To preserve the rich history of Flour Bluff, The Paper Trail News, will run historical pieces and personal accounts about the life and times of the people who have inhabited the Encinal Peninsula. Each edition will feature the stories gleaned from interviews held with people who remember what it was like to live and work in Flour Bluff in the old days. You won’t want to miss any of these amazing stories.
The following is a story by Roberto D. (Bob) Torres, a graduate of Flour Bluff High School who attended Texas A&I University, Kingsville, and received a B.S. degree from The University of the Incarnate Word. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1972 and served for 21 years. He was a photojournalist and had many duty stations including Washington D.C., Headquarters Marine Corps, Hawaii, Iwo Jima and the Pacific Islands, Okinawa, Korea, Albany, New York, and San Antonio, Texas. He was Public Affairs Officer, N.A.S. Corpus Christi and had been editor of Petersen Publishing’s Bow and Arrow Hunting and Lone Star Bowhunting magazines.
The Day my Father Learned Football
I had just returned from school in 1962, and as I entered the front door, I heard a commotion like never before. As I ran towards the bedrooms, my father was shouting, cursing, and smacking my two older brothers, Ray and Rudy. It was frightening to see the anger in my father’s eyes and the pain in my brothers’ faces.
Mom had run into the room before me and was attempting to grab my father’s arm as he raised it again to spank my brothers. Bear in mind they were both in high school.
After many moments of heated argument, my father stormed out saying, “I told them not to play sports. I told them I wanted them home.”
It was a very strange dinner that night as both Ray and Rudy stayed in their bedrooms, and Dad fumed in anger at the thought that they had disobeyed him.
My father had been raised on a ranch in Texas in the 1920s and had numerous brothers and sisters. As they were growing up, they all earned wages, and it went into the family kitty. That’s what he felt was the way things should be and that’s how he thought we should be raised.
There were seven kids in our family. Each of us had our chores to do before and after school. There were horses, pigs, chickens, goats, and geese to feed, eggs to be retrieved, and pens to lock up before we left each morning. My sister, Becki, had the unenviable chore of making lunches for all the boys going to school. After all, she was the only GIRL in the family.
Ray and Rudy had asked mom about playing football.
“Mom,” Rudy said one evening when father wasn’t around. “All our friends are playing football, and we know can make the team.”
“It won’t take too much time, and we’ll be home to do the chores as soon as football practice is over,” chimed in Ray. “We’ll be home before Dad gets home, and we’ll do all our chores; we promise.”
Mom wasn’t used to being double-teamed, and after all, they really didn’t ask for much. They were good kids. She’d tell Dad later, and everything would be all right. Reluctantly, she gave them her blessing, and soon they were staying after school to play football.
Until the day Dad came home early, the chores weren’t done, and Rudy and Ray weren’t home. Mom had tried to pass it off as if maybe they had been tied up at school somehow. When Ray and Rudy walked into the house carrying their uniforms over the shoulder, all hell broke out.
“Where’ve you been?” demanded Father. “We were at football practice,” smiled Rudy thinking that Mom had paved the way to Dad’s acceptance.
“We both made the varsity team. Ray’s even a starter,” he blurted.
It wasn’t long after that moment that Dad’s belt came off, and the beating began. For the next couple of weeks, there was a strange tension in the air as Rudy and Ray continued going to football practice, and Mother tried to placate Dad’s anger. Rudy and Ray did ALL the chores with care and stayed out of Dad’s way.
As the season progressed, the Torres brothers brought new flavor to the team. Rudy, as a junior, wore the smallest uniform on the team. He played flanker, and on one historic occasion, caught a pass in the flats and scampered towards the goal line. As an opposing player grabbed to tackle him, Rudy’s legs kept churning as the tackler fell to the turf…along with Rudy’s pants. Everyone in the stands enjoyed the play, to Rudy’s humiliation.
