What It Wasn’t, Was Football

It’s October, so everyone’s thoughts have turned to football.  Or the Great Pumpkin.  But because we don’t have any images of the Great Pumpkin in our digital collections, let’s say football.  It’s hard to imagine, but in olden days we somehow managed to enjoy football without luxuries like high-def, Doritos commercials, high-def Doritos commercials, and four guys all yelling at the same time on The OT.  There were six quarters lasting 90 minutes each, the field was eight yards long, a common trick to confuse the other team was to have the homecoming queen run onto the field to kick the extra point, and the football was a big rock.  We are pretty sure all this is true.  Let’s look at some of the historic football images in Duke Digital Collections and see what else we can learn about the ol’ pigrock.  You can click on any of the images to see a larger version and learn more about the digital object.


Duke vs. Davidson football program cover, 1936 Sep 19

In the 1930s, players often wore sesame-seed buns as helmets, as seen on the cover of this Duke/Davidson program from our Duke Football Programs digital collection.  We originally thought the Davidson player here was falling down and throwing up, but upon closer examination we realized he has bitten the trousers of the Duke player.  We like our original interpretation better.  Either way, we love the 3-D Viewmaster-y style of the whole tableau.


Early football was much more interactive than today’s sport.  In this 1940 football program, we see a fan climbing over other spectators to reach the field, where she is going to pummel the opposing team with her tiny megaphone.  Eventually this became such a popular activity that by the 3rd quarter of many games the bleachers were practically empty and there was complete chaos on the field.  This is the reason that today tiny megaphones and hats with big feathers are forbidden in most stadiums.


By 1941, local football teams consisted almost entirely of gondoliers.  Previously this group had fought chronic underemployment as there are hardly any canals in central North Carolina.  Eventually the NCAA banned gondoliers in college football, however, because their long oars caused too much damage to the field.  Today most American gondoliers are employed in Las Vegas casinos or telling people to keep their hands and arms inside the boat on “It’s A Small World” at Disneyland.


The hot new technology in 1947 was watching TV on a microfilm reader projection TV, as seen in this magazine advertisement from Ad*Access.   The whole family could gather around the gigantic 20 by 15 inch screen.  This was cutting-edge technology for the era, as it is almost half as big as the typical movie screen in today’s multiplex theaters.  Of course, TV sizes increased over the decades, peaking around 2005 before collapsing under their own weight and shrinking again; today we enjoy watching TV on our tiny netbooks, cell phones, and wristwatches.  Progress!


Down the road in Raleigh, our friends at North Carolina State University formerly played football at Riddick Stadium, which was apparently served by many forms of public transportation, including train, plane, covered wagon, snowshoe, elephant, and mule caravan.  In 1966, the team moved to Carter-Finley Stadium, where today a favorite activity is sitting in traffic on I-40 trying to get to it.


In 1985, football met fashion in a special episode of Project Runway.  This was especially impressive since Project Runway had not been invented yet.  The outfits above were not well received  by the judges.  Heidi Klum said they were “too matchy-matchy” and “not sexy at all.”  Nina Garcia called the color palette “ghastly” and found the proportion on the jacket “confusing.”  Michael Kors said it looked “like a disco grandma at the mall” and yelled “the fit on the pants is CRAZY!”  Guest judge January Jones, however, found the beret “cute” and said she “might wear the scarf, if it were really cold.”


We hope you’ve found this look at great moments in football history informative and enjoyable.  We cannot be held responsible for any bad grades that may result from presenting any of this as fact in a school project or report.  Please spend some time checking out our Duke Digital Collections to see what other football-related resources you can find – or enter any other topic that interests you in the search box on the Digital Collections home page.

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