By Shari Goldstein Stern
Girls and women tend to be sentimental and into traditions; boys and men, not so much. But here’s the story of 22 guys from Bryan Adams High School, ’66 and ’67, who are sentimental about a tradition they initiated on Thanksgiving Day 60 years ago. In fact, Bryan Renfro and Brent Parrott are proud, sentimental and passionate enough to write a book about it, “The Reilly Thanksgiving Invitational Story: As told by those of the greatest generation.” The story begins with simple touch football games in the front lawn of East Dallas’ Martha Turner Reilly Elementary School and becomes an East Dallas legend.
Parrott said: “With careers as varied as sous chef, doctors, lawyers, janitors, real estate investors, limo drivers, gamblers and others, little did the seventh-grade boys comprehend that life after high school would be so complicated, joyous, painful, stressful and profound.” He added: “And [who knew] a Thanksgiving morning football game would be a pilot light to keep friendships warm.”
The team designates one player annually to create and send out invitations. The finished product became a competition, with each year’s artist wanting to outdo the previous’ year’s invitation. For the 2007 invitation, attorney Charles Fredericksen posed in a judge’s robe with a [realistically official] suit filed by the RTI committee toward the team members by name.
In it he charges (the late) Bobby Bassett with, “Best quarterback to avoid a pass rush,” Hal Boggan with “Worst quarterback to avoid a pass rush” and Bruce Stensrud, who “introduced white shoes to the game and still wears the most braces” and went on to become BA’s all-city quarterback.
Fredericksen continues by citing Harry Walker, “Whose parents paid me to get him in;” and Mark Tunstall, “Most dominated player in the history of the game.” Fredericksen, who continues to practice law “until he gets it right,” enjoys hanging out with his children and grandchildren.
Although Boggan was an “outsider” from Hillcrest High School, he made the cut. Jim Galbraith is a doctor, lawyer and minister, but never assume he’s a high achiever. Galbraith’s growing up neighbor, Tunstall is a retired landscape engineer and lives in Granbury near Fort Worth.
Brent Hranicky has spent his career in technology sales and the financial industry. He says that the annual Turkey Bowl has been more than a football game, but a catalyst keeping friends from elementary school until today connected. He is married to the love of his life since junior high, Diane O’Quinn — BA ’66, who liked to dress like a cougar, and they spend much of their time with their devoted family.
Eddie Stallings has been married to “the same wonderful lady” for 41 years, he’s had the same landline number for 40 years, and has driven his Chevy pick-up for 20 years. He says he’s pretty set in his ways. Among Ronny Rhodes’ six jobs while in college, he was fired twice, both for falling asleep on the job. One of them was as a night doorman at the plush 3525 Turtle Creek. The other was as a gun-carrying security guard.
Harry Walker lives in Little Forest Hills. He lost his wife, Ellen Tucker Walker, in 2015. Ellen was a BA ’67 graduate. He calls himself retired but dabbles in art and antique signage. His next project is uncovering signage from Honest Joe’s Pawn Shop.
Jim Guy, Dallas Mavs broadcast producer, didn’t take didn’t take it personally when Sports Illustrated called the Mavs “The worst team in basketball.” He taught basketball to 53,000 kids in 21 years. Among his accomplishments is taking a dip back in the ’hood running Harry Stone Recreation Center — often referred to with love as “Fuzzy Rock.”
While the code of 21st century America is “inclusion,” the original team had their own theory on exclusivity. As Renfro explained, taking in new players every year would render it unlikely for 22 guys to stick together for 60 years. Those original guys have lasted as teammates, but mainly friends all these years. As Richard Parker put it prophetically, “In our high school days, the game became ‘by invitation only’ and we ignored other uninvited guys who showed up to play until they went away.”
Parker lives in New Mexico with his cat, Gracie. He’s spent his career in communications: print and broadcast advertising, writing, speech-writing and creative marketing for companies like Pepsi and Mrs. Baird’s Bread. He lost his wife, Frances “Franny” Roan Parker, a beloved BA ’67 alumna, in 2013. Parker’s clever videos are on the RTI book website.
Spending time with friends and traveling is how Bubba Farley and his family spend his retirement. Sonny Buchanan still works in the contracting business. He’s known to be “remarkable” at keeping up with relationships.
Like the late Jon Clifford, Tommy York loves the Sierras and opera. York lives in California. Steve Howard is a singer/songwriter and artist. Although they have lost track of him, they remember his gift of imagination.
The team grieves for the friends they’ve lost, like Bobby Bassett, the retired professional chef who passed away in 2017. Jon Clifford passed away in early November 2019. He had tended to the needs of his friend Bobby Bassett in Bobby’s last few months. Other players who have passed away are Randy Norman in 1968 and Jerry Harris in 2013.
After 50 years of arguing and laughing together, the boys-to-men threw a flag and decided to succumb to their approaching golden years and the inherent risk of broken bones. That’s the strength of these 22 boys-to-men. They still play golf and hang out together. They value each other’s lives and are always there for each other. Who among us can say they have 21 best friends?