Stanford Football Games
While at Saint Joseph's College
By Bill Wall, R'63
I guess I am back at it. I am going to talk about the one football game per year at Stanford that we were allowed to go to while seminarians at St Joes. You must remember those games. I won’t get quite as detailed as I did in my “Class Walks” Story. I got a little carried away there. I went to three Stanford football games while at St Joes, and I can’t remember the teams they played against in any of those games. So my memory isn’t that good. When I went to St Joes as a 14 year old, I was just beginning to get into Pro Football. I didn’t know much about college football then. My Family lived in Van Nuys (LA Area) up through my seventh grade, and then we moved to Santa Rosa, CA. I remember when I was in the fifth and sixth grade, my Dad took me and my two older brothers to a couple of LA Rams games at the LA Coliseum. I was awed by the size of that place. It is huge. Norm Van Brocklin was the Rams quarterback back then, and I sure liked those games. Two or three weeks before I left home to go to St Joes, my older brother Pete and I hitch hiked from Santa Rosa down to San Francisco to go to a pre-season, 49er game at Kezar Stadium, my first Niner Game. It costs us 2 bucks a piece for end zone seats. I think they played the Bears. The Niners won. It was love at first sight. I became an instant Niner fan, and I am still an avid one today. I have been through all of their ups and downs. That was my introduction to Pro Football.
Back to St Joe's. We went to our one Stanford game in October at St Joes, usually mid October. We had to pay for this. St Joe's did pay for the buses to get us there, but we had to pay 2 bucks each for end zone seats. We would buy our tickets up in the Front Office at St Joes from Florence Bolsems, Bob Bolsems Mom. I remember the first game we went to the best, but I don’t remember who Stanford played in that game. I am sure one of you guys will. These games all took place on a Saturday, which was a school day for us, so we went to class in the morning of the day of the game. I think these games all started at 1:30 PM. Well, they never changed meal times at St Joes, and lunch there was at 12:30. We would finish lunch at about1:00, and then get on buses to go over to Stanford. Cat Canfield had a number of buses lined up on that road between the classrooms in the Old Building and the tennis courts. Most of the guys went to the football game, but not everyone. I guess some guys were not interested, or some guys didn’t have the two bucks, or someone to loan it to them. I gave someone two bucks to go to that game. Everyone going would pile in a bus and away we would go. It would take us a good half hour to get to Stanford, and I remember we would get into the stadium about in the middle if the first quarter of the game. I don’t remember seeing any opening kickoffs in any of these games. Somebody correct me if I am wrong about that. We didn’t have to fool around with buying tickets there, because St Joes had bought a big block of tickets for us. We just had to remember where our bus was at the end of the game.
I clearly remember when I first saw the inside of Stanford Stadium in the Fall of our First High (1957). It was a beautifully clear day, about 75 degrees, couldn’t have been nicer. My first impression was how large that stadium was. I later asked a man there, and he said that stadium would hold 90,000. The LA Coliseum is larger. It holds over 110,000. I remember how beautifully green the football field was that day, and the bright red jerseys the Stanford Team had on. The other team had white jerseys. With the blue of the sky, and all of the people wearing red and white in the stands, the whole place was a kaleidoscope of color. Somehow that sight has stayed with me all of these years. This was my first college football game and I liked it. We sat in the south end zone section of the stadium, with the scoreboard above us. So we had to turn around to see the score and the downs, etc. At the south end zone, there is an opening in the stadium where vehicles can drive in and onto the track around the football field. That is where the two teams run into the stadium at the beginning of the game and out at half time. I sat with Jim Nice, my close buddy, and I think with Gary Andrews. Gary was a slight built, quiet, red haired guy who was a nice guy. Also, he was smart as Hell. Stanford was a high ranked team this year , and they played a good game and won. It was an exciting game. There were some really good running plays, and in one of them, a Stanford guy ran back a kickoff for a touch down. That brought everybody to their feet. The Stanford Band put on a huge half time show and it was well orchestrated. The Stanford Band back then wasn’t the silly rabble that they have today. At half time, I bought a bag of popcorn and a Coke and that cost me a buck, which I thought was little steep.
I remember the guy on the PA system kept saying that there were just a few tickets left for the USC Stanford game which would be played at Stanford next Saturday. Apparently that was a really big game for Stanford that they had to win. I wished we could have gone to that also.
