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How football came to Sandy High

by: contributed photo, The first Sandy High School football team. Front row, from left: Russell Norquist, Clarence Griffin, Lewis Lund, Clark Lund, Vic Bacon, Ken Proctor, Bill Dodd. Back row: Ken Scales, Alvin Eric, Quenten Norquist, Ed McCabe.

W.E. 'Pop' Rannow, who had recently graduated from Pacific University where he had been outstanding in football and baseball, organized the first Sandy Union High School team in 1927. At that time, Pacific and Willamette Universities played in the same conference with Oregon and Oregon State.

'Spike' Emerson, Dale Stewart and Coach Webber from Estacada, who had played at Pacific with the 250-pound tackle, each described Rannow as a very tough Dutchman, who could really make the fur fly, especially when he got angry.

When Rannow coached at Sandy, it was apparent to his charges that this potential existed, although Rannow was by nature a very gentle and easygoing person.

According to Russell Norquist, one of the members of the 1927 team, Rannow had to start from scratch. Few of the boys had ever seen a football game, nor did anyone know how the game was played, and at that time there was rarely a football on the playgrounds of any of the grade schools that fed into Sandy High School.

The only football that any of those kids might have kicked in the past would have been of the 'drugstore' variety received for Christmas, which seldom prevailed past New Year's, much less until the following fall.

Some boys' only football experience was limited to the kicking of an inflated urinary bladder of a pig. This practice was customary when farmers butchered a pig and dates far back into the history and may have accounted for the origin of the term 'pigskin.'

Needless to say, none of the boys knew how to throw the ball.

Football practice was held during a 75-minute activity period that ended at 4 p.m. This provided for about one hour of practice and allowed 15 minutes for those who dressed down and showered.

Some did not shower but played in their regular school clothes, which, for the most part, were blue denims. Others wore what were once light colored corduroys that were seldom washed.

Dirty cords were the 'in thing' compared to the ragged and patched blue denims of today. Dirty cords could be stood up in a corner, but when washed, they lost their body.

Football conflicted to some degree with band, but football was never allowed to interfere with a boy's musical education.

Principal G.D. Orr, who also directed the band, insisted that members of the band attend the twice-a-week band practices held during the activity period.

The band did not perform at games during those early years because of the large percentage of its members participating in athletics.

The original turnout was small. Some of the boys were intimidated by stories of football being rough and resulting in numerous injuries, but eventually enough ventured out to provide enough bodies for at least a partial scrimmage.

About one third of the season was spent just learning the principles of how the game was played with as many fundamentals thrown in as could be absorbed.

The position anyone played on those early Rannow teams was determined somewhat by a boy's previous athletic experience.

Usually the backfield was composed of basketball players. The ends and centers were baseball players, and those with no experience in athletics became tackles and guards.

The 1927 team lost games to Estacada, Oregon City, Canby and Gresham, but climaxed the season with a win over Parkrose.

In some of these games, the opponents were supposed to be second teams or what would now be called varsity reserves, but opposing coaches would often use first stringers to ensure a win over the inexperienced and under-manned Sandy team.

However, the only win for Sandy was against the Parkrose first team.

To have played six games and to have won with so few players and such meager equipment and with no injuries was truly a remarkable accomplishment.

The two games with Sandy are listed in the Gresham High School annual as first team games.

On those days there was very little substituting. Barring an injury or a poor performance, a player was expected to go both ways (for the duration of the game).

Several of the games in 1927 were played without uniforms, and opponents made fun of Sandy's conglomeration of ragged apparel.

The only available photograph shows the first team wearing padded pants that were purchased toward the end of the season. A few boys wore football shoes and there may have been one or two who wore a Sears and Roebuck helmet or shoulder pad. The jerseys were off-white sweatshirts that could be purchased at any general merchandise store for one dollar.

During this early football era, very little money was budgeted by the district for athletics, and for Rannow, economy was the name of the game. Several times he would schedule potential home games away from home for a $10 or $15 guarantee, with which he could purchase a piece of equipment or two.

It was not until 1934 that all players could walk onto the field fully equipped.

It should be mentioned, too, that the student body and the community had to learn enough about football to become spectators.

In 1927, few homes had radios. In some cases, football knowledge was limited to information provided by a zany phonograph record entitled 'Uncle Josh at the Football Game.'

W.E. 'Pop' Rannow coached football and baseball at Sandy High School for many years and continued his tenure as a history and language teacher until his untimely death in 1962.

The naming of 'Pop' Rannow Stadium exemplifies the respect and admiration the community had for this pioneer educator.

Miles Aubin graduated from Sandy High School's class of 1933. Aubin is a longtime Sandy historian and member of the Sandy Historical Society. He has written on many subjects for The Gresham Outlook and The Sandy Post over the years. The last remaining member of Sandy High's original football team, Victor 'Vic' W. Bacon, died Tuesday, Sept. 19.