The picture of the Webster City, Iowa, high school football team in “Readers’ Album” (October/November 1985), provides a graphic glimpse of the difference in football in its emerging days from the game as it has evolved. Note that football. It is the old, large ball that made forward passing difficult. Even an abnormally large hand could not manage to grasp one of those balloons so it could be thrown straight—or far. The game consisted largely of two groups shoving against each other. Not the same open game as today but a lot of us oldsters still think that modern football is more basketball than the game we used to play.
Note the padded suits the boys are wearing—a far cry from the modern armor that makes a football player look like a medieval knight setting out, fully caparisoned, in armor.
Also note a bit of armor that was early in use but disappeared about seventy years ago—the shin guard. And then the nose guard that some of the boys are wearing around their necks. You literally took the bit in your teeth with one of these things as you put the contraption over your nose and bit down on the mouthpiece so as to keep the guard in place.
Also, none of these boys is carrying a helmet. Many schools in the early days didn’t supply those things, and the boys played bareheaded. And there aren’t any shoulder pads, either, although it is possible that they decided not to wear them for the class picture. I can’t tell for sure whether the players even have cleated shoes.
When I played in Menominee, Michigan, in 1918 and 1919,1 had a little, lightly padded helmet that I had got some time previously for sandlot games by selling a subscription to Youth’s Companion to a cousin. They had worthwhile prizes in those days!