Monday, September 29, 2014

I would sooner be a Miner Than A Sooner-the legend of The Fighting Irish of Wallace

The year was 1957, and no high school in the Idaho had a better, tougher, and more determined team than dear old Wallace High School. So, how does a small school from Wallace and legendary collegiate gridiron giants get mentioned in the same breath? Sit down, kick your feet up, have a drink, and I will tell you about the Fighting Irish of Wallace High.

The collegiate gridiron wars had been dominated by two legendary programs whose pigskin heroics and feats were recounted the same way the ancient Greeks and Romans must have reverently narrated the sacred tales about the gods and goddesses of power and might. The two giants were the Oklahoma University Sooners, and the Fighting Irish of the University of Notre Dame, and there was no love between the warriors of these two mighty armies of grit, power, and superior athleticism.

The Sooners of Oklahoma had been on an unparallel roll of a win streak that had seen them score a victory in an astonishing 47 straight games. Now, in the world of parallel existence many, many miles from Norman, OK, sits the tiny farming community of Pullman, WA. Not only is Pullman the home of the Washington State Cougars, it is also home of the Pullman High School Greyhounds, and the Hounds were on a very impressive win streak of their own, having reeled of 35 straight wins. Word of the streak of Pullman High reached the Sooners in Oklahoma, and the Sooners were so impressed that they sent congratulations to their younger pigskin brothers in Pullman, and gave them the honorary nickname of “The Sooners of the Palouse”.

As we know, no streak lasts the test of time, and on a fateful Sooner day, November 16, 1957, the Sooners streak died on the battlefield to, yep, you guessed it, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. When he dust had cleared that day not a sound except for occasional sobs could be heard from the Sooner faithful as they looked with disbelief at the scoreboard. Could it be real? The answer was all too painful, for the it read –Notre Dame 7-Oklahoma 0.

Now, let’s move up north a bit from Oklahoma and Pullman to the small mining town nestled like a baby in the arms o the greatest silver, lead, and zinc deposits that the at that time had ever seen. I am talking about my hometown, the beautiful city of Wallace, Idaho. Wallace was home to a pretty tough and tumble football powerhouse of its own, The Wallace High School Miners, then coached by the legendary Bud Riley, the former Alabama high school star and Idaho Vandal star. Riley’s teams were always formidable and thought nothing of knocking schools five times their size on the collective keisters.

So, can you tell what is coming next? Pullmans’ streak was at 35, and next up on the schedule that year was ----drum roll please-“ladies and gentlemen, your Wallace Miners”. The hounds picked up their bruised bodies from the field, tails tucked under their bodies in total defeat, left the field.

Word reached all of the way to South Bend , Indiana, and the Fighting Irish were so impressed with the Miner’s victory over the “ Sooners of the Palouse” that the athletic director of Notre Dame sent a telegram to Wallace coach Bud Riley congratulating them on their big win, and dubbed Wallace as the “Fighting Irish of the Northwest” In addition, each Notre Dame player autographed a football, and the ball was sent to Wallace High, and the last time that I was in the old Civic Auditorium , it was still resting in the trophy case in the entrance to the auditorium. I assume that it now rests in a place of honor in the new school.

Ah, the good old days of Wallace!






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