by Tom Ensey; photos by Heath Stone, Stone Images Photography; Bob Corley
Back before the internet and video games, even before shopping malls, when Elvis and the Beatles were scandalous, when TV had three stations if you had a TV – and if you did, it was probably black-and-white – that’s when this happened. The ticket booth at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery opened up on a hot July day to sell tickets to a football game in November.
When he was a little boy, Slade Rhodes stood in line with his mom and brothers and sisters. The hot asphalt burned his bare feet. People lined up for blocks – some said all the way to the State Capitol — but Rhodes said not that far, because stories get bigger with the passage of years.
[Slade Rhodes, Lanier Class of ‘69, Split End, 1967 and 1968 State Championship teams.]This much is true: in one day they sold all 25,000 tickets to the Sidney Lanier and Robert E. Lee high school football game. There were only about 100,000 people in Montgomery at the time, and the game between the city’s only two white high schools was the biggest show in town. The 1966 game was the most dramatic in the see-saw rivalry that lasted about 20 years.
Nobody who saw that game ever forgot it, and the kids who played in it still remember every snap. Two weeks earlier, No. #2 Lanier had beaten No. #1 Lee 10-0 in the regular season, before another standing-room crowd. When the two teams met in the state playoffs before another packed house, the game was broadcast to a statewide TV audience for the first time.
Lee and Lanier dominated state high school football. Almost every year, one or the other captured the state championship, and both sent a bunch of boys on to play for Alabama, Auburn, Troy, and in some cases, colleges such as Tennessee and Miami.
Marker Re-dedication October 25th, 2013
OCTOBER 16, 2013
Notre Dame’s last-seconds touchdown deflates CSHS comeback, 24-21
In the fall of 1951, a scant six years after the Japanese surrender had ended World War II, I was a sophomore at Sidney Lanier High School (the “Poets”) in my native Montgomery, Alabama. Bart Starr, later Green Bay Packers legend and NFL Hall of Famer, quarterbacked the Poets to an undefeated season and the unofficial state championship. There were no State Playoffs ‘way back then. The captain of that Lanier team was a feisty guard, Joe Rodgers, who would become U.S. Ambassador to France in the second Ronald Reagan administration. Nick Germanos, a swarthy, ebullient fellow of Greek ancestry, was the tight end. Nick would have the dubious distinction of captaining the 1955 Alabama team that went 0-10, an embarrassment that accelerated the arrival in Tuscaloosa of one Paul W. Bryant from Texas A & M. “The Bear” to the rescue! He most certainly did that!