Last week’s column was fueled by my current fear that the upcoming football season will not come up and my fond memories of football seasons past that did. It is not just football but all team sports and communal activities such as church and school choirs that each of us is anxious about and yearning for. And that yearning is truly about personal relationships, not the games we played and the songs we sang. The symptoms of ’Ole 19 include social distancing from friends and family but, ironically, our current isolation evokes poignant memories of times we did get to share with people who once filled our lives and now do not.
Should you have read last week’s Gavel Gamut you probably saw the photograph of my high school football team. It was my wife Peg, you know, the one who actually does the work on Gavel Gamut (and most everything else at JPeg Osage Ranch), who suggested using the team photo that appears in my 1961 high school annual. I am glad she did as it was a virtual reunion for me and, I hope, for others such as Ron Reed who is the brother of my friend and teammate Jim Reed who appears next to me in the picture. Ron contacted me after last week’s article appeared. Gentle Reader, you may hear more from Ron in some future column. Anyway, there are several of my friends in the team photo who look young, strong and positive who went on to greater accomplishments such as Jim’s service in the Viet Nam War.
Another of our teammates was Bud Malone who, along with his twin brothers, Jerry and Gary, also saw combat in Viet Nam where Gary gave his life for his country on July 28, 1966. The team photograph caused me to concentrate on several other of our teammates who no longer can bring laughter and high jinks to my life and it evoked thoughts of two of my favorite songs from one of my favorite musicals.
In Les Misérables young revolutionaries are filled with idealism and bravery in their quest for social justice, kind of the elàn our football team had hoping for a championship season. Our team did achieve such success but some of the young revolutionaries in Le Miz paid with their lives in their losing cause.
In the song “Empty Chairs At Empty Tables” one of the young survivors, Marius, sings to his fallen comrades:
♬ ”Empty chairs at empty tables
Now my friends are dead and gone.
From the table in the corner
They could see a world reborn.
Oh, my friends, my friends, don’t ask me
What your sacrifice was for.
Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my friends will sing no more.” ♬
However, in the song “Drink With Me” the young friends sound to me just the way I remember those footballers from 1960-61:
♬ “Drink with me to days gone by
Drink with me to the life that used to be
At the shrine of friendship never say die
Let the wine of friendship never run dry.
Here’s to you and here’s to me.” ♬
Well, here’s a thank you for those times we have played and sung in the past and to the fervent hope the next opponent to fall will soon be ’Ole 19.