Gimme an A! Gimme an O!

Clarkson Museum G_20080628_08a

This week’s entry is an interesting photo in your Clarkson Historical Museum.  Can you guess what is going on?

Does it depict the aftermath of a free watermelon feed during the old Harvest Festivals?  NO!

Is it an emergency hospital set up to treat the victims of a stampede when $50 was given out by the Clarkson merchants at 9 PM Saturday night?  NO!

Are these casualties from the riot that broke out when somebody prematurely yelled “BINGO!!!” at the Bishop Neumann School the night there was a $500 pot?  ALE, NE!

As near as I can make out, it is photograph of a Blood Drive at Clarkson’s City Hall.  It does a great job of showing all the steps in the process, from intake to blood typing to donating a unit of blood to post-donation recovery over a soft drink and cookie.  Although I might guess from the style of the mens’ overalls that this photo was taken in the early 1950s, it doesn’t look very much different from what goes on today.

This is a digital photo of an  paper print made from a b&w negative, so some detail was lost at every step.  Nevertheless, I got out the ole’ magnifying glass to see if I could recognize anybody.  I can’t, but maybe you can find yourself or a friend in these pictures.

Odds are that most of the nurses in the photo were from out of town.  I don’t know where the blood bank was located in those days – Columbus?  Look at the nurses’ white shoes and starched white uniforms.  The hats seem to differ a bit among the nurses – some have a dark ribbon across the front, others not.  Some have a Red Cross on the front, others not. Did these differences denote different ranks or organizations?

Update:  Ele Loseke says that the nurse at the bottom of the picture below, looking at the camera, is Polly Polansky.  Polly was the grade school nurse for many years, and a determined collector of newspapers for recycling.  The nurse on the far right of the picture is Evelyn Blecha, the wife of Milo Blecha.  Milo Blecha was a war hero (B17 pilot in Europe), as well as a much-admired coach and science teacher at CHS.

Clarkson Museum G_20080628_08b

In the picture below showing donors giving up their pint, they all seem to be wearing blood pressure cuffs (sphygmomanometers).  Did blood pressure used to be monitored throughout the procedure, or did they just use these things to push more blood into the arm?

Update:  Ele thinks she sees Leo Sixta in the picture below.

Clarkson Museum G_20080628_08c

In the picture below, potential donors are having their blood typed/tested, and are being asked whatever questions were asked back then.  Probably “How are you feeling today?” Can you imagine how quick the interviews might have been before the blood banks had to concern themselves with HIV/AIDS, multiple strains of hepatitis, and the ease of foreign travels to malaria- and yellow-fever infested areas?

Clarkson Museum G_20080628_08e

The fellow being interviewed by the nurse of the left bears a passing resemblance to my Dad, Jerome Cada.  Although he would have almost certainly shown up at this blood drive, I doubt it is him simply because he always changed out of his overalls before he went into town.

Dad was a big believer in donating blood, and he cycled back an forth between the Clarkson and Schuyler blood drives as often as they would let him.  In addition, he had an uncommon blood type that was not in great supply in the bank, so he would get calls in the middle of the night to come to the Schuyler Hospital to give an emergency transfusion to someone.  On at least one occasion, they asked him to pick up his brother Bo, who also had that rare blood type, on the way into town.  Ha.  I remember Dad coming home with a 15-gallon donor pin, and he donated blood for many years after that.

All those stainless steel containers on the table (probably holding gauze and cotton balls) remind me of Doc O’Neal’s office.  In preparation for a shot or some medical procedure, he’d pull the lid off the container with a little metallic ring, pull out some cotton, and press it down on the plastic lid of a brown glass jar with rubbing alcohol a couple of times to moisten the cotton.  Sterilize the area and you’re ready for major surgery.

And finally, the blowup below shows people waiting to donate and perhaps, in the back corner, relaxing for a few minutes after donating their pint of blood.  All in all, it’s a busy scene for a little town.  Nebraskans are known all over as volunteers and givers – this picture gives good evidence of that.

Update:  Ele suggests that the picture below shows Joe Toman (mid-front), looks like a Vacha next to him and Vrby in suit and tie, and the lady in back facing us looks like Mrs. Jonas (Ben Jonas’ mother).

Clarkson Museum G_20080628_08d

And while we’re on a medical topic, who can tell me what the device below is?  And how far from Clarkson did you have to travel to use it?  Winners will be announced (along with the unsettling answers) next week.  Good luck!


Posted in 1940s, 1950s | 6 Comments

The End of the Good Times?

1918 Clarkson Nebraska

A while back Vickie Obermaier, a descendant of Clarkson’s Kudrna clan, sent me this interesting portrait of a haymaking crew taking a break from their labors.  Mugging for the camera, they stand stock-still in their poses (only the blurred horses’ heads betray the long shutter speeds of the old camera).  Two of the farmers are holding stoneware crocks of… lemonade?  All sorts of little details can be made out from this old photo – steel-wheeled hayracks, fly nets on the draft horse harnesses, some sort of row crop in the background.

