Ball Camp Boys

By Joe Rector

My brother and I were on the golf course when he received a call. On the other end of the line was Mike Floyd. He was asking us to join him and some other men for lunch. Mike informed us it would be a “Ball Camp” meeting. Curious about what that meant, we agreed to be there. As it turned out, the time was well spent with some good folks.

We met at Moody’s, a small restaurant on the Knoxville side of Oak Ridge. As usual, Jim and I arrived early, again proving that we believe if a person is on time, he’s late. We looked inside but recognized none of the men we were meeting. In only a couple of minutes, Mike came in with Johnny Dickens, and in a few minutes, Steve Buffalo walked through the door.

The years have zipped by, and we, who were good friends in our elementary school years, are now old men who rarely see each other. The food came out, and the chattering continued. At first, we recalled events and occurrences that were important to each of us. I told Johnny I remembered how he used to take a bag of chips and crush them before pouring the pieces into his bologna sandwich. He said that he still does that. I had earlier written about Steve Buffalo’s sandwiches of sausage on white bread with a coating of mayonnaise and how much I wanted to taste it. Steve said he has no memory of his lunches but declared that they might have been what I said since his family raised pigs.

The truth is that when we were young, Ball Camp was considered a second-rate community. Karns was the place to live. Many who worked at the plants in Oak Ridge lived in that area. Ball Camp, Hardin Valley, and Solway just didn’t reach the level of the community just over the hill. That belief led to even stronger ties among students at the school. We fought hard in sports competitions and had our share of successes against the more highly regarded community teams.

Other stories from so long ago had us laughing; others made us shake our heads. That sadness especially hit when the name of a classmate came up and the information of his or her passing was mentioned. Wrapping our minds around those deaths was difficult when our last memories of individuals were when we sat in an elementary school classroom.

All of us are retired. Steve Buffalo continues to do contract work in Oak Ridge. Jim and I work in the summer mowing at Knoxville Municipal Golf Course. Yes, we’ve all had our bouts with illnesses and other maladies that accompany old age. Still, we all stay active and enjoy each day that the Good Lord gives us.

Jim and I stay in touch with a high school friend who didn’t live in Ball Camp. Kenny Mills is being held “prisoner of war” in Georgia. I’m not a big phone guy, but when Kenny calls, the conversations can last for an hour or more. It’s possible that reuniting with these Ball Camp friends might lead to some long phone calls too.

We began to list other men who lived in the community and talked about increasing the number to invite for future lunches. If you are one of those Ball Camp boys and want to come to the next get-together, contact one of us for information. Heck, you can contact me at my email Guys like Joey Wallace, Steve Cox, and Sam Marcum have plenty of memories to share, and others do too. Let’s build our group and tighten our ties from so many years ago. We need to be expeditious in this because time is running out.