Sunday, January 14, 2018

Reminiscing: Playing at DeSales Field

It’s been terribly cold lately (except for Friday which reached 62 degrees before giving way to six inches of snow). Because of that, I thought I’d write about something that made us think of warmer days when we could be so much more carefree. I am not much of a winter person, but I definitely am a summer person. So, let’s go back to some summers of my youth.

When I was growing up, I lived about a block from DeSales Field. If you stood on my back patio, you could see over the fence line, between the houses, to the field beyond. There used to be football games over there when we first moved into the neighborhood. From the backyard, we could hear the cheers as the Knights scored or won the games. You could also hear the groans if the luck fell in the other direction.

I never went in for a game, but one time I was at a friend’s house, who had their yard back onto the field, to watch the game. It was difficult to see through the crowds, but it was exciting for a six or seven year old. They may have played baseball over there, too, but I don’t remember any of those games.

By far, the best part of living so close to DeSales Field was when they had their annual carnival there. Again, seeing the flashing lights and hearing the crowd and music, it was a huge treat for us when we were young. For the whole week, we’d hear the sound, hoping that Dad would finally say we could go down for the afternoon or evening.

When we were still aged in the single digits, mom and dad would take us down and let us ride on some of the lesser rides. As we got older, we’d get a little braver and try to “big kid” rides. I must have spent hours in line for the Gravatron. Some of my more adventurous friends would be held to the wall by the gravity, but turn themselves completely around so they had their feet in the air. That wasn’t me. I was just happy to spin around in the ride and have my cushion slam up and down.

There was a point that we could go down on our own to the carnival. So, I’d meet up with some friends, and we’d head over for a Saturday afternoon of just walking around the grounds trying to look cool. We’d ride some rides and shoot some darts at balloons so we could take posters of half-naked women home. (How we were ever allowed to do THAT at 13 still kinda astounds me. My kids are that age now, and I’m not sure I’d let them bring posters like that home.) However, I had a fairly large collection of those posters on my bedroom walls. I think they’re in the attic somewhere. (I seem to never throw anything out.)

One of the coolest things during the carnival was after the sun went down. From the back patio, the lights would blink and the sounds of fun would float over the neighborhood. I always wanted to stay up until the carnies shut down for the night. The lights and sounds were magical to our youthful exuberance.

While the carnivals were definitely the highlight of living so close to DeSales field, there were other perks. We had a place to play. There was a football field there, complete with goalposts for field goals and extra points.  The challenge was to try to see how far we could kick from and still get the ball through the uprights. Let’s just say that the NFL was never going to come calling. And for a football field, it was pretty darn bumpy. Of course, we were playing there just as the games were ending and the field was going fallow.

That field is long gone these days. I don’t remember exactly when they built a group of houses over there, but it was when I was an adult. Where we used to play is now Bonner Drive and DeSales Circle. Where we used to play, there are 23 houses and one business. From the satellite view, it looks like they could add another five or six houses into that neighborhood. And then all traces of our former play area will be erased.

Does anyone have any photos of DeSales Field, or Harrison Field as it was also known? Maybe some photos of games taking place there are floating around somewhere. Or maybe some of the carnivals? I know of one or two at my office of the carnival, but we don’t have any of the playing field actually being used. Some of you who went to DeSales probably have some pictures. Let’s post them and relive some of those “good, old days.”

Craig Bacon was given inspiration to write this from his Latin II teacher, Mrs. Lang. I’m sure she remembers all those football games over there. She probably could tell us some stories about growing up on that field.