Editor’s note: Longtime Alvin resident Joe Lipscomb went home to be with the Lord last weekend. He was an avid supporter of AISD athletics for many years and touched many student-athletes lives. This feature on Lipscomb was originally published in the Sept. 1, 1999 edition of the Alvin Advertiser’s Fall Sports Section.
Joe Lipscomb could probably spend a lifetime counting the numerous reasons why the Texas high school football experience has meant so much to him over the past five decades.
Having the privilege to witness a span, where legends such from Doak Walker to Earl Campbell to Thurman Thomas have roamed the Friday night gridiron, the validity of the 66-year-old Alvinite’s affection immediately hits home and can be seriously contagious to the nearest listener.
Throughout chatting how only time and the athletes have changed, it’s quite undeniable that Lipscomb’s love for the game hasn’t.
“I think it’s just the enthusiasm of the kids itself, the coaches, the cheerleaders, the band - the entire atmosphere of high school football,” said Lipscomb, who lived in Alvin for the past 26 years with wife Nancy, three children and presently works a bailiff at the Brazoria County Courthouse. “There’s no putting on about it. They’re out there playing as hard as anybody could play and it doesn’t matter whether they’re that great of an athlete or not.
“They’re just giving it 100 percent all the time and it’s just something I’ve always enjoyed and grew up with.”
The growing up took place in Hitchcock, where Lipscomb said his dad was a big supporter of high school athletics and also where his own interest began to flourish.
With Ernest Lipscomb working on the railroad, nine-year-old Joe found one occasion at Sealy to take a curious peak at an ongoing contest, only to be chased away by a coach on the sideline.
By the time the teenage years arrived, it wasn’t uncommon for Lipscomb to see as many as three games during a single weekend.
“There wasn’t much professional ball in the 1940’s, so dad would take me to these games early on,” Lipscomb said. “When I was 11 or 12, I rode my bike on Friday about five miles to watch La Marque play six-man football. They didn’t have lights, stands or a stadium yet, so I simply sat there on my bike and watched them play. Then knowing the route I usually took, my dad eventually picked me up and we went to Alvin to watch them play football later in the evening. My sister then went there all four years and graduated in 1945.
“The next day (Saturday), Ball High had to play in the afternoon, because the war kept them from playing at night. I would get on the bus on Hitchcock, ride it to Galveston and then get off on 27th street and walk three blocks to the stadium. I would arrive at the stadium even before the players got there. I think that’s when I started really enjoying football.”
At the same time, Lipscomb found his first high school hero to look up to in Ball High end Norton Higgins.
“Everybody called him Country and he made a real big impact on me. He later went to Texas A&M, was all-conference and was killed during the Korean War,” Lipscomb recalled. “I was waiting by the gate to get in one afternoon and after asking me what I was doing, he (Higgins) got me into the gate and took me into the dressing room to meet all the high school kids. I guess from that point on, I was nuts about Ball High, until I went to La Marque as a sophomore.”
Although having never before played football, Lipscomb earned a spot on La Marque’s “B” team. The tenure turned out to be brief as a near fatal neck injury, while tumbling in the gym, quashed any thoughts of a further career.
Fortunately, the injury didn’t prove more lethal in any other manner, though, and Lipscomb resumed his affection for high school football, when (Texas HS Hall of Fame coach) Orville Etheredge arrived at La Marque in 1950, Joe’s senior year.
From Etheredge, he came to admire a head coach’s regular work ethic and develop a friendship as well. Lipscomb has also built associations in the coaching profession with Etheredge’s son Lynn, who coached at Tomball and former Alvin High School mentor Stan Mauldin.
“The time and effort coaches put in, is something I feel like people don’t take into enough consideration. I remember, especially quarterback Sammy Blount, who won a state championship at Deer Park (in 1954) and later coached at Hitchcock,” he said. “Not only was he coaching, he cut the field with the mower and ended up building a field house and dressing room. Things people just don’t realize these high school coaches do, the time they put in with the kids.
“Still today, it doesn’t matter what high school you drive past, whether they’re winning or losing, the coaches are spending long hours there after the game on Friday and then come right back Saturday morning and work until 2 in the afternoon.
“To be able to meet so many of these coaches and just be around them was special. When I was a student at La Marque, it didn’t matter who you were. Orville Etheredge always took time to know you. When I followed Tomball in the 1980’s, I came away impressed by the coaches time after time. Lynn would always introduce me to the coaches on the other side before the game started.”
The memories of players and teams resemble a practical gold mine of Texas football icons.
In 1943, Ernest Lipscomb took Joe to see both Doak Walker and Bobby Layne at Dallas Highland Park, a travel made possible by both sets of grandparents residing in nearby Greenville.
Other ventures through the years have allowed Lipscomb to revel at the Norm Bulaichs, the Tommy Nobles, the Earl Campbells, the Tommy Kramers, the Mike Singletarys, the Eric Dickersons and the Johnny Baileys, as well. The unforgettable teams include the 1985 Class 5A State Champion Yates Lions, the 1984 and ‘85 4A State Finalist Tomball squads and the 1968 3A State Semifinalist Alvin Yellowjackets.
More than any player or team, though, is one specific play from an Alvin-Angleton contest in 1987, which stands out the most in Lipscomb’s mind.
“Angleton was backed up on its own five-yard line and their quarterback broke outside and there was just nobody around to catch him or that’s what it appeared,” he said. “Along comes Garrett Keithley out of nowhere and somehow brings him down at the Alvin 40-yard line. Just the tremendous effort that was put in and the fact that Keithley was able to catch him was just amazing.”
Then there were the road trips.
Working on the Santa Fe Railroad in the North Texas suburb of Garland during the 1950’s, the Friday night return home to Hitchcock would require an evening stop to the nearest stadium with its lights on.
The site never matter, whether it was Buffalo, Madisonville, Huntsville or Conroe, Lipscomb joked. The only mandatory elements were an 8 p.m. kickoff with 22 kids on the field.
To put it bluntly, no high school football stadium in Texas was safe from the passion, both then and now.
Later traveling with close friend Tom Beverly, of Hitchcock from the mid 1970’s to the late 1980’s, marathon excursions to Dallas, Waco, College Station and Odessa for the postseason weren’t out of the question either.
“Tom had season tickets to La Marque games for over 30 years and this was before they played a lot of games in the Dome,” Lipscomb said. “If they weren’t, we just tried to pick out the best games to watch wherever they were played and it was a lot of fun traveling.”
He served as the football public dress announcer for both Alvin Yellowjacket (1991-95) and Hitchcock and was also an official for one year, but the above duties never proved as satisfying as the supporting role.
That supporting role resumes this fall with Lipscomb using the regular season to tune up for his favorite time of the year - the playoffs.
The address could be the Astrodome for one of its famed triple headers or anywhere else in the state, as mentioned previously.
“It’s been a great life to have a family that’s been willing to let me do the things I have,” Lipscomb said. “It’s taken the place of fishing and hunting and been something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.
“Watching high school football - Sometimes I think it’s been fun, because I haven’t had a favorite team when the playoffs started. Just sit there and cheer for both teams. That way you don’t lose.”
Anyone who has seen the devotion up front would likely agree that Texas high school football and Joe Lipscomb were never anything but a winning combination.”