Forty years ago, it was September of 1969. Richard Nixon was President. The Vietnam war was still raging creating hardships for the families of the brave men giving their lives, and creating controversy for the people who vehemently opposed our involvement in Southeast Asia. Gas was cheaper, food was cheaper, and overall prices were cheaper than they are today.
Locally, Joseph Tipton was Mayor of Fremont. People still shopped downtown at stores like Joseph's, Penney's and Montgomery Ward. Fremonters were considering whether to build a flood control system on the Sandusky River. And on the football field, the Little Giants of Fremont Ross were still in a rebuilding mode after the retirement of legendary Mal Mackey after the 1966 season.
Chuck Shuff was in his second season as the Ross head coach. After a 1-9 campaign in 1968 the Little Giants were 0-2-1 after their first three games in '69 with losses to Toledo Rogers and Toledo Bowsher on either end of a 26-26 tie with Cleveland Lincoln-West. Week four of that 1969 season would see the Little Giants opening up Buckeye Conference play at home against the Tygers of Mansfield Senior. The Little Giants beat the Tygers on that fall night 24-22 giving Coach Shuff his first Buckeye Conference victory ever, but just one of only two wins in the '69 season.
A sixth grader at Stamm school got to see his first ever Ross football game that night. You see, the young man had often looked over at Harmon Stadium many times during recess and thought how big that stadium looked. He thought about much fun it would be to attend a game there. He had heard all the stories from family members about the great games that had taken place there. The great players, coaches, and the historic rivalry with that school in Erie County. He heard how much we were supposed to hate Sandusky.
And finally he was there. Inside the stadium, sitting there watching the players during pregame warmups. Watching the band march onto the field. Staring at that big scoreboard in the Northeast corner of the stadium. When the game began he could not believe how loud it was, how intense the people around him were. They were yelling real loud, urging the Little Giants on, wanting them to win. And the Little Giants did win. They beat Mansfield 24-22. The people around him were happy, the students were cheering, the cheerleaders were ringing the victory bell. That little boy was hooked. In his sixth-grade mind he vowed that he would come back, and often. He felt the tradition and the pride that was Fremont Ross football. He knew it was important to all those people there that night. He could feel that it would become important to him...and it did.
Forty years later, that little boy has seen many changes in our world. Prices are higher, a different President is in the White House and unfortunately brave men and women are still putting their lives on the line for their country in a different part of the world than they were in 1969. But one thing has not changed. He still loves and follows his Little Giants. Every Friday night in the fall he can be found in Don Paul Stadium or whatever stadium Ross may be playing in, rooting on the team he learned to support on that fall night back in '69.
By now I'm sure you have figured out that the little boy is me. I've been fortunate to be able to spend the last forty years supporting our Little Giants, through the good times and bad. Through wins and losses. Just like all of you. Generation after generation of Fremonters, who make their way to the corner of Miller St. and Woodson Way on Friday nights in the fall. It's where we belong. It's what we do.
I'm looking forward to the next forty years.
Let's GO Little Giants