Oscar painting the score from the 1933 LBJ game. Via MNHS
Being a Story Told By Oscar Keeper of Gopher Grid Secrets
Genial Janitor Relates Time When Football Teams Carried Cooks and Food and Were Regaled with Ale on Eve of Game.
The bards of ancient' Greece recounting, the exploits of the Hellenic warriors have nothing on "Oscar," raconteur of Gopher gridiron battles, Oscar came - to the University of Minnesota 22 years ago as janitor at the armory, the stronghold of Gopher athletics, and over since has acted as the right hand man of Maroon and Gold coaches and the walking history of athletic battles and student life. It can't, be doubted that Oscar has a last name, but he is never known by it and used now would hide his identity.
Gopher gridders. met their opponents [in]back of tho West hotel when Oscar first arrived and Northrop field, was only a sandpit. Alfred Pillsbury was captain of the first team Oscar observed. It was in 1898 and beef was the big asset of the players, with coaches, unknown, quantities.
Then "Doc". Smiled.
Dr. H.. L. Williams, famous Gopher football mentor came to Minnesota in 1900. When he met the squad, everyone more than six feet tall, "Doc" had a smile as big as a barn, according to Oscar. Such luminaries,as John Flynn, Gilmore Dobie, Tweet and Nolton were in the group.
Football squads carried their own cooks in those days of the oval sport and maintained a training table. Even
water was carried when an' enemy camp was Invaded, Oscar relates for enthusiastic rooters were not above resorting to the use medicine to doctor the food of the opponents. That was why the famous Michigan "little brown Jug" was brought to Minnesota in 1903.
Steak and roast beef, roast beet and steak was the menu at tho old training table which was not abolished until 1910. When you got a plate of that stuff you got something Oscar declared. Saturday nights the squad was given ale from a barrel always on tap in the armory basement.
Old Stars Seek Oscar
Football luminaries returning to the campus, forgotten or unknown to the present generation of students, invariably seek out Oscar to swap reminiscences. He had one such session last week when Johnnie Flynn of the 1900 eleven paid the university a visit from Mexico.
Freshman-sophomore differences were as exciting in the old days as were the grid battles, Oscar declared, and told of the class parties" around 1900, "At one party the 'Frosh' gave in the armory the sophomores broke in the building, burned sulfur In the entrance room and then started the ventilation fan.The party ended there," he related. "Another time the sophomores cut the light wires and the freshman had to use candles for their party, getting their clothes covered with wax from them. Mueller, a husky football player had his head split clear open in a fight with a chair at one of the freshman outposts during the party."The story of 15 gallons of molasses came next. It was bought by the second year men as a substitute for tar and feathers. But the freshmen entered into the spirit of the affair so heartily that both sides were anointed with the fluid before hostilities ceased.
Oscar came to tho rescue of the "Frosh" at another party with pins for the sophomores had caught them en route to an armory and cut their trouser buttons off. Shaving heads, fighting with fire hoses and tubs of
fruit punch intended for refreshments were common occurrences.
Faculty members were not immune and feared to chaperone the parties for fear of being mistaken for spies, Oscar declared. J. B. Pyke, now head of the Latin department, was one who braved the dangers of chaperonage, only to be captured by the "Frosh."
"They ducked Professor Pyke and his straw hat down in the snow and slush and laughed at him when he declared he was a member of the faculty. Those freshmen certainly did disappear fast when they found out their mistake, though," Oscar chuckled as he returned to his work In the athletic supply room.