New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - May 14, 2000, New Braunfels, Texas
Page 10A— Herald-Zeitijng — Sunday, May 14, 2000
Albert Mannie happily makes a high jump during his high school years. His mother, Myrtle, saved this photo in a two-inch-thick scrapbook she kept for her son.
with my mom and place a hurdle here, at the edge of the pit,” Mannie said, showing how he’d hit the board and then claw for the sky. ‘i’d just practice jumping over it. I was completely dedicated to track
— to the long jump, really. I was possessed by the long jump. I was 5-foot-6 and I high jumped 6-2 in a meet in San Marcos. Iii never forget that.”
Heil never forget what his coach said to him, either. Mannie said Coach Dee White devoted countless hours to his athletes and was an inspiration.
“I owe a lot of my ability and a lot of who I am to Coach White,” he said.
White affectionately called his star long jumper “Frog Legs.” “Coach said, ‘You got one hell of a spring in your legs, boy’ — those were his exact words.” The words were said lovingly and in praise of
— and respect for — a great athletic ability in a dedicated, determined and relatively small young man of only 127 lbs.
But it probably wasn’t the only time Mannie heard the word “boy,” growing up in New Braunfels.
His family moved here in the late 1950s from San Marcos, and Mannie was enrolled in the black school.
New Braunfels Independent School District’s segregated school for black kids was named for Booker T. Washington and was near the county fairground.
Then, he moved on to the integrated junior high school near Academy and Mill Street.
“Going to junior high school was a rough time for me,” Mannie said. “It was the early part of the 1960s, and President Kennedy said all schools would be integrated. New Braunfels did, but a lot of towns around here didn’t want to, so they didn’t.
“I went through some very hard times. There would be cases where all the white kids would be put in alphabetical order for some thing or another, then there’d be an empty seat before the first black student. They really did that.” Mannie shook his head at the recollection. In the last days of segregation and the first days of integration, it wasn’t always easy being a black kid in New Braunfels.
Mannie was hurt, frustrated and sometimes angry.
Then, two incidents changed his feelings about NBISD, the city and the folks in it.
Word spread among other area towns that, in New Braunfels, the blacks played with the whites.
One of the incidents happened on the way home from a football game. Tile team bus stopped at a restaurant — a common custom among sports teams everywhere
— to get a bite to eat and wind down after the game.
The proprietor told the coach to leave his black students on the bus.
“Coach stood up for us and said, ‘If we can’t all eat, we aren’t going to eat,”’ Mannie recalled.
They didn’t eat; they drove home.
Another time, the expression of racism was far worse. It was officially sanctioned.
“We got a telegram, a telephone call, I’m not sure, from a town that said they would play us, but ‘leave your blacks at home.’
“The coach, the student council, the teachers and the board of trustees said, ‘If you can’t play us with all our athletes, we’ll stay home.’”
And they did.
“Those were two things that really stood out,” Mannie said. “They turned my feelings around toward the school, the district and the people. It was a very proud and important moment for me.”
While signs of racial prejudice were evident in the community, the barriers were dropping among the community’s children when New Braunfels High School was built in 1963.
“When we got to high school, we all became closer — we became friends. The prejudices were still there, but not as strong as when we were younger,” Mannie said.
In his scrapbook are the requisite sports action photos, but there’s something else. Interspersed are photos of happy, cavorting teammates and students of both sexes: black, white and Hispanic.
Comal County Judge Danny Scheel is among the white kids in more than one of Mannie’s clippings.
He says he’ll never forget Albert Mannie.
“Albert was a very fun and crazy kind of guy,” Scheel said. “Our football team was very close-knit. I stop often and think of all the guys in the old days in high school and all the fun we had.”
Racial prejudice was around, but it wasn’t a part of his life or the life he shared with his friends, Scheel said.
“I don’t think New Braunfels was exposed to racism like other communities were,” Scheel said.
Mannie recalls differently, because he was on the receiving end, in some cases.
“The way I was raised,” Scheel said, “I’ve never been prejudiced. Since those days and to this day, many of my best friends have been black and Hispanic. For us, Albert was no different than any of us —
except he was funnier, could run faster and jump higher. I don’t think I ever could have outrun Albert, even on my very best day.” Insurance agent Alan Schriewer played football and ran track with Mannie.
“Albert was a little younger than we were, so we kind of made him pay his dues in football,” Schriewer said, noting that seniors enjoyed a lofty perch in the pecking order, when compared to underclassmen.
It was different in track. “Because of his abilities, he kind of put us in our place in the pecking order in track.
“It was a good time when we played together back then. We had great camaraderie as a team, and there was tremendous discipline imposed by the coaches. I think it made us all better men.”
