Tri-City Ledger -

By Earline Smith Crews
Guest Writer 

As for me and my school, it was competition


May 23, 2019

Escambia County Alabama Jr. High Schools, Wallace, Huxford, McCullough, McCall, Damascus, Henley Roberts and North Brewton met each May to play in tournaments for a trophy. Boys played baseball, girls played softball.

This is my memory of a softball tournament played on the gray dirt and crabgrass field at Huxford.

1956 was the defining year. Wallace had never won a tournament trophy to my knowledge. If the Gods smiled on us, this would be the year of,

The trophy.

By the grace of God and assigned by our Principal Mr. B. G. Tew, Mrs. Lena C. English our science/English teacher got to coach our team.

Mrs. Lena C. English was older than dirt, sweet as raw honey and cold to the bone year round. She wore a fur coat that was so old and fragile it shed. To add insult to injury a year or so before, a Wallace student, Eubie Dean Franklin found the coat could have holes pinched in it. We all turned sin into fun. That old bear fur coat started to hang in tangles before the school year ended.

I feel shame now for remembering that, but in 1956 ninth grade, that was so much fun to pinch holes in a bear fur coat.

Mrs. Lena C. English had vein knotted old bowed legs, her wispy hair was held down by thick gauge hairnets. She drove a brown, two toned, little Nash Rambler.

She lived with her sister in a vintage Airstream trailer in Repton.

I loved to hear her laugh. She laughed from deep in her belly.

Let me say I truly loved Mrs. Lena C. English.

She put me in outfield.

To play left field.

I cannot remember who my teammates were except our pitcher was classmate Maxine Emmons.

Maxine had a strong arm, was built sturdy and her nose leaked a bit when the early spring winds blew.

We practiced everyday at recess during the first months of the new year. We played other schools ever so often until somehow all the places were worked out for how we would team up for the playoff tournament in May.

1956 was the year we played the tournament at Huxford.

Boys teams played over there, we played on this side. Huxford was packed that day with all the county Jr. High's athletes and fans milling about.

Lots of socializing, lots of flirting, lots of "getting to know you".

We had brought our brown bag lunches. Long day of competition lay ahead. We drank water from the spigots on the playground or from the water fountains in the school hallway. All tepid, all wet.

9:00 a.m. the first game commenced.

Wallace verses Huxford.

What a match up.....................

Wallace had Maxine on the pitchers mound.

Huxford had Martha Ann Cotton, "The Arm".

We knew something was amiss when we kept hearing that name repeated.

Straws were drawn, Wallace got to bat first.

Martha Ann was cute as a bug, had cute legs to almost the ground, tanned and suited into a pair of yellow short shorts, tucked with a white Tee. Shod in NEW white canvas Keds.

Think Sandra Dee.

Her hair was blondish, shoulder length that swung perfect curls.

Our batter was jittery as all eyes from every school in the county was focused on her.

Martha Ann Cotton rubbed her stitched leather wad of a ball, her arm came loose with about a thousand turns to lay the ball waist high and,


"Strike one"............................

"What the devil?"

"Holy cow, dew see that"?

Martha Ann winds it up again and,


"Strike two"................................................................

Other teams begin to fall silent and bunch up in bunches.

Martha Ann chews her Juicy Fruit with the calm of a dead snail.

She spins that ball arm, lets go with the speed of nothing we ever saw.


"Strike three"


Huxford trots to the plate.

Wallace slogs out to the field, all red faced, limp and stunned.

"What the heck did we just see?"

Maxine takes the mound and CHUNKS the ball.

I'm in left field trying to get my glove on my hand.

Huxford cracks the ball.

"Earline, get the ball".

"Cheezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz" my glove is not on yet".

"Throw it to third, crazee, pick it up, pick it up".

This game is in jeopardy.

Maxine decides to up the ante.

She wipes the sweat off the ball, she rubs it like polishing an apple, she wipes snot onto her arm, she starts swinging her arm like a whirling dervish, lets it go as we watch the thing part the elements towards the sky in a 10:00 o'clock position.

By now word has spread to the boys field, the non playing crowds gather and wait for Huxford and "The Arm" to get back into the field.

Martha Ann Cotton was a star before the game even got started.

And so it went.

Maxine had changed horses in the middle of the stream, so to speak.

She was trying to pitch like Huxford's finest.

Wallace coach, Mrs. Lena C. English was laughing like a hyena as she sat flat on the ground, one leg underneath her hindquarters, the other one all cotton stocking and rolled to below the knee, holey fur coat clutched by liver splotched old hands.

"Maxine go back to what you know honey".

Maxine huffs and wipes her nose.

Finally we got a chance to bat again and Martha Ann got to show us how it was done.

Time dragged on that day of pitching and prissyfied and puckered faces.

When did North Brewton and Damascus and Henley Roberts and McCall and McCullough play?

I honestly cannot remember our sister schools being on the field that day.

We were so dazzled by the pitching arm of Huxfords own Martha Ann Cotton, our focus wouldn't allow it.

I cannot remember how the tournament played out, except.

Huxford got a trophy.

Wallace got shamed and sent home.

Maxine pitched her best to us Wallace players on our own turf.

Maxine gave up arm whirls.

Maxine could pitch at Wallace.

"Dang, Maxine eats her beans".

Martha Ann Cotton was all smiles and still cute as a button as she was handed that trophy.

That was a fun and memorable day of,



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