Gabe Felder had resigned as Head Football Coach and was now our Principal. He was a strict disciplinarian and was a no nonsense person. Our campus was now closed. We could not leave the campus as we had been allowed to do in the past.
Instead of leaving the campus for snacks Mr. Felder sold snacks in the basement of the school. The school would now get the profits from the sale of candy and drinks instead of the small stores just outside the campus making profits. It was a good business move for the school. Frustration did some times set in when trying to purchase candy in the school store. There were always long lines of people to shout over and reach over.
There were only certain times students were allowed to go to their lockers. I saw a boy chance breaking the locker rule one day. Mr. Felder saw him and hit him on his rear end so hard that it sent his head into the locker. We remembered that incident and did not challenge Mr. Felder on unauthorized visits to the lockers.
Any rule breakers were sure to meet Mr. Felder’s huge paddle. Corporal Punishment was very much in fashion those days and Mr. Felder did not hesitate to put his paddle to good use.
The Kentwood High School building had been built in the 1930’s after fire destroyed the old high school building.
The high school building had a huge basement. The basement area contained the rest rooms. Also located in the basement area was the school store where snacks were sold. This school store was on the southeast corner of the basement. Across from the school store was a small meeting room. The meeting room was used for chorus and meetings such as student council. A boiler room was located on the west side of the basement. The boiler room was ably manned by DeGant and Cyral Yarborough during the winter months. Cyral and DeGant also kept our school clean. Much of the basement area was open area. Mr. Felder allowed the school clubs to place ping pong tables in the open areas. We would sprint from the upper floors to secure one of those tables so that we could play ping pong during our breaks. A sunken garden was located on the north side of the High School Building. It was remnants of the basement of the old building that had burned down.
The school day was broken by a 15 minute recess in the morning. We also had a long lunch period where we could eat and still have time to play some ping pong.
The Principals Office was located in the middle of the first floor of the High School Building. The north side of the first floor was occupied by the 8th grade classrooms and some high school classrooms. The south side of the first floor was occupied by high school classrooms only. The business classes (shorthand, typing, etc.) were taught in the center of the 1st floor on the west side of the building.
The second floor of the high school building consisted of a huge study hall and school library in the center, classrooms on the north side (where future homemakers learned cooking and sewing) , and classrooms (including the science lab) on the south side of the building.
Even though we started school after Labor Day the brutal Louisiana Summer was still ongoing. Opening the large classroom windows did not provide us with much relief. We sweated through the day. Unlike today, these were the days when students were not allowed to wear shorts. We attended school in our blue jeans or kaki pants. After school was dismissed in the afternoons the football players would leave the stagnant heat of the classrooms to dress and practice for hours in the blazing heat on the football field. Thank God we were young and resilient.
I enjoyed going to school. I even enjoyed attending class and generally liked my teachers. School days settled quickly into a routine and I was comfortable with routines. We attended class and practiced football Mondays through Thursdays. We pep rallied and played our football games on Fridays. We rested and attended movies on Saturdays. We went to church and spent time with family on Sundays. On Monday we started the process over again. The Thanksgiving Holidays finally broke the routine in late November.
For the most part I found schoolwork to be easy and I excelled at school. I really never understood Spanish but memorized enough to get by. I made a C in typing my junior year because my fingers were broken from playing football. Otherwise I made almost straight A’s. I do believe that I received a great education at Kentwood High School and I was prepared for college by the teachers at that school.
My freshman classes included General Science with Mr. H. Gordon Price, Spanish and English with Mr. Devon Sanders, P.E. with Coach Shaw, Civics with Coach Shaw, and Math with Mr. Herbert Broyles. I also had study hall time with Ms. Inez Alford.
Many students had trouble keeping quiet during study hall. One word from Miss Alford and students were on their way to Mr. Felder’s paddle.
The school cafeteria was located to the west of the High School Building. These were the days of full school meals like Red Beans and Rice, Roast Beef and Mashed Potatoes, Spaghetti and Meat Balls, etc. Pizza and Salad Bars were not offered. Our lunchroom ladies dressed in white. Mrs. Beaty and the ladies made rolls to die for. We would cover those rolls with real butter and dip them in syrup. I liked the school lunches.
The Gymnasium was located to the south of the High School Building. It was small and cramped. There were six rows of seats located on the north and south side of the building. The east side of the building had a small entry way and coaches offices. Coach Shaw and Mrs. Helen Singleton (the girls coach) occupied these offices. The west side of the gym consisted of boy’s and girl’s dressing rooms. This gym would be packed for days each January when Kentwood High hosted the Dairy Bowl Basketball Tournament.
