The tall gray-haired man walked across the basketball court at the local high school where he had been a coach for many years .The game was about to start when a player noticed Mr. Morey and quickly passed the ball. Without hesitation the old guy set himself at mid- court and with the style of the two handed-shot from the past , he let the ball go . The bleachers erupted with cheers as the ball feathered it's way through the net.
He could never sit in his seat for a complete game at the high school basketball tournaments in the Boston Garden. It wouldn't be long before he would have to stand to welcome a visitor who wanted to greet him. If it wasn't Walter Brown , the Garden owner, it would be Red Aurebach, the famous Celtics coach .One of my fondest memories was the time he introduced me to the recent draft choice of the Celtics, John Havilcek.
In the fifties, Dick retired as a coach and continued as a teacher at Abington High school where we became good friends. Wherever we went , usually as a small group of teachers , we would meet someone who knew Dick. Celebrity golf tournaments were especially favorable for his popularity. More than once a celebrity would step from the tee to greet Dick in the gallery. Lyndon Johnson planned to visit Boston during his campaign for president. Our group went to Fenway Park for the rally and as you might suspect Dick hob-nobbed with many of the politicians.
After a grueling day at school , our group would meet at a local bar and over a few beers discuss anything and everything. We didn't want our students or their parents knowing about these gatherings , so we held them in a joint across the town line in Whitman. We learned later that most people knew what we were doing but never complained. Dick, who was the oldest would tell us stories and anecdotes that related to almost every subject under discussion. Bring up a topic and he had something to contribute. His metaphors were forthright and funny. For example: Frustration: "Like a cat trying to cover s..t on a marble top table." Good Fortune: " Luckier than a butcher's dog."
Dick was never one for official gatherings ,like faculty meetings or especially system-wide staff meetings with the superintendent. He usually strolled in late and walked to his seat up back by passing directly in front of the administrator speaker. If there was a lull or loud background murmur, it was just Dick's luck to have everything go quiet before he blurted something like..." what a bunch of bulls..t!" One time he came right out with this remark directly to the superintendent.
One time we were told we would have to attend a faculty meeting ten minutes after school let out for the kids. Dick and our group liked to use this time to grab a smoke and wind down in the men's teacher's room. The meeting was called by the new Director of Guidance...a pompous ass if there ever was one. Someone in the group said we should go to the meeting since we are now ten minutes late. The room was quiet when we walked in and took seats up back. Before the Guidance guy continued with his talk , he told the faculty that when he called a meeting he wanted everybody there on time....." and I mean just that! I am not whistling Dixie!" It was faint but from somewhere near Dick's seat you could hear the refrain just like it came out of the movie Gone With The Wind. The poor guy was labeled with the name Dixie ( by Dick of course ) and never mellowed .
In the old high school, the teacher's rooms were gender specific. The men occupied a small room in the basement of what is now known as the Frolio School. Cigarette , cigar and pipe smoke filled the place. The toilet stall was small and close by. The custodian in charge cleaned the room daily. He mumbled and grumbled while emptying ash trays and sweeping ashes off the floor. I never remember the floor getting a wash or the lone window becoming was covered with grime from years of tobacco tar. He personified the description ..curmudgeon, only to a higher more disagreeable level. The custodian and the men had an arrangement. If the new principal or the superintendent was seen in the area , we would get a warning. In turn , we didn't press for super-duper house cleaning.
Occasionally, a new teacher would join the group but he usually didn't last long. He either became bored or realized he wasn't being accepted. Beverly was his first name and an appropriate one. He was also from the South. He taught French with a southern accent. He had definite opinions about our club-room. One item in particular really bothered him. The new business manager decided to buy low quality toilet paper to save expenses. We didn't like it but we knew better than to complain to the custodian. Dick said it was like using aluminum foil. Beverly complained to us and Dick, always ready with a proper solution, suggested he bring the complaint to the custodian. When he came into the room with his broom and equipment, we looked at each other and hunched down in our chairs . Beverly didn't just complain, he directed him to bring softer paper. Poor Beverly, coming from the genteel South, never heard language like that before. He didn't last long.
Dick was an innovator. He came up with the idea that glass would make a good backboard. In the forties , he convinced Walter Brown of the Boston Celtics that he should install a pair in the Boston Garden. Dick went to work immediately. He got help with designs from his son Dick Jr who was an engineer and he got the tempered glass from the Pittsburgh Plate Glass company.
The boards were installed and Chuck Connors , of the Boston Celtics , Red Sox, Movies and the TV show Rifleman, shattered one. In the early days of glass backboards there was no way to tell when and if a board would shatter. Some stayed in place for years while others could easily pulverize shortly after installation.
Colleges became interested and Dick decided he would construct the boards in a garage in Abington and fill orders. Pittsburgh Plate provided his glass. Business improved to a point where he would hire local kids to help him. My son, Mike was one.
Business demanded once that he take a trip to Pittsburgh. He approached the School Committee and asked for two days off . Dick 's request was for unpaid leave and he would pay the substitute.
" We would be setting a precedent. Request denied."
Dick went to Pittsburgh and was summoned to a school committee meeting when he returned. They told him he was suspended without pay for two weeks starting at the time a substitute can be hired. The news of his suspension reached the local newspapers and was a hot topic around town and everywhere that Dick was known.
" I don't care. I'll have lots of time to build backboards ."
The student body retaliated in support of a well-liked teacher they thought was being unfairly treated. The word was out. "After the bell to start classes , we will walk out" and they did. The front yard looked like a football rally only more so. The principal called the police to keep order but it wasn't necessary because the kids were there for a purpose and were reasonably well-behaved. The Fire department showed up as well. The policemen and firemen , as former Morey students and well-informed of the situation , informally supported the kids. Dick took advantage of the walkout by grabbing a quick smoke in the teacher's room.
Quick furtive discussions ensued with the top brass at the scene.....the school committee, the superintendent and the principal. They came to realize the only way they could defuse the situation was to implore Dick to ask the kids to give it up. An emissary was sent to the teacher's room ....the only place he could be ask Dick to join them on the platform steps. Dick showed up and listened to the pleas that he do what he could to bring the kids back into the building.
Dick , as a former proficient basketball player knew when the ball was in the air for a rebound.
"Can we talk about the suspension?"
A quorum of two school committee members held a quick meeting on the spot and agreed to rescind . Dick stepped forward to address the kids. He had only one remark , which was delivered forcefully and loudly.
" Get your asses in here right now! "
They walked in to the building in an orderly fashion while Dick retreated to his favorite chair in the teacher's room for another smoke.