December 23, 1995
The Howard Schnellenberger "era" at Oklahoma University lasted only 13 months but it will be hashed over and rehashed for years to come. The big, gruff, basso-profundo coach called it quits this week after just one season at the helm in Norman. Big Eight conference losses to Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Colorado and both the Kansas teams, plus a tie with our old rivals at Texas University, were just too much to overcome. After the colonel abruptly announced his resignation, a page one headline in the Oklahoman said that OU President David Boren wants to hire a "players' coach." The inference being that Schnellenberger is not a players' coach, even though several Sooner starters said in TV interviews that they liked him and wanted him to stay.
The feeling here is that Schnellenberger is not a "media coach," meaning that he did not sufficiently or frequently enough bow in obeisance and genuflect before the writers and sportscasters who covered his abbreviated regime. They have been on his case almost since day one. As far back as last Sept. 29, I noted in this column: "Does it seem to you that the Oklahoma City sports writers try awfully hard sometimes to create a controversy for the new OU football coach to deal with? ...They also appear to be conjuring up questions each week about hypothetical matters that require answers from Coach Schnellenberger. I have a feeling that one of these days he's going to inhale deeply and then unload his feelings..."
The sports writers were just as confused as everyone else after the colonel's shell landed. Dave Sittler's personal column on the sports page was headlined: "Don't Rule Out Return By Switzer," topping a lengthy article setting forth all the reasons why Barry Switzer might leave the Dallas Cowboys for a return stint at OU. Two pages later in the same day's sports section, writer Mike Baldwin, who covers the 'Boys for the Oklahoman, had a piece with a four-column headline stating unequivocally: "Switzer Will Stay in Dallas."
Oh well, the media at that level knows how to cover its backside. By saying "he will" and "he won't" in the same edition, they can't be wrong. They're doing the same thing in discussing the possibility of Dallas defensive line coach John Blake returning to his alma mater, OU, as head coach. One writer says Blake has all but signed his contract; another says he has not even been contacted by the university. Hang on. The saga continues
Let's get off that weird story and switch to a much more interesting subject. I had a brief but nice telephone visit the other evening with Lola Shelton, who lives on east Delaware. Her family has been around Perry since the very early days, and she was recalling one of the oft-repeated stories she remembered from her childhood.
Lola's mother was Laura Griggs, who married Jud Shelton. Laura had a brother, Lige Griggs, who operated a horsedrawn dray wagon service here back in the early part of this century before the Model T Fords and other gasoline buggies were commonplace. Lige's wagon was for hire and he kept busy hauling freight from the Santa Fe and Frisco depots to various customers in the burgeoning little city of Perry.
"One of Uncle Lige's proudest accomplishments," Lola says, "was the part he played in construction of the Noble county courthouse in 1915 and 1916. He didn't do any work on the building itself, but he had a hand in almost everything in it."
By way of explanation, Lige was hired to haul construction material from the freight depot to the building site in the central park location where our stately courthouse now stands. Throughout the months of work on the building, he hauled load after load of steel, building stones, windows, doors, hardware, flooring material, handrails for the staircases, and just about everything else. "Uncle Lige had a sense of history about what he was doing," Lola says. "He told us that he personally touched every piece that he hauled to the jobsite, because he knew it was significant." She adds that Uncle Lige or his sister, Laura, the mother of Lola, would tell this story any time the family got together, and she is proud of her family's part in that portion of our Noble county history.
To one and all on this eve of Christmas Eve, may this be a time of blessed peace for all of us and those throughout the world who are yearning for an end of turmoil at every level. Merry Christmas.