Sandy remembers Vic Bacon, its No. 1 fan
- Sharon Nesbit
- Gresham Outlook - Features
The Sept. 19 death of Vic Bacon, 94, has sparked memories in Sandy where Bacon scored the town's first touchdown and then touched the community with a gift.
Though he lived good chunks of his life in Gresham and in Madras, Bacon never lost his love for his hometown, where in 1927 he scored the first ever touchdown for a Sandy football team. In 2005 he surprised the Sandy Historical Society with a $100,000 gift for its new museum.
'He had a real passion for history and growing up here and seeing this museum as an addition to Sandy,' said Ann Marie Amstad, board member and secretary of the society.
Bacon had a way of making history. Born in 1912 to a homesteading couple near Hay Creek east of Madras, he really did walk to school barefoot. It would be good training for his athletic career at Sandy High. The family moved to the Bull Run area in 1921 where he attended grade school, and was an upperclassman to Sandy historian Phil Jonsrud.
In high school in order to participate in sports where he earned 11 letters, Bacon walked the 8 miles from Bull Run to Sandy High in the morning, hiked home at 1 p.m. to do his farm chores, and then walked back to catch the athletic bus, walking home again after dark.
About that first football game, read historian Miles Aubin's reminiscences on The Outlook's Web site, www.
'Sandy had never had a football team until 1927,' Bacon remembered in a 2004 interview in The Gresham Outlook. 'Most of us had never held a football or even seen a football game, so our teacher took us to Gresham a week before our game to see what football was all about. The next week, I made the first touchdown ever scored in a Sandy High School football game.'
Bacon went on to add the zinger: 'A Sandy player blocked a punt and the ball rolled back over our goal line. I was just standing there. I fell on it. I don't remember how I had the sense to do that.'
Bacon remembered that the high school budget managed money enough for two balls and 11 pairs of football pants, but no shoulder pads, no headgear, no cleated shoes. Substitutes played in their overalls.
He graduated from Sandy High and married his high school sweetheart Martha Maulding in 1930. The two were parents by 1931. During the Depression, he said, the young family was 'scratchin' with the chickens' on his pay of $1 a day from the U.S. Forest Service.
He hauled supplies to the lookout that was then on the summit of Mount Hood and drove the first truck load of lumber through the woods to lay out the site of Timberline Lodge.
In 1934 he signed on to drive a streetcar for the company that would later be Portland General Electric, which led to a 43-year career with PGE. From 1948 to 1955 he built and operated the Gresham skating rink and then went back across the mountains in 1957 to run PGE's Pelton and Round Butte dams on the Deschutes. He retired in 1977.
A savvy businessman, he viewed with suspicion the Enron takeover of his former company and divested himself of its stock saying Enron's promises were 'too good to be true.'
In the spring of 2005, Bacon was inspired to make a contribution to the Sandy Historical Society for its museum.
He called his daughter, Jean Rolli of Boring, to talk it over, worried that it would reduce the estate for her and his other daughter, Gwen Macaulay of Las Vegas.
'We told him to go for it,' Jean Rolli said. 'He earned it.' She helped him shape the words he wanted to say: 'I and my family wish to recognize the heritage of the Bacon family - past, present and future.'
'Omigosh,' said Amstad. 'We were so thankful. It just came out of the blue.'
The Sandy Historical Society Museum is nearing completion, though Amstad says an opening date for the building depends on all the little things that need to be done toward the end.
'At this point,' Amstad said, 'It cost about $1.6 million, and it looks like it will be paid for by the time we open the doors. Of course, we have no money for exhibits, but we are working on grant applications for that.'
In July of 2005, Bacon and Jean were at the museum to write his name and inscription on an interior wall. By then, Vic Bacon's sight was failing, and Jean wrote for him honoring his family and remembering that they came from covered wagon days.
Martha Bacon died in 1994 after 63 years of marriage. Vic Bacon ended his days at Gresham Manor retirement home. He maintained as long as he could his lifelong interests in bowling, the Masonic Lodge and the Elks.
He was buried in Mount Jefferson Memorial Park in Madras next to Martha and only a few miles from where he born on his family's homestead.
How football came to Sandy High
by Miles Aubin
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.