Rebecca has been a friend for several years and I have always enjoyed and respected her writing.
I recall her asking me what my motivation for writing was. I told her and am telling you now; it is for no other reason than for people to remember where they came from.
Where we came from greatly influences who we become. The people we meet, the places we go, the friends we make all influence the direction our lives take.
I have now been asked to share my thoughts with you and I am honored and humbled by this opportunity.
Growing up in the Keithburg Community, I attended school at North Canton Elementary. Lee Roy Tippens was the principal with Mrs. Tippens managing the lunch room.
His son, Danny, was a teacher and a coach at the school and his daughter-in-law, Pam, was also a teacher. It was a different time when people trusted the school staff and supported them.
It was a time when if you got in trouble in school, it was double trouble when you got home.
I can remember my father telling Mr. Tippens that if I ever did something wrong to just go ahead and punish me and let him know.
I was a believer and understood what that meant. Therefore I tried to do as I was told.
The students called Danny either Coach or Mr. D. He was our basketball coach and carried a lot of knowledge about the game. But he was more than that.
He was a mentor who had a genuine care for his students.
It was during the segregation period in our community but you would have never known it at North Canton.
This is largely due to Mr. D and his attitude toward all of the kids regardless of the color of our skin.
He treated us all the same and expected us to do likewise.
He may never be recognized like many have for their efforts during this tumultuous period in our history, but he should. Because of him, we learned respect because he demanded it.
Mr. D was not the sit on the bench kind of teacher. We spent countless hours playing football, basketball, softball, and even throwing horseshoes.
He was always on the field with us. He was always leading us. And it brought us together as a school and a community.
There were some fine athletes who came from North Canton School. However, I wasn’t one of them.
But I did get a chance to play flag football against a couple of folks who went on to play at the college and professional level.
One of those fellows was Donnie McMickens. Donnie went on to be a star running back for the Cherokee Warriors.
After high school, Donnie played for the University of Georgia and was part of the 1980 championship team.
Another player who went on to become successful was Charles “Too Mean” Martin. His path led him to play for the Green Bay Packers.
I never really understood how he got the nickname Too Mean for he was truly a gentle giant. Sadly, Charles died a few years ago due to an illness that took him way too soon.
Both Donnie and Charles were good fellows and spent many hours on the field at North Canton. I say they were good because they never hurt me during a game.
That in itself is amazing since I weighed about 90 pounds. But whether we played for the Green Bay Packers, Georgia Bulldogs; or stayed in Cherokee County and built our lives, Danny Tippens had his handprint on us.
He led us to do the right thing and I am sure that every student he taught has remembered those lessons as they live their lives.
Mr. D is still in the community and can be found on most days at the Canton Golf Club. We have talked many times about the good old days and I have made sure to tell him what an influence he has had in my life.
He has told me several times that he doesn’t know if he could teach in the schools today because it is different.
However, I am sure there are some teachers and coaches today who love their students as much as he did.
But there was only one Mr. D. I am now 49 years old and when we talk, I still call him Coach or Mr. D. He has earned it.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.