By Mark S. McDonald, Certified UTEP Miners Railbird
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” so the saying goes. You couldn’t tell it by Fred Schwake. He doesn’t seem to know the difference. Nor does he much care.
The former UTEP athletic trainer runs One of a Kind Unique Antiques in Ballinger, where his shop between Abilene and San Angelo trades in everything from jewels to junk. Schwake learned at the knee of legendary Miners trainer Ross Moore, then went on to serve as trainer for the Atlanta Falcons and later the San Francisco 49ers. Since leaving the NFL, his goal has been simple: Buy low, sell slightly higher, amuse his friends. He specializes in aging signs, but cannot vouch for their accuracy. Even one his own signs could be called into question.
“The Best Kept Secret in Texas,” declares one prominent sign facing one of the few main streets in Ballinger (pop. 3,767 in 2010 census). This is a gross exaggeration, of course, especially since the Abilene paper recently ran a major feature, with photos, on Schwake and his kitschy business.
What is indisputable, however, is Freddie Joe, as friends call him, is the only antiques dealer in Runnels County to be in the National Basketball Hall of Fame. Schwake taped the ankles of Jim Barnes, Bobby Joe Hill and Nevil Shed for Coach Don Haskins when the legendary Miners of the 1965-66 season won the NCAA University Division Basketball Tournament by defeating the Kentucky Wildcats, 72-65. As March Madness begins this week, the Miners remain the only team in Texas to have won the NCAA national D-1 title.