I’m Carolyn Dornak and I was a Flying Queen from 1967-1971. I grew up 30 miles south of San Antonio in Jourdanton, Texas. I am the oldest of the 9 children of Jerome and Marcella Dornak. My dad was a carpenter/farmer and, at that time, my mom was a housewife taking care of the growing family. Money was not in great supply, but we had all the basics we needed. We grew a lot of our own vegetables in a large garden and had hogs and a few head of cattle, so we had plenty of food to eat.
My dad had been a semi-pro baseball pitcher and Mom a high school volleyball player so sports participation was encouraged. I always loved playing any sport that involved a ball but there were really no opportunities for girls to play sports other than on school teams. Our school only had girls’ basketball and tennis. I was a pretty good athlete in P.E., so when I was in the 6th grade my new P.E. teacher, Wanda Bender—who eventually won over a 1000 basketball games in her legendary 45-year career in Texas high school girls’ basketball – began teaching us basketball fundamentals; I was hooked.
My high school team, the Jourdanton Squaws, went to the State Tourney my first three years with Coach Bender as our coach. We won 2nd at the State Tourney my freshman and sophomore years and were the State Champs my junior year when we played, future Queen teammate and AAU All-American, Susan Britton Ford and her Springlake-Earth team. I was selected to the All-State team all 3 years. I didn’t have the opportunity to earn a fourth All-State honor because at that time you could only be selected All-State if you played in the State Tourney. For my senior year, Coach Bender had moved to another school. Our football coach was assigned to coach our team and by his own admission, didn’t know anything about coaching basketball. We had a good year, but got beat out by former district nemesis, George West, in the Regional Finals.
Because of my success playing for the Squaws, I got a lot of attention. My sophomore year someone once asked where I planned to go to college. At that age I hadn’t even thought about it, but Coach Bender immediately told them that I was going to Wayland. Being a Catholic, I had never heard of Wayland, but Coach was a Baptist and tuned in to all things basketball, so she knew what a great program Wayland had and felt that I had a chance to play for the Queens. At that time – years before Title IX – there were almost no programs at the college level and even fewer opportunities to get scholarships. For example, the University of Texas only had intramural teams and didn’t compete against other schools. So, that’s how I came to learn about Wayland’s famed Flying Queens and the dream was born. I would go to college, possibly with a scholarship, and play for the Flying Queens.
I loved the new experiences afforded me as a Flying Queen. Amongst these experiences were plane trips. My first flight ever was my freshman year in a single engine Cessna with Coach Redin as the pilot. I must admit that I got a little airsick. My first commercial flight was traveling back to south Texas for Christmas holidays. Then there were flights to other states, including trips to cities like Nashville, Kansas City and Los Angeles (with a side trip to Disneyland.)
I also consider myself very lucky to experience three different styles of basketball. The first style was the 3-on-3 version played in high school: three forwards on one end, three guards on the other end and no one was allowed to cross the center line. My first two years of college we played rover rules: two offensive players on one end, two defensive players on the other end, and two rovers who played both offense and defense and got to play the whole length of the floor. In rover rules, you could never have 5 players on any half of the floor at a time. A guard could lead a fast break to the offensive end of the floor, but a rover had to make sure to stay back on the defensive end because even one step across the centerline by the 5th player would result in a violation. Then, thanks to the work of Coach Redin and others on the AAU Rules Committee, the 5-player game was introduced into the women’s collegiate game my junior year. Women already played 5-on-5 in international competition, but the 1969-70 year was the first year we played it in all our games.
Coach Redin had coached men’s basketball and was one of the nation’s greatest and innovative women’s basketball coaches. He taught us so many things that those of us who entered the coaching profession had a distinct advantage as we began our careers. It was such fun getting to play with and against so many of the great basketball players of my era. Coach always scheduled games against the best teams in the country. The best player I think we ever played against was Nera White, who played for the Nashville Business College team. She had amazing skills and jumping ability! One time when we played Nashville during the rover era, Nera rebounded the ball, led a fast break and was hell-bent to drive in for a lay-up, even though our 6’2” guard, Barbara McAninch, was standing under the basket courageously waiting to take the charge. Nera WAS called for charging, but Barbara paid the price. Nera jumped so high that her KNEE rammed into Barbara’s nose and bloodied it! That woman could jump! Even when I wasn’t on the court during a game, it was just amazing to watch. I absolutely loved competing with and against these remarkable women. I wouldn’t trade anything for that experience.
