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There are no halls of ivy at Panhandle A&M College in Goodwell, Okla. But the tumbleweeds tumble along through the campus and the wind comes whistling down the plain, rustling the leaves of the Chinese elms that stand in rows and soften the stark outlines of the red brick buildings. On still nights the howling of coyotes may be heard across the prairie: on clear nights the lights of a town in Texas may be seen 18 miles away. When the moon rides high across the wide Panhandle sky and the stars come down within arm's reach, the scene that seems rather grim and forbidding by daylight takes on a very special kind of Panhandle enchantment.
There is not much enchantment, by day or night, about the town of Goodwell (pop. 700), which is the post-office address of Panhandle A&M. Goodwell, founded in 1901 as a water stop for the Rock Island Railroad, looks like a ghost town that has given up the ghost. There is one unpaved street, which has the post office, a grocery store and a small hotel.
Happily for Panhandle's 1,200 students (about 400 are coeds), the town of Guymon is only 10 miles away. Most Panhandle students have cars; some have horses as well. At least one student has two cars and a quarter horse. The students are free to go to Guymon anytime they please, as long as the social evenings there do not interfere with their studies. Guymon has a population of 7,000 and. in its way, is as up-to-date as Amarillo, Texas, 100 miles to the south. There is a movie house on Main Street and a drive-in just outside of town. There are motels that keep their restaurants open all night. There is a bowling alley. There are supermarkets, all kinds of shops, drugstores and chili parlors. The Dale Hotel, in the heart of town, has a coffee shop where the big ranchers drop in and a private club (of which all hotel guests automatically become members) where a man can park his own liquor purchased from the state liquor store across the street. Only 3.2 beer is served in public places.
The Oklahoma Panhandle takes a bit of getting used to. But it grows on a stranger and there is a saying that if a visitor will stay long enough to wear out a pair of shoes, he will never want to leave. If this is true it is because the natives make up for what they lack in trees and other greenery with extraordinary courtesy and friendliness to people passing through. There is a class in courtesy at Guymon High School. President Marvin McKee of Panhandle A&M (a state school, by the way) devotes his entire message of welcome in the students' handbook to the subject. The Lions Club posts notices in all hotel and motel rooms inviting the guests to their supper meetings. Presumably, any itinerant burglar with a clean shirt would be made welcome by the Lions and perhaps be asked to get up and say a few words. About the only way a man could deprive himself of all-out courtesy and friendliness would be to refer to Panhandle College athletic teams as "the Panhandlers." Panhandle teams like to be called the "Aggies" or the "Plainsmen."
Panhandle has a full sports schedule. The football, basketball, baseball and golf teams are members of the Oklahoma Collegiate Conference. There are also an archery team and a rodeo club, which brings in broncos and roping stock from the ranches in the area. All sports have their loyal followers. The football team fills its 6,000-seat stadium for almost every game and the basketball team usually plays to capacity crowds in the 2,000-seat field house.
All this is not surprising in an area where public entertainments are not too numerous. What is surprising is the intensive recruiting activity of Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Oscar Williams, Basketball Coach Jerry Anderson and Otis Sanders, line coach in football who also finds time to coach (but not recruit) the Panhandle golfers. The subject of recruiting was taken up with Coach Anderson at a basketball practice session after he had set his players to work on defensive tactics. When he joined an observer in a front-row seat, Anderson was handed a roster of the 15 players on his squad.
Coach Anderson, a quiet-spoken, mild-mannered young man who can raise his voice to a bellow on occasion, looked at the roster and said, "What about it?"
Coach Anderson studied the roster. "Why, right here," he said, "two boys from Hooker and one from Felt. Both Panhandle towns."