In the fall of 1947, several of my high school friends and I enrolled at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, just down the street from the large University of Utah.
Westminster had 225 students, the same number as our high school, Wasatch Academy, the same sponsors, and a loving atmosphere. I lived on the Academy campus during my last two years of high school. Now, I lived at home and commuted.
I was 18, but many college classmates were returning GIs with as much as a 12-year difference in age.
All sports were canceled at the beginning of WWII. The football field was nearly destroyed, and the football equipment had been rotting away in storage since Pearl Harbor.
A group of us football players approached the school president with a proposal. If we got the football field back in shape and reconstructed the bleachers, would he agree to pay for the materials, sign the school back into the Intermountain Collegiate Conference and supply us with a coach? It was a deal.
The coach was assigned and all winter we pinpointed our work schedule. The plan was to plant the turf in early spring and it would be ready for the chalk lines in the fall.
Our volunteers increased; six of my high school teammates jumped in, along with others from various schools. Several GIs from different branches of the service joined our team; one a Westminster Letterman seven years before. This unified group worked hard and the field and bleachers were ready as promised.
Our logo was, "The Parsons." But from the smell of our long-time stored uniforms, we could have been called "The Moth Balls."
Our first game was a home game. We were barely able to field a team and have enough substitutes for all positions. Most of us played both offense and defense the entire game.
Our homecoming game was a huge success. A King and Queen were chosen, and the bulk of our student body attended the huge bonfire the night before the game.
The University of Utah had a huge letter U painted several hundred feet up on the mountainside east of our school. Some of our students climbed up there after the bonfire with whitewash and brushes and changed the U into a W. They probably blamed Wyoming U. The only thing lacking was a winning football game.
Our last game was a night game in St George, Utah. None of our team had ever played under lights before. We hadn't won a game all season.
The home team's uniforms, and the football, were the same color enabling them to keep it out of our sight. After three touchdowns in the first quarter, our coach stopped the game and told the other coach if they didn't come up with a ball designed for night football, we were going home and have the game defaulted in our favor.
Oddly enough, they had the right colored ball in their possession all the time.
I was the quarterback. In those days, I called all the plays in the huddle. We entered the 2nd quarter behind 18-0 but quickly scored a touchdown. I decided to have a former high school record kicker make the extra point. He missed.
A completed pass gave us our second touchdown. The same kicker missed again. Neither kick had made it inside the goalposts. The score stood at 18-12.
An end run tied the score at 18-18. Shall I give the kicker another chance? The decision was a pass in the end zone to an outstanding high school pass receiver before he was drafted. It was our chance to finish the season with a victory.
The pass was thrown right into his arms. He stumbled and dropped it. The game wound up a tie.
We were not despondent, or accusing each other of messing up. We were happy for being a team and bringing Parson football back to Westminster.
Our locker room prayer before each game had been answered. "Win or lose, may we be proud we played the game."
Fred Benton is a member of the Jottings Group at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.
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