Most of you know Patty and I love to travel and I usually
write a little travelogue about our adventures to share
with our friends. This is one of those and if you'd
rather not spend the time to read it, it's about 6 pages,
just hit your "Delete" key and send me a terse
little "Take me off your list" so you won't
be bothered with our future ramblings. I promise you
won't hurt my feelings.
this essay is about South Bend, it must be about Notre
Dame. True, enough. It's also about how Lou Holtz changed
my life. No, it wasn't because his team trounced the
Trojans (which they did more than once) it was because
he was a "Distinguished Speaker" in a series
I attended at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. This was
told the audience that as a young man he had been laid
off from his job as a High School teacher and coach,
which caused him to go into a deep depression. He said
he spent weeks laying around the house all day waiting
for the phone to ring, but it didn't. Finally his wife
told him, "shape up or ship out" and suggested
he make a list of all the things he wanted to do during
he did just that. He now says that making that list
helped him stay focused on what he wanted to accomplish
and, interestingly, one of the things he put on the
list was "To coach at Notre Dame." The original
list had 81 entries and he said he had just accomplished
number 64, which happened to be "White Water Rafting."
inspired me about Holtz' speech was that my own brother
had recently died at age 66 after spending his lifetime
saying, "When I retire I'm going to do this"
and "When I retire I'm going to do that."
He never did any of the things he had "always wanted"
Patty and I compiled our lists and we've spent the intervening
time getting a lot of those things done. One of the
things on my list was, "Attend a USC/Notre Dame
game at South Bend." So, this was the year we finally
friend John Mohler is on the USC Medical Faculty and
I figured if anyone could get good tickets he could.
As it happened I was half-right, he could get tickets,
but, not GOOD tickets. I think you have to be a Priest
or a Nun to sit inside the 20s in Notre Dame Stadium.
Once we nailed the tickets we inspected various travel
options and decided on a four day University Travel
course we bought the tickets and the travel package
long before September 11th and by October 17th air travel
had become a little more difficult. It turned out about
20% of the people who paid for the tour didn't go. Too
bad for them.
arrival at LAX it took us the anticipated one hour plus
to get through Security and when we got to our gate
about 25 people dressed in varying shades of Cardinal
and Gold were milling about waiting to board the plane.
A good looking, relatively short man sporting a huge
white mustache and carrying a clipboard approached to
ask who we were. I told him I was Frank Hall and he
looked disappointed. He was Sam Tsakalakis, Trojan Kicker
from 1952-54 who was to be our "Tour Host."
Sam was disappointed because he hoped the Frank Hall
on his list might be the Quarterback of the same name
who played with him on the Trojans in the mid 50s.
told Sam I spent my college years apologizing to and/or
explaining to people that I wasn't "THE REAL Frank
Hall." I told him the story about the time I had
gone through the Kappa Alpha Theta new pledge "Presents"
line and introduced myself to a beautiful blonde thusly:
"Hi, I'm Frank Hall." To which she replied,
"Sure, and I'm Jon Arnett."
loved that story and told it to nearly everyone else
on the tour.
flight was uneventful and by the time we boarded a bus
at O'Hare to take us to the Ritz Carlton in Chicago
our numbers had swelled to about 30. The bulk of the
tour group arrived the following day bringing our total
over 100 Trojan fans. Our room at the Ritz had a Lake
Michigan view. Spectacular.
first evening we walked a block to Bistro 110 for dinner
and stuffed ourselves on baked artichoke in Brie, hot
bread with baked garlic and baked Cod stuffed with rice
and vegetables. It's a great place to eat when you're
had been afraid of rain or cold, but the weather turned
out to be mild and sunny for our entire stay with the
highs ranging from 62F to 65F.
our first full day in Chicago, was devoted to shopping
along Michigan Avenue. John and I referred to ourselves
as, "He who follows behind and carries packages,"
stealing a line from our friend Bob Misen. I can see
why my Patty and Mary Ellen Mohler loved the place;
there is no shopping remotely like it in Southern California.
Thank God for the credit ceiling on my Visa card.
night a reception was held at the downtown Doubletree
Hotel hosted by Sam and the Travel agency. The featured
speaker was Craig Fertig, Trojan Quarterback from 1962-65,
and now a television "color man" on USC games.
He had some great stories.
reminded us that until Coach John McKay changed the
schedule, USC played Notre Dame in late November as
the last game of the year, home or away.
