My earliest childhood memories with my father occurred when I was five years old on Friday nights to see "Big Red" in the Fall of 1956. My father did not attend Manual, at the age of 16 he had to quit school and get a job. But my father had been a Manual fan since 1942. My father was also a Buick man. The new V8's of that day were quick off the line but the ride of a "Straight 8 Engine'" was smooth, more to my fathers style. Hence, the 1951, 4-door Buick Dynaflow we were in came quietly to a parking spot on the grass in the Kosair Hospital back lot with assistance from a Shriner with a big strange hat. My father handed the Shriner a dollar which seemed out of character since the old man considered a dime as the universally accepted amount for a tip or donation. I think the pre-game adrenaline rush got to him when he heard the "Marching 100 Drums Corps" as he hurriedly exited the Buick and grabbed whatever coin or cash he had in his pocket, it was the Shriner's lucky night.
I distinctly remember my father holding my hand tightly since I could hardly keep up with him as we quickly headed toward the stadium and J-walked across Eastern Parkway. I recall dropping one of my gloves once and yelling "I dropped my glove Daddy", the old man paid me no attention, never lost stride, made a great move off the sidewalk around some slow walkers out on to Burnett Street and back on the sidewalk in about 5 seconds! He was in exceptional pre-game form that night!
I can still remember looking up at the sky to the stadium lights reflecting from the clouds and hearing the muffled sound of drums from within the great, weathered stone walls of that storied old stadium. As we hurried to get in line for tickets, the band started the National Anthem. This was not a good because it meant the kick-off to begin the game was imminent. The pace would now go from a fast walk to a jog as we entered the main gate and passed what looked like 20 foot high walls. Once inside I remember the sound of the cinder track crunching under my fathers shoes within the large, looming shadow of the scoreboard, tall evergreen trees and bushes just inside the entrance gate. There was a sense of excitement growing as we quickly brushed by a kid asking my father, "program?" The Old man didn't need a program, he knew all of the Big Red players names and numbers by heart. The anticipation and excitement of my father now flowed through me as on the run, we exited the shadows into the illumination of the incredibly bright and high stadium lights to a panoramic vision of ............ Crimson Football!
The hugh stands full of fans, the game, the sounds, the smells, the band that would somehow produce the "Marching Manual" the length of the football field from the end zone during halftime...Amazing! Standing at the sideline gate at the end of the game to see, or maybe even touch a "Star Player"...I didn't know humans could be that big when I was a kid! After the game sometimes we went to Moore's Tavern on Preston Street. My father would order a rolled oyster, a beer... He always put a little salt in his glass of beer, and talked about the game with other Manual fans. I got a plate of hot French fries and a cherry fountain coke. My father would also bribe me with nickels for the pinball machine to keep my mouth shut to my mother about taking me to a tavern or drink beer in front of me...we kept it our secret. I still think hot French fries and cherry fountain cokes are the best at taverns. For all of these wonderful Crimson Memories during my childhood, I thank my father.