Thursday, May 26, 2016

69. Preparing for a New Football Season in 1946

When Nancy and I were preparing for our sophomore year at Gettysburg High School in 1946, everyone was looking forward to the coming football season. After winning only one game during the two previous seasons, the coaches, the team and the fans appreciated new opportunities for a winning team. 

Pre-season drills began on August 19 at a Masonic Camp south of Gettysburg under new head coach, George Forney who returned the previous February to teach and coach after serving two years in the Navy during World War II.

At camp, the team was introduced to Coach Forney’s very unconventional version of the single wing formation. The single wing featured four linemen and three backs on one side of the center and was considered a brute force running formation described by some as “three yards and a cloud of dust.”  

Passing was rare in the Forties, and several coaches are credited with saying, “Three things can happen when you throw a pass and two of them are bad.” 

The 1946 football season was my first opportunity to play varsity football, and I hoped that my enthusiasm and determination would allow me to earn a place on the starting team. Incidentally, in 1946 team members played both offense and defense. The popular two platoon system we recognize in high school, college and professional football was used by very few teams at that time.

It would not be long before Gettysburg fans would learn if the 1946 high school team would produce some long overdue wins .  The first game was scheduled for September 13 at Delone Catholic High School in McSherrystown. We’ll report on the results in a future post.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

68. A Tragic Loss

Nancy and I have many memories of growing up in Gettysburg, but not all our reminiscences are happy and treasured. We were reminded of that when we recently turned the pages of our 1946 Gettysburg High School yearbook in which the events of our freshman year are recorded.

The yearbook was dedicated to General Dwight David Eisenhower who guided our military through the European Theater of War in World War II. The reference to the war was a reminder that world wide 60 million people were casualties of that conflict. One page of the 1946 yearbook listed the names of 26  alumni of Gettysburg High School who lost their lives in World War II.

Turning the pages of the yearbook to a photograph of our freshmen class along with a list of names, we recognized one name that reminded us of a tragic event that occurred as our class was about to begin our sophomore year.

On Monday, August 26, 1946, our classmate Sydney Poppay was thrown from a pick-up truck as he returned to Gettysburg after picking peaches at one of the local fruit farms. Brought to the Warner hospital, our friend and classmate died of a fractured skull and other injuries the next morning.

Sydney was a good student who was involved in his church, his scout troop and in school activities. Had he lived, he would have continued to be a valuable and contributing member of our class and our school.

Three years later, our senior yearbook acknowledged our loss with these words:
“We remember with love and respect Sydney Poppay, a schoolmate of ours for a number of years, who was with us but one year during our high school days. . . His spirit still abides in the circles that his presence once graced.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

67. Another Important Person

In our last post, we described a most important person in Nancy’s life while she was growing up in Gettysburg, her mother, Grace Hartman Ogden. For our current post, we choose to comment on an important person in my life, my mother, Elizabeth Houck Westerdahl.

Mother was only three when she saw her own mother, Elsie Pearl Clopper Houck, buried in York, Pennsylvania. Her mother was descended from Cornelius Janzen Clopper who arrived in New Amsterdam (Manhattan)  in 1630.

Elizabeth loved to cook for large family dinners and her expertise in the kitchen was admired and enjoyed by everyone. One of the secrets of her culinary skills was a generous amount of butter and cream in many of her dishes, but despite those risks to good health in her own diet, mother lived to be 101 aided by good genes by those who preceded her.

From her home on Lincoln Avenue in Gettysburg, mother walked to work at the Bookmart on Chambersburg Street every day for many years. What better place to be employed than a bookstore since reading was her life-long hobby and passion.

Throughout her life, Elizabeth was fastidious about her personal appearance and anxious about the image projected by her family. When in public, she was well groomed and well dressed, and she expected as much from her family. 

Mother Westerdahl had a stroke in January of 2010. For the next five days, she smiled and laughed with those who loved her most, then she died quietly in her sleep, content that she had lived a long and satisfying life.

Friday, May 6, 2016

66. Most Important People

Recently, Nancy and I realized that in our sixty-five posts about growing up in Gettysburg in the Forties, we have said very little about the people who were a part of our lives, i.e., parents, siblings, teachers and friends, so let us begin to correct that omission by describing the most important people in our lives when we were fifteen, our parents.

In the Forties, Nancy lived with her mother, dad and older brother, Bill, at the base of Baltimore Street hill in a white two story, four bedroom house that existed during the Battle of Gettysburg.  Often, Nancy’s home was also opened to loved ones who were no longer able to live alone.

Nancy’s mother (Grace Hartman) was a teacher who graduated from Gettysburg Academy to prepare for Shippensburg State Teachers College where she was certified after just two years. Her first teaching assignment was in a one-room schoolhouse in East Berlin.

She and Nancy’s father were married in 1924, and after the service, they moved directly  to a home on Liberty Street which was already paid for. Her Dad was a banker, and in 1924, he believed you didn’t buy anything until you had the money to pay for it.

Grace Hartman Ogden was beloved by family and friends. She was known for her fried oysters, pot pie with homemade noodles, crab cakes and hog-maw. She had a deep committed faith in her God, and she was faithful to her family who she served unselfishly throughout her like. She lived a life that is celebrated and admired by her family and friends.