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October 17, 2014

My First Days in Football

Roy Meachum

Ribbons should go to Bob Kelso, later a full bird colonel in the Armor Corps. I remember his sweating as hard as me. The team was the Frankfurt Invaders. I was still young and competitive, compared to the 86-year-old crippled wreck I’ve turned into.


We were both stationed in American Forces Network, headquartered in the castle in Hoechst. I learned quickly to like the moat with all the flowers - and vegetables – putting in order for an 18-year-old. I served in the castle until age 20, then Berlin for the Airlift called by most Germans, Die Luftbruecke (Air-bridge). (Prince Charles was born during the days when the Airlift was roaring.)


My first days in football were marked and painful. Abandoning the saloons and pubs was not easy. Bob ducked out. Come to think of it, drinking-holes were not the natural ambience for the future colonel, although the Invaders collected at the establishment that advertised “brats and bier” in the windows, not far from the practice field. Here we went over the latest scrimmage.


In that establishment, I met ex-Chicago Bears Walter Plieski – I can be forgiven not to remember both names. He was the leading candidate for position I craved: left tackle. Now they split defensive and offensive, which means I wouldn’t be so desperate. Walter came out; I went in. The division caught me in between. I remember the opposing tackle I punched him, no mean feat. He was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, and an officer. He was messing with our quarterback. I was a staff sergeant who didn’t like it. That simple. Had a great time five days a week; games came on Saturday, like most U.S. colleges.


We went to Berlin to play the post team. The guy was behind the former German capitol’s talk, a buddy from Frankfurt, Jim McKaye, took me on a tour around the city. I engaged in such tricks: looking over the big park, Gruenewald; at the time when wood-gatherers set about their daily tasks.


The Siegsallee was broken apart, presumably by Russian artillery. Statues of those honored sat around with their hands and faces shattered. I had difficulty reading the inscriptions. I found it, ahead with a Red sentry.


There were two Soviet officers on site. They scurried to get away from Jim and me. There’s a rule in each army: spotting the “enemy” requires a report made. The sentry had a rifle with bayonet; the sharp knife towered him. For that lesson, I was eternally grateful; I was never “feared” about the Red Army again.


When we returned to AFN Berlin, the fog had moved in. The day was not record-breaking for the Airlift. I was supposed to report elections back in Hoechst. I went instead with Spiro Gallianoplis, or some such name.


This all springs from “my first days in football.” You would have thought at Holy Cross, except I had “typing” each year, when I was the certain age to go out. The Army fell right in by posting Berlin as the answer.


Where are Bob Kelso and Jim McKaye and Spiro now?


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