Saturday, July 14, 2007

Early Years . . . The 1940's Part One

I became a football fanatic when I was in the 6th grade. It started on a Saturday morning in 1942 when I was invited to play in a true, sand lot football program behind the Harold Steele family home. Harold was a coach in Grand Rapids and salvaged some discarded pads that made me feel (if not look) every bit a football player. That year for Christmas I was given my very own shoulder pads and helmet, endorsed by my hero Davey O'Brien. In 1938, O’Brien’s first season as starting quarterback for Texas Christian University, was named to the All-Southwest Conference first team. He was only five-foot-seven, and 150-pounds but became an All American quarterback, won the Heisman trophy and played for the Philadelphia Eagles. He was my hero.

The next year as a 7th grader I made the Oakleigh Wolves Six-Man football team and won the first of four letters. I somehow was able to purchase my first (and only) "Varsity" sweater with one stripe. We couldn't afford another. That year (1943) our team won the Kent Suburban league championship. The team included a lot of big guys, one it was rumored had returned from WW2 army service to continue his education. He was huge and enjoyed running over me during our practice sessions. I kept getting in his way and we both kept falling. I think that was what won me a letter. The photo is of that 1943 team. I'm fifth from the right, top row.

Coming up: Team photos of the 1944, 45 and 46 teams and report of the recent Six-Man league reunion held in Grand Rapids.