Seven wagons bulging with hay, it is a picture of agricultural prosperity – the Promise of the New World.  This was a major reason many came to America in the first place – work hard and get rich.  There is little doubt that the men were enjoying their brief rest before pushing on to the painstaking (and dusty) task of constructing haystacks.  And there is no doubt that they are unaware that the prosperity to which they have been accustomed was about to come to a sudden end.  These happy farmers were on the verge of a two-decade long period of hard times.

Threshing Grain

The 20 years between 1899 and 1919, when many of our immigrant ancestors were getting established in Nebraska, are generally considered to be a time of prosperity for Midwestern farmers.  The protracted drought and nationwide financial panic that began in 1893 had ended by the end of decade, and both crop yields and crop prices began to climb.  Although the wheat yield was no greater in Nebraska than it had been in Europe (both ranged from 12-22 bushels per acre at that time), there was SO MUCH LAND.  The availability of large areas of fertile land (e.g., via the Homestead Act), improvements in agricultural equipment, the introduction of hard winter wheat, and the extension of the railroads (which helped our farmers reach world markets) all pushed farming into high gear.  The price of corn tripled and wheat more than doubled between 1910 and 1918.  With huge domestic and overseas markets, the wealth of many Clarkson-area farmers was limited only by how much wheat they could thresh and how much corn they could pick by hand.


The Village of Clarkson prospered along with its farmers.  By 1898 a large grain mill and elevator had been built along the railroad tracks.  A 64,000 gallon water tower was constructed in 1904 and a rudimentary telephone system in 1905.  Twenty five new homes were built in Clarkson in 1905 alone.

Clarkson Mill 1898

By 1911, Clarkson had grown into a tidy little town nestled in the hills of Eastern Nebraska, with lots of well-kept wood frame houses and brick commercial buildings, and plans for the new brick high school (dedicated in 1913).

Clarkson 1911a

The booming farm economy supported the manufacture and sale of agricultural equipment.



By 1918, the date of the picture at the beginning of this story, the Farmers Union Co-Op Supply Co. had begun construction of a grain elevator along the railroad tracks to further facilitate the shipment of area farmers’ wheat to the World.


And in 1918, the World was hungry. The First World War had devastated food production in Europe, and American farmers stepped in to fill the empty stomachs.  Before 1914, Great Britain, France, Belgium and Italy (our allies) had depended heavily on other European countries, as well as Australia, Argentina, Canada, and the U.S. for much of their food supplies.  When many of these trade channels were disrupted in 1914, European demand for American farm products soon exceeded the supply, and prices skyrocketed.  The price of corn paid to Nebraskans increased from $0.99/100 lbs in 1913 to $2.58/100 lbs in 1919.  The price of livestock and livestock products jumped almost as fast.  In the five years before 1914, American farmers were paid an average of 90 cents a bushel for their wheat.  As Allied purchasing agents began bidding against one another and speculators jumped in to take advantage of the situation, the average price rose to more than $2 a bushel in 1918.  The net income of U.S. farmers, after paying for supplies, rent, taxes, and interest on their loans and mortgages, increased 120 percent from 1914 to 1919 (the net income of the non-farming population increased 75 percent during those years).

monthly_value 1913-1918

With the end of the First World War in November 1918, the need to feed large armies decreased, and European farmers were able to return to their shellhole-ridden farms to feed their own people.   By 1920, European agriculture was returning to normal, pre-war trade had been re-established, and European nations had borrowed so much money from the U.S. that they no longer had money to buy food from U.S. farmers.  This led to a collapse in demand and a collapse in farm prices.

Corn dropped from a 1918 high of $2.58/100 lbs to $0.79/100 lbs in 1922.  Expressed another way, corn brought 52 cents a bushel in 1921, a 60 percent drop in two years.  The price of wheat in 1923 was less than half of the 1919 peak.

Imagine the dismay of area farmers who had borrowed large sums of money to buy more land during the war years.  Almost overnight, they were squeezed by receiving low prices for what they produced and paying heavy fixed charges – taxes and interest on loans and mortgages.

Although prices for farm products recovered somewhat after 1923, farmers in general did not share in the prosperity of the rest of the Nation during the Roaring Twenties.  The graph below suggests that after a brief uptick in wheat prices in 1925, the value of farm crops dropped relentlessly until 1932.  Corn dropped from $1.58/100 lbs. to $0.44/100lbs in those same years.

And we all know what happened in the 1930s – beginning in 1931, Nebraska suffered a 10-year drought that was one of the worst on record.  Low prices coupled with low production.  If the left fist doesn’t get you, then the right one will.


