The Phillip Long Story: Conclusion – Too Much Living to Do

Sometimes words can serve me well and sometimes words can go to hell,
for all they do.
For every dream that took me high there’s been a dream that passed me by.
I know that’s so true.
– Harry Chapin “Story of a Life”

It was the second day of May 1970.  We were parked at Caldwell’s and Phillip was in the back seat spreading his smile and charisma  through the car where LaWanda Frost, and me (and maybe Susan Smith . . . I can’t remember) were all talking about LaWanda and me getting married  the next night. Phillip was my best man. All of us were members of the PHS Class of 1969 and we had been laughing and having a great time remembering the days at PHS while Phillip and I had revealed a few tales from the Navy, but we kept most of our tales to ourselves because they weren’t really sharable (as you now know).

LaWanda and I had only been dating two weeks and Phillip couldn’t believe I was getting married.  Earlier that day in private he had confronted me “Webster, what is wrong with you?  You have no business getting married.”

I had tried to explain to him how I had to leave town in two days to take my next radio gig in Dimmitt, TX. and I didn’t want to go without her.  He argued how there were plenty of women in Dimmitt, TX.

I finally said, “Phillip, It’s like this.  I finally found the promised land . . . and so did she.  We found it together, and I am not leaving here without her.  He looked at me and had the biggest grin I think I ever saw him smile and said (you guessed it) . . .

“Webster, your crazy”

So that night at Caldwell’s I found it really funny when suddenly LaWanda looked at Phillip and said, “Phillip, When are you and Susan going to get married?”

Phillip moved his head from side to side and said, “Oh, man. I can’t get married.  I’ve got too much living to do.”

Four weeks later he was killed in a tragic automobile accident on Pampa High School graduation night 1970.  Phillip was picked up by some graduates as he was standing in front of the Capri Theater.  Two blocks later the car hit a dip and crashed into a tree at Pampa’s Central Park.  Phillip died at the scene.

The morning after Phillip’s death my parents did not want to call and tell me on the phone.  They were on their way to Dimmit to tell me in person and were only about 15 miles away when I pulled some news copy off the radio wire to prepare for the noon news.  In front of me were the details of Phillip’s death, delivered by the Associated Press, not my parents.  In many ways I think I preferred it this way.

I delivered the news.  I did not include the story of Phillip’s death.  There are some limits where you just don’t test yourself.  I felt I could hold my composure and deliver the newscast, but not that story.

Phillip was buried in a grave almost as close to Pampa High School as you could be buried, maybe 50 feet from the fence on Duncan street. At the funeral his brother Paul and I hugged each other and as a condolence I said to Paul “He was my best friend”.

Paul acted like that offended him and replied, “He was my best brother.”

I didn’t know what to think of that so I let it pass and never had a chance to discuss it with Paul.  I did not mean it to offend him.

Not too many years later Paul’s bullet riddled body was found buried under some galvanized tin in a remote part of south Texas.

Paul had a son named Justin who was the spitting image of Phillip.  He was the same age of my now deceased daughter and when they were both 17 my daughter was living with me and for a time they went together.  She moved back to Aledo to be with LaWanda before her senior year.

In the 1990’s I became close to Twyla, Phillip and Paul’s mother.  She would come by my office in downtown Pampa and sometimes sit and talk for 30 minutes or more.  She had endured a lot of tragedy and Owen, her husband, was failing in health and she worried a lot about the future.  She came to me to talk.  I listened.

Twyla, had raised Paul, Phillip, Pam, and then Justin.   Paul and Justin were in constant trouble.  She had buried two sons and worried she would have to bury Justin or watch him go to prison.  The idea of either brought her to tears and she was almost out of those.  Before Twyla passed away she told me Justin had straightened out and become a good young man and she was really proud of him

Knowing how much he looked like Phillip I couldn’t help but think how wonderful that was.

If Phillip Long had lived and made the most out of the gifts he was given he could have been anything he wanted to be.  He could have achieved anything he wanted to achieve.  To use the word Buzzy Green recently used, Phillip Long had a magical quality about him that would have opened doors the rest of us would have had to open for ourselves.  The pathway for Phillip’s future success was to give the US government four years of active service and then get a higher education Owen and Twyla could not give him.

