By Dr. Ken


Although only fifteen minutes from our current home, I am not frequently in my hometown of Point Lookout/Long Beach, N.Y. I purposely avoid driving through the area and when I have occasion to do so it is always poignant for many reasons, made more so by the recent and closely spaced deaths of Fifties’ era greats Billy Cannon and Billy Brewer. I have made reference to my home area in numerous previous columns but in many ways, the title of Thomas Wolfe’s book You Can’t Go Home Again is true. Time marches forward and things, everything in fact, reflects change. A hamlet with a limited winter population, some like our family living in what was no more than summer housing with minimal or as we had, an absence of heat and hot water, watched out for each other, as a group scrapped with others, and had a lot of pride in the entire Long Beach area. As long-time friend and long-time Long Beach resident Eric Geltman said to me recently, “Why leave the island (of The City of Long Beach and Point Lookout) if you don’t absolutely have to?” Until adulthood and primarily for employment, many of us rarely did.

The recent death of LSU great Billy Cannon [see HELMET HUT http://www.helmethut.com/College/LSU/Billy%20Cannon.html] marked the end of an era for the author and many who loved football in the 1950s

I am the first to admit that I’ve been in a class war for most of my life and I’ve called out the investment bankers and wealthy Manhattanites whom had previously traveled further to the Hamptons for their summer fun for ruining things when they noted our relative proximity to New York City and in my opinion, literally took over Point Lookout. Large expensive dwellings and exorbitant housing costs made it impossible for many if not most former Point Lookout residents to ever return and own property. Driving through Long Beach proper, many residents would tout the changes there as positive. New housing in part came from the devastation and destruction of large chunks of the city by Hurricane Sandy but the urban renewal that removed the many welfare hotels that housed the mentally ill that the County dumped there, the demolition of Central (Elementary) School and what was considered “project housing” behind the train station in exchange for a shopping center, and what amounted to a ban on what was “de facto allowed” excessive public intoxication, street fighting, and sleeping under the boardwalk toned down what had been an amped-up and much more interesting community. 


One rather famous Point Lookout resident was Mr. Angelino Siciliano and while my father always admonished me to address him as “Mr. Siciliano” he was better known to the public as Charles Atlas. An exceptionally nice gentleman, he was encouraging to this HELMET HUT author about increasing strength and stamina for football and always spoke well about Point Lookout where this photo was taken

Driving through recently I noted the grass medians that separate eastbound from westbound traffic, strips of green that seem narrow now but offered what were truly expanses that mimicked full football fields to the eight to twelve year olds we were when we romped over them, pounding each other as we emulated the football stars we saw every weekend on the small black and white television screens. What was then a regulation stadium sized field to our youthful proportions now seems like an invitation for numerous and unavoidable vehicular – pedestrian accidents. The grass behind the Lido School and the concrete gridiron of Central School were also regular football game destinations as was the backyard of oft-mentioned in these columns, Richard Landsman’s family, in part because they had grass instead of sand. In retrospect we were either a creative bunch or otherwise infused with a compulsive football focus that most youngsters didn’t have then and certainly don’t have now. We played “detailed games” trying to copy the plays of Army, Navy, and Ole Miss that we viewed on television and those run by the high school team with an exactitude that rivaled that of much older players. Without an artistic bone in my body, I altered our plain white helmets into a reproduction of the great Pete Dawkins Army headpiece and duplicated the feat with a Bob Anderson model for Rich. [see HELMET HUT http://www.helmethut.com/College/Army/NYUSMA5758.html].   Needless to say we stood out with black – striped gold helmets topping our blue and white jerseys, the official colors of the Youth League team. While Army and Pitt were solid favorites of ours, many of the fellows, us included, had a keen awareness of the southern teams and anyone with a passing interest in college football knew Oklahoma and their huge forty-seven game winning streak. With only one collegiate football game on television per week, the best of the best were featured and these were most often Southeastern or Big Ten Conference squads that were within our time zone. I “made” a triple striped Auburn helmet for my brother who somehow convinced himself that he was ready to play for the Tiger’s 1957 National Championship team.  


