When the Men Were Gone is the fictionalized and inspirational true story of Tylene Wilson, who – amidst tremendous opposition – stepped up to coach her high school football team in 1944 Brownwood, Texas.
Because the community was short on men due to World War II, the Brownwood Lions were about to forego their football season. There were simply no qualified men available to take on the coaching responsibilities.
Football was synonymous with community in Brownwood, and Tylene Wilson wanted to keep the community alive, especially for the young men who were left adrift without football and in danger of quitting school and joining the war effort before their time. After several failed attempts to secure a qualified male coach, she realized the season could go on only if she herself stepped in as coach.
Although Wilson was the high school assistant principal and a respected member of the community, her bold drive onto the football field was met with threats of boycott and forfeiture from refs and other teams. She faced insults and rebuffs, even from those who were considered friends.
Wilson had been raised with a deep love of the game, and had the intelligence and know-how for coaching. Her tenacity and genuine concern for her team prevailed, and Lewis’ telling of Wilson’s story comes to a dramatic, plot-twisting close.
Author Marjorie Herrera Lewis is a former reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Dallas Morning News. She is now a member of the Texas Wesleyan University football coaching staff. When the Men Were Gone is her first novel, and despite my lack of interest in most sports, I found her story-telling to be informative, fast-paced and highly readable, providing some thought-provoking inspiration. Would I have the strength to stand up to the opposition in similar circumstances?