My Refugio Bobcat story begins with great adversity and ends with great admiration.
Mostly, I think, my story will interest present and former residents of Refugio, a small town in South Texas; but also, I trust, my story may arouse the attention of every individual who enjoys reading humorous incidents in sports that depict the human condition at its best, or worst, depending on what essentials a person thinks are meaningful to a meaningful life.
In 1945, a year of celebration around the world for free people, Refugio was groping with the beginnings of serious decline, especially as related to high school sports. The football team had no wins and the town was divided about who was responsible, the coach (L. N. Dyer) or the players he had expelled from the team before the season began? The band, or more appropriately named, “the Drum and Bugle Corps” was nothing to be bragged about other than before the parents and other relatives of the corps members.
Not incidentally, in the 1945-46 school year, I was a struggling Refugio 6th grader, one of the several who experienced Coach Dyer’s wrath.
Coach, you see, had a much-used “Board of Education,” a wood paddle of about two feet in length with a carefully carved handle. Coach Dyer’s principal rule of sound teaching was that “for every time you uttered the word 'can’t', you received one blow on your buttocks from his “Board of Education,.
As a result, to this very day, I have trouble even coming close to declaring, “I c__'t do this or that.”
So, I say, “Forget everyone who claims that we’ve lost our ability “to educate.”
Not so. We just don’t want to use that known ability unless absolutely necessary.
But, with the announcement of Walter F. “Sandy” Germer, a former coach, as the new Refugio head coach in the summer of 1946, there was a dramatic change in Refugio’s athletic fortunes. Sandy brought back the players exiled by Dyer, and his Bobcats were on their way to two exceptionally fine seasons. They lost their first game, to Beeville, then reeled off 23 consecutive wins while claiming two Class B regional championships.
An 8th grader, I was one of the 1947 team’s student managers. The other was Grady Waggoner. So, first hand, I was educated into the best of Refugio football, which included watching running back Jack Sportsman make wonderful usage of his athletic abilities while also admiring greatly the athletic and leadership skills of quarterback, middle linebacker Charles Newton “Nut” Williams, who years later was to be named the Rio Grande Valley “Coach of the 20th Century.”
Sandy Germer knew football and his players loved him. He could praise firmly and criticize with humor. Too, he could point out weakness when he saw it.
Germer’s son, Freddie, was 10 years old in 1947. After practice one day, coach had Freddie race me in a 50-yard dash with several repeats. To coach’s great delight, Freddie won easily, every time. I was age 12
Sandy made practices serious but also humorous. I recall a lineman who had a lot of trouble remembering plays. In practice, coach would call a play with a huge, made-up number, like #73, just to delight in the response of his memory-deficient tackle, who, following the announced number, would immediately set up to execute the fictitious play.
Many Refugio fans still recall “the star who was left behind” for the bi-district championship in 1947 played in Robstown, Tx, just outside of Corpus Christi. The team stopped in Sinton for its pre-game meal, 5:00 p.m. But when the team arrived in Robstown, the Bi-district site, around 7:00 p,n, Jack Sportsman did not exit the team bus. He had been left behind in Sinton. Fortunately, a Refugio fan saw Jack hitchhiking and made sure he was at the game on time.
Sandy Germer retired to his Edna ranch in 1949, and eventually, Paul Gips was named the new Refugio head coach and athletic director. (There was a short-lived coach between Germer and Gips.)
Gips was exceptionally well organized, and as handsome as any movie male star one might name. But, by nature, he was not as relaxed as Sandy Germer.
Thus, reminisces of Paul Gips ought not to be classified as humorous, but be better described as unusual.
For instance, Gips naming of me to the kick-off team in 1951.
Our starting tackle had loafed it down the field on our first kickoff against Sinton, the season’s opener. Gips called on me to be the loafer’s replacement for our second and subsequent kickoffs, of which we had four. I got the tackle, and two more of the same kind that night. (I remember each one.)
I do not recall, however, that I made another kickoff tackle that year, 1951.
I do remember lining up against ranked Cuero for the district championship, in Cuero, first Friday in November. I was scared to death. But I am pleased to tell you that I survived, and my non-contribution had no impact on our 13-6 loss.
Things got much better for Refugio football in 1953 when Gips added Dave McCoy, a defensive genius, to his staff. As a result the Bobcat s, led by super QB Bobby McBride, lost only one in 1953, to district champion and state finalist Yoakum.
By 1953 the Gips-McCoy team was ready for the big time, losing only in the state semi-final to Huntsville, 13 -6, in Huntsville.
The 1953 Bobcats were one of Refugio’s best-ever football teams.
Two years later, Texas A&M coach Bear Bryant journeyed to Refugio to recruit the Bobcat's first High School All American, Gale Oliver. The 1955 team (11-1) was the first to have Blacks, two of whom later played collegiately, James Thomas Lott and Johnny Joe Youngblood.
The Huntsville 1953 quarterback, Joe Clements, later of UT Austin, told this story at the 2003 reunion of the 1953 Refugio team held in College Station:
Pregame, Clements said, he and his teammates were in the locker room, and over the audio, they listened to the Bobcats singing “Onward Christan Soldiers.”
