Sept. 27, 2012
For one Pacific University staff member, Homecoming is a time to remember her father, a member of the Class of 1939.
Lots of former Pacific students will be wandering around the campus this weekend for Homecoming, thinking about meeting old friends, taking in a football game or seeing what’s changed on campus. But for me, a non-Pacific grad, what I do at Homecoming is stand on one of the concrete sidewalk panels near Old College Hall and gaze at my father’s name: Carl Erickson, class of 1939.
In some ways, the name, drawn with stick in the wet concrete some years ago, is more of a memorial than his grave in the small town of Knappa, Ore.
I can barely make out the “Carl” and the “Erickson” is long faded into the grey of the sidewalk. But what I remember is his joy at having his name carved into perpetuity on the Pacific campus. He dearly loved Pacific and all that he experienced here.
The sixth and youngest child of a Swedish immigrant family, my father came to Pacific in the midst of the Depression in 1934. His “work study” job involved building fires at 4 a.m. to warm the campus buildings, and he often talked about how the college president at that time would already be at his desk writing.
My dad’s joy was in playing football, not withstanding his own father’s ire at the choice. He often told the story of my farmer grandfather, who only attended one of Dad’s high school football games. In that game, Dad smashed his face on the turf and lost some teeth.
My grandfather’s reaction (in Swedish): “If you worked that hard on the farm, we’d all be rich.”
During that era, money was always an issue and my father ended up taking a year off after his junior year to work. Then he came back and helped manage (after suffering more football injuries) the Pacific’s 1938 Northwest Conference co-champion team.
I have a picture of the team in my cubicle at Pacific, and during Homecoming week, I often gaze at his smiling face in the third row, knowing that he loved football and he loved winning.
He was sadly disappointed when Pacific decided to drop football, and at the very last family dinner he attended at my house before he died in 2005, he said, “I want you to give a check to the athletic department for football after I’m gone.”
About a month or two later, I handed a check over to Athletic Director Ken Schumann. I’m sure the check was one of many from former football players at Pacific who loved the game and loved Pacific like my father.
So, whenever I see a football game at Pacific, or the Golden Guard signing their names into the concrete at Homecoming, or the tailgaters in the parking lot at the stadium, I’m reminded of the joy my dad had, not only in playing football but in finding and keeping life-long friends from Pacific throughout his long life.
We all should be so blessed to see a parent’s name in stone and remember his joy at being young and in college.
New members of the Golden Guard—Class of 1962—will sign their piece of sidewalk at a ceremony at 2 p.m. Friday.