Friday, March 24, 2017

Magic words: Fair Park High School

Fair Park: A beautiful sight ... always
        The news came officially earlier this week, not unexpectedly and not satisfactorily: Fair Park is no longer going to be a high school in Shreveport.
      Aw, nuts.
      Don't like the sound of that. To not see "Fair Park Indians" regularly in stories about athletics does not seem right.
      Of course, this is much more about education than athletics, but for me and so many of my old friends -- and we're old, folks -- it was athletics that brought us to Fair Park so many times. 
      So 89 years is enough, right? So much for tradition and history. One of Shreveport's two oldtime white public high schools is going away or, in this case, being "demoted."
      C.E. Byrd opened in 1926, Fair Park in 1928 ... and, by gosh, it would be hard to find anyone in Shreveport who would dare to suggest that Byrd be closed. (No way it should be.)

      My e-mail and Facebook "friends" list includes about 75 people with Fair Park ties -- mostly former students -- and I probably know about three times as many Fair Park people altogether.
      I feel sure that if we took a vote whether or not Fair Park should no longer be a high school, it would be many-to-zero.
      Oh, there might be a few who don't care because it's been so long since the 1940s, '50s, '60s and '70s when it was the school we knew, and so many loved.
       But the only vote that counted was the Caddo Parish School Board's vote. And that was 10-2 last Tuesday to merge Fair Park High students with Booker T. Washington High students, to be housed at BTW.
       Fair Park will become a junior high -- middle -- school.
       Which is OK because -- as the lengthy discourse on the school and its history, and recent-events updates on its excellent alumni web site notes several times -- after many building renovations and some additions, "it remains both a functional and beautiful facility, standing proudly, to serve the students and the surrounding community."
http://www.fairparkalumni.com/id3_our_fair_park_history.htm
       There is going to be a middle-school vacancy in the area because the School Board also voted to close Lakeshore -- which has been one of the main Fair Park "feeder" schools for as long as I can remember.
       The other main junior high in the area -- in fact, within a mile away -- was Midway, which was moved a few blocks from its original site and is now an elementary school.

        Back to Fair Park, and what's happened. There was much anguish about this, much written in the Shreveport paper and much said/argued, pleas to the School Board, and the old-line and current Fair Parkers had plenty of company in opposing this.
        I am not qualified to make judgments on the School Board's business; I leave that to others. I read it is about financial matters, dropping enrollments and "failing" schools.
        It is also, though, about emotional ties. Obviously, I am not as emotionally tied to Fair Park as its graduates, but I do feel for them. So many made such strong efforts to convince the School Board -- and the superintendent -- how wrong this was.
         Have to be honest, when a few years ago there was talk of closing Woodlawn -- which is now labeled a "leadership academy" rather than a high school -- it did not bother me.
           That might rankle my Woodlawn friends and leave others puzzled. But I've been gone from Shreveport for so long (since 1988) and haven't even been back to our old school in maybe 15 years, and have rarely been in the neighborhood in that time.
           Our old junior high (Oak Terrace) at the southwest end of our old Sunset Acres neighborhood -- a school I attended the first year it was open (1959) -- closed long ago, and that's no problem for me.
           In fact, four of the Shreveport junior highs of our time, the late '50s/early 60s -- OT, Hamilton Terrace, Midway and now Lakeshore -- are going, going ... gone.
           This also brings to mind when Shreveport-Bossier high schools integrated in January 1970 because at that time several of the previously all-black high schools -- Union, Eden Gardens, Valencia, Walnut Hill, Charlotte Mitchell -- were "demoted" to junior highs. Only BTW, Bethune and Linear (soon to become a junior high and replaced by new Green Oaks High) remained mostly (or all) black high schools.
           Point is, it happens. Time moves on, neighborhoods and institutions change. School boards do what they think is right, supposedly what is best for students and education.
           I don't doubt that there is more to this, and maybe some selfish, or misguided, motives on the part of School Board members. Not my call, and I leave the second-guessing to others.
           I do feel for the Fair Park people who tried so hard, especially Cathy Ridley Bonds, who has been the school's alumni director for more than a decade and so instrumental in organizing projects to boost the school's physical facilities and its public image.
           And if it's any consolation, here is what I offer: Think of the memories and the people.
           My allegiance to Woodlawn, and to Shreveport-Bossier, North Louisiana and the state, is about the memories they gave me, the people I met who became lifelong friends.
          Same for Fair Park. All those memories, the wonderful people it has sent into the world, who have done so much for Shreveport and beyond.
           Thinking of Fair Park ...
           -- Black and gold -- a beautiful uniform combination.
           -- That majestic presence off Greenwood Road -- Highway 79 -- with its steeple right across from the home stadium (once State Fair Stadium, now Independence Stadium);
           -- The mosaic school logo embedded in the front lobby (don't step on it!);
           -- The turn off the side street (San Jacinto?) to park in the lot next to the gymnasium (opened in 1956, a carbon copy of the Byrd gym), the split-level gym with the dressing rooms and classrooms downstairs;
           -- The trophy case in the gym foyer with the 1952 state football championship trophy (the only one in a glorious football history), with the Nos. 10 and 12 basketball jerseys retired, with the 1963 basketball state championship trophy and then 2006, and several state runner-up trophies, plus dozens of district championships;
           -- The baseball field down the hill from the gym, where Fair Park was a powerhouse with four state titles (1957, 1963, 1965, 1970) and dozens of outstanding teams and players.
           -- A ways from deep left field in baseball, the football practice field, and track/field facility (the 1980 state track champs and, again, dozens of individual state champs).
           -- The tennis courts, in the valley just below the third-base side (the Indians' home bench) of the baseball field.
           -- Byrd vs. Fair Park, Turkey Day football. Round the Reservation week.
           -- The "Big Indian" dance.
           -- The Pow Wow (school newspaper) and the Sequoyah (yearbook).
           -- I could give you the great names of athletes -- and sportswriters -- from Fair Park, but this is already long and I could spend the next week doing that. We're talking nine decades. I have written about many of them. Better yet, I consider many my good friends.
           The place was special, still is. The building is historic, and it remains. We have the memories and we know the people. 
           Go big Indians. Forever.
 ---
http://nvanthyn.blogspot.com/2015/10/at-fair-park-shared-success-story.html            
http://nvanthyn.blogspot.com/2015/09/two-men-one-school-one-gymnasium_30.html
http://nvanthyn.blogspot.com/2013/11/same-way-turkey-day.html           
 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Where there is a Will, is there a national championship?

