The Westbury Rebel

"Part II: (Beginning)
What The Westbury Rebel Meant to Me

and
The First Play from Scrimmage in the
Westbury vs Bellaire Fifty Year Rivalry"


From

How the Westbury High School Rebels
of Houston, Texas classes of 1962-1965

Saved Western Civilization from Extinction

From the Pretty True Texas Story Series

By a Westbury High School Boy

Series Contents

  1. "Part II; (beginning) The Westbury Rebel's Meaning to Me," or "The First Play from Scrimmage in the Westbury vs Bellaire Fifty Year Rivalry"
  2. "Part II; (conclusion) What Happened at the End of the 1962 Westbury vs. Austin Football Game?"
  3. "Part III; The Good Rebel in Most of Us (beginning); For What Do Good Rebels Fight and Die?"
  4. "Part III; The Good Rebel in Most of Us (continued); Competitions, Challenges, and Making Things Right"
  5. "Part III; The Good Rebel in Most of Us (conclusion); Distinguishing Good from Bad Rebels"
  6. "Part IV: Rebel Management of Really Serious Troublemakers in (and from) the Global"

"Part II: (beginning)

The Westbury Rebel's Meaning to Me

and
The First Play from Scrimmage in the
Westbury vs Bellaire Fifty Year Rivalry"


 

As most of you probably know, the Westbury High School mascot, the Confederate soldier and rebel, and its attendant images and organizations such as, respectively, the Confederate flag and the Rebelettes, were removed and disbanded by the classes of the 1990s. As a contributor to this site's establishment, I believed it to be my responsibility to highlight the issue of the Rebel used in the 1960s as our mascot. It was my decision alone to maintain it herein as the Westbury High School logo representing the early, that is our, classes.

In recent years, I've heard our alumni discuss the controversy, but usually without a full vetting of the processes involved. They expressed embarrassment on the one hand, and pride in the Rebel and our culture on the other.  Some speak understandably to the Rebel's offensiveness to the fine students attending Westbury since integration was initiated. Others remember the great fun in trying to keep it from being stolen by the birdmen from Bellaire high school. And even more hold in the highest honor and esteem the extraordinarily disciplined, creative drill, drum and bugle corps  presented ever proudly as our Rebelettes.

Thus, I opened this topic, for further discussion on our forums, with three purposes in mind. One is to refer you to information that explains what happened regarding this issue to the educational institution most influencing our early developments as it has changed over the last nearly 50 years. Another is to convey the Rebel's meaning to me. And the third I achieve now by inviting class members who've thought about this issue to discuss their views of it.

The referenced change is from the Rebel to another image that is said to reflect the more ethnically diverse student bodies of Westbury's later periods. They began, according to a History of Westbury High School published by the Friends of Westbury High School Foundation, the most vociferous adaptations to Integration during the mid to late 1990s. Or at least that is when the identity revolution appears to have reached its peak at Westbury High School. The author of that history documents the noted changes to school persona through those students' discussions. They eventually voted out the symbols, images and icons that we voted in at Westbury's origin. Although I've searched the Web, I've yet to find an image of the new mascot.

In effect, the changes signify to me that our small group of past students are living in another era, one that is not totally dissimilar to, albeit not rife with hardships like whole populations and communities experienced, the 100 years following the American Civil War. Those citizens often returned not just to reconstituting their psychologies as we adjust to the repudiation of ours, but as Margaret Mitchell demonstrated in her popular novel, also after having been burned from their homes. For our less noticeable and certainly less dramatic changes, they were only to our ideals, pride in our culture and love of that which our ancestors left to us. Albeit those attributes could be felt, that is, known ontologically, they were not always wholly definable.

Coming back to Westbury's community after decades of absence and seeing at the 40th reunion, 2006, a giant wall hanging of the Rebel done by our own noted artist, Charles Burwell, I was shocked at the differences between what was so meaningful and appropriate to me back then, and what clearly I believed needed explanation to those outside our ballroom and who might consider our joyous celebration of our roots to be a resurgence of something a long time past, not to mention that maybe should stay there, according to some. It was not uncommon during reunion planning meetings, I'm told, for statements to be made by class members supporting the changes made to the school's persona. Our students, too, expressed dislike of that symbol.

Reading further into the referenced history article, which by the way I enjoyed very much, I began to feel substantial pride in all that Westbury II has done. It has become a national leader in its attempts to understand and excel with the academic challenges presented by such great ethnic diversity.

