WHEN I was in high school and college in the mid- and late-1950s, watching football on television was a rare treat. First, you had to have a TV set and our family didn’t get one UNTIL I left for college. (Hmmm).
On occasional trips home from college, I jumped at any invitation to a friend’s house to watch a Saturday game and be cool.
And, in my mind, the coolest invitation came from my high school journalism teacher, Louise Forke, and her boy friend, Joel Hunt.
All my buddies were impressed because of Joel, who was from Teague and was an all-Southwest Conference running back at Texas A&M University in the mid-1920s. Joel had been around. He’d played a little pro football, coached, sold insurance, ran the local billiards hall. Right there in River City. He was Wa-a-a-a-y Co-o-o-o-l.
Actually, I thought Louise, er, uh, Miz Forke, was way cool. She was a great looking woman and had been to all these wonderful, exotic places....Dallas, Houston, Austin, Fort Worth, Waco, El Paso, and even out of state, which I didn’t get to do until I was 18 years old.
Plus, she knew everything about the profession I’d chosen as my life’s work.
SHE SAID I was her only student who expressed any interest in becoming a journalist. I assumed then that was a compliment and I refuse to believe otherwise now.
The connection with the Forke family in Teague went farther back than being in high school classes taught by Louise and than through school newspaper editorship.
Her parents, the O.H. Forkes, owned a variety store. The City of Teague passed an ordinance banning the discharge and sale of fireworks within the city limits. My frequent, part-time employment with the Forke family included running their “fireworks department” during holiday periods. I did this well into my college years. During holiday periods, that involved setting up a fireworks stand on the side of U.S. Highway 84 just past the city limits sign. In about a two-week period prior to either Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Independence Day (July 4), Memorial Day, et al, O.H. Forke Variety Store dramatically increased its fireworks inventory and ultimately became the only fireworks supplier in the Greater Teague Metropolitan Area.
FOR YEARS, management for that holiday undertaking was provided by Webb Bros. Strongbacks, Inc. Due to expanding interests in other areas, my association didn’t get past my freshman year of college but a couple of my more-enterprising brothers maintained The Family influence in “booming” technology.
Through encouragement from people like Louise, I managed to overcome roadblocks and found a way to attain some measure of success in my chosen field. Louise’s parents hired me to do things in their store they could’ve hired almost anyone to do. But, they knew I needed to earn money in order to go to college and to pursue a degree in journalism — something near and dear, obviously, to my heart and a wonderful milestone for their daughter as well.
Some cities-towns-school districts have ways of encouraging and nourishing scholarship. Even in small towns like Teague, you’ll always find people like Louise, Joel, Mr. and Mrs. Forke who nurture an atmosphere of achievement and success.
No doubt there are scores of people like the Forkes in all our little Texas towns who nurture want-to-be-scholars, encouraging them to continue their education. At the same time, these nurturers also understand that not only must they provide avenues to continuing education but that we must all be compelled to find multiple niches for ourselves to serve and to keep the education feeder-assembly lines running.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.