     I have said this often, and written it a time or two: I want to see LSU win the national championship in men's basketball.
From LSU basketball's Twitter account.
      So there is your assignment, Will Wade, introduced today as the latest new LSU men's basketball head coach.
      Good luck to you.
      It is one of the few dreams I have not seen come true in a lifetime of rooting for my favorite teams, schools and countries.
      I am not the college basketball fan I once was (gee, I said that about the NBA a couple of weeks ago), and to be honest, I only really follow LSU and Louisiana Tech men's basketball. (In the rare instances when LSU and Tech teams play, in any sport, I root for ... the winner. So there.)
      The NCAA Tournament, and the Selection Sunday show, are only must-see for me if the Tigers and/or Bulldogs have a chance to be part of it. 
      Tech has not been in the NCAAs in 26 years and its only chance, most always, is to win its conference tournament because it is -- almost without exception -- in a one-bid league. Three consecutive conference regular-season titles and consistent high finishes have given us hope the last five years, but it hasn't happened.
      LSU was no factor the past two years, but someday -- soon, we hope -- it will be again, and the thought should be the first thought in this blog.
      Go ahead and laugh and say that's preposterous. It is not a joke to me.
      LSU's basketball history and tradition -- which some perceive as not very good, but they are wrong -- tells you this is not an impossible mission.
      Difficult, yes, but four Final Fours, 10 SEC regular-season championships, 21 NCAA Tournament appearances, 24 NCAA victories (and 24 losses), and a string of great players -- some of them among the greatest in the sport's history -- are proof this can be a big-time program. 
      I won't make you read through the list of great players. Just believe me. But most people know.
      I don't want to hear, as I am told by some of my friends, that basketball isn't important enough at LSU, that it is an exercise (often in futility) between football and baseball seasons.
      I don't agree. I don't agree at all. I never will.
      I wrote much about Dale Brown, Shaq, LSU's program and basketball history almost two years ago, if you care to go back and check on the consistency of my feelings: http://nvanthyn.blogspot.com/2015/05/shaq-and-dale-its-not-just-about_6.html 
      True, LSU has never hired the proven big-time winning head coach at the top levels, or broken the budget to pay the coach as much as some other universities do.
      But Dale, in 25 years, proved you can take a middling, or mediocre, program and make it a consistent winner (NCAA Tournament 13 times in a 15-year period, including 10 in a row). John Brady, in 11 years, had two SEC champions -- one that made the NCAA Sweet Sixteen and  one exciting Final Four team. Trent Johnson's first LSU team, with mostly Brady-recruited talented, was an SEC champion.
      Six times LSU has been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by the eventual national champion.
      So it can be done. Winning fairly big consistently, though, year after year, only has happened in the middle portion of Brown's long, often wacky, tenure.
      Enter Will Wade.
      I really like the selection. He is -- to borrow from Hamilton -- "young, scrappy and hungry."  
      I like his youth (34, one of the youngest major-sport coaches LSU ever has hired) -- Dale was 37 in 1972 -- and his reputation as a tireless promoter of the game (like Dale was), and his short record of success as a head coach at Tennessee-Chattanooga and Virginia Commonwealth (two years each).
      He was a Virginia Commonwealth assistant to Shaka Smart when their 2011 team pulled a huge surprise, after a good-but-not-great regular season, to surge into the NCAA Final Four.
      At VCU, they became known for their "havoc" defense, the fullcourt, scrambling pressure that dictates to opponents.
      So he comes in as a defensive-minded coach. Good, because -- in my opinion, my observations -- that is what was lacking so often in Johnny Jones' five years as head coach.
      Wade's team beat LSU this season. But then, obviously, that was no great feat, considering the Tigers' 10-21 record.
      Some thoughts about Jones' tenure:
      (1) When he was hired, after 11 seasons as head coach at University of North Texas, I thought he was the right guy for the LSU job because of his long ties as player and assistant coach;
      (2) Few accused him of being a great coach, so as I watched his teams -- and talked with some friends -- I thought the Tigers lacked discipline on offense (especially in shot selection) and especially on defense. Patient teams could break down the LSU defenses inside, and the few games I watched, I thought the Tigers were often just outhustled. 
      At times, I did see great effort. Too often I didn't. And then it got to where I couldn't watch.
      (3) Johnny Jones, we were told, was a gentleman, a relatively calm sideline presence and good ambassador for LSU. (Same with Trent Johnson, we heard. Brady, again by hearsay, had an often profane sideline manner, to the dismay and concern of nearby spectators.)
      With two good inside players, NBA draft choices Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, Jones' third LSU team went 22-11 and made the NCAA Tournament. But -- an indication of how it went -- it lost a game it controlled most of the way and should have won, fading late and losing by a point to North Carolina State.
      One-and-done: Jones' NCAA record at LSU.
      And then there were such great hopes last season because the world's No. 1 recruit, wonderfully talented 6-foot-10 Ben Simmons (from Australia), chose to play at LSU.
      He proved he could play point guard because he is a great ballhandler -- maybe too great; he tended to try to do too much -- and a slashing forward with a strong inside game, but not a consistent mid- or long-range shooter, and because he was a freshman still learning, not able to carry his team to great heights.
      Early last season, after watching LSU a few times, I wrote an e-mail and Facebook post (not a blog post) criticizing LSU's defensive efforts and shot selection, and warning that if there wasn't improvement, the Tigers would not live up to expectations.
      Dale Brown -- defensive for the kid he recruited and coached out of DeRidder, La., the young man he then made a longtime top assistant, and the older coach he so eagerly lobbied for to return as head coach -- sent me an e-mail saying it was easy to be critical and that he was confident Johnny would bring his team around.
       I have not written another word publicly about LSU basketball since then ... until now.
      Simmons -- my opinion -- "used" LSU, knowing he would be a "one-and-done" player en route to the pros and just waiting his time for the NBA Draft (and he was the No. 1 pick). I don't know how badly he cared about LSU.
       The season was a disappointment, the final loss to Texas A&M by 33 points an embarrassment.
       In Jones' defense, the top true guard off that team was injured and then this season he had to boot one of his top players from the squad. But it was obvious, too, that this team lacked enough talent, discipline and -- maybe -- grit to compete.
       When you lose by at least 15 points 10 times, and by 30-plus four times, when you lose 17 of the final 18 games and go 2-16 in the SEC, longtime LSU ties aren't enough.
       Will Wade will have to see if his defensive style will work with the returning players and will have to recruit the talent to fit that style or whatever he needs to compete in the SEC and nationally.
        I have always considered Louisiana a talent-rich basketball state. Think about the talent that's come out of there. The best LSU teams, too, have had their share of players from Baton Rouge, New Orleans and all over the state. Dale Brown had great players from points east and west, north and south, but he did strong work in-state, too.
        Maybe Jones and his staff didn't dig deep enough. One example: Robert Williams was a 6-9 forward at North Caddo High School, just above Shreveport, a year ago, a strong prospect.
        He wound up going to Texas A&M, where he was one of its top players this season and a projected NBA lottery pick. (He just announced that he will return to college ball another year.) It is hard to imagine that he would not have been interested in playing for LSU. But the word was that the LSU staff did not put a fullcourt press on him; that they had questions about his style of play.
        If LSU had been more dogged and signed him, perhaps Johnny Jones might still be the coach. Moot point.
        It's up to Will Wade now. He loves fullcourt presses. He can take the beloved gold ties he always wear wherever needed.
        We'll see where this takes us -- hopefully to the NCAA championship. Dream on.     
          

