During my recent trip to Auburn, I spent the morning with two teammates at a 6 a.m. basketball workout with two soon-to-be seventh graders. I didn’t work out – Chantel worked out Lisa’s son Hayes and another boy. I busied myself by shooting around on a side basket and occasionally observing. It’s always interesting to see a friend you met at age 18 now be in a role of authority. You saw them at their goofiest and most immature (oh, I was in the same boat for sure), then you see them commanding attention and being great at it.
After that I drove/walked around campus. I walked through Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum, where we used to practice and play. There is now a shiny new arena (since the 2010-11 season) with all the bells and whistles next door. I’ve attended games there and it’s very nice. But I will always love that old coliseum.
I poked my head into the training room, where we got taped every day and iced our aching joints. It’s also where I was subjected to the then-tortuous sound of country music coming out of the speakers. The stereo was in the main office and the head trainer would turn on the stereo and lock the door so no one could change the station. That’s where I first heard Randy Travis’ “Diggin Up Bones” and Steve Wariner’s, “Lynda.” (I just discovered the true spelling of the title and am a bit disappointed. I always thought he was singing to me!)
Outside the training room I saw what looked like the exact scale where we weighed ourselves every day. This machine struck fear in all of us. Some were terrified that they weighed too much, others, too little (that would be me).
I’m pretty sure I saw our old locker room, which was upstairs. At halftime we had to run up two flights of stairs and around a corner to our locker room. It is now boarded up but the location and the bathroom next to it look familiar. It wasn’t much. Very basic. We had cubbies for our stuff but that was it.
|Locker room door|
I saw some showers that might be the same ones we used. I remember Ruthie and her sister Mae Ola would sing in the showers after practices and games. Their harmonies were wonderful. One of my favorites is “Cornbread and Black-Eyed Peas.” (This version is sung by her brothers and other relatives.)
Outside the Coliseum I spied the perch where Chantel and I got stuck one fall day. Auburn had just built the Athletics Complex and we wanted to check it out. We walked into an office and then out onto the balcony. The door closed behind us and we were locked out on a third story balcony. Uh oh! We finally got the attention of a grounds person and they were able to free us.
From there I walked toward the old track. They built a new track prior to the 2006 season. I ran many a timed mile and 100s on this track in the wee hours of the morning.
After leaving the track, I looked for the opening in the fence surrounding the football practice grounds. One Thanksgiving weekend many years ago my teammates and I slithered through a small opening between the chained fence door and played Nerf football in the practice bubble. And got caught by campus police. We escaped the coaches’ wrath but they eventually found out. Vickie’s butt wouldn’t fit through the opening so we hoisted her up and over the tall fence. (She was our All-American our bad knees.)
My last stop was the old Student Activity Center and new Wellness and Recreation Center. I played pick-up basketball games in the Student Act in the off-season beginning with my sophomore year. Is it a coincidence that a guy I liked played there too? I never stepped foot in that place as a freshman, and then went every opportunity I had during my last three years. I always say I was doing the right thing, but for the wrong reason. The Student Act courts were a string of side-by-side courts and some classrooms. The new center is like a spa, complete with outdoor pool and climbing wall.
I enjoyed my trip down memory lane. I haven’t taken the time to wander like this on previous visits. As I made my way back to Lisa’s house, I did drive by where Sewell Hall used to be (it’s now a ginormous dorm) and my old Dorm J.
|Dorm J, Room 403|
All of these new facilities are great. Me? I’ll take my Coliseum, old track and Student Act. Ok, maybe I’d trade Dorm J for the new dorm. (Those new ones are pretty sweet.) As I talked with one of my former teammates at the Mighty Ruthie premiere reception, we came to Auburn because we wanted to come to Auburn. We didn’t come for state-of-the-art facilities. It’s great that the current students get to enjoy these newer facilities, but I do wonder if they have too much given to them. All the Under Armor gear and luxury accommodations. We had Converse cotton sweats (we loved them), thick polyester uniforms (we did not love those) and short, mesh practice pinnies. We received one pair of Converse shoes for the season. (I don’t think we got socks). And we thought we had hit the jackpot!
Things were much different then. We were much different then, too. I don’t live in the past, but I do like to reminisce now and then. My teammates and I always seem to pick up right where we left off. Some say you can’t go “home”. I believe you can.