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 August, 2005


 Nostalgic look at high school football at Uniontown High School

The Procession

By Al Owens
I’d like to believe that most of my memories are suitable for framing! That if Norman Rockwell was still alive he’d be able to read my mind, at least the nostalgic parts, and then go illustrate a classic.

My adolescent memories are my favorites. Some of those can be so vivid they even come equipped with soundtracks! It’s as if Steven Spielberg just happened upon me heading toward a Uniontown Red Raider football game, and he yelled, “Action!”

I know the mere act of filming people walking to a high school football game would hardly be the stuff of a Hollywood blockbuster, unless you consider the location (Uniontown, Pennsylvania), the era (the early 1960’s) and the plot line, (consistent bloodbaths, where the home team hardly ever shed any of its own blood). Now pop some popcorn, get out your hankies and read on!

When I was in my early teens, it seemed, and I’ll bet I’m wrong, that everybody everywhere took that walk along Main Street, down Grant Street, to that stadium on Fayette Street. Those were sunny and warn late summer Friday nights, where you’d always be joined by your friends and neighbors who would be eagerly carrying their light jackets in one hand and their tickets in the other.

Once I’d turn the corner from Main onto Grant, I’d pay more attention to those college fight songs they used to play over the stadium’s public address system. (No wonder my memories have soundtracks) There’s nothing better than hearing “On Wisconsin” on your way to a Uniontown High School football game. Well, maybe that’s an overstatement!

Now we’re approaching the stadium and we can see the two opposing armies, preparing for battle. They’re stretching and passing and running and punting. I can see Ron Sepic booming them into outer space. I can see Wilfred Minor throwing countless tight spirals. I can see Alice Cooper biting the heads off chickens. Oops! That’s another memory.

I can fondly remember walking through the gate (in those days there was a student side and an adult side of the stadium) and then finding a seat. (In those days it was hard to find one). I can remember excitedly discussing the outcome of the game. (In those days the only suspense involved the variety of ways Uniontown would score and the variety of ways the other team couldn’t).

As a 13 year-old anything resembling the military looked pretty cool to me. The Uniontown Joint Senior High School band, for instance, looked that cool! They’d precede every home game with such a polished flourish and flair that they’d make you want to run out and join the Marines - but not before half time. I wanted to see those hapless invaders yell uncle first.

And there was never a doubt they would. Between 1962 and 1965 the Red Raiders only lost once, by one to point Washington High School and they tied once, 6-6 with Johnstown. Everybody else yelled uncle!

But this isn’t really about the gridiron (I love that word. I’ve never uttered it, but I love it) dominance of our local heroes. It’s about us. It’s about, no matter what social, racial or economic barriers there are in any town – High School Football joins us all at the hip!

It’s no secret that we tend to worship in nearly segregated churches as if we pray to different colored gods. Or that we may fight in wars together but we rarely share a toast (to any large degree) in our post war organizations. Ask anybody to tell you where the V.F.W. is in Uniontown - and you just may get two different answers, depending on the race of the person you ask.

But when I was growing up, on autumn Friday nights in Uniontown, Pennsylvania - nothing made me feel more united with everybody in my community than the anticipation of a kick-off and what would follow. Nothing. And that’s no overstatement!

Al Owens is a proud member of the 1966 graduating class of Uniontown High School. The last undefeated, untied Uniontown Football team to win a championship.