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School Day Memories: James Edward “Jim,” “Bonzo” Brummitt, GHS Class Of 1953

by Diana Bradberry ’61

Jim was born on April 5, 1934, to Mary Sherrell Heath Brummitt and Homer Chester Brummitt. He was the fourth of five children: Harold Heath, Thomas, Charles Ray “Fat”, Jim, and Doris “Jean” (Pachl). They lived in town and had electricity, but no city water, drawing water from the well out back. He remembers telling folks they got their water “from the back porch.” His family lived in same house through the years. After his parents passed, his brother Charles Ray lived there until his death in 2005.

Jim’s dad farmed ten acres in town. The boys found a low place and turned it into a mud hole, which was their answer to a swimming hole. They would wallow in the mud and get covered. Mr. Harry Edwards had a farm out Dresden Highway with a real “hog wallow,” and the guys would have great fun getting wet and filthy wallowing in that hole. Their mothers would have to hose them off when they got home. When he wasn’t hog wallowing, Jim made pocket money selling candy. He would follow the candy truck into town and buy candy for a nickel then sell it to the other kids for a dime, a real entrepreneur!

Jim loved football. In junior high he was the “water boy” for the football team. Now they call them managers. He played football in his freshman and sophomore years. He had good coaches and really enjoyed football. His first coach was Mortimer “Mort” Wheeler, who came to Gleason as a first-year coach right out of Bethel College. Having married a girl from McKenzie, he was happy to start his coaching career in Gleason. He decidedly did not like being called “Mort” by the players though: “If he caught you, he would give you the toe of his cleat.” His second coach was Red Flanigan in the 1951-52 school year. Jim has had knee pain on and off since that 1951 football season.

Jim recalls Dan “Daniel Webster” Ridgeway from his school days in Gleason. Dan had a photographic memory: “He could quote word for word from any book he read.” Other friends were Dick and Bobby Brawner, Jerry Suddath, Shirley Bingaman (Stultz), and Little Jack Dunning. “I can still hear Little Jack’s mama calling him out the back door: ‘L.J.! L.J.!’ His daddy was ‘Big Jack.’” He enjoyed going with Betty Faye Hodges (Bell) to the movies at Mr. Shankle’s theater. Gale Wray was another of Jim’s buddies: “He used to come home for reunions, then he stopped.” He thinks of Gale often, and would love to know what happened to him.

Nanette Edwards, another good friend, was his date to his first football banquet. He loved her parents, Mrs. Rubye McGee Edwards and Mr. Harry Edwards, who ran the hardware store, “He would let me buy anything on credit because he knew I’d pay. I got my first baseball glove there. Nanette became a career officer in the Air Force.”

Jim remembered the first time he saw Shirley Bingaman was at the carnival that came to Gleason every year. He and Bobby Brawner saw her walking with another girl, and they went up to meet them. They enjoyed the carnival with the girls that evening, and then he and Shirley remained good friends. She was his date to the second football banquet he attended. Shirley married and moved to Chicago, and he lost touch.

One of the funniest stories from those times was when a bunch of the guys who delivered bootleg whiskey for one of the local gentlemen in the “business” were stopped by Mr. Tom B. Montgomery, Hudonal’s dad, who was the sheriff. The authorities were trying to catch the bootleggers and were going to use the delivery boys to get them. “One night, Jerry Suddath and I, and some other guys were in Jerry or his brother Austin’s bright red 1936 Ford pickup with no doors. Mr. Tom B. tried to pull us over downtown across from the post office. “I jumped out and started to run between the post office and Mrs. Lucy Huggins Sanders’ house. Mr. Tom B. ran after me shouting, ‘Stop in the name of the law!’ I ducked under Mrs. Lucy’s clothes wire, which Mr. Tom B. did not see. He ran into that line, and it caught him around his neck. I got away and Mr. Tom B. was taken over to Coy Black’s service station where his bloody neck was tended by the guys hanging out over there. At the time what seemed a hilarious adventure was probably not such a good idea. I had to go down to apologize to Mr. Tom B. I was sorry I ever did that.”

Jim left school in 1951 in his sophomore year to join the Navy, but he was a sailor for only three weeks. Following discovery of the seriousness of his knee condition, the Navy gave him a medical discharge. Jim had some experience in the sheet metal business at Bill Dudley Sheet Metal, a metal fabrication manufacturing company in Greenfield. In California, he went to work as a metal fabricator and worked there gaining more skills and experience. While working in Greenfield he married a local girl, Ginger Summers. They were blessed with three children: James Randall lives in Ramona, California, Ronald Mark lives in South Carolina, and Ricky Keith is deceased.

During the union strike in 1952, he came back home to discover that unions are not welcome in this area. He worked instead in Caruthersville, Missouri, for five years and hated it. Flat land was not for him. Jim went back to San Diego and worked for University Mechanical Engineering Corporation, a company specializing in plumbing, heating, air conditioning, steam fitting, construction, etc. They just kept pushing him to the top, though Jim kept insisting that he did not have the credentials to do what he was doing. They said he had the practical knowledge. He had a long and satisfying career with them.

Jim retired and moved back home to Tennessee in 1982, but quickly discovered he did not like retirement and returned to his job in California. Jim retired (again) in October of 1989, with 33 years of credit with the union. He now has his 60-year pin as a union member. He has a nice pension from his union, enabling him to retire comfortably.

Jim has been married to his wonderful wife, Mary “Lou,” since 1972. He reports, “She is a keeper, for sure.” He and Lou moved back home to West Tennessee, buying 20 acres in Paris, where he enjoys his hobby of building furniture. He had open heart surgery, a quadruple bypass, in 1985, but is completely recovered from his heart surgery. He continues to deal with knee problems.

He laughingly reported that he lives in the guest house next door to Lou, which he is renovating for his “man cave.” They also have in their lives “a beautiful redhead who lives next door and looks out for me and my wife.” They have downsized their menagerie from horses, dogs, and many other pets as they lost them to age. Now they have only one special companion, Darcy, a little Schipperke, purchased for $1,200 and a trip to Grove Spring, Missouri. He brought his constant companion home weighing only two pounds. She is now 13 pounds and has the run of the 20 acres. “Now, it’s just me, Lou, and Darcy.” Lou reports they also have a cat.

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