A PERSONAL LOOK AT THE 1974 COLLEGIATE SEASON OPENER
HELMET HUT NEWS/REFLECTIONS January 2014:
A PERSONAL LOOK AT THE 1974 COLLEGIATE SEASON OPENER
By Dr. Ken
There are events in everyone’s life that allow or force them to remember exactly where they were and specific details relative to their activities at the exact moment of the event. Primarily, we can relate this to traumatic incidents or milestone personal moments. As is standard for everyone of my generation, I can state with certainty that I was sitting in high school Social Studies class on Friday, November 23, 1963 when the teacher walked in, obviously agitated, and announced that we would all sit quietly for the entire class period. He went on to explain that President John F. Kennedy had been shot and was presumed to be dead. As this was the first of the political assassinations that marked the 1960’s and demarcated what became a culture of accepted public violence, it was deeply significant for the entire nation. Similarly, I clearly recall watching television on the early evening of April 4, 1968 and viewing a commercial for what was the national advertising introduction for the Buick Gran Sport California edition. As I was considering a cross country drive to Southern California to elevate my strength training activities prior to a try out with the New York Giants Atlantic Coast Football League affiliate, Westchester Bulls, I was a bit intrigued with the “California” reference to the automobile. The moment the commercial ended, an announcement was made describing the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
While it is not surprising that these events of national and international importance would leave indelible memories, it should not be surprising that football related events would do the same for those of us so immersed in the history, culture, and ancillary matters related to the game. As an employee of Nautilus Sports/Medical Industries of Lake Helen, Florida, the company that invented and produced the exercise equipment that changed the entire fitness and strength training industry, my duties for what was then a small company consisted of the proverbial “a little bit of everything.” All of the iron working lessons that began under my father’s tutelage when I was twelve years of age came into use as I worked in the prototype shop, welded frames, did the grinding on newly cut parts, operated the drill press, assembled equipment, did quality control inspection of outgoing pieces, answered letters of inquiry about the equipment and training, supervised the programs of visiting athletes and bodybuilders who came to train in the factory gym/showroom, and drove the company’s single tractor trailer. Digging the ditches for the in-ground sprinkler system was considered to be “bonus work.”
Having the experience of driving my father’s twenty-four foot flat bed truck between Manhattan and the Bronx or Queens to pick up steel, and having done it illegally since the age of fifteen, I was confident that I could drive a tractor trailer and undertook a two day crash course with our one company driver before heading to the local Department Of Motor Vehicles to take and thankfully pass my written and driving test for a Commercial Driver’s License. With CDL firmly in hand, I was out the factory door that very evening as I learned that complicated exercise machines, broken down literally, to the smallest possible parts, allowed us to pack thirty-three to thirty-five machines per load. With one rig to our still growing but small company’s name, we would drive, deliver, assemble, instruct, demonstrate, and bolt out the door to the next stop, continuing the process for one to three weeks until we had placed every piece of training equipment at the various gyms, clubs, college, and pro team facilities we contracted to, and then we headed home. We had permission to “back haul” sanitized garbage and other livestock products for the local Florida pig farmers so that we could as drivers who never stopped, rarely slept, and had a terrible time fudging the driving logs to show that we were not either on the road twenty hours per day or traveling at super sonic speed, make a bit of extra income. “Home” meant arriving at the factory, unhooking the trailer so that it could be cleaned and reloaded, driving the tractor to Daytona for a tune up and maintenance, and then twenty four to forty eight hours of focus upon family, eating ice cream on the beach, a complete workout rather than what we could accomplish on the truck or while demonstrating our equipment, and watching a football game at the local high school or on television if it was football season. My eight months as a full time driver unfortunately fell during the football season. I would savor time home and of course, whatever was football related until we were so rapidly back on the road again with the next delivery on board.
While we actually had the opportunity to attend a number of college games, and even walk into the Los Angeles Coliseum as guests of the Rams after filling what was their inaugural weight room, I came to appreciate the college games that we could see either while home or on the road. For reasons that have no connection to a significant event of time or place, the September 14, 1974 game between UCLA and Tennessee has remained stamped into my mind as one of the greatest ever. Tennessee, after a horrible start to the 1960’s, emerged as a national power when Bill Battle took the reigns of the program [ see HELMET HUT TENNESSEE seasonal summaries at http://www.helmethut.com/College/Tennessee/Tennindex.html The Volunteers fell off a bit with an 8-4 mark in 1973 but for helmet fans, wore a wonderful looking white shell with two three-quarter-inch orange flanking stripes and their “T” decal on each side of the helmet.