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Berry Tramel

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Oklahoma football: Memories of a falling pressbox

by Berry Tramel Published: June 26, 2014
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The view looking southeast from the new pressbox in OU's Memorial Stadium as it looked in 1975.  Staff photo by J. Pat Carter.
The view looking southeast from the new pressbox in OU's Memorial Stadium as it looked in 1975. Staff photo by J. Pat Carter.

Sam Muzny was an OU football walkon in the early days of the wishbone era. He was mostly on the scout team, what the players then called the “termite squad.” Now he’s a faithful reader who lives in Prague and emails me anytime his memories are jogged about those golden days. And it’s a colorful recollection.

The planned renovation of OU’s Memorial Stadium had Muzny reminiscing about another OU stadium renovation, and I thought I would share it.:

“Oklahoma has come a long ways since the 1960′s-1970′s, when they had Termites!  Wow!  Where is ‘Pneumonia Downs?’  They have not blown up a press box since 1975.  After the 1974 national championship.  The old pressbox was built in the 1930s, when they renovated the 1924 stadium, that been moved there when they built the South Oval.

“For a week demolition crews had brought in a layer of dirt from Mount Williams, the built hill from the Navy Training center out at North Base.  Then a layer of junk car bodies and more dirt.  A five-layer high mound to soften the blow of the old pressbox. We showed up on a Sunday to watch them blow up the old pressbox.  Well, actually since it now is legal in two states and half the country is medically treating their stress with it, we smoked weed and waited.

“To our dismay no TNT, Dynamite, or C4  was used.  The demolition crew had cut the pillars supporting the old pressbox and had attached cables to cranes and bulldozers to pull it to the west and keep it from falling into the stadium.  They yanked the pressbox like you would yank a rotten tooth.  A favorite tooth that you had enjoyed steak dinners with.  This pressbox had witnessed the 1950,1955, 1956 and 1974 national championships and a 47-game win streak, Gale Sayers, the 1971 Game of The Century, Steve Owens, Greg Pruitt and the list goes on and on.  With a yank the pressbox fell on the layered dirt and old cars, but the pressbox did not go out with a whimper, but instead let out one Giant gasp.  When it hit there was a blast of air and dust that made our shirts and hair flap, and blew out plate glass windows in Gould Hall.  Seconds after the pressbox hit the ground, you could still hear the falling glass.

“You hate to see things change from when you were there, but time marches on.  Bennie Owens increased the seating on the east and west sides and put in that pressbox. After the 1950 national championship, Bud Wilkinson had the track taken out and the field lowered, so that the fans would be right on top of the opposing team.  Bud also closed the north end zone and had the bleachers and Green Monster scoreboard put in the south end zone.  In 1970, the grass went to Tartan Turf, which was like playing on a parking lot, but made you a tenth to two tenths of a second faster than grass, and now the field is back to grass.

“Of course, I am talking of a time when the Oklahoma football program had Termites.”

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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