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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Remember When...1944...


Brotherly Love
by Brooks

In 1944 when I was a 9th grader at Fontana Junior High School, I hitchhiked to the Coliseum to watch the Trojans play San Diego Navy, a nationally ranked service team. We had lost to them the year before. Students could get in at Gate 26 for a quarter. That's what I had, a quarter. There was usually a Freshman game before the early game and if you got there early, it was easy to scale the fence separating the student section from the regular customers. (photo: Brooks, far left, and Little Groper)

I got a ride on Foothill Blvd to Pasadena and caught another ride south down Figueroa to the Coliseum. We won the game. Jim Hardy was the quarterback and team captain. He was also my hero, who I had the opportunity to meet years later at Anaheim Stadium where he promoted a double header American Football League football game.

The great Jeff Cravath, a former Trojan player, was the coach. Some other outstanding players in that game were, Gordon Gray, a left halfback (In the early days of the T-formation, left and right half backs were distinct positions); Don Burnside (later, Doll), a freshman phenom half back; Jim Callanan of the famous Callanan brothers, end; John Ferraro, later an LA Police Commissioner, tackle; big John Pehar (at 287 lbs, a giant for those days), tackle; and Paul Salata, another end. There were other great players but those are the ones who I remember. Mickey McCardle had been the LHB in the old single wing before Cravath adopted the new T-formation. McCardle was in the Marine Corp. and was sent overseas and returned for the 45 and 46 seasons.

The crowd was very small at the Coliseum that day. We were still under wartime rationing and traveling to games was difficult. I think there were only about 20,000 people there. Nevertheless, it was an exciting game, very close throughout, but as I recall, the Trojans lead all the way, winning 28-21. The play of the game was when Hardy took a kickoff, ran to the right sideline and threw a 50 yard lateral all the way across the field to (Gordon Gray, I believe) who went for a huge gain. I remember thinking it strange that the Navy team coach didn't pick up on it because Hardy, to my knowledge, never played on a kickoff before or since. I guess it speaks to the lack of sophistication in those days. (Lane Kiffen take note)

It was a late afternoon game and I believe it was dark when I started home - fifty miles back to Fontana without a nickel in my pocket. A car stopped and I ran up ahead to get in. It was my big brother (SkoorB) and two of his buddies. As I was getting in, I immediately recalled that I had told him earlier that I was hitchhiking to the game, and he never said anything. That's when I realized that he could have taken me with him! I can't tell you how pissed I was, "I DON'T NEED A *%*#* RIDE WITH YOU!!!" I yelled, and I slammed the door. I think my big brother said something like "**** you, then," and off they drove.

I got home before my brother did but I didn't tell my mother because she didn't know I had hitchhiked to the game. Besides, in those days, you just didn't tell on people; not even your stinking big brother. All in all, it was a good day and it wasn't the last time I hitchhiked to the Coliseum from Fontana. At least, the next time, I knew the way.

I guess you had to be there. Those were the days. I feel sorry for those who weren't around to see those games.

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