When I was in the seventh grade at Eli Whitney grammar school, the coaches of every one of the city's four junior highs came to talk to my mama about my going to their schools. We decided on Chatham because I liked the coach best, but the next year I switched to Richard Arnold because they made us a better offer. They put a gas heater in the house and supplied us with free gas.
I was the regular quarterback two years. When I reached the ninth grade, we beat the hell out of Chatham and went on to win the city football championship. In the meantime the high school coaches were coming around to get me. The Savannah High coach came close to getting me. He sat with the two of us and said, "Mrs. Harrelson, I want to tell you something. I've been coaching for 25 years and this is the first time I've ever gone to anybody's home to get a boy to come to our school. That's how badly I want Kenny."
But my mama had already made up her mind, and nobody could change it. She wanted me to go to Benedictine. Not only would all the bills be paid, but it was a military school with tight discipline. For that reason alone I didn't want any part of the place. But mama had her way.
I got into all the trouble I anticipated at Benedictine because I averaged about 15 demerits a week, but the coach insisted he had to have his sophomore quarterback at every practice, so I didn't have to walk the jug anywhere nearly as much as I expected. We had a terrific season—won eight out of nine or something like that—and by the end of football I was a big man on campus.
As soon as football ended, we went right into basketball. I broke into the starting lineup in a game against Glynn Academy at Brunswick. Glynn had a real strong club that was supposed to beat our brains out, but the Hawk saved the night. I played one of the best games I can remember—pumped in 33 points, did a hell of a job on defense, was a real hot dog—and we murdered Glynn.
Remember, I was only a sophomore and already had had a great football season so I wasn't exactly a shrinking violet, especially after that game. I swaggered back onto the bus, went way in back and sat right in the middle of the last row of seats, where I could see the whole aisle and the whole aisle could see me. I knew what I was doing—the girls always stood in the aisle leading cheers when we traveled, and I didn't want any of them to miss me.
Facing me halfway down was a cute little one, and when I smiled at her she smiled back. Then I winked and she winked, and all the way up to Savannah the two of us smiled and winked at each other without exchanging a word. Her name was Betty Pacifici. Although we spent practically all our time fighting and making up, we got married before I was out of Benedictine when we were both 17.
We've been fighting and making up, fighting and making up ever since. We have four kids now and a house in Lynn-field, Mass., and we're still fighting. That's why she's in the house and I'm in my apartments in Brookline and Cleveland. I'd like to make up because I still love her but, as these lines are written, she isn't having any. Maybe 10 or 12 years with the Hawk is about all any girl can take, but I still have hopes.
I never played very much high school baseball because there always seemed to be something in the way. One year it was a broken hand. The next it was golf. I really fell in love with golf. I shot 118 the first time I played a full round. That was the spring of my junior year, and I was hooked for life.
When school started in the fall, I didn't go near the football field—too busy playing golf. Coach Vic Mell kept after me until I finally went out just to please him. I practiced for about a week when I broke my nose again. That was enough for me. I remember thinking on the way home, This is not my game. This is somebody else's action, but not mine.