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Muskie athletes reminisce about glory days

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Old memories die hard. Just ask former Muskie football players and cheerleaders who turned up at the Fort Frances Curling Club on Saturday to reminisce.

George Wood, who was better known to his teammates as “The Egyptian Mummy” because they couldn’t read his face, played tackle, guard, and fullback all through high school.

Sporting his original 1952 Muskie football jacket (which was in good condition), Wood said he has many memories of high school and football but one he’ll never forget is the day his coach sent him to play for the opposing team.

“We were playing Kenora and they were short players so my coach sent me over to play for them,” he recalled. “I was mad at him and he said to me, ‘Go over there and show me how mad you really are.’

“I played my best game that day. I played like I was out to prove a point . . . that I was too good to be put on the opposite team,” he continued. “I proved my point because my coach came over to me and congratulated me on the game I played. I felt pretty good.

“The Muskies won that game against Kenora and my coach never sent me to the opposing team again,” he remarked.

Wood also said they had a lot of fun on the bus trips they took with the cheerleaders.

“I can’t pick out one memory that stands out because they were all so much fun,” he reminisced. “Just being with the team was fun. One of the best parts of the trips were singing our school songs.

“We would pull into the town with all the windows down and we’d be screaming and yelling at the top of our lungs,” he enthused.

Bernice Cain, nee Gadd, who graduated in 1952 and was a Muskie cheerleader in grades 10, 12, and 13, agreed some of her favourite memories were from the bus trips.

“The bus trips we went on with the football players were fun . . . we got to meet a lot of different people,” she remarked. “I remember one trip where there was an accident with some football players in a car ahead of us, it was frightening.”

“The women . . . the cheerleaders were fun,” smiled George Hansen. “If there hadn’t been football, most of us wouldn’t have spent so many years in school.”

Wood stressed the Muskies had a lot of fan support in those days. “We didn’t have a football field in Fort Frances so we played our home games over in International Falls. And there were always people watching,” he noted.

Wood said it was great to see a lot of people he hasn’t seen in a while.

“I have the pleasure of seeing some of these people all the time since I live here but some of these people I haven’t seen in 30-40 years,” he added.

Wood wasn’t the only former Muskie with fond memories to share.

“My fondest memory of playing high school football was winning NorWOSSA in 1974. It had been 16 years since it had been won,” noted Gord Witherspoon (Class of ’74), who first started playing right guard/linebacker in grade seven.

Greg Mercure (Class of ’75), who played tight end for the Muskies for five years, said he remembered Dryden as being a tough team, and the year they beat them is his favourite football memory.

Stephen Challis (Class of ’76), who played defence and offensive tackle for two years, said there is a lot he remembers but the one thing he won’t forget is a game against Red Lake.

“I blocked a punt against Red Lake and then scored a touchdown,” he recalled.

Challis stressed sometimes people were more memorable than the events themselves. “There were some star players, I wasn’t a star player. Dale Brunetta taught me everything. He was a star--the kind of guy you would remember.”

Richard Bolieau, a defensive halfback for four years in high school before graduating in 1977, was happy to be part of the festivities, noting that when you see people you haven’t seen in 10 years, you have to have fun.

“My favourite memory of playing high school football was when we had to play football in six inches of snow against Kenora,” he added.

He can’t remember if the Muskies won or lost that game. “If we didn’t win, then we had fun losing. In the late ’70s we had a good season.”

Centre/linebacker Bill McLeod (Class of ’55) fondly remembers the trip to Thunder Bay to play in the NWOSSAA championship.

Julian Brunetta (Class of ’55), who played flying wing, said he will remember the games with the mistakes. “People hardly remember the good things,” he reasoned.

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