TULSA — The stories start flowing like a history book come to life when Douglass High School legends like Stanford White and C.T. Wells begin talking about the old days of the Douglass-Tulsa Washington football rivalry.
Stories about hundreds of fans riding in from Tulsa on a line of busses so long, there wasn't enough room at Douglass to park them all.
Stories of how the other all-black schools in town would play their games on Thursday, so they didn't lose fans to the big game.
Stories of Douglass' grade-school children getting dismissed early on gameday, almost as if it was a holiday. And in some ways it was. For a long time, Douglass held a parade before the game, stretching from the school nearly into downtown Oklahoma City.
Wells can tell stories about games from the 1940s. White owns an old school newspaper with an article discussing the game being played as far back as 1914.
After a decade of silence, the rivalry breathes life once again on Friday night, thanks to the work of people like Douglass coach Willis Alexander, former Tulsa Washington coach Darrell Hall, and other key figures at both schools.
More than a football rivalry, Douglass-Tulsa Washington became a piece of Oklahoma's cultural history that reignites nearly 100 years after it first began.
For the first 30 years of the rivalry, it was a necessity. The black schools couldn't play against the white schools, and they looked everywhere for opponents.
Before integration in the mid-1950s, Douglass' schedule consisted of teams from all-black schools in Amarillo or Wichita Falls, Houston or Kansas City, along with now-defunct Oklahoma teams like Ardmore-Douglass and Manual Training of Muskogee.
To Douglass people, it wasn't the game against Tulsa's Booker T. Washington High School. It was the game against Tulsa.
“We couldn't play a lot of the other schools, so it was kind of like they didn't exist in our minds,” said White, the longtime Douglass coach who is now retired.
It was the truest version of a rivalry game between the state's two biggest cities.
“Short of winning a state championship, you wanted to beat Tulsa more than anything,” Wells said. “The fans aren't as feverish as they used to be. As far as the teams and coaches are concerned, they would have rather kicked Tulsa than anybody.”
As a player at Douglass, White's first experience with Washington came as a sophomore in 1960. Not long after college, he began coaching at Douglass, eventually becoming the head coach from 1976-2003.
“My old coach, Moses F. Miller, who our stadium is named after, would tell us stories about that game and how intense it was back in its early days,” White said. “It stayed that way for a long time. The stands would always be packed, standing room only. It was a very important game to both communities.”
Wells played his first Douglass-Washington game in basketball in the late 1940s, and he has been involved with Trojan football as a statistician and historian virtually ever since. He couldn't be happier to see the game back in action.
“It's a tradition,” Wells said. “It needs to be played.”
A middle-school student in 1985, Alexander sat in a crowded gym watching Tulsa Washington's Richard Dumas play against a Douglass basketball team that would go on to win a state title. Washington won by a point that night, but Alexander saw his future before him.
“That was the moment I knew I wanted to be a Trojan,” he said.
Alexander went on to play in a few football games against the Hornets. His most memorable moment is the one he really doesn't remember at all.
On the final play of the first half in 1989, Alexander and another teammate collided in mid-air trying to intercept a pass. Alexander landed on the ground unconscious.
“When I really woke up, I was looking up into the bright lights in the hospital room,” he said. “All the hospital people were wearing white. I said, ‘Boy ... I done died!'”
Added White: “The whole team got on the bus and had to go to the hospital to pick him up. We didn't get back to Oklahoma City 'til 3 in the morning.”
Current Washington assistant Mickey Collins played in the rivalry in the mid-1970s, and can't wait to coach in it again Friday night.
“It was the biggest game of the year for both schools,” Collins said. “It was a battle royal every year. For the people who played in it or really knew what it was about, we hated to see it go.”
Though some of the fringe aspects of the rivalry changed over the years, the passion on the field and in the stands never faded.
“It was our own little Super Bowl,” said Douglass assistant Alonzo Mayes, who played for the Trojans in the early 1990s and will get to coach in the game for the first time Friday.
“Those games were a measuring stick for us before we went into district play. These schools are tradition-rich. They've had state championships and Division I recruits on both sides. We're both rebuilding those traditions from the old days.
“The thing both of our schools are out to do is keeping our traditions strong and making them even stronger.”
For a decade, one of the state's great football traditions has been dormant. But as of 7:30 Friday night, the Douglass-Washington rivalry doesn't have to only live in a nostalgic world of stories about how great it used to be. It will live on the football field again.
“It was a great series for a long time,” White said. “I think everyone is glad to see it resume.”
Class 4A No. 3 Douglass at Class 6A No. 13 Tulsa Washington
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: S.E. Williams Stadium, Booker T. Washington High School, Tulsa
Noteworthy: This game is special at Tulsa Washington beyond the renewing of the rivalry. The Hornets are celebrating their 100th year as a school, and doing so in a newly refurbished stadium. Douglass will host the rivalry game next season, but in 2014 and beyond, the game will be played at Langston University.