For Christmas of 1999, I sent my father a tape recorder and a list of questions. (Was this a gift for him or for me? I’ll let you be the judge of that.) But over the next few months and years, Dad answered the questions and I transcribed his words. I’m periodically posting some of his thoughts.
This section has to do with when the family got a radio. Dad talks about listening to football on the radio, and tracking the game. As someone who grew up in the TV generation, I appreciate the resourcefulness of radio sports fans.
“We got a radio ourselves. We had a radio in the living room and we began to listen to things. Football, of course, was important. There were no professional teams. They did not come until 1945, after the war. But we did have colleges. Cal played Stanford. USF played St. Mary’s. St. Mary’s and Santa Clara were always a big deal. And they played on Saturdays and on Sundays.
“And we would listen to our radio and put out a chart on the floor of the lined football field. 10 yards., and keep a little button and watch the ball go up and down the field, depending on whether St. Mary’s had made some yards or didn’t make some yards.
“Football rules were different in those days, too. There were no center stripes for putting the ball in play. If you… wherever you were tackled, that’s where you put it. If you were tackled three yards from the sidelines, you’d start the next play three yards from the sidelines. If you ran out of bounds, you started the play one yard inbounds. So that sometimes the center was on the end and all the rest of the line was sticking over toward the center of the field. Most of those games were played 6-0, 6-7, or 13-6. You never heard of a game going over 20 points.”
Tom Kircher, recorded sometime in 2000.
I selected this particular section for a couple of reasons. I presented a session at the Northwest Genealogy Conference last week, “Telling Their Story When They Left No Stories.” One of the points I make is to think about everything in your life – work, clothing, entertainment, sports, religion, politics and more. If you do it or think about it, your ancestors probably did, too. As fall approaches teams both professional and amateur are gearing up for a new season on the gridiron. This memory from my dad speaks to one aspect of his life. Did your ancestors have any interaction with athletics, either as a player or fan?
I’m on a research road trip. My husband found the recordings of my dad on his computer and burned some of them to CD for us to listen to in the car. Dad passed away eight years ago, but it sure is a treat to get to hear him tell me a story in his own voice. And I so love my husband for wanting to listen, too.
As a bit of an aside, when Dad talks about football in this piece, he mentions St. Mary’s a couple of times. I wish I had followed up with Dad about why St. Mary’s seemed particularly notable. It wasn’t his alma mater. But it may have been his family particularly followed St. Mary’s because his mother’s cousin, Jim “Sid” Ahern, played for the Gaels. I can’t help but wonder if the game against USC was one Dad had listened to and tracked with his grid and button. Go Gaels!
Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.