The Bolivar Liberator football team participated in a “jamboree” last night, still a rather new concept for those of us from the dark ages. That event took place in Mt. Vernon and involved multiple teams.

That was no doubt a better indicator of what this season could look like for the Liberators and their fans than did the scrimmage that took place last Saturday night. That event ties my tongue when trying to say it.

In recent years, it has been known as the Powerade scrimmage, or Gatorade if you prefer. A thirst quenching drink is the price of admission, but back in an era when coaches would barely let us drink water at practice, there was a greater interest in ensuring that we smelled better. They were “soap scrimmages” then.

But those events were also the first and only real fan opportunity to measure a season’s prospects, so there was greater emphasis on analysis than I suspect came out of last Saturday’s event.

Need proof? I found some when doing some reorganizing of files, drawers and trunks the other day.

The following is from “The Simon Bolivar,” Bolivar Rotary Club’s internal newsletter/program, Sept. 11, 1959. Author not noted.

“The Football Scrimmage last Friday night gave the fans that turned out quite a satisfactory preview of what may be a good season. The talk around the square Saturday morning would have gladdened the heart of Coach McCallister and his staff.

“The consensus of opinion was that the boys were showing excellent spirit and willingness. It was particularly pleasing to the hard nosed fans to see the kids blocking and tackling as they should do it. And the revival of the stiff-arm after several seasons of absence of use on our gridiron.”

The author went on to mention that an introduction to the single wing and T formations was provided to fans and then closed with this:

“It is our opinion that our fans are going to like this football team. They’re learning to play the game correctly and show that they (the players) want to play it as they are being taught. Yes, we’re going to hear ‘leather pop’ this year. We’re going to see low-hard driving tackling. We’re going to see blocking in the line and down field also. We’re going to see some good hard driving – hard running backs with speed and ability to go all the way on a breakaway. Yes, it is our opinion we’re going to see some real football this season.

“It might be well to add that 250 bars of soap were collected as admission at the gate which would indicate our team will not only play real good football, but undoubtedly will be real clean, too.”

How’s that for stirring up some rah-rah!

And it must have worked. 

According to Jim Sterling, a senior statistician and sports historian even then, his records show that Coach McCallister’s first season ended at 5-3-1 despite battling several injuries along the way, which was a huge improvement over the single win of the previous season, which was a come-from-behind win late in the last game of the season against a winless team.

And the 1959 football season success carried over to winter. Many of the same players were on the boys state championship basketball team, still the only one for the Bolivar boys.

One final note: The aforementioned coach would be back in our mutual hometown of Aurora 10 seasons later and coaching the same style of game (the only one he knew) and achieving a state championship in his second season there. That championship will be celebrated this season, 50 years later.

Dave Berry retired last year as publisher of the Herald-Free Press.

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