And once again, a World War increased the demand for U.S. farm products, and beginning in 1940 prices rebounded.  The price of wheat rose from about $0.70/bushel in 1940 to over $1.90/bushel by the end of 1946, as American grain helped feed starving multitudes and became a significant component of foreign aid after World War II.

monthly_value 1940-46

Clarkson-area farmers finally saw profitable years return in the 1940s, the 1950s (despite another drought between 1952 and 1957), and many years thereafter.

Windrower July 57


Cutting Silage Aug 1956

harvesting sorghum 3 oct 71

harvesting sorghum 2 oct 71 big

My point is that the Great Depression, which was such a terrible, defining experience for the entire United States, lasted 10 years longer for Nebraska farmers than it did for many others.  Those who were well-established on their farms, relatively free of debt, and good at tightening their belts were able to make it through the bad times between 1921 and 1941.  Late arrivers, those who expanded their farms at inflated, wartime prices, and those with large debts and mortgages, struggled and sometimes lost everything.  This was a greater problem in the Rocky Mountain West and the Dust Bowl areas of Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, and Kansas than in the eastern Great Plains; settlement of eastern Nebraska was essentially complete before World War I, and farmers had learned to be cautious about the climate.  But the conjunction of low prices and low yields certainly caused hardships in Our Town.  Banks and businesses folded.  Farmers who engaged in back-breaking labor every day of the year counted their profits in the double digits (or none at all).  Most were able to hang on through two decades of lean years.

I suppose that’s why the people of Clarkson are so resilient and unshakable.


[Disclaimer:  The more I look at this picture at the top of this post, the more I think that the men may be standing on shocks of wheat, heading for a thresher, rather than on hay on its way to a haystack or hay barn.  I consulted the authorities:  Marvin Podany suggested that the men may have been standing on bundles of oats, because the picture shows too many racks of grain to be taken to a threshing machine at one time (apparently bundles of oats were stacked and treated differently from wheat).  Kerry Bahns thinks it looks like wheat stubble. Perhaps some member of the Future Farmers of America, Class of 1920 or so, can settle the question.]


Anonymous. Shall I Take Up Farming?  What Are The Lessons From The Last War?  Constructing a Postwar World – The G.I. Roundtable Series in Context.

Cerman, M. 2008.  Rural Economy and Society.  Chapter 3 in A Companion to Eighteenth-Century Europe. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Gould, B.W.  2013.  Understanding Dairy Markets.  Online database.

Hayes, M., C. Knutson, and Q.S. Hu. 2005.  Multiple-Year Droughts in Nebraska.  NebGuide G1551.  University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Jones, L.A. and D. Durand. 1954.  Great Plains and Mountain States.  Chapter 2 in Mortgage Lending Experience in Agriculture. Princeton University Press.

Montgomery, G. 1953.  Wheat price policy in the United States.

Posted in 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s | 2 Comments

Red Devil Football – A View from the Sidelines

As a spectator to all these games, I witnessed a lot of frantic, physical action.  Backfield in motion, holding, illegal use of hands, deflected passes… and that was just in the parking lot after the games!  For Part 4 of the CHS football trilogy, we return to the words of Dale Gentzler, businessman and booster, to get the perspective of the avid football fan:

Football was new for Clarkson in 1956 under Head Coach Francis ‘Kooch’ Dostal. Although that 11-man sport was new to many Clarkson folks, it didn’t take long to catch on. It took some larnin’ though. I vividly remember some of the first games when the pep club was yelling “let’s go north,” and the team was going south, or didn’t even have the ball. At the beginning of the first season, there was a “get acquainted night” where people who didn’t know anything about football could come and get an explanation of the rules. They even demonstrated the various important parts and the safety qualities of the football uniform, right down to the athletic supporters.

Oh, we were athletic supporters alright. We had some good years and we had some bad years. We supported through thick and thin.

I remember one particular ‘thin.’  Have you ever heard about a spectator getting a 15-yard penalty in football?  It was during the final days of Pilger High School, when they had a really good team, starring David Goeller, who later went on to star at Nebraska. Leroy Ernst was the head coach for the Red Devils and I drove the team bus that year.  There was a goodly number of Devil fans along the east sideline wire and we were getting trounced pretty good. On one particular play Goeller made a long run, was tackled out of bounds near our goal line, but not across it. The official signaled a touchdown and we went ballistic! I shouted at the ref, “open your  #@$&*!# eyes!” and I called him by name, because I knew him and “never did like that guy.” The hankie went down just like that and I disappeared down the sidelines, meeting Coach Ernst en route, who was coming to see what the penalty was about. I said “I dunno” and kept on movin’ away from the scene of the accident. Ruth O’Neal and Eldora Gentlzer were left standing there to face the ref, declaring their innocence—- and I was long gone. They called a fifteen yard penalty on the crowd (me, only they didn’t know it was me) and assessed it on the ensuing kickoff.  We did score in the next few minutes but that didn’t ease my embarrassment much. I was like Bill Clinton, not sorry that I did it– just sorry I got caught. Fortunately we lost by a lot of points, so it wasn’t instrumental in the outcome. The sad part was that, being the bus driver, I had to own up to my actions when we got back on the bus.


