Friday, October 3, 2008
High School Football
One of the most wonderful ways to experience a small community in the fall is by attending a high school football game. When I was a girl the team played at Herrick Park on Saturdays and it was truly a community event. It seemed to me that everyone in town was there, including the local doctor who roamed the sidelines "just in case" and the Main Street merchants who would leave their back doors open, wandering over to the field to watch for a few minutes - or a quarter, knowing that customers would know where to find them if necessary. From my home I could hear the cadence of the percussion section as the marching band warmed up before the kick-off, and I would quicken my pace if I were walking to the game, knowing I would be late if I lingered. To a child those football players were bigger than life, with their heavy padding and helmets making them more man than child, and the sound of them walking - and then breaking into a run - across Newtown Lane in their cleats is one I will never forget. I can hear it and see it still if I close my eyes, and it brings back the feelings of stability and contentment that growing up in a small town provide for a child.
Once I was in high school I became part of that marching band and Saturdays meant getting into uniform and walking up the hill to join my fellow musicians, providing the team with accompaniment onto the field of play, enthusiastic support throughout the game, and a half-time show for the spectators. We spent many hours working on our routines and were proud to present them on Saturdays in September and October.
There are many memories associated with football games on fall Saturdays and they are all warm and wonderful. The names of those athletes are still fresh in my mind - heros to a young girl! Although when I walk through Herrick Park now it looks much smaller than it did then, the echos of those autumn Saturdays still resound in my head on cool, crisp autumn weekends like this one. When the high school moved to Long Lane and the football games left Herrick Park some of the magic left as well - they became much more "high school" events at that point and far less "community" ones. But when we occasionally find our way to Long Lane on a beautiful fall Saturday and catch a period or two of a local football game, the magic of community is still very much there.
It's this kind of magic that a small town offers.