‘Hot sandwich’ pranksters are gone

Marvin WestObits, westwords

This is hot roast beef sandwich day in loving memory of two old friends.

Jerry Wrinkle, Knoxville teacher, coach and principal, died Friday at age 89. He was one-third of this story.

Charley Durham died a couple of years ago at 86. He was an Oak Ridge technician, a sports equipment salesman and a valuable high school correspondent back when The News-Sentinel was The News-Sentinel.

Jerry and “Bull” were among the founders of the Knoxville Track Club. Both are in the club’s hall of fame. They were staunch supporters of Tennessee coach Chuck Rohe.

In their spare time (there wasn’t much), they worked in food services at the Neyland Stadium press box for home football games. That’s where this tale took root.

I worked there at a frantic post-game pace to reaffirm facts, gather quotes and statistics and write a quick story for the newspaper. After that, I sped downtown, wrote two or three additional stories, rewrote the game story and often added a column.

There was no such thing as time out for a meal.

One Saturday, Wrinkle and Durham, as they were closing shop, presented me a going-away gift, a hot roast beef sandwich neatly wrapped in foil and tucked into a brown paper bag. I said a sincere thank you.

During the short, swift drive, I thought “how nice.” My next thought was “how come?”

They were there when I left the press box dozens of previous times. They had never mentioned my tight schedule. They had never offered any nourishment to go, not even peanut butter crackers.


I wrote what I thought were masterpieces. I remembered the sandwich. I was plenty hungry but, for some reason, I was suspicious. I checked it out, slice by slice. It was overloaded with very hot sauce. I cleaned it up with paper towels. It was delicious.

I never mentioned discovery of the heat treatment. I’m sure the pranksters suffered acute curiosity. I let ’em suffer.

Two or three games later, Wrinkle asked how was the roast beef sandwich? I pretended to have forgotten the treat. Durham stood by in disbelief.

Nothing was said again about sandwiches until the next season. Before the opener, I asked if there would be another post-game special. My tone said the bratty trick had been discovered. They concluded I was the smartest sportswriter in town. Some of my peers would have debated.

Through the years, “hot roast beef” and hearty laughter were conversation starters whenever we happened to meet. Contrary to rumor, Wrinkle and Durham were outstanding citizens. They gave more than they got.

Wrinkle attended Fulton High. He graduated from Carson-Newman in ’56. He earned his master’s degree at Peabody. He began his coaching career as a football assistant in Catoosa County, Georgia.

In the fall of 1959, Jerry became assistant football coach and head track coach at Fulton High. The track Falcons enjoyed remarkable success.

Wrinkle and Durham had a unique relationship with Rohe. They talked frequently. Chuck always had a to-do list. On behalf of the Knoxville Track Club, they did almost all.

“Chuck never slept,” said Wrinkle. “He didn’t realize that there were some who did – or tried to catch a few winks.”

Wrinkle taught at Sequoyah Elementary School for three years, then moved to school administration as a teaching principal at Lockett and Cedar Grove Elementary and principal at Anderson and Sterchi Elementary.

After 18 years as a principal, he joined the Tennessee Department of Education Career Ladder program and traveled the state evaluating administrators and supervisors for three years. He worked for a time in Nashville as director of administrators and supervisors before retiring in 1989.

For nine years thereafter, he interviewed and trained future evaluators until he fully retired in 1997.

Wrinkle and Durham started the “Old Friends Club,” a group made up mostly of Fulton High graduates from the ’50s and ’60s. That group ultimately grew to more than 100 and met for 25 years until last year.

Wrinkle is survived by Patricia, his wife of 63 years, and children Karen Wrinkle Clapp, J. Britt Wrinkle Jr. and Matthew Wrinkle.

The Wrinkle family will receive friends Thursday from 5-7 at Mynatt Funeral Home in Fountain City. A funeral service will follow with the Rev. Dean Wright officiating.

A graveside service will be held on Friday at 11 at Lynnhurst Cemetery.

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com

View all obituaries

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *