- There were exactly three Ralph’s from my childhood / youth. Ralph Malph; Ralph Macchio; and Ralph Youngblood. Ralph Youngblood was by far the coolest. Yes, even cooler than the Karate Kid. Ralph Youngblood never would have showed up at a school Halloween party dressed as a shower. He might have been willing to be a crossdresser for a day in 5th grade, but never a shower. Some people will do anything for candy, it seems.
- Ralph introduced me to Guns-n-Roses. He was the first person I knew to recognize the genius of that band. The first song he played for me was “Welcome to the Jungle”, not their first release “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. The guy just had a knack for knowing what was cool.
- I was nervous about this call, which you can pick up in the first 15-20 mins. It’s because of a regrettable decision I made senior year that drove a wedge in my friendship with Ralph. You can tell that Ralph let that go a long time ago. It’s ironic that I am still carrying it around, even though mentally I knew in advance that it had been forgiven / forgotten long ago. This blog project might as well be about me learning about memory and forgiveness.
- Back to Ralph…We started off the call talking about a call I made to Ralph in my 20’s when he lived in San Antonio. I didn’t remember much about the call. He remembered the call also, as I had called to congratulate him on his upcoming nuptials!
- Ralph is still married and has two sons. He lived briefly in San Antonio, then moved to Dallas. He’s lived in Flower Mound for the past 17+ years.
- How he met his wife is a good story. She was a point guard on Baylor’s basketball team. His dorm was near where she practiced and played. They’d pass regularly. One thing led to another…
- Ralph and I were pretty good friends in HS. We were in a few classes together, but also played soccer. He, like I, remember soccer fondly. In spite of the frustration of incessant losing after having won consistently as youth, we somehow managed to have a good time.
- His oldest is a 17 year old junior who played varsity soccer as a freshman and sophomore. No surprise there if you ever saw Ralph play soccer. There were only 2-4 soccer players on our team that could have started or contributed on other competitive local area varsity teams. Ralph was one of those guys. He was like clockwork moving the ball down the wing to cross it.
- What was a surprise about Ralph’s 17 YO is that he left soccer and switched successfully to shooting sports, without a background in shooting. Not many people can just walk out to the range and start shooting moving objects and be good at it, especially in Texas where so many become intimate with guns at a young age. Very impressive. It’s even more impressive when you hear his proud Dad talk about what he overcome – dyslexia, ADHD – and how shooting has helped him. There’s an ESPN story in there somewhere…
- The other funny part of that story that Ralph shares is that he wasn’t a gun owner or hobbyist, himself. It’s fun sharing your sports and your passions with your kids. It’s even more fun when they carve something out for themselves and you find yourself learning their sport alongside your kid as an adult. Ralph is having that experience.
- If you’d asked me to list the people who you absolutely knew would have a successful career, Ralph would have made top 5. Ralph was cagey smart. Sharp witted, too. Beyond that, he was versatile and adaptable both with his brain and socially. He could effortlessly move from serious to just hanging out to serious. Ralph was also viewed as “righteous” by our classmates, which wasn’t easy when you consider the broad set of demographics, education, and cultures represented. If anyone ever had a bad thing to say about Ralph or disrespected him in any way, I didn’t hear it. Everyone liked and respected him. He could bridge or flow in and out of any social group, from the knuckle draggers to the classiest of social butterflies. Before any of us had a name for or understanding of “emotional intelligence”, there was Ralph embodying it.
- It was interesting although not altogether surprising to learn at 45 that Ralph had competed well in writing contests as a younger man. Again, cagey smart. Articulate and thoughtful. Not showy about it, but the wheels were always turning.
- You know, I’m not really making an effort to get into spirituality, but it came up again. I didn’t know that Ralph grew up Methodist. I was a little surprised when I learned he went to Baylor, which I associate with the Southern Baptist Convention, a dry county, and contemporary Christian music. My favorite part of re-listening to the recording was hearing Ralph talking about growing spiritually and how his experience at Baylor put him on that path. Ralph’s subtle. He was giving me an “in” to talk about something interesting and personal and I wasn’t paying close enough attention.
