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Last game at The Pit brings back memories of days gone by
SOMETIMES IT’S pretty darned heartbreaking to flip through old newspapers.
That’s the feeling I had this week as I scanned copies of The Free Lance–Star for September 1962, a half-century ago.
President John Kennedy was talking about plans for the space program. Dwight Eisenhower, just back from a foreign trip, was getting involved with politics again. Even good ol’ Herbert Hoover, at the age of 88, was heading home with an optimistic prognosis after major surgery.
As I read about the local folks making news back then, many of whose names were deeply imbedded in my memory, I recalled the rosiness of the times.
It wasn’t all pleasant, to be sure. Integration in local schools was just beginning with a handful of black students at several area schools. The voices of bigotry were still being heard.
But the general mood of those days was optimistic. As my memories were rekindled this week, I wanted to time-travel back to that time to warn those sunny folks about the tough days ahead—political assassinations, a growing war in Southeast Asia, a generation of student protests.
In those sunshine-before-the-storm days, I was heading into my freshman year at King George High School.
I can still recall one of the initiations into my new school, after eight years at Dahlgren School on the Navy base. It was the first football game I attended at The Pit—the sunken-hole field below the high school that was the home then of the King George Foxes.
Things didn’t go well for the Foxes during my first venture into The Pit on Sept. 21, 1962. They were shellacked by Tappahannock 20–0, the second straight game in which K.G. was held scoreless.
Despite the score, I’ll always remember being there—as I will last Friday’s game, the last I will ever attend at The Pit. This time, 50 years later, things went much better for the Foxes, as they romped over Washington & Lee, 41–0.
The rest of King George’s home games will be played at the school’s new field, which sports the area’s only artificial turf.
It would take a heavily nostalgic person to mourn the loss of The Pit. It was far from ideal, with hints of marshiness in the turf and the aroma to go with it. With no nearby locker rooms, at halftime the teams sat on the ground
in the end zone and off near the woods.
But since I’m the kind of guy who can get weepy about a 1983 Corolla, I freely admit that I’ll miss The Pit.
Its greatest attribute was that it was different. It was not a field created by some assembly-line designer for hundreds of high schools all over the country. It was one of a kind.
I hope the athletes who will still use that field will keep its legacy alive. And I hope they’ll be mindful of the magical moments that were experienced in that space during King George’s fabled football history.
I’m sure I’ll enjoy the new field. But I’m happy I had the chance to experience The Pit during its prime, a half-century ago, when it was 10 years old, during a sunny time before the storms of the ’60s.
Ed Jones: 540/374-5401