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Inaugural banquet honors Elgin athletes of the past

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    Front row, left to right: Louise Thomas Green, Alice Perkins Willis, Charles Lundgren. Middle row, left to right: Elgin ISD athletic director Jens Anderson, Dorothy Moore Dolittle, Oscar Sanchez, Robert Sanchez, Sandra Prewitt Hicks (representing Buddy Prewitt). Back row, left to right: T. Berry (representing John Westbrook), Becky Fisher Ward (representing Jimmy Fisher), Ronny Arbuckle, Darrell Davis, Harry Krenek, Ray Limas, Alice Davis Day (representing Eddie Davis). Photo by Erin Anderson Photography
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    Coach T. Berry, representing John Westbrook, and Donna Snowden, representing her father Charles Lundgren, enjoy the evening.
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    Coach Anderson introduces honoree Ronny Arbuckle.
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    Harry "The Horse" Krenek accepts his award.
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    Golf champion Ray Limas addresses the group.

Thursday evening was a night of stories. Like kids in a candy shop, we were treated to funny remembrances, beautiful stories, tales of when our past was once not fair or easy for many of the honorees. But without a doubt, each was a story of inspiration.

Elgin ISD had never had an organized process to honor past sports accomplishments from former Elgin athletes. Sure, there was a trophy case in place. And there were banners. But athletic director and head coach Jens Anderson felt the school was missing an opportunity to recognize prior outstanding athletes, while at the same time inspiring current students and athletes by sharing these stories of hard work and success. From this thought process came the idea of shaping the first ever Elgin Athletic Hall of Honor.

With ardent support from Elgin ISD Superintendent Jodi Duron, high school principal Ricardo Reyes and the rest of the administration, Coach Anderson sought out various community leaders that were also active in school activities to form a Hall of Honor Nomination Board. These members were to research students from Elgin High School or Washington High School, which was Elgin’s black high school prior to integration, that were outstanding and honored athletes as well as citizens in life. The board was tasked to submit nominations for exceptional performances accomplished in years 1965 and before. Only individual nominations would be considered, except for doubles tennis teams and four-member golf teams. Up to ten nominations would be approved for this very first class of inductees. Each following year, the time frame will be moved up five years for consideration; next year, athletes from 1970 and before will be reviewed.

The Hall of Honor nomination board consisted of Ken Daughtry, Pete Bega, Sydna Arbuckle, Chad Watson, Coach T. Berry, Shorty Russell and myself, Ron Ramirez. The board was chaired by Coach Anderson with Sandra Howell as secretary. After several meetings for review and discussion, the initial class was voted on and approved.

After approval, Coach Anderson and Ms. Howell spent countless hours contacting and communicating with these honorees or their families, some now living in other states and some who have passed, to coordinate dates and places for them to be recognized. Not only was a banquet held for the inductees, but they were also recognized on the field before the Elgin-Pflugerville game on Friday, September 13.

Which brings me back to the stories.

Many recalled their equipment—or lack thereof. Mr. Arbuckle mentioned no mouth pieces in football—and had several teeth knocked out to prove it—no weight room, and no water during practices or games. Donna Lundgren Snowden recalled finding out her father had hit the first home run over the fence when the “new” baseball field in the park was built.

Verdilee Hicks remembered her dad saying that when he played basketball at Washington High, they had to play all out-of-town games because they had no gym to call home. Louise Thomas was one of the first black females at the University of Texas. She played in the band but was initially not allowed to travel with the band because of race restrictions of the time.

Coach Berry remembered a rule that he and his teammate John Westbrook’s football coach had: no sweets during the season. Berry remembered he was talking with a young lady in the cafeteria when she offered him a piece of apple pie. He thought there was no way the coach would find out, so he ate it. The coach did find out, and Berry was suspended for a game. He later found out his own best friend, John Westbrook, had turned him in to the coach. But he could not be mad because he realized he was wrong, and he knew Westbrook was the captain of the team and was pure integrity.

Ray Limas told of how his first golf club was a whittled-down hoe handle with a hammer head attached at the bottom. Alice Davis Day remembered that her Dad always made her brother, Eddie Davis, wear golf slacks because golf was a “gentlemen’s” game.

Oh, the stories.

After a nice meal, sponsored by the Elgin Athletic Booster Club, and desserts sponsored by Veronica and Brad Seever, the main event unfolded, recognizing and hearing from the inductees or their representatives themselves. The “candy shop” was opened.

The inaugural class of inductees into the Elgin Athletic Hall of Honor are:

Charles Lundgren (EHS)

Compared in the newspapers to Bobby Lane, Lundgren was selected as All-Distict and All-Centex halfback in football, as well as starring at 1B in baseball and winning district in his track specialty in the late 1940s. Daughter Donna Lundgren Snowden gave a memorable acceptance speech for Charles Lundgren, who is now 90 years old.

T.J. Hicks (WHS)

The star quarterback for the Washington Eagles, Hicks also led his basketball and track teams to a state championship in the late 1940s. He also starred in baseball and played collegiately at Samuel Huston College, now Huston-Tillotson University, in Austin before joining the U.S. military, where he played in military teams all around the world.

