Ole Skjarsen Prologue
by Michael Kupersmith
"Why don’t you try to find Ole on the internet?"
The gauntlet had been thrown. Eight of us were seated for lunch at Phin’s ninetieth birthday party. Among the group at my table were Dick Kasher and Betty & Wally Guralnick. We had been talking about Chief’s annual rendition of the Ole Skjarsen story. None of us knew the actual name of the story, the author, or the volume from which it had been plucked. We were bemoaning our (historical) loss when Kasher issued the challenge.
As it happened, the task was easy. Using the powerful www.google.com search engine, the name Ole Skjarsen disclosed (at the time) a single reference which revealed the name of the author, George Fitch. By inquiring at our local out-of-print book store, I found the name of a website (www.abebooks.com) for out-of-print booksellers which lists thousands of books by author. (By the way, if anyone is trying to find some special out-of-print book to purchase, this website is pure gold).
I didn’t know the name of the actual book, but Fitch died young and so had a truncated literary career. The tome At Good Old Siwash seemed likely – recalling that Ole played ball for good ol’ Siwash. A call to the bookseller confirmed my suspicions. Within the week, the sale was consummated and the volume arrived at my door.
Gary and I tried scanning the original for re-publication on campalton.com, but scanning required too much memory. I therefore re-typed the story, trying to stay as true to the original as I could. We have scanned in the original title page, the frontispiece and two other illustrations. (At Good Old Siwash self-advertises as “profusely illustrated”).
At Good Old Siwash was copyrighted in 1911. Chief read Ole Skjarsen’s First Touchdown at campfire every summer that I was in Upper Camp (1953 - 1958), and I’m sure for many years before and after. In reading Ole Skjarsen now, some ninety plus years after pen was first set to paper, it is, to say the least, slightly dated. The two hundred twenty pound "behemoth" described by Fitch would be unremarkable indeed on the gridiron today. Altonites of the post-Chief era may wonder what all the fuss is about. I can only say that Ole is as important a part of Alton lore as is, say, wrestling.
Even today, as I re-read Ole Skjarsen, I can still hear with my mind’s ear Chief’s high-pitched "thin little old faded voice" that we all imagined was Ole Skjarsen’s.
And so gentlemen (and ladies), I give you Ole Skjarsen’s First Touchdown.
At Good Old Siwash - Ole Skjarsen's First Touchdown