In 1960, on the front lawn of an elementary school in North East Dallas, a tradition was born. A group of seventh-grade boys captured the free time before Thanksgiving dinner to engage in a game of touch football. It was a good day to play. So good, in fact, that the game would resume each year at the same time in the same place.
The last game was held on November 26, 2009, marking 50 years of the Reilly Thanksgiving Invitational. You are invited to celebrate the RTI’s 60-year mark with us on Thanksgiving 2019 as we release our book, The Reilly Thanksgiving Invitational Story.
Brent Parrott and Bryan Renfro
THE 50-YEAR HISTORY of the RTI is chronicled in the 60th anniversary book, The Reilly Thanksgiving Invitational, that documents the days gone by through photos, papers, videos, and links. The result is an engaging 400-page book that provides readers with a first-hand glimpse into a captivating era.
This is a story, all right. These guys belong in one of those little tents you see today on the sidelines of an NFL game — the place you go if they think maybe you have a concussion.
But concussed, or merely cussed, these dubious warriors assembled for more than a half century to play touch football each Thanksgiving Day morning on the front lawn of their old elementary school in White Rock.
They arrived on walkers and in iron lungs, any conveyance that would take them to game day at Martha Turner Reilly Elementary near Lockwood. Grandchildren would drop them off and perhaps stay behind to serve as stretcher-bearers following the conflict. Wives and girlfriends turned their backs on this frightful enterprise decades ago.
At the end of each conflict these guys assembled for team photos and perhaps to show the “Cougar Claw”, a gnarled hand raised high in defiance. No. Wait. That’s just arthritis kicking in.
About the Authors
BRENT PARROTT is a writer, former technology executive and teacher, and currently serves as Board Chairman for the charter schools of Pioneer Technology & Arts Academy. With his life-long friend, Bryan Renfro, he is co-author of The Reilly Thanksgiving Invitational Story, a memoir about a group of friends who kept an annual touch football game going for 50 straight years.
He is also the author of two new books scheduled for publication in 2020, Jackpot: The Summer of ’69 and What Would You Do? What Would You Not Do? Brent and his wife Robyn (that’s right, two bird names) spend as much time as possible with their daughter Brynn, son-in-law Jacob, and two amazing grandsons. He has always lived, worked, and played in Dallas, Texas.
BRYAN RENFRO graduated in 1970 from the University of Texas at Arlington and was drafted into the Army the following year during the Viet Nam war. He was the editor and sports writer for Sound Off, the base’s newspaper in Fort Meade, Maryland. His work life followed an untraditional path for the times as he experienced a mix of endeavors through the years, including the furniture importing business.
For five decades, he served as the organizer and “Commissioner” of an annual Thanksgiving touch football game in Dallas, Texas. Known locally as the Turkey Bowl, Bryan chronicled his experiences in the book, The Reilly Thanksgiving Invitational Story, with co-author Brent Parrott. The 400-page memoir was published for the game’s 60th anniversary in 2019. Today, Bryan lives in Dallas with his wife LaDonna and enjoys bible study, photography, his woodshop, and nurturing long-time friendships.
The Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation
THIS IS A STORY about 22 school kids and their 50-year Thanksgiving Day touch football game. Today, Alzheimer’s has touched most of the 22; we all have personal stories of the tragic and sad experiences caused by this devastating disease.
The RTI Story authors are pleased to donate a portion of all book proceeds to The Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, a leading Alzheimer’s source of funding for Alzheimer’s research, support and education.
You can read The Reilly Thanksgiving Invitational Story in three formats. Choose one or try all three! Readers who purchase the paperback edition will enjoy our free supplemental Reading Guide.