I’m also reminded of a football game at St. Edward. We arrived and there was only one light pole for the entire field. Encouraged by old man “Schnapps,” who rode with us, the Clarkson contingent stood at attention and lit matches for the kickoff. Somehow St. Ed decided we were getting a little rowdier than necessary during the game, so the city cop came to our side of the field, which only made things worse. We never left him alone. Irwin Kluthe asked him if he wanted to make something out of it. Alan Dusatko let him know that he was an “attorney at law” and Buster Miller got in his face to make a point. The cop, who just happened to be the father of Case, the football star for St. Edward, endured it for a minute, then he waggled his finger at Frank, and said “Now, look here, Buster!” The whole Clarkson crowd just broke up, realizing that the cop didn’t know it was a real “Buster” he was talking to. Laughing didn’t help matters.  We didn’t go to jail, but we were guilty of doing things our kids would get in trouble for. They sure make good memories, though.

Home football games were fun, too, and there was always a crowd. Our two girls got their love for the sport very early, partly because of their parents’ enthusiasm for Clarkson Red Devil football. During a game, if someone would take off downfield on a long run, I’d grab an arm and away we’d go. Their feet would barely touch the ground.

In summary, the pep club eventually got the hang of it. And that was the only fifteen yard penalty I’ve ever heard called on the sideline. Oh well, I’m famous for something.


My zeal for small town athletics got me in trouble more than once. When we were in business at Clarkson Sundries I would often design window displays to boost the Devils on to victory that particular week.  One time I was so proud of my innovative mind, when I built a grave in the window, with the following epitaph; “Here lies St. Francis dead on the level, victim of the Clarkson Red Devil.” Clever?  Father Kubesh didn’t think so. Promoting a devil’s victory over a saint was carrying team spirit a bit far, I was told. It was a learning experience— I didn’t do anything like that, ever again.

-        Dale Gentzler

And so ends our story of the first decade of Clarkson High School football, 1956-1966. The spirited players are now old men, and can only dream of the speed and stamina they had as 17-year-olds. And the Red Devil teams are gone, part of history.  So put your cheeseburger and Coca Cola down, put your hands together, and join in our fight song (Sung to the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In”…)


When the Devils, go marching in,

When the Devils go marching in,

Oh, I’d love to be in that number,

When the Devils go marching in!

 devil 2

Thanks for reading our modest effort.  If you are interested in printing out the entire 4-part story, click on this link:

Red Devil Football 1956-1966

Posted in 1950s, 1960s | 1 Comment

Red Devil Football – The Mid-1960s

Moving up a few years, Darrell Podany (Class of 1967) recalls the CHS football teams of the mid-60s.  While they may not have been the most successful Red Devil teams to take the field, they were indisputably the smartest and best looking….

Mostly I remember two-a-days.  Practices were long and hard and it was always hot.  Fortunately we had frequent rest breaks and plenty of chances to replenish our dehydrated bodies with water and fluids.  Also the coaches expressed real concern for the well-being of players, especially underclassmen.  They were constantly checking to be sure everyone was ok.  Oh, wait…you meant Clarkson High football, right?  That would be different.

Team 66 A

Team 66 B

Remember the blizzard game against Howells when we were seniors in ’66?   Never been so wet and cold.   Six inches of ice, snow, and slush covered the field at the start of the game and it kept on coming down.  We were tied at the half.  Could barely see the lights for the driving snow.  At the start of the second half we had the whimpering bobkitties backed up to their own goal line with 4th and a mile.   Then suddenly the ref stepped in and said “game’s over boys!”  As I recall everyone on our side said ‘phooey’!  Or something like that.


Memories indelibly etched in mind include the team being suited up and lining up wordlessly to get on the bus for the trip to the field.   The only sounds, the scraping of cleats on concrete and snapping up of chin straps.

I recall playing beneath a huge orange October full moon, the crisp cool air, the grassy scent of the newly mown field (had plenty of opportunity to examine the field in detail since my face was often being pushed deeply into it).   The anguish of missed blocks and tackles and scoring opportunities.  Occasionally plays worked as designed, though, and it was cause for celebration.   I was privileged to play with some pretty good players.  Foremost in my recollection was Roger Arnold…he was just a bulldozer with a giant heart.  Roger loved the game and it was an honor just to have suited up with the guy.  As I recall we lost more games than we won, but as the adage goes, the outcome was somehow less significant than the journey.  In the Deed the Glory.

Schedule 66


After games on the way back Coach would counsel players to “don’t get your daubers down”, if we lost and “take your gear home and get it ‘worshed'”.    Red Devil Moms were the ones who actually ‘worshed’ our gear, and I am still trying to figure out exactly what a ‘dauber’ is.  But he was a good coach so I took him at his word.