On Friday’s during football season we would begin the school day in the gym with a pep rally. The band would sit on the north side of the building and would play inspirational “fight” songs. Drum Major Ray Pledger led the band. Linda Stegall was the Featured Twirler. Linda was backed up by Majorettes Nelwyn Hutchinson, Montie Hutchinson, Sarah Felder, Connie Penton and Patsy Walker. The Majorettes joined the Kangarettes at the beginning of the pep rally joined hands and danced in huge circles in the middle of the gym floor. The Cheerleaders formed their own circle and danced with high kicks. The Kangaretts were led by Abbie Muse and Gail Cutrer. Other members of the Kangarettes were Carol Fowler, Beverly Swearingen, Betty Morris, Connie Everette, Lucille Spears, Linda McMillian Patsy Flecher, Peggy Swindle, Elizabeth Webb and Pat Martin.
The sound was deafening in our small gym as the band belted out our fight songs. Our band was large compared to the size of our school. The community was proud of our band. Glen Simpson, Steve Miller, Bobby Lambert, Robbie Pate, Chuck Sanders, and Jessie Travis were some of the leaders in the band.
The cheerleaders were Patty Lynch, Betty Lou Grice, Lucille Spears, Judy Gentry, Jewel Yarborough and Silvia Meyns. They would dance and lead the student body in cheers that had been chanted for generations. Even Mr. Felder, veins popping out in his neck as he yelled, would lead the student body in a rousing cheer. Mr. Felder would shout, “Give me a K; Give me an H; Give me an S..!!!!!!!!!!!!”.
The football players would sit on the south side of the gym. Coach Shaw did not allow us to cheer. We were instructed to sit in silence and watch the rest of the student body as they cheered for us to win the upcoming game. Coach Shaw told us that we were to be thinking about the game. We sat in silence and thought about the game.
I was so insignificant as a football player in August of my Freshman year that we did not even have a game jersey with my number (#47) on it. For my first “Jamboree Scrimmage” I wore #46 instead of #47. We participate in the Clinton, Louisiana Jamboree. We dressed in our orange helmets with a blue stripe down the middle. We wore white pants and white or orange jerseys. Later in the year we received a new set of blue jerseys.
We played St. Francisville in the jamboree. The scrimmage ended 0-0 and I did not get to play. My feelings were hurt.
As the year progressed I began to get playing opportunities on kicking teams. My big break came (and sadly so) when Danny Ray Horne, our starting right halfback, injured his knee. Danny Ray was our best running back. He was a senior and had been kind to me and was a good friend.
The day before my first varsity football game I attended the movie “The Bridge on the River Kwai” that was showing at the Elroy Theater. Since our games were played on Friday’s Coach Shaw had suggested that we do something on Thursday nights to relax like attending a movie. Coach Shaw further strongly suggested that we not attend a movie with our girl friends in tow.
Danny Ray Horne was also at the movie that Thursday night. He saw me and asked me to sit with him. When the movie ended Danny Ray asked me how I was getting home. I told him I was to call my mother. Danny Ray told me that he would take me home. I was thrilled. I was driven home by a senior and our best football player. This was a huge step up the social ladder. I also appreciated Danny Ray’s kindness.
I had been Danny Ray’s backup at right halfback. So one Monday in October (after Danny Ray’s knee injury) our team changed from having a 175 pound senior right halfback to a freshman right halfback who weighed 98 pounds. I could have never dreamed in August that by late October I would be the starting right halfback for the team and scoring touchdowns.
As we go through life we sometimes have small things that happen to us that have a great impact on our confidence to improve our station in life. The invitation to catch a ride home with Danny Ray was one of those times. Another one of those times occurred one September afternoon in 1964.
I was riding in the back seat of a car with some older boys after practice one evening that September. We were cruising 11th street behind the football stadium when the boys began to talk about who was doing “good” in practice. Ronnie Garner (who was already the starting left halfback as a freshman) was riding in the front seat and said, “You know Charlie Kuss is really looking good”. Someone told him I was in the car and he expressed surprise that I was there. This was a great confidence builder for me. Everyone knew that Ronnie was the best young athlete in the school. I never knew that he had noticed that I was doing “good” in practice. This gave me great confidence to practice hard and earn playing time.
n 1964 Kentwood High School Football was coming off a 0-10 season from the year before. Coach Shaw’s job as a first year head coach at Kentwood in 1964 was to return the program to respectability. He did that and more.