W. B. Ray "The Ray Years"Corpus Christi W. B. Ray. Class of didn't happen. 1977..I almost got thru. But a perfect storm took me out. Years of working late night shifts at Mai Tai, Burger Chef & other jobs to support my poverty stricken family on north side just sort of took its toll. It was a valiant effort to say the least, hit Honor Roll 6 times at W B Ray between 1975-1977. I had a lot of fun there, made many friends who kept my secret. Had 3 months left.
We had been living at 642 Naples (Staples & Naples) behind Wynn Seal for several years after Hurricane Celia took out our home at 2009 Antelope. By then, my grandma's house on same property was starting to deteriorate and we simply didn't have money to fix it up, it was built in 1800s. Was a 'boarding house' and six big rooms, one kitchen, one bathroom in rear, and one small shop for tools and what not, storage, across from that. The Antelope house faced I-37 and during hurricane Celia, Aug 3rd, 1970 a huge 500 lb fan blew off Coca Cola and hit our roof, we were all huddled under momma's bet, dad, Tommy, me, momma and dog Bootsy, and the gaping hole it caused in roof, suddenly like mini tornado in house: clothes, framed photos, pictures, lamps, all blowing around and of course tons of water pouring in.
So while there 'was room' in the Doss house, really was not a option. We did however get free trailer from Senator John Tower to use for year, but after year, option to buy, my dad balked and off it went.
A family friend my dad knew from CC Speedway, Lloyd Remple, had a car lot behind Gulf station on Leopard a few blocks away, SW corner of Leopard & Mexico and had a small house at corner of 642 Naples. He agreed to let my dad rent it for $300 a month. Wow! This was, and still is, a nice little Corpus Christi neighborhood, light years ahead of the hell hole we were living in. Tommy started going to W. B. Ray, as before he was at Corpus Christi Academy out on Lantana as I was. The difference was my family didn't have enough money for tuition, so I had to work after school cleaning classrooms, cafeteria, emptying trash and stuff, then really haul butt to get to the Lantana & Leopard crossroad maybe 3/4 of mile down to catch the last INBOUND Calallen bus for that day about 5:45pm! If I missed it, was stranded, and we had no phone, so could not make like ET & phone home. So would start walking towards town on Leopard and hope mom & dad 'were looking for me' by then, as it was a 4-5 mile walk. Pretty much from Astor restaurant on Leopard inbound to Port Ave. And after tough day, really brutal, thank God I only made the walk a few times!
Anyways, Tommy went thru Ray no problems, had lots of friends, but like me, never brought them home. So meet at neutral places of their place. Since Ray didn't have a 9th grade, my 9th grade was at St. Josephs on 19th street. We were still living at the Antelope/Doss location then for you who are watching the timeline here. Next door was a pinball place to St. Josephs where I would hone my pinball skills and next to that was City Bakery, lots of good stuff there.When we did move to Naples, Tommy now in Ray, and graduated. I was fixing to go to Ray, but Lloyd Remple decided he could rent the house for more and knocked rent up to $600 a month, which does not seem like a lot, but in 1973/74 was a lot, especially for my chronically always broke family. It fell apart for me & we packed up everything & moved back to 723 Doss street.
My grandma by this time was in a nursing home on Fig (I think it was Fig, dismal retirement place) street behind Ayres theater. We cleaned house some but momma classic hoarder, wanted to keep everything from boxes of 40s/50s Caller Times, to used plastic bottles, you name it. It didn't help that two rooms now had dogs in them that would sadly never get to experience running in grass, chasing seagulls, and just playing outside, those rooms had newspapers on floor and the dog poop and pee sometimes overwhelming, especially in summer inside. No fans, no electricity. Ironically several of those dogs lived to be about 14 years old.
I was in limbo, and went to Miller for one semester. Coming from Catholic schools all my life (Cathedral 1965-70; CC Academy 71, Incarnate Word Academy 72, St Josephs 73) this was NEW and foreign to me. There was lots of fights, drugs, seemed to be no respect for teachers either. I could not get anything done, but didn't get in any fights. And it was 5-6 blocks from our house. My grades plummeted to hell. My dad talked to mister Hernandez who the Hernandez clan lived at 610 Naples a few house down from where we lived before getting asses kicked back into stone age on Doss. We knew the Hernandez' from Cathedral: mister Hernandez, his wife, Frank, Carmen, Danny who was in several of my classes, Isabel & Roseanne. Mister Hernandez agreed to let us use HIS address since the Corpus Christi school district would not give me a transfer. Not sure why, just refused it. So I was 'officially' living at 610 Naples, all the mail and correspondence (including phone calls ha ha) went there. He would get with my dad to get the W. B. Ray mail, everything else went to 723 Doss anyways.