I noticed one thing while watching the game. There were a lot of nice looking, young girls in the stands. As a seminarian, I can still look, can’t I? There were college Co-eds there and a whole lot of high school girls from the local area. And, of course, the local gentry was present and accounted for. I noticed something as we went in the gate to the game. They gave each lady or young gal a small red feather—Stanford Indians and all of that. I still say “Stanford Indians”, because I am not politically correct. The gals would usually put the red feather in their hair or wear it. I will get back to the red feathers in a minute.
At the end of the game, the crowd counted down the final seconds of the game and then let out a huge roar as the game ended. At that time, I noticed a lot of kids were running out onto the field to tear down the goal posts, but the cops were there to stop them plus some big football guys too. Some of the kids got roughed up a bit. We all found our way back to the buses, climbed aboard, and went back to St Joes. I thought that outing was great and I hoped there would be more things like that at St Joes. We got back to St Joes about a quarter to six, just in time for the bell for the Angelus in the Courtyard before dinner. We would all file into the Refectory in silence after we said the Angelus to ourselves. Notice how quickly they got us back into that rigid schedule at St Joes. It was as if we hadn’t gone anywhere that day. There were lots of stories about the Stanford game over dinner that evening. I remember one guy in Third High at my table was bragging how he had chatted with some young ladies at the game – Big Deal. The week after this game, guys at St Joes started to get sick with the flu. Do you remember going home on Halloween Day of 1957 because of the flu epidemic at St Joes. I wrote a story about that.
The Red Feather Incident:
I didn’t see any of this happen. I just head about it the next day. I am sure you remember the red feathers the gals wore at the game that I described. Well, it was a cool or “in thing” for a young guy(non St Joes) to talk to a gal for awhile at the game and then ask her for her red feather. If she gave it to you, this was called “scoring a feather” in the local vernacular. If you were sharp, maybe you would line up a date with your feather gal for the next weekend or whatever. The more feathers a guy scored, the cooler he was. We all remember Rudy Hansen. He was a bit of a joker among other things. Well, Rudy and this other guy in our Class scored a red feather each at the football game. I can see the guy in my mind’s eye , but I can’t recall his name. Rudy and the other guy brought their prize feathers back to St Joes. Some of the guys in Third High heard about this, and they weren’t too happy about it. I think they were jealous. Those Third High guys used to hassle us at times. Somebody told Rocky Russell about it, who was Rudy’s Confessor. The next morning, after High Mass, Rocky had Rudy and the other guy kneeling on the floor of Rocky’s room, which was on the Fourth Floor by the tower. Rocky made both of those guys surrender their feathers to him, and he gave them a royal chewing out in a raised voice for about 15 minutes. You could hear him down the hallway. I sure did. Rocky basically told them that this was totally unacceptable conduct for seminarians, and they better understand if there are any further occurrences like this, they would leaving St Joes in a hurry. Rudy and the other guy were really scared. They thought it was all over for them at St Joes. Do you know what I think? Rocky scored a couple of red feathers that day!!
I remember the Stanford games that we went to in Second High and Third High, but I don’t remember as many details as I do of the game we went to in First High. In Second High, I think Stanford played Air Force and it wasn’t that exciting of a game. Stanford slaughtered them. Air Force was pretty bad. We sat in the north end zone this time. We had fun there. It was great getting out of St Joes for an afternoon, and the young, female pulchritude in the stadium had not diminished at all. It had even improved a bit. I kept my eyes open. Lots of red feathers running around, but Rudy Hansen and the other guy stayed featherless or celibate that day. I bought a hot dog at half time. It was good.
Goal Post Incident:
I have a clear memory of something that happened at the end of the Stanford game I went to in Third High. Again, I don’t remember who Stanford played in that game. Riding over to the game in the bus, I heard some Poet and Rhet guys, and some Fourth High guys plotting to tear down the goal post at the end of the game and take part of the goal post back to St Joes as a souvenir. These guys were dead serious about doing that, so I decided to join in. Several of my classmates joined the effort also. We sat in the north end zone this year also, and the day was a little chilly. Stanford played a good team, and the game was close and exciting. They may have played Washington State that day. The game was close and Stanford won. Gerry Maring is a Professor at Washington State today. Go Cougars!!
