NEW YEAR'S DAY MEMORIES
- Roses, Heroes & Heroines -
By George A. Haloulakos
Happy New Year from all of us here at the Galaxy Nostalgia Network! This year marks the 60th Anniversary of the 1963 Tournament of Roses Parade & Rose Bowl. Under the theme "Memorable Moments" the reigning Queen for the Rose Parade was Nancy Davis Maggio, whose tenure was to include a date with the quarterback of the visiting team from the Midwest. The annual gridiron classic was a landmark game that featured the Wisconsin Badgers versus the University of Southern California Trojans. Part of our retrospective examines this unique moment in time through the prism of Badger Quarterback Ron Vander Kelen, whose late game heroics helped his team score 23 points with just 14-minutes remaining before time ran out. Southern California held on for a 42-37 victory, but Vander Kelen earned Co-MVP game honors as he set records for pass attempts (48), pass completions (33) and yards passing (401). The January 1963 Rose Bowl marked the first bowl game in college football history that featured the Number 1 ranked team (Southern Cal) versus the Number 2 ranked team (Wisconsin). As just one example on how far we have come since this bygone era, a Number 1 versus Number 2 bowl game matchup has become largely commonplace, if not expected.
But there is much more to unpack here, especially now with the advent of NIL (Name-Image-Likeness) licensing for collegiate athletes, national college playoffs, astronomical professional football salaries, beauty pageants that provide a segue into professional entertainment and so forth. This was a time in which the annual meeting of the Midwest and Pacific Coast was truly an important pop culture event for Baby Boomers and prominent student athletes who were preparing for lifetime careers beyond the playing field was more a norm than an exception. As the year 1963 was to later close on a tragic note with the assassination of President John Kennedy, the innocence of that New Year's Day becomes even more poignant.
By the standards of today, the events of New Year's Day 1963 seem almost quaint. The game itself ran longer than expected -- over 3 hours -- and ended in almost complete darkness. Today most football games run 3-1/2 to 4 hours and stadiums are equipped with much better lighting. Vander Kelen's late game heroics resulted in not only sharing MVP honors but led to what at the time was considered a financial windfall. Moreover, the humorous reaction by Trojan head coach John McKay helped secure his lasting reputation as a legendary wisecrack artist. McKay stated in the post-game interview that Wisconsin head coach Milt Bruhn had Vander Kelen for 4-years and all the legendary Badger QB got was a college education while McKay had Vander Kelen for 4-quarters and got him $60,000 (the result of pro-football offers that came forth after his co-MVP performance on New Year's Day)! Interestingly enough, Vander Kelen was able to parlay his Rose Bowl performance into a 5-year NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings, mostly in a reserve role. This was followed by success in the advertising and marketing industries and later in college admissions (University of Minnesota), thereby making Vander Kelen a role model for leading a well-rounded, inspired life.
With the game ending in darkness, the day ended with Vander Kelen fulfilling a date with the Rose Queen, Nancy Davis Maggio. It was of course, for the reasons already noted, a late date! Ms Davis Maggio recalled her date with Vander Kelen as one of her fondest memories as Rose Queen. She had competed against a field of over 2,000 contestants to win her title, and this led to guest appearances on "The Lawrence Welk Show" and "The Andy Williams Show." Such public appearances on family variety TV shows for such award recipients was a commonplace practice throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In the two previous Rose Parades, 1961 and 1962, Ms Davis Maggio had marched as a flag twirler for the Pasadena City College Band as they were the official Rose Parade Band at that time. Thus her post-game date with the visiting QB added further glamour to this annual meeting of the Midwest and Pacific Coast. Ms Davis Maggio later became a published author, with her most notable work being "Babysitting Mama," a journal she kept about caregiving her mother for nine years.
This retrospective is offered as a Baby Boomer remembrance of how things were, and how far we have travelled in the ensuing decades. It is not mere nostalgia but a historic examination through the prism of what seemingly are the lives of ordinary people doing extraordinary things that illustrate the magnitude of the journey we make in a lifetime. We wish all of you a Happy New Year and hope you will share your New Year's Day memories by posting to the GNN FACEBOOK page (and please "like" us when doing so) or send them to us via the GNN g-mail address.