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"I remember him taking those pictures," said Eleanor Harris Aldrich '58 when we phoned to ask for memories sparked by the photocopies we'd mailed her earlier this fall. On Homecoming Day, 1956, when then-sophomore Carl Howard '59 made the remarkable photographs on these four pages, Eleanor Harris was a junior and member of the UMass drill team. (That's Eleanor, first in line, below.)
"I don't think we'd really had pictures taken while we were marching before," she told us. "Certainly nothing like that. It was very clever, the way he had us fan out. He seemed to have a very good idea what he wanted."
On that October afternoon forty-one years ago Carl Howard, who now has his own production company in Ballston Lake, New York, captured to perfection the serio-comic spectacle of young people strenuously playing their roles in the autumn collegiate ritual. The nominal center of the action was the game played between spindly wooden bleachers near where the Whitmore Administration Building now stands. The young photographer did a precocious job of framing the fedoras in the press box, the "oooofff" on the field. Even more unique are his monumental pep squad and "Precisionettes."
Music professor emeritus Joe Contino, shown above energetically directing the band, takes major credit for the snappy appearance of the drill team. Not only did he "impose a height thing" on the Precisionettes "When I got here they varied from five-foot-two to six feet, I said this has gotta stop" he also got them into uniforms custom-made by an Amherst tailor. "Beautiful fabric," says Lois Bain Steel '57, second in line behind Eleanor in Carl's photograph. "One hundred per cent wool. When it rained we smelled just like a flock of sheep." In their saddle-oxfords and their white gloves ("They really do finish an outfit," says Eleanor), the forty-eight of them forming a giant "M" and doing a "ripple salute" were really something to see.
As for the pep squad, who could resist, then or now, such extroverted antics? Sondra (Sable) Alman '58, balanced with her megaphone on the sweatered shoulders of Frank Cullen '59 or topping a pyramid of her fellow cheerleaders; the whole crew of them running single file at a tiny trampoline off which they rolled like puppies; Gail (Totman) Moskow '59, levitating with pep.
Who'd guess to look at the cheerleaders as opposed to Coach Charlie O'Roarke and his players-in-waiting that the UMass team was suffering the worst defeat in its seventy-seven year history? "It was a sad bunch of Umies that left Alumni Field after the final whistle with the score standing at 71-6", the '57 Index recorded. "The only bright spot for the Redmen was the touchdown pass from Tommy Whalen to John O'Keefe."
That's Tom Whalen '57 in the leather helmet in the photograph above, according to his teammate Frank Spriggs '57, who's there too, wearing the number 70 and a sober expression. It wasn't a happy moment, Spriggs agrees, but adds that the college game was less serious in those days: "A football scholarship was tuition, and in those days tuition was $50 a semester." They really were out there for the fun of it: "I never had a winning team to cheer for," says Marilyn (Gross) Curran '57, closest to us in the second tier of the pep-squad pyramid at top left. "But I never remember it not being fun." PW