It is a poem titled “You Must Not Quit,” that I first heard in Jenny Jones’ Senior English class at Fair Park in the 1952-53 school year.
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is strange with its twists and turns
As every one of us sometimes learns;
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up, though the pace seems slow;
You may succeed with another blow!
Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt;
And you never can tell how close you are…
It may be near, when it seems so far.
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit;
When things seem worst, you must not quit.
It is a message that applied to many athletic events and other endeavors, before and after my senior year at Fair Park High.
It certainly applied to Fair Park’s 1952 football team, which captured the school’s only state championship in football with a 20-0 victory over St. Aloysius at New Orleans in the title game. Fullback Tommy Davis and tackle Harley Brown were All-Staters on that Fair Park team, but all of the touchdowns in the state playoffs were scored by halfback A.L. Williams.
That was Fair Park’s third consecutive trip to the state finals, but the previous two teams lost to another band of Indians from Istrouma (Baton Rouge) in the championship games. Fair Park wouldn’t reach the finals again until 1955, when another Istrouma team (led by future Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon) handed the local team a 40-6 drubbing at Shreveport’s State Fair Stadium.
Fair Park’s 1952 state champs also lost to Istrouma, 2-0, but that was in regular-season play, not the playoffs. It was also Fair Park’s only loss that season.
Davis, who was in the end zone after Fair Park stopped Istrouma at the two yard-line in the last two minutes, was tackled by Istrouma linebacker Ronnie Riley for a safety on a botched play that was supposed to be a pass.
Shreveport schools reached the finals in the top classification five years in a row from 1949 to 1953. Byrd won the championship in 1949 with a 34-13 victory over Holy Cross (New Orleans) and Fair Park reached the finals the next three years, losing to Istrouma 20-13 in 1950 and 19-7 in 1951 before winning the 1952 title. Byrd was runnerup to Jesuit (New Orleans) in 1953. Rogers Hampton was an All-State halfback on the 1950 and 1951 Fair Park teams. End Paul Kennon also represented Fair Park on the 1950 All-State team and another end, Gene Gibson, joined Hampton on the 1951 All-State team.
Jerry Byrd is the former sports editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune and an award-winning columnist. You can contact him by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org