Football Ghosts at Houck Stadium

If I can get in, I’m going to cover my first Central High School game in about four decades. When I asked Missourian photographer Fred Lynch what kind of credentials you need to get on the sidelines or if could I just talk my way in, he said it was pretty casual.

Don’t bother talking. Just head for the 30-yard line with a bigger lens than the high school kids use. You use a monopod? That makes you look like a pro. But I am sure that you carry yourself like a pro. No one will know you are retired.

Impersonating a photographer

If you don’t see anything here for a couple of days, you can assume that I’ve been busted for impersonating a photographer.

Football ghosts

I haven’t scanned many sports negatives because I have a problem figuring out which teams are in the photos. Most schools didn’t have team names or logos on their uniforms in those days. I’m only assuming these photos were taken at Central High School games.

If you click on the photo above to make it larger, you can see the ghostly images of football players hovering over the play. Number 24, in particular, shows up right above the quarterback.

The photographer was sloppy

I’d love to make up some scary story appropriate to the Halloween season, but there is a simple, technical explanation: the photographer was sloppy.

The photo was taken with a 4×5 Crown Graphic camera that used 4-inch by 5-inch sheets of film in a film holder or carrier.

When you went to take the first picture, you would insert the film carrier into the camera and pull a slide that protected the film from light when it was out of the camera. After taking the photo, you would replace the slide, remove the film holder and reverse it so the unexposed film was facing the lens. You would “pull the slide,” make the exposure, replace the slide, remove the holder and set it aside.

Sounds confusing, right? It was.

Lots of things could go wrong

  • You could forget to pull the slide, so the film was never exposed
  • You could forget to replace the slide, so the film would be ruined when it came out of the camera
  • You could forget to flip the folder, so the photos would be double exposed with more than one image on the film (which is what happened above).
  • You could grab a holder than had been used, which would result in a double (or more) exposure.

Four sheets of film, five flashbulbs

Film was expensive, so it was common to be sent to cover a football game with four sheets of film and five flashbulbs (the extra bulb was in case you forgot to pull the slide, see above). You learned to make every shot count.

Flash bulbs, cold weather and static electricity were a bad mix. You usually carried the flash bulbs in your pants pocket. On a cold night, static electricity could create a spark that would ignite a bulb in your pocket. If ONE bulb went off, they’d ALL go off. Flashbulbs put out a LOT of heat.

If you ever saw me jumping and thrashing around on the sidelines, I wasn’t trying out a new dance step. There was a fiery furnace raging in my pants pocket.

66 or 67 Central High School football team

15 Replies to “Football Ghosts at Houck Stadium”

  1. The first two game photos were shot at Jackson probably 1963 to 65. We had full house backfield which was antequated by 1966. Also first year for those uniforms was 1963. The first team photo is the junior varsity of 1966. Rush(Rusty)Limbaugh is he last one in the last row. The second team photo is the 1966 varsity, Senior class 1967.

    1. Van,

      Far be it for me to question you, because I seldom knew what town I was in, much less what teams were playing, but I could have sworn the second photo was Houck Stadium. I don’t remember lights and grandstands like that in Jackson.

      When I start scanning football pix, I’ll have to send them to you first.

      Rusty Limbaugh played football? I wouldn’t have picked him out from that picture. Are you SURE? If you are, I guess it’s appropriate that he’s seated at the far end of the right.

  2. Van,
    You are quite the historian! I bet between the two of us we could name just about everyone in the last picture and many in the JV picture.
    Mike ’68

  3. Van you got it all right…I was off running Cross Country during this time. I did notice Bob Bishop at the top of the 67 picture. What a great sandlot player he was…big fast and almost impossible to tackle in the open field. We used to Play Tackle Football on Sunday’s
    in the park below bandshell, at Perryville Road and Broadway. Dr. Metzger ( cooler Proff) lead these imprompto games and Bob played when he returmed from Mizzo. We banded him from returning kickoff’s, because NO ONE or even ALL of US could stop him in the open field. Remember we were playing with no pads.
    I think I still have brusies…

  4. Good grief, Van, how do you remember all this stuff? I’m toast if I don’t label my own photos within a couple of weeks.

  5. I didn’t get busted for impersonating a photographer. I’m editing photos from last night’s game as we speak.

    I didn’t have a long enough lens to do very well on the action, but I have some crowd, band and sideline shots that aren’t bad.

    Keep watching this space.

  6. Yep, Rusty played football through his sophomore year. He was a pretty good kicker in the old school pre soccer style. I remember Dutch wanted him to come back for his junior year just to kick but Rusty wanted to work at KGMO weekdays in afternoon drive time rather than go to football practice. That worked out pretty well, wouldn’t you say?

  7. Ken, I tried to make the game so we could cheer on the new photographer, but just couldn’t make it. I was lucky to reach Vincennes. We’re not the loud, cheering type of fans, so you probably would have had to generate your own inspiration, anyway, if it had depended on us. But maybe some of your louder, more boisterous fans are there to cheer you on.

    1. Van, it may be true that my football knowledge is a bit shallow (I used to think that a tight end was a player who had been drinking a bit too much), but I was pretty sure no local stadium looked as big as Houck Field.

  8. For the game shot I will guess ’63. I wore 24 in ’64 and ’65, but I do not recognize anyone in the photo. Loved those uniforms. Loved those helmets.

    I remember coming back from college and playing in the Perry and Broadway games. Great fun!

  9. This design is spectacular! You certainly know how to keep
    a reader amused. Between your sense of humor and your video,
    I was very nearly moved to get started on my own blog (well, almost.
    ..HaHa!) Fantastic job.

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