The “Happy Days” era collides with college football, the birth of Rock ‘N’ Roll, Hugh Hefner’s hallucinations, and a “can do” culture of girls, girls, girls and ten-cent beer.
In the summer of 1951, a perennial junior college football doormat had assembled almost everything needed for a shot at a bowl game. All they needed was a blue chip punter to get the best field positions on defense. That student-athlete was lured by tall tales of easy living, football glories, good times, and promised good grades at a southwestern juco “Hog Heaven.”
His first evening in town, he met a local beauty queen, shared Jack Daniels-laced snow cones, slow danced a’plenty at a local honky tont, and “fell mutually, madly in love.” After an all-day, all-night beach party, that young athlete gladly signed an iron-clad Letter of Intent so that he and his “one true love” could attend college and line dance through life together.
However, when she and her actual fiancé subsequently left town together to attend graduate school in another state, that young jock knew for sure that he had been flimflammed by his new coach, new-found best friends, and local benefactors for their benefit.
1951 is a journal of the thoughts, challenges, daily adventures and faux pas of a somewhat naïve but determined 17-year old junior college freshman’s first semester away from home as filtered through 26 bi-weekly letters to a close friend and former neighbor. Written in the often immature terms of inexperience, braggadocio and occasional exaggerations of new-found freedoms from prior constraints, these letters reflect the vivid if somewhat naïve imagery, culture and life styles of that far less complex time and place, and celebrate the lures of previously unexplored temptations in a small Midwestern college town where a young fellow could easily get an enviable reputation by doing very little by today’s standards, and a young coed could be ruined for life for doing a heck of a lot less; a football coach who many believed could not pour urine out of a boot even if the instructions were printed plainly on the heel, but he kept winning anyway; and a tight little band of student/athletes who came together to jumpstart a junior college football dynasty.
Give or take, roughly 90% of this book is a nonfiction memoir with the remainder being creative literary license to blend various story elements of several semesters into one cohesive semester. The names, more easily identifiable physical characteristics and even the locations were changed to protect the reputations of once-imprudent grandparents and great grandparents who are now role models in their families and communities. I could not write this story about old friends in any other way.
Where the shifting sands of time have faded, such memories as who all came out to my camp site on the Walnut River, and who was that fourth guy when the Chief of Police took us new guys in town (soused to the gills) for a midnight tour of Lovers’ Lane; a dart was tossed at a list of the Usual Suspects and the story moved on. So let the good times roll.