If Phillip had taken that path he could have become President of the United States, not just our senior class.

With an undesirable discharge on his record and no higher education . . . even with all his charisma he would have some big obstacles to overcome.

About 3 months after his death LaWanda and I had just packed and moved from Dimmitt to Plainview where I had been hired for a mid-morning gig with  a substantial raise at a larger station as I was working my way up on my dream of making it into big time radio.  We had not even been there a week.

I am on the air when I got a call for “David Webster”.  Since I used an air name “Robert Day” I knew the call had to be personal. I put on a record and said “Hello”.

“David Webster. Johnny Dark, K-O-M-A  I have your air check.  I like your sound.  I’ll pay you $125 a week.  Can you be here tonight?”

My heart skipped a beat.  “I need to give notice.”

“I’m not looking for applications.  I have a drawer full of those” and he hung up without saying another word.

I was immediately taken back to the night Phillip and I had gone to Oklahoma City and how as we left KOMA that night I had told myself I would work there someday.  Well, maybe not, now, but at least I had the chance.

“What do you think, Phillip?” I reached out to his spirit.  “You were there.  Should I have just walked out of here and headed for Oklahoma City?”

I heard a little voice from heaven say “Webster, you’re crazy.”

About Marvin David Webster

I am an American. I was Born Under a Wanderin' Star. Since 2010 I have called the Philippines home.
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20 Responses to The Phillip Long Story: Conclusion – Too Much Living to Do

  1. Barbara Frazier says:

    David, I just spent the morning reading this great story of love between two “brothers”. I enjoyed it immensely. I did not remember the two of you being so close, but this is a wonderful tribute to you both. Thanks for sharing this. The humor and the tears I shed over this made me remember…. Believe it or not, Debby Walsh-Dalton and I were riding the drag that graduation night in 1970. Phil got into the car with us and as we rode around, he shared a “snippet” of his navy story and it made me weep for him that night. I remember Deb and I waking the next morning to the news of his death and were both so shocked! You obviously have a wonderful gift in writing and hope that you will share more stories in the future. God bless you and thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barbara, Thank you for the kind words. Phillip and I ran in different circles in school except for those occasional times when we would become partners in some crazy adventure (like the Oklahoma City trip). It was the Navy that brought us together and it was the Navy that separated us. I am glad you enjoyed the details of the days after we graduated from PHS.


  2. This story made me laugh and ultimately cry. You have a great ability to use words to keep a person engaged in the story. I remember the night that Phillip died. I grew up in Pampa and even though I am a few years younger than you, I remember when the accident happened. You were a great friend to Phil and I find it sad that you have carried any guilt over the turn of events in your lives. Be encouraged, you have a gift for story telling. I hope to have the opportunity to read the book you are working on now. God Bless.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ron Weidler says:

    Really enjoyed reading this, David. Much of this I never knew. Such a sad loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a great story – made me cry, but all great stories do. I only knew Phil as the good-looking guy who always had the locker next to mine, and always talked to me. Such a loss for all of us.
    You need to write a book about this – your love & care for him shows.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Nancy. I am writing a book, but not about Phillip. It is called “My Marvelous Destiny” and should be finished late this fall. As for writing anything else about Phillip . . . it would be difficult. I reached inside myself and forced myself to be transparent about things I am not proud of. Truth is truth and bending or omitting it destroys it. I revealed it and I know of nothing else material to add. I accepted the fact many years ago that Phillip was gone. It was only after writing this that I accepted the fact I was forgiven.


  5. Rick Frye says:

    David, what a wonderful job of relating such a personal story. I never knew all the details of Phillip’s time in the Navy. I remember all too well the tragedy of graduation night. You are a gifted writer and most of all a loyal friend to Phillip. God bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Rick. I am honored you took the time to read my accounting of the events that led up to Phillip’s death. I believe understanding what Phillip was dealing with makes it easier to understand what happened the night he died. Phillip was an amazing human being. He had a good heart and a terrific sense of humor. I know we all still miss him 44 years after his death.