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Holocaust survivor ... in the photo with Dad

       Please look at the photo on the right ... because there is more to the story than I previously published. It is part of my father's Holocaust story, and someone else's story .
     This is four concentration-camp survivors from The Netherlands who, in early 1945, somehow were in Odessa (then Russia) on the Black Sea, waiting for a ship to take them to Marseille, France, (on the way home) and posing for this photo in Russian Army uniforms and caps they had been given.
     That's Dad -- Louis Van Thyn -- at age 25, on the upper right.
     The young man sitting in front of him (bottom right), the youngest in the group at 20, is Jack Frankenhuis. And I now have much of his story.
     A month ago, Jan. 28, I received this comment on my blog site from "Jacq" in response to the July 7, 2014, blog piece that included this photo. That blog was entitled "A tour of Eastern Europe ... a boat ride west."
     It also is Chapter 26 of the book on my parents -- Survivors: 62511, 70726 -- and the photo is on Page 96.
     Here is the note from "Jacq":
     "Beste Nico, Dear Nico.
     "I am the daughter of Jack Frankenhuis, you mentioned in your article. The story is exactly as my father always told me. Thanks for sharing it!!!"

     It is remarkable -- and interesting -- for me to receive this kind of feedback, and so I wanted to pursue this story.

      Fortunately, through Facebook, I was able to locate Jacqueline Frankenhuis, a 64-year-old mother of three who lives in Baarn, The Netherlands, a small town 35 miles (22 kilometers) southeast of Amsterdam.
Jacqueline Frankenhuis
     Jacqueline was a film editor for the Dutch public broadcasting service in Hilversum, not far from Baarn. Hilversum is where television and radio networks have been based in Holland dating to before and when we lived there in the late 1940s/early 1950s.
     It was the oldest of her two daughters -- both live in Berlin -- who found my blog and the photo when she did a Google search for Jack's name on the Internet. Jacqueline also has a son who lives in Tel Aviv.
     Since she posted her note, and I answered, we have  exchanged Facebook and e-mail messages, talked on Skype for more than a half hour (ah, the wonders of today's technology), and she has provided details, thoughts and photos on her father's life.
     So read on for his story, and know that I share Jacqueline's sentiment. "It is very exciting for me," she wrote.
---
     At the outset, it is my feeling that Jack Frankenhuis -- as

with all Holocaust survivors -- was fortunate in several ways, blessed to live a couple of decades after this photo.   
     He was not as fortunate as my father, though, in this  regard: Jack died in 1969, and he was only 44. Consider that my Dad lived until a month past his 89th birthday.
     Like Dad, Jack had deep pain from the Holocaust years and the loss of most of their families in the Nazi gas chambers. Unlike Dad, Jack's pain was more visible.
     I have written and often said that my father outwardly handled the camp memories, and his life, in about as good a manner as one could -- and that my mother's experiences left her more haunted than many people realized. Jacqueline describes her father's post-war life as busy, often restless  and tormented.
     For most of his final two decades, Jack Frankenhuis was a physical therapist.
     "My father worked and lived very hard," Jacqueline wrote. "Worked 10-12 hours a day. Ate well, and smoked and drank a lot. He was making up for lost time. This lifestyle was not healthy, and he died of a sudden heart attack in May 1969.
     "I have thought a lot about his life, and decided that [his early death] it was good in the end because his psychological problems were getting more and more manifest."
     Jacqueline said her father's death could be linked to what has been described as "concentration camp syndrome," which in recent years has been linked to the more commonly known term -- PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). (I referenced a study of this previously in speaking and writing about children of Holocaust survivors.) 
     "So [doctors] could not have helped him anymore," Jacqueline concluded.
---

     Jack was born Sept. 8, 1924, in Amsterdam, the only child of Jacob Frankenhuis and Jenny/Schoontje Trompetter (it was his mother's second marriage).
     When the Nazis, the German Army marched into Amsterdam and the Netherlands and took over in May 1940, Jack was in school. His uncle, a physical therapist at a Jewish hospital in Amsterdam, helped him find a job at that hospital, cleaning and doing odd jobs.
     After the Nazis began restricting rights and imposing curfews and access for Jewish residents, the "arrests" and transports to holding camps -- such as Westerbork in east Holland -- and then the concentration camps and/or gas chambers increased greatly in 1942-43.
     And here was one piece of Jack's good fortune. His parents were deported in May 1943, but he had -- through the help of the hospital and some friends -- a "Schperr," a paper which said he was needed for work and exempt from being taken. The Nazis, not exactly benevolent, agreed ... but only for so long.
     When he finally went to Auschwitz, it was late in 1944. Another break: It meant he only had a few months there until liberation in January 1945.
     One more "break" came when he arrived on the cattle-car train at Auschwitz-Birkenau. On the ramp where the prisoners -- Jewish and others -- were waiting, two Jewish men from Amsterdam, Siegfried van den Bergh and Gerard Levy (they were brother-in-laws), decided they might be safer if they picked out what Jacqueline described as one of the Amsterdam "tough (or cheeky) boys" as a mate in a threesome. 
     Jack was a stranger to them, but he fit the "tough" look. He was sturdy looking and, at 19, had been an amateur boxing.
     One of the men was a doctor, the other an attorney, and the Nazis decided that they -- and Jack -- could be useful workers, thus saving them from the gas chambers. (Dad, too, was fit, having been in the Dutch Army, so he also was placed in a work detail -- mostly in the mines.)   
     One of the brothers-in-law worked in the sick bay at Auschwitz (and had access to medications), the other did administrative work. Jack, says Jacqueline, was sent to a forced labor camp at IG Farben, a large chemical plant the Germans had built on the eastern edge of the town of Oświęcim -- the southern Poland site of Auschwitz. (The Germans razed the houses and cleared the land for several miles around the concentration camp.)
     Jack, his daughter believes from years-ago discussions, also worked for a while in stone quarries.
     They survived. As allied forces closed in from both sides, Sieg and Gerard went on one of the Nazi-enforced "Death Marches" headed west and wound up in a hospital in the town of Szestochowa. Their story is in a book written by Sieg, the older of the two: Kroonprins van Mandelstein.
     (After Jack's death in 1969, Sieg became Jacqueline's legal guardian; she was 16 at the time.)
     Jack's liberation was out of Auschwitz. It must have been about the same time Dad and 26 other men left behind in a hospital were free to walk out of the nearby mining sub-camp, Janina.