- On the topic of college, Ralph applied at UNC and Duke. He was thinking broader and getting ready to launch himself forward. He had plans and dreams. I didn’t know that at the time. I wonder if anyone outside his family did. I guess I wasn’t paying close enough attention then, either.
- Regarding Ralph’s career, he spent a lot of his working years at Merrill Lynch. When the economy tanked in 2007-2008, he went into business for himself. Ralph is a financial advisor / planner, with four other partners. I’m not trying to influence anyone, but Ralph’s someone I would trust with money.
- Another thing I learned about the younger Ralph which I didn’t know at the time is that he read business books. He read “Art of the Deal” in HS. That confession led us into a discussion about politics.
- I’m not going to spend a lot of time elaborating on politics. If you’re interested in what Ralph has to say in that regard, tune in around 52:45. In summary, Ralph is a discerning conservative who has a critical eye on what’s going on politically in Washington and has expectations for how the POTUS should conduct himself.
- I knew I never really saw Ralph after HS in the summers. I rarely came home and didn’t socialize much. What I didn’t know until the call last evening was that Ralph’s family and his home base moved to Baton Rouge, LA. Which is an explanation for what I recognized but never understood.
- I fully expected for Ralph to keep ties with his closest friends from HS. No surprise, then, to know he keeps in touch with Tyler or Nick. The connection with Dave Fulghum makes sense. Another of my favorite parts of re-listening was my quizzical response to him still seeing Paul Carmona from time to time, who I didn’t remember as a part of his gang. Failure of memory on my part! Ralph was quick to remind me about the references that Paul made as salutatorian to his family station wagon, the “party wagon”!
- Ralph was the first peer of mine to have two cars – a vintage mustang and a station wagon (technically, the wagon was probably his parents’ vehicle, but if possession is 9/10 of the law…). He moved between the two without irony. Ralph’s party wagon was the predecessor of the modern Humvee – a people mover war machine, taking over wherever it went. If you know the whereabouts of that vehicle, I’m pretty sure the Smithsonian is still looking for it.
- If you are reading this, didn’t go to HS with us at DHS, and are skeptical of Ralph’s stories of his youth, let me go ahead and set your mind at ease. The scavenger hunt, auto surfing on the rack of the “party wagon”, the near strangling of Nick at the beach by his own python, etc…all of it is true and none inflated!
- I was in HS with Ralph and both of his sisters. I got to know Jenny through a student council trip – she, like Ralph, was good to everybody, even nerdy, gawky freshman like myself at the time. They were and are an impressive family!
- He had several good suggestions for me to host on this blog…Dave Fulghum, Mike Finn, Kyle Gupton, Casey Fisher, and the artist formerly known as U4K. I’ll work on it.
- If you listen to the recording, you’ll hear Ralph say several times that he has begun to think more about some of the friendships we had from HS. I obviously can relate to that. FB will do that to you. Maybe this blog contributes to that feeling as well. my thought…why wait two years for a reunion? Getting to see Ralph would be reason enough to get us all together!
Looking rather dapper. I believe that is product in his hair!
Picture of Brett with family back int the day…
Brett feeling a little “light headed” after fishing
I don’t have any audio. My apologies! I tried to host this call on a Saturday morning while attending my daughter’s gymnastics practice (I do most of these calls from inside my closet). That…well, that was a mistake. I could hear Brett over the phone, but it’s simply too distracting to publish. Lesson learned!
- Let me start by saying I was blown away at how open Brett was with me.
- The best stories are stories where people overcome obstacles in their lives and grow. Brett’s is one of those stories.
- When I put my list together for this blog of people to whom I wished to contact, I had Brett Rader / Ronnie Russell listed together. I thought of them growing up as inseparable, almost like a Bert & Ernie combo. Good to hear that they are still friends and still communicate. They don’t see each other as much, though. Both are family men. Brett has three three teenage daughters. Ronnie has FIVE KIDS!
- Brett was the easy choice between those two to interview. Brett’s upbeat and talkative. Although the audio of our discussion wasn’t good enough to publish, talking to Brett in 2017 felt an awful lot like talking to Brett in HS. He’s still very grounded. No ego. Pretty open. Able to throw ideas around.
