A victory parade followed the upheaval of NU in 1959 against OU | national
My undergraduate years at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln were immensely enriched by marching in the Cornhusker Marching Band. From the fall of 1958 until I graduated in May 1962, I attended all home football games and some away games.
At that time with Bill Jennings as a coach, the Nebraska football program was far from a powerhouse. The Cornhuskers have been fortunate enough to win one or two games each season. Today’s Husker fans, spoiled by years of the national championship, can’t seem to cope with the Huskers’ defeat. But in the late 1950s and early 1960s it was like that – loss after loss after loss.
With Nebraska desperately behind at halftime, fans were starting to leave, and often in the last quarter the group and a few scattered fans were the only ones left at Memorial Stadium. Group manager Don Lentz asked the group to stay the entire match.
“We are here to support the team, win or lose,” he reminded us, and we supported him. At the end of the game, we would line up on the football field, play a few school songs while the remnants of the crowd filtered out, then walk out of the southwest gate on 10th Street on our way back to the group building. Along the way, we’ve always managed to include the “band song” on the UNL marching band, which I think the band still plays every week.
Even in those dark days of Husker football, there were rare examples of success, which for me and others were very memorable. At that time, Nebraska was part of the Big Eight Conference, which included Oklahoma. Year after year, Oklahoma was a powerhouse, often number one nationally and on their way to the conference championship and postseason bowl.
Miracle of Memorial Stadium
But on Saturday October 31, 1959, a beautiful autumn day, a miracle happened. Nebraska upset Oklahoma 25-21.
Fans stormed the pitch and the goal posts fell. Back then they were made of wood and not as solidly anchored as they are today. The goal posts were quickly shattered into pieces as memorabilia, and groups of students marched onto the field with their memorabilia aloft.
The band were just as excited as the fans. As we exited the stadium and headed south on 10th Street, the students and fans followed, and an impromptu parade formed. Instead of turning onto R Street and heading back to the band’s building, Lentz told the Drum Major to take us downtown, and we continued on 10th Street to O Street, then east. on O to 17th Street and back to campus and group room.
Traffic in the city center was disrupted due to the spontaneous nature of the parade, and the Lincoln Police Department got it right, stopping traffic on cross streets to allow the parade to continue along rue O.
Dragging the bass drum and having to play for that unexpected downtown tour left yours really tired and sore. At the time, the percussion section only had one bass drum. Today he has four to do the job I used to do.
It wasn’t the only big upheaval in my band career. The Cornhuskers also upset the nationally-ranked Pittsburgh Powerhouse a year ago, but it wasn’t the same as putting those rivals back in their place earlier, and I don’t recall a parade from the victory downtown after this match.
A question of historical perspective
Husker football fans must see the current team and coaches in this historical perspective. I experienced the worst of Husker football during my group years. Soon after, Bob Devaney arrived to coach Nebraska football and things changed completely.
There is no doubt in my mind that Coach Scott Frost and our players will continue to improve, but our football schedule was on the decline and cannot bounce back without a lot of effort.
Age tends to give a better perspective on things, and the years 1958-1962 showed just how bad things can be, with the occasional flash of success that made victory even more special.