Rabble looks back on Army football yester-year

Bill Giunco, better known as "RABBLE" on the ArmySports.com boards, gives us a look back on yester-year when the Army football team was the best in the nation and the stadium facilities at West Point left a lot to be desired.

My name is RABBLE. Well actually, that is not my real name of course. The name I really use is Bill Giunco. I live in a small seashore town along the New Jersey coast named Manasquan, a name that means from an old Indian name RIVER ON THE ISLAND OF SQUAWS (Algonkin Indians who first settled the area). We are situated about 7 miles south of Asbury Park. Most of you know about Asbury Park especially if you are a Bruce Springsteen fan. Bruce got his musical start in Asbury Park in a little club called The Stone Pony, which still stands today, a block from the Atlantic Ocean. Bruce has never forgotten his roots. Occasionally he will make a surprise visit to The Pony on a busy Saturday evening to entertain the busy summer crowds that flock to the Jersey shore and to The Pony. There he will sing a few songs that made he and the E Street Band so very famous.

As an Army fan for over 60 years now, not only of their football program but of all the intercollegiate sports that West Point participates, I have over this period of time collected nearly a thousand Army Football game programs and 25,000 individual newspaper clippings of the Army Football games plus much more memorabilia of academy football down thru the years, media guides, pins, pennants and much more. I guess you could say it has been a lifelong hobby of mine through the years. I have seen many, many, games over this span of time not only at Michie Stadium, but many away games and neutral sites spanning mostly the eastern half of the nation.

I am not a graduate of West Point as some of you might think but just an Army fan ever since my mom and dad took me to an Army game way back many decades ago at Michie Stadium when the Cadets at the time were amongst the very best football teams in the land. I fell in love with the team and have been a dedicated fan and supporter since that very first day when my dad drove me thru South Gate a long time ago and introduced me to West Point and West Point football.

Of course, for many years previous to that, one of my first remembrances of Army football came over our 10-inch RCA television screen during the 1947 football season, which my dad had just purchased a month before the season, began. Those were the days of "snowy" black and white "images" that we described as a television "picture broadcast" and signaled from an antenna fixed on top of the Empire State Building in New York City. Army had their home games televised from Michie that first year over WNBT (National Broadcasting Television, channel 4), Columbia had their games televised on WCBS (channel 2) and Notre Dame had a few games relayed somehow from South Bend, Indiana, on the DUMONT Television Network (channel 5). This was well before the NCAA put their infamous ban on televising college football save for one game a week.

I recall one particular game that season and naturally I would have remembered that one. It was the first one that Army had lost in 4 years since the Navy game in 1943. Yes, most of you will remember that one from the record books---Columbia 21 Army 20.

Previous to that, I recall listening to Army football games (never missed a game) on the radio with commentators such as Bill Stern and Ted Husing calling the Army action. In those days, Army NEVER lost so the experience of actually "seeing" Army lose a football game was very traumatic for me back then even in 1947 when we lost to that Columbia Lions team who was so superbly coached by that "Morningside Heights" immortal, Lou Little. Of course, we had our own immortal coach too on our sideline, Earl Henry "Red" Blaik.

I remember Michie Stadium in those days too. Seating 27,500 fans, I usually sat on the bleacher east stands then as I still do today even though today those bleacher seats sit on solid concrete. I used to lose my program a couple times a season as it would fall through the seats and to the ground where I promptly would scurry around underneath the stands to retrieve anything I happened to drop.

And that old press box. Not the one that was demolished before the present Hoffman Press box, the one before that one. Six open slots surrounded by concrete that I would assume were not too comfortable during a November football game. Howze Field was a practice field south of the Stadium but on game day, it was a parking lot loaded with cars. Can you imagine that being a parking lot today with the present security measures in place?

There was no Holleder Center in those days, no Kimsey, not much of anything. As a matter of fact, Don Holleder for which the Holleder is named, was just an infant then. Just a wooded area surrounded the west side of the Stadium area.

No protection from the elements for any seat in the house back then. No second deck on the west side. Everybody got wet on a rainy day, except maybe the Supe and his small party who I'm sure got a tiny space in the "protected" press box. Small scoreboards on the north and south end zone, manned by cadets holding numbers that would fit into slots indicating the score and downs. Lusk Resevoir, before it was reconfigured seemed to almost touch the Stadium Gates on the NE side. Concession stands were only underneath the concrete stands on the south end zone areas after the tunnels were removed from the 50-yard line to the north side for additional seating. Actually, the original Michie held only 17,000 fans until the temporary stands on the north side of the field were erected bringing the capacity up to 22,000.

The field itself was natural grass in those days but by November, the grass was pretty well chewed up and missing between the hash marks and on a bad day, the players were covered with mud making their black jerseys even blacker. The gold helmets became black by the fourth quarter too.

As I recall, after an afternoon of cold or rain and sometimes snow when the game was over in almost complete darkness (the games did not start until 2 p.m. in those days), before we left for home we would walk down the hill to Smith Rink (now the site of Herbert Alumni Hall) to take in an Army Hockey game where we would get even colder sitting in those seats or we would trudge over to Gillis Field House down by the river to see the Army Basketball team win a game.

Those were the days, maybe taking in a game was a little more difficult to endure and experience than today but back then the final score on that old scoreboard made that experience maybe a little easier to make that four hour trip back home to Manasquan at that time. The two-hour trip today seems longer when we are on the short end on our new electrified scoreboard.

Cadets from the 1950s.

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