Veteran's Monument
Bill Clough's "Sounds of Sandieland"

Amarillo High School

Sandieland, A Life-Long Experience.
From the first day of classes in the fall of 1956 until the present, those of us who entered Amarillo High as sophomore students that day became and still are Sandies. A look back at my annual from that year indicated there were 767 of us who gained that distinction of being called Sandies on that day. We might not have realized it then, but we were a special group in a special era blessed by going into a high school that by all ways of viewing it gave us a solid basis in many ways to lead successful lives. Certainly in my case, and many more I suspect, hardly a day goes by that we can't recall something special about being a Sandie that fills us with pride and great memories of three years that transformed our lives forever.

For me as a sportswriter then and a sportswriter still today, the legacy of Sandie athletics, particularly in football, baseball and basketball are special to my heart. I don't know how many of you realize this, but until this past football season, AHS had more wins on the football field in its history than any other school in the state. With a so-so season in 2008, the Sandies were finally passed by Highland Park and Plano High School who now are about three games ahead of the Golden Sandstorm. All three of the schools are the only ones in the state with over 700 wins. With a good year this year and the next, the Sandies have a good chance to retake the lead as the winningest football program in Texas. They also are right at the top in playoff appearances with only Highland Park ahead of them by two games.

When you consider the team that the Sandies put on the field during our junior year, you have to realize just how awesome that group in the 1957 season was. From that team, there were 28 players who ultimately received Division I scholarships. Some of our class members got them the next year as part of the class of ‘59. But the 28 athletic scholarships for one team has only been matched once that I know of by another Texas high school, the 1995 Dallas Carter state champions. Just to illustrate how talented that group was, I often tell players and coaches I encounter today that our second team back field all ran the 100 in under 10 flat seconds, but only could make the second team. Of course the dream which had us ranked number one in Texas and in America came to an end that terrible November afternoon when Abilene made us victim number 49 in a row for them. I remember leaving the press box a few minutes after the game ended. The press box opened on the south end and in making my exit, I noticed a giant sandstorm bearing down on the field from the southwest. I thought to myself, what a headline, "The Sandstorm arrived late today."

In basketball, over a two year stretch of our junior and senior years, Amarillo High had some awesome players who performed well enough that five out of the group over two years received Division I scholarships. Our only problem is that Pampa was in our district and only one team went to the playoffs. The Harvesters won state those two years, but were Bill Dean and Ken Grenewald ever awesome for us.

In baseball, the Sandies ended a stretch of six straight years of district titles and advancement into the playoffs with our senior year team making it to the second round before losing to Odessa. Not many knew that Bill Dean set a national record our senior year when he hit three home runs in one game against Lubbock Monterey, two of them grand slams with nine RBI's in a 13-0 Sandie win. The Plainsman pitcher intentionally walked him his next time at bat. In researching national records, it appears that no one surpassed Bill's feat until 1996. Out of that group, Grenewald , Bucky Lea and Herbie Reynolds moved on to the next level. Grenewald was chosen as the top athlete of the Panhandle that year in the first rendition of the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame.

But we weren't all about athletics. A dedicated group of teachers, some with over 40 years at the school, (remember Mrs. Atwood?) strived to get the lessons of a solid background of learning to carry us forward for the rest of our lives. They encouraged, nagged, wheedled and coaxed us to do our best. We should go on to college was their urgent message. And we listened. Amarillo High was the second highest percentage high school in Texas having its graduates go on to college.

Along the way, there were fun times that made the school such a great place to be. Remember the pep rallies, especially the one where Coach Kerbel ordered journalism sponsor and teacher James Paschal off the stage because his last name was the same as our non-district opponent that week, Fort Worth Paschal? How about hexing the Harvesters at Memorial Park in a candlelight ceremony at the Pavilion and then marching four blocks to senior cheerleader Ann Selecman's house for a street dance our sophomore year? How about the 400 of us who took the train to Lubbock for a memorable game there and a memorable time on the train?

There was another train trip our junior year. It came at Christmas and carried about 80 Sandies to California supposedly for Fess Parker to select from three of our girls, the first ever Miss Sandieland and for the rest of the group to enjoy being in the new Disneyland. How many of you knew that was just a diversion perpetrated by six of us in the journalism department to get everyone to Disneyland and shoot pictures there for the annual. The annual, La Airosa had the theme that year of Sandieland, a comparison to the newly-opened Disneyland. It worked well because that ‘58 annual was named the best annual in the nation by the Columbia Press Association in New York.

We were known for our pranks and high spirits. Remember the two Halloweens at Oldham Circle where over 1000 of us showed up to give the cops some grief. Only Gene McCartt had the alibi, "I was at home all evening officer." If we had had a 50 year reunion of those two nights in 2006 or 2007, the cops might have had to have found a geriatric ward to throw us all in. Many of us have other stories of pranks that worked and pranks that went awry. My crowd had the legendary Don Hansen leading the way in egg tosses, ditch ‘em games, sign paintings, water balloon fights, etc. As seniors during the first week of the new school year, we delighted in telling bewildered new sophomores that the classroom they were hunting was on the fourth floor.

Then there were the chances to connect with the opposite sex. Many of you are with a partner who you met at AHS and decided there was something special about him or her. They were keepers as 50 year plus commitments prove. Sadie Hawkins Week was special for the guys , especially as a sophomore being asked out by an older woman (think junior or senior girl) to be taught the fine art of French kissing. The run through the girls bathroom on Kid Day was a very quick but fruitless connection for a lot of boys dressed like and acting like four year olds for one final time.

Yes , I admit to getting chills seeing the Sandie colors of black and gold at ball games still to this day. I get pumped when I hear a band, nowadays usually the Tech band or the UT band, strike up "Grandioso" a tune that I consider Sandie property. I am grateful for having had those days at AHS and making the friendships that I did which still go on to this day. I hope all of you feel the same way. Once a Sandie, always a Sandie!!

Byron "Putt" Riddle