Listening to the football players from the class of 1969 as they reminisce about their days of glory is like sitting in on an unwritten book of local sports history. With memories as vivid as if it were yesterday, the teammates, who are nearing their 70s, recall being bussed over to the field at Wharton Junior High School for all of their years of playing football and running track.
One of them, Ronnie Roecker, remembered it well.
“The field was supposed to be ready for the class of ’69, but we didn’t get to play on it,” he said. He remembers that they had to be bussed over to the old stadium behind the junior high school. He and his teammates had played on that field for the past four years and for the two previous years when they were students on that campus.
Larry Womack, another teammate, really wanted to play on the Wharton County Junior College’s field because his “heroes” had played there … his older brothers whom he wanted to imitate.
That field was located where the tennis courts are now located on the WCJC campus. He remembers the field being torn down in 1967 or 1968.
Everett Matthys was disappointed that they couldn’t play at the new field either.
“At the time, all teams played at the junior high. Not only the high school teams, but the junior college teams as well as the junior high teams,” Matthys said.
The three entities had to take turns playing so it was a challenge to coordinate who played on that field when.
“We were juniors when Eddie Joseph started coaching here. In our senior year, our district record was 4-2. We actually beat the district winner (West Columbia) 33-7,” Matthys said.
Even though the Tigers lost the district title, that is one victory they will never forget. Matthys basked in the memory of the days gone by.
George Baines started out on the team, but he left it because “There were too many wide receivers.”
Local realtor Eric Muegge played as well. He was another disappointed player because they were unable to inaugurate the new field.
The team from the next year’s seniors, the Class of 1970, was actually the first team to play on the field. Even with them playing in the fall of 1969, the field still wasn’t totally ready for action. The turf wasn’t sodded just right, so games had to be played on rye grass.
Dale Lechler from the Class of 1970 said, “We were 5-5 that year, but Wharton never lost a game on that field.”
Lechler, who is the father of retired Houston Texans punter Shane Lechler, said he is really excited about Wharton ISD’s new Eddie Joseph Memorial Stadium.
“The facilities are phenomenal,” Lechler said.
Much of the reliving the past took place at the 50th reunion for the Class of 1969.
The gala was held at Kalina’s Barn in Wharton on Saturday, Oct. 19. Out of 170 students who went to senior year together, approximately 50 joined together for a night of nostalgia.
Many of them lamented the 28 classmates who have already left this world, so those who did attend truly enjoyed the fellowship of the remaining classmates.