You can have the big city, I'll stay right here
Jim Grammer, When it was a game
One of the nice things about growing up and living in a small town like Hartselle is the special relationship one has with the people of the town. This was true back when I was growing up here and I think it's still true today.
One can go to the grocery store, the dentist office or the local hardware store and it's the same; the people know you, know your family and all about you.
I wouldn't change that for any big city in the world. You can have your big, progressive cities for all I care, I'll stay right here.
I think it's special when you're a teenager, playing sports or in the band, or whatever. The people of a small town support you in what you do.
It's hard to find anyone who cares in a bigger city.
I know I experienced this during my days at Morgan County High School and later at The University of Alabama.
One memory that I would not exchange for anything is about a telegram I received in November of 1971 just prior to the Alabama/Auburn game.
We were loading the team bus in front of Bryant Hall for the trip to Birmingham the day before the game. A game featuring Alabama – undefeated and rated number three in the nation – and Auburn – undefeated and rated at number four.
Pat Sullivan had just won the Heisman Trophy and there was probably more excitement about this game than any other Iron Bowl before or since.
I was stepping onto the big Greyhound bus and smelling the diesel fumes when Coach White, the dorm director, stepped out the front door and yelled for me. I turned and he handed me a yellow envelope – a Western Union Telegram.
As I sat down behind Coach Bryant on the bus, the seat Fred Marshall and I always occupied on road games, I opened the telegram.
The telegram was from Mr. and Mrs. W.P. Newman, special friends from my hometown of Hartselle. They were the parents of Johnny and Preston Newman, two great football players and very special people.
Johnny and Richard, my brother, were the closest of friends ever since the seventh grade. Johnny went to Jacksonville State to play football and Richard went to Alabama. Johnny died in April 1969 and Richard died that December.
But, that's a story within itself.
I quickly looked at the telegram and read, "Win one for our beloved boys. They are with you. Beat Auburn, Roll Tide."
After 30 years I can admit tears welled up in my eyes, and Fred wondered what was wrong. I didn't tell him.
Mr. and Mrs. Newman don't know this, but I thought of those words on that telegram the whole day, the next day and many times during the game. I still have that telegram today.
After the game in the dressing room, while celebrating the win, I turned as Coach Bryant grabbed me by the shoulder, pulled me around and grabbed my hand to shake it, congratulating me on the win.
I said, "Coach, there's just one thing missing. I wish Richard was here."
I'll never forget his reply: "He is, my man … he is."
*Jim Grammer is a guest columnist for the Enquirer. He now has a book on sale at The Book Cellar.