Stepping Up: Long live the Long Blue Line

Published 4:02 pm Wednesday, September 27, 2017

It was 1947. Seventy years ago.

Our country, and its people, were adjusting to a post-World War II life. Harry S. Truman was our president.

And in the fall of ’47, the Washington High School Pam Pack football team was rolling along into what was to become one of the greatest seasons in school history. A part of the “Long Blue Line.”

J.G. “Choppy” Wagner had returned to WHS in ’46, following service during the war. He had first arrived in Washington in ’41, but left after one season, when duty called.

In early October, the boys in navy and white were undefeated. Little did they know that they were part of a team that would have an undefeated season, 9-0, the first in school history, and one of only two teams ever to achieve an unblemished record.

The other was the ’51 team that finished with an 11-0-0 mark. The ’56 squad was 11-1-1, and became Conference and Eastern Champions, and state runners up.

In the 40s and early 50s, Washington didn’t compete in post-season playoffs. At the time there were three different high school associations, not all offering playoff opportunities. That may seem a bit odd today, but that’s how it was.

In the Oct. 7 issue of the Washington Daily News one would find that Williams-Buck Motor Company could offer you a Dodge — the Smoothest Car “Afloat.”

WRRF radio signed on each day at 5:30 am, and broadcast until 5:15 pm. And people listened.

Carolyn Sue Beckham celebrated her fourth birthday with a party at her home on Charlotte Street.

And Sermons Warehouse was pleased to report that sales were averaging $59 and $60 per 100 pounds.

If you were under 12, you could take in a double feature for 12 cents at the Reita. That worked for me.

For the lads in blue, however, the big thing was taking place on the green grass of Kugler Field, that iconic athletic arena with the thick 10 foot high stone wall around the entire facility. It also included the baseball diamond, and field house, primitive though that was.

But talk about a “Field of Dreams,” for several generations of Washington boys it was that, and more.

Space constraints don’t allow for a game-by-game accounting of that special season. Yet, this piece must include the names of some of those boys-to-young-men who were a part of that historic team.

A starting lineup might look like this: LE-Smith, LT-Ward, LG-Hough, C-Peele, RG-Tayloe, RT-Stowe, RE-Ellington, QB-Grist, HB-Hill, HB-Sowers, FB-E.Stowe.

Jack Sowers and Jim Stanley were exceptional runners, and Stowe complemented them in that way as well.

And J.K. Hoyt’s was offering new suits from $35. Belk-Tyler’s had a Grand Opening of its Bargain third floor.

Cherry Funeral Home offered 24-hour ambulance service, and the oyster bar at Knotty Pine Inn was open for the season.

The Pam Pack junior varsity was also doing well. Garland Homes, Billy Asby, and Earl (Junebug) Robbins were “looking good in practices,” wrote scribe Houston Smith (no relation).

All of this — and this is merely a snippet of that special season — took place a long time ago. Many of those boys are now gone. May God bless them all.

And perhaps some autumn Friday night, at Kugler Field, with the crispness of the evening stealing upon you, you might be able to sense, perhaps palpably feel, the presence of young men in blue and white uniforms — in all their vitality and vigor of youth — giving their all, their strength, speed, and skills, striving to win yet another game for Washington High, for that “glory” that was to remain a part of them for the rest of their lives.

Long live the “Long Blue Line.”