Mosher part III: Sports and the day that changed my life

Terry Mosher 3



Sports was always a big part of my life. My three older brothers were all good athletes and starred in high school. Ray, the oldest, played football and baseball for Portville (New York) CentralSchool. He could have started for the school, but elected to take the winter sports season off.

Ronnie, the second oldest boy to Ray, starred in all three major sports ‑ football, basketball and baseball (he also ran track) ‑ for PCS. He made all-county in basketball for four years, was the starting QB in football for three years and started four years in baseball for the PCS Panthers.

David, the next on the Mosher family tree, also played all three major sports, plus did the high jump in track and field. He still is ranked in the top 10 (8th) in career basketball scoring at PCS ‑ and he graduated in 1955 in an era when there were jump balls after every held ball and nobody played a run ‘n gun style. It was all half-court.

He held the single-game scoring record at 33 points for several years, and again this was during a time when the average high school score was in the 40s and 50s. There was no shot clock and teams often used a four-corner offense to stall out time if one team had the lead late in the game.

Dave had broken his right hand falling out of a haymow when he was about 14 and taught himself to do everything left-handed, including shooting a basketball. He was a six-foot-two post player who could use either hand equally as well, and was also a tremendous rebounder.

He doesn’t remember this, but I saw him in one game during a jump ball at the foul line tip in the ball for two points. That drove the crowd just absolutely crazy. Dave was a very marked man when he played, often being double-teamed. He still averaged over 15 points a game for his career.

It was with that family athletic background that I came along. There is an old saying that in order to get better you need to play against the best. That certainly was me. By the time I was nine or 10 I was far superior athletically than any of my peer group, but it didn’t get me positive results when I played midget football. I was the QB, but we had a terrible team. I know what it is liked to get the center snap, turn around, and before I could hand off the ball, get smeared. Defenders were all over me like a wet coat.

I have written before how we won our only Midget Football game. We recruited Bob Guenther off the PCS junior varsity team. He came down to play right tackle for us for one game. I showed I was not dumb, by running almost every play off right tackle, and we won 36-7. The next time we played the same team we didn’t have Bob and we lost 37-6.

It dawned on me a couple years ago that we never fielded a punt that season ‑ except for once. And it was against the St. Mary’s undefeated team. They beat us something like 66-0, but a weird thing happened in the game ‑ St. Mary’s punted. We must have held them, forcing a fourth-down punt. How we did that is a big mystery to me.

Anyway, I was the captain and leader of my team and when St. Mary’s went to punt I suddenly realized somebody had to receive the punt. I tried to get our middle linebacker, and center, to do it. Bruce was plenty tough, but I also discovered he was smart. He refused.

After Bruce twice refusing me, I had no choice but to do it myself.  As I walked back to field the punt I thought I was going to get killed. I could visualize those beer-drinking, cigar-smoking St. Mary’s’ giants crushing me like an elephant does to an ant.

I was trembling with great fear as the ball sailed right to me. I caught it, took a couple small steps and was swarmed under like I was nothing. The amazing thing about it is that I held on to the ball and when I got up I felt great. No injuries, no hurts. It is, though, the only time in my Midget Football career that our team had to field a punt. We had to catch a lot of kickoffs.

When I reached seventh grade I was the starting QB on the junior varsity football team. I had recorded the highest score on a test we had to take on the playbook, and that includes all the high school kids as well as us middle school guys. Having three older brothers who played quarterback was a big help in learning the playbook.

I was also the second-leading scorer on the middle school basketball team (12.5 points a game) to Steve Wilkins, who was about five-foot-10 as an eighth-grader and played center for us. I was the point guard and most of the time I’d just lob the ball into Steve and he would shoot lay-ups. He averaged 27 points a game, and we lost just one game our eighth-grade year. That’s a story I have told before, also.

We were playing Port Allegheny and had a three-point lead with under a minute to play. I had the ball stolen from me that led to a fast break basketball for them. So now we are ahead by just a point. I took the ball out of bounds and threw it in right to the same defender. He scored another lay-up and they won by one point.

I don’t know why I remember that. But it’s always stuck with me. I can’t shake it. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but that one was plain stupid.

It was in the eighth grade that my life changed forever. Up until then I had a childhood that was perfect. You could not ask for better. I was Huck Finn. I had everything I needed and did just about anything I wanted, and got mostly positive results.

Then came May 21, 1953. I was sitting in Mr. Scott’s English class in the row next to the windows, two seats back from the front. I was minding my own business when Mr. Scott went to the door to answer a knock. He came back and walked directly to me.

“You are excused to go home,” Mr. Scott said.

I didn’t know what was going on, and as I walked across the room in front of my classmates, I got all kinds of jeers for being able to leave school early. It was all in good taste, and I kind of enjoyed it.

The enjoyment was very brief. I walked out of the room and into the hallway and there was my dad, my older sister, Ronnie and David. The talk was short and not so sweet. Jessie Elaine Mosher ‑ my mother ‑ had died.

I don’t remember much after that. It’s all a blank. My mother was just 48. She had been hospitalized at St. Francis in Olean (New York) for about a week. But I had no clue as to the seriousness of her ailment ‑ a leaky heart valve.

The night before she died (My 20), she had requested of my father to see all of her kids. Ray was in the Air Force stationed on Okinawa (he never made it back for the funeral), but the  rest of us filed in to mama’s room at St. Francis one at a time so she could see and talk to us.

This is the part I have no memory of. The last thing I remember is my father and sister pushing me into mama’s room. I didn’t want to go in. There was something just not right about it. And I can’t explain what it was, but it just didn’t feel right.

The last thing I remember is seeing my mother sitting on the edge of her bed. Her hair was down and long and all white. White as snow. I had never seen it that way or that color, and it scared me.

That is the last of my memory. I have tried over the years to unlock the vault in my mind that holds that memory to no avail. It’s the one thing I would give anything for to know what she told me. It’s one of the saddest moments of my life.

Years later, my dad told me that mama had told him that the night before she requested to see us she had been visited by Angels. They told her that they had come to get her and that she would go with them after she said goodbye to her children.

Right on clue, Mama died the morning of May 21, 1953.

I remember the funeral. It was held at our house. Mama laid in rest in her coffin in our living room. There must have been at least a 100 people who came for the service. I never cried. My dad did. I did not.

After she was laid to rest I remember we came back to our house. As people gathered, I snuck out the backdoor and walked up the dike that held back the Allegheny River. Suddenly, I heard David yelling for me. There was a row boat on top of the dike, I lifted it up and hid under it.

David came up to the dike looking for me, and actually stood next to the boat. I have now come to believe that he knew where I was hiding, but probably didn’t have the emotional strength to want to find me.

He eventually left and I was alone, underneath the boat, with just my thoughts to keep me company. Slowly, tears started flowing down my cheeks. I sat there until it got dark. Only then did I come out of my hiding place, and slowly walked back to the house.

The next morning I awoke, got dressed and started to make my way down the steps to the kitchen. Half-way down, I blurted out, “Mama, what’s for breakfast?” I barely got the words out when I realized mama was dead.

I collapsed on the stairs and cried like a baby.