     Somewhere on the road -- we are not clear exactly where, and we will never know for sure -- Jack and Dad met.
     It is unlikely that they knew each in Amsterdam before the Nazi occupation and the war because Dad was five years older and had moved to Antwerp, Belgium, while Jack was still in grade school.
     It is likely they met on the road in southern Poland, or in the town of Katowice, where the Russians had told them there was help -- perhaps the Red Cross -- awaiting them. From there, they went to Krakow, en route to Odessa.
     We have a hint about their connection, though, in Dad's story when he mentions that one of their group was a boxer, and he put on boxing exhibitions in the Polish towns to collect money (to buy food). That had to be Jack.
     "I suppose they knew each other well enough to have this photo taken," Jacqueline points out.
---
    As with Dad, when Jack returned to Amsterdam -- early summer 1945 -- he found ... emptiness.
    "There was nothing and nobody left," Jacqueline related to me. "He lived with Gerard Levy for a while and did some odd jobs" (such as working at a wine-bottling plant).
     Eventually, "out of desperation" Jacqueline suggests, he joined the Dutch Army. "Where he was dismissed after he shot a German prisoner, who he had to guard one night. He had asked not to have to do this ..."
     But he soon found his future: a job and his wife.
     He didn't have much schooling, but following his uncle's career path, he managed to get into physical therapy school and in 1950 earned a working certificate.
     "He always said he got a different secondary education [in the concentration camp]," said Jacqueline, and I'm sure Dad would have identified with that.
The wedding photo, 1952
     Then Jack met Cornelia Van Scheijen, and they married in February 1952. She was not Jewish, but the baby girl they had late that year has always kept the faith. (At one time, in fact, she married a rabbi, and before our Skype talk Saturday -- 4 p.m. Dutch time, 9 a.m. in Fort Worth -- Jacqueline had been to Amsterdam to attend synagogue.) 
     He bought a physical therapy practice outside of Amsterdam, in the small town of Zaltbommel (in a small country, there are lots of small towns.)
       "I was born there and grew up as a single child in a well-to-do family," Jacqueline said. "But I did not have aunts, uncles or grandparents, like the other children."
     There was sentiment to name her Jenny or Schoontje, after her grandmother, but Jack insisted. "This child is being named after me," he said. "We are making a new start."
     The daughter and father had an admirable relationship, she said. There was much she loved about Jack, and much she noticed early on.
     "By the time I was maybe 4, I could see that he was restless," she said. "He could not be alone. He had problems sleeping. The job of my mother was to keep visitors here or find places for us to go visit."
     Who knows how the camps, the war experience, affected him, or if that was just part of his personality? I have often thought how different my mother and father might have been without the Holocaust years.
     He was driven work-wise.
     "He would get up at 6 a.m. and go visit patients at their homes, and then at 8.30 a.m. he would see patients at the room where he had his practice," Jacqueline recalled. "Then when he came home, he needed to be entertained. He could not sit still. It was a survival mode. Some nights, at 9 p.m., he say to someone, let's get in the car, 'We're going to Amsterdam.' "
     He was a chain smoker -- "even in the [Odessa] photo, I noticed he's smoking," said Jacqueline, and the same in a portrait photo she sent me -- and he enjoyed his alcohol.
     "He was a party animal," his daughter said.
     And this: "He was very temperamental," she added. "He was very social, though. He could not see any injustice; he had real trouble with people who were aggressive. If he saw people mistreating people, he would get upset, and when he got angry, he could be violent."
     Jacqueline recalled an instance on a vacation trip to France when they saw some "monocycle artists performing tricks in the streets, hoping to earn money from spectators. When a group of young thugs began to attack the artists, there was a fight. Within minutes the whole terrace was in shambles. The police came, and luckily he was not arrested."

     But there was a competent, compassionate side to her father, Jacqueline said.

     He was very warm, a good physical therapist," she offered. "He was good with his hands; he had a good diagnostic view. He was cheerful. He could see what was wrong with his patients."
     The years, though, took their toll. "Because of his lifestyle," Jacqueline said, "he had a mild heart attack. Today you would be catherized and be back on the road in a short time. But then [late 1960s], the doctors told him it would be best if he rested for six weeks."
     That wasn't Jack's way. He got angry, and suffered a fatal heart attack that same afternoon.

      "I know it sounds very cruel, but it was maybe for the best," his daughter says now, thinking of the mental stress he had endured.
      Cornelia survived him for 36 years until her death in 2005.

