I thought maybe people interested in Miles City Football might be interested in these tid bits. One is about the Buffalo Bills coach and the other is about Bunky Thomas. Regulars are probably familiar with the stories from past postings but I wanted to repost to bring this information up again.http://milescity.com/foru...fpid=27879http://milescity.com/foru...4460#34471
Everybody who was around in the forties has their own version of the Glendive Incident. This is the way "Bunky" remembered it in 1980 and I have recorded it for my upcoming book "Growing Up Black in Montana".
"I grew up in the wild west of cowboys, Indians, sagebrush and drought down in the southeastern corner of Montana. Mine wasn't the sanitized west of John Wayne movies, though he did come through town once. No. Mine was the real west, a ranching town with a saloon on every corner and lots more in between. It was where the streets flooded every year in the wake of the spring chinook and federal highway 12 from Dakota was a graveled road.
It was where 'out west' was Helena and 'back east' was Milwaukee. It was a town with a 'right' side, a 'wrong' side and yet another side where Miss Ruby and her girls entertained the townsmen and ranchers, did good work for church and charity and kept the local economy strong even during the depression.
It was the sort of town where Grant's Pool Hall kept illegal slot machines in the back, while out front they sold the best ice cream sodas in the world. It was an all American town where, on weekend nights, post adolescent boys cruised up and down Main Street in their jalopies ogling teenage girls who paraded the sidewalks in groups of three or more.
It was a town where the Cheyenne could visit, only to be sent packing if they stayed too long. Otherwise there was every ethnic group you could think of: the Chinese who had built the railroads; the Irish, the English and the Scots who had served in the frontier army; the northern Europeans who had been lured west by the unrealistic promises of the Northern Pacific Railroad; the Japanese farmers who were brought in during the war, the Jewish businessmen; and the Greeks and Italians who arrived somewhat later.
Finally, there were my relatives and me. We Thomas's were about the oldest family in town, and like most of the others, we came as cowboys and soldiers. But there was a difference. We were Black.
The oldest of three children, I grew up with my mother, my grandpa, a Great-grandmother, a great-greatgrandfather and a father who disappeared when I turned 13. At ont time, after my Grandpa got hurt working on the railroad, and my Ma was paraylzed with multiple sclerosis, we went on welfare until I got a fulltime job shoveling coal from midnight 'til school started.
It would have been a decidedly disadvantaged childhood, except nobody who mattered - my mother, my teachers, my neighbors- bothered
to tell me. In fact, they all told me I was special and from the beginning, I believed them.
When I failed the first grade it was my teacher, Miss DeVoe, who told me I was a scholar and she would not promote me until I did the work of a scholar. A tall, rawboned, chestnut haired woman, Miss DeVoe personified the independent resourcefulness of the western heroine and I loved her dearly, so I became a scholar for the love of Miss DeVoe.
Later on I decide I could be a scholar and an athlete both. I got my head knocked off in the boxing ring at the county fair before I settled for the gentler sports of track, baseball, basketball and football. That's how I came under the influence of another remarkable teacher.
In the mid-forties, a new, hotshot coach came to Custer County. He was lean and mean, a Boston College man who had played under the legendary Frank Leahy.His name was Bob Jauron and he came with a message. "A winner never quits and a quitter never wins." It might have been a cliché to some folks, but it was the gospel to Bob Jaurin and when he preached it, we believed it.
Back then; Montanans took their high school football as seriously as the kind of whiskey they drank. Football players were the equivalent of the gladiators in the Roman Coliseum...competitions to be fought to the death and won by any means possible...to the extent that the locals tried to rock our bus over a slope when we played in Butte, and we avoided a post-game confrontation in Havre by escaping through a bathroom window.
In the 1946-47 season, it was a badge of honor when we won seven games, tied one and lost another. We had only one more game to play and that was against the hated Glendive, the previous year's state champs. The game was scheduled to be played on our turf, but at the last minute, Glendive announced they "would not play a team with a Nigger on it". The conference ruled that would mean forfeiture for Glendive, so the Red Devils played and won out of its hatred for me.
For us it became a matter of "Wait until next year".
The Custer County Cowboys continued their winning ways through the next season, humiliating all opponents, running over them like a rampaging herd of buffalo thundering across Montana's high plains. Each win more persuasive that the last, we savored the prospect of avenging our lost to Glendive. And this time it would be on their turf.
On the day of the big game, the local folks all but shut down their businesses to pack the train and to form a winter convoy of cars and pick-up trucks equipped with rifle racks and beer. Nobody expected any more trouble than usual, nobody except my family and me. It was known by those of us who had reason to know, the city had an ordinance that said the sun was no allowed to set on a black face in Glendive. Accordingly, my Grandpa, my sister and brother stayed home that day, and unlike the rest of the team, I packed a brown paper bag supper.
That afternoon we were unstoppable. Bob Jauron's starting eleven - English, Scot, Norwegian, Irish and Black defeated the most despised team in the state. We were not quitters. We were not losers.
The celebration started in the stands and spilled over into the surrounding streets. Custer County Cowboys and their supporters filled the saloons. The hotels and the cafes. Our presence was too large to be ignored.
When the team and its boosters rallied for the victory dinner, I sought the safety of the school bus and a solitary celebration with a quart of milk and four peanut butter sandwiches. In all of the commotion nobody would notice.
My team noticed. My neighbors noticed.
"What the hell are you doing with that goddamn paper bag?" Bob Jauron yelled as he charged onto the bus.
From the way he shouted the question I knew he had the answer. The Coach grabbed the food from my grasp and before I knew it I was in the forbidden restaurant, eating with the other heroes.
A long time later, when I had moved far away, someone told me that this once-upon-a-time Saturday was the beginning of a 25 year ritual in which Miles Citians who formed subsequent high school football game convoys never again spent the night in Glendive hotels, bought Glendive food, or drank Glendive whiskey.
It may be just another tall tale, like those John Wayne movies, but one thing is a certainty. For one glorious moment in time, Miles City folks did the right thing. They put aside their own prejudices and stepped up to the plate. They spoke out. They fought back in the battle against the status quo of hatred and discrimination - for just one glorious moment in time.