Bodenhamer gets 87th birthday celebration
Former Lawton High School football Coach Bob Bodenhamer celebrated his 87th birthday in style Thursday.
Eight of his former players honored Bodenhamer at Charleston's Restaurant in Norman by treating him to lunch, a cake decorated with red and white icing, a gift and enough stories to fill this page several times.
Bob was accompanied by wife Ila and daughter Jenny Mitchell, a retired Lawton educator who now resides in Kerrville, Texas.
The players were Larry Ray of Wichita Falls, Charles Brooks of Edmond, and Gary Tubbs, Shorty Cook, Craig Hadley, Preston Holsinger, Derald Ahlschlager and Doug Kemper of Lawton.
I was privileged to join the party.
Bodenhamer was LHS coach in the 1954-63 seasons. Those 10 units compiled a record of 80 wins, 27 losses and six ties.
His 1958 team lost in the state finals to Oklahoma City Capitol Hill (8-6 at Ron Stephens Stadium) and the '60 squad bowed in the title game to Midwest City (19-0 at OU's Owen Field).
The Wolverines took it a step further by winning State championships in 1962 and '63. The former went 11-2 and defeated Oklahoma City Douglass, 27-14, in the finals. The latter finished 11-1-1, capping Bodenhamer's career with a 36-12 triumph over Tulsa Hale.
Ahlschlager also had the pleasure of coaching LHS to a State title, directing the '87 team to a 14-0 record.
Ahlschlager was in elementary school when Glenn Dosser resigned as football coach to move into administration. Bodenhamer left a secure position at El Reno to accept the new challenges at LHS.
"Coach Bodenhamer was not really accepted by a lot of the community when he first came because there was an assistant coach at LHS that a lot of people wanted to be hired as the head coach," Ahlschlager said. "He overcame a lot in that regard because a lot of the early players, I can remember them talking about 'High Pockets' (a reference to the way Bodenhamer wore his pants). He overcame a lot."
It didn't take long for Bodenhamer to win over most of his detractors.
"I just remember him as being a man of integrity," Ahlschlager said. "His morals ñ I think that had a tremendous influence on some of us outlaws. I really do.
"There were a bunch of guys who played at Lawton High when we played there that probably weren't as good citizens as we could have been. I think he had a tremendous influence on some of us in that regard."
Ray, who recently moved to Wichita Falls from Granbury, Texas, echoed Ahlschlager's statement.
"He was such a fine gentleman and he was a man of Christ," Ray said. "For that, I appreciated him and loved him for it."
Bodenhamer, a native of Waurika, played center for the University of Oklahoma in the 1947-49 seasons. The last two ended with Sugar Bowl victories.
The 1948 Sooners defeated North Carolina, 14-6, and the '49 squad blanked LSU, 35-0.
OU was 7-2-1 in 1947 and lost its first game of the 1948 season at Santa Clara.
Bud Wilkinson's squad won its final 10 games in '48 and went 11-0 in '49 en route to a then-record 31-game win streak.
Hadley recalled being tutored as the LHS center.
"When I moved into town, he put me at center and explained how easy it was to be a center, but how many problems you had also, directing the line," Hadley said. "The center, at that time, always directed the defensive line.
"The center snap was pretty easy for me, except for learning to deep snap. He was really good at it. He showed me over and over again. He said he was good enough to snap that ball back 15 yards and he had the seam on top of the ball.
"I never could do that. Just snapping it 15 yards was tough enough for me. It didn't get back there very fast."
Bodenhamer and OU teammate Darrell Royal were good friends and they shared a philosophy on the passing game.
"We were a running team as opposed to a passing team, which they are now," Hadley said. "He always stressed there are three things that can happen when you pass. You could have the ball intercepted, have it incomplete or catch the ball. Two out of three were bad, so he made clear that we would run the ball more than we passed it."
Kemper, now executive director of the Medicine Park Aquarium and Natural Sciences Center, was an All-State linebacker on LHS' 1962 State championship team.
What I remember of Coach is in combination with my dad (Howard) Ö he's one of the guys I tried to model my life after," Kemper said. "He was just a great guy who supported all of his kids.
"It was a loss for the kids in Lawton when he left not that good people didn't succeed him."
Holsinger quarterbacked the Wolverines in the 1958-59 seasons.
"I think the thing I remember best about Bob is because he's a huge mentor for me ñ one of the two outstanding mentors in my life, he and Whit Ozier," Holsinger said. "He was a great example of high integrity.
"He was just a fabulous individual and I think the older I got, the more I appreciated who he really was and what he meant in my life. He's one of the things that turned me around, I think.
"The other thing I remember best is the number of hours that he and I would spend, him telling me what the game plan was for each game. We'd spend hours on hours in his office going through the game plan and plays."
"That's when the quarterback called the plays," Ahlschlager added.
Holsinger admits there were times when he audibled out of the play Bodenhamer called.
"Of course I did," he laughed. "I'm not a conformist.
"I don't remember any calls that I called out of. He gave me the flexibility to call plays. At that point, you didn't have a lot of substitution.
"The thing I do remember, when we played Capitol Hill for the State championship in '58, we were down on about the 10-yard line and he couldn't run a play in because we were out of time outs. I had to call it on my own. I'll never forget that and how much I wished I could have had Coach Bodenhamer next to me."
That game was played at Ron Stephens Stadium on Thanksgiving Day."It was ice cold," Holsinger said. "It was a miserably cold day. But the point I want to make is I just wish I could have gotten to the sideline and talked to Bodenhamer because I really needed help.
"I called for a fullback off tackle and that didn't go anywhere. Then we tried the (18-yard) field goal and missed that.
"That was the ball game."
And the beginning of a long friendship. Holsinger pays regular visits to Norman to see Bodenhamer, who is now in an assisted living facility.
The old coach still knows how to hold court.