By Dixie Hill
In my eyes Coach Mickey Cannon, who was laid to rest in Atmore’s Oak Hill Cemetery on May 11, was the essence of the “All Around Best Athlete.” He excelled in football, basketball, baseball, swimming, and tennis. That was about the extent of sports played in the late 1950s and early-to-mid ‘60s when Mickey and I grew up together in Atmore.
At Escambia County High School, he probably didn’t run track only because it would have interfered with being on the basketball team. His sacrifice was worth it. Senior year his basketball teammates elected him their captain. The same year he quarterbacked the Blue Devil football team.
But my friendship with Mickey began long before that. After my A.C. Moore heart throb, Ronnie Pitts, moved away after sixth grade, my girlish fascination for boys turned to Mickey. He was still sort of “the new boy” with that huge smile and crystal baby blue eyes. In 1957, his family had moved to Atmore from Pine Apple, Alabama, for Mickey’s dad, Coach Frank Cannon, to teach and coach here.
At that time I lived on the corner of Beck and School streets. The Cannons lived two doors down on School Street toward the (then) junior high, the big red brick building with white columns facing S. Pensacola Avenue. That neighborhood was our sports’ kingdom.
Back then most parents required their kids to at least be in their own yards by dusk. Mickey was probably the last classmate I saw every day. Many of our late afternoons were spent sitting in James Barnett’s parents’ arbor swing, eating scuppernongs, and laughing until we could taste our own tears.
During those days we also spent many afternoons playing tennis behind the junior high. Mickey could play against Peggy Troutman and me – and win! We ran so much and played so hard on those asphalt courts, I remember going through a new pair of tennis shoes in one month. Luckily one of the stores downtown sold tennis shoes for $1, marked down from $2.99.
On summer mornings Mickey and I rode our bikes to the city pool across town to take swimming lessons, rode home for lunch, then back for afternoons for more fun in the water. Coach (Arvel) Holmes taught us life saving one summer.
To pass the course, we had to be able to pull Coach Holmes from the deep end of the pool to the shallow. He was at least six-feet tall and probably weighed 230 pounds, but Mickey and I both did it! At the end of the season, Coach Holmes held relays in which we were all required to participate. Only two people made it to the final relay to decide the summer’s winner. That was the only time I ever beat Mickey Cannon at anything. To this day I wonder if he let me win on that long ago summer day.
In 1989 while I was on a business and pleasure trip to the Far East, I was in South Korea in a shoe shop being measured for a pair of handmade pumps. In his best English, the shoe salesman said, “You got foot like duck!” Then it hit me. Maybe I really did beat Mickey that long ago day.
Some of my most vivid memories of Mickey are of when I was a Blue Devil cheerleader running across lighted football fields to hug the neck of our Blue Devil quarterback at the end of every game, no matter if they were home or away.
Mickey was very competitive in all sports and excelled in all he participated. Not only that, he wrote about sports – and ECHS games – as the EsCoHi Sports Editor his senior year. The same year he was a member of the Panhellenic Council, Quill and Scroll honorary society, the Beta Club, and he joined the Bible Club.
I’m so very happy to know Mickey knew our Lord and Saviour! He beat me again to that finish line.
I know you were never one to rest in peace, Mick, so go play tennis with Peggy Troutman Reeves and a flight of other angels … until we meet again, my friend.
Dixie Lee Hill lives in Hoover, Ala., where she is a proud grandmother of three and mother of Tracy Wingard Donovan. Dixie enjoys working remotely from home in the mortgage lending business.