Flying Queen

1966-69

Linda Pickens Price

My name is Linda Pickens Price. I don’t say “I am Linda Price” because I think, even though I am in my 7th decade of life, that I am still developing as a person. I can however tell you some events in my life that have helped shape me to come to this phase of my life journey.

I was born in Davis, Oklahoma and grew up in the Arbuckle Mountains in south central Oklahoma, about 60 miles north from the Texas and Oklahoma Border. The area is small, but it is very picturesque. It has spring fed creeks that help create Turner Falls.

The creeks, which include Colbert and Honey Creeks, are clear running with good fish to catch and eat. Turner Falls is magnificent. It can be easily viewed from an over-look on old highway 77, which is a winding highway through the mountains. Historically, the area has Fort Washita and Native American hunting grounds where ancient arrow heads are easily found. Huge cattle ranches still dominate the land. This beauty was the backdrop for the not-so-beautiful story of my early life.

My mother and father, Jewell and Roy Pickens were both simple country folks. Daddy and Mother both finished the 6th grade before having to help their own families. This was not that uncommon during those years and in that rural community. They could read, write, and do basic math. These were the days of the “Great Depression” and many, many people had to make extraordinary sacrifices to just survive. Daddy was 10 years older than Mother and according to her, he was fun-loving, very independent minded, and at times quite a character. They married when she was 17 years old. Daddy managed to buy 20 acres of land in the area in the mountains—about 7 miles west of Davis. He supported the family by hunting, fishing, trapping for furs, catching and selling minnows, running a whiskey still, and raising our food. I don’t think he ever held a regular type job except for a period when he worked for the WPA.

When I was born in 1948 my siblings consisted of my brother, Bobby (6 years older than me), and two older sisters, ElRay and Dorothy (11 and 12 years older respectively). They all lived in a one room log cabin with a dirt floor that Daddy had built. Prior to my birth, Daddy became ill with cancer and Mother was bed-ridden by her pregnancy with me so they moved into town (Davis) to live with my maternal Grandmother Hunnicutt. That was where I was born. My biological father died on his birthday, age 41. The only way I knew him was from stories told by my mother and my siblings. My mother re-told me the story many times that Daddy had forced himself to suffer through the pain of neck and throat cancer (melanoma) so he could be there when I was born. He succeeded, but then died 4 days before I was 3 months old.

According to the stories told me by both Mother and my sisters, when they, ElRay and Dorothy, were about 11 and 12 years old, immediately after our father died, they became so disobedient that Mother could not control their behavior. Having never experienced city life before and having new people and events occurring around them, they came and went from Grandmother’s house anytime and whenever they wished. Mother made the decision she had to move back to the country in order to get them under control. The town’s people took up a “collection hat” at the local rodeo and raised somewhere between $100 and $150 for Mother, which she used to build a one room house on the 20 acres we owned 7 miles from town. That solved the behavior problem, but created a few others. We didn’t have transportation, so had to walk the 7 miles into town with someone carrying me whenever we needed anything. Mother never got a driver’s license until I was a teenager and helped her improve her driving skills and learn the rules, so she could pass her written test. What a good teacher I must have been! Scary! Luckily the country school (Woodland) had a school bus that could take my brother and sisters to and from school (about an hour’s drive each way).

The one room house we lived in for my first four years had one bed where we all slept and a potbellied stove for heat and cooking There was no running water or electricity. The only clothes I wore as a child before going to school were primarily made from Gladiola flour sacks. Neighbors gave us milk, eggs, and other miscellaneous foods they could spare. I’m not sure how we survived in those years since we were isolated and there was no available or feasible employment for Mother. I believe it was due to the generosity of neighbors, people in the town of Davis, help from the local grocer, and the grace of God. There was no “welfare system” in place at that time, but I’m guessing the Murray County local government may have provided some supplement to Mother that went to the grocery store for a set amount each month for food. I really have no way of finding that out but would like to in order to thank them.