       I asked Jacqueline if she knew the number the Nazis had tattooed on her father's left arm. She wasn't sure -- "I have it here somewhere," she said, -- but she remembered first noticing it as a little girl.
      "That was the phone number of your grandmother," she remembers being told, a common answer to survivors' children. I had heard it; my mother's number, in fact, was the phone number -- when it was still five digits in the late 1950s -- for Kappen's Restaurant at the Shreveport airport.
      And it reminds us of when our Jason, at about age 5, asked his mother, "Why does Oma have her phone number on her arm?"
---
      The Russian Army uniform photo was taken, according to the information we have, just before the ship -- the Monoway (out of Australia) -- left out of Odessa on May 25, 1945.
     "I have had a copy of this photo since I was young," Jacqueline said. And her mother, she said, sent it to the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam for an exhibition about repatriation (prisoners returning to their home country).
     Dad also had that photo, and a newspaper clipping about it. He had, as I noted in the blog and the book, the clipping laminated on a plaque that is with us now.
     Looking at that, at the top of the description, it says "Picture 26," an indication that it likely was part of the exhibition for which Cornelia Frankenhuis provided the photo.
     Another clue is that Jack is the subject of the first couple of paragraphs.
      One note, one discovery: The description lists Jack's age as 21 and Dad's as 26, but by my reckoning that should have been 20 and 25.   
      Three of the men -- including Dad and Jack -- are wearing caps adorned with a pin of the symbolic red Soviet sickle and hammer.
      "My mother had that pin for years and years," said Jacqueline.
      She also tells a story her father related to her. When the men reached the harbor in Odessa, they had not been deloused (lice were such a problem in the camps and afterward). "That's not a pleasant process," Jacqueline noted, but after they did it once and then received money and had a pile of clothes available, "my father said to the others, 'Never mind, I'll go again.' And he did."
      (I can imagine Louie Van Thyn also making a second trip through.)
      She also confirmed, and slightly corrected, a story Dad related about one survivor who hid a girlfriend in a big back and smuggled her on board for the trip west. Jack Frankenhuis said the woman was a Romanian, not a Russian as Dad had said. But, yes, "I had heard that story," said Jacqueline.
 ---
      During our talk, Jacqueline showed me a ring on a chain. It belonged to Jack's mother; "it's my grandmother's wedding ring," said Jacqueline.
      Before his parents were picked up by the Nazis, they gave the ring to Jack, and he kept it hidden for the next couple of years. When he returned after the war, after the camps, after the long journey and the Odessa adventure, he dug it out.
      As Jacqueline pointed out, he had a date inscribed inside the ring: 20 Mei (May), 1943 -- the day the Nazis took his parents.
      Records -- of course the Nazis diligently kept these records -- show that only eight days later Jacob and Jenny died in the gas chambers at Sobibor, Poland.

      Two weeks later, at the same place of horrors, my grandmother Sara -- Dad's mother -- and my uncle Johnny -- Dad's 10-year-old brother -- met the same fate.
      Jack, his daughter said, "always wore [the ring]" on the chain around his neck. "And I wear it now, every day," said Jacqueline. "It is very important to me." 

      It is the link to her history, to her father. To the young man in the long-ago Russian Army uniform photo sitting in front of my father.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Coach Farrar: To his players, he was a giant

