On September 17, 1955 my father Eugene Bradford Powell took me to a Ga. Tech vs. Miami football game at Grant Field in Atlanta. He had picked me up earlier that Saturday morning at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, Ga. It was just six days since he had first dropped me off on that hilly North Georgia campus where I had anxiously anticipated spending my sophomore year in high school as a “cadet”.
During the intervening week Daddy had driven alone up to North Carolina to spend some time with family and was on his way back to West Palm Beach. During those few days in uniform my excitement had morphed into a hopelessly desperate case of homesickness.
Arriving at the stadium on the Tech campus, I was crest-fallen when Daddy and I walked up to the ticket window only to be greeted with a small sign: “SOLD OUT, NO TICKETS FOR TODAY’S GAME” What turned out to be the first ever college football game nationally televised in color would, it appeared, also be one that I would never see.
“Don’t worry boy, I’ll be right back.”
Daddy disappeared into a crowd of old gold beanied freshmen in front of a dorm across the street. Soon reappearing in their midst, I saw him nod his head and pull out his wallet……….we only sat in the goal line student section for part of the 1st quarter ……… after Daddy got back from “the men’s room” for the second time, it wasn’t long before an elderly uniformed usher was leading us to two empty seats 8 or 10 rows up on the 40 yard line!
It was a magical day! I think Tech won the game but, at that time and under the circumstances, it made no difference………I was happy, I was with my father, and the world was right.
Late that afternoon we drove back up to Riverside and my father dropped me off again. I don’t believe I cried but it was obvious that I wanted to go back to Nottingham Blvd. and be with my friends from Conniston and Southboro.
My father died 24 years ago today (3/19/94). Every day until that day came, if I had asked him what was the hardest decision he ever had to make in life, his answer would have always been the same …….. “leaving you that night on that north Georgia hill”. But, he was always quick to add that “if I hadn’t it would have ruined you for life!”
This mindset of stick-to-itiveness is what set our parents generation apart and he was so right. Looking back, he always was. … I was 15 years old.
In March of 1986 I packed up my son Robert Eugene Powell and headed off to the Southeast Regional NCAA basketball tournament. The venue for event was the Omni Coliseum in Atlanta.
Bobby was an up-and-coming high school round-baller at Martin County High School and one of the favored teams in the NCAA Regional was my alma mater Ga. Tech. Over the next few days father and son watched Tech be eliminated by LSU, visited my old dorm and fraternity house, cased out the largest city in the South, and even drove up to visit Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville.
The high point of the trip for my son, and what he remembers most to this day, was not the basketball games or site seeing but what he learned from his old man about ticket scalping, bartering, and up-grades. We started out the first day with some of the worst seats in the house and ended up watching LSU defeat Kentucky in the finals from almost courtside. The Alabama fans that chose not to hang around after their team bit the weenie the first day were only too willing to part with tickets for the best seats in the house and an LSU team that, unexpectedly, had made it to the finals had brought half of New Orleans over at the last minute. Those Cajuns certainly knew how to party but they all hit town right before game time and none of them had tickets. “Such a deal I’ve got for you…..!!!”
When it was all said and done, the important thing was all the time that Bobby and I had to spend together. It was truly a magical 3 or 4 days!
Oh! and I almost forgot to tell you……….. Bobby was 15 years old.
Last night I got a call from my son. He lives in Greenville, SC now and he was all excited. Later this week he is taking his oldest son Elias Bradford Powell to the NCAA South Regional basketball tournament at Philips Arena in Atlanta. They have tickets that were purchased on line and my son told me “they aren’t very good but I’m not worried, they’ll get better after the first day”. It sounds like he has a plan.
I’m sure Bobby and my grandson will have a few magical days and, by the way,
Eli is 15 years old…………