- In HS, Brett Rader was always an alternative universe Alex Keaton type – slightly disheveled and liberal. Conversations with Brett tended to be about adult topics. He’s the only person that I can remember genuinely talking politics. Guess what? Brett is still talking politics, although he’s shifted to conservatism. I needed someone to talk to about Texas politics. Brett was an excellent choice!
- Brett and I became FB friends only recently. I’ve been a passive FB’er until recently. I basically would accept invites, but rarely reached out to others. I was pleasantly surprised when I added Brett. He’s a good follow if you’re into politics! I didn’t expect that Brett would be a regular contributor to FB; I don’t remember him as being particularly social (although I think that was situational). Most of his posts are political commentary. I really like what he has to say. It’s informed and intelligent. Witty but without being off-putting or mean spirited. I value that.
- Brett is still a conservative. We found a lot of common ground discussing Trump. Without belaboring the point, we both agreed Trump isn’t a conservative and that his personality / temperament are dangerous in that role. I’ll stop now. You can continue reading.
- Brett went to A&M, then left. Sounded like his social life picked up at A&M. Maybe, too much. He went home and met his future wife, who is from Texas City. Later when his wife got pregnant, Brett went back to school to get his degree at A&M. He’s a software engineer now. Where I work with software engineers every day, I bet he’s a really good one.
- His career took him to Austin, then back to the Clear Lake area. Then back to Austin because that’s the area his family prefers. He has a wife and three daughters. I’m just going to assume the ladies got together and made a decision.
- We discussed Austin the city, which I only really knew through the nineties as a liberal hot bed. Sounds more cosmopolitan and diverse now. More balanced politically. Lots of outward suburban growth. I grimace at what traffic must be like now. It was hell then!
- Something I didn’t know about Brett. He’s an outdoorsman! Apparently, Brett would hunt and fish before and after school. Carried a gun in his car to hunt. How did I not know any of this? There were people rumored to carry weapons. I don’t remember Brett on that list!
- As a parent, I’ve known many families with children with ADD. I’ve often thought to myself that the condition, while undiagnosed, must have existed in some percentage of my classmates. When Brett brought up the fact that he had been diagnosed as an adult as having ADD, I had a much better understanding and appreciation of Brett as a younger man. That made sense.
- Brett is treated for ADD and says his focus is 20x better. That said, he said he still has to work at organizing himself. Just doesn’t come naturally. I can relate to that.
- Brett described feeling like an “outsider” in HS. He struggled to find his tribe. That changed when he left Dickinson.
- Brett blamed social struggles in HS on immaturity. Maybe. In my mind, Brett is probably one of many people for whom the familiarity we had with each other in a small town actually worked against him. He never had a chance. What he needed was a fresh start. When he got that chance, he sounds like he thrived.
- Over the past 10-15 years, much more attention has been paid to bullying and it’s impact on kids. I wouldn’t describe what I witnessed with how classmates treated Brett as bullying. He was teased consistently, though.
- One of Brett’s real strengths was his ability to absorb that teasing and occasionally return the volley. Very quick witted. He could take it like a champ and never seem any the worse for it. Never became guarded. I admired that about him at the time. Listening to him open up about it on the phone, I admire it now even more. I didn’t know how alienated he felt at the time. He never showed it.
- Every generation tends to think more of itself than the generations that follow. I’ll say this about kids today; while there is still cruelty, the majority of them treat each other with more compassion and acceptance.
- Although he didn’t come out and say it, I think Brett would have liked a shot at HS football. I’d forgotten we played together in jr. high. He was a late bloomer and gave it up before we got to HS. We talked about how some of the starters in jr. high were the same size when we graduated.
- As I think about the list of people I brainstormed that I’d like to participate in this blog, a pattern is emerging. They might have been well thought of in high school or, just as likely, little thought of. Most were smart, which is a weakness of mine; I like people that teach me. All, though, were interesting. Brett was interesting to me in HS, but I was too caught up in the regiment and patterns of my daily life of class, sports, church, and friends to extend myself or broaden my social circle. At 45, I’m fortunate that someone like Brett who I liked but didn’t engage with enough as a younger man was willing now to invest in me and my project. I’m glad we talked. Brett’s one of the good guys! Next time we’re in Austin, a meal at Chuy’s is on me!
