Tifton Gazette

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December 25, 2013

Stadiums have their own unique stories

TIFTON — Occasionally, the talk here in the back of the newsroom turns to nostalgia, what games we've seen, places we've gone. Not long ago, Steve Carter wrote a little column about going to "exotic" places such as Edison and Colquitt city.

I've never seen games in either place. In fact, he has me beaten in overall prep stadiums seen. The only way I can match him is to dig into my secondhand vault, the places and the stories my father told me from his 20 years of keeping stats. Perhaps my favorite, though, is from his days as a young fan.

Raymond Jones Memorial Stadium has been concrete for a very long time. It's one of those that if you've been there, you still have an impression of those rock hard concrete stands. Those things are solid enough to survive a nuke or seven.

Many years ago, it was all wooden and the home side stared into the sun. The original pressbox was there, probably perched at the top of about five rows. My grandfather was an announcer and Dad was in tow one evening.

Grandaddy and the clock operator went to fire up the electricity. There was low buzz, but nothing. The switch was flipped a few times more. The stands were filling up.

Dead.

The clockman had a flash. He whipped out his pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket and emptied them on a shelf. He dug out the metal filter and wrapped it around the switch. The angels sung. There was electricity.

Then he leaned over and told everyone around him, "remind me to take that thing out before we leave or else everything's going to burn down."

Dad's weirdest experience came in Pelham. He was standing on the sideline when an unknown individual asked, "Do you know where you're standing?" No, he didn't. "You're standing on a Confederate soldier's grave."

He moved. No reason to tempt the fates.

My experiences are quite normal in comparison to his. I lived up in Athens a few years and as I was raised on high school football, I went to go see some high school football. I made it out to Cedar Shoals, Athens Academy, Oconee County, Oglethorpe County and the Granite Bowl in Elberton.

Oglethorpe felt the most familiar. They had a cannon in the back of their endzone, but only fired it before games. It was there that I once almost placed a call to Chris Beckham. I was going to ask if he needed an Oglethorpe-Rabun County score.

I lived a few blocks from Cedar Shoals and I used to visit them annually. Saw Clarke Central one year, Apalachee once (their fans shook jugs of rocks and reminded me deeply of Clinch County) and an insane game with Habersham Central.

That might have been the game that sent them spiraling. Habersham was up 34-7 at the half, then gave up 34 straight points. There were only about two minutes left when Cedar Shoals scored to make it 34-33. They went for two and got it. Then Habersham fumbled the kickoff right back to them.

The Granite Bowl featured my first experience with a walking taco. For the unenlightened, cheese, hamburger and a spoon added to a snack bag of Fritos.  The parking is the worst of any place I have been. The site is in the middle of the old high school, in the middle of town.

There are no parking ordinances on Friday. You park wherever there is an empty patch of land. It was at a pharmacy last time, four blocks away. It is something like Worth County, but on a major highway.

Coffee has been one of my stranger experiences in these parts. Last year's game featuring the Blue Devils was going along as planned until the third quarter when the visitor's side went dark. After a 30-minute wait and consultation with Georgia Power, the game continued — borrowing the lights of the baseball field.

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