By John Philip Sousa, Words by Michael Jalma
RAH! RAH! SKI-U-MAH! RAH! RAH! RAH!
March on, march on to victory!
Loyal sons of the varsity.
Fight on, fight on for Minnesota
For the glory of the old maroon and gold.
March on, march on to win the game,
DOWN THE FIELD, fighting every play.
We’re with you, team, fighting team,
Hear our song, we cheer along
To help you win a victory!
Here in Minnesota the big news this fall is the return of college football to the campus of the University of Minnesota after almost three decades of exile in the sterile confines of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. We here on the Front Porch approve of the move, even if it was accomplished with the generous support of the taxpayers of Minnesota, and the prostitution of naming rights to TCF Bank. It should be quite a place to see a game. What’s most impressive to me is the way that they paid homage to the original “Brickhouse” with the design.
When built in 1924 it was quite the place, and Minnesota was quite the team. In fact, up until the late 50’s the “Golden Gophers” were perennial powerhouses. These were the days of Bronko Nagurski
The Brickhouse was a quintessential place for college football during the years when the college game dominated the national scene, and professional football was viewed as a bush league sideshow. What I wouldn’t give for a time machine to travel back to take in one of those games on an October afternoon in the 1920’s…
Football was a different sport back then. Sparse padding, and open faced leather helmets dictated the style of blocking and tackling. Watching game footage it resembles rugby more than the sport we know today. The football itself seemed like a ponderous egg, and forward passes were more like shot put throws heaved downfield in the hopes that one of your teammates could out jump the defense.
With no TV, or professional sports to compete with the Gophers were the only ticket in town. It looks like they packed half the population of the cities into that old pile of bricks.
And can Saturday afternoons get anymore sepia toned, or nostalgic than this?
Sadly, time and economics led to the departure of the Gophers from Campus in the early 80’s. The Brickhouse lingered, as debate raged about it’s fate. Finally, in 1992 it was pulled down. Oddly enough, despite only moving to town in 1993 I have a personal Brickhouse memory.
In the summer of 1989, I accompanied a close friend on a road trip from Batavia to Minneapolis, so that he could interview with the graduate school program at the U of M. I was just along for the ride, and the fun of a road trip to new places. This was my first experience of Wisconsin and Minnesota, and I am not exaggerating to say I fell in love with the Upper Midwest. I think it was crossing the border into Wisconsin and seeing a giant sign that advertised “Food, Beer, Cheese” that did it for me. Anyplace that put Beer and Cheese into the same phylum as Food was a place I had to be.
The evening after his interview, we were entertained by several graduate student at a bar in Stadium Village across from the dark bulk of the Brickhouse. By entertained I mean, we say at an outdoor table at the Towne Pub (now Sally’s Saloon) and drank. (Please, act surprised) We asked the waitress what the drink special was, and she told us jokingly that if we drank 12 pitchers the next 4 were free. Sadly, we were up to the challenge, and she lived up to the deal. Things got a little hazy after that. We stumbled back to the motel, but too drunk to sleep I decided to go for a walk. That’s the point at which I got the brilliant idea to climb the chain link fence surrounding the looming hulk of the stadium and go sightseeing. I wish I could remember more of it. I remember that protruding into one end of the field was a brand new Aquatorium for the swim program. I remember that anything removable had already been removed, so I was unable to procure a souvenir. I remember walking the tunnel, and climbing the steps to sit at the top of the stadium by the South pressbox, and trying to imagine what it was like to sit there on a blusterly November day watching “the Bronk” run wild. And then I remember wandering home to bed, amazingly avoiding security or police that hot August night. Yes, I am a lucky man.
All Photos copyright University of Minnesota Library. For more great photos as well as films visit:The Brickhouse