      (Third in a series recalling Coach/Dr. James C. Farrar, a legendary high school football/baseball and college baseball coach/professor in North Louisiana -- mostly Shreveport-based -- for three decades.)
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      James C. Farrar inherited a powerful baseball program when he came to Fair Park in the fall of 1961. But under his guidance, it became the gold standard for the sport in our parts.
      There are programs in a variety of sports which had a longer run of success and more championships, but no one had a better-run, more dynamic program than the Fair Park Indians in baseball, 1962 to '67. There were two state championship teams -- 1963 (44-4-1 record) and 1965 (33-3) -- and, with a couple of breaks, there could have been a couple more.
At Centenary
     It was the culmination of Shreveport's then-blooming SPAR program, the baby-boomer generation that had been playing the game as kids for years. There were enough very good players at Fair Park for most of the 1960s to field three competitive teams ... and that, in fact, was the case in the summer American Legion program.
     When they were all together at what the media and Fair Park people back then liked to call "The Reservation" -- it wasn't politically incorrect in those days -- it made for some awesome teams.
     No team in Shreveport-Bossier history -- and few teams in state history -- was better, deeper in talent, than the 1963 Fair Park team. Danny Bob Turner, who played third base, remembers that 24 of the 25 players on the regular squad went on to play either professional or college baseball. And the competition for the 25 spots -- that's all the uniforms there were -- was fierce.
   And the man in charge was a memorable figure. He was a big man -- he would jokingly refer to himself as "the fat man" or "the old man" or "Ol' Lillie," a tribute to his little hometown. Don't remember him being fat, exactly; barrel-chested, or burly, might be a more apt description. But, well, he didn't exactly sprint out to the coaching box at third or to the mound.
   As a former catcher -- good enough to make All-Gulf States Conference twice for Louisiana Tech in the early 1950s and good enough to get a short (very short) shot at the pros and then player/manager for the Minden Redbirds in the semipro Big Eight League in the late 1950s -- speed wasn't a plus for James C. Farrar.
    But baseball smarts were. He loved the game, he knew the game, he knew players, and he knew how to teach the game.
     If you looked at Fair Park in the 1960s from the opposing bench -- as I did -- it could be intimidating. The players carried themselves as winners; they looked confident; they were well-drilled and prepared; their uniforms were sharp (Coach Farrar was going to make sure of that); and you sensed that the coach really knew what he was doing.
   "He was a jewel to play for," recalls Randy Bouknight, one of the two star pitchers -- with Dick Hicks -- on the 1965 state champions. "It was a magical run, those three years (1963-65). We didn't really realize how good we had it. We'd play 35, 40 games a year. A lot of schools didn't play more than 20."
   Bouknight and others point to the Indians' practices as the starting point.
   "He was like an orchestra leader, the way he ran his practices" recalled Bouknight in 2012. "It was like he'd move that baton, and things start happening all over the field. ... He kept everyone busy, he ran it like a major-league practice."
   Farrar always was a big believer in having his pitchers pitch live batting practice. If they were hurt, he'd test them in live BP; a bullpen session or simulated game wasn't enough. If they could throw BP effectively, they could pitch in games.
    And in live BP, said Bouknight, "if a batter hit the ball, your infielders and outfielders would play the ball as if it were a live game. If the batter hit a foul ball, you'd have one guy with a fungo bat on the third-base side hit a ball across the diamond to either the second baseman or first baseman; or a guy on the first-base side hitting to the third baseman or shortstop."
    And then there were the situations -- rundowns, pickoffs, baserunning plays, bunt plays, holding runners on base, cutoff throws and relays. "We'd practice situations over and over, every day," Bouknight said. "Not only did you know what to do in a situation, but everyone on the team knew what you were supposed to do."
    It was the knowing what to do that was SO important to the coach.
   "You respected him so much, and that was enough motivation to get things right," Turner said. "Most of the regulars played almost every day. If you made a physical error, he wouldn't say anything or say much. If you made a mental error, that was a way to be taken out of a game.
    "He had a way of getting on you that he made his point."
   "The practice sessions were oriented to situations; we spent hours on those," said Tom Giles, the All-State catcher on the 1965 team. "When those situation happened, you wouldn't have to think about what you had to do. That's a big plus for 16- and 17-year-olds."
    Practice sessions, said Turner, "were long and detailed. He planned it out. He drilled you enough that you knew what to do. If you didn't do it because you made a mental error, that was the path to the doghouse. Like hitting the cutoff man. If you missed doing that (in practice), it wasn't ignored. You were going to do [the throw] again.
    "His philosophy was that if you did it right, you had so much greater chance to win. ... You learned the game of baseball more than most people will ever experience."