Clements said it was the most beautiful rendition of that song he had ever heard, after which, Clements recalled, the Huntsville coach told his team, “Go out there and beat the hell out of the SOBs.”
The game was rough and carried out in freezing weather, on an extremely slippery field. The Bobcats played the Hornets evenly but without the typical performance of their star Serafin Vela, who had been injured earlier.
From 1951-1953, my Refugio Story was mainly about two athletes, Teddy Gray and Bobby McBride, a player about whom Gray himself once said was “the best ever.”
Both athletes could do it all, with Gray the better at football “contact,” well demonstrated by his exceptional defensive abilities, and later exemplified by his leading Refugio, as head coach, to their first state football title in 1970, a title Refugio has shared since with Iowa Park.
Bobby McBride could pass, jump, vault, run, hurdle, catch and hurl better than most athletes who have lived. He was a three-time Little All American QB at Texas State and the 1958 national NAIA champion in the pole vault (without the flexible pole). I once saw him high jump 6’6” before the Fosbury Flop became the height attaining method.
Once, in 1951, I recall a down in which I was playing and McBride called a play number in the huddle we did not have. It worked. Serafin Vela raced 78 yards for a TD. Gips put the play in our playbook, for forever usage.
In the spring of 1952, Teddy Gray did his best to absent himself from track and field competition, but nearing his final bell, he reneged and qualified in the 220 hurdles for the regional meet, only to lose to a fabulous runner and future NFL star Ronnie Bull of Bishop Yet, Teddy did manage to place 3rd in the pole vault at the 1952 state meet. A few years later (1955) he was the champion of the Missouri Valley Conference in the pole vault.
Gray and Luke Little, RHS '56, may be the only RHS exes to earn letters collegiately in three sports: football, basketball, track and field. Little played the three sports for Texas State and is a member of the Texas State Athletic Hall of Honor. Little is best known for having won 37 of 39 high jumping events in which he was entered while at Texas State, also accomplished before the Fosbury Flop became the way to high jump.
In the spring of 1954, Refugio’s all-stater in football, Bill Anderson of Baylor football renown, was competing in the 440-yard dash at the district meet in Cuero. He and teammate Jasper Gonzalez had made the final in the 440, immediately prior to which Jasper had informed the four other contestants that Bill was the state defending champion in the event, which he was not. The starter’s gun was heard, the race was on. Bill and the other four non-Refugians raced to the lead on the backstretch, then they faltered. Jasper won.
A few years later, in the years before and after 1957, perhaps the smallest defensive backs ever for Refugio, twins Tommy and Nicky Kinard appeared on the Bobcat athletic scene, more importantly in track and field than in football, which they played weighing in the neighborhood of 120 lbs.
Nicky Kinard was Refugio’s first truly outstanding quarter-miler. He could run the 440 in around 51 seconds or better on the Mile Relay.
At the state meet in 1956, the Mile Relay came up, with the Kinard twins included in the Refugio four.
It was a closely contested race for the first three laps, at the end of which Tommy fell attempting to hand off to Nicky. Every team was about equal. Crestfallen, Nicky picked up the baton, cut across the stadium’s turf field, and reentered the race with about 200 yards to go. Refugio finished at #1, but was, of course, disqualified.
What other Texas school can say their candidate tried as much for a state title:?
Other incidents and individuals worth noting:
I watched Teddy Gray play basketball as a freshman for U. of Houston against Blinn College. The crowd was booing him wildly in the first half, due to his aggressive defensive play. As the first half was about to close out, Gray took a shot from midcourt. Gray’s long-distance gunner hit nothing but net. The crowd was silenced.
Wayne Boone, RHS ’53, was a pretty good lineman (guard), good enough to earn letters in 1951 and 1952. But Wayne was prone to injury and seemed to delight in his hurts. (He would cover himself with mercurochrome in red, no matter how small or how large the injury,) At the football banquet celebrating the 10-1, 1952 season, Coach Gips said of Wayne, ‘He would have played more, had he not been injured so much of the time.”
Bobby Wilpitz, RHS ’52, was an outstanding lineman, two years an All-District performer. In 1950, he literally took the ball away from a Woodsboro runner, then raced for a TD run of 60 yards. A problem resulted: he was forever thereafter trying to tackle the ball instead of the runner.
Serafin Vela, RHS ’54, possibly the finest RHS breakaway runner ever. In 1950, Woodsboro had what many Refugio fans believe was their best ever team, Serafin received and returned the second-half kickoff 93 yards for a TD, and the Bobcats won 19-12.
Don Davis, RHS ’53, a guard, is one of the many unsung heroes of Bobcat football. It was Don who made the block that enabled Serafin to make his TD run (see above).
Dailey Brown, RHS ’48. Daily was a small tackle, played at around 160 lbs., but an awesome defender—aggressive, tough, never casual, always competing.
Wayne Gum, RHS ’48, is certainly one of the best of Refugio’s offensive linemen. Played college at Hardin Simmons, with Charles “Nut” Williams.
Lastly, let us cite Billy “Stick” Gumm RHS ‘54, who was never an outstanding performer, but, nonetheless, an outstanding individual to his teammates.
C’est la vie!