Let’s get straight to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …
Betsy Brown writes: Bill, How does it feel for you guys at the AJC to now be officially on Steve Spurrier’s “enemies” list? I couldn’t believe the sight of a 70-year-old man calling a press conference to throw a tantrum more fitting of a 6-year-old! I don’t know about you, but I’m more eagerly anticipating having the Gamecocks back Between the Hedges this season than I am St. Nick and the Tide!
And Jim Jarrell writes: Good article Bill [on the first key to a championship season]. The great news is that we have two games to figure out who can play QB before the LameCocks come to Sanford. I have that game circled as the coming out party for UGA on the national scene with a beat-down victory over our nemesis. With the uproar around the [Mark] Bradley article still swirling in his ears, Spurrier and SC are going to hear it from the crowd like never before. My guess is that the winning QB in that game will be the starter for the remainder of the season (barring injury of course). That isn’t to say that the other QB’s won’t still play, but whoever performs best against SC will position himself as the leader of the team. I can’t wait to see how it unfolds.
Betsy, I have to admit that Spurrier’s “enemies” statement apparently directed at the AJC’s Mark Bradley did take me back to my college days and watching the Nixon White House go into a “bunker” mentality. The simple fact is that nobody is more to blame for making Spurrier’s age an issue than Spurrier himself! And, Jim, I’m also pleased that, with an unsettled quarterback position, the Dawgs don’t have to open the season or conference play with South Carolina this year. I do tend to agree that, if Georgia beats the Gamecocks, whoever the starting QB is will probably be “the guy” for this season. I’m just hoping for the sort of ending we got in 2013, where Spurrier essentially put up the white flag by taking his headphones off during the Dawgs’ last, lengthy, clock-killing drive. That was sweet.
Danny Davies writes: Bill, I know we’re still a couple of weeks away from football season really getting underway with preseason camp, but my red and black blood is already pumping. To me, there’s nothing quite like a fall day at Sanford Stadium. My Daddy used to take me occasionally when I was little, but I didn’t get to start attending games regularly until I was in school. But I seem to recall you mentioning that when you were a kid you sold programs at Georgia games. How about sharing some memories of those days for those of us who weren’t lucky enough to be raised in Athens?
Danny, as I’ve shared before in the Blawg, back when I first started going to games at Sanford Stadium, the gate near the north end of the bridge was open early on Saturday mornings to sell what they called “high school” tickets that put you in the old end-zone bleachers. They only cost a dollar, as I recall. But as Vince Dooley elevated the status of the program, there were more sellouts and so the high school tickets weren’t always available. My Dad came up with the answer: He was friends with one of my former Sunday School teachers, a guy named Stu McGarity, who was in charge of the sale of game programs (and whose younger son Greg would one day grow up to be UGA’s athletic director). Dad’s cousin Nathan King also was involved in program sales. Anyway, thanks to Mr. McGarity, I got added to the list of kids who peddled the souvenir programs.
It was a sweet deal. You actually got paid to go to Georgia football games – sort of. Basically, you got into the stadium free of charge and you earned 10 cents for every program you sold. (The price was a dollar, which was twice what they’d sold for the previous season.) Technically, after you’d finished selling for the day (only a few die-hards continued after kickoff) and had checked in, you were supposed to sit on the grassy hill that used to be next to the North side grandstand. But many of us preferred to try and find an empty seat somewhere in the stands. I managed to watch some games from the 40- or 50-yard line of the lower level that way!
You’d pick up your programs the Friday afternoon before the game at the gate next to Memorial Hall. They were bound in cellophane in packets of 25, and you could take as many as you thought you could sell (or wanted to lug around). You turned back in any unsold programs, which is when you got paid. Generally, I’d take 50 for regular games and 100 programs for Homecoming or a game against a big rival. Some sellers were much more ambitious than that.
On game days, Dad would drop me off in the vicinity of the stadium mid-morning and I’d sell until just before kickoff (which was usually at 2 p.m. in those days). I almost always managed to sell all the programs I took, but that wasn’t the main point; I did it just to get into the games! I continued throughout high school, until I was enrolled at UGA and could get student tickets.
As a program seller, you were free to sell wherever you wanted to, and generally I worked what was then the Stegeman Hall parking lot (now the Tate Center lot). I moved around a lot to try and distance myself from other sellers, especially some of the local high school football stars, who would usually just park themselves at one of the corners of the Sanford Drive bridge and let the customers come to them!
If you could get invited aboard a bus bringing out-of-town guests into the lot, you were guaranteed a bunch of sales. However, one time, I neglected to take my second box of programs on board the bus with me and when I stepped back off, someone had made off with them. Fortunately, when I reported the theft to the folks at the program window, I was told they’d spotted a kid they knew wasn’t supposed to be selling programs with a box of them and had confiscated it. So I got my programs back. Simpler times!
To this day, I always buy a program at every game, and I have one of those calendars reproducing vintage UGA programs pinned up in my office.
Dade Dawg writes: Bill, I got a kick out of the picture of James Brown’s “Dooley’s Junkyard Dogs” that you ran, and I noticed that the songwriter credited was Happy Howard, who I remember as Larry Munson’s radio broadcast color man for a few years in the 1970s. Whatever happened to Happy Howard?
“Happy Howard” Williamson died in 2013 at age 71. He ran or owned various Georgia radio stations during his career and also parlayed a talk radio career in Cochran into a stormy term as mayor of that town. But most folks outside that area recall his brief tenure as Larry Munson’s color commentator in the mid-1970s, which is how he came to write (and be mentioned in) James Brown’s “Dooley’s Junkyard Dogs” single. For more on Happy Howard, I turned to UGA football historian Patrick Garbin, who provided this sketch of his UGA career:
“As the self-proclaimed ‘world’s greatest salesman,’ who had gained some notoriety by selling radio advertisements, Howard approached Joel Eaves during the mid-70s, indicating he could expand the Georgia Basketball Network by selling small-town affiliates (similarly to football). In addition, Howard wanted to broadcast the basketball games and be the color man for football. Eaves agreed.
“Howard was the football color man for three seasons, 1975-1977, and he did what he promised by building up the affiliates. However, Happy’s on-air performances were sub-par at best (and I have the ’75 Florida and ’76 Alabama radio broadcasts proving as much). Plus, he seemed to often have equipment failure and made a habit of setting up the broadcast at the 11th hour. Also, it’s been said he was so unfamiliar with reading offenses and defenses — essentials for a color man — the UGA athletic department arranged for him to be taught football fundamentals.
“As the story goes, affiliates started dropping off because of Happy, Eaves retired, and Howard was gone by 1978.”
I’ll answer more letters next week, so if there’s something you want to discuss concerning UGA athletics or a question you have for me, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg
Bill King is an Athens native and a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. A lifelong Bulldogs fan, he sold programs at Sanford Stadium as a teen and has been a football season ticket holder since leaving school. He has worked at the AJC since college and spent 10 years as the Constitution’s rock music critic before moving into copy editing on the old afternoon Journal. In addition to blogging, he’s now a story editor.