Here’s the audio…
Smiling in a sea young men in European swimwear!
In the classroom teaching TX history
The Geneva we all remember!
A night out!
- You ever budget 30 minutes to an hour to talk to an acquaintance from back in the days then realize after that you are over 2 hours in? That’s where a conversation with Geneva will take you. She’s very engaging! Felt like the tables had been turned for much of the call.
- I exited Texas for the most part in 1993. I’ve had some short stints back living in the state, but what I think about Texas is stuck in the early to mid-90’s. When I think of Tomball where Geneva lives, I think of a rural community. All buckles, boots, and spurs. Not so much anymore, apparently.
- Geneva’s posts on Facebook have drawn my attention. She’s a good follow. My favorite: when she called people out for the melodrama over how dismal 2016 and asked for the positives of last year. Very grounded. I might even describe her as a good weathervane regarding how people are feeling on FB.
- If you’re having a bad day and just want to cheer yourself up, go look at her pictures. Hundreds of pics of she, her family, and her friends smiling, laughing, acting goofy, and being themselves!
- I somehow misread her political leanings based on FB posts. We talked a fair amount about politics, especially how Trump’s administration intends to make changes to education. Geneva’s pretty up front about the public school system being broken. More on her experiences teaching later.
- Regina Patton and I discussed the challenges of integrating into Dickinson schools if you lived in Bacliff. That was obvious to me as a younger man. What wasn’t as apparent to me is the challenge that kids like Geneva who attended Holy Cross faced, especially if you weren’t heavily active in town sports.
- If you want to know what I think about Trump’s nominee, scroll through my posts on FB. Putting my feelings aside, we have a fascinating development in our country over public education, with Trump seeking to privatize K-12. Many Republicans are blaming the teachers’ union for the backlash over the Betsy DeVos nomination for education secretary. If my conversation with Geneva is in any way representative, I’d say the teacher’s union isn’t doing enough educating and activating their constituency. One of the stated objectives of DeVos’ plan is to blow up the teacher’s union. Whether you blame the teachers union or not for the current state of public education, why public school teachers aren’t protesting in a more organized and forceful fashion is a mystery.
- One of the remarkable aspects of this blog project is learning about memory. Most people think they have a good memory. Memory isn’t as reliable as we would like to believe. That’s become obvious on this project.
- Take for example my memory of Geneva. To prep for the call, I wrote down everything I remembered about her. We were only in one class together. Check. She was in choir. False. We weren’t really friends. Check. Our paths didn’t cross much. Correct at school, but false in an important way. She was good friends with Vickie Murrie; Mike Murrie was one of my close friends. The false memory on choir is obviously a connection to Vickie. The Murrie’s were like the Dickinson version of the Von Trapp’s. I couldn’t remember her connection with Vickie Murrie but I did somehow retain a false association that Geneva was in choir, likely because she was Vickie’s friend.
- I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I found myself wanting to talk to Geneva. We were essentially both adopted members of the same extended Murrie clan. My favorite part of the discussion is hearing Geneva discuss how she was drawn to the Murrie household because of the love in that house, which is a real credit to Linda and Ernie. We did share a laugh about Ernie’s love of cars, specifically the 60’s or 70’s era El Camino and their white Cadillac that only a professional truck driver could parallel park. Join in at 37:30. Very moving.
- She had a shout out for Larry Lock, who was also an adopted Murrie (friends with Mike, dated Vickie). She really enjoys the adult Larry.
- After getting a degree in psychology, Geneva’s career went from working in a methadone clinic to insurance to teaching school. If you’re looking for a pivot point in her life, I’d say it was the divorce and commitment to teach, then making the family activity swimming.
- If you only listen to one part of our conversation, zero in on her teaching experience in the Cy-Fair school district. Cy-Fair, as a whole, is an affluent ISD. Geneva teaches in a school, however, that isn’t. A developer goes bankrupt. His work ends up in state hands. Refugees from Katrina are moved into this housing by the state. Demographics shift. Over time, you have a school that isn’t meeting state standards. Starts around minute 13.
