Still going strong

Published 5:11 pm Wednesday, October 25, 2006

By By LYDIA GRIMES – features writer
It has been almost 60 years since Dick Jernigan played in the first game between W.S. Neal and T.R. Miller. Time has taken away much of the memory of the game.
It was far from &#8220just another game,” as everyone knows today. It is &#8220the” game and is more important to many than any other they play in a season. It was the beginning of a rivalry that is still going strong 60 years later.
Jernigan said many things have changed in the world of football, but the rules are much the same. The biggest changes have come in the uniforms. Even though the players had shoulder padding and thigh padding, there has been a big change in the make-up of the padding. Probably the biggest change has been in the helmet.
That makes it pretty obvious that there were not the precautions taken in the earlier days of football as there are today.
Jernigan also said there were changes in the coaches since he was in high school.
These days you will find several coaches on the sidelines during a football game. The game is much more sophisticated than it was that November day in 1946. Who could have guessed that the game played that night for charity would have turned into the rivalry it is today?
Even though one hears a lot of talk during the week before Neal and Miller play every year, Jernigan says everyone is a lot calmer than they were in bygone years.
Jernigan was born south of Brewton in the old Jernigan home which was located near Catawba Springs Baptist Church.
He and his three brothers grew up on a farm. He attended school at McCall and then went to T.R. Miller High School. He grew up during the late 1930's and early 1940's. This was a time of great turmoil for our country and young men had to grow up quickly. When he reached the age of 18 in 1944, he was drafted into the Army.
He spent the next 22 months in Europe. By the time he got there, the war was almost over and he was in a replacement unit. He didn't see much action. After the war ended in Europe, he was going to be sent to the South Pacific to fight against the Japanese. He was already on the Queen Mary getting ready to come back to the United States when news came that the atomic bomb had been dropped on Japan and the war had ended.
In the fall of 1946, Jernigan and his fellow students were back home and back to school. He was very athletic and played football, baseball and basketball for Miller. He graduated in 1947 and played baseball with the Alabama State League for about two months before he was released. He had several other jobs and eventually worked for St. Regis at Cantonment, Fla. He got a chance to go to work for Alabama Power about 1954 as a lineman. He spent 34 years with Alabama Power and was reading meters when he retired.
He married Margaret Smith, a local girl, in 1951. They had three children, Michael, Karen and Hampton &#8220Hamp” who was named for his uncle and they have two grandchildren.
These days Jernigan has taken up another sport. He plays golf quite often at Dogwood Hills Golf Course.
He also keeps up with what the University of Alabama football team is doing. He has followed them since the time of Fears Whitworth, before Bear Bryant was the coach. He also follows the New York Yankees in baseball.
Sixty years have come and gone and it is just a dim memory for those who played the game all that many years ago on Rotary Field. And by the way, the score was 25 to 0, with Miller winning.

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