In 1952 a gallon of gas cost 20 cents and the Korean War and Cold War were in full swing. The United States successfully detonated the first hydrogen bomb that year, the TV show “Dragnet” premiered on NBC (for the one in three American homes that had a television), nearly 58,000 cases of polio were reported in the U.S. and shortly after the high school football season ended, Dwight Eisenhower was elected president.
So what hasn’t changed since 1952? Well, a member of the royal family is now in the 60th year of her reign as Queen Elizabeth and the 1952 Buffalo High School football team remains a Minnesota legend.
The 1952 Bison played eight games, winning seven and having one end in a scoreless tie. The most remarkable statistic is this: They did not give up a point all season.
“Sixty years is a long time,” said Richard Mills as he smiled and remembered. Mills, a junior left halfback in 1952, was standing in the gymnasium at Buffalo High School on Friday, where 13 members of the ’52 team – and one cheerleader -- were guests of honor. The gym was packed with students for the Homecoming pepfest, and the kids roared as the old Bison were introduced one by one and escorted into the gym by current players. The 1952 players wore matching commemorative purple t-shirts with their numbers on the back.
“I’m both honored to be here and blessed to be here,” said Don Houston, who was a junior right end in 1952. “When you see what’s happened to some of the people, I’m very fortunate to be where I’m at and I hope the best for all these kids that are coming up.”
The ’52 Bison are gray-haired grandpas and some get around with the help of walkers, but the memories flow. They rolled to the Wright County Conference championship, beating Maple Lake 28-0, Monticello 6-0, Howard Lake 46-0, Dassel 32-0, Delano 26-0, Cokato 13-0 and Annandale 19-0, along with the 0-0 tie with Kimball in the penultimate game. There were no overtimes or playoffs in those days, and the Bison of 60 years ago are believed to be one of the few teams in Minnesota history that never gave up a point.
“The only time anybody just about scored against us was a guy standing in the end zone, they threw him a pass with nobody around him and it went right through his hands,” Mills said. “I think that was the only time anybody even came close to scoring on us all year.”
The ’52 players were also honored at Friday night’s Homecoming game against Moorhead. On a cold and windy evening, they were served a pregame dinner inside a heated tent at the football field. They posed for photos, traded stories and were introduced individually before the game, escorted once more by current players as they walked onto the field.
Most of them were farm boys in the 1950s, and some attended country schools before coming into town for their high school years. Farm chores were a priority and football was a simple game.
“Before a football game I went home and milked the cows and fed the cows,” said Warren Krause, a sophomore right guard in 1952. "One thing I thought was interesting: we were not allowed to eat before football games. And there was no water provided on the field. I never recall anybody fainting or anything.”
Houston married his high school sweetheart, Gerrie, (pictured) who was a cheerleader in 1952 and joined the football players for the weekend reunion. The Houstons have spent their lives in Buffalo, as have several of the ’52 Bison.
“A lot of them live quite a ways away, but quite often we talk on the phone,” Don Houston said. “We’ve had good memories with this whole crew. It’s very interesting to see how they have changed over the years. It’s a good thing we have name tags.”
Most of the football players also played basketball and baseball in high school. “If you were an athlete you played everything,” Houston said. “We didn’t have track, we didn’t have hockey, we didn’t have a lot of sports.”
Other than four years of college, Krause also remained a Buffalo resident. He had an older brother who played Bison football and two sons who did the same. And this season, one of the 2012 seniors is his grandson, Andrew Krause.
Andrew, a lineman, knows all about his grandpa’s football history.
“He’s told me a lot of stories,” Andrew said. “Back when I started playing football as a little kid, my grandpa told me how he played on the Buffalo Bison football team. He could brag that his team was undefeated and unscored-upon, and it’s a great honor to fulfill. I’m very proud that I have that legacy behind me.”
--To see a photo gallery of the 1952 team, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 187
*Miles John has driven: 3,064
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
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