1968 – My First Time

It was the fall of ’68 and I was a high school senior, destined to enroll at Ohio State, while my very best and long time friend would likewise be heading off to Purdue. The Boilermakers were coming to Shoe ranked #1, and my cousin got us two tickets. Being a small town boy, I had never even driven to Columbus, let alone gone to a game. Arriving in Columbus to a massive traffic jam we couldn’t have imagined (Rt. 315 was in process of being constructed), my friend and I had never seen so many people in all our lives! It was close to kickoff as we crawled our way through traffic. All we knew was that my cousin lived in the Alpha Gamma Sigma frat house on Indianola and we were to pick up the tickets there. After finally finding a place to park we headed to the stadium and asked a policeman where “Indianola” was. He laughed and pointed “a long way that away”!!

On foot, as fast as we could, we headed east to the frat house. Eventually we found it and there in a rocking chair, on the porch, with our tickets in his pocket, sat a fraternity brother listening on the radio to the already underway game. We huffed and puffed back to the stadium, but it was still into the second quarter when we found our seats. They were high up in B deck on the north end, but we could have cared less…we were just in awe at the sheer size of things and the spectacle that was taking place before us. I don’t remember much about the unfolding of the game, but one thing is still just as vivid in my mind as the minute it happened…an Ohio State player going down the west sideline towards the south end zone for a touchdown and throwing the ball into the south stands. (Imagine that today!)

Ohio State won that game 13-0, went on to go undefeated, and won a national championship. The enormity of that win, and that season, was way over our heads. For us, on that day, it was just a couple of wide-eyed high school kids being introduced to 85,000 people and the new world waiting out there.

After the game my cousin took us to get the blue plate special at the “Blue D” (Blue Danube on north high street….It still stands today, and recently I took my son, an OSU student, there). Later on, driving home in the dark, we rode along the country roads exhausted and in silence. WING radio was playing the hit tunes of the day, and I still can hear the prophetic words of the song “Those Were the Days” echoing out the windows and floating over the ripening corn. …Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end, we’d laugh forever and a day. We lived the life we chose, we’d fight and never lose, we were young and sure to have our way!

That next autumn, my friend headed off to Purdue and I to OSU. It was the beginning of our drifting away to careers, family, spouses and new lives. And for me it was the beginning of what would become Hang on Sloopy, Carmen Ohio, the Oval, and many rewarding days on campus and in the ‘Shoe. Since that day I have made the long drive home from too many games to count, usually always exhausted and in silence. In so doing, I never fail to remember how it all started, there in the ‘Shoe in ‘68, two skinny young kids with all the promise and hope of a big new world before us. The song still plays in my head. Truly, those were the days!

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