In the May 13, 1966, edition of the NBHS newspaper, The Horn & Hoot, Mannie’s photo is on the cover in the “school favorites” awards that listed the most popular
seniors and the ways they were recognized — and would be remembered— by their peers.
Mannie, the recently-crowned state champ for America’s largest state, was chosen “most athletic.”
“I was a little choked up, Mannie said of seeing the paper. “In order for that to happen, I had to have been a well-rounded, liked and lovable person. The other kids cared about me. It was among the proud moments of my life.”
Next came college. Mannie’s mother worked for Dr. Charles and Mrs. Janelle Berger as a housekeeper, housesitter and babysitter. The Bergers made sure Mannie got to college — Dr. Berger drove him to Temple to see that he got enrolled in the junior college there.
“There was no ‘white’ or ‘black’ with the Bergers,” Mannie said. “They were my family — they’re still my family — they’ll always be my family as far as I’m concerned. We were a black family and a white family, but we’re all one family. They’ve never changed in all these years. I guess you could say Janelle Berger is my other mom.”
“It brings tears to my eyes to hear Albert say that,” Janelle Berger said. “His mother worked for us for maybe 25 years and was one of the best friends I ever had in my life. Her three children were like children to me, and my children were children to her — one family with six children.
“Albert probably was the most outstanding all-around athlete I have ever known. We followed his career, and he really had an outstanding career. Not only that, he was so very nice. He’s continued to be that way throughout his entire life — and he has a wonderful family.”
With the help of a job in a convenience store, the Bergers, a half scholarship for track and the $10-15 Myrtle Mannie managed to send her son each week, Albert eked his way at Temple Junior College.
“Times were hard for my family,” Mannie said. “Mom had my two sisters at home.”
Always, there was sports — and the honors just kept coming. He broke his high school long jump mark by two inches — a jump of 24 -6.
“After so many years of trying and trying, I finally broke out — I was glad because I beat Bill Elliott from the University of Texas. He was UT’s best long jumper back then,” Mannie said.
Mannie moved to Southwest Texas State University, again on a track scholarship of $77 a month. It was there that sports — and a hamstring — unraveled for Mannie.
“I pulled a hamstring. I couldn’t participate anymore, so they pulled the scholarship,” he said.
He tried to make it work by putting in the long night shifts at Mission Valley Mills.
It didn’t. Mannie was forced to give up. He took a tour in the Navy and met his wife up North.
The Mamies came back to New Braunfels, where he was hired as a teacher’s aide at Lone Star School. The job had absolutely everything Mannie ever wanted — but not everything he needed. He worked there about five years and had to leave after the birth of his first daughter. A higher-paying job was the only way he could support his young family.
Mamie has worked for the company that became Cemex, USA for 20 years now. He likes it — “it’s a great place, a great bunch of guys.”
But it isn’t teaching, and there are no kids.
Chequita works for NBISD and Comal Independent School District.
“She’s a workaholic,” Mannie said. But he can understand why.
“I loved the school, and I miss it so much. I really miss working with the kids.”
Mamie wishes he could coach track — he’d like nothing more than to train the athlete who breaks
his record. Lacking that, he’d like to be there to shake that athlete’s hand afterwards, he said.
“Kids are taller now and faster than we used to be. I think someone will beat it — soon. I would love to work with the kids. They’ve got a lot of potential — they need somebody to take the time Coach White took with me,” he said.
Mannie’s daughter Cherita, an NBHS multisport althlete who hopes to find a place in the Womens’ National Basketball Association, likes to tell her father that she’ll be the one who breaks his record.
“She could do it, too — she’s so long and lanky. She got that from her mother’s side,” he said. “My daughters are wonderful. I couldn’t possibly ask any more of them. I’ve been blessed with a beautiful family. I would have liked to have had a son, but God didn’t see it that way.”
So Cherita is his tomboy.
“I treat her just like a boy. I want her to be a girl, but I want her.to be rugged — to play like a boy,” he said.
But that isn’t all he tries to teach his children.
“I’ve tried to teach them to lose as gracefully as they win, and instill in them the values that my mother gave me. ‘You’ve got to make your grades and get your education,’ I say. ‘Your basketball will end. Your education will stay with you and nobody can ever take it away from you. Respect yourself, love yourself, and you’ll have the love and respect of your peers. Give it everything you’ve got and do it, or die trying.’”
Albert Mannie has always given everything he’s got — to his studies, track and field and especially to the people who have graced his life. But 34 years later, like Scheel and Schriewer, he can’t forget his school friends, the times they had and what it’s all meant for him.
“I guess the thing I’m probably most proud of is being the first black state champion in the history of the NBISD,” he said. “Nobody will ever take that away from me, but someone will come along and break my record.”
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Albert Mannie and his ‘other’ mom, Janelle Berger, reminisce Saturday in Berger’s dining room.