■ Editor’s note: This is the seventh installment of an occasional series. Please send topic suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Throughout the years, Robert Lacy has preserved his memories through his writings. He recently wrote a third book, titled Happy Birthday Dear Darrell and Other Stories, which is slated for a Sept. 10 publication date.
“The opening story in this new collection is the first short story I ever published and it was published in the old Saturday Evening Post back in December of 1965 while I was still in Iowa,” Lacy said. “It’s about a kid who doesn’t win a letter sweater, it’s called, Win a Few, Lose a Few. It’s about the heartbreak of not lettering in junior high school. It’s a nice little story. It’s very much autobiographical because it’s me remembering that in the eighth grade, I did not letter for football. I think I weighed about 90 pounds in the eighth grade but it was still a tragic moment for me. I did letter in the ninth grade and then I lettered every year in high school. The one I remember is the year I didn’t.”
It took place at Marshall High School where Lacy played fullback for the Mavericks.
“I remember that my senior year, our record was 4-4-2,” he said. “We tied Nacogdoches and we tied Kilgore. Kilgore was 0-0 and Nacogdoches was 7-7.
“The game I think back on the most and remember best was the game with Kilgore and like I said, the score was 0-0,” he continued. “Kilgore at that time, had two boys in the backfield who went on to play in the NFL.
One was Larry Hickman, who went on to star at Baylor as I remember it and the other was a kid named Buddy Humphreys who I think played for Baylor too but played in the NFL. The fact that we tied them 0-0 and they had two boys who went on to play professional football in one backfield, we were pretty proud of ourselves.”
Lacy remembers vividly how football was a big part of life.
“Football was so ingrained in the culture when I was a boy growing up in Marshall,” he said. “It was simply what you did. If you wanted to be a factor in the local environment and you were a 17-year-old boy, you played football. Friday nights in the football stadiums in Texas were must-do, must-see moments. In Marshall, everything stopped and everybody went to watch their high school team.”
After high school, Lacy attended Paris Junior College but only spent a semester there before joining the military.
“I served four years in the Marine Corp then came back and worked in a funeral home there in Marshall and went to Kilgore Junior College and got all my freshman and sophomore courses done there and went off to the University of Texas and spent my last two years of college there, majoring in journalism,” he said. “I graduated in June of ’62 and went to work for the Corpus Christi Caller Times.”
The company sent him Kingsville to cover South Texas.
“I would drive around in the company car and write feature stories,” he recalls. “I drove around South Texas and wrote about anything that struck my fancy. I did that for about a year-and-a-half. I met a fellow at Kingsville who was teaching at Texas A&I and he had recently graduated from something called the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He got me interested in that and I started writing short stories and he sent one to Iowa and they accepted me into the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. So I left South Texas after two-and-a-half years and went to Iowa for a year. After that, I taught writing at the University of Oregon.
“After Oregon, I went to Slipper Rock State College in Pennsylvania for three years,” he added. “Then from there, I came to the Twin Cities to work on the old Minneapolis Star newspaper. That was the old afternoon daily, which is long defunct now. I came to Minneapolis in 1972 to work on the Minneapolis Star.”
A former classmate from UT got Lacy hooked up with the job in Minnesota and later introduced him to the Minnesota state majority leader, Nick Coleman.
“Nick Coleman hired me away from the Minneapolis Star to work for him over at the Minnesota Senate. So I did that for 10 years.”
When asked why he chose journalism as a major, Lacy said, “That’s a good question. When I think back on it, it seems to me that I’ve done everything in my life on a whim. I’d always read the newspaper. I read the Marshall News Messenger. The Dallas Morning News was sort of mandatory reading in those days because of its sports pages. It was the golden era of sports-writing in Texas with legendary sportswriters. They were must reads. I think maybe I chose journalism because I had to choose something. There was never an ‘aha’ moment or anything like that. It just seemed like a good idea and there probably wouldn’t be too much bad.”
Overall, the 1954 graduate of Marshall High School has a lot of fond memories of being a Maverick, and a true appreciation for where his writing career has taken him. The two go hand-in-hand as he continues to preserve his memories of Marshall through his writings.