1928 - Alderson High School - 1968



My First Day Out For Football
By Paul Bland - Class of '56

I was not large, probably weighing in at around 95 to 100 pounds if that much. The shoulder pads given to me that first day were a little large for my body.  They could better be described as elbow pads as the end of the pads came well beyond my elbows. The helmet was also larger than required. It was one of the older types which was  made of a hard leather like material. It had two straps approximately one and a-half inches wide sewn over the top of the helmet at right angles to each other. One from front to back and one from ear to ear. It was large enough on my head so that if one were to give it a quick twist, it would spin quite freely. In order to negotiate the pants given me, I had to tie them up under my arms and even with that done, the thigh pads were knee pads and the knee pads were something new to football--ankle pads. After putting on the shoes, I found that my toes came to about the center of the shoes. Each time I took a step this had the effect of turning the front cleats of the shoes to a horizontal position.  After getting dressed, I bounded out the dressing room and headed for the field. I remember that I had to tilt my head back at about a 45 degree angle to be able to see from under the helmet. I must admit that the noises coming from the equipment were new to me - the clatter of the pads, the plopping of the too large shoes on the ground. Quite frankly they scared me. In fact, these sounds scared me so badly that as I was running from one end of the field to the other, about mid-way I stumbled and fell. I must have looked like a turtle which has been turned on its back trying to right its self. I just couldn't seem to get up. About that time Coach came along mumbling the opening lines from a poem by Emerson under breath, "Hitch your wagon  to a star, hitch your wagon to a star". He saved me from my embarrassing situation. He grabbed me by the nape of the neck and the seat of the pants and set me upright and on my way. After practice coach was timing his boys on the hundred yard dash. I, feeling a little insecure, made sure that I was the last to be tested. When my turn came and I was on the starting line, I noticed that he had not reset  his stop watch so I turned to ask why not but my helmet stayed fixed and I found myself looking coach through the air holes in the rear of the helmet. I notice that he reached into the rear pocket of his brown corduroy trousers and pulled out a folded piece of paper. I thought, well he's interested in me, he's going to record my time. He thinks I'm fast. My spirits lifted. I remember Sam Williams used to pump his legs up and down in the best imitation I could muster of Sam this caused the front of my shoes to flop up and down like webbing on duck's feet and the helmet to begin a gentle rocking motion on my head. My legs came to a quick halt when coach unfolded the piece of paper and I saw what he had was a calendar he planned to use to time me for the hundred yard dash. He must have noticed the sag in my shoulder pads as I became dejected. He reaches  over and stopped the helmet from rocking on my head and said not worry because I was sure to make it to the north-south game.  Why? I asked, not knowing at that time what the north-south game was. Gosh darn it , boy, don't you know anything, he asked? There was a pause in the conversation and you'll probably understand the relief I felt when I realized that he wasn't going to pursue that line of questing. You are bound to make it to the north-south game, he said because your head is pointing north and your helmet is pointing south. This  lifted my spirits again and I remembered Bucky Hosteter. Bucky had graduated when I was in the 7th or 8th grade and I know that Coach liked Bucky and thought that he was good back and a good Passer. Now Bucky had a way of walking in which he would spring up on the toes of one foot whenever he took a step. So for two or three weeks after that I sprang up on the toes of one foot as I walked around Alderson and thought about playing in the north-south game.

Over the next four years I grew somewhat and I finally got big enough to fit into the equipment. In fact I got to play some football for coach and I did get to play in the backfield. My career as a football player at Alderson can best be described as , to use a phrase of Coach's, "nothing to write home about". Needless to say I didn't make it to the north-south game as a player but I did attend the game a couple of years later. As I watched, however, I just could not understand how those boys were selected to play since not one of them had his helmet on backwards.

Submitted by sister:  Elizabeth Bland Williams