I don’t watch most televised sports during their regular seasons. I will watch basketball finals (college and pro), the World Series, and the bigger golf tournaments such as The Masters (final round).
Football is different. I love football. I have no problem watching, even the most boring football game, at any level. I can watch a pee wee football game, even if I don’t know any of the participants. I love college football, professional football, and I’ll even watch Canadian or Australian Rules football.
I played football in my youth. In pee wee I played for Thames Elementary School. In the sixth grade my mother moved my brother and me to Beeson Academy. It was one of those schools that opened for all of the wrong reasons, but was a fun place to attend (more fun than high school should be). Most of my friends were there.
In junior high school, I was a fullback and linebacker. In high school, I was a center and linebacker. I had a blast playing football. We were fairly competitive in our conference and division, and even went to a high school bowl game in Mobile my sophomore year. My playing days ended after high school as I was too slow to make it at the next level.
Beeson Academy was located south of town just off of US 49, and immediately behind the iconic Beverly Drive-In Theatre.
The Beverly Drive In had been a part of Hattiesburg’s fabric from the day it opened in 1948. There was a goofy golf course out front, some of the best neon signage in the area, and a house in the base of the screen where the owners lived. The huge 75-foot tall, 105-foot wide Beverly screen was fully visible from the Beeson Academy football field located just a few hundred yards away. I can remember as a junior high student being at the Friday night varsity football game and having an excellent view of the various movies from my seat in the home-field bleachers during halftime.
Beeson Academy wasn’t big enough to have a marching band, so in lieu of drum majors, majorettes, and tubas, our halftime entertainment featured Burt Reynolds, Clint Eastwood, and Richard Pryor— larger than life— on the Beverly’s giant screen.
By the time I reached high school, and was a member of the football team, the Beverly was in its latter days and under new management. Due to the waning enthusiasm of the drive-in theatre concept— not only here, but nationwide— the new managers had to resort to offering cheesy soft-core skin flicks to position themselves in the market and to help generate sales. This led to a very different high school football atmosphere under the Friday night lights of the Beeson Academy football field.
Our team, by that time was used to the momentary flashes of flesh— or as used to it as 17-year old teenage boys can get. However, it served as a great strategic distraction for the visiting team. In those days, the Beverly was showing movies such as Swedish Stewardesses in Love every weekend. A seventy-five-foot bouncing bosom in the distance will thwart any opposing team’s athletic performance. No one on the visiting team was paying attention to the play calling in the huddle. Their eyes were glued to the movie screen in the distance. To this day I believe it was the 7500-square feet of exposed and jiggling flesh, rather than the mighty Beeson Trojan’s football prowess, that helped our tiny school win many of those football games.
I graduated from high school in 1979 and Beeson Academy folded just a few years later. The Presbyterians opened another private school in town— this time for all of the right reasons. The drive-in theatre fad, finally ran its course, and the Beverly screen went dark in the late 1980s. It opened twice more, with separate owners, but people had gotten used to comfortable indoor seats, central air coinditioning, and high-quality Dolby sound systems, and the re-opening attempts were short-lived.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina heavily damaged what was left of that great iconic structure, and a fire finished the job in 2010. A group of apartment buildings now sit on the spot where the absolute best home-field advantage in the history of high school sports once stood.
Beeson Academy, the good old blue and gold
Beeson Academy, so big and brave and bold
Beeson Academy, so dear to me and you
The teachers teach us what they can
The rest is up to you