Thanksgiving was a day for giving thanks, and being thankful for memories was no exception yesterday at the 104th meeting of the City College and Baltimore Polytechnic football teams at Memorial Stadium.
While many had smiles on their faces as they recounted stories from years gone by, a hint of sadness was present as yesterday's game was the last time the City-Poly series, the second-longest public school rivalry in the nation, would be played on Thanksgiving Day.
For many, the thought of Thanksgiving without a City-Poly game is tough to digest.
"Sad is not the word for it," Poly alumnus Derwin Keyser said. "I don't know how to put it into words. The game is larger than life."
"Thanksgiving morning you went to church, then you went to the Memorial Stadium cathedral and watched the game," said City alumnus Robert Ford, who was standing next to Keyser.
And, of course, after the game, there was dinner.
Keyser remembered one Thanksgiving when a guest of the family's asked why dinner was going to be at 6 p.m. instead of earlier in the day.
"My mother replied, 'Child, ain't nothing going to happen until after the game,' " Keyser said.
"Not to tell my age, but ever since 1959 this has been a part of my life. Our parents and families have held up dinners so we could go to the Poly-City game," said Keyser, who graduated from Poly in 1962.
"That's City-Poly," said Ford, a 1970 graduate and member of the City College Alumni Board, who played tackle on the City football team. While he was a member of the team, he said his alma mater never lost to Poly.
"We used to have dances called 'victory hops,' after the game. I never went to a 'flop hop' in my day," Ford said. "We closed up the '60s whipping up on them."
City and Poly will play again, but the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, the organization that the two teams will play under next season, does not allow regular-season games to be held after playoffs have started.
"I don't know what I'm going to do next Thanksgiving," said Jim Stavropoulos, who has only missed two City-Poly games since he graduated from Poly in 1975. "When you show up here whether there are two people or 20,000 in the stands, they've all got their heart here."
"I could go without having turkey than to go without having the game," Ford said.
Keyser was one of 758 people who attended the Poly alumni dinner Tuesday night. He said a lot of people aren't happy with the decision to change conferences. Even the chance to compete against all the other schools in the state for a state championship isn't enough of a consolation.
"There are a lot of upset folks. For 104 years we haven't played for a state championship," Keyser said. "We have the best
basketball team in the country at Dunbar, and City and Poly have been nationally ranked for ages in football. So what do we have to prove?"
The only proof for the day was by City, which easily beat Poly, 20-0, for the MSA A Conference title and its second consecutive 10-0 season.
"It feels great," City coach George Petrides said. "We won the 100th game, and we wanted to win the last one on Thanksgiving."