BRAWLEY — In the long history of Brawley Union High athletics, many stories share similar events and themes. Whether it’s family traditions playing out at a football Bell Game rivalry, helping out on a basketball court, or the more recent trend of Brawley’s wrestling CIF championship dominance, there is one family, one couple, and one story that has been there from the beginning and through it all: Brawley couple Cliff and Marj Franks.
Marj and Cliff Franks began their Brawley journey separately, with Marj arriving in 1938 from Kansas, and Cliff from Arkansas in 1936. Cliff Franks was an all-around athlete in high school, excelling in track, basketball and football during his time in a Wildcat uniform while Marjorie Sorensen, while attending Brawley High, plied her athletic trade in Wildcat varsity tennis.
It was during his time on the Wildcat football squad that Cliff would get his first taste of Brawley Wildcat history, helping the Wildcats earn a 14-6 victory over their (at the time) young rivals of the El Centro Spartans… in the first ever Bell Game in 1944.
At the age of 18, Cliff would become a part of another historic event, except this time it would be a worldwide event, when he was inducted into the United States Navy and served in World War II.
After the War, Cliff returned to Brawley and finished high school, graduating in 1947, in the same class as Marj. During that school year, they began dating and were married just a year later, in 1948.
Although they had already graduated from Brawley Union High School, Marj and Cliff continued to spend their time on the high school campus as Cliff would go on to coach both football and basketball at the Brawley High School. He also played adult basketball for the Brawley “town team” in the school’s “Old Gym.”
That town team would go on to compete and defeat touring teams and national teams of that time from China, Japan, and Mexico, even competing against a well-known American Touring team in its early days known as the Harlem Globetrotters, and losing by just one point.
Together, the Franks would also continue to show their support, not just in high school athletics, but the city of Brawley as a whole, volunteering as coaches for youth athletics as well as Little League and Babe Ruth baseball.
They contributed outside the field of play as well, providing many Brawley youth through the years with transportation, meals and just attending as many sporting events as possible, even when their children and grandchildren were no longer involved. They were often the only Wildcat fans in attendance at away games, and even drove through rough weather — whatever it took to catch some “blue and gold” Wildcat action.
“The Franks have always been big supporters of Brawley Athletics,” said Bill Brewer, longtime BUHS athletic director. “We are so blessed to have families like Cliff and Marjorie Franks who support our BUHS student athletes long after their own grandkids have graduated.”
Marj also worked at Brawley High in the administrative office for many years, becoming a second mom figure to many BUHS students.
This past Tuesday, prior to the Brawley High girls’ basketball squad’s first league game against Southwest High School, the Brawley Union High School Athletics department and girls’ basketball Head Coach James Haley put together something special for the evening to honor the couple.
“It was an honor to be able to recognize two people that we know have been a role model for not just everyone at Brawley Union High School, but throughout the Valley,” said Coach Haley. “That’s the example everyone should want to follow.”
All those in attendance witnessed a special presentation as Marj and Cliff stood at midcourt with the entire girls’ basketball squad as they were recognized for their hard work and dedication to Brawley athletics and their Wildcat pride.
“To be 90 years old, and having gone to World War II, come back and together accomplish all that they have accomplished, and given back to the community as much as they have, the least we could do was honor them,” said Haley.
Along with recently celebrating their 69th anniversary, Tuesday was also Marjorie’s birthday, a birthday she celebrated in the most fitting place, her home away from home, in attendance of the Brawley High girls’ basketball victory.