I do remember eating cornbread or frybread (bread made without eggs or milk) mixed with warm milk for many of our meals. Doctor Brown (local doctor) also gave Mother dried cereal and raisins for me to eat since I had boils on much of my body—probably due to poor nutrition. I also had whooping cough, from which Dr. Brown thought I was going to die. As a last resort he told Mother to find somebody who had a milking mare and feed me “mare’s milk.” She did and she claimed this is what saved my life. I have no idea whether drinking mare’s milk saved me from the whooping cough but am still alive today and I’m very grateful!

It was during one of the 7-mile walks into town and back to obtain groceries that Mother got introduced to my future step-father, George Carter. He was the foreman on a ranch that was located about 10 or more miles past our house into the Arbuckle Mountains. On occasion, he would happen to drive by in his pickup and would offer to give us a ride to town and back. This eventually led to their marriage in September of 1951. One condition of their marriage though was that Dorothy (age 15) had to leave our home and marry George’s top cow hand Lester “Dock” Jones. This meant her having to leave school and live another 10 miles into the mountains without friends. It is clear Mother must have been desperate. The marriage to George was a good thing in the sense it provided the income and means for our family to eat adequately, improve our physical surroundings somewhat, and have warmer clothes and shoes, but it was a tragic event in many other realms.

My step-father George immediately began to exhibit his abusive nature. He was a closet drunk and probably had other psychological issues. He treated Mother as if she was stupid, he flirted inappropriately with my sister ElRay, he worked my brother Bobby like he was a slave, and he began sexually abusing me at age 3. This continued until I was 9 when, under the threat of being killed, I was finally brave enough to tell Mother about his abuse. George continued to live with us until his death 5 years later. While the sexual abuse stopped, other types of disciplinary and emotional abuse continued until I was 14. Mother was too scared of him to intervene. I never saw George hit my mother, but I cannot imagine that he did not. George was a small man but carried a long knife, whip, and wore a holstered gun much of the time. He was very intimidating. My sister ElRay and brother Bobby told me in our adult life that he did not sexually abuse them. I wondered “why me” many times, but of course, I was the youngest and most vulnerable.

About one or so years after George and Mother married, George had our house moved to another location on the homestead. He eventually had a living room and a kitchen added, and then another bedroom and lastly a bathroom. We lived several more years without indoor plumbing after the move. Electricity was a wonderful addition as well as a propane burning stove and a refrigerator. The only heat was in the living room and kitchen. Mother would heat up bricks on the gas stove, wrap them in a heavy cloth and put them in the foot of beds under the cover so we could stay warm during the cold winter nights. ElRay, Bobby, and I slept together for several years until the addition was made and we got another bed.

I loved school and my teachers at Woodland and I never wanted to miss a day of class. I was fortunate and blessed with some innate intelligence, so I was eager to learn, and it came easy for me. Although I excelled in the classroom and was an obedient student in class, I was a terror and school yard bully to the boys. When recess came it was like my whole personality changed. I would physically intimidate the boys, rule all the school yard games, and coerce the boys to give me part of their candy at lunch. I think that my abuse at home was causing me to act out. Thanks to the Lord and my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Stevens, this behavior was brought under control. Mrs. Stevens simply had to tell me that I could only play with the girls and if I didn’t do so I would lose my recess play time. Problem solved.

I loved sports, especially basketball. My basketball career began when my brother, Bobby, and future brother-in-law, Charles, had a local blacksmith build an iron ring (hoop) that they then nailed to a tree at an appropriate height for a 6-year-old to shoot hoops. They continued to raise the hoop as I grew taller and stronger.

After ElRay finished high school and married Charles (1955) my life became more traumatic. I was 7 years old at the time. The sexual abuse from George increased since he had one less person in the house and it was easier to get me alone. My life was miserable! It was at this time that a Dream and a Hope for a way out my situation came to me. Charles refereed high school basketball and heard from Coach Bertha Teague of Bing, Okla. about the Flying Queens. Coach Teague had told him about how the Wayland team was the best and just didn’t seem to lose games. In retrospect, that was when the Flying Queens were having their 131-consecutive winning streak. She also told Charles that Wayland gave full scholarships to girls!

