Permian graduates return to their roots“Friday Night Lights” class comes back for 30-year reunion

Permian High School’s graduating class that donned the “Friday Night Lights” moniker is returning to West Texas for their 30-year reunion.

Many graduates from the 1989 class living outside of the Permian Basin are eager to come back and relive their high school days for another weekend.

The class of “Friday Night Lights” will begin their reunion with a kick-off celebration at 6:30 p.m. June 21 at the Odessa Country Club. The reunion weekend continues with a tour of Permian High School at 10 a.m. June 22 and the reunion starting at 6:30 p.m. at Ratliff Ranch Pavilion.

“We had a really good class and everyone really enjoyed being around each other,” said Amy (Kight) Hooks, who will be flying to Odessa from Las Vegas. “We were probably a closer knit class than some of the other ones. It’s exciting for me to come back and see old classmates and old friends. It’s exciting that everyone is still excited to come back together and see each other.”

This will be the third reunion for the 1989 graduating class.

Permian’s graduating class was featured in the H.G. Bissinger book “Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team and a Dream.” It’s a book that follows the 1988 Permian Panthers in their attempt to win a state football championship. Permian lost in the 5A semifinals to Carter High School in Dallas, but won a state and national championship a year later.

The seven main people featured in “Friday Night Lights” were James “Boobie” Miles, Mike Winchell, Brian Chavez, Ivory Christian, Don Billingsley, Jerrod McDougal and Coach Gary Gaines.

During their 20-year high school reunion, the “Friday Night Lights” film was released about four years earlier and Gaines was set to return for his second stint as Permian’s head coach football.

Former PHS student Bill Hicks, who is now an attorney that lives in El Paso, has watched from afar the Odessa-Midland area change throughout the years.

“The city has grown, but all the growth has been on the outskirts of town from when we were there,” Hicks said. “I’m seen it grow, so it’s not as much of a shock to me as people that coming in that haven’t been here for 10 or 20 years.

“We always knew that Odessa and Midland would physically grow together, but now that it really has happened. … It’s kind of shocking to drive (Highway) 191 and never really see countryside like you used to. It’s kind of amazing to see the growth.”

Former Permian cheerleader Kaylene (Steding) Hindman believes her enthusiasm for high school football was spurred from her upbringing around the Permian football program.

She lives in Austin and her son, Luke, will be a senior quarterback for Hyde Park.

“I know I am a football fanatic and I know some people in Austin think I’m crazy about it,” Kaylene Hindman said. “When you are from Odessa Permian, you got to love football. When people find out where I’m from, it kind of justifies the craziness around the love for football.”

Former student Greg Gasaway lives in Bedford, a suburb of Fort Worth, and works for Grand Canyon University College of Doctoral Studies as university development counselor.

He believes there’s a sense of pride of being part of the “Friday Night Lights” graduating class.

“Regardless of what you think about the book or what you think about the movie, it’s a cool thing to see people you know and see your high school,” Gasaway said. “That was part of your growing up experience. I take great pride in saying that I’m part of the class of ‘Friday Night Lights.’”

Since Hooks, Hicks, Hindman and Gasaway don’t live in Odessa, all four are excited about the opportunity to eat at Taco Villa.

Hicks explained there’s a mix of nostalgia and truly enjoying the food that the fast food restaurant offers.

“It was the place that we would break (away to) whenever we got to leave campus for our 15-minute lunch,” Hicks said. “We would drive like mad men to get something to eat and get back to campus on time.

“Taco Villa is unique because it was unique to the Permian Basin and Lubbock.”