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The 1949 Uvalde Coyotes were one
It was a post-war year, the infancy of the baby-boomers, and times were good. World War II was still a vivid memory, the country was trying to get back to normalcy, gasoline was 13 cents a gallon, bread 10 cents a loaf, eggs, a dime a dozen, and milk was delivered to your door.
The "Boys of Summer" were in their prime, Harry S. Truman was still in the White House but a five-star general was knocking on the door. You could see a movie at the Ritz or El Tejas for less than 50 cents and a half dollar would get you in the El Lasso to see John Wayne's "Red River." The news reel was free and all movies were rated G (good). A buck would get a carload into the Stardust or Gay 90 drive-ins on certain nights.
The infamous seven-year drought had not been recognized as the rivers and springs still flowed and people rode the train to San Antonio, the one that stopped at every town and station to drop or pick up mail and perhaps another passenger or baggage.
Pick up the phone and a real live charming lady would ask, "Number please," and you would respond with 170 or perhaps all you had to say was, "Dr. Eads, please."
Kids took pea-shooters to school instead of six-shooters and during lunch or recess a nickel would get you a coke, Buck Orange or R.C. Cola, in a real bottle, no less. You went to school because the alternative was hard labor. You dared not get in trouble at school because there would be some serious consequences at home.
Sure, there might have been a few who skipped school to sharpen their pool skills but Mr. Clem Jones, the high school principal, could usually persuade those guys to return.
People were buying cars. In Uvalde alone you had a choice of Grant Motors (Studebaker), Germer Motors (Mercury), Sutherland Motor Co. (DeSoto), McFatter Motors (Dodge), E.E. Capt's Uvalde Buick Company, with their dynaflow transmission, Ray Chevrolet, Horner Ford and Reagor Pontiac. Cars were so popular and plentiful that parking meters had to be installed.
The economy was good and people were buying cars and building new homes. An ad in the Leader-News offered a five-room home and garage. All you had to do was assume the monthly payment of $35.
Polio was a scare and there was a huge measles outbreak. For the most part however, you could still afford to get sick.
The only town was downtown with Carper's on the Square and John Rowland's, where you could get an arrow shirt as seen in Esquire for $3.95 and a Hart, Schaffner, Marx suit for $65.
Jack Belcher was named coach of the Southwest Texas Junior College Cowboys, Victor Dittmar was Leader-News sports editor and Joe Watson Jr. was "The Voice" of both the Coyotes and the Cowboys. Jay Harpole's new radio station brought listeners the Light Crust Doughboys, Tom Mix, Captain Midnight, the Shadow and, on Saturday nights, Guy Lombardo.
Uvalde High School student council president was Louis Capt; Milton "Spec" Nelson was secretary; Will Paradeaux, treasurer; and Dan Parman, reporter. Johnny Rambie was senior class president, Shirley Davis would be homecoming queen and her court would include Ann Lewis, Marcella Rambie and Shirley Pink.
The year was 1949 and up North Getty Street, on the edge of town, two dozen young warriors reported to Coach Orville Etheridge for fall football practice in mid-August. It would be a memorable season.
Workouts for the "Double Dozen" began Aug. 15 at SWTJC. The '49 Coyotes were a senior-laden team, 15 of the 24 members of the squad members in their final year. They were also very experienced players. Three had already earned three Coyote varsity letters in football.
After a week of practice at SWTJC the team moved to Alto Frio Baptist Encampment Grounds. They ate in the Mess Hall, slept in an open tabernacle and worked out twice a day at 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. There would be skull practice in the evenings. No smoking or drinking allowed, not even sodas.
Ralph Gremmel, one member of the '49 Coyotes, remembers the whole ordeal as being rugged and exhausting.
"We had a 'Junction' before A&M had a 'Junction,' in reference to the story and book about the 'Junction Boys.' You can ask any member of the team and they will tell you it was the most grueling two-a-days ever imagined. However, it prepared us well for the season."
Henry Vasquez agreed. "Coaches wouldn't allow you to drink water during practice and when we had a break, which was seldom, you could only wash your mouth out and maybe take a sip or two. The big guys, like John Gibbens and Bobby Simmons, would lose 10 to 15 pounds in practice."
A couple of 2A teams (the highest class in the state at the time) were camping and working out at Garner Park. So, the Coyotes took advantage of their presence and scrimmaged both Galena Park and Pasadena on the practice field between North Getty and High Streets, which at the time was the high school campus. Most of the former Coyote players remember it as tough, physical scrimmage.
Johnny Rambie recalled the workouts as very grueling.
"Losing 10 pounds during a workout was not uncommon."
He also remembered Coach Etheridge as a handsome man who was very knowledgeable about the game of football. "Our 'Boss' lived right down the street with his wife, June, behind Dr. Eads' house on the corner. I remember the day Coach became the self-appointed doctor to get rid of the boil on Bobby Simmons' leg, which he did, with the help of two tongue depressors and some loud screams."
Uvalde was picked to win District 32A in 1949 because of their returning experienced players from a very good '48 season. The Coyotes had lost a crucial district contest in 1948 to Carrizo Springs, 20-13, and the Wildcats won district.
(Editor's note: The following is the first in a multi-part series on the 1949 Uvalde High School Coyotes football season. The series will continue in future issues of The Uvalde Leader-News.)