    David Worthington was the shortstop and a team leader on the 1963 state champs and said, "One of his best attributes was that Coach Farrar felt things deeply. He felt life. He helped us to value the game, value the experience we had. ... He somehow or another motivated us to be better. He had the most structured, organized practices, used the time so well.
    "He wouldn't insult you or berate you, but if you were slacking off, he'd let you know. With his players, he was in complete coaching mode. He was a guy you wanted to play for; he made it fun, fun to play."
State championship coaches at Fair Park High School, James Farrar
(left) and Clem Henderson, revered by their players and friends.
    "Coach Farrar used to say, "You can't coach a mule to win the Kentucky Derby,' " Giles said. "We had lots of great talent, but he coached the players to the point where you had the experience of having gone over things in practice so many times that it made the games easier."
    Under Coach Farrar and under coach Clem Henderson in basketball -- Fair Park won the state championship in 1963 and was the state runner-up in 1964 -- Turner said, "The biggest thing I learned was character. You stand in the trenches and you perform when you needed to perform. It was a life lesson. It was so invaluable to me. You face those type situations the rest of your life."
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     Don Barteet -- Donnie in high school -- was the sparkplug of the 1965 state champs, a terrific (All-State) centerfielder who could hit, hit with some power, run the bases and run to cover some ground in the outfield. He loved playing for Farrar ... except for one day in his junior year.
     Barteet was in left field then because Mike Herron -- also an outstanding player -- was in center. The Indians were playing in an Easter tournament in Baton Rouge, and it was an overcast, windy day.
     "You know how the weather is that time of year, and the wind was really blowing," Barteet remembered. "Batter hits a high fly ball, and I call for it right away, 'I got it, I got it, I got it.' Everyone backed off, and I run in, and I run, run, run ... run. I end up diving for the ball, and I hit the infield dirt, dirt's all over my uniform, up my nose ... and I didn't catch the ball."
      The batter reached base, and Barteet retreated to left field, squatted "and I'm trying to get the dirt off me, out of my nose. I look up and here's James Norman coming out there to take my place in left field. Couldn't believe it. End of the inning, OK, maybe. But in the middle of the inning?
     "I've never let him (Farrar) forget it. I always tell the peckerhead, 'You lost your temper, that's all.' "
---            
    Fred McGaha knew James Farrar longer than any player who played for him because Fred's dad, Mel McGaha, and Coach Farrar were close friends.
    Mel was player-manager of the Shreveport Sports who won a couple of Texas League championships in the mid-1950s, went on to manage in the major leagues and wound up as a coach for the Houston Astros when Farrar first was a scout for the club in the late 1960s. Mel made his home in Shreveport and retired from baseball to become the head of SPAR.
    And young Fred played for Fair Park in the mid-1960s, then went on -- with Farrar's recommendation -- to become an all-conference college player at Louisiana Tech. He is an attorney in Monroe, assistant district attorney at one time.
    "I've known Coach since I was a kid," he said in 2012. "He and Miss Kate were like a second mother and father to me."
     What he remembered about Farrar's coaching style was "he paid great attention to detail, starting with the way you wore your uniform. He always said that you will play like you look. If you want to play good, you've got to look like a ballplayer first.
      "He was very particular about the fundamentals. We spent so much time on those. You knew what to do with the ball before it went into play. You know what to expect in every situation. His teams always won by making the fewest mental mistakes."
      But it was Farrar's human touch that Fred remembered most.
      "The boys who played for him respected him so much; he commanded the respect," he said, "by letting you know that he cared about you. He would spend whatever time was necessary with kids to help them reach their potential, whatever that was."
      Fred was only a so-so player in high school, but went to Tech on a partial scholarship because "Coach Farrar told [Tech coach] Pat Patterson that I was about a year away (from being a player). He knew that I would work hard, that no one would outwork me. I played sparingly in my first year, but the second year, it kicked in. He was right on the money with that.
      "He and Pat were two of the most influential people in my life."
     Farrar's reputation in the game was wide-spread, said Fred: "Everyone in baseball knew who he was, and they still do. They respected him so much as a talent evaluator." 
      ---
      MJ Trahan is one of Coach and Ms. Kate Farrar's granddaughters, the daughter of Tammy (Farrar) and Dan Trahan, who met while students at Centenary. MJ is a Georgia Southern graduate who was a media relations coordinator with the Houston Astros -- as you can imagine, a particular point of pride for a man who scouted for the Astros for some 30 years.
      She now is an assistant sports information director at the University of Tennessee in charge of covering baseball and she is married to Mike Burns, who was in the scouting department with the Astros (he's now the South Texas area scout for the Toronto Blue Jays). Mike is from central Pennsylvania, which was a point of emphasis with Coach Farrar.