After the games we headed downtown to Beanies for the obligatory pep rally and soda, washing away painful memories or reliving glorious victories in an endless torrent of Coca Cola and French fries.  And pursued additional scoring opportunities (albeit unsuccessfully) with the attractive, charming and all-too-virtuous members of the CHS pep club. 

Cheerleaders 66

Pep 66

Pep 66 B

Keep up the good work, remember the Devils*, and don’t get your dauber down.

 Darrell Podany

*Remember the Titans – best football movie ever.

Posted in 1960s | Leave a comment

Red Devil Football – The Tide is Turned

Ron’s narrative of the early years of CHS football continues…

I don’t believe anyone alive knows what happened in the 1960-61 school year.  The school administration didn’t change, Mr. Pavel and Mrs. Larsen were there since the Dark Ages.  Some might argue that Doc O’Neal joining the Board of Education changed things (like steroid usage, ha).  Or maybe the Board’s agreement to all wear dark suits had an effect on the student body.

ADMIN 1961BD OF ED 1961

Others among my friends and family suggest that the replacement of our valued mentor, Mr. Dostal, with a short, fast kid from “somewhere” who went to school at a teacher’s college in Northern Colorado and was “pretty good at something athletic” made a difference in the team spirit and morale and attitude and ability.  Probably not.  All I remember was that Mr. Dostal left us, and we thought we needed him to counter the “unbridled enthusiasm” of Mr. Kropp.

COACHES 1960-61

When we gathered for practice that ever-hot August 1960 we were a nervous bunch of kids, not quite knowing what to expect or whether anything would change from the previous five years of drills, game prep and ending wishing we had done something differently.  Most of us had played together for 2-3 years but there didn’t seem to be that much difference this Fall.

SQUAD 1960-61

Anyone who was at the first game of that season has some memory of what happened, however faded it is over the years.  All I can really remember vividly is the nervousness that permeated the first half of the game, and the beginning smiles of my friends as they realized what was happening which turned into outright laughter in the fourth quarter as we tried to figure out what was occurring and what else could we try.  Everyone had a crack at the ball on defense and the offense could do nothing wrong.  We had control!  The score speaks for itself.  Bernice found my scrapbook which had the clipping “Red Devils Frolic at Humphrey’s Expense.”  I have never frolicked in my life, I guess Ken Kluthe was the one they meant.  I see by the article that I quit giving the ball to Barta after six touchdowns (World Herald Star of Week) and allowing Kluthe to block a punt in the end zone and score. Enough of the detail.

SCHEDULE 1960-61

One of the dangers of having such luck at first is believing it is real and lasting. The next game at Clarks showed us that attention to detail was sort of important.  A team that had beaten us handily the previous two years wasn’t ready to lie down for us.  We came away pretty rattled and Mr. Best acted as good coaches do, pay attention to detail and move on.  The rest of the season speaks for itself as the coaches guided us in avenging the previous drubbings by neighboring teams.  The near-loss of that 2nd game probably made us better the rest of the season.  Credit the coaches with a large part of that.  With one exception it was a blistering year that changed all of us forever.

As a noteworthy addition to that wonderful experience, two of our teammates were named by state authorities to have meritorious service deserving recognition.  I’m sure they’ll admit that the other 26 boys on the team gave able assistance.  I had forgotten this; the team ranked eighth in Class C at the end.


Oh, there was another change in the team makeup that year.  We had a new team of cheerleaders, Doris Dvorak, Judi Nadrchal and Elaine Kabes to lead the expanded and enthusiastic Pep club, sponsored by Mrs. Hesther Timmons (who I’m told taught the girls to use “adoring eyes” for attracting boys.  I have no corroborating evidence to support this–sample of one.)

cheer 1960-61

pep club 1960-61

I would be remiss if I ignored one other athletic event for our school in 1960-61.  It seems by the chart below that the agile and accurate dribblers (not me) had a fairly respectable season.  Great.  Someone else brag it up, ha.

BB  1960-61

Tom Best wrote an article in the Colfax County Press opening the 1961-62 season headlined “Football Squad Looks Promising”.  In among the details of practice, physical exams, and schedule he wrote “I do not intend to build these boys up so they have to scratch their heads with a yardstick, but I believe in them as I hope they do in us coaches, Coach Best and Coach Kropp.”  I think that set the tone for the season, as we were looking to continue our “luck”.

SQUAD 1961-62

That season was one of trying to live up to our expectations and working our way through the schedule systematically.  We ended the year with no losses, one tie, and ranked ninth in Class C.  Noteworthy again was the recognition of two men by the state press as meritorious participants.  We were all proud of them.

SCHEDULE 1961-62

As a final note, the development of respect in the school and environs provided the impetus for the expansion of the football cheerleading squad.   I’m sure it made a difference in our performance having that kind of support.

cheer 1961-62

What a delight to relive those times, and I’m sad to see them go in many ways.  I tracked our teams throughout the years from a distance, in their ups and downs and the changes when eleven-man football was left behind.  I get tired just watching the speed of play in those games; I liked eleven-man because the defense seemed to have an advantage and teamwork appeared more important.

