The farewell football game at Memorial Stadium...


December 31, 1997

AS PART OF the farewell football game at Memorial Stadium this month, fans buying programs to the Ravens-Oilers contest received a nostalgic bonus: A reprint of a 1954 Colts program. My, how times have changed in those 43 years!

Tickets were ridiculously cheap. Pro football had yet to become a national craze. You could order a "1955 season book" for box seats in the upper or lower stands for $25.20. That's not for one game, mind you, but for the entire six-game home schedule. Four dollars and twenty cents per game.

Compare that with next year's top seats in the new Ravens stadium at Camden Yards (excluding the skyboxes and club level). They sell for $60 a game, $600 for the 10-game season.

The program was filled with cigarette and liquor ads for Chesterfield, Melrose Whiskey, Calvert Whiskey, Ryebrook, Lucky Strike (" 'It's Toasted' to taste better!"), Miller High Life, Seagram's 7 Crown, Madera Wines and three popular local brews -- American, Gunther and National Bohemian -- which promoted its signature advertising character, Mr. Boh, in a football uniform.

The Chesapeake Restaurant, a local dress-up favorite, advertised steaks "you can eat with a fork." David Gordon and Sons promoted a submarine crab cake sandwich for 35 cents (3 for $1), and displayed a drawing of its marquee slogan, "The CRABS you eat to-nite SLEPT in the Chesapeake Bay last nite." The Little Tavern listed its 10 Baltimore locations "for a tasty bite. . .day or nite."

Amoco Gas boasted it contained "no additive because it needs none." "I Love Luby" Chevrolet promoted its new lot on Monument Street.

Capital Airlines bragged that over "60 top college and professional athletic teams, including the BALTIMORE COLTS, count on Capital. . ."

RCA Victor victrolas and televisions were prominent in ads from Johnson Brothers and the Hecht Co. "The World's Only Truly Portable TV" -- the 17-inch Emerson model -- was available at Hecht's for just $129.95.

Cloverland Farms Dairy ran a drawing of its Monroe Street plant with a two-story milk bottle over the entrance. Royal Dunloggin Farms pushed its "baby top or regular square bottle." Koontz Creamery called itself "First with the 'Carriage' Trade."

The Edmondson Village Theatre took out a small ad to alert fans RTC that the movie "now playing through next Thursday" was "The Egyptian," "in Cinemascope and in Technicolor!"

C. Hoffberger Co. urged readers to sign up for "sure fire" oil heat. J. Norman Geipe Van Lines proclaimed itself "Maryland's Finest" -- as did Towson's Penn Hotel. There was even a "special civil defense bulletin" entitled, "DUCK and COVER." "In the event of an air raid warning," the advertisement read, fans should "drop to your knees between the seats and cover your head. Do not mill around. This causes panic!"

War and atomic weapons were serious matters back then: The Korean conflict had ended a year earlier and Joe McCarthy's "Red Scare" would soon create a national panic.

For Colt fans, though, nothing deterred them from cheering a football team that was beginning to show it had a bright future.

The Colts of 1954 had young players like Art Spinney, Alex Sandusky, Don Shula, Buzz Nutter, Bill Pellington, Joe Campanella, Jim Mutscheller, Gino Marchetti and the team's "old man" -- Art Donovan, age 29. Two NFL championships awaited them later in the decade.

Let's hope we can look back in 43 years to the 1997 Ravens roster with the same mix of pride and nostalgia.

Pub Date: 12/31/97

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