I noticed when there were about 5 minutes left in the game, a whole lot of Stanford students (guys) assembled in two groups by the goal posts at both ends of the field. Right as the game ended, the Stanford students locked their arms together and formed 3 large human rings around each goal post. You could see that they had rehearsed this. This means you would have to go through three layers of Stanford guys to even get to a goal post. They were determined to protect those goal posts that day. Right before the game ended, about 70 or 80 St Joes guys collected at the very bottom of the end zone seats by that short wall that keeps you from going out onto the football field. There were several other large groups of guys also collecting by the short wall near the north end zone, same for the south end zone. I think Palo Alto High School had a large number of guys there. No red feathers in these groups. When the gun went off signaling the end of the game, mayhem broke out within these groups by both end zones. Everybody was jumping over that short wall and rushing for the goal posts. I was one of the rushees. We St Joesese headed for the north goal post, and we all stuck together in a big V formation because we all knew each other, which helped. The St Joes gang broke through the first human ring around the goal post and then the second ring, and we almost broke through the third ring, but some real big Stanford guys showed up to reinforce the line. It was getting nasty out there. There was some punching going on, and people pushing each other around. Jim Melville, who was in Fourth High, got his lip bloodied. A big St Joes guy named John Cunningham knocked a couple Stanford guys to the ground. I got hit in the back and it hurt. There were a number fights, and some people ended up on the ground which was not a good place to be. All of a sudden, it really started to get ugly out there, and the cops started to show up. When the Poets and Rhets saw the cops arriving, they knew it was time to get out of there and we did. The older St Joes guys did the right thing. They made sure that the younger ones of us got off the field and to the buses. The Stanford guys did not relinquish those goal posts that day, and there were hundreds of crazy guys out there trying to tear them down. When we left there, it was definitely the right time to go. People were getting arrested for fighting. We scurried back to our buses and got out of there. There were a few scraped up St Joes guys, and lots of “war stories” about the great assault on the goal posts as we rode home that day. To my knowledge, the Profs didn’t find out about this.
I heard an interesting story about Stanford goal posts a few days later at St Joes. Apparently, two years before we arrived at St Joes, or in the Fall of 1955, a bunch of St Joes guys did get a big piece of one of the goal posts at Stanford, and brought it back with them in the bus to St Joes. This was a big prize for awhile around there. Well, fine and good, but about a week later, Beansey Campbell gets a letter from the Director of Athletics at Stanford. The letter basically said: Fr Campbell, we will allow your students to attend Stanford football games in the future, but if you damage or remove any more goal posts or any Stanford property, you will have to pay for it. They weren’t kidding. It hit the fan at St Joes over this. There was a Faculty Meeting on this issue, and the more uptight priests, eg, Chuck Dillon, wanted to end all Stanford games right then and there. Also, he wanted to punish the culprits. How is he going to find them? Beansey was good guy, and he finally said “Okay, lets give them one more chance”, which is what we got. It is a good thing that we didn’t tear down the goal post in the game in our Third High. That probably would have been the end of the Stanford games for St Joes. Dillion took over as Rector about a year and a half after that. I left St Joes a couple months after that Stanford game in Third High.
One last Stanford football story before I close. This takes place about four years later. At this time I am attending San Jose State and I am a member of Sigma Chi. San Jose State was playing Stanford in a football game at Stanford Stadium, so a whole bunch of my fraternity brothers and myself all got dates, packed everybody and about 4 or 5 cases of beer into a number of cars and we all took off to see the game and party afterwards. The game was a record setter, and I don’t mean that in a good way. Stanford beat San Jose 72 to 3. I have never seen that bad of a football game in my entire life. The party afterwards sure was fun.
I graduated from San Jose State in 1965, and every year since then, that old fraternity group I knew there has organized a tailgate party at the San Jose Stanford football game each year. Do you know in the 37 years since I graduated from San Jose State, my wife and I have probably made 34 or 35 of those Stanford San Jose tailgate parties and games. It is the old crowd I went to school with, and the people that show up at these once a year tailgate parties are solid, good folks, just like my St Joes buddies.
What do you guys remember of the Stanford Football games while at St Joes. I would love to hear it.
Bill, No 294
(From the Bill Wall Archives, January 2003)