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.