Members of the 1953 state-semifinalist football team carry that indefatigable spirit of Woodrow. The vivid memories of their “Championship Season” were recalled at a recent reunion marking the 40th anniversary of their epic era.

The team was undefeated, but was eliminated from the 4-A state championship game by tying Odessa 14-14 at the West Texas school’s home field. Odessa went on to win the championship, advancing not by penetrations, of which each team had four, but by first downs. Odessa had 15 first downs, and Woodrow had 13.

Many of the team’s members are considered the greats of Woodrow football. Their party was held at Dancemasters Ballroom which is owned by team member Pat Tharp (’55), who is still a serious Wildcat.

He still takes the Dallas Morning News sports department to task for occasionally identifying the school as “Wilson” instead of “Woodrow”.

Barbara Byrd Adamson (’56), alumni president, planned the party as a benefit for the Coach Jim Riley Memorial Fund for Woodrow athletics. If you would like to contribute, send a check to P.O. Box 180008, Dallas 75218.

Adamson was helped by team members Pat Tharp (’55) and David Currin (’55). Additional help came from Dale Ewing Knott (’58), Jeanne Haile Cody (’54), Sabra Rushing Jones (’55) and Barbara Lawler Gilbert (’53), who brought her Woodrow majorette uniform – which still fits!

At the ’50s-themed dance, sponsored by the Alumni Association, many people attending conjured up apocryphal spirits of yore. If a speaker was too long-winded, or strayed too far from the truth, the crowd let him know. Hey, Wildcats can say anything to each other and usually do.

But when it came to memories of Coach Jim Riley, respect and reverence prevailed.

Phil Prescott says Coach Riley taught more than football – he taught a class on “how to live”. Prescott, who is a lawyer in Dallas, says he had tried to follow Riley’s example in his life.

The coach’s lessons in life are his posterity. They extend to the welfare of mankind by way of team member and manager. Dr. Floyd Bloom.

Bloom, who lives in San Diego, is a world-famous authority on neurobiology and was part of the Nobel-prize winning team that discovered endorphins and their effects on the brain.

Bloom is the author of many books and monographs. He was unable to attend the review, but sent a letter to explain his feelings about Riley. Here’s a passage from it:

“Being with Coach Riley and the football squad probably set me up for most of what I have been able to do . Coach Riley helped me get to SMU and introduced me to Professor Harold Jeskey (an SMU professor who had one of the highest rates of medical school acceptance for his students).

“Whenever I watch the San Diego Chargers, I’m sure our team could have beaten them – maybe not in muscle, but for sure in hustle.”