line judge that he is ok and is not offsides. Ball snapped, first down made,but flag is thrown by same official for offside. All hell breaks loose, but Gaffney is penalized 5,yards. Coach Prevatte calls for the punt team...... End Quote

     Spartans QB Sanders came back in the game about the 8 minute mark of the third period. After a couple exchanges of the ball, Ray Monroe fumbled on the Spartans 46. Several plays later mostly on the running of Leonard Blackwell and Johnny Dawkins, Gaffney found themselves  on the goal with a fourth and one. Dawkins scored but it was called back. Several players say the refs said Donnie Ray Littlejohn lined up in the backfield, but they also say it was uncharacteristic of him. The ball was moved back, then QB Danny Parker scored keeping the ball the play called for him to hand off to Dawkins. It was called back as well. And somewhere in there a Parker pass into the end zone was broken up.

    And then on a play that will live on as one of the biggest misshaps in Gaffney football lore happened. With a minute thirty-three to go in the game, Gaffney leading 10-7 Jerome Moore hiked the ball to punter Lynn Mabrey. The hike went over his head and a Spartanburg player whose name doesn't deserve to be remembered picked it up and ran it in 30 some odd yards for a score.
        Robb Sartor, who played both ways in the contest, later became friends with Danny Pearson, the safety for the Spatans who was back to receive Mabry's punt. Pearson 35 or so yards downfield said he saw the rush, then looked up in the sky for the ball and kept "waitin on it...waitin on it...waiting on it... and it never came". Finally he looked back downfield and saw everybody going the other way.
      The report in the next Days's Herald journal called it a "Storybook Ending" for the Spartans.
        Trying to resolve what folks saw on the sideline before the long snap  and remembered over the years  of Moore's demeanor is like trying to resolve the differing accounts of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the Synoptic Gospels. Some say he was visibly distraught even muttering to himself, while others said it was routine for him. But something went awry.
        Gaffney's worst side came out as Fender Brown points out in a few sentences to come.  A couple years ago there was an active discussion on the Gaffneyites facebook wall about the number of celebrated bars in Cherokee County along 85 and 29 and various pockets throughout the county. The number came to upwards of 30; point being there was easily a goodly population of the crestfallen and misbegotten basking in the dives and denizens where evil combusts who coulda concocted the  ill will. It was well known in the community Moore and Mabry got death threats, even some saying Moore's family was harassed.

    Fender Brown had a distinct memory  of Moore "Catching pure hell from some malcontents even that very night". He said the Ledger came to Moore's defense the next week in a piece on the "kid from Second Avenue."
    For sure Mabry and Moore had to be shaken for a while. But both had the character to move on. Moore was chosen as one of three players from that squad to be a South Carolina All Star; and Mabry went on to a celebrated collegiate career in track at College of Charleston.
          Gaffney was to come back and play in the state championship against Sumter--C.A. Wilson  and Freddie Solomon  --after beating Wade Hampton.  Spartanburg had another regular season loss after so Gaffney moved on in the playoffs.
     Legend and postscripts Part B
      In 1992 I became acquainted with a documentarian that was ten years later on a future project nominated for an Oscar. He said he learned early on in film school, between legend and fact, go with the legend.
      After 45 years as Jack Nicholson's character said in Ironweed, it's all true.
     Though I was in the the Band Stands that night playing my trombone its been great these last three months communicating on the phone, facebook and email with players on the field that night and folks in the stand. One thing everybody remembers is how crowded it was. Both the trainer Barry Sparks and his best friend in high school Richard Spencer, had a felleing of being intimidated by the cvrowd that night when they walked out on the field.
     There was one story of a fellow getting knifed about halftime and being carried out in an ambulance in a bloodsoaked white shirt. Spencer remembers the police having to part the crowd so the Indians could get out on the field for pre-game warmups.
     Robbie McCraw was a freshman at Clemson that year. He had a late class, got to the game late but before the opening kickoff. Had it not been for his  Bobby Osment and his folks he would not have had a seat.
     Tommy Jones, my Senior class President, worked late that afternoon at a gGaffney grocery, got there about2 minutes into the game and found himslef about three deep along the fence. My Mother's brother and sister came up from Alabama to see me in the Band. Apparenly, they got a seat in the stands, got there early enough.
      Barty Sides says he remembers being on the top row on the visitor's side. Could hear the Lonesome Souther Rail cars and train whistle behind him out in the dark near distance behind the Wofford campus. said he remembers later that night the annual fall Limestone Prez Youth retreat at Caesar's head.
      Jimmy Phillips who just two years earlier was on the Gaffney roster,   said he clearly remembers about three more touchdowns than I could ever come up with being called back. The median score in an honest contest I could come up with from all my respondents was something like 27 to 7. Conensus Spartanburg only got one honest score.
     Johnny  Dawkins said he remebers some kid coming into the Locker Room before the game, and it not fazing Whiteside or Prevatte one bit. Nobody knew the kid, but it stood out in Dawk's mind all these years. Said he thought it was funny with Gaffney's remaininng 90 seconds after the disaster, there were two attempts by Gaffney to stop the clock but twice Parker threw the ball in the direction of Donnie Ray, but Donnie Ray jumped up and caught both inbounds.
      At one point Robb Sartor and I played a little what if in regard Tommy Brittain and Ray Lark who left Gaffney before promising days on the Varsity. I think Lark played some QB at Duke, and Brittain became all conference in the SoCon at Wofford. But Sartor said in his mind, his great friend Danny Parker was "predestined" to be the Quarterback at GHS in those waning days of the 60s.
    He summed it up best: "It was the biggest game I ever played in.!"

    Jimmy Baker's picture was in the Herald Journal October 18 for the story, his number 40 in full sight running the ball. Baker who went on to play at Appalachian State died in the early 2000.

   Danny Parker was in the Shrine Bowl his Senior year, as wall Tommy Brittain who moved away to Beaufort after 8th grade. Parker who his great friend Robb Sartor said woulda been a starting pitcher for the Clemson Tigers had an injury in the 9th grade not have have hindered his foot plant coming off the mound, passed away after Christmas, 2012.
     Barty Sides got his doctorate in rhetoric from MIT
    Barry Sparks, "Sparkie"; all the drama registered with him. He is now one of the best lighting and set designers in the Little Theatre community of Columbia, S.C.
     Johnny Dawkins ended up in LA by the early 80's where among other efforts he wrote early script for Denzel Washington.. In 79 or 80 he had a piece on national network television, an episode where he named a high school coach Bob Prevatte.
      In 1986 Wayne Whiteside brought a group of men from the brotherhood at my Dad's former church, Bethany in Gaffney, down to Alabama in the Old Activities Bus of the Gaffney Indians, The "Whoop Em " bus. They worked on an old farmhouse in the family for 6 days and got it pretty much up to snuff. I've lived in that house for the last 25 years during and after my folks passed.
    Though like all families, Gaffney took a chunk out of our hide in 16 year stay. But I remain indebted to the Gaffney Indians.
     Stephen M. Fox
    Collinsville, Alabama
     Fox is a graduate of GHS, 71. A freelance writer, his essay on his Pilgrimage in the Baptist Church will be published  by University of Tennessee Press in January, 2015 in an anthology in the "Exiled" Trilogy, Carl Kell, editor.


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