September 21, 1996
Football season is here, so let's begin today with a true yarn that dates back to 1923, when Coach Frank Briscoe had an outstanding squad at Perry high school. Fans and players alike were slightly ga-ga that year as victory piled upon victory. This story was told to me some time ago by Kenneth Coldiron, and I've been saving it for just such an occasion. Kenny swears this is really the way it happened. Here's what he told me:
PHS was having a great season under Coach Briscoe in the fall of 1923. A post-season game was arranged with Sapulpa, and it was considered to be for the mythical state championship. There were no playoff games then. Perry players, coaches, students, parents and fans made the trip to Sapulpa on a Frisco train. Unfortunately, the Maroons lost by 2 points.
Traveling home by train the next day and feeling depressed, the Perry group were met in Pawnee, home of the arch-rival Black Bears, by a group anxious to further humble the Maroons, if possible. Perry had beaten Pawnee during the regular season. The Pawnee delegation included a band playing a funeral dirge and a papier-mâché casket with a sign reading: 'Perry Dies to Sapulpa.'
Pawnee students and a few Pawnee fans had fun jeering the beaten Maroons, who apparently were sealed up in the chair cars while the train waited at the depot. Perry players listened to the band, read the banners, and ground their teeth. Soon their collective blood pressure soared.
Fiery quarterback Jay Gaskill was first to leave the train, jumping spang in the middle of the fake casket. The Pawnee crowd quickly counterattacked, and immediately the train emptied as Perry players saw one of their star players in jeopardy. Pandemonium reigned on the station platform.
Pushing and shoving by youths and adults was going on everywhere amid shouts and pleas from coaches, parents and Frisco employees to break it up. The locomotive engineer blew his whistle and conductors tried to halt the melee, and finally the cooler heads prevailed. Perry kids and grownups filed back onto the train and the Pawnee group grew quiet.
Just as it appeared peace had been fully restored, someone in the crowd on the platform made what seemed to be an uncomplimentary remark about Perry, and it was overheard by Mrs. Charles Harbaugh, one of the parents. She scooped up a nearby brass spittoon and heaved it through an open window toward the one who had uttered the disparaging words, and in no time at all the train was emptied again.
The second episode was shorter than the first, and when order was finally restored the train made as hasty a departure as possible. Apparently, no serious wounds or injuries were incurred by participants on either side, and passions subsided as time went by.
The Perry-Pawnee rivalry continued in intensity through the years in both football and basketball, although the two schools do not play each other as often as they used to. No further incidents have occurred like the big one in 1923.
I guess we're all just more cool-headed these days, right? Kenny's story remains one of my all-time favorites.