Tuesday, November 07, 2017

What it was, back in '27, was Armistice Day football

Note: The photos here of the 1927 Charger first team that met Valley Junction on Armistice Day, 1927, are taken from the 1927-28 Charitonian yearbook. Right click and open in a new window to read the text.

Football fans both in Chariton and Valley Junction (now West Des Moines) faced what for some was a tough choice on Armistice Day, 1927, Friday, Nov. 11.

The annual Armistice Day match between teams fielded by the Chargers and Valley had, since its inception in 1923, developed into the most important game of the season for both. Chariton had emerged victorious in 1923 and 1926; Valley, in 1924 and 1925. This would, presumably, be the tie-breaking year and the game would be played in Chariton.

Inexplicably, however, amateur football teams fielded by the Valley Junction Athletic Club and Chariton's Carl L. Caviness American Legion Post No. 102 had agreed to face off in an exhibition game in Albia on the same day at roughly the same time. That meant that Chariton Legionaries who played or who were loyal to the team they sponsored would be on the road rather than marking the anniversary of the end of World War I on their home turf.

In the end, the high school match easily won the competition for fans. The crowd in Albia on a cold and blustery afternoon was described as "fairly good." The Chariton High School Athletic Association ordered 2,500 tickets --- and sold out.


This actually would be the last year that the annual football match also would be at the heart of  a major community celebration. Commencing in 1923, the scale of the holiday atmosphere around the game had grown as Valley Junction and Chariton competed to entertain guests who accompanied their teams to town on alternating years more lavishly than the year before.

Members of the community clubs in both towns were beginning to grumble (and it appears the grumbling was louder in Chariton than in Valley Junction) that they were expending too much time and money on organizing pre- and post-game activities. A delegation from Chariton had gone to Valley Junction during late October in an effort to "put on the brakes." 

It was too late, however. Valley Junction already had chartered the special train that would bring hundreds of fans, two marching bands and the football team to town. The good old boys from Chariton returned home and got to work raising funds to finance decorations and entertainment.


Here's how The Chariton Leader reported the leadup to the big game in its edition of the following Tuesday, Nov. 15:

"The Valley Junction special train pulled into the Rock Island station here at 10:30 Friday morning, and from the eight coaches some six hundred visitors stepped down to the cordial welcome of all Chariton expressed by the reception committee at the train. The Chariton Fire Department Band was there and a march to the square was started, with most of the visitors on foot in the parade. The Rock Island Shops Band and the Valley Junction High School Band also played for the parading marchers.

"On the north side of the square the crowd came to a halt and several speeches were made from the temporary band stand which had been decorated in the colors of the visiting high school.

"Then the crowd dispersed to employ the time preceding the game in manners to suit their own particular fancies. The Chariton Rotary Club entertained a number of visiting Rotarians at a luncheon at the Charitone Hotel at noon."


The game commenced after lunch and turned out to be somewhat anticlimactic --- "Struggling on a wind-swept, chilly field over which was spread a thin but annoyingly active layer of dust, attempting to outguess the wind on punts and kick-offs, the Valley Junction and Chariton high school football teams battled throughout the four periods of their fifth annual Armistice Day meet here Friday with neither team securing a point and neither team coming out victorious or loser." --- The Leader reported.

"Valley Junction kicked off at the start of the game. Chariton returned the ball on the first play with a punt. The principal part of the day's activities was devoted to punting, but punts were uncertain at that, due to the uncertainty of the direction the wind might take the pigskin oval."


After the game ended, "the Valley folks attended the local show houses or participated in one of the three dances put on in their honor, or visited with townspeople, until time for the special train to leave for home.

"The visitors were well pleased with their entertainment here and the results of the game," according to The Leader. "Friday, the title of the dopster who guesses the results of the game each week for the Des Moines Reigster, had guessed Chariton to win 10 to 7. Valley folks seemed to think if the guess was bad at all it was because the margin wasn't larger in Chariton's favor."


The game played in Chariton on that long-ago Armistice Day was for glory, but the game down the road in Albia involving amateur teams from Chariton and Valley Junction was played for cold hard cash. The winner took home $500.

After what was described as a "bitter fight" The Valley Junction Athletic Club team emerged victorious, 6-3.

The weather in Albia was just right for the players, according to The Herald-Patriot's brief report of the game in its edition of Nov. 17. But from the spectators' standpoint, the cold and high winds made it "most uncomfortable."


The high school Chargers closed out their 1927 season on Thanksgiving Day against Leon, ending up with a 5-2-1 record. Coached by A.E. Rust and "Mac" McClure, the team tied Des Moines Roosevelt 0-0, defeated Knoxville 12-0, defeated Creston 12-0, fell to Oskaloosa 2-0, defeated Ottumwa 7-0, tied Valley Junction 0-0, defeated Albia 72-0, and defeated Leon 34-0.

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