Ray, on the other hand, a sophomore, was the leading yardage gainer in the city. On a weekly basis, the top running backs yardage, yards gained per carry, and touchdowns made was kept in the city’s newspaper. Each week, Ray was leading in one or more categories. And, as a result of his prowess, the entire team was playing better than they had in years. It was WINNING football games. Sometimes by Ray’s touchdown or sometimes from the point of his toe as he also kicked field goals and extra points.
Then it was HOMECOMING WEEK, and Ray asked mom to see if Father would attend the game. The fathers of the varsity players were invited to be special guests for the occasion. Father refused to go. All week long when Dad stepped through the door, he received a barrage of arguments from Mom as to why he should attend the game. That it was something very special for Ray and that the whole school was going to be there. Finally, on Thursday night, Dad threw his arms up in surrender and agreed to go to the game on Friday night.
On Friday morning, Ray tentatively approached Dad and told him that there was going to be a special seat reserved for him and that he was supposed to wear a jersey with Ray’s number, 33, on it. Dad began to grumble like a volcano, and Mother’s sharp voice came across the kitchen table, “YOU PROMISED!”
On that fateful evening, as father stood nervously around with other men he didn’t know – because he had never cared to meet them – everyone came around and introduced themselves. “Oh, so you’re Ray’s father; I’ll bet you’re real proud of him. He’s a helluva ballplayer.” “Mr. Torres, hi, how are you? We’re glad you came. Ray’s told us a lot about you, how you encouraged him to play. You’ve got a fine boy there, Mr. Torres. He’s a real star.” “Hi, Mr. Torres, I’m Commander Guy. My son plays on the team with your boy. He says that Ray’s a really fine player. I’m glad to meet you.”
On and on went the acknowledgments as every team player’s father came by to meet my dad.
As the hometown players were introduced to the fans, their fathers walked on to the field beside them and were also introduced. The crowd roared and cheered for each player and parent.
The backfield plyers were introduced last, and when the announcer’s voice sounded, “And no, number 33, a sophomore who leads the city in rushing, Ray Torres and his father Daniel…” the roar of the crowd drowned out the announcer’s voice as the stands erupted in sound. Father, who had been walking silently with my brother, stumbled in surprise at the warmth of the greeting from the stands. It was something he had never experienced nor understood.
Later, as the fathers sat on a raised dais behind the football team’s bench, Dad sat uncomfortably watching a game he didn’t understand.
Shortly after the kickoff, Ray took a hand off from the quarterback and swung around to his right and plowed through would-be tacklers and scored the first touchdown. As the crowd roared and players’ fathers pounded Dad on the back, he smiled tentatively. Although he didn’t understand exactly what was happening, he did understand that HIS BOY had fought off other boys that were trying to knock him to the ground.
In the second half, as Ray again scored a touchdown and the crowd roared their appreciation, Dad stood happily smiling as people shook his hand. He was proud of his son. He knew that there was something special in the way people looked at him now and at the way Ray could run with a little leather ball and make tacklers miss him as he romped on the field.
It was the day my father learned about his son and the game of football.
Editor’s Note: Ray was injured during his junior year with a career-ending brain concussion. He later enlisted in the Marine Corps, was medevacked from Vietnam. He later served as a coach at Flour Bluff and as an assistant principal at Sinton Junior High. Rudy enlisted in the Marine Corps after graduation in 1965. He retired a First Sergeant and lives in Corpus Christi. Roy and Bob Torres later also wore Number 33 for the Flour Bluff High School Hornets. From 1963 through 1969, one of the Torres brothers wore that number in the Hustlin’ Hornet backfield. Their father Daniel died in a car accident on October 7, 1976. He was assisting a friend in need when his truck was hit from behind. He was killed instantly.
Be sure to follow The Paper Trail News to read stories from other longtime residents of Flour Bluff. The editor welcomes all corrections or additions to the stories to assist in creating a clearer picture of the past. Please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org to submit a story about the early days of Flour Bluff.
Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer a glimpse into the past and present of the little community of Flour Bluff. She wrote for The Flour Bluff Messenger, wrote and edited for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper that existed from December 2017 to April 2020, served as copy editor on three books, and continues to tutor students of all ages in the lively art of writing.