I’m Juanita Clepper Parks and I was a Flying Queen for two years, 1949-51. I am the youngest of six children and grew up on a farm in the Panhandle of Texas. I had four older brothers all of whom went into the service in WWII. My father had Parkinson’s disease and wasn’t able to work while I was growing up. Mother and we kids did all the farm work and that included milking a bunch of cows. I learned to milk when I was 10 and milked cows every day until I went off to college. I owe my good ball handling skills to milking the cows because it gave me a good grip.
When I was very young and my oldest brother went to college at Texas A&M. I decided then that I wanted to go to college also. I went to Texas Tech for my first year but my funds ran out and my parents weren’t able to help me. One day in the summer of 1949, I was riding to Lubbock with my brother to try to find a job to help pay some of my expenses and we stopped in Samnorwood. There the basketball coach came out to the car and told me he had seen me play. He said he thought that I could get a scholarship at Wayland playing ball and that he would write the basketball coach at Wayland to recommend me. I said “ok.” The Wayland coach, Sam Allen, said that I would have to enroll first and try out for the team before they could promise anything. So on faith that I would make the team I enrolled at Wayland and after about six weeks of practice they did award me a full scholarship to play for the Queens. We were then called the Harvest Queens because our sponsor was the Harvest Queen Mill in Plainview, Texas.
I didn’t know anyone at Wayland at first so I was kind of lonesome and afraid of the unknown. However, I grew up in a strict Baptist home so I adjusted to Wayland real fast. I loved it at Wayland as it was more my size and style than Texas Tech. There were just 12 students in my high school class at Briscoe so Tech was kind of big. At Wayland we had Chapel services each morning where great Christian principles were taught. I think I became a better Christian witness and proclaimer of the gospel because of Wayland.
A highlight of my first year as a Queen (1949-50) is that we came within 4 points of beating the previous year’s national champions, Nashville Business College, in the second round of the National AAU Tournament which was held in St Joseph, Missouri; and teammate, Cleo Brooks, was named the Queens’ first ever All-American. I was named second-team All-American. A low point of our year was losing more games than we won—something that didn’t happen again until 2005-06.
My second year turned out to be a very important year in Flying Queens’ history. Wayland President, Bill Marshall persuaded Claude Hutcherson, owner of Hutcherson Air Service, to fly us to play a team in Mexico. Shortly after this trip, the Hutcherson’s assumed sponsorship of the team and we became the Hutcherson Flying Queens. In addition to changing names, we also changed coaches mid season. Sam Allen was also the track coach so as track season approached, Henry “Hank” Garland, the men’s JV coach, was assigned to coach us. Highlights of this season for me were that I was named an AAU All American at the National Tournament in Dallas, Texas, along with Marie Wales and Pat Tate. Also, in our third year of competing in the National AAU Tournament, our team won second place.
I only played two years of college basketball because I got married at the end of my junior year. My fiancé had finished his degree at Texas Tech and taken a job in Levelland, Texas. He didn’t want to commute to Plainview to see me and we were ready to be together so I left school a year early. Our wedding was in the First Baptist Church chapel and the officiant was Dr. A. Hope Owen. My coach, Sam Allen who had a beautiful tenor voice, sang. As per my husband’s wishes, I was a stay-at-home mom. We had four sons and all of them turned out to be fine Christian men. One has a master’s degree and three of them have doctorates. I did teach from 1968 to 1971 in a mission kindergarten that was sponsored by my church, First Baptist Church in Midland, Texas, but I taught in the mornings so I was always home when our sons came home from school. After the Head Start Program made kindergarten accessible to all, we closed our church’s free kindergarten and I shifted my volunteer efforts to our Women’s Missionary Union (WMU) program. I was our WMU director from 1973 to 1975.
I had always wanted to finish my degree so in the fall of 1975 I started taking classes at the University of Texas Permian Basin in Odessa, Texas. I would drive from MIdland to Odessa two or three times a week. At the age of 47, I finally finished my degree with a major in P.E. with a minor in English. By this time we just had two sons at home. The youngest was a senior in high school and his older brother was going to Midland Junior College. I was qualified to teach full time but elected to substitute so I could have more free time. Also, we didn’t need the extra income as we were used to living just on my husband’s salary. I stayed very busy substituting in the Midland Independent School District for 12 years mostly teaching in high school. At the age of 62, I gave up my subbing job to do grandma things. Our one son and family lived in Midland but he and his wife had to be gone a lot due to work related travel. I kept their four children when they were out of town. During this time, I became the director of a Friendship International group that our church started and started painting ceramics as a hobby.
I have lots of joys and blessings and not many sorrows. My husband is now 90 years old and I am 87. We are still in relatively good health and have good minds, for which we are very thankful. We have travelled a lot over the years and have been to 17 different countries. I have painted ceramics as a hobby for quite a few years and still paint here in Sun City where we have retired. I have always loved to sing and still love about every kind of music. A fun memory for me is that at the National AAU Tournaments they often had entertainment between games. Two other Queens and I sang as did Coach Allen.
To all Queens present and former I would say: Keep striving for excellence!
Juanita Clepper Parks
Wayland Ex 1951
Flying Queens Forever!