In 1960, on the front lawn of an East Dallas elementary school, a Thanksgiving tradition was born.
A posse of seventh-grade boys met at Martha Turner Reilly Elementary School near Lochwood for a game of touch football before Thanksgiving dinner. It was a good day to play. So good that the game continued for the next 50 years.
Now, team captains Brent Parrott and Bryan Renfro are sharing their story in a new book, “The Reilly Thanksgiving Invitational Story,” to celebrate 60 years of friendship.
“It’s a great read,” Parrott said. “It’s not a page-turner, but just like a fine glass of wine, you take your time and sip on it. It’s a walk down memory lane.”
When the teammates graduated from Bryan Adams and left for college, Renfro wanted to keep the tradition alive. He began making invitations that he mailed to his friends, inviting them to play football. When he had exhausted himself creatively, he designated a member to create his own invitation each year.
The game took a knee in 2009, when the men got too old to play. But many will travel from as far as New Mexico and California this Thanksgiving to reunite with their teammates. They won’t play football, but they will reconnect and celebrate the release of the book, Parrott said.
“I announced that I was writing a book to our guys at a golf outing,” Parrott said. “They looked at me and said, ‘Who’s going to read it?’ It wasn’t the response I was expecting, but they’ve all changed their minds.”
Parrott spent nearly a year writing the book, which includes an update on each player. Some have died, but they were never replaced on the team. Keeping the group small has helped bind members together for decades. That’s why the game has always been an exclusive, invitation-only event.
“This is nostalgic for a lot of people because everyone is in their own silos,” publicist Dave Farrow said. “Everyone wants to come together for a simple football game. It’s what’s missing in our lives.”
Hard copies of the 400-page book can be purchased on Amazon for $25. A PDV version, which includes videos, links, newspaper clippings and photos, is available on the Reilly Thanksgiving Invitational website for $19.
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.