I listened to the story he told me and established my Dream and goal right then at age 7. I was going to be a Flying Queen, play basketball, and get a college education to escape my current situation. Wayland and the Queens were going to be my way out of poverty and my way out of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. That Dream never left my mind the entire time I was home until it came TRUE. I learned an invaluable lesson then that holds true today: never, ever give up dreaming! I also set other goals for myself. I was not going to be poor, I was going to marry a doctor or a lawyer, and I was getting out of Murray County when I graduated from high school.

Along the way, however, I did consider other ways out. I thought of running away. I thought of killing myself. I thought of killing George. At age 14, I even had a solid plan for doing the latter, knowing that I would be imprisoned and would have to give up my dream of Wayland and the Queens. Gratefully, God, cigarettes, and the pesticide DDT took that option off the table as George died of emphysema in March of my 8th grade year.

During my high school years, I focused on my Dream and worked hard at basketball and my studies. My basketball specialty was my hook shot, which allowed me to post up against players much taller than me. I was equally accurate going both right and left. I made the varsity high school basketball team in my 9th grade year and was named captain my sophomore year. I also played softball and volleyball. My junior year, we (Woodland) won the Oklahoma State Championship and we were runners-up my senior year. I was selected to play in Oklahoma’s annual East-West All-Star game, and it was there that Harley Redin, coach of the Flying Queens, first saw me play. He offered me a full scholarship—a Dream come true. Even though I had been dreaming of Wayland for years, I wanted to consider my options. I had also gotten offers from Ouachita Baptist, Look Magazine’s AAU team, and the famous Red Heads. It took me all of two days to eliminate those possibilities and say yes to Coach Redin.

Just a few days after graduating as Valedictorian from high school, I met my future husband, Ben, at a dance club in Ardmore, Oklahoma. Ben, who was 25, had just finished law school and was entering the Air Force. I was 18. My mother and Bobby had a problem with this age difference, but soon Mother adored Ben and age was no longer an issue.

In the fall of 1966, I headed for Wayland Baptist College to begin living my Dream. I didn’t have a suitcase, so my sister Dorothy loaned me one. Dorothy and her second husband took me to Mays Hall where I met my roommate Lana Graf. Coach Redin put us together. We are still great friends and I couldn’t have picked a better roommate. One day Coach called us in and told us about Diane Nelson, a Queen Bee who was very homesick. He asked us to befriend her. She didn’t make the varsity, so she only stayed one year, but the three of us remained good friends until she died of cancer in 2007.

I found myself somewhat shocked at the Wayland rules. At home I attended the First Baptist Church, but my church was not nearly as strict as Wayland. I couldn’t believe the restrictions. It was difficult for me to deal with at times. It seemed to me like most of the students thought the same with very little diversity. Lana and I both rebelled against this in several ways. An example was one of my speeches in speech class—a satirical fantasy where I described stumps carrying Bibles. (Got an “A” on my speech!) Lana did a demonstration speech on how to mix drinks as a bartender. She didn’t even know how to mix drinks. We had to study up on that. Also, we both became active in student government, becoming our class Senators so were able to voice our differences to Administration, etc. We even convinced the Administration to allow us to bring Neil Diamond on campus to perform in the auditorium. A couple of students (Gerald and Cory) got demerits for standing and “swaying” to the music, while most of the rest of us sat and just danced with our legs and feet. Today there is a totally different campus atmosphere!

Beyond basketball and the thrill and honor of being a Flying Queen, Wayland was and continues to be good to me in many ways. Among their gifts, I was selected by the faculty as Freshman of the Year, was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award, inducted into the Athletic Hall of Honor, and received the Distinguished Alumni Leadership Award.

