Friday, September 30, 2011

Jack and the Giant Slayers by Phil Young, BHS '65

As a new school year comes quickly out-of-the-blocks I recall how fortunate I was to have been influenced by many inspirational people. Of course, that translates into stories amigo/a. I was far from being a good student in my formative years (BC: before college); in fact I was a poor student K-12. But, I always loved a good story (probably why I majored in History as an undergrad). I don’t know if losing a full GPA point when moving into the Burbank (CA) School District, then gaining it back when moving to Malibu/Santa Monica SD, and losing it again when returning to Burbank was a product of Burbank’s superior expectations or simply that I preferred the open space environs of other locales.

Our kennel in was at Pacific Coast Hwy & Puerco Canyon Rd. overlooking the Pacific. In Burbank it was on North Lima St. just off San Fernando Road, in an industrial area near Lockheed and a railroad line; far away there were probably large bombers and missiles with Red Stars on them practicing missions targeting this area. Like many classmates, I never did understand how getting under a wooden desk would help.

In retrospect it was a cool time, and a great place to be a young person. As I worked this past spring in Petra I remember a conversation with a Supervisory Park Ranger. He was Bedouin from Umm Sahyoun, and a retired Army Major with a Masters degree in IT Engineering. We were talking about the local schools and need for charter or magnet schools with extra-circular activities like sports, clubs, etc. as stay-in-school incentives vice working the tourist trade as a child vendor. That got me pondering some life experiences, and one of my favorites is the under-dog story of the Burbank High School (BHS) Bulldogs basketball team of 1965.
Burbank schools were not traditional powers in the primary team sports: baseball, basketball and football. We had a few exceptional individuals occasionally, but we primarily excelled in Cross Country and swimming (individual things that took a lot of determination and training to do well). During my senior year we had a good shoot-the-ball/hoops team led by Coach Jack Loutensock, but they weren’t expected to do much because of the talent at the other Foothill League schools.

Note-on-skill-levels at that time in the Foothill League: during the 3-years I was at BHS, 7 football players went onto the NFL- none from BHS. In basketball, the league was equally gifted. The Southern California player of the year (Lynn Shackelford, 6’5”) was from Burbank, but he played for our cross-town rival John Burroughs HS. He was amazing to watch, and went onto being a starter on 3 Collegiate National Championship teams with Coach John Wooden at UCLA. Later he played in the NBA. Many of BHS’ rival teams in the league had 7’ players; some like Pasadena had several. I remember watching them warm up with player-after-player dunking-the-ball. The ’65 Bulldogs were relatively “vertically challenged,” with the tallest player (Dick Reitherman) at 6’4” and 170 lbs: not exactly a Grecian model of Olympus revisited. But, what these Bulldogs lacked in stature and girth they made up for with heart, determination, game smarts and grit. BHS educational standards were probably a pretty big asset too.
Not picked to do much by the pre-season pundits (they went 9-3 in pre-season), the ‘65 Bulldogs were simply tenacious, beating Burroughs twice for the 1st time in many years, and finished 10-2 in league play: Champions of the Foothill League. Jim Greenfield and John Gaball went on to play for Coach Jerry Tarkanian (“Tark the Shark”). The season provided adversity, drama and accomplishment over long-odds won by hard work and dedication to their mission: sounds like an inspirational story to me. I know there are themes of courage and humor too (one player wrote in my ‘64 year book what a good chemistry student I was: I was terrible to put it kindly). Looking at the BHS ’65 Varsity Basketball photo I think: “Thank You gentlemen… especially John Gaball, Jim Greenfield, Jerry Perkins, Glen Ceiley, Dean DeHart, Darryl Hove, and Dick Reitherman for showing that when motivated you can make-it-happen…”

FYI, my BHS ’65 yearbook (Ceralbus) has been in an alternative reality somewhere since ca. my return from Vietnam (’70). Thanks to Kirk “Kickin’-back” Harris (I spotted you there in-the-shade: color football/sports section photo, shortly after page 183) for lending me his yearbook for some of the photos. I also see again in the Senior Index that I’m credited with 3-years of participation with the Publicity Committee that I have zero memory of. Looking at the photo of this “August Assemblage” I must credit my listing to the antics of Merry Pranksterism by my ol’ amigos Dennis “Buck” Bandy and Jack Osborn: “Oh, you guys always made me chuckle…” Wouldn’t be surprised to find them and Reitherman on the editorial board of The Onion:

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