It was Oct. 8, 1960. I was 10 years old, and I was excited. I was going with my father to Cliff Hare Stadium to watch Auburn play Chattanooga. Because my father was sports editor of the Birmingham News, I had been to college football games before, but not at Cliff Hare Stadium. And I was going to be able to watch from the sideline.
My friend Tim Herring, the son of Auburn defensive coordinator Hal Herring, and I walked from his house to Toomer’s Corner. I remember the college girls selling corsages made with blue and orange mums. Men and women were dressed in their Sunday best. I remember drinking lemonade at Toomer’s Drugs.
Finally, we arrived at the stadium. As Tim and I stood on the sideline, Coach Shug Jordan walked over. “If you see any big guys coming toward you, get out of the way,” he said with a smile. The players, wearing the hulking shoulder pads of the time, seemed bigger than life.
I remember little about the game itself. Jimmy Burson returned the second-half kickoff essentially 109 yards for the game’s only touchdown and Auburn won 10-0. Scrappy Moore’s Mocs were considered a “small college” team, but they were no pushover in those days. End Dave Edwards, who would go on to be a long-time star linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys, blocked a punt to set up Auburn’s field goal. I know that only because I looked it up.
The victory was the Tigers’ second straight after a 10-3 loss to Tennessee in the season-opener. They would win six more before falling to Alabama 3-0 in the finale. All-America fullback Ed Dyas, the best player on Auburn’s offense and a record-breaking kicker, had shattered his cheekbone the week before in a 57-21 win over Florida State and could not play against Alabama.
But I digress. I’m certain there was some dissatisfaction with Auburn’s offensive performance that day against Chattanooga. I’m sure it was a concern not just to fans but to the coaches.
None of those things are as vivid in my memory as the sights and sounds of Toomer’s Corner, the awe of being on the sideline and that brief conversation with Coach Jordan. It’s hard to believe that was almost 61 years ago.
Most of the people I interacted with that day, including my lifelong friend Tim, are gone now. But they live on in my memory.
On Saturday, another Auburn football team will open another season. It will be a game similar to that Chattanooga game of long ago, one that Auburn clearly should win. College football is a very different game today than it was in 1960. There were no fancy offensive schemes. It was a tough game for tough young men who played both ways.
There were no African-Americans on any team in the South. The few black folks who got into the game sat in wooden bleachers in the south end zone. After the 1959 season, the stadium had been enlarged, raising seating capacity to 44,500. It wasn’t close to full on that day in 1960.
Today’s 10-year-olds can experience Tiger Walk, the flight of the eagle and 85.000 people or close to it in a huge stadium. The scourge of segregation is long gone. But in the eyes of those 10-year-olds who will come to watch and marvel at what they see and hear, I wonder how different it really will be from that day long ago.
Credit: Source link