Iowa Park – 48 years in our hometown

It was 48 years ago this week that my family moved to Iowa Park and started this newspaper, the Iowa Park Leader.

I was four.

You could say I grew up in the midst of all things journalism and  Iowa Park, and both are part of who I am.

In these 48 years, we as a family and staff,  have been honored to serve this beautiful, quirky and proud town – what we call our hometown – through some bright and beautiful times, as well as a few dark and desperate ones. The latter is always hard, but history has a right to have honest record of those as well.

In this almost half-century, we have made, and a few times sadly, lost, life-long friends. We have been inside almost every business in town, attended close to every public meeting, and have served on councils and boards to do our part to inform and be a part of the fabric of  Iowa Park. We have recorded Iowa Park’s history as it has heppened and is happening, and it makes us proud.

Like most newspapers, we’ve have had death threats – luckily, few – and we have seen people at their worst. That makes us sober and I think, pragmatic.

More often, we catch people at their best – this is what keeps us in the newsroom, and around the community. The generosity and spirit of our students; the outpouring of love, time and resources I have personally witnessed consistently in my time here when someone local or not needs a helping hand. Iowa Park has quite a heart, we are happy to report.

Both are what keep the balance, I’m just glad the good side of the scales are always heavier.

 

Because this is my space, I get to brag on our staff just a little.

The publisher, Dolores Hamilton, has been at the helm the entirety of our existence. As she is my mother, I have seen her during this time not only raise five extreeeemely well-behaved children, but also work the tremendously long hours required to keep a budding newspaper afloat and feed a family. I am proud of her for this. She has, in her career, done every single job in this newspaper and done them well.

Some other things most people don’t know, but I do, make me even prouder than this. When I was young, in the middle of all of this, Mom also took painting and piano lessons for herself. She planted the seed that made the Gordon Lake Walking Track project grow, and then continued to water it. I know because she made me help. I don’t know if she has ever known how much those things impacted my life.

Kevin Hamilton, editor, sports editor, photographer and another heir apparent of many hats, is always the guy in the background with a camera. But never in a creepy way. He captures the best moments Iowa Park has to offer and records them here, each week. He is, I say with great confidence, one of the best photographers in the state of Texas and has the hardware to prove it. During his time here, Kevin has covered meetings, banquets, assemblies and spent thousands of hours at sporting events covering our athletes all the way to state competition, much of that in his personal time. In addition, he is a helluva writer.

Also, he’s my brother and he didn’t pay me to say any of that. Seriously, Iowa Park, you are lucky to have him.

Last but not least is reporter and feature writer, Sherrie Williams. She is also a photographer and circulation manager. We have a small office with many jobs, and she has managed to be worth five times her weight in gold.

Sherrie has worked with us for 20 years and covers events, writes features, serves on the city council and some state boards. Over the years I regularly see her work all day at the paper, then work several evenings a week either for the newspaper, or for civic organizations to raise money to help other people. She has headed up 9/11 ceremonies, July Fourth events, and worked more Whoop-T-Do’s than anyone I know. She truly loves Iowa Park. She also has the best memory of anyone I know – it’s scary.

This week also happens to be my 33rd anniversary at the paper.  For those wondering, I got a brand new iMac on my desk.

But, so did Kevin, so … I’m still working out what that means.

I also publish these columns on my blog, www.onefunnybroad.com. I encourage you to check it out.

I mention this because I was looking at my stats for the year this weekend, and I noticed that I have readers from literally all over the world.

I’m not bragging, though. It was cool because some of my most-read blogs are those about Iowa Park, which means people from around the United States and  dozens of countries around the world have heard of Iowa Park, Texas.

My hometown.

Our hometown.

Thank you for a fun and heartfelt 48 years with you. It is a pleasure to be a voice for our community.

 

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Friday Night Lights & Texas Homecomings

It was brought to my attention this year while talking to a marketing rep out of Washington State that not everybody ‘gets’ homecoming and football in Texas. He needed something from me – specifically time on the phone – in the last two weeks, and I didn’t have it to give. When he didn’t understand the words “homecoming has thrown up all over my desk,” I asked him if he’d ever seen the show Friday Night Lights. 

He had.

Then I said, “so you understand that football is close to its own religion in Texas, right?”

