|Hometown hero Bob Meeks molded boys into men|
|Written by Terry Viel|
|Wednesday, January 30, 2013 12:16 AM|
Harrison has recently lost one of its finest citizens. He was not a big-shot corporate guy, nor a slick politician, but an ordinary guy who did a wonderful thing for Harrison.
I am speaking of our old Pee Wee football coach, Bob Meeks. Bob observed we kids playing football in our friend’s yard on Washington Street in the mid 1950s. What a ragtag group of boys who had no idea what they were doing.
Bob took it upon himself to get us into an organized football program by starting PeeWee in Harrison.
Somehow, Bob and his assistant, Stan Jacobs, acquired some old helmets, and a few pair of cardboard shoulder pads. We were in business. The rest of our uniforms were old jeans, and last year’s tennis shoes.
We practiced on the field next to the high school on Broadway with the white poles sticking out of the ground dividing the field from the parking lot. Our routine was to get home from school, tell our parents we had our homework done, and put on our football garb.
We all rode our bikes or walked to practice with our pads on and the helmet dangling from the handle bars. Some guys had to deliver papers before practice, so they put their cardboard shoulder pads through each side of the handle bars and suited up when they arrived.
Bob taught us the fundamentals of the game, what a 2-, 4-, or 6-hole was, how to tackle a guy, and to cut block your foe. This was a great of an experience to rise up from the “Mangoalie” games to real competition.
Mangoalie was our favorite street ball game. It basically was throw the ball to one guy and the rest of us just pile on and mangle him. Kind of like a scrum in Rugby. Coach Meeks took us from that to actual games with cheerleaders, refs, and a few black eyes.
Because our cardboard shoulder pads were so un-defining and did not make you look meaner or larger, we had one kid put some small wood blocks under his pads to make his shoulders look huge.
Well, in fact, he was the most physically cut kid on the team and did not require the riser blocks like the rest of us.
During one practice, a kid took a hard hit and cracked his helmet near the top quadrant pretty severely. The next day, this kid, “Snooks”, came to practice ready to go into action. He had repaired his helmet at home by putting a large screw into it from the outside aiming directly at his skull.
Coach Meeks discovered this and took it away from “Snooks,” probably saving his life. Somehow, Coach Meeks scrounged up a helmet and “Snooks” lived to take the field another day.
From all the kids who had the privilege to play PeeWee Football under Bob Meeks we thank you so much for everything you did for us, your sacrifices of time and money. It was one of the greatest times of our lives. May you rest in peace. “Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate?
“Coach Meeks is our man!”
Terry Viel is an avid Harrison history buff who collects and restores vintage Harrison photographs.