But while feeling pride in Westbury's newness, what is now called the "Old Westbury High School" began to stand tall again to me. I was part of that spirit where we strived for betterment, to win in athletic, academic for many of you, and the arts competitions for others. I also became re proud of our heritage, seemingly now as I understand Yogi Berra said about Westbury, is gone with the wind all over again. Not proud, that is, of the part that systemically and institutionally hurt people, but glad about my roots, happy for the days of dating, giving my hard earned letter sweater to a girlfriend, attending happiness inducing or dramatically adventuresome events, and generally trying to be a fairly descent citizen. In my youthful ignorance, I knew nothing of the deeply sad discoveries which led to the Brown v Board of Education of Topeka 1954 decision, and the cultural change coming just ahead on the horizon.

Without venturing into the whole story, my understandings of prejudice, bigotry, racism and other stereotypical disparagements of people have broadened with experience and change. For example, immediately after leaving my multiculturally segregated world in the summer of 1964, I had my first encounter with African Americans in the military.  And there were differences in ethnicity and race being fought out there, albeit notably in the safety of the United States. But shortly, that would be changed, too. While in a combat role we were ordered to see only, and for most of us we did not see any other color but, Marine Corps green. That experience introduced me for the first time in my life to not just the negatives, but also the positive issues pertaining to race. That is, how people could care deeply, even give their lives for one another, despite the apparent differences reflected in the color of their skins. And today, 40 plus years later, I'm very proud of what I learned, and how I changed for the better, I would like to think and hope.

But returning to the Rebel controversy now in another time, another era, I look back on the discussion that America was having from the 1960s through 1990s and believe it missed something, possibly. So from here on, I would like to speak to that something as it was defined for me: the main idea as I understood it behind what I believed was an important concept, the Rebel. And that fine article describing Westbury's history acknowledges it accurately as a rebel "instinct." Here, and simultaneously archiving with a non haliographic documentation of the historic first play from scrimage of the nearly half century Westbury and Bellaire High Schools rivalry, is what it meant to me to be one of the original Westbury Rebels.

The Rebel's Meaning to this Student
or
The First Play from Scrimmage in the
Westbury vs Bellaire 50 Year Rivalry

According to the lectures we heard from Coach Howard Allen during the days of the first football team, which by the way started its practices before the school opened to students, Westbury took its imagery for school identity from the University of Mississippi or "Ole Miss." That is why we used red as a high light to our otherwise blue and gray school colors when applied to uniforms, letter sweaters, and etc. Ole Miss was always a valiant and admired national contender with indefatigable fighting spirit, routinely competing for this country's football titles.

Aside from Mr. Allen having the previous year coached Bellaire High School's baseball team to the Texas State Championship, he also was an acclaimed football coach from Tennessee. Apparently with that background, he saw the value of wrapping our team and student body spirit in that southern cultural phenomenon that fought to protect remaining elements of its existence. The idea, I believe, was to rally the troops, excuse me, students around something.

Our head coach pushed the Ole Miss and Rebel theme with the notion that although we were new, young and possibly without talent when compared to the larger and fully established Houston football program powerhouses - Lamar, Bellaire, Austin and Milby - we would gain our strength from the spirit of being the underdogs, the "Westbury Rebels." We probably wouldn't win it all, or even much against those incredible forces comprising our district. But we would establish our presence with respect for hard hitting and facing up to David and Goliath kinds of challenges within that Houston system of athletic competition.

Those of us who participated in that first football effort rose to the occasion and lived the part. We were Rebel imbued, not as someone fighting for states' rights, slavery and against control by those no good carpet bagging Yankees, but rather as a no name, no chance new team which was going directly and immediately against one of the most powerful football systems in Texas.

In fact, at the beginning of the second year, the first to include organized play as a new member of the district, each of its strongest teams - Lamar, Austin and Bellaire - were selected to be one of the 3 most likely prospects to become the final state champion. They had the greatest track sprinters  like Loyd Currington at Austin as halfbacks and wide receivers, tallest, strongest and long ball chunking and scrambling quarterbacks, biggest lines, never flinching thoroughbred fullbacks, pro styled wide open passing and running offenses, and some of the fastest flyers at their ends ever produced.

But the underdog theme worked, apparently. Or at least it did when combined with the "Moonball" practice described perfectly by Jimmy Wise. It's posted on another forum on this site.

