George Creel...Good Memories

     George Dennis Creel passed from this life at the far too young age of 61. He was one of my closest friends from the early days of my youth. My parents in 1950 became part of the church where George and his considerably sized family had attended since its founding in the early forties. I was seven years old when my family began attending church, and George quickly became a companion and a confidante. There were several young boys in the church at that time, but two, George and Ronny Guidroz, the pastor’s son, seemed to share the same interests and activities as I. We spent many Sunday afternoons at one of our parents’ homes between Sunday School in the morning and evangelistic service Sunday night.

This photo was taken in February, 1956, and shows five of my friends from Peace Tabernacle. They are (left to right) Jerry Kemplay, Jerry Smith, David Smith, George Creel, and Ronny Guidroz.

     In 1959, Ronny’s father resigned from the church and the Guidroz family moved away. Ronny and I would be reunited a few years later as brothers in law, but for a while, George and I spent even more time together. As a teenager, I drove a 1954 Mercury which at the time was an average decent car. George was on a little tighter budget, but managed to buy a 1950 Ford in dire need of paint…but it was a convertible. George sanded and painted the car himself, cleaned up the convertible top, and afterward for most of the time we prowled Texas Avenue in Baytown, Texas, we rode in George’s Ford because, well, it was a convertible, and it looked pretty good and sounded good. George’s Ford didn’t sound as good as my Mercury (sound was VERY important back then) because he only had one glass packed muffler while I had dual exhausts with dual glass packs. I could turn onto North Main from Texas Avenue, and for about three blocks where the street was pretty narrow and the buildings close together, I could give my old Mercury a little gas, the glass packs would roar, and the display windows of the stores would vibrate. If you don’t understand the sanity of this…well, it’s a guy thing…a sort of human version of the Lion King roaring from the top of a mountain. But the fact was…given a choice of driving a car that sounded REALLY good or riding in a top-down convertible…we chose to ride in George’s car.
     Just to show you how brave (lonely? chicken? nervous?) George and I were back in those days, one warm, summer night we were cruising Texas Avenue in George’s car with the top down, feeling sorry for ourselves because we didn’t have any girls with us. Just at that moment, we passed the Brunson movie theater which apparently had ended a show because everyone was leaving. I said to George, “Hey, George, pull up and let’s see if we can pick up a couple of girls!” So George pulled up to the curb in from of the theater and we looked expectantly at the crowd exiting the building. I saw a couple of girls who seemed to be single and I waved to them, and they smiled…and started walking toward our car! The closer they got, the higher our level of panic went. When they got within about ten feet…we took off. I just hope we didn’t destroy the girls’ self esteem for the rest of their lives and they are suffering to this day from feelings of rejection. It’s a wonder George and I ever got married, but fortunately as time went by our relationships with fair maidens improved. In 1961 Shirley and I married, and a little later George did the same. In 1963 I went into the Air Force, and Shirley and I traveled for the next four years. George went into the Navy, and we had difficulty maintaining contact for a few years. You have to remember, this was before email, Facebook, and cell phones. Long distance phone calls were expensive, and letter writing was the only practical means of contact. We would occasionally cross trails at a family reunion, and there we would try to catch up on family news.
     Shirley and I moved to Casper, Wyoming, in 1974, and happily, in the early 80s I think, George, wife Dee, and children moved to Casper, also. It was a happy reunion and our families enjoyed many good times together thereafter. During this time our two families entered the Motorhome Era. Because Wyoming offers so many scenes of natural beauty, recreational vehicles are very popular, and Shirley and I had purchased a motorhome for family camping. George and family did the same. George’s motorhome was a Winnebago which had been converted to a Caterpillar diesel engine with an Allison transmission. His motorhome would fly down the road, but the only problem was, the transmission did not have a “Park” position. On most big trucks, apparently, the vehicle is secured with an emergency brake that locks the driveshaft someway to keep the vehicle from moving rather than using a “Park” on the transmission. George’s Winnebago had the emergency brake lock on the driveshaft…but it didn’t work too well. So George, when they stopped for the night, would put chocks behind the wheels to keep the motorhome from rolling. One night we were sitting at a scenic camp ground up in the Wyoming hills. I was parked across from George’s motorhome in the adjacent camping spot. George’s camping spot was on a slight incline, but behind his motorhome the land dropped off quickly into a deep ravine. George, however, had carefully put out his wheel chocks, so all seemed OK. As the evening wore on into darkness, his family, Shirley, and our kids began playing some sort of game in the motorhome. For some reason, I was in our motorhome…probably taking a nap.
     Anyway, some time later, I heard some yelling and then a crash. I ran out of our motorhome and George’s Winnebago was down the incline several feel, but, fortunately, resting up against a tree. There was a single tree that had been between George’s motorhome and disaster, and thankfully, the Winnebago and rolled up against it with a thud and stopped. Shirley said that as soon as the motorhome began moving, George knew what had happened and nearly ran over everyone trying to get to the brake pedal. Other than a couple of mild heart attacks and minor damage to the motorhome bumper, everything was fine. We had several other camping trips with George’s family, and enjoyed every one, even though none of the others was as exciting as that trip.
     In the early 80s the economy suffered in Wyoming, and George’s family moved to Dallas where there was work. Shirley and I visited George and Dee on several trips to Texas, making an overnight stop at their home on the way to Baytown. After we moved back to Baytown, we visited them in Dallas occasionally, but it was at the Creel reunions during the Christmas holidays where we were most able to catch up on family news. The last time we saw George, the disease which would take his life was already taking its toll, but he was being ably cared for by Dee, family, and friends. Their church family offered tremendous support, and at George’s passing the family was surrounded by caring friends. George’s passing was another lost link to the days of youth, but my memories of George as a youthful buddy, close friend and companion will live on.