- School performance follows income demographics. Why teachers get blamed for bad schools is crazy to me. Bad schools follow what’s going on at home. The latest research suggest that kids in poor performing schools enter school with a 500 word vocabulary as opposed to the 10,000 word vocabularies you see in affluent districts. The recommendation from researchers? Publicly funded preschools responsible for early learning for those low performing school districts. Most of these kids are so far behind when they show up for Day 1 they’ll never catch up.
- To listen to Geneva talk about teaching is to hear someone with a real heart for her students. She talked about her love / hate relationship with “the system”. Geneva switched from teaching Math to Texas History to escape the morass around standardized testing. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that our kids best interests aren’t served by perverse incentives that make teaching Math less desirable.
- Geneva’s feelings on immigration are influenced by her experiences. She told two anecdotes that interested me. One is of her student who begins having problems in the classroom. Geneva looks into what’s going on and discovers her father has been deported back to El Salvador. When Dad returns, the girl’s attitude and performance return to normal. The other story is one of a couple she knew. The woman is an illegal immigrant from Mexico. The couple attempt to fly to Germany. The woman is retained and deported. Mutual friends drive down to the border, pick her up, and bring her back.
- Geneva’s a divorced Mom of three. Hard to listen to what was behind the divorce. Easy to listen to her talk about her family. Sounds like she drew from her experiences with the Murrie household and works to make her home a place of love where other kids feel comfortable.
- Apparently, I’m not the only person who has been effected by drowning deaths of children and youth growing up. When I found out Geneva’s children were all competitive swimmers, I was curious how that happened. DHS didn’t have a swim team. She hadn’t been a member at the pool behind Monterrey House. What gives? Geneva then talked about two toddler deaths in backyard swimming pools. She didn’t start with a dream of racing suits and goggles; what brought her children into swimming was the desire to keep them safe.
- Swimming then grew to a year round sport to keep her kids engaged and active. Tired is another word you could use here. 2+ hours a day, 5-6 days a week. Lots of volunteering for Geneva. Sounds like it’s kind of a family thing.
- Exciting to hear that my alma mater, Trinity University, offered her oldest daughter a scholarship and a chance to keep swimming competitively. Yes, I’m partial, but TU Tigerland offers a supportive education experience that allows kids a real opportunity to thrive intellectually and socially.
- The most exciting outcome of the call? I inquired if she had any interest in joining forces and contributing to gatorsonlylater.com. I’d like to expand the reach beyond just the people I knew in HS. There’s a lot more stories to tell. You know what? She didn’t say “no”! Maybe we’ll get a female voice. The real learning of this project so far is how much you missed in HS by having a limited social circle. We were and continue to be surrounded by fascinating and engaging people who can enrich our lives with their presence and stories!
I detect facial hair…and a Cardinal sin!
C’mon! The matching ski suits…really?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
The brew-tiful couple!
It’s hard to get a picture of this guy without the fam. Give us the gun show!
This could have been from the yearbook. I mean…minus the pints.
Here’s the audio. Eric and I aren’t the world’s greatest conversationalists, but we’re two old friends.
- One word to describe Eric Groves: SOLID.
- Eric, or Grover, was a good friend who I hadn’t seen since the 10 year reunion. That’s enough of a reason to reach out to him. The reason I had him so high on my list, though, is that he’s someone I think about quite a bit in comparison to my own life.
- First and most importantly, Eric and Diane have been together for 30 years. THIRTY YEARS!!! That achievement is special.
- Second, my parents considered moving our family to Jersey Village and later to Barbers Hill. Eric changed states and high schools in 8th I’ve contemplated often what my life might have been like if I’d been put in that situation. Would I have made friends? How would my grades be impacted? Would I have stuck with sports? Would I ever have developed a spiritual life without the influence of John Eckeberger and Jeff Humphrey?
- Re: Eric and Diane…it really just felt like old times. I talked to Eric for a while, then he handed the phone off to Diane. Out of all of the conversations I’ve had, this is the one that really transported me back to HS. They both sound the exact same. I can’t stress that enough. They both spoke with the same friendly, easy going, and optimistic tone.
- I enjoyed the flashback to Diane dressed to the hilt, keeping the books at the varsity basketball games.