That session had followed an ignominious defeat by South Houston, 55 to 6, as I recall. But thanks to the practice, the next week in our first district (that counted toward playoffs so to speak) game we put San Jacinto down deliberately and with considerable focus, probably in an attempt to avoid another Moonball outing.

Again, the rebel theme played well beyond expectation in the next game against one of the 3 referenced Houston dream teams, Mirabeau B. Lamar, which was at that time  Bellaire's  traditional rival. In those days, MBL was known for its supporting wealth, prestige, privilege and so forth, not to mention the state's leading 100 yd dash record setter, Lee Wolf, at halfback.

To everyone's surprise, however, we upset the high school for the elite, Lamar, showing that the newbie Rebs were at least to be watched out for. But only "maybe" as some suggested. And as we were told, Rebel personification of our football team conveyed through the Lamar astonishing victory, as many called it, was seen by the two remaining big guns as an aberration.

The next week, the rebel theme continued to work against Austin High School, facilitating our winning legally, morally and every other way except actually, against their magnificent team. We even formally protested the outcome, but to no avail. That game, the ending being a dramatic story in its own right, showed the power of guerrilla insurgency warfare against insurmountable odds.

 

The Westbury Rebels were tough and beginning to be thought of as awesome upstartedness. That was the meaning of the Rebel then. Somebody who had no chance, but regardless of that popular belief of the crowd fought against adversity with all that they had, all that was within them, inspiring them to  creative efforts that spawned ongoing epiphanies, evoking an emerging capacity for a period in time that took them above and beyond who they really were. For us, we were Rebels with a cause: to prove this student body was equal to our city's most outstanding peers when otherwise we weren't supposed to be. And meeting that challenge further demanded of us that we become more than we had been, or possibly would ever be again.

 

 

It — for some at the time to mean our existences for the rest of our lives, or just simply to enter Texas football immortallity — was being represented with all attendant drama in the last game of 1962. Despite the referee's coup the previous week against the now great Rebels, we still could tie for the city's title if we beat Bellaire, as they had beaten both Austin and Lamar. A quarter toss might have to settle it.

As we prepared to run out of the dressing room for our first competition with the statewide regarded Bellaire High School and forever arch rival, Coach Allen handed us his motivational theory on the most elegant underdog story platter I'd ever heard, or have since. He began evenly and matter of factly in his style. As he talked, I remember his strengthening his voice tones within the inspirational presentation.

Regrettably, I don't recall the exact words of the basics. However, I do remember that he was delivering the speech  to an apprehensive, to mean slightly fearful, but nonetheless intensely serious audience, our team. The ending, though, will stay with me forever (hmm, hopefully). As his voice rose like an ever increasing wave to its greatest ferocity, he climaxed with this stupendous finale given to us in his obvious profound angst for our defamed reputations.

He made clear to us that we had been denigrated by our previous school friends, now Bellaire subjects, this very night. As their football team seniors were no doubt already headed for the great universities on athletic scholarships, and our seniors — albeit as deserving as any — were to go nowhere, we could almost shovel out  the enormous opprobrium already being heaped upon us from our, for this evening anyway, arrogant and former (for those of us who had gone to Bellaire before Westbury opened) friends looking down from the stands on the Bellaire side of the Coliseum, in this instance Jeppesen Stadium. Working toward the ending, coach Allen became more better (intended use) skilled than an East Texas Big Thicket Assembly of God visiting tent revival preacher bringing Billy Sundance styled oratory into the dressing room for the task of igniting adrenalin with nuclear fission reactions inside our hearts and minds, as they say. As if he were Shakespear's King Henry the Vth, himself, the coach shouted while pointing toward the gladiators' field

"Most of you wouldn't have even gotten a uniform so you could try out for the damned team at Bellaire High School!!!"

That pretty much did it. We knew right then and there why we were born, and would possibly die this night as Westbury Rebels. I believe John Davis, our 180 lb All Heart fullback and middle linebacker, John Gosnell - our 5' 6" very light, maybe 150 lbs, center guard on defense who couldn't be budged with a crane, and the ever admired knee injured quarterback Dick Woodall, of eventual 4 year fame at U of H, all went running out of there as close to rabid insanity as a young man could get and likely in tears from the intensity we felt when faced with the challenge of fighting the unquestionable athletic supremacy of the established order. We could have just as easily been transcended through time to become part of the Texas Company that charged over and over up Little Round Top, eventually  engaging in horrendous hand to hand combat Colonel Chamberlin's holding action performed just as valiantly by his ever brave and stalwart defenders from the United States saving famous Maine Regiment. And listening to Howard Allen as he grabbed us by our souls, we knew the world turned on our fight every bit as it did that day at Gettysburg. "Who were WE?" the question being asked by this hemisphere and begging — No. Demanding! — to be forthrightly answered, to even show up on the same field on that night, in that year, in that century?

