Fading Memories: Stanford - San Jose State

Another in a continuing series that began a couple of years ago with recollections of Tara the Snake Dancer atop the San Jose State D.U. House in September, 1965 – hey, you had to be there!

Doesn’t seem that long ago.  But it was.  Thirty-five Indian Summers later, the 63-21 shellacking of my alma mater, San Jose State, by the best Stanford football team I’ve ever seen (yeah I know, I know – they lost to USC and couldn’t beat UCLA, but check the roster), is surprisingly fresh to a guy who wasn’t even there.  I’d graduated the previous June.  And I was on the road. 

Friday afternoon before that game, my fellow-traveler, Spartan alum, closet Cardinalmaniac ™ and Theta Chi frat-bro, Paul Garratt, and I had just screeched up to the rental residence of a Palo Alto high-school buddy of Garratt’s on another campus far removed from San Jose and the Farm: Madison, Wisconsin. John McCreary got a Badger swimming scholarship out of Paly High and was an all-around good guy and crazy man.  When he learned of our route through the upper mid-west, he invited us to spend one of our stops with him.  We eagerly obliged.  We were three weeks into a cross-country odyssey in my VW Beetle, jammed like Tom Joad’s jalopy with camping gear (we hardly used) and a jumble of other stuff we packed for our Excellent Adventure.  The point was to a do four-wheeled Easy Rider-discovery-of-America roadtrip.  Not original.  But still cool.  We drove all over hell, coast-to-coast and back.  But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

McCreary, offertory beers in hand at the end of his long outstretched arms, bounded out of his house, a typical re-furbed Victorian college rental, with several comely Badger-ettes in his entourage.  All curious about the roadies from San Jose.  We trudged up the steps, and stashed our sleeping bags behind a reefer-scorched, beat-up couch in the living room (a multi-use space that included functions as guest quarters, rec-room, dining hall, dance floor, sun-porch and laundry area).

Following chit-chat and not-so-furtive assessment of the Badger-ettes, in fact, it was blatant specimen-examination and a couple of them were real keepers, we all eased on down to State Street, with everybody else on Friday night, for obligatory brats and brewskies.  McCreary apologized that he couldn’t score tickets for us for the next day’s huge game with Oklahoma (featuring future Heisman winner, Sooner Steve Owen), but said we could “lay back” at his pad (1969 terminology for “chilling” in his crib).  Whichever Badger-ette(s) chose to do likewise was entirely up to us and our primitive, State College-trained negotiating skills.  Rest of evening remains a hazy-at-best recollection, but we eventually found our way to Lake Mendota, lolling on the shore, Badger-ettes in tow. It was an unseasonably warm, sultry evening. They spoke with those faintly Scandinavian-heritage/Canadian/ice-fishing pronunciations.  They were cute, smart, and funny.  One looked like a younger-version of the actress Lee Remick and another like Inger Stephens, the similar-vintage blond with the beauty mark next to her mouth.  Yeah I’m dating myself.  Too friggin’ bad if you don’t know what Remick and Stephens looked like.  Your loss.  Eat your heart out.

This was going to be great.

Badger-ettes fixed us breakfast the next day. I can’t remember what the hell it was.  And shades of red-and-white were everywhere: Wide-body Wisconsin types and Oklahomans decked in crimson. The weather was mid-September gorgeous. McCreary went to the game with some other Badger-ettes and a couple of his teammates, and we could actually hear the tumult and shouting resonate from Camp Randall (more Sooner than Badger).  Owen, and Oklahoma, carried the day.  We BBQ-d in the backyard that evening as the moon rose over the lake, along with campus-wide clouds of hemp smoke that intermingled with the aroma of brats on hundreds of grills.  Couple of Badger-ettes and his teammates who were there debated Vietnam with McCreary, who flitted from one side of the argument to the other.  Drove Badger-ettes crazy.  But everybody hung out, late. Lot of beer. No football talk, except for McCreary proclaiming Steve Owen would win the Heisman, if Plunkett didn’t. Jock circles at Wisconsin knew about Plunkett.  This was pre-ESPN and we had to wait for the Sunday paper to find out about Stanford.  Next morning, with no hair of the dog that bit us but a Milwaukee Journal on the doorstep, Garratt perused the agate type: Stanford 63, San Jose 21.  “Hey, man,” he exclaimed in a raspy, morning-after-night-before growl.  “That’s almost like last year!  Wonder how many TDs Plunkett threw?”  We had to get a fuller story.  Maybe the Chicago Trib would carry one.  One of the Badger-ettes tried to “console” us because Stanford had kicked “our” ass.  The chick had no idea, but it was sweet of her.   

Another Badger-ette was still snoring. Garratt went back to sleep.

These things are true. They actually happened. We were students once, and young.

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