Saturday was one of those days when the television remote control got some pretty steady use, especially around noon.
Not often do Iowa State University and the University of Iowa find their football games coinciding on the tube. Saturday was one of those days. With Iowa State facing Oklahoma on the road and Iowa hosting Illinois on Saturday, both starting at 11 a.m., it produced some interesting times with the remote control.
Through my lifetime, I’ve met tons of football fans in our great state. I’ve got friends who live and die with the Hawkeyes in Iowa City and friends who are just as avid fans of the Cyclones in Ames. It’s hard to stay friends with both groups.
Admittedly, I became a loyal Hawkeye fan long, long ago. I grew up in the glory years, the Forest Evaschevski era of Hawkeye football, the years when Iowa always was among the favorites in the Big Ten. At the same time, the 1950s were a lean time for Iowa State, at least in those years before the fabled “Dirty Thirty” team of the very late years of the decade.
Growing up in Alleman, I found it far easier to attend Iowa State games at the old football field on campus than to make the long, long trip to Iowa City along old U.S. Highway 6.
Often in those days of the 1950s, I’d accompany my mother to her job at Abe’s Grocery Store in Ames on certain Saturday mornings. I’d walk around Ames, my transistor radio affixed to my ear. The radio would belt out all the teen tunes of the day as I’d while away the hours leading up to the Iowa State kickoff. I’m sure I was a sight to behold for the elder generation as they drove by. I had that radio affixed to my ear, oblivious to locals as I sang along to hits like “Come Go With Me,” “Little Darlin’,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Heartbreak Hotel.”
But, I was oblivious to it all. Periodically, I’d check my Roy Rogers wrist watch and at a certain pre-set time, I’d walk down the sidewalk toward the Iowa State campus. I had it pretty well calculated. It took some time, but I steadily made my way past what were then open fields toward the Iowa State campus, leaving Ames proper behind.
Eventually, I’d wind up at Clyde Williams Field, the old on-campus home of the Cyclones. It seemed like such a huge place at the time, although it held less than 40,000 football fans. Rarely, in those days, did Cyclone fans turn out in numbers that even remotely resembled a full house. I’d walk up to the ticket booth, plop down a dollar bill and earn admission to the bleachers at the south end zone.
What a thrill it was to actually watch major college football. Invariably, at halftime, the PA announcer would invite everyone in the end zone to find a seat in the grandstand proper. Believe me, I felt like a real football fan as I made my way into a grandstand seat.
Once I got older, I didn’t have to rely on my mother to drive me to Ames. I didn’t have to spend the whole day walking around town, just to be able to spend three hours at a football game.
In fact, I was finally able to make plans. Just a dollar was all I needed. I’d drive to Ames, park and attend the game all for a total cost of only two or three dollars, gasoline, ticket and popcorn included!
It’s exactly for that reason, too, that I remember the exact date on which I took the ACT test — yes, I planned to head off to college — at Iowa State in 1960. You see, it was the same day that Iowa State was to host Oklahoma in football that season. It was a game I didn’t want to miss, for sure. Iowa State had a pretty good team that year and Oklahoma wasn’t the perennial No. 1 team it had been in the 1950s.
I sat there on that morning of Nov. 5, 1960, taking my ACT test, but my heart was a few hundred yards away at Clyde Williams Field.
While several North Polk High School seniors were all scheduled to take their ACT test that day, I couldn’t find a single soul who had any desire to stick around in the afternoon and watch Iowa State play Oklahoma. I was determined, though, and wound up driving myself to Ames that morning in a small truck belonging to the Alleman Implement Company, my dad’s employer. I imagine I was quite a sight driving up in that old gray truck, but I didn’t care.
I finished my ACT test, said “goodbye” to the other North Polk seniors who took the test that day, bought a $1 end zone ticket and watched. It was a close game all afternoon, but in the end, Iowa State had beaten Oklahoma — those Sooners of the Bud Wilkenson era — by a final 10-6 score.
That game remains the last time that Iowa State has beaten Oklahoma in Ames. I was there. Tom Watkins went on to a stellar career in the NFL. Dave Hoppmann was the tailback in the old wing-T formation. There were others, of course, but that team, just a year or two after the fabled “Dirty Thirty” was a big part of Clay Stapleton’s coaching career.
Yes, I saw Iowa beat Illinois on Saturday. Yes, I saw Iowa State upset Oklahoma, too.
But, it was that day in November of 1960 that I’ll always remember. Capacity of the old stadium wasn’t much over 30,000. I was one of those.
I’ll never forget that Saturday and all the excitement it brought to Ames many years ago. And, it’s not because it’s the day I took my ACT test.
Bill Haglund is a retired writer for the Boone News-Republican and Dallas County News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.