Town Crier News Staff
Jim Cheadle of Manila was among the honored guests attending the dedication celebration of Letterman's Plaza in Norman, Okla.
Name plaques once located at Hardy Field at Norman High School were moved to the Plaza located on the Legacy Trail, which is on the railroad right of way through the center of Norman.
"It is about three blocks north of Main Street on Jones Street in the middle of downtown Norman," Cheadle said. "At the corner of Main and Jones there is a larger than life size statue of James Garner as Maverick, his first major TV series show character. James and his brother, Jack, both changed their names from Bumgarner to Garner after starting successful acting careers."
During Cheadle's high school years at Norman there was a big rock wall around the football stadium, dressing rooms, and practice fields, known as Hardy Field.
"I think the wall was built in 1939-40, possibly part of the WPA Depression recovery," Cheadle said. "It was recently torn down to make further development possible. The names of the football lettermen were put on plaques or markers for the teams from 1940 through the season of 1943 and attached to the wall creating Letterman's Plaza."
Cheadle graduated in 1945 following the 1944 football season. Because of World War II and the cut-backs, there was no marker put up for the 1944-45 team, his senior year. He is listed on three of the four markers naming the lettermen, dating from the 1941-43 football seasons.
Another four year letterman and teammate of Cheadles was Bill Remy.
"He was considered by many to be the best running back in Oklahoma," Cheadle said. "I think there were others who were four year lettermen but I have not seen a list."
The 1941 team was listed as the Oklahoma State champions; the 1943 team was picked by many to be the best team in Oklahoma that year; the 1944 season was the first year Oklahoma had a playoff for the official championship.
"Norman was the preseason pick to win but injuries to Bill Remy and Jack Bumgarner, and one or two others kept the team from accomplishing that," Cheadle remembers. "As stated earlier, Bill was a fantastic running back, and Jack was the punter and an excellent passer. In the first game of 1944, one of our touchdowns came on a 23 yard pass play from Jack to me against a highly rated Lawton team. Norman won that game 38-13."
Cheadle said "Chalky" Stogner was the coach when he started high school football. He coached through the 1941 season. Then Arlo "Skivey" Davis became the head coach moving up from the number two spot, and he was the head coach the rest of his high school career.
Elton Davis, son of Coach Davis, led the effort to get the work done to complete Lettermen's Plaza.
"Elton's senior year was the 1940 football season and I got to take his number for my four years, number 45," Cheadle said. "Elton has a sister, Carol, who married a man from Manila, Ark., Bill Ketchum, proving once again what a small world it is."
Cheadle enjoyed going back to Norman for the dedication celebration on Oct. 28 to see the unveiling of the newest plaza along the historic legacy trail honoring Norman's great athletic tradition.