“Riiiiggghhht,” he answered, but I could tell he still didn’t understand that preparing for homecoming week is like preparing for the Pope to pop into town for the weekend once a year every year.

What this market rep does know is that he won’t get to talk to me until next week because, Homecoming in Iowa Park.

I never really considered that everyone didn’t grow up with Homecoming and bon fires and parades because it’s all I’ve ever known. I suppose all small towns have multiple generations graduate from the schools and have Friday night community reunions at the stadium.

It’s really easy to take that for granted, I think. I totally forgave myself when I realized this was my 47th consecutive homecoming in Iowa Park, so it is kind of like breathing.

This year, I decided at the last minute to take pictures at the game and really pay attention like I had never seen it before. Of course, I got distracted … a lot … by talking to people I hadn’t seen in 35 years (Shout out to Richie Haschke and Jeff Dietrichson!) and of course, by the FFA Corn on the Cob Stand.

This is for anyone who has never lived this charming spectacle called homecoming, unique in its own ever-evolving tradition and what it looks like to each generation. Absorb the glory, y’all.

Last week, I wrote about what I anticipated the weekend would hold. I think I hit the nail on the head on several counts but nothing was better than when my mother said, “I have never seen so many fanny shorts.” Also, pickle pops were 2 for $1 at the concession stand.

 

A couple of disclaimers. All I had was my iPhone, so you get what you get. I played with filters. More accurately, I took liberties with those filters. I never said I was a photographer … enjoy.

 

 

The Town

Welcome to Iowa Park, Texas, Population 6,355.

Itinerant merchants should consider themselves warned.

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Every year, Iowa Park has a Homecoming weekend in which reunions are held; alumni meet; and there are parades with fire trucks and floats, and bon fires and pep rallies, and a football game and a fabulous southern festival we Iowa Parkans call Whoop-T-Do. This is in a three-day period, and working at the newspaper it makes me tired and I need many naps.

The Crowd

The Homecoming Crowd (second disclaimer of the the post, and most likely not the last: Our stadium is not shaped like this. It seems that the iPhone panoramic shot can manipulate time and space) I have no idea what the capacity is, but rest assured it was full.

crowd2

The Tradition

Robert Wilcox, Iowa Park Hawk announcer for more than 65 years and considered by many to be the cornerstone of Hawk tradition around these parts.

He has the best announcer’s voice, and has never missed a game.
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This picture is what I meant when I was talking about generations. I know these fine people and that sweet baby boy is a third generation (maybe fourth) Hawk and the grandfather who is holding him played on the state champion football team the year my family moved to Iowa Park in 1969.

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The Mum

I’m going to be blunt here, and most likely indelicate. But in the words of my grandmother, you couldn’t swing a dead cat without seeing  mums. I could have taken pictures of mums forever. (Disclaimer: The Iowa Park Hawks beat the Bobcats 37-24, and there was no pun intended. I swear.) I’m sure you’re going to see glimpses of  mums in pictures to come, but the one below is the only full-on mum picture I took, for a few reasons.

wes_edited-1Wes and Kelsie of Chicago came home for Wes’ 10th class reunion at IPHS, which is so cool. Kelsie, is from Lubbock and had never had a mum because it was a large school. This was Kelsie’s very first mum, and the fact that Wes is wearing his high school football t-shirt, and Kelsie is wearing his Mom’s football pin of him from high school dead center in the flower is freaking amazing and so creative. For those who don’t know about mums, here are few fun fact:

  • Names of you and your beloved are on the streamers.
  • There are bells. Lots of them. If you hate casinos because of the noise, you will be allergic to homecoming.
  • You will see all kinds of things on mums these days, including feathers, tiny little helmets, and my personal favorite and seen for the first time this year … lights. Like little LED lights. If I ever get to luge in my life, I want to do it with waterproof and shock-proof LED lighting, for effect.

(Yet another disclaimer. Wes is not only one of my very best friend’s son, he was also one of my son’s roommates at Texas Tech. Am I playing favoritism? Absolutely not. I don’t think so. I like to think of it as serendipity. I made a mental note to be on the lookout for interesting mums and I happened to run into them in the parking lot before the game. If that’s not serendipity, I don’t know what is. )

Pre-kickoff Star-Spangled Banner by the Iowa Park Mean Green Marching Machine.

