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Richard Holstad noticed my post the other day about the Leather Helmets we were fortunate not to wear, and I was pleasantly surprised when he emailed this program from a game Northwood played vs (you guessed it!) Lake Mills, in October, 1956.
Reading the names of the players on the roster indeed brings back memories. As freshmen we were on the '58 squad, using the phrase loosely, with seniors like Holtan, Johnson, Fistler, and Mehaffey so we had a personalized respect for them, and older players like Jay Gullickson, Vic Edwards and others can make you smile just from the memories of the names.
Jay Gullickson brings a particular memory to mind - because of the helmets. I don't know that these guys actually wore leather helmets and in fact I suspect they had those same plastic shells that we used later, but I do know, and you will recall from an earlier posting, that facemasks were not de rigeur at the time of this game in 1956.
So one Saturday morning in the fall of 1956, Jay came out to our place with his dad, Joe, sporting a beautiful shiner - a bruise about the size of an orange, planted directly around the eye. Joe smiled his slow smile and said, "He blocked a kick last night." Jay was a quarterback but I can well imagine that on defense he would fit very well as a linebacker, and when defending an extra point he would make every effort, as the tough guy that he was, to block a kick. He succeeded - and paid a price.
Jon Swenson, an LMHS grad who played football at Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls (previously known as the Normal School and today the University of Northern Iowa) was a teacher/coach for us for a couple of years and knew what tough guys were about. When practicing blocking technique, he said, it was important to get your head as close to the body of the defender as you possibly could, so you could avoid having him slip off your shoulder.
That was why, he said, "in the old days" you could tell the good blockers because their cheeks were always roughed up, caused by their "good technique," and he personally bemoaned the use of facemasks. Well, Jay was a good blocker, too, of a sort, and we know what happened to him.
Personally, I'm glad we never had to wear the leather helmets. My cheeks are plenty rosy as they are, thank you.