Choo Choo is O.K.

Several days ago, there was a thread on another board about Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice. I was amazed at the number of posts on the thread and the amount of detail that posters remembered from the Justice era. After giving the matter some thought, I decided that I would try to find out how Choo Choo was doing and I informed the posters of the board in question, that if successful, I would report on my conversation with him.

Choo Choo now lives in Cherryville, N.C. and my telephone call was answered by his wife Sarah. I really didn't know what to expect because I allowed for the fact that even though CJ is in his 70's, there was a possibility that he has concerns for his privacy and might not welcome calls from strangers. Well, maybe I shouldn't refer to myself as a stranger since I had met CJ on two previous occasions which are covered in a previous article entitled "True Student Athletes". I asked CJ if he remembered the gathering at my house in Charlottesville and he said that he did. I felt more comfortable after that.

I asked CJ about his health and told him that I had heard that he was having some health problems. CJ said that he was doing fine and still working with his son-in law in the insurance business. I told him that I had been told that his health was responsible for him not being able to attend an Awards ceremony in Kenan several years ago, but he said his health was not the reason that he missed that ceremony. He said it was just one of those things that he couldn't work out. I asked him if he was close to the UNC football situation at the present time and he said that he wasn't but that he would like to be more involved and planned to attend every game in Kenan this fall. I told him that posters frequently spoke fondly of the days when he did the color for the UNC broadcasts of football games and he said he remembered those days with fondness. We discussed how difficult it is to please everybody when you do things of a public nature and we both chuckled. I know from personal experience how difficult it is because I have gotten into a couple of "verbal brawls" on other boards even though I have made a conscious effort to avoid writing on controversial subjects.

I asked him if the names Bud Lail and Tom Fetzer meant anything to him and he replied in the affirmative. He said they were players at Wake Forest during the time he was at UNC. I asked him about these two former players because a poster on the board previously mentioned had recounted an incident involving them and CJ. I believe it was 1948 in a game at Groves Stadium ( Now Tony Trintini Stadium ) that Lail and Fetzer hit CJ after he was out of bounds and knocked CJ into the temporary seats that had been added on the sidelines. The poster had implied that CJ had been knocked out and that a riot was barely avoided until cooler heads prevailed. CJ remembered the hit and said it was a hard hit but he wasn't knocked out. CJ never said a negative word about the hit, but I've come to expect that from him. He definitely wasn't a trash talker that we see so much in sports today.

I told CJ that the most courageous thing I had ever seen an athlete do was when there was a fake handoff on a punt return in that same Wake Forest game where CJ kept the ball, turned his back to the on rushing Demon Deacons, and I mean they had some monsters, held the ball on his thigh so as not to be seen from his back and waited for the downfield tacklers to rush by him. They thought CJ had handed off the ball to the other punt returner and charged right by him. The reason this play stands out in my memory was that I was seated directly to the side of where this occurred and I could see that CJ still had the ball. CJ remembers the play and commented that it was successful because Dick Bunting had carried out such a good fake. If one of those charging Wake Forest players had hit him from the back, I doubt if CJ would have played anymore that day. I also remember from the game that fully 2/3 of the crowd was rooting for Carolina. Wake Forest has always been small compared to the other schools in the area and at that time had less than 2000 students.

I asked him if it was true that Dick Crum tried to have his lifetime pass to Kenan Stadium revoked and he confirmed that this was true. I asked what possible motivation DC could have had and CJ replied that the only thing he could think of was that DC was not comfortable with the "old Timers" around. I have never been a big DC fan, but if I had known about this at the time, I think I would have led a group in protest at a game in Kenan. Bet I wouldn't have had too much difficulty in getting others to join me in protest either.

The last thing CJ said to me was " You have made an old man's day". That may be true, Choo Choo, but if it is, then there were two old men made happy that day. It was a day I won't forget anytime soon.