The author’s brother could not make up his mind if he should emulate Jackie Burkett or Zeke Smith, the stars of Auburn’s 1957 National Championship team, but he was the recipient of an accurately reproduced Auburn helmet for his Long Beach Youth League and backyard football games. He later played football and threw the javelin collegiately, so his training on the Long Beach/Point Lookout fields proved to be positive


Interestingly, I received a reminiscence from aforementioned Mr. Landsman, very much echoing my sentiments.

"Just catching up on my reading of your Helmut Hut and Titan writings. I'll do this incrementally.  

Pitt Panthers- March 2018:  Thanks for the mentions- brings back great memories of us.

In addition to the Pete Dawkins, Bill Carpenter crew of Army, I always thought that Pitt fielded the toughest team- intimidating to a 10 year old at the time. The only similarity of pre-high school tough guys that we have often talked of was Gerard Albert of LB.  A tough mother fucker- played tight end on the HS team.  And you are very accurate in your memory- Pitt seemed to be misplaced- they were really a Big Ten team in terms of raw power and street toughness.  Joe Schmidt and Mike Ditka will always standout- good and exceptionally tough as you state.  Who was even tougher than these two?? Yes- I remember one- a 10-11 year old guy who I was friendly with- [THE HelmetNews/Reflections author]  was his name- who would take great pride at scowling at the more or less scared 5th graders and who took great pride in running over them whether it was at my backyard or at the mall on Pacific- and that was pre-his lifting!  Tough mother fucker even at age 10. Thanks- really enjoyed and looking forward to Part II.




Homer E. Billy “Dog” Brewer, generally a back-up quarterback but one of the all time great defensive backs of Ole Miss who returned to coach his alma mater in later years. He was another 1950s era player we recognized for his toughness and all out play


While the current football fans claim they cannot get enough on-television football, marking them as true devotees in their own eyes, those fans of the ‘50s had a tremendous focus on the limited number of games broadcast in any weekend of the football season. One, and only at the beginning of the 1960s, occasionally two college games were shown on Saturdays and one to two pro games on Sundays. Especially with home games of the NFL blacked out within a seventy-five mile radius of the home team city of origin, every televised game was interpreted as meaningful to almost all true fans. When the ban was lifted, there were still a minimal number of offerings on each weekend and it seemed that everyone paid close attention to them. Without the internet, social media platforms, and other means of immediate communication, the few games on radio and television were the fans’ lifeline. If one wanted more information about specific individuals or teams, one had to scour newspapers and magazines, the public library, pay very close attention to the evening news program when sports reporting was aired, and beat the bushes for those in one’s locale who had a legitimate connection with the local team who might relay some inside or “secret” information. In Long Beach, we had access to anything and everything related to the existence of the New York Rangers because the local recreation ice rink served as their practice facility, many of the players rented nearby, and players who did imbibe alcohol did so in Long Beach bars (at the time of legendary goalie Terry Sawchuk’s tragic death, we lived only houses down the street from him). I had access to New York Giants news because one of my father’s racetrack buddies who frequently visited the house, was former Tulane College Football Hall Of Fame and Giants’ fullback Eddie Price. The relative lack of information stimulated reading, research, and true knowledgeable interest.



A framed copy of the December 3, 1956 edition of Sports Illustrated hangs over the desk of the author, a reminder of football’s better days

From my vantage point, most “fans” now are less than casual, often pay attention only because of the gambling influence of Fantasy Football or outright legal or illegal gambling and gaming. With literally thirty televised games within any communication company’s televised package of Saturday outings, one can ask if there is a real interest in all or any of them. I’ll take a simpler time, a time of Billy Cannon, Bill Brewer, Pete Dawkins, Chuck Conerly, and Jackie Burkett, a time when football was a great game, a great pageant, and undiluted by the gluttony of the media. The passing of so many greats of that by-gone era is a reminder that truly, “That was then, this is now” and perhaps not for the best.