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February 16, 1999

An anonymous friend, who obviously knows how much I enjoy looking through old newspapers, recently sent me portions of the December 12, 1948, edition of the Daily Oklahoman. It contains many items, mostly in the sports section, that are of interest still today. The paper is so frayed, yellowing and crumbling that merely turning a page makes it disintegrate. But the contents are rewarding if a reader is very careful with the tattered sheets.

Big things were going on in Stillwater and Norman as the Oklahoma A&M Cowboys and the Oklahoma University Sooners rode the crest of success in several athletic endeavors. Both schools were preparing for post-season football bowl games. That's right, both schools. The Aggies of Coach Jim Lookabaugh were headed for a New Year's Eve meeting with William & Mary at the Delta Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee. A&M's leading ground gainer was fullback Bob Meinert, who later was the father of Liz Meinert, who used to live in Perry. Coach Bud Wilkinson's Sooners were to meet Charlie (Choo-Choo) Justice and his North Carolina Tar Heels in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day at New Orleans. OU surprised the favored Tar Heels, 14-6, in that game, which I am happy to say I witnessed in that era before the widespread use of TV.

A pre-game photo in that December 12, 1948, edition of the Oklahoman showed OU's 159-pound quarterback, Darrell Royal, and wondered if he could equal his counterpart, Choo-Choo Charlie. Both of them handled punting, passing, kick returning and signal calling for their respective teams. Royal also was a demon as a safety on defense, and Choo-Choo Charlie was one of the nation's premier college grid stats. Royal was more than equal to the challenge. However, my World Almanac does not give the score of the A&M (now OSU) game and I have no record (or recollection) of the outcome. Perhaps another reader can supply that information?

Basketball season had started and a lot of space was devoted to an AAU charity game in Oklahoma City's Memorial Auditorium, pitting the fabled Phillips 66ers against the Denver Chevrolets. Bob Kurland, who only recently had been one of collegiate basketball's legitimate super stars as a seven-foot center for Hank Iba's Oklahoma A&M Aggies, was the hero for Phillips that night when the 66ers defeated the Denver team, 45-39. Kurland scored a game-high total of 20 points in front of a crowd of 1,756 fans. Strangely, the Oklahoman didn't report the name of the charity game's beneficiary. The National Basketball Association was barely one year old at that time and AAU teams were very popular, though not truly hoops professionals. The Phillips 66ers team, based in Bartlesville, was composed of some of the company's regular employees. When Kurland was at the top of his game, the 66ers were the Chicago Bulls of their day and Kurland was their Michael Jordan.

By-lined articles about the Aggies' pre-game workouts were signed by Otis Wile. Harold Keith rendered the same service for the Sooners. Both were exceptionally skilled and colorful writers, as well as genuinely nice men. It seems odd now, but they also were employees (sports information directors) of the universities they wrote about, a practice which would be unacceptable nowadays on most newspapers of integrity. But it was a common thing back then. Otis and Harold both had numerous friends and admirers in this part of the state. Sadly, both are now deceased. The aforementioned Bob Meinert is now the victim of a debilitating disease, and let's see, whatever became of Darrel Royal? Oh yeah, he defected to Texas and coached the Longhorns to national prominence before retiring.

To my unknown friend, I say thanks for this interesting bit of information about a time of excitement and much success in the athletic programs of our state's two largest universities.