Today is a perfect fall day – crystal clear blue sky, bright sunshine, the air a bit nippy, the leaves starting to turn. This is football weather. I have this image of a Saturday afternoon with weather just as it is today, a cozy kitchen where the family is eating cream of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, and outside there’s a big pile of leaves to tackle after lunch.
…And on the radio there are broadcasts of football games between Army, Navy, Notre Dame and the strange name of Rose Polytech. (I never dreamed in those 1940s days that some day I’d have a son who would graduate from Rose – now Rose Hulman).
My father liked football and talked about the old Cincinnati Bengals, a pro team (or maybe semi-pro) back in the 30s. The only actual football playing I saw in those days was in a newsreel or a hokey Knute Rockne/Notre Dame film with Pat O’Brien playing Rockne and a very young Ronald Reagan playing the dying Gipper.
By the time I got to high school in the late 1940s, there were games being broadcast on television occasionally and I happened to go to a huge high school campus where it seemed the major was football with minors in marching band, cheerleaders and school spirit. Every Friday meant a schoolwide assembly in their monster-size auditorium where batons were twirled, boy and girl cheerleaders in grey flannel pants/skirts and varsity sweaters jumped and turned cartwheels, and overweight, tough-looking teenage football players bowed to the cheers of their fans. Many games were played immediately after school at 3 PM in the stadium where some of the kids who didn’t cheer or punt or play a horn took on the job of selling snacks. I first heard the word “microwave” at one of these games in 1946 when everybody was marveling at a contraption that was set up and produced steaming, juicy hot dogs within seconds.
The kids were enthusiastic with their cheering and fight songs while they bounced around with orange and black school pennants on a stick. Even though it was a very large school, the team was not the best and I don’t remember very many victories. The band was sensational, though, and the drum major/majorette were in top form. It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon – a perfect day for football.