Football rivalry goes back to 1916

Santa Ana, Fullerton colleges met on Thanksgiving Day in the early years

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

When I was a kid, Thanksgiving feasting frequently lost out to football as the Santa Ana Junior College Dons and the Fullerton JC Hornets played their annual grudge match on Turkey Day.

Rivalry between the two teams began in 1916, and from 1925 through 1956, they played on Thanksgiving Day in the “Turkey Bowl.”

Tension would mount between the football aficionados and the cooks who believed Thanksgiving dinner was more important. Many housewives, including my mother, became miffed if some, namely my Uncle Pete, were more interested in the kickoff than the turkey. Pans would thump a little louder than usual as the cook hurried the gravy along and hastily mashed the potatoes.

Feeling the pressure to beat the start of the game. Helpers would rush between the kitchen and dining room loading the table with turkey, sage dressing, giblet gravy, fluffy white mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, assorted vegetables and salad.

Quickly they would rearrange the heirloom dishes piled with celery and carrot sticks, the antique milk glass bowl brimming with shimmering red cranberry sauce and my grandmother’s hand painted dish filled with my mother’s special pickled peaches, trying to make room for the platters and bowls of hot foot coming from the kitchen.

When every inch of the snowy white table cloth was covered, the family and guests were summoned. While the men sneaked glances at their watches, prayers were said in record time and my dad determined the direction in which the dishes of food would be passed around the table.

Finally, everyone had served himself, plates were brimming, and the eating could begin. As kickoff time approached, the big Majestic radio in the adjoining living room was adjusted to top volume and the men strained to hear the announcer, glaring at anyone who dared to speak. Hurriedly polishing off their heaping plates, they declined pumpkin and mince pie until later, explaining that they couldn’t eat another bite.

Soon, only women and children remained at the table. This was the time for a replay of dinner. “Was the new recipe for creamed onions as good as the old one?” “Grandmother always served parsnips, but hardly anyone ate them today.” “Did you like the Golden Glow gelatin salad?”

Sampling and dissecting the leftovers, the kitchen crew postponed the cleanup which would keep them in the kitchen, putting away the extra food and washing dishes, until time to serve dessert in the late afternoon.

Meanwhile the initial excitement felt by the men in the living room dwindled as the sports announcer droned on.

By half-time several would be snoozing in their chairs, football forgotten, while others sneaked outside for a smoke.

When tickets were available, those who went to the game, which alternated between the Santa Ana Bowl and the Fullerton Stadium, were welcomed back to a late evening dinner with cutting remarks about Thanksgiving being less important than football to some men.

After 84 games, this competition between Santa Ana and Fullerton is the longest running community college football rivalry in California.

SAC hold the overall series record at 41-39-4 and currently has “The Key to the County,” a large iron key with the schools’ colors.

SAC victories are written on the red side while Fullerton wins are written on the yellow side.


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