I had scouted Bellaire earlier in the season in order to watch their offense. They began two games with a deep fly pattern to their All State, All American, all Bellaire coach's son, Big Bill Sullivan. As I recall from my 5' 10" height, which was sort of an exaggeration in my junior year, Sullivan seemed to be 7 or 8 feet tall, or at least bigger than Olajuwan. At the snap, he would sail down the left sideline, my zone on defense when we were to play them, catch the perfectly timed and thrown pass over everyone else, and then sprint easily for and into the end zone. He was always the Cardinal's most prolific receiver.

But I noticed that the defensive backs all played him closely, running alongside sometimes even step for step no matter the great athlete's seemingly unmatchable speed. Sullivan and quarterback Doug Nicolson, who would become the next year's Rice University QB, and who emulated Johnny Unitus' style even to the point of wearing high top shoes in the back field, would lead the elegant sprinter so that every ball floated like a feather onto the outstretched tips of his fingers, then being pulled in for the dash to the goal line.

Every time, the defensive back would go up and  flay and clamor for the ball. Then, after coming away empty, he would resort to grabby kinds of tackling, just trying to find something with which to hold on as he lost his footing.  Inevitably, he slid the whole way down the tall long striding body to finally eat Jeppesen dirt and turf, all the while watching the soles of the split end's cleated shoes hoofing it on down the field to glory.

That first play seemed to break the will, if not the backs of the defense for the rest of the night. No doubt, that was a key to the father's, that is, Bellaire head coach "Little Bill 'Scat' Sullivan's," strategy. "Intimidate them," as is frequently said in sports, "right off the bat."

Importantly, I also noticed that if the ball was extended a little too high — as often seemed to be planned into the pattern, Mr. Sullivan looked like a white Gazelle with red stripes, leaping tall buildings at a single bound as if the Premier Danseur of male ballet in Houston, never missing a beat. I don't remember a single instance of that receiver even being taken down, much less with diligence.

 

I started to think that here was somebody who for this just turned 17 year old high school ballplayer, me, may be wholly unstoppable. The upbeatedness I had begun to feel following "Moonball" and Rebel inspired wins was being squashed. Heightening growing despair, at the end of the first game, I even observed a referree catch the nonpareil high school athlete on his way to the dressing room and ask for his autograph to be signed on nothing less than the game ball the referree protectively carried.

Then came a break from my declining attitude. After observing Sullivan in the second game do the exact same things to the next poor close encountering defensive backs, I knew what to do.

After coach Allen's oration, which in hindsight I believe he took from Cicero, we were still a little anxious. These guys across the white chalk and going into their first offensive huddle may have been the best there were in high school football in America. It was Opollo Creed vs. Rocky Balboa, if ever there were a proper sportcaster's interpretation at the time of the obvious disparities between the two teams.

Breaking from their group discussion, where Nicolson clearly had added his own inspirational leadership to this beginning conflagration, here they came for the all important first declaration statement of dominance.  As expected, Sullivan was split out to his left. Thus this adversary was on my right side of the field. He lined up only a few feet from the out-of-bounds markers. It didn't take an Einstein to know that on this first play, contrived as everyone in the stadium knew was intended for breaking the will of our defense, Big Bill would be coming out of the chute straight on, somewhat like a high speed express bullet train, that is, given my not necessarily hyperbolic view as I stood a few feet downfield from him and just inside of his 3 point stance. This was certainly a heightened moment in my young life. And somewhere from deep inside I was feeling the desperate fear of upcoming humiliation, mine.

But they made a mistake. While checking signals, Nicolson looked to his left at his friend, Big Bill, and they laughed while glancing out at our defenses, apparently intending to make fun of our smaller, young, and now thinly spread group, and no doubt me in particular.  At the jump, he blew off the line, but too late to stop their sneers from firing the Rebel inculcated over the last two years, and in the dressing room just a few minutes earlier, into my brain. Immediately, the fear turned into anger. And just as instantly, I was undergirded with a new kind of determination.