Ronny Arbuckle (EHS)

An outstanding four-sport athlete in the mid 1950s, Arbuckle exceled in each. He led the basketball team in scoring, winning hurdles at the district track level while leading the Wildcats as a captain and quarterback for the undefeated 1953 district champions. Arbuckle went on to play football, baseball and basketball at the collegiate level at Texas Lutheran College.

Jimmy Fisher (EHS)

A multi-sport athlete that lettered foiur years in football and baseball, Fisher is most recognized as a star pitcher for the Wildcats, helping them secure the Regional Championship in the late 1950s. Fisher went on to pitch at Lamar University and Baylor University, where he set a SWC record for throwing 17 innings of no-hit baseball. Jimmy Fisher passed in 1998, but he was represented by his daughter, Becky Fisher Ward.

Harry Krenek (EHS)

Known as Harry “The Horse” Krenek, he was selected All-District, All-Centex and All-State as a fullback in football in 1958. That team finished 12-3 and second in state that year. Krenek also starred as a pitcher for the 1958-59 regional champ baseball teams. Krenek went on to play at the University of Texas before eventually becoming a professor and serving as president of Western College.

Dorothy Moore Dolittle (EHS)

Dolittle starred as an All-District basketball player in the mid 1960s before going on to be a champion long distance runner at Mary Hardin Baylor. She went on to become a head track coach in Missouri, Houston and Tennessee and served as an Olympic coach during the Los Angeles Summer Olympics. She also won the ladies division in the Inaugural Chicago Marathon. Dolittle finished her coaching career at home for Elgin High School.

John Westbrook (WHS)

Westbrook was the salutatorian of his class as well as starring in track, basketball and as a running back in football in the mid-1960s. Westbrook went on to attend Baylor University and was the first African American to play football in the Southwest Conference. He was also inducted in the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame this year.

His football career was cut short in Baylor because of injuries, but he served as ordained minister and traveled with the Billy Graham crusades throughout the country. He also was minister of a church in Houston before he passed in 1983 at the age of 36.

He freely admitted as to facing much hatred and racism while playing at Baylor, but felt he had to keep his head cool so as to be a good role model not only for any future black players, but for every player he stepped onto the field with. His teammate and friend, T. Berry, gave a moving recap of Westbrook’s full life.

Louise Thomas Green and Alice Perkins Willis (WHS)

Both Green and Willis excelled in basketball at Washington, but are better known for being the state champions in doubles tennis in 1955 and 1956. Green was one of the first black students at the University of Texas, where she played in the band. They both have tirelessly continued to serve their communities and helped pave the way for countless female athletes to follow.

Ray Limas, Oscar Sanchez, Robert Sanchez, David Gibbons, Darrel Davis and Eddie Davis (EHS)

Known as the “Brickyard Boys,” Ray Limas, Oscar Sanchez, Robert Sanchez and David Gibbons were the state golf champions in 1959. They started golf at the nine-hole golf course owned by Buddy Prewitt at the Elgin Brickyard. Sneaking onto the course originally, they made do with homemade clubs or broken clubs. After being discovered by Prewitt, he bought the boys some junior clubs to start learning the game.

As time went on and the boys showed dedication to the game, he bought them regular clubs. Limas, Gibbons, Oscar and Robert Sanchez would often play every evening or morning while working as a caddy all day for other golfers. They played in tournament after tournament and continued to win, including posting the best scores in the state meet in 1959. Along with state champion patches and awards, they were able to bring home the large, beautiful trophy back to Elgin.

After Oscar Sanchez and Gibbons graduated, Limas and Robert Sanchez teamed with two other excellent golfers—Darrel Davis and Eddie Davis—to continue the winning Elgin golf tradition. This new team were the state golf champions the following year in 1960. The 1960 championship was tougher according to the players, and just as thrilling to hoist the new championship trophy.

After graduation, Limas joined the Air Force and later became a police officer in Los Angeles. Robert Sanchez joined the Navy and also became a police officer in Los Angeles. Oscar Sanchez joined the Marines and later worked 30 years for Northop Grumman. Eddie Davis now lives in Seattle, and his sister Alice represented him.

Buddy Prewitt

An involved Elginite, Prewitt provided coaching, money and logistics for Elgin golf champions in 1959, 1960 and beyond. Elgin High School did not have a golf team in 1959 when Prewitt had been mentoring the “Brickyard Boys” he was so proud of.

He went to the school board to petition the school to add golf to their athletic program. His request was denied. Not one to take no for an answer, he went back to the school board and proposed that he would financially sponsor a high school golf team. The board agreed.

After tryouts, the team was set, and Buddy and the Standard Brick Company he owned provided lessons, transportation, food and entry fees for this group of kids to compete. His endeavor paid off grandly when the Elgin team won the Texas State Championships in 1959 and 1960. Elgin ISD added golf as an athletic program soon after.

Sandra Prewitt Hicks accepted the honor for Buddy Prewitt.

Along with dinner, each honoree was presented with a beautiful plaque containing their picture and a description of their accomplishments. They also received tickets for their families to attend the dinner and tickets to the Elgin-Pflugerville game the next night.

The Hall of Honor plaques, and display case will be located in the main entrance hallway next to the gymnasium.