Somewhere, I saw a small sign that read something like, "A Cluttered Desk is a Sign of Genius."
Trust me, when I say that I am a far cry from anywhere near being a genius, but I certainly have a cluttered desk, even though I promise it's not nearly as bad as Logan Chief Circuit Judge Eric O'Briant or court reporter Larry Coffindaffer's offices. With that remark, I must also concede that their ultra-cluttering must make those two fellows more like geniuses than myself.
At any rate, I have chosen to sift through a ton of notes, telephone numbers, newspaper articles and photos, as well as just about anything else you could imagine - even old pro baseball, football and basketball cards from many years ago. The following story comes as a result of cleaning up my still cluttered desk.
I've uncovered two telephone numbers, a home and cell number for a former pro football great that too many Loganites are unaware of - Lionel Taylor.
Man High School coaching legend William "Tootie" Carter telephoned last week to let me know that he had recently spoken with Taylor, who is a longtime friend of Tootie, and that he had agreed to give me a telephone interview. Since I have been holding off on calling either of the phone numbers for well over a year, I am excited to get to speak with a guy whose football card I have possessed as a kid growing up, never being told that Taylor or another former NFL great, Charlie Cowan, were from Logan County.
For those who may not know, Lionel Taylor, who played football at Buffalo High School near Man before school integration was started, led the American Football League in receptions as a receiver five of the last six years of the league's existence prior to the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills and others becoming part of the current NFL. Taylor played for Denver most of his career, but started his profession in the NFL as a linebacker with the Chicago Bears.
Some readers will remember when Coca-Cola products were produced locally at what we simply called the Coke plant that stood on Stratton Street near the First Christian Church across from where The Logan Banner offices used to be.
You could actually stand on the sidewalk there and peer through the windows and see the cola being bottled. From 1964 thru 1966, Coca-Cola came out with pop - which some people prefer to call soda - that had a picture and name of various professional football players or teams on the metal bottle caps' underside. Players from both the AFL and the NFL were featured on the caps.
One could get a paper board from the coke plant and some stores that had places on it to glue the bottle caps onto it. Once the board was completely filled, a kid could take it to the coke facility and be awarded one of several prizes. Available was a bobble head doll, a large pennant with a team photo or a coach's cap. To get the coveted and autographed free football a person, usually a kid, would have to fill five boards with players or teams, not an easy task by any means.
Needless to say, it seemed that every kid in Logan County was trying to get a football, as Coca-Cola sales soared. But it wasn't just Coke bottles that featured the caps. Also included were Sprite, Tab, Fanta and Fresca products, all with football players or a team logo underneath the caps. You could collect an entire set of either teams, or all-star players, which included the likes of people like former greats Johnny Unitas, Fran Tarkenton, Jim Brown and many other players now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
It was frustrating for me because it seemed that I kept getting the same players from each bottle of pop I purchased at 10 cents per bottle. I mean Mike Ditka was just a Chicago Bears tight end back then, not a Super Bowl winning coach, which he became. So, why would I need five of his bottle caps when I needed to locate a Bart Starr bottle cap to complete my set?
Thanks mostly to my cousin Marvin Burton, and the fact that we often traded bottle caps with other young collectors, we finally were able to secure a football from the Coke plant. And it wasn't an easy task. It also took a little bit of, well, let's call it ingenuity.
In other words, we would rob the various coke machines that used to be located outside of just about every little store in the county. Allow me to clarify that Marvin Burton never stole anything in his life, and I didn't steal any Cokes either - just coke lids.
You see, as some readers will recall, back then you opened your soda pop with an opener located on the outside of the beverage machine, or if you purchased it inside a store and wanted to drink it at that time, one could utilize an opener usually on the outside of the cooler where the beverages were located. Some coal camp stores or gasoline stations would keep a small bottle opener hanging from a string attached to a nail on the wall. Nobody dreamed there would ever be plastic bottles of coke, or plastic caps. That innovation took all of the fun out of selling pop bottles back to a grocer for a nickel apiece.
When the glass pop bottle was opened inside a store, the lid immediately fell down a metal chute into the bottom of a bin. It was these bottle caps, or lids, as we preferred to call them, which some of us (not Marvin) would pilfer in an effort to get closer to gaining a football. Some kids even used magnets on strings to get the caps out of outside pop machines that were locked. Those were the days, my friends.
The reason I write this week about those pop lid-saving days is because, not only did I have Coke lids with the NFL's Charlie Cowan and the AFL's Lionel Taylor graced upon them, but I also possessed the collectible football trading cards of both of these all-stars.
Unfortunately, and I do mean unfortunately, not a single person ever related, nor did a single kid I grew up with know, that both Cowan and Taylor played high school ball in Logan County. Had I and others known this fact, I assure you we would still have those two football cards. Come to think of it, I may still have mine somewhere.
Logan County has had its share of both the good and bad in its long and storied history, but there has been much greatness in varying fields come from our hills and valleys. Cowan and Taylor are two great stories that very few of our young people know anything about, but should.
From athletics to music, to a Logan County man designing an item that today still remains on the moon, there are marvelous sagas yet to be told concerning men and women from Logan County who have made their marks in so many varying occupational fields.
Buffalo Creek's Charlie Cowan and Lionel Taylor are just two of many historical spokes in a wheel of life that was originated in good old Logan County, West Virginia, U.S.A.
And like too many other important pieces of Logan County history, especially the Hatfield Family Cemetery - where just recently a Colorado tourist had his truck stolen while visiting the historical and undeveloped site - we must allow the sunshine to enter though the pinholes of the coal dust clouds that still exist in so many of our coal camp memories.
Dwight Williamson serves as magistrate in Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.