I will forever be indebted to him (mister Hernandez) for doing this. As he knew the dire and sad situation we were living in off Doss. There is a special place in Heaven for people like him. So now am getting ride to Ray from my dad in morning, get up at 5:30-6:30am, and since no hot water would wash hair under the pipe thing to side of driveway (what, it worked but during winter, cold as hell!) run inside and stick my head in partially open stove door to dry off hair. As bad as this sounds....I would also take showers at Ray 'after hours' and since I had been fired from La Quinta downtown, there is a small employees bathroom upper floor NW corner I would park in garage, go up, and wash hair, wow, warm water....too there. A number of employees I had worked with there knew I was doing this but never left a mess, and was stealthy in and out of building. All hours. I also used the public showers in front of coliseum same thing, wanted to be clean for school you know. Did all my homework either by candle or Coleman lanterns. Can't tell you how tough that is on eyes!Back in 1970s, there was Texas law that students didn't have to be paid after midnight. How misguided this seems now, sort of made sense, to keep kids to get some damned sleep. So at Burger Chef, it was not uncommon for me to work to 2-3am, but I didn't get paid after midnight!! Then go home dead dog tired, get up at 5:30am, get ready for school. I slept in a number of my classes my Senior Year too I may add. The siren song of Padre Island was irresistible, and since I had already bought my first car a 1970 AMC Javelin, a year before, had transportation. So could either sit in boring class I already knew everything, or take off to beach. Back then, they would not call parents like do now. My teachers generally were stunned on how I would show up, blow thru tests, and do well in their classes. I took my books to beach, it was not all surf and weed, but hit the books, study, and come back ace assignments and tests. Worked well or so I though but then again as a teen, I knew everything. All teens do. I did talk to several of my teachers about predicament but it still was NO excuse for cutting classes.
My biggest fear at Ray was someone finding out my dark secret that "I was living the lie & NOT living in Ray district, but Miller, and squeal on me" seriously, was always looking over shoulder on that. For three years. A number of teachers knew my predicament as I pulled them aside and told them.
They knew I was poor, working nights, not in district I should be. And they kept silent. And had to keep close circle of friends. If I dated anyone go to their house, or some burger place or taco Bell on Staples or someplace...just not my house. What did I have to offer a date? Would have to stay outside whether hot or cold, 'hey baby come stand by the fridge with fire on south side of house to stay warm, we can shoot bb guns at rats above us!' Yup, that line probably would not have worked at White Rabbit either!
With the I-37 freeway lights next to us, could look up at cloudy sky & see the rats on limbs like freeway lanes, and shoot them and God knows we had plenty of cats & dogs that would chow on themSo the very few girls I DID take over, I told them what to expect. Had to be honest with them you know, am honest guy then and now. But also would ask them to please be sworn to secrecy, which they did, even if relationship went south. You had cliques at Ray: kickers, jocks, debbies, surfers, and brainiacs, something I mentioned in the Ernie Stettner story, he is the fellow who sadly fell thru roof at Ray gym during a Ray vs Miller pep rally, hit floor right in front of me at angle, and pretty much died on spot. All while yellow balloons fell from ceiling, he lost footing on catwalk but google 'ernie stettner w b ray' for a file about him off my site. I sort of was in the surfers group click, but really a nomad. Principal W. E. Hall had died (I believe 1976?) and HE knew about my plight with district, however I had also hit 'principals A & B Honor Roll 2 times.The rest different 'honor rolls'. So with that in mind I want to give a huge SHOUT OUT to a number of W. B. Ray teachers from mid 1970s who really made a difference in my life. No certain order though. Curtis Haveman, Shop; Miss Haynes American History who let me sleep in her class, sure wished someone would have woke me up though as when I did, whole 'nother class in there and I drool!; Coach Livsey, just good around guy; T. R. Morrison,. math, used to eat a LOT of chalk, but good teacher putting math in layman's terms; Doug Shilling librarian who knew my situation and love for books & let me snooze in library; Cliff Speer drivers education who knew I had been driving illegally since 11 years old ha ha; Debbie Trammell the drill instructor who let me hang around to watch my girlfriend Cindy Sullivan practice, I didn't drool in gym watching the hot girls, but should of; miss Whitworth who was tough SOB, but great teacher, not sure where she went my senior year. No kudos to mister Gray who taught math and threw me to floor in headlock one day. Sure I was disrupting class but he was wearing plaid and KISS like boots. I never went back to his class either.
In my senior year at Ray, I was asleep at the old Doss house and woke up startled to see my mom, who at time was about 220lbs, hovering over me. I said 'what the f*ck are you doing?!?' only to discover she had cut off my long hair on one side of head. Super glue, Elmers, bondo, tape, nothing was going to fix that. She said with wry smile 'let me cut other side!' I got out of there and jumped in my Javelin & drove off. Really didn't know what to do. Even tried pulling long hair from other uncut side across, but one side looked like mange. So bought a beret. And wore that and gimme caps but still missed two weeks straight of school because of it. By then I had my hair evened up tiny bit so didn't look like 1/2 a mullet. One teacher asked me to remove hat in class, everyone turned around & stared, I got up, went to whisper to him, he said ok. So left my hat on, I told him I had lost some of my hair due to flash fire at Burger King, ha ha.
