NORMAN — I have very vivid memories of the OU, Notre Dame football game on Nov. 16, 1957. If you will just read on a bit, I’ll tell you how I played that game with the Sooners.
My Daddy and I were huge Sooner football fans from way back and had been listening to radio broadcasts of the games since I was a little girl. What I learned about listening to the radio is that if you’re really going to follow the game, you have to make it come alive in your mind.
But if you don’t know much about football, visualizing the game can be a bit of a challenge. That’s where my Daddy came in. He had played football in college and knew the game quite well, so he made it possible for me to understand the game without really “seeing” it.
We lived in the back of our little cafe (Shorty’s Hamburgers, best in western Oklahoma), and on our very non-descript, rectangular kitchen table, my Daddy created a football field that made the game of football come alive for me. I want you to know just what he did.
The creation of the football “field” began with a white crayon. My Daddy took the crayon, along with a yard stick, and drew 10 straight lines across the width of our kitchen table to represent the yard markers on the football field. When that was done, the crayon was used to make hash marks to represent the end zones.
Next, he took a piece of stiff, white paper and cut it one-inch wide and 10 “yards” long to match the yard lines on the “field.” This served as our yard marker, or “chain,” to measure the downs. To keep track of which down was being played, he used a square piece of chalk (the kind used to chalk cue sticks) and numbered the sides 1 through 4. To use it, we just rolled the chalk over to match the down. If it was second down, the 2 would be on top.
The next part was a dime. He painted one side red with red nail polish and left the other side just as it was. The dime represented the football. If OU had the ball, the red side was up. If the other team had the ball, we turned the ball (the dime) over.
When the game started with the opening kickoff, we moved the ball down the field to where the announcer said it landed or was caught.
If a runner was carrying it, we moved the ball everywhere the announcer said the runner was going until he was downed. Then it was time to set the chain on the side of the field to measure the downs.
As we listened to that voice coming out of the radio, my Daddy and I moved the ball up and down the field just like it was happening in real life. We ran the ball, kept up with which team had the ball, moved the chain and rolled over the down marker. As the game progressed, we knew exactly where the ball was, exactly how far the team had to go to make a first down and exactly what down it was.
I never got lost about what was happening in the game because I could see it being played right in front of me. We even had a scoreboard drawn at the end of the table where we kept track by writing the numbers with our white crayon. And to make everything fall into place, we just happened to be playing our Sooner games on a red table.
In November 1957, it seemed that everyone in Cordell was looking forward to playing Notre Dame. The game was even more special because it was going to be broadcast on television. Wow! However, I knew I wasn’t going to get to watch the game on TV because we didn’t have one. I really, really wanted to go up the street to the furniture store with my Daddy to see the game on one of the few TV sets in town.
Unfortunately, it was Saturday afternoon and the cafe had to stay open, so it was best for my Daddy to be the one to walk the half block to the furniture store and see the game for real. (As it turned out, I think we both could have gone to the furniture store and left the cafe door wide open, because not a soul came in during the game.)
But I was supposed to mind our business, so I manned my station. My Daddy made sure that the radio was working and on the right station before he left for the big event up the street.
Now, we all know what happened next. What you haven’t heard until now, however, is how one teenage girl sat at her kitchen table playing that Notre Dame game with the Sooners. She was carrying the football, marking downs, moving the chain and believing with all her heart that the Sooners were going to score the next time they got the ball. The Sooners always scored — but not today.
As the minutes ticked by, the sobs blurred my vision, muddied the field and got the paper “chain” wet and soggy. My Daddy was back immediately after the game was over and we just hugged each other in silence. It was a very sad day.
As time passed, I went away to college and had the privilege of seeing many OU football games played all over the country. But my most memorable game was the Notre Dame game I played with the Sooners.