Memories From Earlington:
James Larmouth’s "All-State" Car
Although it was not presented until April 3, 1956, the idea of "the All-
State Car" began much before that. It was the culmination of the idea of an entire town showing their gratitude to a man. Elmer Kelly, noted local sports columnist since 1949, referred to as "a genial man," "a likable coach," and ever "a gentleman." Larmouth’s players referred to him simply as Coach, a term which said it all as far as they were concerned.
James Larmouth graduated from EHS in ‘39 but returned in ‘51 to coach the small school’s basketball team. For the next five years, the team would win over 20 games per season. In ‘56 they would make it to the quarter finals of the state tournament, and Harry Todd would be named all-district, all- regional, all-state tournament and all-state.
Earlington’s fans were ecstatic. Somewhere, Someone (no one seems quite sure who) decided they would like to show their appreciation to Coach for taking the "boys" to Earlington’s first trip to state. Someone had an idea of buying a new car for him, and the idea spread like wildfire. Apparently every adult, child, and barking dog in the town knew of it except for one man--James Larmouth. It was surely one of the most well-kept secrets of all time.
Meetings were held through the little town for weeks, and plans were laid to collect appropriate funds. Ladies divided the town blocks and went from door to door collecting whatever people could afford to give. As this was a difficult era financially and most would have had to stretch their budget for a dollar, many gave donations of a quarter or half-dollar. School children helped in the afternoons. Volunteers worked long and hard to reach everyone.
During the ‘50s toward the end of the school year (usually in May during Senior Week), the Alumni Association put on a dinner and dance in the gym honoring the graduating seniors. The toastmaster for the affair in ‘56 was to be Charles Price, president of the Earlington Bank and one of Earlington’s most enthusiastic basketball fans. The principal speaker was to be Rex Alexander, head basketball coach of Murray State University. The Rev. Charles Hall would give the invocation and the Rev. F.N. Wolfe, the benediction. Presentation of trophies would be made to the school by Donald Fugate, a senior co-captain team member, and would be accepted by A. P. Prather, superintendent. The other three seniors on the noted team were Don Smith, Ron "Sonny" Robinson, and Bobby Byrum. Two other seniors would also be honored--Wayne Perkins as team manager and Carlon Offutt (Sadler) as cheerleader. Two sophomores would jointly accept the free throw-shooting award with a 74% average. These were Harry Todd (all-state center) and Pat Kirkwood. The reserves were two juniors M.C. Barber and Bob Harvey and a senior "Buck" Lamb.
Someone decided the popular banquet would be the appropriate time and place to present the Car. As it was impossible to get it into the gymnasium, Someone decided to park it right outside the windows on the Main Street side. Toward the end of the program Carl Bryant called Larmouth forward for the anticipated presentation. Little did Larmouth realize that Bryant who said he was speaking in behalf of many fans would end by handing him a set of keys. A bewildered Larmouth was aghast as the windows were opened revealing the new 1956 cream & turquoise 4-door Chevy sedan. To this day, he says he had "no idea" anything was "going on." He did think it somewhat strange when one of his boys borrowed his old car to run an errand--although he often loaned his car at school. Little did he realize the errand was driving the car to Boggess Chevrolet so that Marvin Grant could estimate the trade-in value toward the new Chevy.
Now, here I would like to add a footnote. Of all the history I have researched, this story has been the most difficult from which to glean information. Many who were "involved" in the secret are since deceased. Those who remain are, for the most part, still silent on the subject except for what is already common knowledge. No one takes (or gives) credit for the idea or the collection except for a few who remembers Someone coming around to pick up donations. Others say the idea began during a daily basketball discussion at Post 2. John "Boy" Wyatt is one of the names which comes up often. Some say there was a meeting at Stroud Cardwell’s. Rachael Bryant is mum except to say, "Carl didn’t talk much about things like that." It seems that Nobody wants to talk about it yet. Therefore, the consensus still seems to be that Somebody along with Many Others worked diligently to make a most unusual presentation to their beloved Coach.
Probably sports writer Jim Walker in his "It’s My Opinion" summed up Everyone’s opinion of James Larmouth upon the eve of Larmouth’s retirement in ‘62. Walker wrote, "The time that I have had the pleasure of knowing Larmouth I can say that he is a gentleman as well as a fine coach. A lot of coaches shy away from the press when they are beaten, but come looking for the writers when they come out on the better end of the score. This is not true with Larmouth. When his teams were defeated he was quick to praise the other team and coach, as it should be. When the press had questions for Larmouth he would come straight with the answers. There was no beating around the bush, so to speak. Enough can’t be said about Larmouth (except) ‘It’s nice to know that we still have a man like Larmouth left in the sports’ world to set such fine examples for the rest of us!’"
(This particular piece began with a suggestion by Bob Harvey who did not want the story of Coach and his car to be forgotten. Thanks, Bob. But Who would’ve thought it would still remain such a secret?)
1/11/02 Ann Gipson