And did I have some secret crushes? Sure what guy don't in high school. In no certain order and if you are here reading this, don't be ashamed, I simply though you 'were the bomb' but way out of my bottom dwelling north side league. Julie Wasserman, (smile could light up whole room); Cyndy Beaver; (thanks for just talking to me) Elsa Del Toro (I knew her since Cathedral!) Janice & Joyce Dowell (twins just sweethearts, always nice to me); Vicki Lehman (whom I knew from Incarnate Word, was sweetheart); Carrie Stalter (in my homeroom, helped me with lots of homework); Sherry Woodlee (a real sweetheart cheerleader); & Mary Beth Ritchie (was my tennis partner a number of times!) & Dixie Wentz, a lovely redhead who sat behind me in coach Kemp's homeroom, what a sweet lady. All out of my league, but still would strike up conversations with them and the smile could really make a poor boy's day.
And then there is this. In my senior year, W. B. Ray had a staggering amount of dropouts, about as much as Moody. I didn't drop out I was KICKED OUT with 3 months to go, something that has haunted me my whole life. Yes, no one to blame by myself. D. E. Funk called me to office. I didn't like him to begin with, but he sat me down and said 'Eddie, you are getting kicked out of school' I wanted to punch him, but no, as had already been in Corpus Christi jail 4-5 times (mostly for stealing CB radios) and what would that prove? It WAS my own damned fault. I had to go home and tell momma, which was tougher. She cried and asked me is there anything I could do. She must have cried more for that that the endless days after President Kennedy got shot. Then my dad came home. He was not happy but I could handle him. My late brother Tommy simply said 'man you really effed up' and walked off disgusted.
There has been nightmares, what ifs and cold sweats waking up in middle of night thinking I am fixing to cross the stage at Coliseum with other Fighting Texans, some of them had known since Cathedral 12 years before. The stare of a pissed off momma glaring at me (we did go to the ceremony) will haunt me to day I die. Just sort of that "the look" mommas give. But this was more of the X-Man guy who fires lasers from his eyes thing. I continued to hear about it even though in 2 months would go to Del Mar place off Old Brownsville Road & get my GED I promised her....still the disappointment in her eyes let me know I had screwed up royally. Mister Hernandez, who had put his ass on the line for me, he was just sad. Nothing goods comes out of dropping out of school, usually doomed to life of dead end jobs hitting idiot stick and so forth.
I did go get my GED & was 2nd highest total in class, so aced that too, but not the same as the little fake piece of paper, the gown, the tussle, and ceremony and pomp I WOULD have gotten if I had just gotten my head out of my ass in 1977. Damage done. I do drive past W. B. Ray every time I visit Corpus Christi. I have never went to a high school reunion nor any intentions to. But I did have fun at high school, went to a number of the games as Miller where they usually played was just down street. The times were different in 1970s than they are now no doubt. My sweetheart Cindy, while I was gone from Ray, was a junior one lower grade, and got pregnant so we went to her prom with baby bump. Then you were child of satan or fixing to drop rosemary's Baby or something, can't tell you how it was frowned upon. Now at my boys high school in Houston & other schools, they actually cater to pregnant high school teens, day care in school, special hours, anything to KEEP THEM IN SCHOOL which is bottom line. My senior year I took a girl named Lorraine. Since my 70 AMC Javelin needed yet another engine (I went thru 9 engines on that one car, lots of street racing) I used brother Tommy's 68 Chevrolet Biscayne, looks like a Impala. This white four door car had no back window, the rear window blew out as we were going over Harbor Bridge months earlier, so rust around back glass gave way, window blew out, shattered, cars swerving, Tommy punched it hauling ass down to north beach to hide us & car! Well, Tommy's Chevy had no back glass and seats that sort of doubled as Astroworld rides. The angelic dress Lorraine her & mom made, got ripped on passenger side front seat. I felt really horrible about that, and it sort of wasted any fun I was going to have at the prom, you can see my face in one photo, she smiling, laughing, I am stern, looking like 'I wished they quit playing damned disco crap!' We left, I took her to her home & thanked her, dropped off and left. I was sort of mortified as if I was not so embarrassed...would have taken her to someplace nice to eat, have a few beer, THEN home. But I was driving the white trash bed & breakfast car that tried to eat her beautiful dress. Irony here is I named my 1st born daughter after her: Jennifer "Lorraine" so a small impact there! Wished my high school years were as uneventful as Tommy's was but it was what it was. And no, don't know one invite me to a reunion, have not went to one in 40 years, won't go now. But the memories remain, more good than bad!
Photos: my official W. B. Ray portrait! At least I left with something.
Photo #2, me in art class, possibly wood shop. Photo #3, my prom, my date, Lorraine had already torn her dress on a spring sticking out of seat in my brother's car with no back window. Note my face, looks like I had warrant out for arrest from Officer Mudd my nemesis! I was embarassed as hell she tore dress. Photo #4, with Interstate 37 'our front porch' in background, late brother Tommy & me cleaned up well. Photo #5. Brother Tommy standing with my girlfriend Cindy at the old Doss house, the 'shower pipe' to take outside shower just behind my dad's butt on right. One of our 'refrigerators' is Igloo chest she sitting on, we had several to keep food cold. Cindy & me playing around near Cole Park, this is a time when both of us went to Ray!