A surprise party evoked memories of my letter jacket

Published 5:20 pm Monday, October 3, 2022

Deedee Hagner had a surprise birthday party for her dad, Dink Mills in Williamston on September 18th. Coach Mills was the long-time football and baseball coach at Williamston High School and the coach who hired me.  Together we coached for five years and have been friends for over 50 years.  Dink Mills gets the credit for teaching me the values of coaching and the importance a coach has in a young person’s life.  Coach Mills taught me many things about coaching but the three things I remember are hard work, organization and discipline. After all, he won three baseball state championships (two back to back) and his football team played for the state championship.

Deedee planned this for over three months and it was a complete surprise to Coach Mills.  She had over 100 players from 1967-78 return and a video of some of them speaking about Coach Mills.  It was not until Mike Weaver, a former player at Williamston and quarterback at East Carolina, spoke that I realized what I was seeing!

I saw the return of two things, the letter jacket and the three-sport athlete.  Many were wearing their letter jackets proudly and most had the bars representing the sports they played in high school.  I could not believe what I was seeing!

I remember when Ms. Bowen called me after my freshman year and told me my monogram coat had arrived at Washington High School. Apparently, Coach Alligood had let me letter in baseball my freshman year, so I ran as hard as I could to the high school to pick up my navy blue letter jacket.  It was August and I may have slept in it that night.

We all played three sports in high school! Bobby Hardy, Dave Tayloe, Terry Smithwick, Ross Boyer, Paige Davis, Riley Roberson, Mike Moore and many others.  We were expected to play because there were not that many in high school to play, and the coaches expected us to do so.

What I am trying to say is the day of the monogram jacket is over and the days of the three sport lettermen are gone.  High school players are specializing in one sport and concentrating on becoming a college prospect.  They do not know the value of being a three-sport letter winner.  The colleges would rather have a three sport star.  Take it from one who knows and Deedee, I really enjoyed your dad’s birthday party because I got to see many that I haven’t seen in years.

They were the best of times with the best of friends and in the best of places, Washington, N.C.! The Original Washington!

  Harold Jr.