Every year we went to the National AAU Tournament. My freshman year was a “down” year for the Queens. We lost six games that year, one of them at a crucial juncture in the National Tourney. I believe we only finished 5th that year. My sophomore year we did better, finishing 3rd. My junior and senior years we achieved the mountain top – National Champs. I think we only lost a total of 13 games in my four years on the team. I was fortunate enough to be awarded Honorable Mention All-American my junior year and All-American my senior year. Coach Redin was asked to coach the United States team in the World Games in Brazil and the Pan American games in Cali, Colombia, both in the summer after my senior year. I was fortunate to be able to play on the U.S. team for those two tournaments. Women’s basketball wasn’t played in the Olympics until 5 years later in 1976 and there was no WNBA, so this was the top of the line for women. Talk about a memorable way to close out my college career! And, I got to experience another 1st in my life: visiting another country.
Regarding my Wayland experience, I liked the fact that Wayland was a small school. Jourdanton only had 200 students in high school and I wasn’t interested in going to a huge university. With about 700 students, Wayland was big enough for me. I was thankful for the small classes and the excellent professors I had. I was very shy, but because of the size of the school, the friendliness of the students and encouragement from Sylvia Nadler– thank you, Sylvia – I ran for, was elected and served as a Student Senator. That helped me grow as a person. I appreciated being able to study religion from the Baptist point of view and have conversations with students whose beliefs were different from mine. It made me think about and become stronger in my own faith and more tolerant of others and their beliefs. Though Plainview wasn’t a big town, and Wayland wasn’t a huge university, I found plenty things to do on and off campus with my new friends and thoroughly enjoyed my college years. Also, because of Wayland, I became a more confident person. I got to know myself, and my beliefs better. I determined the course of my life with my choice of profession – teaching and coaching. This allowed me even more exciting and profound experiences throughout my life. Even my choice of a minor in Art affected me. I never had to teach art – thank goodness because I don’t really have any talent – but it enriched my life tremendously because it taught me to pay attention to the world around me. That, in turn, helped foster my love of nature and led me to the hobby of photography, which gives me much joy. Being out in nature is spiritual for me. It’s when I feel closest to God.
Some of my most memorable moments at Wayland and Plainview are weather related.
Several big weather events stand out in my mind.
My freshman year a blizzard kept the Queens from returning to Plainview after a trip to a tournament in Houston. Claude decided we would go to Kingsland where he had a home (a very nice place, of course) for the night. Landing at the Kingsland airport was scary, however, because the wind was fierce. Coach Redin had to “crab” in sideways— basically, wing first as he approached the landing strip. A few feet from the runway, he had to abort the landing and try again. The second time he waited until the absolute last second to straighten out the plane—again, just a few feet above the runway. We were able to land safely but I’ll never forget that landing! When we did get back to Wayland, it was to several inches of snow. In south Texas I’d never seen that much snow before, so another first!
Tornado memories also stand out. One year, one fourth of Lubbock was hit by a tornado and even though Plainview was 45 miles north of Lubbock, the sirens went off in Plainview that night, too. Those of us living on campus had to run across a large open area on the way to the basement of the administration building. I’ll never forget running behind one of my smaller friends who would, literally, be blown three or four feet sideways every few steps so if you looked at her path from above, it would’ve looked like a series of arcs. Plainview wasn’t hit by the tornado that night, but about three weeks later, while the Queens were out of town on a trip, part of Plainview was hit. I don’t remember any real damage to the campus, but there was plenty of damage in other parts of town. Many of us went to help those who needed cleanup assistance. I was very proud of the Wayland student body for that.