- As a younger man, I didn’t really understand the Eric / Diane dynamic. I just knew that Eric chose to invest nearly all of his energy into that relationship and retreated from hanging out as much with guys. Listening to him on the phone, it became clear how he was so successful at that relationship…Eric’s the humblest friend of mine from Dickinson. He’s agreeable in all seasons. Most importantly, he knew how to put that relationship first in his life. Eric’s always been all in. In Diane, he found someone with the same attributes. So…of course, it flourished and continues to grow. The older me admires these qualities and this relationship, maybe even with a degree of “I wish I was more like him”.
- Junior high was hard on Eric, which I suspected. He chose basketball after experiencing success in 8th grade PE. As we discuss, he and I both wished he’d played football. He’s such an unassuming guy, you’d never know how athletic he was. He could really jump and wasn’t scared of contact – he’d have been a hitter. Eric would have made us a better football team. Basketball, with a rotation of 6-7, is tough, especially when height is working is working against you. Easily the most underrated athlete I went to school with.
- I was distressed to learn about some hazing that Eric experienced as a newcomer at McAdams. I never knew that at the time. It’s interesting…I read a similar account last year on FB of someone that transferred into McAdams JHS and discredited it because of the racial remarks that accompanied the story. There’s just no doubting Eric.
- Interesting for him to talk about feeling left out at times. I kind of knew that at the time. I’ve had some time to think about the call since it ended. I think I’m closer now to one of the reasons why he may have found himself on the outside looking in…he’s an admitted introvert. We didn’t exactly have a neighborhood full of kids that hung out together. I spent a ton of energy calling around town finding something to do or someone to hang out with – basically inviting myself to other people’s homes or neighborhoods. If you weren’t inclined to assert like that (he wasn’t), then you’d find yourself playing basketball in the driveway by yourself a lot. I’ve witnessed that with Camden.
- Again with the churches we grew up in! The admission by Eric that his parents were uncomfortable with the Baptist Church brought closure to a topic which I didn’t understand in HS. He’d play basketball or ride to the football games with the church, but he wouldn’t attend. The people with whom Eric was friends spent a ton of time at FBC. Ironic that he and his family now attend a Baptist Church. Loved him bringing up the Lutheran Church and reminding me of the families and bonds between the people there, including the Reed’s.
- And, yes, I did publicly admit to being the worst prom date ever.
- Brad Barnes is a co-worker of mine that spent a number of years as a reporter. He taught me to look for turning points in people’s lives in these conversations. Eric’s didn’t take a lot of divining. The move to Dickinson and meeting Diane in Driver’s Ed were obvious ones.
- The turning point I didn’t know about? When Jo Saiita confronted him on underachieving in Geometry. It’s worth a listen, especially if you’re a teacher. You get the sense that the conversation shifted his worldview to the future (e.g. college) and changed his expectations of himself. She wasn’t one of my favorite teachers…until I heard him tell that story. I can still hear that laugh that sounded like someone had just knocked the wind out of her and smell the mixture of coffee and cigarettes on her breath, though.
- We had overlap on memories, esp. the Challenger exploding and the shenanigans in Mr. Bailey’s class. I didn’t remember an AIDS scare. That was a stark memory for Eric. In the audio, you can hear the stress in his voice when he talks about what it must have been like to be that kid.
- Along those lines, I guess a heavy dose of empathy is a decent predictor of first love / only love types. Grover’s got that going for him, too.
- I can’t believe he doesn’t remember his rabid escalations in horseplay. If you punched, he was sending it back your way even harder…with a goofy smile to boot.
- I was excited to talk to Eric about politics. I had read something on FB that led me to believe that he supported Trump. I’m like 10+ people into this and he would have been the first Trump supporter with which I could interact. He’s so level headed, I just knew we could just have a conversation and exchange ideas. Political conversation was not to be. Eric G was having none of that.
- My favorite line? Grover acknowledging some anxiety about his daughter being 15: “we know what we were doing at that age!”
We breezed through his career as an accountant. Of course Eric was going to do well! Never really in doubt. Hearing him describe how many of his employers have imploded (Arthur Andersen, Enron) or come close to imploding (BP) is gold. You can tell just what kind of person Eric is. He’s serious about his work, but not overly serious about himself. Aren’t those the kind of people we all like to have around us? Hard not to miss him!