Although I don't generally reminisce about my own personal experiences at your expense, classmates....I've recently encountered some things that connect all of us to our Bay Area roots and I'm pretty sure you can relate to them as well as me.
While digging through one of the boxes from a previous residence, stacked in this garage upon arrival 10 years ago.....I found a couple long-forgotten items. You know those boxes, the ones packed with keepers when you last moved. Yeah, the boxes that never get reopened and just sit there in the closet, garage, attic or storage shed....forever.
Right, we all have some.....and I hope this moves some of you to explore under those cardboard flaps folded together years ago. You might also be pleasantly surprised.
I found an old ticket stub to a 49er game at Kezar Stadium, in among some snapshots of me at that venerable old arena. The date, price and visiting team were all listed on the stub. It showed the Chicago Cardinals on September 2, 1956, when a reserved seat cost $3.75. What are they now, sixty bucks?
Even more of a memory jog was the old scoreboard at Kezar that I'm pictured standing in front of.....high up in the stadium after the game was over. It was a real clockface, with sweep second and minute hands....winding down from 15, the number of minutes in each quarter of play. The score was visible and it showed the visitors winning, 38-21.
The quarter of play, down and distance and the running score were all posted by hand from inside the scoreboard, with attendants hanging numbered plaques in the open window slots so designated. What a difference from today's electronic images that are complete with video replay and individual photos.
Ollie Matson and Charlie Trippi played on that Cardinal team, long before the franchise moved to St. Louis and then to Arizona. I also have an Oakland Raider program from 1963, when they hosted the "Boston Patriots," framed on the garage wall. But this combo of ticket stub-photo even outdates that.
In other words, I'm so old I saw Ollie Matson play....in person! And that was in an atiquated old stadium in the heart of the City, next to Golden Gate Park, without a parking lot. That's right, only curbside parking in the surrounding area was available......which often meant long walks to the arena after finding legal parking space.
Kezar Stadium is still used by high school football teams, but it's hard to imagine NFL teams engaged in that same small venue. But they were. I don't recall how many spectators it held (still holds). I remember the East-West Shrine All Star game being played there every year and what a big deal that was, as well.
I don't have a scanner or I'd just forward the images of both photo and stub, which would probably be better......easier for you, I'm sure. I did have the picture blown up and included the stub inside the frame. It now hangs among my other sports memorabilia lining the garage walls.
The Morabito brothers, Vic and Tony owned the team in those days and they were an exciting assortment of players, including the Million Dollar Backfield of Y.A. Tittle, Joe Perry, Hugh McElhenny and John Henry Johnson....the first, and only, complete backfield from the same team eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame in its entirety.
A Richmond connection to 49er home games at Kezar was started in those days and continued on for some time, right outta Rudy's Bar on Macdonald Avenue....a couple doors down from 23rd Street. Rudy's sold tickets to all the home games and chartered a bus to carry their fans to and from the games. The rowdy Richmonders caused Kezar to build chain-link protection over the players' tunnel by throwing full beer cans at them when they left the field after losing games.
That crowd included Oiler alumni that was slightly older than us but did include a couple classmates.......Frank Mays and Jesse Esquivel for instance. Billy Bedwell mighta been in that group as well. I know Mike Tipton from Harry Ells was also there, along with Sherman Clark, Teddy Scott and Merle Hoover. The primary suspects were Bobby Gordo Gonzalez and Neal Mulkey, with Jesse's older brother Rollie. But, of course, never having been there myself, this is all based on hearsay.
Good memories, nevertheless. A different time in what's turning into a different place. No more Niner games in Kezar, or Oaks Ballpark in Emeryville, Seals Stadium in the City and Raider games at Frank Youell Field. Not even Playland at the Beach or the original Sutro's Bathouse across the street from it. The Cliff House is still there though.
No more ferry rides, car and all, across the Bay.....and the carnivals aren't coming back either. Nor the circus tents out on Hoffman Boulevard. Do they still have parades in downtown Richmond? Probably not.
I did get a firsthand experience of some shipyard stuff recently, however.....thanks to Russell Miller, classmate Phyllis Hanford's husband and '57 graduate of Castlemont High School in Oakland. He's the guy who brings James Dean to the annual reunions in Martinez.
Russ is a throwback hisownself, being a blacksmith and all. That's right, a blacksmith.....and still active in that old Americana trade. He is Sparks Blacksmithing, the entire coorperation. And he can still forge, shape and create iron works. Anyway, I was at their house a couple weeks ago, for some Pinochle, and he asked me for some help in his shop on the property.
I got to participate in something Richmond's shipyards were famous for during the war. I helped him rivet. I held the bucking rod in support of Russ using the rivet gun. He had it all set up and showed me what to do, so it seemed simple. Russ was attaching a running board frame to the main frame of a 1917 Pierce Arrow......the kind of projects collectors trust him with yet today.
He had already straightened the frame, correcting accident damage, and was afixing the iron running board supports he made. I held the buck rod behind the frame while russ heated the rivets in place with a torch and banged 'em home with a rivet gun. Hence.....I have riveted (or at least assisted a riveter). How many guys you know keep rivet guns and bucking rods around the house? Well, for that matter, how many blacksmiths you know?
One now, for sure. Russell Miller.....Phyllis Hanford's husband, and honorary classmate.
So we are special.........all of us, in our own way and one way in particular. That's our connection to America's greatest generation -- the one that won World War II. Our parents fought in the war or built the ordnance used to win the war. In many cases, our families did both. We are the Shipyard Siblings of the port/refinery/railroad town of Richmond! And some of us have even carried on the tradition of Rosie the Riveter that our fathers, mothers, aunts and uncles made famous.
I, myself, am thankful to have been part of it.......and glad to have all of you right along with me. Let's celebrate it together again, as often as we possibly can.
Oilers always, always Oilers....
Fifty Niners Forever!
Oil Can Curly