Thanks, Glenn, for the chance to put this together. If it is too long, just enjoy the old pictures of the guys and dolls.

Ron Čada

Posted in 1960s | Leave a comment

Red Devil Football – The Beginning

As I was researching the background material for Clarkson’s high school basketball program, I came across a comment from Dale Gentzler about that other sport – football:

“Football was new for Clarkson in 1956 under Head Coach Francis ‘Kooch’ Dostal. Although that 11-man sport was new to many Clarkson folks, it didn’t take long to catch on. It took some larnin’ though. I vividly remember some of the first games when the pep club was yelling “Let’s go north!” and the team was going south, or didn’t even have the ball. At the beginning of the first season, there was a “get acquainted night” where people who didn’t know anything about football could come and get an explanation of the rules. They even demonstrated the various important parts and the safety qualities of the football uniform, right down to the athletic supporters.”

From such humble beginnings our fortunes could only rise, no? And they did – quickly. Happily, I was able to convince my brother Ron, who was there and lived the dream, to relate his memories of the early years of CHS football.  He promises to make this an inspiring, two-part story about triumph over adversity, the transition from ignorance to bliss.  So  put on your 45 rpm record of Earth Angel, mix up a cherry Coke, and read on….

“When Glenn asked me to jot down a few notes about football in Clarkson, I didn’t think I wanted to, since my experience was too narrow to be of any interest except to those who’d been on the field during those four years (’58-’62).  I was lucky to find some information in old school annuals and newspaper clippings from my brother-in-law Marv Studnicka (thanks, Marv) which helped a bit.  The first year of modern football was 1956 season. It was a rough one without a win or tie, and the school annual is vague about the team except for a picture of those brave warrior pioneers.  The picture below was sent to me by brother Larry Cada (I steal a lot of stuff from my relatives, no?)

squad 56-57

Fortunes improved somewhat in 1957 with tied games against Newman Grove and Stanton’s Reserves.  Here is a photo of that team from the 1958 yearbook.

squad 57-8

The schedule and scores are shown below. I believe we could have won a couple games if a flu epidemic hadn’t shortened the season by two games.

schedule 57-8

And who can forget the cheerleaders of 1957-58.  They kept the fans and teams roused and ready to play!

cheer 58

And while we’re at it I believe the boys on the team were stimulated to high performance by the volume and intensity of the women of the CHS Pep Club of 1957-1958.

pep club 58

And not to be ignored we owe a debt of gratitude to the Annual Staff and their mentor, Madge Larson for documenting and portraying all the pictures and stories of their time.  I hope you’re also noticing the local businesses who supported the annual by buying pages with a donation to the school.

annual staff 58

As a freshman off the farm in the Fall of 1958, I couldn’t believe that the brutish heroes we called lettermen could have been beaten, especially with coaches like Francis Dostal and Bill  Kropp (Mister to you) leading them on.  These folks were mostly big and some mean.  How many can you name?

lettermen 57-8

The Fall of 1958 saw an increase of the roster to 29 team members with seven returning lettermen:  The Colfax County Press listed Seniors Duane Novotny, Hank Balzer, and Don Stodola; Junior Marvin Studnicka; Sophomores Norbert Barta, John Robbass, Wayne Prazak and David Houfek.  “Promising” boys are Ron Tuma, Adolph Vacha, Dennis Schroeder, Dave Kabes, Jim Vacha, Leroy Cech and Mike Keedy.”  “New” members: Denny Houfek, Ronnie Svik, Ed Mundil, Dave Qualsett, Richard Neuhaus, Bill Sixta, Jim Cada, Ronnie [sic] Cada, Jim Klimes, Larry Houdek, Verne Holoubek, Kenny Kluthe, Richard Fuhr and Marvin Podany.  I list these because they are my friends and I think of them often.  It also shows that nearly half the squad was made up of newcomers.  What I most remember about the picture below is that none of us was wearing pants! (see the 1959 Annual).

squad  58-59

That 1958 season of seven games was not easy, but the team eked out a 13-12 win over Stanton Reserves.  The corner had been turned.  The jinx had been lifted.  The future was ours.  Sorry, got carried away.

schedule  58-9

Oh, yes.  One other thing.  There was a 2nd game we should have won in the Fall of 1958, against the Schuyler Reserves.  We put it to them in the first half and led the game at halftime.  As we came out for the 2nd half I noticed a couple of my Heun friends playing that had not played in the first half.  They were wearing jerseys of the reserves but they were 1st stringers at Schuyler High.  I learned a couple things about fairness that day.  And winning at all costs.  And forgiving but not forgetting.  I don’t believe Schuyler was on our football schedule after that.