  6. Helen says:

    David–I find your journey amazing. I’m glad I’ve gotten to know you through FB. And I respect your choice, your destiny. Much happiness to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Leslie Wells says:

    You are a great writer. I was spellbound to keep reading. I was in the Class of 78 but had older relatives from the Class of 74 and 70. I too, had driven by Central Park and saw “the tree” where the crash occurred. I admire your sense of brotherhood. I know this was not easy to write. I pray you’ve truly forgiven yourself as you know Phillip would have easily have forgiven you for any real or perceived transgressions. God Bless you and thanks for the entries.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. David, I read through a few of your blogs and finished with the series about you and your friend Phillip. You have a great gift of writing, expressing yourself and holding onto the reader’s attention. Phillip sounds like he was an amazing friend and buddies like that are just gifts to have. Thank you for sharing.Tracy Solomon

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Linda Dalsing McPherson says:

    All I can say is WOW!! Phillip and I were friends at Pampa Junior High. I knew then he was bound for glory, I didn’t realize he would be “Glory Bound” at such a young age. I’ll never forget how he would call me “bird legs” and smile that million dollar smile that by itself could ROAR with laughter without making a sound. David (my late husband) and I had talked about Phillip a lot over the years and would laugh about things he said or did in Jr High. I want you to know I appreciate you and your memories of our lives of ’69. You have touched my life with your blog, have made me smile, and brought me close to tears at times. I salute you dear David and may you have a truly God Blessed life. Linda Dalsing McPherson

    Liked by 1 person

  10. David Cory says:

    David,Buzzy put it so well. Phillip was one of those people that you couldn’t help but like even if you were only casual friends. My only recollections of Phillip are greetings passing in the hall. We spent our high school years in different circles. I believe we recognized each other, but knew nothing about each other. The class reunions have been a great opportunity to spend time and actually get to know the people in our class. Thanks for giving me an insight into a classmate about whom I always wanted to know more. I agree with the other comments regarding the need for more of these stories. Please continue writing.Thanks for sharing your story,David

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Buzzy Green says:

    David,What a trip! You were placed in a unique position. Phillip and I were buds in the VERY early years, but we parted ways somewhere around 13 or 14 years of age. In some ways, I couldn’t keep up with him. In other ways, he just couldn’t accept the more traditional (and compliant) path which I chose.Others got very close to Phillip in high school, and then most of us completely parted ways with him at graduation.Very uniquely, you fill the gap from that important day in May 1969 to his death a year later. Thanks for sharing about that time.He was a young man with a magnetic personality and incredible (almost unlimited) potential. but it is important that we not idolize the self-destructive lifestyle that drew him to his fate. His energy and innate love of life encouraged everyone he contacted, and we all loved him. Alas, his potential was unrealized.Thanks for the terrific story.Buzzy

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Josiah says:

    David Schaub and I see it the same way. I had to wait a few days to comment on it because the story has affected me so strongly. It is a powerful story. It is a universal story. You have told it in a really down to earth way that has gripped me. This should be a book. I join David in urging that.I have gone back through my yearbooks to find each photo of Phil. He made a strong impression on me since about 7th grade. You have answered a lot of questions that had been long tucked away in a corner of my mind since summer 1970.Of course you are not responsible for Phil’s post-high school trajectory and tragic demise, but the theme of abandonment/betrayal/denial is ancient and even religious in human experience and nature . . . and very, very literary and profound . . . and you have successfully captured it and put it into words.Thank you for doing all of us a service. -Josiah

    Liked by 1 person

  13. david schaub says:

    Webster–That was great. I absolutely know that that was a story which had to be told. I think that it is one that should help a few people in your class and elsewhere to understand Phil and you and the whole situation around and leading up to his death. There has always been a little muffled, whispered undertone to his death to the effect….”there is more here than just this.” Maybe this is the “more”. I dont know.You are a marvelous storyteller and I cant tell you how much I enjoyed it. It also gave me an insight into someone whom I knew long ago that was more than I thought and at the same time less. Phil came across as being a lot more confident and assured than apparently he really was. The end of the story leaves me wanting more but I dont know whether it is more stories or more about Phil or his ending. I have to think about it and let you know. Regardless, this is the start of the book you must write. Now that it is started, you cant stop. We need a book on growing up Pampa or Class of ’69 or whatever you want to call it because there are other stories out there that also need to be told. Great job buddy.

    Liked by 1 person

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