Tom Patterson was a 1956 honor graduate of Harlingen High School, where his mother was the best teacher at the time and no doubt one of best in the long history of HHS.

Tom graduated from the University of Michigan, and had a fine career as a bank and information systems executive.

Tom and his lovely wife Nancy live in Chicago, but spend a lot of time in their Montana place.

These are his RGV memories.

Tom Patterson, Chicago

“I was born in Dallas to wonderful parents, but was raised in Harlingen where mom taught English at Harlingen High School.”

Pre-High School

“Harlingen had a bustling downtown in the 1950s. The Arcadia had first run movies, and if you missed one, you could wait a few months and see it at the Strand. The Rialto featured cowboy movies, a half block from the Strand.”

Early TV

“We were just getting TV in the early 50s so you could watch a big console TV in the window of a downtown appliance store or invite yourself to the home of a classmate whose family owned one of the first TVs.

Our TV standards were so low a Buster Keaton silent movie drew a big crowd. We had no live programs for years because the cable did not extend to the Valley, and our two local stations were in Matamoros!”

First Little League

“I was a catcher in Harlingen’s first Little League. Dad managed our Ready Mix team, one of the league’s four. We won the second half, and I am still waiting to play Johnny Bourg’s Optimists for the championship.

I was the catcher on what we thought was a great All-Star team, but we were eliminated

4-0 and 2-1 in Victoria. (Photographic memory? Hardly. Johnny looked it up.) Our bus headed home rather than to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. Darn!”


Harlingen High School

“At HHS, I was known as ‘Flash’ who took all the photos for the El Arroyo and the school newspaper the Cardinal. That explains why I’m hard to find in the annual.

I took all the Valley Morning Star photos of our great basketball teams and very good football teams. During football and basketball seasons the Star deserved the name ‘Harlingen Cardinals Star’.

Our basketball team dominated Valley, San Antonio, and Corpus teams for two years before losing a close bi-district game my junior year and a state tournament semifinal my senior year. The football team came within a few close games of winning district those two seasons. School spirit was sky high during that time.”

Cardinals Tennis

“Hardly anyone noticed that Manuel Lopez and I were tennis doubles district champions, and both won several singles matches in the Corpus Christi regional tourney. Neither the Valley Morning Star nor our weekly Cardinal had an interest in tennis in those days.

I was a member of a multi-generation tennis team, including cadets from the air base that beat the Monterrey, Mexico, Tennis Club in a grueling four day tournament.

Matches were played on a red clay court at Cuatahomic Brewery, and our beverages as winners were superb!”


“I was honored to be elected to the National Honor Society as a junior; to represent HHS at Lone Star Boys’ State; and to have one of my football photos win a Kodak national award.

I wonder why no one believes

I was in the National Honor Society? Oh, that’s right. I took the photo.”

Mom’s English Course

I was an idiot to skip mom’s junior English course. My friends raved about her, but I thought being in her class would be awkward for both of us.

My younger brother Pat was smarter than I when he took her class a few years later at Lyford High … and raved about her!

Principal J. Gordon Nix let his ‘MVP Teacher’ slip away to Lyford with inane comments such as, ‘Ruth, some of the parents have complained to me about that thinking stuff you’re teaching their kids.’ What?

I can’t believe they named a building after him. (Editor: It’s empty and for sale.)

Johnny Bourg wrote this about mom for our ‘Austin 2014’ reunion, ‘Mrs. Patterson was one of the best teachers I ever had, high school, college, or grad school. She instilled in us a love of English and literature that has stayed with us to this day. She also was a wonderful friend to many of us.’

Mom also was El Arroyo faculty sponsor.

University of Michigan

“I majored in psychology at the University of Michigan, and played tennis my freshman year. I was President of the Michigan Union and was in student government with infamous Tom Hayden who was quite a rabble rouser even then. I was honored to be chosen to be the class speaker at my 50th reunion.”

Business Career

“My business career included IBM mainframe sales, bank executive, computer systems executive, and computer systems consultant. I enjoyed each chapter of my career but retired quite early.”

Tennis Umpire

“I played tennis singles until a few years ago, and still play doubles. I have been a tennis umpire forever, officiating at 23 U.S. Opens, World Team Tennis, and the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. I am in the Chicago Tennis Umpires Hall of Fame.”

Retirement with Nancy

“I married a University of Michigan nurse right out of college, and we raised two daughters. Gail died at 42, and I stuck by my vow to never marry again until my first date with exciting, beautiful Nancy. We’re celebrating our 35th anniversary this year.

We live in Chicago, but spend a lot of time in our Big Sky Montana place. The skiing is great, the setting is beautiful, and it’s a lot cooler than Chicago in the summer.

I can’t imagine a better place or time to grow up than Harlingen in the 50s. Even our ‘one for the books’ senior year oddly enough prepared us for the ‘real world’ of ups and downs we were heading into.”

“Go Cardinals and Wolverines!”

(A note from John Bourg: Tom was our selfless photographer at HHS and has remained a special friend of our class all these years. Ruth Patterson was a wonderful teacher and even greater human being who guided many of us who needed a lot of guidance.)