Not only was this a team with a new attitude, but the cheerleaders were cool!

cheer 59

We entered the Fall of the 1959-60 school year thinking this was to be our year, just look at the interest!  Instead of a shortage of three game jerseys there were now 12 competitors who posed for the squad picture in practice jerseys.  Shame!

squad  59 60

Even though there were only two regulars back from the previous year, the season began with a bang.  The local reporters said “Red Devils Scamper by Pilger High, Marv Studnicka blasted over the goal line, Norb Barta bulled over and Bill Sixta intercepted a pass running it back for 15 yards.”  Said Coach Dostal, “It was an odd game.  One fumble and one punt.  Pilger controlled the ball in the first half and we took over in the second half.”

Sadly, that was our sole win for that year, as the other teams seemed to have our number, especially on offense.  We scored points in only half the games played that year.

schedule  59-60

Through it all our Pep Club continued to support the teams of the school in good times and bad.

pep club  59-60

For those who continue reading the second installment of this personal memory trip, I can promise you a change of luck in the next couple years.”

- Ron Čada

Posted in 1950s, 1960s | 6 Comments

That Championship Season

A recent issue of the Colfax County Press printed an old story about Clarkson’s Class F State Champion basketball team of 1924.

BB Text 1

BB Text 2

BB Text 3BB Text 4

On the way to their Class F championship, Clarkson’s roundballers beat Cambridge 22-8, Deshler 21-7, Elm Creek 18-8, and in a hard-fought final game, Wisner 12-8.  Imagine winning a state basketball championship tournament with a combined score for all four games of 73 points.  And holding your opponents to a four-game total of 31 points.

Clarkson BB 1924-27 a

I got to wondering how many other state championships have been earned by Clarkson High School teams.  Clarkson has fielded some very competitive teams over the years – the basketball squads in the mid-1950s regularly went to the state tournaments, the 1961 basketball team lost only one regular season game through the regional tournament, the powerful 1961 football team (with a particularly skillful quarterback at the helm) posted a 7-1 record to earn CHS’s first winning season in what was a relatively new sport for Clarkson, and the 2007 8-man football team pounded their way to the Class D-1 Championship game against Pope John HS.

Clarkson BB 1954-55

Clarkson BB 1960-61 a

So, besides 1924, how many other championships have we garnered?  It turns out that the answer is just one – the 1922 CHS basketball team also won the Class F championship by scoring 4 points to beat Chester, 4-3.   Who says white men can’t jump?

Clarkson BB 1922-23 a

For the record, Clarkson High School made it to the state tournament 17 times between 1917 and 1993.  This included every year in the Roaring 20s but one.  Here are the results of their appearances at the Nebraska Boys Basketball State Tournaments (as of April 3, 2013):

Champion-Class F/1922, Class F/1924

Runner-up-Class E/1927, Class C/1953, Class C/1955, Class C/1956

1.        1917-Beaver Crossing W2-0, Holbrook W8-6, Alexandria L12-16

2.        1918-Ravenna L10-41

3.        1920-Wahoo W16-14, Franklin W6-2, Kimball L12-24

4.        1921-Danbury L1-10

5.        1922-Elgin W13-9, Farnam W15-8, Lincoln Bethany W13-6, Chester W4-3

6.        1923-Lincoln Bethany L5-14

7.        1924-Cambridge W22-8, Deshler W21-7, Elm Creek W18-8, Wisner W12-8

8.        1925-Randolph W12-2, Beatrice L13-17

9.        1926-Eagle L13-16

10.     1927-Ruskin W12-11, Ogallala W28-6, Loup City W20-10, Atkinson L13-21

11.     1928-Atkinson L9-20

12.     1937-Ogallala W29-26, Wakefield W18-14, Bethany L19-21

13.     1953-Hartington W50-45, Loup City W64-56, Chappell L48-61

14.     1955-Hartington W58-56, Chadron Prep L50-54

15.     1956-Spencer W68-57, Geneva L51-53

16.     1961-Weeping Water L35-53

17.     1993-Cedar Rapids L60-68

Nothing brings town and country, kids and adults together like a high school basketball game in a small town.  All that youthful energy and town pride is concentrated into one room for a few hours, a couple of times a week.  Who can forget the thrill of watching a home game at the splendid new (in the 1950s) Clarkson High School gym?  Most spectators would enter the school building on the north side, where they would usually find Madge Larsen behind a wooden podium selling tickets.  With paper ticket in hand, we’d climb to long stairs to the left or right, the volume of noise from the gym increasing with every upward step.  Immediately upon entering, we were greeted with a cacophony of sounds from the cheerleaders, pep club, yelling fans, and, if the teams were already on the floor, the sounds of bouncing basketballs and squeaky rubber tennis shoes.

CHS had a great gym.  Several rows of comfortable wooden bleachers for most of the fans and the pep clubs.  On the north side, behind the goal and under the scoreboard, were more bleachers mainly for kids and latecomers.  And if it was a big game, they would roll back the red velvet stage curtain on the south side of the gym to provide more overflow bleachers.  Walking the narrow out-of-bounds lane to reach the concession stand put the fans in jeopardy of becoming part of the game.

