TIME-OUT WITH JOHN INMAN
I had asked him to mail anything that might be helpful for my planned book on Heavener football. He sent me a clipping from the Fort Smith Southwest Times, dated Feb. 6, 1944, which had a story and photo of five Heavener basketball players going into the Navy together. In the photo were senior guard Claude Williams, along with juniors Bill Bales, Bill Tait Bell, Stanley Cruthard and Addison.
Cruthards’ brother Jack became Heavener’s first casualty in WWII, according to another conversation I had with Neil Martin Tate. One of Tate’s high school teammates in Heavener was James Harmon, who resides in Mount Pleasant, Texas, which isn’t far from Tyler. So, I took a short trip to Mount Pleasant to visit him. Lo and behold, Harmon has a younger brother Kenneth, who also played football at Heavener.
Kenneth (pictured as a high school senior) lives in Atlanta, Texas, also relatively close to Tyler. I came home and called Kenneth to ask him about playing football during the war, because I knew that the Wolves didn’t play in 1944 or ’45.
But football went on for the Heavener Wolves, Kenneth Harmon said. Players were few and far between. In fact, there were only 11 boys who suited up for the ’44 season.
“We had to play both ways, both on offense and defense, because we didn’t have anyone to substitute. We had to play both directions,” said 84-year-old Harmon, who suited up for the Wolves in 1944-46.
He also served a stint in the U.S. Army once he left Heavener, living in Spain for over two years and later worked out of Dallas in X-Ray services and sales. He was in charge of a territory in Northeast Texas that stretched from Texarkana, and southwest Arkansas to the east, Paris to the west and Bossier City to the south.
“We basically played intramural football, because there weren’t really enough to play. When we had to travel, I know we played against Sallisaw, Spiro and, I think, Mena. Players were a little older, because some had come back from the war,” explained Harmon, whose older brother James had played a tackle position but graduated in 1943 when Heavener had 26 players out for football.
“We had a ‘part time’ coach, I mean he was a full time teacher, but only coached football part time. I can’t even remember his name.
“If someone would get hurt, nicked or bruised, there were no subs. They just put us back in the game.”
Walter Bryant took over as head coach in 1946, Harmon said, “but he didn’t stay around long.” The records show, according to what I’ve been able to find, in 1946 the Wolves finished 1-8. Harmon, however, couldn’t remember won-loss records the other years. “I know against some of the teams, they beat us pretty bad. The other teams scored a lot of points.”
Harmon explained he wasn’t discouraged by the lack of players. “I understood players had to go into the military and didn’t have a choice.” He said he recalls when there were more players, however, “We had to go against the first team in scrimmages, they had to knock somebody around to get ready to play against other teams. That was our job as substitutes. It was a way of life.”
EDITOR’S NOTES: Unfortunately, this is the last column John has planned to write for the Journal as he plans to work on his upcoming book about Heavener Wolves football. Of all the people who have contributed to my websites over the last five years or so, John has been the most helpful. This is his 42nd column he has done for the Journal and over the years, he has written 200. So thanks and good luck, John. You are one of a kind.