April 21, 2024

**Do Not Use**

New Director's Dialogue available now in ARC Event Library

An Aggie’s Story

By Bevan King

James Neal Thomason wasn’t just any Aggie, he was an Aggie who bled Maroon! Not only on Kyle Field at Texas A&M, but also in the skies above the Pacific battlefields of WWII.  Our stories as father/daughter were mostly about our shared memories of attending Texas A&M and both serving in the military.   These following stories are just a few of many cherished memories. 

My Dad’s favorite memory was his glory days playing football at Texas A&M.   His story about Coach Homer Norton and his football classmates was always the leading headline of every conversation.  He truly believed that team and their 1939 National Championship win placed Texas A&M on the map!

Dad was instrumental in bringing 16 of the 40 best players to Texas A&M from his Brownwood hometown and surrounding rival high schools.  Back then, a few of those towns were barely a dot on the Texas map.  I asked Dad who had recruited him.  Turns out there were two, a trainer named ‘Lil Dimmit’ and his cousin from San Antonio.  I neglected to ask Dad which cousin, but later in the story he recalls how his cousin forgot his A&M hat and hired a plane to drop it over his mother’s backyard in Ennis (that’s in Texas for you foreigners.)  Imagine he was motivated by how many pushups that was going to cost him once he got back on campus.

 The football team stayed 50 to a house and 4 to a room on the South Campus.  It was just short of a mile to the field, so each day began with a vigorous jog and making up Aggie chants along the way.  At this point, Dad paused in the conversation and began one of those chants.  I quickly put my hands over my ears and said “I’ve already heard that one!”  Of course, it wasn’t from him that I had heard that chant.  It so happened that my last assignment in the Air Force was teaching ROTC at A&M.  Those same chants were still alive and well, 55 years later! 

On one of my Dad’s military furloughs home, he and several former players got together in my grandparents back yard in Brownwood.  They were sitting on the back porch which was just off the kitchen.  There was only a screen door between them and my grandmother.  She was slaving away in the hot kitchen. The ‘boys’ started reminiscing about a few of those Aggie chants which my grandmother overheard.  With no hesitation, she picked up her wooden rolling pin still covered in a mound of flour.  At barely 4’11”, she went flying thru that screen door shouting “I’ll wa’r’sh your mouths out with soap!” 

Dad said (grinning) that they didn’t stay in the bushes very long because their stomachs started growling from the aromas coming from the kitchen.  He never said what they had for dinner, but I bet that rolling pin was still in her hands, armed and ready, with the same ‘Aggie fighting spirit’ which was sitting humbled at her kitchen table, all 5 of them.

So, back to the South Campus and Dad back tracking his story. He had fond memories of Mrs. Strodie who was their housemother.  The players raised all their own food.  Chickens, cows and I’m guessing pigs as Coach Norton told Mrs. Strodie to fatten the boys up on pig sandwiches and root beer floats. They needed every calorie they could ‘Muster’ (pun intended) because their location was at least a mile from the training field.  For you former Aggies, their path to the training field is now called Hwy 6. 

Dad recalled so many Aggie traditions, including Bonfire Night.  Football players were not allowed to attend the bonfire as it was always held the night before the game.  And for good reason…the Substitution Rule!  Once a game started, if you went off the field during that quarter, you couldn’t come back on the field until the next quarter.  So, players spent 58 of the 60 minutes on the field, every game.

Now for you old timers and car buffs, this next story intrigued me.  Dad’s description about the 5-mile trek to Bryan.  They called their transportation a ‘terraplane taxi’ which cost a nickel. The transmission was centered in the middle of the taxi and when it hit the slightest bump the boys would go flying out.  Dad had fond memories of these treks to Bryan, going to movies at the Palace, hamburgers at the Queen, and just hanging out with Kimbrough, Vaughn, Miller and Pugh.  They were all Aggies, some from just a dot on the map.

Dad’s last memory during my visit was about the train to San Francisco to play Santa Clara in 1939.  It was the first game of their winning season and they all made a pact to keep the wins coming.  They won the 1939 National Championship game, a ‘team promise’ kept. My Dad’s position on that team was Blocking Back (today’s Half Back position).  He was named to the All American team and that rings a bell when thinking of my Dad, he was that and so much more!

So, let me just end this by saying there are so many Aggie traditions that I haven’t mentioned that Dad and I shared as former Aggies.   The one that meant so much to him before passing away was his Aggie ring. 

Dad’s lung surgeon was an Aggie graduate, well-versed in Aggie tradition. After the surgery, he came out to the waiting area to give us the sad news.  He told me he waited until Dad’s eyes closed from the anesthesia and gently took off Dad’s Aggie ring.  He only lived a few more weeks.

My sisters and I spent many nights by my Dad’s bedside.  On my last visit before he passed away, he motioned for me to lean closer to him and whispered to me…“Never take off your Aggie ring.”

Gig’em Dad!

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