Shorty’s Boys

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This is not so much about victories, defeats, schedules, scores, dates, and places; rather it is about people, performances, and personalities.  It’s a story about a city and its football players.  It’s a story about a coach and his boys.  It’s a story about Shorty’s Boys, who became Shorty’s Men!  It’s a story about a coach, H.L. “Shorty” Ogle, and his great personality, from whom emerged the tradition of the Decatur Red Raiders.

Come journey with me through the history of Decatur football from 1919 through 1963. You will learn about the beginning of football in Decatur, and how it became famous throughout the state of Alabama as a coach grew ordinary athletes into an extraordinary football team. He coached Decatur football from 1933 through the 1963 season but his influence lives on today in the lives of young, tough boys who have grown into tender old men with wonderful memories of the past.

Read and learn Shorty’s Rules which number a total of 26. Rule number 4, “Everyone must become resigned to paying the price – paying it in sweat, effort, and sacrifice.  There is no substitute!”  Rule number six, “There is no stationary period.  A player is making progress or deteriorating.”

Open the pages and learn about a coach who made vast changes in the way offensive high school and college football is played in the South, who changed the design of the uniform and improved its safety. He also changed the quality of coaching philosophy by teaching young boys how to play as a team and how to live and as members of the community.

Read and become aware of an assistant coach, Aubrey Fuller, who had many opportunities bur never chose to be a head coach.  He taught the fundamentals to such great players as Don Whitmire, Bud Lee, Hal Self, Tim Baker, Wes Thompson, and John Braswell.

Proudly, we, Shorty’s Boys, walk in the footsteps of our beloved coach, the man who contributed so much of his life to making men out of boys. Learn about one of his boys who became the governor of the State of Alabama.

Shorty’s Boys lives are the centerpieces of this history. Memories bring happiness. Memories and reflections bring appreciation. The stories are positive and true. Tender old men who were once small, tough boys remember the bygone days and sing the same songs of deep gratitude to the man who influenced their lives (and, in some cases more than their fathers). Read the hearts and the lines that are touching, uplifting, and often amusing. 

These pages serve two purposes: first, to promote the fellowship of Shorty’s Boys and second, to promote the continuance of the H.L. Ogle Educational Trust Fund.

Purpose number one has already been fulfilled because of the number of Shorty’s Boys who have attended fellowship meetings, shared their stories from long ago, and purchased copies for family and friends.

Purpose number two is an on-going project that started in 1984, shortly before Coach died.  A group of Shorty’s Boys residing in the Decatur area met on several occasions to determine the most appropriate way to honor coach H.L. “Shorty” Ogle.  It was decided to establish a perpetual scholarship to provide an annual educational scholarship from earnings generated by the trust fund.  The trust fund  provides a scholarships each year to a student athlete graduate from Decatur HighSchool. A selection committee, which I have had the privilege to serve on for several years, identifies from a group of five candidates  the most qualified boy or girl based on academic accomplishments, athletic skills, character, and need.

These pages are my gift to the memory of a great man and coach.  It is my gift to the fellowship that brings both blessing and happiness to my life.  It is my gift to my fellow team mates of 1944-46, especially those who meet today: Bob Sittason, Gene Ratliff, A.J. Coleman, Gene Lentz, Billy Joe Terry, Donald Loggins, Joe Brewer, Albert Brewer, Elmon Terry, Gilbert Thrasher, Marvin Golden, Charlie Jones, Marvin Taylor, Sam Evans, Ray Frederrick, Hugh Halbrooks, Theo Putnam, Barrett Shelton, Dick Still, David Chandler, and Joe Carl.  It is my gift to today’s Red Raiders who are challenged with establishing and maintaining a like fellowship.  It is my gift to the people of the city of Decatur who are still a determined people like the ones of years ago that rebuilt this city three times. Finally, it is a gift to me, the one who had the great pleasure of doing the research – reading and remembering those days gone by concerning my heroes of yesterday and today.  It is my gift to me because of the new memories that I am depositing into my heart on each occasion that we, “Shorty’s Boys,” meet. It is my gift to my heroes of yesterday that remain my heroes today.

– Charles Riley

Epilogue

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Each year, the fellowship of Shorty’s Boys starts in July/August and ends in December/ January.  After several meetings, it was determined that a guest speaker would add to our fellowship.  The first speaker selected was Coach Jere Adccock, head coach of the Decatur Red Raiders. Since that day, he has become our annual kick-off speaker.  Therefore, this website would be incomplete without recognizing him as our adopted Head Coach.

Coach Adcock spoke to our fellowship for the first time on July 6, 2006. Present at the breakfast meeting were 34 former Decatur Red Raider players from 1933-1947.  Brooke Milan, outstanding high school sports writer for the Decatur Daily, covered the meeting and wrote an article (appeared in July 7, 2006 edition) concerning the fellowship. The following material is taken from that article.

 

SHORTY’S BOYS: FOOTBALL, BENSON FIELD TOPICS WHEN FORMER RED RAIDERS MEET.

They call themselves Shorty’s Boys. Decades after playing for the Decatur High School Red Raiders under Coach H.L. “Shorty” Ogle, they gather each month for breakfast at the Holiday Inn in Decatur.  Less than a mile away is the home field that they all played on from 1933-1947, Benson Field on the Banks of the Tennessee River, now marked by a memorial plaque.

Times have changed.

They are grandfathers and great-grandfathers now; the oldest former player present was Clyde Smith who played in 1938-1941.  But no matter how many years have gone by, they are still teammates.  The group began a year ago and invited Decatur High School coach, Jere Adcock, as the first guest speaker to their 12th meeting Thursday morning.

