Bill Long wasn't politically correct...he was just correct

When completed in the late 1940s, it was state-of-the-art. Long's Theater now sits empty and derelict, its roof fallen in, its screen curtains pitifully hanging in tatters.

As I grew up, I saw “Snow White”, Cinderella” and “Gone with the Wind” at Long's. But, my favorites were the weekend Westerns and Comedies on double features, Audie Murphy, and The Bowery Boys, with a Bugs Bunny Cartoon thrown in.

Owner Bill Long, his wife Sylvia and my classmate Billie Jo lived in an apartment above the theater.

Even today, with its roof collapsed, it is still the most imposing structure on Keyes' main avenue, Polk Street ; because its architecture is timeless...

In its heyday, Bill watched over the theater as if it were one of his four daughters. He saw to it that no one, no matter their station in life, sullied his theater.

Bill was friendly and a joker, but even in middle-age he had the physique of a former athlete. I've been told he was a retired bull-rider, it could have been true. He had a massive upper body, was gruff-voiced, and brooked no misbehavior by anyone attending the movies, adult or child.

After each movie had begun, Bill patrolled the aisles. There was no talking allowed for the duration of the film or films.

In one hand Bill carried what I call, a lumber yard gimme yardstick. It was a one-inch square, three-foot piece of varnished wood with inches marked on each side. He carried it with a small leather strap and kept watch for feet or knees on the backs of chairs, cigarettes being clandestinely smoked, or couples being too friendly. When a transgressor was found, the stick lashed out with a sharp crack to a knee, shin, wrist, or the back of the head. It made no difference if you were from the wrong side of the tracks, or a spawn of privilege, the water boy or quarterback. You got one thump and a warning, caught a second time and you were out.

As far as I know Bill never tattled to your parents...that was your decision, and it would have made no difference. There were no frantic calls to attorneys, no irate parents calling in the middle of the night, no glaring newspaper headlines and no CNN satellite dishes parked on Polk Street . If you were stupid enough to admit that Bill had caught and punished you, the only response was...”Well you probably deserved it.” In other words, the unvarnished truth. Wouldn't that be refreshing today?

The word for the day is Argus-eyed- courtesy of Daniel Gilland. The Comets were forced to punt from the 38 and the Whippets appeared to be in great shape starting at their own 41 yard line following the short punt. But three plays later, the Comets picked off a Whippet pass and returned it to the Okeene 31 yard line. The Comets scored 7 plays later on a 3 yard run and took a 7 – 0 lead with 5:04 to go in the first half.

The Whippets responded with a scoring drive of their own starting at their own 34. Okeene advanced to the Comet's 33 in 6 plays that included a 12 yard reception by Fuller and 7 yard reception by Benham from Wardlaw. A 29 yard reception by Westfahl gave the Whippets first and goal at the four. Okeene scored 2 plays later on a 5 yard pass from Wardlaw to Taylor Hooper with 1:30 to go in the half. Jacob Parrish kicked the extra point and the game was knotted 7-7 at halftime.

The Whippets defense forced a Comet 3 and out to begin the second half. Velma-Alma's punt from their own 44 yard line was returned 20 yards by Fuller to the Okeene 38. From there the Whippets marched 52 yards in 10 plays to the Comet 10. The Velma-Alma defense stiffened and the Whippets were looking at a fourth and 10 from the 13 yard line. The Whippet offensive line of Michael Lamle, Karson Turnham, Paul Alvarado, Chance Fisher, Winston Brown and Kyle Felder gave Wardlaw the time he needed to find Westfahl in the end zone and, following Parrish's PAT, the Whippets had a 14 – 7 lead with 3:16 to go in the third.

But the Comets came back with a scoring drive of their own, marching 65 yards in 14 plays. The touchdown came on a 1 yard run with 9:40 remaining in the game, tying the score at 14.

The Whippets could only manage 8 yards in 3 plays and were forced to punt from their own 35. Benham's 40 yard punt was muffed by the Comet receiver and recovered by Westfahl at the Velma-Alma 20 yard line. The Whippets took advantage of the short field, driving to the 3 after a 13 yard reception by Fuller and 4 yard run by Wardlaw. Wardlaw scored on a 3 yard scramble with 6:08 remaining in the game. Parrish's PAT gave the Whippets a 21 – 14 lead.

Parrish's ensuing kickoff thru the end zone gave the Comets the ball on their own 20 yard line. The Whippet defense held the Comets and forced a punt from the 17 yard line. The 21 yard punt gave the Whippets the ball at the Comet 38. The Whippets could only manage 5 yards on 3 plays and were faced with a fourth and 5 from the 33. The Whippets decided to go for it and Wardlaw hit Fuller for an 18 yard completion to the 15. Four plays later, Parrish kicked a 25 yard field goal with 1:27 remaining to ice the game, making the final Okeene 24, Velma-Alma 14.

This Championship comes 25 years after Okeene's only other State Football Championship in 1981.

The Okeene Quarterback Club is sponsoring the Football Banquet at 6:30 PM Saturday, December 16 th in the school cafeteria. The PeeWee, Junior High, and State Champion football players will be honored. All players and fans are welcome. Admission will be $10 at the door.