When ILH Was Bigger Than UH
Wednesday - August 26, 2009
There’s a legendary Bob Dylan song Forever Young that goes like this:
May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
May you stay forever young
That’s the way old athletes feel when they get together and reminisce. For those football players who starred in old Honolulu Stadium, or “Termite Palace,” as they called it back in the glory days of Hawaii high school football in the 1940s and 1950s, this is their time to be “forever young” again.
“Oh, the memories,” says retired police officer Bobby Schmidt, who is helping organize the ‘40s and ‘50s ILH Football Reunion on Aug. 29 at the Saint Louis Alumni Clubhouse.
“It’s a time to get together and talk story about the good old days.”
Schmidt says organizers expect more than 300 old-timers from the original eight-school Interscholastic League of Honolulu (ILH) to get together that day - the event runs from 2 to 7 p.m. that Saturday.
“People are coming from all over, even from the Mainland,” he says. “We would have had more, but so many of the guys have passed away.”
The original ILH fielded both private and public school teams-Farrington, Iolani, Kaimuki, Kamehameha, McKinley, Punahou, Roosevelt, and Saint Louis.
“They had an OIA in those days, but it was a little rural league. The ILH was everything. It was bigger than the University of Hawaii. We had huge crowds at Honolulu Stadium,” Schmidt recalls.
Schmidt played offensive guard and linebacker for Kamehameha in 1956 and 1957. “We went both ways in those days,” he says. “I was only 165 pounds, but I played on the line.”
The rivalries between private schools and public schools were big, but the private schools didn’t dominate when Schmidt was on the gridiron.
“Roosevelt won the championship three years in a row when I was playing,” he recalls. “They were an English Standard School, and they had guys from all over the island. They definitely had the bragging rights for that time.”
Schmidt, who grew up in the Nanakuli Homestead, says it was a simpler day and time.
“Back in those days, you didn’t need high security after the game. Everybody came down on the field afterwards, and we had juice and food and leis. Everybody just got together and celebrated the game. And the games were huge - high school football was the most prominent sport in the state,” he says.
The equipment and coaching styles were definitely different than they are now.
“Our time (in the mid-50s) was the conversion from no face mask to having face masks on your helmet,” he says. “Back in the day, the guys before us, they really got smashed!”
Schmidt remembers a common edict from his hard-nosed coaches.
“No drinking water. We had a water bucket and it wasn’t for drinking - they wouldn’t let us drink. The only time you saw water was when you took a shower or washed your face. I’m surprised nobody died of dehydration,” he says, laughing at the memory. “Instead, we got salt tablets.”
Schmidt says he expects the old memories to flow like water when the “forever young” ILH players get together on the 29th at the Saint Louis Alumni Clubhouse.
For more information on the ILH Football Reunion, call Bobby Schmidt at 551-8033. Tickets cost $30. The memories are priceless.
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