Feedback from a recent column serves a dual purpose this week: It is a timely current column and it sort of tests the water with what former owner/publisher Jim Sterling quite appropriately suggests as an ongoing idea, perhaps as a separate column by someone.

Actually, Jim thinks the idea could make a book, but until then a column focused on “where they are now and what did they become after leaving Polk County” might suffice. Many have done some rather amazing things with their Polk County roots, but out of sight and mind of today’s residents.

Jerry Shelenhamer wasn’t looking for this when he reached out to me to share his Coach “Hoss” McCallister story, after reading here about one of mine, but with his permission I’m passing along his story and more information I requested about him.

Jerry is 1967 BHS graduate and a Liberator For Life. His Coach Mac story begins in the summer of 1959.

“We moved to Bolivar in 1959, my dad (the late Bysor Shelenhamer) had just purchased the Ford dealership,” he writes. “I'm a new kid going into 5th grade, knew no one. My mom signed me up for swimming lessons and Coach Mac was the teacher.

“First day at the old Bolivar pool, there are about 10 of us in the water with Coach and he asks, ‘Does anyone think they can swim across and back?’ I raised my hand and all the other kids laughed.

“Coach Mac looked at all of them and said, ‘I think he can do it.’ So I took off, fearing I would drown or worse, and be a laughing stock.

“I made it across and started back, which seemed like a mile. I was really struggling to make the other side when Coach Mac reached down, lifted me up and set me on the side of the pool. With a big smile, he looked at the other kids and said, ‘I knew he could do it.’

“Then he looked at me and said, ‘You will be my starting quarterback someday.’ I had never played a down of football, but he was correct.”

Jerry said he got to play for three great coaches at BHS: Coach Mac in the coach’s final season here, Rich Davies and then Doug Potts in his first of 35 seasons here. That first year with Potts garnered a championship in football and track in the final year of the Skyline Conference.

Jerry is the brother of Emma Franklin, Judy Wollard and Jim Shelenhamer, and is related to many others still in Polk County.

He first attended Pittsburg State (no doubt under some influence from Gorilla alum Potts), but finished his undergrad degree at SBU. He followed with a Masters from Drury and more post-graduate work at Sam Houston State and the University of Houston.

His 40 years and counting in Houston, Texas, are thanks to his middle BHS coach: Davies.

Jerry’s first teaching/coaching gig was at Strafford, where he says he literally started the football program. He built the field, planted and then mowed the grass. He had been there for five years when Coach Davies called and asked if he would like to come to Texas to work with him, an offer he accepted.

“At that time Cypress-Fairbanks was a rapid growing school district of 14,000 students in northwest Houston,” he writes. “So I get down here and Rich then takes another job, and they gave me his. He left and came back to Missouri, ending up at Nixa.”

Jerry was in that coaching position for four years and then went into 36 years of administration, retiring from 116,000-student Cypress-Fairbanks.

As for his Bolivar coaches, he remained in contact with Potts and McCallister until their deaths and still does with Coach Davies. He and Liberator teammates Bobby Black, Scott Bullard and Jim Stewart visited with him together last summer. Despite serious health struggles, he remembered all four of them.

Jerry is married to a Texas lady and they have four kids (two his, two hers) and they share 10 grandkids and three great-grandkids.

“Life has been good,” he writes. “And I was truly blessed to have been coached by three super fine men (in Bolivar).” 

Dave Berry is the former BH-FP editor and publisher and now carries the fancy has-been label of “emeritus.” Please direct any complaints or other direct communication with him to dberry08@gmail.com. As always, the people who actually work here deserve to not be bothered by any of his weekly and weakly distractions or disruptions.

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