Recalling the glory days — High school football is all about spirit and memories

ESCANABA – It’s about the cool crisp smell of autumn leaves in the air and the sound of a marching band muffled by the north wind.

It’s a shrill whistle, hot cocoa, and the click of shoulder pads colliding.

School football time in Upper Michigan is filled with warm memories on cold nights.

Mom’s and Dad’s look at football games in two entirely different ways. Mom’s go to football games equipped with mittens for everyone, cushy seats, and a blanket or two.

Dad’s study the team’s roster and peer through binoculars. They dole out money to their noisy youngsters who keep interrupting the game. “Go buy some popcorn, or buy a hot dog, Dad suggests just to keep the kids quiet and his attention on the game.

Mom likes to sit near her lady friends at the game. Dad wants to sit at the fifty yard line where he has a great view of the action.

Most mothers clap and cheer for the team on the outside while praying on the inside, “Please God don’t let a single boy get hurt.”

At halftime, Mom’s enjoy the show, while most Dads have never seen the show because they go to go the restroom, then find an old friend to talk to and return just in time for the second half.

Even though I am not a huge football fan, I have enjoyed the excitement of the game and the team, school and hometown spirit that goes with it. My two older brothers played for the Escanaba Esykmos in the 1970’s. Mom and Dad took us little Roses to most of the games. It rained, I think nearly every game time for about four years straight. I recall huddling under sheets of plastic while trying to warm my hands on my hot cocoa.

A big highlight of the home games was when “Burger Chef” was a new restaurant in town, and the cheer leaders got to toss out little plastic footballs that could be redeemed for a cheese burger.

The Escanaba/Gladstone game was a special event for my family. This game was an afternoon game back then. My Dad of coarse is a Gladstone alumni, my Mom was Esky grad class of 1949. My folks argued through the whole game. From which side of the bleachers to sit on to each call the referee made and the age of some of the players. It was a long game.

Years later, when my sister was in high school, I went with so many other fans on a bus to the Pontiac Silver Dome to watch the Eskymos become state champions.

I recall my mom talking about how hard it was to wash football practice jerseys and uniforms. How bad they smelled in that duffle bag and how stained from mud and grass, she complained.

I got a taste of that medicine when my son played on the 7th. & 8th. Grade football team last year for Holy Name. Football clothes stink, but they were undefeated in 2012. My brother Mark’s 1973 Esky High School team were State champions. My late uncle Richard was always proud of the photo of the State Champion Gladstone Braves with him in it from 194?.

School football is about memories, good, cold, wet, winning, losing, and cheering. Some football games are wound around perfect autumn days, some compete with snowflakes and wind burn.

But all school football games are about spirit and hometown pride. Happy homecoming to all of our local teams.

Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong resident of north Escanaba.