It came like an overhead bolt of lightning and crash of Rebel thunder. The latter rolled through my brain, rumbling deeply into, along and through that valley of the dark shadow of my spine, crescendoing in my legs, which now stopped my just-before rubberband hamstrings from wobbling, and as known by others having gone through this before me, knees from knocking. My calves took steel banded strength from the sound that only I could hear, and spun me toward and for our own end zone.

I didn't know it at the time, only being carried along a new wave of something noticeably bigger than me, but I was becoming influenced  by a prior to this moment in my life unfamiliar force now completely, almost surrealistically, dedicated beyond all things to doing my job against this truly advanced competitor. I remembered, all the while watching over my shoulder, to keep my count of the timing numbers recorded from the bleachers earlier, though now being synchronized with Nicolson and Sullivan's.

That neuroendrocine molecular and now biologically termed Stress Response, which expression for these newer generations demolishes the fun of it all, took me 15 yards deeper than my opponent when, just like the proverbial clockwork, the ball was launched. It was a perfectly thrown hard spiral all the way down the field. As others in similarly intense situations have said in my later years as an observer  of the  sport, I believed I could read the print under the ball's laces as it flew, seemingly in slow motion, in Big Bill's and my directions.

Because of having observed the earlier games, I anticipated that the ball would purposefully come in very  high and that this extraordinary athlete would leap off the ground to connect. By then, though, I had reversed my back sprinting direction. For a split second, it was more akin to drifting in another sport alltogether, way back to the centerfield fence while watching and waiting for a fly ball that mingled in the bright lights following the crack of the bat, than defending against a pass targeted to a jockey with great hands who was leaning into the wind while sitting astride a racehorse coming into the home stretch.

I calculated the spot in the ozone where he and the ball would become one and headed there, marshalling from somewhere, within, the character, speed, intensity and strength I would need to follow through with my plan concocted while sitting in the stands as a spectator a couple of weeks earlier. I was going to fly my 162 lbs off the ground just as did Rocket Man, who carried those dual — or were there 3 tied together? — scuba like fuel tanks on his back which were to, and I have no doubt in reality did,  accelerate him straightaway off the ground to the near speed of light almost instantly after ignition and blast off.

RM would soar into the sky in the Saturday serials shown at the Avalon theater. I was 5 years of age and an east side boy back then sitting on the first row as the little and less mature children were cutting out paper dolls. Some older youth next to them played Jacks. But taken together sitting in front on the cement floor, they all were missing  Rocket Man's exhilarating contribution to the betterment of our culture, particularly that part which was about to influence the first Bellaire - Westbury playoff to occur in Western civilization.

Moving at best speeds and coming from opposite directions, like an eighteen wheeler meeting a Volkswagon headon on the same side of the highway in the fast lane, we had the mid air collision at the same time the pigskin  touched his fingers, and my silver gray and blue helmet rammed  into his white  and red one. Sounds illegal, except that we were both going for the ball. It bounced to no-telling where. Big Bill went down, all the way.

Thanks be to providence and a little planning, I was able to remain on my feet, at the end standing over him. I didn't think he could get up, and was amazed to see the giant rise, albeit at first slowly. He paused for not more than a second, then sprang to his full height and trotted back up the field to his team's and Cardinal fans' stunned silences. To his credit he made the trip back as if no one had laid a hand on him, and all the while conducting himself with the stature of the nearly incomparable athlete that he truly was.

But he didn't get away before — as he was lifting himself from the ground — I had said quietly into his ear so that he could unmistakably hear through the hole in his now gray scarred helmet

 

"Welcome Prima Donna!
to
The Westbury Rebels!"

 

 

Related Posts
 
 

Series Contents

  1. "Part II; (beginning) The Westbury Rebel's Meaning to Me," or "The First Play from Scrimmage in the Westbury vs Bellaire Fifty Year Rivalry"
  2. "Part II; (conclusion) What Happened at the End of the 1962 Westbury vs. Austin Football Game?"
  3. "Part III; The Good Rebel in Most of Us (beginning); For What Do Good Rebels Fight and Die?"
  4. "Part III; The Good Rebel in Most of Us (continued); Competitions, Challenges, and Making Things Right"
  5. "Part III; The Good Rebel in Most of Us (conclusion); Distinguishing Good from Bad Rebels"
  6. "Part IV: Rebel Management of Really Serious Troublemakers in (and from) the Global"