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Betty Stone: Friday night football

 

Betty Stone

 

Intermittently, teasingly, autumn approaches. The nights have been cooler for several weeks. Even the days bring a frisson of winter. After a harsh, hot summer it feels good. 

 

I imagine it feels even better to the young fellows who play football. Frankly, I''ve been worried about them having to play and practice in dangerous heat. With school starting so much earlier, football, a fall sport, gets pushed into the brutality of summer. 

 

It wasn''t always like this. Thinking back to "old Columbus," I find myself remembering the high school football nights of my youth. Back in those days the schools did not start until after Labor Day. They were racially segregated, and Columbus had only two high schools, Lee High and Hunt. We did not meet on the athletic fields and only rarely with our marching bands, such as at the Christmas parade. At the risk of being stereotypical, I have to say we always enjoyed the Hunt High band. There was no doubt they had superior rhythm.  

 

But back to football, at least from a female spectator''s view. Lee High played on Friday nights at the Magnolia Bowl, behind Franklin Academy. It was that magnificent relic of the Great Depression, with huge concrete bleachers leading down the hillside to the playing field. Across the field, the far fence, and the road behind that fence with its painted advertisements, some spectators watched from the limbs of trees they had climbed. 

 

 

 

And the band played on 

 

Enthusiasm ran high during the games, but it was set up by the parades before home games. The band paraded from the school, where the library is now, through town, and led the fans to the Bowl. There is something about march music that just makes you want to fall into step with the band and march off to war. The cool snap in the air is invigorating. 

 

The band played its heart out. The majorettes twirled their batons in front of it. The cheerleaders twirled themselves behind it. And we flocked alongside with high spirits and high hopes. 

 

Columbus was smaller then. You knew just about everyone around you, and you saw just about everybody you knew. And sometime, maybe halftime, you went over to the opposition side to see the people you knew there. In fact, if you had friends from the town your team was playing, you probably had them for your weekend guests. If so, the next day you might have had a Coke party for them. 

 

Sometimes we got to go to a Saturday college game. It seems strange to remember that we actually dressed up for them. Girls wore high heels, later maybe even hats! 

 

 

 

Good times remembered 

 

Before that, back when we were in junior high, Betty Lydick''s mother had our little crowd out to their family''s house, which we thought was way out in the country then (actually near the place Forest Glen runs into Military Road) and served us hamburgers before the game.  

 

Someone had to drive us out there, of course, and I recall one Friday when there were too many of us for the car. Some of us had to ride in the trunk. Today people might be dismayed at that, but we were a lot more careless -- and carefree -- in those days. Oh, we had cares, of course, but they were mostly concerned with what our weekend plans were. 

 

After I grew up and had children of my own, I realized how much work Mrs. Lydick had done for us week after week. I wished she were still alive so that I could write her my thanks for something I enjoyed, but never then appreciated adequately. 

 

Our social life was pretty simple. Only rarely did we have a dance after the game, although in a recent conversation with Kay Calaway, she said her group went to a dance at the Y after every home game; but then, she is much younger. However little we might have done -- games, dates, spend-the-nights -- it was all a big deal for us. Life was a big deal, especially if your team of scuffed up, battle-scarred heroes was victorious.

 

Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.

 

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