One of my college professors who made a significant contribution to my life was Dr. Dorothy McCoy. She was Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Science and a well-respected senior professor. She wasn’t my advisor, but she gave me life-changing advice. In high school, I aspired to be a scientist—an astrophysicist or an astronomer. I knew I’d need math for that, so I signed up for one of Dr. McCoy’s classes. In high school, the highest math I had was Algebra II, taught by a coach who only knew enough to get us to page 30 in the textbook. Here I was in Dr. McCoy’s calculus class. I was afraid of her. I struggled to make an A in her class and never would have gotten through if my roommate, Lana Graf, hadn’t tutored me. At the end of the semester, Dr. McCoy called me into her office for a talk about grades and classes. She said, “You know you don’t have the background to be here. I know you made an A, but I watched you struggle all semester long. Even though you want to be a scientist, I strongly advise you to get out of math and science and do something in the humanities.” What tremendous guidance. That talk changed the whole course of my life.

Another exceptional woman, who taught me at Wayland and greatly impacted my life, was Dr. Mary Bubless. She was a psychiatrist who oversaw the MHMR facility in Plainview, Texas, and also taught psychology classes at Wayland. She was eccentric and brilliant and way ahead of her time in teaching students to think and apply instead of memorizing and regurgitating. I always had to scramble to figure out what she was asking us to think about. One of the field trips that she took us on helped me decide the career course of my life. She took us to Big Springs State Hospital (Asylum). There she let us watch her interview a psychotic patient before and after an electric shock treatment. She also let us watch the hospital staff hook the patient up and observe the ECT (electroconvulsive treatment). This was before doctors knew to administer anti-convulsion drugs prior to shocking. This patient convulsed so hard that he broke his arm. I was enthralled. This was my field. I felt I could learn more to contribute and improve conditions for the mentally ill. My childhood experiences would have, of course, influenced this decision. Ironically, I did not know at this time that one of my younger half-brothers would develop schizophrenia and I would be needed to take care of him over a period of years.

During my 3-year basketball career at Wayland I was an AAU-All American, an AAU-All American Honorable Mention, and a NGBL All League Player (National Girls’ Basketball League). During my tenure, which happened to fall during the Nashville Business College dynasty, the Queens finished 3rd twice and 5th once in the National AAU Tournament, won the inaugural National Women’s Invitational Tournament, and were NGBL Champions. I never aspired to play a 4th year. Being tremendously goal oriented, I decided I wanted to graduate from college in 3 years, marry my boyfriend Ben, and get on with our lives. To that end, I took 7 hours in summer school each summer and 18 or maximum hours allowed each semester, graduating cum laude. I loved basketball, but never thought about coaching and teaching. Basketball was not an end. I was ready for a change. I wanted to go to graduate school and get a Ph.D. in psychology. Ben wanted me to stay and play and try to set some school records, but basketball was no longer that meaningful and I was ready to move forward.

A memorable part of my basketball career is that Wayland didn’t allow women to be married and play basketball. If you married, you would also lose your scholarship. Except for being sexually abused, I was a virgin. I wasn’t going to have sex before marriage. We were ready so Ben and I were secretly married on May 3, 1968 while he was still in the Air Force. That fall when Ben was discharged, he came to Plainview to live and we wanted to live together. Thus, I decided to ask Coach Redin if I could marry, retain my scholarship, and play. I felt I had a timely opportunity since I was a co-captain, the team’s leading scorer, and our team had a good chance of winning the National AAU Tournament that year. Also, Ben was a lawyer and we knew how discriminatory this policy was. Men at Wayland who chose to marry were allowed to retain their scholarships and play. Coach Redin said that he would have to think about my request and talk to the Administration. They decided that it would be up to my team members to decide if they would let me stay on the team. I couldn’t believe Coach was actually going to have the team vote on whether or not I could get married. Yes, he called my 11 team members together and had them vote. There was one dissenter. Ben and I were “married” on December 22, 1968, with Wayland’s Dean Bryan Clemons (whom I adored) officiating. The “team” made a good decision since Ben and I now have had over 50 years of a great marriage! One of the things I’m most proud of accomplishing during my time at Wayland is breaking this discriminatory procedure. In retrospect Wayland was probably ready, too.

