It happens almost every time. You pull into a small town, drive around a bit and then you find it. Something special. Something that sets that place apart from every other.
We were coming through Gladewater, Texas, doing our normal drive-about. We were half lost when we saw the entrance to Bear Stadium. It was concrete, shooting straight up about 30 feet. And on the front were five football players sculpted in relief.
They were old-timey players, with leather helmets and no face-guards. They were crouched in stances you could see in the Knute Rockne movie, the one with a young Ronald Reagan.
The entrance had been kept in good shape, given its age. The structure is dated: 1933 to 1983. No wonder the players looked old-timey. They were shaped nearly 80 years ago!
Bill Bishop Bear Stadium was Gladwater's pride and joy for half a century. "When I first got on that field, I noticed the magnificent grass and how well it was kept," former player Dale Lange, 60, told the Longview News-Journal. "There was just something about that grass field. In those days, Old Bear Stadium stayed locked up. You couldn't go in it. It was strictly for competition ball games, and boy was it well taken care of."
The Bears played there, and while the schools were still segregated, so did the Weldon Bumblebees, the team representing the black high school. Several players — Winston Hill, Dave Lloyd, James Scott — went on from the old Bear Stadium to the National Football League, Christina Lane reported.
The stadium was a happening place. On August 10, 1955, Elvis played there on one of his many East Texas tours.
Gladewater built a new stadium and left this old one in 1983. It sat empty until last year, when it was bought by Samuel Lucky of Gladewater. The cost was $40,611.47.
And, just around the corner from Bear stadium, we saw Gladewater's old high school, built in 1964 and designed by Preston Geren. We don't know where we've seen a more beautiful public building.