1965, when Fertig was a senior, legendary Notre Dame
Coach Ara Parseghian had the referees call the Trojans
out onto the field in a driving snow storm and kept
them waiting 20 minutes while the Fighting Irish stayed
in their warm dressing room until game time. Needless
to say the frozen Trojans lost the game.
next time the Trojans were scheduled in South Bend in
November of 1967 it was snowing again and now Fertig
was an Assistant Coach. When the referees came to call
McKay's team out onto the field he ignored them. A few
minutes later the Refs came back and demanded that McKay
take his team out on the field.
asked, "What happens if I don't?"
forfeit the game", said the Ref.
would the score be then?" McKay asked.
to nothing" said the ref.
said McKay, "that would be the best we've ever
done against these BASTARDS on that frozen field."
And, McKay refused to take the team on the field until
the Irish had also gone out.
was the year O. J. Simpson and the Trojans finally beat
the Irish at South Bend. Shortly after that, McKay convinced
the Notre Dame folks to schedule the Irish home game
in October on the grounds that more USC fans would likely
come to the Midwest for the game. He was right, too.
also described the Notre Dame locker room with its forced
air heat and plush carpets, not to mention the opulent
buffet spread. He contrasted that to the Visitor's locker
room which "has a tile floor, a pot bellied stove
for heat and one bar of soap in the shower."
also talked about when he was Head Football Coach at
Oregon State, his former boss, McKay, told him, "There
are two kinds of Coaches: those who HAVE been fired
and those who are ABOUT to be fired." It turned
out, at the time, Fertig was the latter.
also discussed the Oregon State football team during
their winning 2000 season. When asked who was the most
important person to Oregon State's success last year,
Fertig said, "the Admissions Director" without
a moment's hesitation. He said OSU has the worst GPA
of any team west of Texas.
introduced McKay's widow, Corky, who got a standing
ovation from the mostly tipsy crowd. It was at this
reception that I ran into the only other person on the
tour I knew from our days at USC, Diane Halfhill, a
member of our neighboring sorority,
A D Pi, now a teacher in the Orange Unified School District
night we ate at Uno's Pizza, where "Chicago Deep
Dish Pizza" was supposedly born. Two "Medium"
Pizzas were too much food for the four of us. It was
Friday we attended an exhibition at the Chicago Institute
of Art featuring works of Van Gogh and Gauguin who shared
a studio in the South of France for nine weeks in 1888.
Soon after they ended the arrangement Van Gogh went
off the deep end, cut off his ear and took his own life.
Gauguin in the meantime was off to the South Seas, mostly
to avoid his alimony and child support, where he fathered
many more children by those brown bare breasted lovelies
he was so fond of painting.
evening was the big rally sponsored by the Midwest Trojan
Club on "The Navy Pier" an old-fashioned amusement
pier on the lakefront. The rally was in the Exhibition
Hall, big enough to be a blimp hanger. There were between
500 and 1,000 Trojan fans in attendance, but it sounded
like 10,000 in that cavernous building. What amazed
us was the huge crowd of Trojans on Friday night seemed
such a miniscule part of the Notre Dame stadium crowd
rally was supposed to start at 6 PM. It didn't. The
bar opened at 6 PM and from then until about 7:45 nothing
happened except liquor consumption and the purchase
T-shirts. Here, as arranged, we met up with our friends
Ann and Larry Fetters, she's a Vice President at St.
Jude Medical Center in Fullerton and he is CEO of Foothill
Presbyterian Hospital in Glendora. Both are U.S.C. Grads.
about 7:30 the organizers tried to quiet the crowd so
various dignitaries could speak. This was an exercise
in futility. They introduced Craig Fertig who tried
to be heard for several minutes and finally gave up.
Then they introduced J. K. McKay son of the coaching
icon, a former star player in his own right, who tried
to be heard for several minutes and also gave up.
the USC Band arrived and struck up "Fight On"
finally getting the crowd's attention. After a few deafening
songs we left for dinner at the Capital Grille where
we had the "Best Steak in Chicago" and walked
back to the Ritz.
morning we were up early to board the buses to take
us to South Bend. There had been a lot of celebrating
the night before and some were suffering from hangovers,
referred to as "Jet Lag", so we were a little
late getting away. The buses were stocked with doughnuts,
breakfast rolls, muffins and coffee, plus the makings
for Bloody Marys and Screwdrivers. Many began a daylong
bender. Not us, fortunately.
we had been on the road a few minutes Sam announced
that "Some guy in the back of the bus claims to
be Frank Hall", which became a standing joke for
much of the trip. Very funny.
we crossed the bridge into Indiana we left the city
behind and entered beautiful farmland dotted by small
towns. Patty called it "Bush Country" referring
to the red and blue map all the TV analysts were explaining
on election night to show who voted for Bush and who
voted for that other guy. What was his name?
took a bit over an hour to reach the South Bend Marriott
where we had brunch. Across the street from the hotel
was the College Football Hall of Fame moved to South
Bend from its original location outside Cincinnati.
