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Many thanks, coach Connors, for giving a lick

Letters to the Editor
Published September 30, 2005

The first time I laid eyes on Walt Connors was in the old band room at Citrus High School. It was in the summer during the 1950s and he was in charge of the summer recreation program in Inverness.

Connors was to succeed Eddie McIntyre as the head coach at CHS. He would, as coaches did in those days, coach football, basketball and baseball. I had heard stories of the young coach and how tough and athletic he was. He had only been in Inverness a few days then but naturally the new coach was the talk of the town.

That day in the band room, a group of us preteens waited for little league baseball practice to start. Someone challenged the coach to a game of pingpong and he won rather handily. I recall that Orvin Jenkins was the king of the pingpong tables in Inverness, but Connors was too much for young Orvin also.

Connors coached the Hurricanes football team to an undefeated season in the 1950s. The only blemish on his record that year was a scoreless tie with Lake Weir. I dreamed of playing football for coach Connors, but I never got the opportunity. He left his teaching job in 1960, the year I started playing for the Hurricanes. Connors started an office supply business, which was very successful, then later ran for public office and won. Whatever endeavor he undertook, he was successful. He was a taskmaster who didn't accept failure as an option.

The idol status I assigned to coach Connors became tarnished a few times when I was at CHS.

There was the time I had been caught with a group of fellow seventh-graders sneaking into the drive-in to see a Bridget Bardot movie. It was X-rated. We were caught red-handed (or red-faced) that night and hauled home to our parents by none other than the "High Sheriff" B.R. Quinn. I thought my life was over that night. Facing my parents that night was a tough experience. Part of our punishment was to pay back the drive-in's owner, Tony Dubee, double the price of admission.

The following Monday in math class we had coach Connors as a substitute teacher. One of the questions he posed to me in front of the class was a simple arithmetic problem. "If four boys were caught sneaking into the drive-in to see an adult movie and had to pay the owner of the drive-in double the admission price of 50 cents, how much would the total bill owed to the owner be?" If anyone hadn't heard of our escapade by then they certainly knew after that day.

The most vivid memory I have of coach Connors is of an incident that took place in 1959. I was in the eighth grade at the time. While waiting in line to go into the gymnasium for a class, I was enraptured by the pretty young lady in front of me. Jackie Alligood was quite good looking, but I was fascinated by her long blond ponytail. In a moment of indiscretion I yanked Miss Alligood's ponytail and as luck would have it coach Connors turned around just at the precise moment I yanked.

I was called out by coach Connors to the gym floor in full view of the rest of the class. Connors pulled out his paddle (which looked to be the size of a boat oar). He offered me a choice. "One lick or two?" he asked. The entire class was urging me to take one lick. My classmates were in a feeding frenzy and I was the doomed victim. That was another low point in my life involving coach Connors.

I opted for two licks that day. I didn't feel the second lick anyway because my rear end was pretty numb after the first one.

I got over being mad at coach Connors very quickly and I never was on the receiving end of a paddle after that day. You might say that I needed that discipline. My parents weren't afraid to lay down the law to me but they couldn't be with me all of the time so educators like coach Connors played a valuable role in my life. I am forever indebted to them for caring enough about me to make me understand that unruly or unlawful behavior almost always has a negative consequence.

And by the way, I haven't pulled a ponytail or sneaked into a picture show since those days. Honest, coach.

-- Doug Johnston, Dunnellon

Storm story offers valuable information

Re: What if the big one hits? Sept. 25 Citrus Times.

Your article should be read by all Citrus County residents as it points out the problems we would face in a catastrophic hurricane. With all due respect to Commissioner Vicki Phillips, one problem we do not need is turf wars like those experienced with Hurricane Katrina. We certainly do not need people who are untrained in emergency management calling the shots. Mike Brown was totally unqualified to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and we know what happened there.

It is my understanding that was not a problem last year. Josh Wooten, then chairman of the Citrus County Commission, was actively involved at the Emergency Operations Center and frequently rode along with Sheriff Jeff Dawsy. Mr. Wooten said the sheriff was everywhere he needed to be and it was exhausting trying to keep up with him.

Capt. Joe Eckstein and Lt. Bob Wesch have been on the front lines both here and in storm-ravaged areas. They make excellent points about the planning needed and their advice should be taken seriously.

-- Judy Groner, Lecanto

[Last modified September 30, 2005, 01:35:17]

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