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Remembering Charles Marshall

Editor’s note: Charles Marshall, born and raised in Arlington, and husband of Arlington Historical Society Treasurer Wanda Marshall, died April 8, 2010. The following eulogy was delivered by Arlington Historian and friend, Jim Ball. Charles’s story rings familiar to many of us - growing up with the character-developing influence of many adult role models.

Like others, Charlie Marshall was the product of a time and town far removed from today’s culture. Fortunately, his town, a devoted mother, and caring teachers created a backdrop for forging values of trust, hard work, fair play, citizenship and loyalty.

Like so many Depression-era kids, Charlie did not have an easy childhood. He was nine when America was plunged into World War Two. Home front hardships for the next four years were made even more difficult for the South Side fourth-grader, when Charlie lost his father, Ellison.

When his brother Neal joined the Navy, Charlie quickly learned that his role in helping support his mother and sisters had become huge. He would find jobs wherever, and whenever he could, and soon made his first big contribution by selling Liberty Magazine, door-to-door. Walking, and sometimes riding a bicycle, Charlie also delivered the Fort Worth Press. He next got a job at Coulter’s Drug at Main and Center Streets delivering Western Union telegrams. With the war still raging, Charlie learned early on that telegrams bearing a red star meant that someone had been killed in combat. Imagine a grade school child handing such a document of death to a neighbor. It was duty, and it was hard, but it helped steel Charles to the real world. He said that each red star delivery was the hardest thing he ever had to do.

Coulter’s was an old folks’ drug store, meaning that most high school and college students gathered across the street at Terry’s Drug. Charlie rarely saw them when he was on a telegram run, jerking sodas, delivering prescriptions, or mopping the floor at closing time. “I never got to enjoy Halloween, Fourth of July and other holidays because I was always working when others played,” Charlie once said. But he admired his bosses, owners Charlie and Gracie Coulter. They ran a tough business,” Charlie said years later. “There was no time for anything but business. Gracie was a task-master, and you earned your money.” “That was about twelve dollars for a sixty-hour week. I loved Charlie, though. He became like a father to me. Of course, growing up in Arlington, I had a lot of fathers who looked after me. Principal C. E. Dunn had a great influence on my early life. And I have to say, too, that I was fortunate to have had great teachers like Peggy Bayless, Emma Ousley, and Jane Ellis. I had great respect for all my teachers and coaches from grade school through high school.”

During the war years, Charles’s mother worked at the Consolidated bomber plant in Fort Worth. His sisters, Mary, Ann and Mamie, also worked. When the war ended in late summer 1945, Nannie Marshall returned to her previous job at Nichols Cleaners. Charlie recalled, “I don’t how she did it and still found time to give me a licking when I needed it.”

When they weren’t working, attending school, or playing ball, post-war kids in Arlington had plenty to do. Charlie could watch movies in two theaters for seven cents. Popcorn was a nickel, which later went to seven cents a bag. A third theatre opened behind the Hiway Drug when Charlie was a junior at Arlington High School. And there was always some game to play, or watch at College Field.

Charlie and his pals swam at Meadowbrook Park for fifteen cents. Many earned their way there, or to other places, by caddying at the adjacent city golf course. If you shagged a date with a Rainbow Girl, you could dance free until they turned out the lights at Schrickel Hall, next to Terry’s.

Three policemen in a town of 3,000 couldn’t catch every kid with a heavy foot, but they didn’t have to. A visit to your mother, or father from Chief Ott Cribbs later that night, settled any previous score, and made you a believer.

Charlie didn’t have a car until his senior year. Previously, he walked, or rode a bike out to Dalworthington Gardens to see Wanda Roberson, the only girl he ever wanted to spend the rest of his life with. They married a few years later, and that only lasted fifty-five years.

When he wasn’t working during football season, Charlie was on the field – running, throwing, or kicking a ball; he was a big reason his seventh and eighth grade teams never lost. At age fifteen, he weighed 163 pounds and had the heft of a lineman. But he was quick and explosive – two attributes that would make him a fast, power back the likes of which had never been seen in Arlington.

Football was Charlie’s niche – and he fit it well. When he made the Arlington High varsity as a freshman, he was something special. Coach Bill Sheffield knew Charlie was special, and soon, so would everybody in town. On his first three carries in the 1948 season opener against Carrollton, Charlie ran for 61 yards and scored two touchdowns. He added another score as the Colts went on to win their first opener since 1939. They won only twice more, but Charlie and his crew were poised for future greatness.

At the start of the 1949 season, an aspiring young sportswriter, and TCU student, began covering the Colts full time for the Fort Worth Press. His name was Dan Jenkins. Every Colt victory made bolder headlines for hometown Press subscribers. Charlie’s performances, and those of his teammates, quickly became the stuff of legends. Week after week, high school boys from Arlington were making history, and Jenkins was writing it. The Star-Telegram and both Dallas papers began to closely follow the Colts. Soon, Arlington became prominent in wire service copy read around the state, and heard on local radio newscasts. In the football world, Arlington had become more than a bus stop between Fort Worth and Dallas.

Jenkins named Charlie and Rusty Gunn, the “Touchdown Twins.” Quarterback Raymond Glasgow was pronounced a phenom – and he was. In one story, Jenkins gave Charlie a nickname that remains: Charlie “The Horse” Marshall. He was, too.

The 1949 Colts were 8-0-3, losing the bi-district game to Garland on penetrations. In Charlie’s senior year, the 1950 Colts went 13-0, before losing in the semi-finals to Kermit. The next season would be special, and Charlie closely followed his teammates in 1951. Eight of them went on to help win the first Texas Class AA football title. It’s an Arlington milestone yet to be passed.

Charlie Marshall made our lives richer by the way he lived and played football. Of course, he went on to greater things, but often would turn to Wanda and ask, “What would I ever be without football?” To that I would answer for thousands, “Charlie, what would we be without you?”

Charlie “The Horse” was truly a hallmark of courage, persistence and character.

As you know, character is the most revered human quality. It’s like a fine work of art, or intricate piece of music. While you may not always be able to define it, you know it when you see it – and you never forget who has it. Arlington did that to a lot of people.

We’re lucky that Charles Ellison Marshall was one of them.