Carl Robertson still remembers the lessons his father taught him when they were practicing football together in the front yard.
Carl’s father, Raymond M., was a star on Bolivar’s football team through the mid-1930s, lettering his freshman year in football, basketball and baseball, the family said.
“He’d teach you how to use your weight and how to block and how to roll off of blocks,” Carl said. “You keep your eyes open and stay in contact with the ball and watch the pressure on their hands. If they’ve got pressure on their hands, they’re coming forward. If not, they’re going back.”
Decades later, Carl would teach the same lessons to his son, Raymond J., who, in turn, would pass on those same skills to his sons, Heath and Haden.
In total, four generations of Robertsons have played football for Bolivar.
Carl said his father, who played his last season of football in 1935, was widely known as a top athlete.
Raymond M. and his brother, Henry, played together several years, starring for Bolivar’s team.
“I’d be traveling around and everyone would say, ‘Hey, your dad played really good ball.’ He and his brother, they were just naturals.”
Raymond M. played for the varsity team from eighth grade to his junior year, dropping out of school after burning up his four-year eligibility.
“He didn’t graduate,” Carl said. “He said, ‘If I can’t play, I’ll just quit.’ He went to work.”
Henry, who also played in eighth grade, squeezed another year of eligibility out out of his career by registering under his middle name, Carl said.
“They didn’t keep records as well then,” he joked. “And everyone knew my dad a little better.”
After leaving high school, Raymond M. tried out to play catcher for a minor league baseball team. Carl said legendary St. Louis Cardinal Jay Hanna ‘Dizzy’ Dean broke his father’s finger with a pitch.
Carl played football for Bolivar through 1978. He graduated in 1980. He said his last name often elicited comments from others who remembered his father and uncle from their time on the field.
“There was a lot of that, ‘You’re Raymond’s kid, we’re expecting big things from you,’” he said.
Years later, Carl’s son, Raymond J., would take the field for the varsity Liberators.
Both father and son played under legendary Bolivar coach Doug Potts, Carl said.
But, for Carl’s son, his turn on the field came after skipping his first year to play saxophone in Bolivar’s band.
“I bought him this expensive saxophone,” Carl recalled. “I agreed to quit smoking if he wouldn’t quit band. I’ve got my last pack of cigarettes in a jar.”
Raymond J. did eventually quit band, he said, and played football through 1997. He graduated in 1998.
“I just really enjoyed hitting people,” he said.
Hard work and talent earned the third-generation Liberator a starting job on the team and even lead to a series of plays named after him.
“They’d call, ‘Raymond right’ or ‘Raymond left,’” he said. “I’d make the hole.”
Raymond J. said he’s now passed the sport down to his sons.
Junior Heath and freshman Haden now both play for the school three previous generations have competed for.
“It’s special sport,” Raymond J. said. “You learn about yourself through playing, and it’s been awesome to see them go through the things I went through, (Carl) went through and his dad went through.”