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This is the view of Hawk Stadium from the concession stand about 10 minutes before game time. The band plays their beautiful rendition of the National Anthem; folks stop what they’re doing and place the nachos they just purchased between their knees and place their hands over their hearts. The sun may not set in the West (just kidding, it will) but this will always be what the start of a home Hawk Football game looks like.

And while we’re on the subject . . .

The Food

Oh Lort. The food.

The concession stand in Iowa Park is run by the Iowa Park Band Boosters, and really has a big variety – the largest I’ve seen in all my years of attending games. However, Homecoming night, if you only want popcorn and a coke, it takes about 30 minutes and that is not during peak time.

Smart people plan ahead:

massiveconcession

Corn on the Cob by the Iowa Park FFA … ’cause it’s roasted in the husk then dipped in butter. Also, it is ridiculously good. Like this one:

friedcorn

And, because in Texas one must season with wild abandon …

cornfixins

The Selfie

I don’t normally do selfies, but the irony in this did not escape me. I’m taking dinky pictures with my phone (and I will admit I shamed the family with my selfie stick), and this guy sitting next to me is one of the best photographers I know. Seriously. He’s my brother, Kevin, but he’s also one of the best photographers in the state of Texas (and has hardware to prove it). He and my dad before him (newspaper family thing) have walked these sidelines almost 50 years documenting the Hawks as a passion and vocation. In Iowa Park, the two of them would be considered a tradition.

 Kev also played football on this field when he went to IPHS.

(Disclaimer: I think he hated this)

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My favorite picture of the night.

I call it young love meet homecoming meets cell phones.

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The Game

I use to shoot football for the paper and know full well that getting a really good live action football shot with an iPhone is as likely as me eating a Brussels sprout. So please, if you’re expecting to be wowed by my mad action football photography skills, lower your standards.

balls_edited-1

This is really the best I could do, which was get a good, sharp picture of a duffel bag of footballs. Only it was accidental  the footballs alone turned out that good. I kind of was going for the many elements of a football game in one picture  –player action, crowd, referee, coach, trainer and bag of balls – proving you can never have too many.

Apparently everyone in the picture below was being relatively still since they don’t look like they’re in the witness protection program. Much. Some of them, anyway.

ahawk

I took this picture of the referee coming out onto the field at the beginning of the third quarter. I felt of sudden pang of empathy for him, realizing that both sides equally cuss the referees. So, hats off to you guys….don’t know why you do it, but thanks. (Disclaimer: I’m not real sure that holding call in the first quarter was legit, but I am letting it go. )

refIt appears my iPhone chose to focus on the Hawk instead of the  man in stripes because he is moving waaay too fast for an iPhone to focus. I’m fine, I tell myself. It’s artsy.

No, it’s not.  But remember, I didn’t promise you a rose garden.

However, things are about to improve.

Because, yay touchdowns!

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The Spirit

Although I was never a cheerleader after having early problems with confusing claps and stomps , I have mad respect for the these ladies and athletes. These are the 2016 Hawk Cheerleaders.

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I got worried early in the night when the flag corp (students that run with flags that spell H-A-W-K-S after every touchdown), when the K and the S were missing. However, K and S found their way back and helped announce the last four touchdowns.

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The band. This one took me back because until the end of my freshman year in high school I played bass drum. I only quit because I had to march sideways with it, and at 90 pounds, a strong wind could blow me and my bass drum into the visitor’s parking lot.

Truly, no homecoming or football game is complete without the band. Iowa Park’s Mean Green Marching Machine is as much a part of the tradition as the game.

bandThe Queen

What we’ve all been waiting for. The announcement of the Homecoming Queen. This year was incredibly special as Alex Van Natta was voted the 2016 Iowa Park High School Homecoming Queen.

hcqueen

This photo was provided by Iowa Park Leader photographer and this blogger’s brother, Kevin Hamilton. I told you he was good. Also, even my iPhone knew this moment was too special for it’s limited skills. Not one photo I took of Alex came out. Thanks Kevin; congratulations Alex; and I hope each of you enjoyed spending Homecoming in Iowa Park even it was through this blog.

One more, because

This was one of my more favorite shots because, the look on this little guy’s face says it all.

crownbearer

 

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