“You guys represent one of the toughest generations that ever lived – one of the greatest,” Adcock said to the group of 34 that had gathered.  Adcock held the absolute attention of the group for 30 minutes as he discussed the similarities and changes of the sport from what they remember. The most important things their speaker wanted them to know: “The history of this program – it’s not forgotten,” Adcock said, “It’s talked about daily.” “Thank you for the legacy,” he said, “Tradition never graduates.”

The Warm-up

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Coach Wes Thompson was eating lunch at the Holiday Inn in Decatur when he invited me to attend a special meeting the next week; it was in January, 2006.  He said, “We are forming a fellowship of Decatur football players that played on the old Benson Field.  We are meeting February 2, 2006 at Gerald’s Restaurant and we want you to come.”  I attended the meeting and that was the beginning of a renewed fellowship.

We moved our meeting to Decatur’s Holiday Inn in March of 2006.  Since then, we have expanded our fellowship to include all athletes who were coached by H.L. “Shorty” Ogle from 1933 through 1963.  Today, we call ourselves Shorty’s Boys, a phrase coined by the late Marguerite Ogle, Coach’s wife.

The fellowship has grown; more than 100 invitations are mailed out each month.  At each meeting we usually have a guest speaker.  Past speakers include: Coach Jere Adcock, Coach Dave Norwood, Coach Bob Godsey, Coach Earl Morris, Coach Tom Calvin, Conley Duncan, Mayor Don Stanford, Dr. Sam L. Houston, Gov. Albert Brewer, Coach Steve Rivers, Coach Greg Patterson, John Godwin, Steve Moulton, Benny Perrin, Coach Terry Bowden and numerous Shorty’s Boys.

One highlight of our renewed fellowship was the selection of the All-Benson Field Football team of 1933-1947. Players selected well known by the city’s Red and Black football fans.  The most famous are Joe Brewer, John Braswell, Clyde Smith, Tm Baker, and the late Don Whitmire, Hal Self, Wesley Thompson, and Bill Isbell.

Another highlight was the selection of Clyde Smith, a member of the All-Benson Field Football team, as the oldest (1938-1941), and most distinguished, active member of the fellowship.  At the time of this writing, he is 88 years old and doesn’t miss a meeting!

Bobby Ray Halbrooks, Associate Minister of the First United Methodist Church in Hartselle, Alabama, serves as chaplain.  He was center on the 1960 Red Raider squad – an outstanding man.

Shorty’s Boys are football players. Many have been selected to the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame. They include: Tim Baker, Joe Brewer, Bob Sittason, and the late Don Whitmire, Hal Self, Bobby Freeman, Red Caudill, Jimmy Johns, Jimmy Caudill, Walter Todd, Roy Freeman, Bobby Golden, Ed Eubanks, Jimmy Long, Bill Isbell, and Bud Lee.

How many heroes do we have?    How many Shorty’s Boys do we have? I don’t know!  I have tried to count but the list goes on and on. Coach touched many lives, but it’s not the number that counts; it’s you that matters.  You are a member of the All-Shorty’s Boys Football Hall of Fame.

A presentation of this magnitude is a monumental undertaking.  It required massive amounts of time and effort.  There is an uncertain feeling about the volumes of material I did not include as a part of this presentation: the many stories left untold/unwritten; the stories I did not get to hear or read.  Each one could have added to this story of love. I am sorry they were not included.  Perhaps we can keep the legacy alive by sharing them in our own way with family and friends.

I did not keep a log of the number of hours spent searching for data at the Decatur Public Library, the Morgan County Archives Building, and the Decatur High School Library. The search was made easier by the cheerful and knowledgeable support given by the staff at each office.  They made the search both pleasant and efficient. I owe them all a very special “thank you” for being so kind and understanding to this old man.  First, I want the reader to know that the assembly of this presentation was not work; it was a very enjoyable experience; it was fun!  As I examined the old and faded books titled “Golden Memories,” I could see the faces, and recall fond memories, of days long gone.  From the pages of the 45-85-year-old Decatur newspapers, I read about young boys that were, and still are, my heroes. There were expertly prepared sports articles which were written by Hap Halbrooks, Barrett Shelton, and Phillip Kyle.  I read, I remembered, and I learned more and more about the pioneers of Decatur football, the coaches, the players, and the fans: the dedicated supporters of the Red and Black.  I found the pages that told of the dedication of two monuments: Benson Field and Ogle Stadium.

Much has been written about Coach and many honors have been given – all richly deserved.  He was the beginning of a legacy that has continued from 1933 until this very day: 75 years. His legacy is not so much in the won/lost/tie book, but in the lives of all the young men he coached on and off the football field. He taught life skills along with sports skills.  Shorty’s Boys is a phrase coined by Coach Ogle’s wife many years ago. Mrs. Ogle always referred to each one of us as she proudly said, “He is one of Shorty’s boys.”

I owe much to Shorty’s Boys.  I became one in the year 1944 when Coach came over to Gordon Bibb to look over his future players.  That day was the beginning of a relationship with both coaches and players that will last forever.  Coach taught us to follow: follow the leader, follow the rules, follow the teachers, follow the parents, follow each other, and follow the Lord.  He said, “To become a leader, you must first learn how to follow.”  Today, the relationship continues through the fellowship of Shorty’s Boys as we meet monthly during football season.  We are men who have made a difference in our town, our state, our country, and our world.  We are football players.  We are champions. We are Shorty’s Boys!

It is a privilege and an honor for me to continue to serve (2006-present) as the captain of this team of distinguished men.