Through this time in our lives, Wilda and Claude Hutcherson were very good to Ben and to me. For instance, they sensed that we didn’t have any money for a honeymoon, so they offered us use of their guest trailer that was on their property in Ruidoso, New Mexico. Ben had saved up enough money that we could have a couple of fun nights out but, when the only pair of shoes I had fell completely apart, we spent all of our money on boots for me. Thus, our honeymoon fare consisted of bologna sandwiches and milk. We had a great time though because the Hutchersons’ had a sled and we did a lot of snow sledding.

After studying psychology at Wayland, I earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Tulane University. I was a social worker, private therapist, worked for MHMRA of Harris County and held numerous clinical and academic positions (at UT Health Science Center Medical School and University of Houston) before ending up as the Chief Administrative Officer for the University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston Department of Psychiatry and then the Chief Administrator of a 250-bed full service psychiatric hospital under the auspices of the UTHSC-Houston. While holding these positions, I was referenced in a Houston magazine describing the 10 most powerful women in Houston. In the early 90’s, I resigned my administrative and academic positions. After taking some time off to assess my life and relax I discovered my next direction. Ben and I formed our own company that specializes in the evaluation of business office outsourcing needs in healthcare facilities or academic institutions and also provides consultation and connections to accomplish customized business solutions. The company has been very successful and has certainly helped fulfill my goal of never being poor. My retirement from full time employment also allowed us to travel to places all over the world and spend more quality time with each other. Ben has been my major emotional support and soul mate the entirety of my adult life. He was definitely sent to me by God.

I was lucky enough to have had my mother in my life until she died at the age of 63 in 1980 from a sudden stroke. My brother, Bobby, needed to live with us in the Houston area (Huffman) most of the last two years of his life due to his fight to survive squamous cancer with treatment received at MD Anderson Cancer Center. It was a courageous battle that he eventually lost. His loss was devastating to both Ben and me. He had been like a father to me and a brother to Ben. My sister, Dorothy, also died of cancer.

ElRay, my remaining sister, and I have a very close relationship. Mother and George had 2 sons—Carroll, born in 1953, and Carl in 1954. I loved my half-brothers very much from the very beginning. They looked like little blonde headed twins. Both are deceased now. Carl died in a car accident as a passenger and Carroll from emphysema. We were close and they each lived periodically with my husband, Ben, and me after they left home. During that time, I found out that each had been abused by George, also.

I think it was my introspective personality and struggle to face and work through the things that happened to me as a child that led me to my profession. You see, I didn’t just experience sexual abuse at home. I was abused by two other school employees. I have often wondered if abused people have a sign on their foreheads that reads, “You can abuse me too.” The “Me Too” movement means a lot to me because, as I saw thousands of women come forward to say “Me Too,” it gave me the courage to put my story in writing and share it with you. My hope is that it may help someone else with their struggles and dreams.

I am extremely appreciative of the part Wayland and basketball played in giving me a way out! I am proud to be a part of the Flying Queens’ rich history and I continue to support Wayland and the Flying Queens. I am President of the Hutcherson Flying Queens Foundation and we have been working tirelessly to support the Flying Queens induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019. To that end, the Foundation has collected over 30 stories of women who, one-by one, have made their way to Wayland Baptist College to play basketball. Through a basketball scholarship, they obtained a college education, and through that education have gone on to make major contributions to society. These stories are representative of the hundreds, and I would encourage all former Flying Queens, Bees, Coaches and Managers to share your story.

Linda Pickens Price

Wayland Grad 1969

Flying Queens Forever!