John Grindrod: Insights into America, 1957
A few years ago, one of my sweet and gentle readers, Mary Crider, gave me a large stack of my favorite childhood magazine, Sports Illustrated, mostly from 1957, about three years before Mom and Dad got me my own subscription to what was then a weekly magazine , both to satisfy my growing interest in sports and to encourage reading. It was Mary’s husband, Frank, whose name is on every shipping label, someone who I assume has followed the sports scene as closely as I have for most of my life.
I’ve been working my way through the stack of issues reading several articles to see the world as it once was, a welcome break from so much that is so very depressing now, from a pandemic that just won’t let go its power over us, the chaos on our southern border, the escalating prices we pay at the gas pump and in our grocery stores, and the kids gunning down classmates in the same school hallways I’ve walked through for over three decades without the anyone thought such a thing could ever happen. As I turn the pages of magazines that are now more than six decades old, there is so much that provides a history lesson about what the collective “we” in our country was once like.
First, I’m always interested in old magazines if the subscription card is still attached, and that was for this December 9, 1957 issue. For what was a weekly magazine at the time (and not the monthly publication it is). now) Frank Crider paid his $7.50 for a full year, not quite fifteen cents per issue.
During my perusal, I always spend some time looking at the ads because I feel it always gives an indication of what the magazine’s predominantly male audience has always found desirable. There were ads for dress shoes, aftershave and cologne, sportswear, men’s watches and plenty of spirits like Old Smuggler Scotch.
However, the most interesting aspects of reading this issue came from quotes from two very prominent coaches of the time, quotes that referred to some pretty important core values, values that some would say were far more prevalent in the 1950s were put on display.
As for the core value of the industry, the quote comes from Paul Brown, arguably the greatest influence in professional football the game has ever known. After a poor 1956 season when his Cleveland Browns went 5-7 in that era of 12-game game plans, the Browns were about to make a major turnaround in early December, thanks in large part to their superb rookie running back Jimmy was brown. And he wasn’t the only freshman Brown brought with him.
When asked by reporters what the key to turning around from one season to the next was, Brown replied succinctly, “We got rid of the people who were no longer willing to pay the price.” It seems to me to be something in so many cases these days being harder to get rid of those who just aren’t willing to put in the effort and energy to ensure our national success.
In the cover story of this old magazine entitled “Dixie’s Yankee Hero,” about New York native Frank McGuire, the North Carolina basketball coach ready to start a new season after last year’s NCAA championship, his crowning achievement as a coach, I found a quote that so powerfully expresses the importance of humility, a virtue so often lacking in today’s “it’s all about me”-era sports figures.
Last March, McGuire coached his tar heels to a perfect 32-0 season and finished the season with a 54-53 win over a heavily favored Kansas Jayhawk team in triple overtime. McGuire developed a game plan that neutralized the most dominant force in his or any era, 7’1” Wilt “The Stelzen” Chamberlain.
In the article, writer Gerald Holland recounted that McGuire was asked to be the keynote speaker in Columbus at the newly opened St. John Arena at a clinic for 1,800 high school coaches. In his closing remarks that day, to a full house who hung on his words, he reminded his fellow coaches of the importance of a single point.
He said that one point earned him college basketball coach of the year. He went on to say that he was invited to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show because of the same single point. And because of that same single point, he was asked to speak to them that day and in his dramatic conclusion, holding up a single finger, he ended like this: ‘One point and the players and I’ll never forget that the difference between us and many teams and many coaches.”
Although I enjoyed the ads in that 1957 magazine and wished I had one of these now-classic cars in the same pristine condition that I saw in those ads, thanks to Mary Crider’s gift, I enjoyed more the reminder of core industry values and humility, that I found in the words of two legendary coaches, values that I’m not sure are so prevalent in today’s world.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor, and the author of two books. You can reach him at [email protected]