    "Granddaddy used to kid him about his accent," MJ said in 2012. "He'd say, 'Boy, you ain't from around here, are ya? You understandin' me alright?'
    "They actually have quite a bit in common though, which is fun. ... So they talk baseball and scouting, and also know a lot of the same people. It's a small world."
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     The fungo is a long, light, thin-handle bat used especially for outfield and infield practice. James Farrar was a fungo master.
     "Oh, he could handle a fungo bat," Bouknight recalls. "He could really swing that thing."
      "Best I've ever seen; his skills with a fungo bat were incredible," said Greg Bickham, who played first base for Farrar's last Fair Park team in 1967 and whose younger brother Donnie was a star football and baseball player under Farrar at Northwood High a couple of years later. "He could hit the ball through the eye of a needle."
     Talk about working players until they got in shape ...
     "I have seen him wear people out hitting them balls with the fungo," said Bickham. "He brought them to tears chasing after balls. I've seen him wear outfielders out; they'd get to where they dreaded it. They could be running 100 percent, all out, trying to catch balls he'd hit. Every shot he'd hit with it was right where he wanted to put it. I think he enjoyed watching them suffer."
     But if fit into the Farrar reputation, said Bickham, because "his rigorous practices had a lot to do with his success."
     What he remembers most is that he "was just so passionate about coaching, especially baseball. But he was a very good defensive coach in football, too" when he was in charge of the linebackers as a Fair Park assistant.
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    When players and coaches talk about James C. Farrar, the words that keep coming up are dedication, discipline, friendship, and mostly respect.
    "It never occured to me not to be respectful toward Coach Farrar," said Giles, pointing out that the early 1960s were a time when most parents and teachers had come through the Depression times and had some military background. "They had paid their dues, and we were mostly respectful toward them. ... Coach knew what he was doing; he got the results, so there was nothing to argue with him about."
      Greg Bickham: "He had a way of enforcing discipline without anger. He taught life lessons and baseball lessons." The players, he added, had "the epitome of respect for him. He wasn't feared, but he was so loved."
    And while he had a Southern gentleman's manner and mostly was an upbeat, encouraging, optimistic coach, don't think James C. didn't have some fire.
    Giles remembers the state championship series in 1965, Game 1 of a possible three, against Redemptorist (New Orleans) at SPAR Stadium. Weather was a factor and in about the fifth inning, the rain came and Fair Park trailed 1-0 when play had to be stopped for that day.
    The Fair Park team took the bus back to the school, retreated to one of the classrooms on the bottom level of the gym, and Coach Farrar proceeded a lengthy diatribe that could be described as a "chewing-out session."
   Giles says two of the team's top players -- seniors Tommy Ford and Larry Ostteen -- began cutting up in the back of the room. A couple of players remember that Ostteen was giggling.
   "Coach was always fair, but at the same time, the scoreboard mattered to him most of all. We were a confident team, but when he was talking, they weren't paying attention, and they were being disruptive," Giles recalls. "He came through those chairs so fast, to the back of that room, and he was going to kill them. He didn't feel like they understand the gravity of the situation."
    The Indians came back the next day and rallied to win Game 1. Ostteen -- the team's No. 2 catcher but also capable of playing first base or in the outfield -- might've been in the doghouse, but in Game 2 of the series in New Orleans, he was called on to pinch-hit late in the game with the bases loaded. Ostteen promptly hit a grand slam, and soon Fair Park had its third state baseball championship in nine years, its second in three years. 
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    Ronnie Burns, who played third base on Farrar's last Fair Park team, said it "was an absolute thrill playing for him. He was a bigger-than-life type guy, what a character he was. He's one of the great ones. ... Everyone that played for him had loads of respect for him."
    Burns, now a homebuilder in Fredericksburg, Texas, said, "The biggest thing with him was, 'Don't ever give up, don't quit.' He had the bulldog attitude, he wanted to let you know that you were the best. ... Attitude was the biggest thing he taught. Mental toughness."
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   Tom Giles said he spent some 10 years as an usher at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, along with Coach Farrar, and it was a delight.
    "We were handing out church bulletins and greeting people, but we talked about all sorts of things we probably weren't supposed to," he said in 2012, a few months before Coach's death.
    "We always had a great time. He's such a relaxed, easy-going guy. Get him off the field, he was always entertaining. From a personal standpoint, he's just a great person to be around."
    "It's been unique over the years to recall the attitude we had about him when we were in school," David Worthington said in 2012, "and to relate to him now as adults. He was an encourager to all of us, to every young man he coached, and it's a special blessing to continue the relationship, to connect with him through the years."