We didn't have a lot of time there, just enough to buy
a T-shirt, besides, I'd seen the Hall 20 years before
in Ohio. So, I wandered outside where I noticed the
parking lot had been set up to simulate a football field
with goal posts at one end. There were four or five
teenagers lined up to take turns kicking a field goal
of about 20 yards. Most missed.
a few feet away gazing wistfully at the goal posts was
Sam Tsakalakis. I asked him why he didn't take a shot
at one to show the kids how it's done. He said, "I've
just recovered from having both my hips replaced, if
I tried it you'd probably see my leg sailing between
the up rights." So we both just watched the kids,
none of whom had any idea that the little old guy standing
there had personally beaten the Irish with a last second
kick exactly 48 years ago.
loaded back on the bus for the short drive to the stadium.
The parking lots were crammed with tailgate parties.
Many diehards wore T-shirts urging, "Save Notre
Dame Football, Dump Davey." The beleaguered Irish
coach probably extended his tenure to the end of the
season by beating the Trojans that day.
we walked to the stadium we were greeted by good-natured
ribbing because of our Cardinal and Gold attire, but,
Notre Dame fans were polite and helpful when we stopped
to chat or asked directions. Several thanked us for
coming. The Stadium is adjacent to the University and
we had more than an hour to enjoy the beautiful campus.
saw "Touchdown Jesus" the famed mural of Jesus
with arms upstretched adorning the Library. We saw the
famous "Golden Dome" which sits on the "Main"
or original university building. It has recently been
refurbished and it has been beautifully restored. No
initials carved in this woodwork and of course no graffiti
wandered into the Chapel, a moving experience for my
wife, who is Catholic, and for me, too because it is
reminiscent of the great cathedrals of Europe. In an
alcove behind the altar is a special spot where a Priest
blesses the home team before the game. And, you wonder
why we always lose in South Bend?
we were there we saw the young men, team members, handsome
in their white shirts and ties, just like the old days.
However, the Fighting Irish of old seem to have become
the Fighting African Americans of today.
a park like setting on the campus, the Marching Band
presents a Concert for the fans gathered there to picnic.
It's really a dress rehearsal of what they will play
during halftime. All over the campus there are Bar-B-Qs
set up by students to sell hot dogs and hamburgers to
the alums attending the game. There are no Fraternities
or Sororities, but the various residential halls participate
in the food preparation and sale to underwrite their
social activities. No "Beer Busts," "Toga
Parties" or "Hell Week" here, I presume.
an hour on campus we went into the stadium to find our
seats which were in row 7 in the end zone. If there
is a visiting band they have nowhere to sit, so they
stand in front of the visitor's section. Like the Rose
Bowl, the stadium has no armrests so you have to fight
your neighbors for "fanny room." Because people
in the front rows stand to see over the band, you have
to stand to see over them. So, we stood for most of
USC Song Girls were right in front of us for most of
the day. From John's regular seats in row 71 at the
Coliseum the Song Girls always look like "Pin-ups"
or "Centerfolds." When you are in Row 7 of
Notre Dame Stadium they are right in front of you and
they all look like your granddaughter who has just put
on Mommy's make-up for the first time. It makes you
realize how young they are, and how old you are.
thing that strikes a Trojan follower is that when you
attend a USC game in Los Angeles you are accustomed
to having huge numbers of people in the stands rooting
for the other team. It is particularly true when the
other team is from the Midwest. All those Iowans moved
to California and still root for Iowa. But, when you
attend a game in Notre Dame stadium and the Irish come
out onto the field it seems as if everyone in the stadium,
except you, is cheering for them at the top of their
lungs. It isn't until you experience it outside of LA
that you really understand the impact of a "Home
As to the game, it wasn't much. In the first half it
looked like the Trojans might have a chance, but our
punter decided to run from his own 30. He failed to
make a first down and the Irish promptly scored. Then
the Trojans got a first and goal on the Irish one yard
line and couldn't punch it across in 4 plays and that
was pretty much "all she wrote." It didn't
matter, all that much. The game was close and we were
in it to the end. Face it, if you're a Trojan, you really
don't expect to win when you go to South Bend.
the way back to Chicago many of the Trojan alums on
the bus drank until the Vodka was exhausted. Most went
to sleep, but one group continued to talk loudly punctuated
by the high piercing laugh of one woman who shrieked
all the way from South Bend to Chicago. I hope she had
a gigantic hangover the next morning.
flight home was remarkable only in that many of the
Trojan Band members were on "stand-by" on
our flight. They were overweight, sallow, tattooed,
earringed, with obscene quips on their T-shirts and
carrying the smell of people who hadn't bathed in four
days. We were unimpressed. We decided that's why all
bands wear uniforms.
hate to end on that sour note, because we had a wonderful
time. If you haven't done it, you should - but - be
prepared to lose gracefully, if you're a Trojan, that