Dust storms are a common event on the high plains, but one stands out to me. We were flying back to Plainview from a basketball trip and couldn’t even see the ground because of a thick dust storm. Since we always flew using visual flight rules, using landmarks to help guide us rather than depending only on instruments, not seeing the ground was disconcerting to me. When we got down to about 3000 feet above ground, we entered the dust storm. In a few seconds all we could see was red dust, and not only see it, but feel it inside the plane and in our noses, eyes and mouths. It was not pleasant and we really couldn’t see the ground then. Good pilot that he was, Coach just used the planes instruments to guide us to the airport and a safe landing, but we didn’t see any buildings, roads, electrical wires – anything – until we were very near the ground. I was extremely glad to get out of the plane and quickly out of the storm into a car heading to the dorm. It was a very nervous and uncomfortable landing for me.
After Wayland, I spent 36 years as a teacher, all but three years of that teaching high school. Most of my career I taught Health and Physical Education, but for 12 years I taught Algebra and Geometry after I earned my Math certification. I’ve lived in Victoria, Texas, for over 40 years. In Victoria, I taught at Victoria High, Stroman, St. Joseph’s Catholic School and Patti Welder Middle School. I also taught and coached in Coleman, Copperas Cove and at Irving Nimitz. I coached a total of 21 years. Besides basketball, I coached track for many years and also some softball, volleyball and golf. At some of the schools I served as the girls’ sports coordinator or as the assistant athletic director. I was active in the Texas High School Girls Coaches Association (now called Texas Girls Coaches Association) and served a term as a director of that organization. I retired from teaching in 2008. Since retirement I have served 10 years as a volleyball official with the Victoria Chapter of Volleyball officials.
One thing my Wayland friends and former teammates may not know about me is that I was a police officer for a year in Victoria during the 1979-80 school year. I was not Victoria’s first female police officer, but I was Victoria’s first female patrol officer; the other female officers worked in the PD office and helped with security at ball games, etc. I worked undercover narcotics for two months after getting out of the police academy, then patrolled the streets the rest of my time with the VPD. Though the police work was interesting and I liked it, I determined that I really belonged in the education field and returned to teaching and coaching the following school year.
They might also find it interesting that, though I am not a serious student of photography, photography gives me much pleasure. It is a creative outlet for me. It goes hand-in-hand with traveling, which I also love to do. I love seeing new things and learning about other places, trying to capture those things in a picture that is pleasing to the eye. I especially love trips to see God’s natural wonders. Though I can, and do, find those wonders in the smallest things even at home, I love experiencing the great majesty of mountains and lakes and the beautiful variety of plants and animals. I also love singing in my church choir, which I have done for the past 30 years. I think it’s true that when singing you are praying twice.
In all of these things I had the strong support of my family. As I said, I’m the oldest of 9 children so this will be a LONG section. Thus, I’m including it at the end for all who care to read on.
If I had a chance to talk to current Queens and/or their coaches I’d tell them to savor their time at Wayland, especially the time with the Queens. Relatively few women in the country have had the opportunity to be part of such a rich, pioneering heritage. It is something of which to be proud and it passes all too quickly.
I would also tell them that the clichés are true. I learned how to set goals and create a plan to achieve those goals; how to work with others toward a common goal, putting my needs below those of the team; how to behave in both success and adversity; that anything worth doing is worth doing well, so you have to be willing to put in the time and the effort to achieve; that not just practice makes perfect, but rather PERFECT practice makes perfect; that achieving those goals are easier and more fun when shared; that failure and adversity can make you a stronger person if you don’t allow yourself to wallow in self pity and give up; that women are STRONG and can do whatever they put their minds and hearts into; that basketball itself is just a game and not that important when compared to your family and friends and other critical issues in your life, but it is a marvelous and fun way to make friends and learn all the lessons I’ve listed above (and more) that you absolutely need to get through life. I’ve learned that those who play basketball (or some other sport) become more confident in themselves and are better prepared to achieve their goals in life, are definite assets in their chosen profession and often become some of our country’s strongest, most productive citizens. Those who have never played sports may never learn some of these lessons or may take much longer to learn them and they definitely miss out on a lot of fun!
I have occasional contact with a few of the Queens and other friends, but none live in my immediate area, so I rarely see them. Some I’ve kept in contact with at least yearly through Christmas cards/letters since graduating, but Facebook and the Flying Queens Foundation has helped me reconnect with some others. I’m hoping this Facebook posting will help me reconnect with more of you!
Loved your story. You were a great athlete and Christian. I’m sure you inspired many people.