[I watched a lot of games in that gym, including a Sunday afternoon exhibition game by the Harlem Globetrotters. (who played against them?)  At one point in the early 1960s, Clarkson was in the same class as Schuyler, so we had a series of games.  They were a much larger school and were usually expected to win, but I can recall at least one game in which our JVs beat theirs.  It was a bitter pill for the Schuylerites to swallow. Who can forget the clever cheer that the CHS pep club concocted for that game against the Schuyler Warriors?  Tippecanoe and Schuyler, too!  TIP… THEIR… CANOE!!!!]

But for a real taste of Basketball Boosterism, we turn once again to Dales Gentzler’s memories of Clarkson, written several years ago for the Press…

“Basketball season had just ended when we moved to town in 1955, but that was still the topic of conversation. We came in the midst of state basketball fever— and I do mean fever. The temperature started rising in 1953 when the Red Devils lost to Chappell in the final round of the State Class C Tourney. This was also the first senior class to graduate from the new high school.

In 1955 and 1956, under Coach Bill Kropp, the Devils visited Lincoln again and both times they lost in the finals. We missed the 1955 tournament but by the time the next state tourney came around we were just as rabid as everyone else in town. Those were fun years and we almost never missed a game, at home or away. At that time Clarkson had one of the best gymnasiums in the area, after many years of playing in the old city hall.

We heard lots of stories about that old playing floor, where, at half-time, the teams lifted up a door in the floor and went to the locker rooms in the basement. Seating in the gym consisted of chairs around the perimeter, and a few in the balcony. We watched basketball in some pretty miserable out-of-town gymnasiums, too, namely Howells, Pilger, and Humphrey, and some others. Soon thereafter, other towns built new and bigger gyms, so Clarkson’s was no longer the finest.

All sorts of stories came out of those basketball glory days. Clarkson fans used to leave in mid-afternoon to go to away games. In those days hardly anyone had enough seating. The story is told about J. L. Jindra, who was always one of the first to get there. He was first in line at a district game at Oakland, and when the front door opened he got jammed behind it by the rushing crowd and couldn’t get in the building for a while.

I remember a certain fan being so nervous in the final minutes of a nail-biter at state, that he went behind the bleachers because he couldn’t bear to watch. It wasn’t me, but it wasn’t because I wasn’t nervous.

I recall taking my Dad to watch the Red Devils one night. We beat Humphrey by fifty or more points, and Bob Moore even made a basket from a jump ball at one point. My Dad, from out-of-town and not being a Clarkson fan, thought that we were really rubbing it in.

At home the fans always had their usual seats, like people do in church, and we always sat with the usual crowd. One night we took our baby, Christi, with us to a game against Howells. She was probably about one year old. We were all seated in our usual spots at the beginning of the reserve game, and things were pretty quiet because Clarkson was behind by several points. Suddenly the Devils caught fire and all Hades broke loose. The noise was deafening, and every time Clarkson scored, little Christi screamed louder and jumped into the arms of the person next to her– from me, to Eldora, to Slavy Vodehnal, to Dorothy Cakl, to Martha Prazak, and then from them back to me again.

This went on for quite a while but no one wanted to leave the game. Near game’s end Christi was in hysterics and we decided that someone had to take her to Teta’s.   I lost the coin toss.  Afraid that I was going to miss the tipoff of the varsity game, I grabbed the kid, ran to the car and threw her in the baby seat and headed for Vodehnals’. She screamed all the way and there was no way I could calm her. When I got to Teta’s I discovered that the car seat was hanging by only one hook and she had been hanging on for dear life. Well, anyway, I did get back to the game in time.

Remember the district game between Scribner and Fremont St. Pat’s at Clarkson when the game took only 32 minutes straight off the clock? Scribner had beaten St. Pat’s earlier that year 100-some to 20-some, so this time St. Pat’s decided to use ball control. In those years it was legal to stall, so after Scribner would make a basket, St. Pat’s would come down the floor and just stand  there holding the ball. No one came to challenge them so the clock just kept on running, with the bass drummer in the pep band pounding the drum. It was weird. In the final seconds of each quarter, St. Pat’s would try for one last shot. That went on for the entire game and Scribner won something like 12 to 4.

One other basketball outing is burned into my memory bank. Buster Miller, Bob Odvarka and Ron Vavrina were riding along in my old car to Brainard one below-zero night. The heater in my car didn’t work so the guys in the back seat crumpled up some newspaper, put it in a coffee can, and set it afire. They thought it was very funny, until they realized we had to roll down the windows to let the smoke out.” – Dale Gentzler

And with that evocative image of our wise Town Fathers, I’ll say “nuff said!”

Pop Quiz Question of the Week – What year was Clarkson High School’s Red Devil mascot adopted?

Posted in 1920s, 1950s, 1960s, The 21st Century | 5 Comments