Friday’s home opener for the Iola-Scandinavia football team will be a blast from the past.
All former players, coaches and team attendants will be recognized at halftime of the Thunderbirds’ game with Rosholt, which starts at 7 p.m. at Scandinavia’s Thunderbird Field.
This year marks the 50th season of T-Bird football. A new book, 50 Years of T-Bird Football, can be purchased at the game. Bill Lund compiled the book, which includes historical facts, photos, data and player lists from all 461 games dating back to 1961.
“It is hoped that recognition of this golden anniversary will further enhance the pride we all feel, not only in the success of our football program, but also in the success of the hundreds of young men and women that have grown up and been educated in this community and, further, in our community itself,” Lund wrote in the book’s forward.
“Read the words, review the stats, but when you look at the faces of your friends, fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles, daughters and sons, you can see a special joy, and a pride of being that is priceless,” he wrote. “After seeing an anniversary book commemorating 100 years of football produced by the community where I had played high school football many years ago, doing something similar for the Thunderbird program seemed like a good idea, he wrote. “After speaking with other members of the current coaching staff who enthusiastically agreed, the process began.”
Lund thanked former coach Steve Fleckenstein and current coach Scott Erickson for contributing their knowledge, memories and personal archives.
“These two men have served 24 and 28 years, respectively, as coaches and have been the generals that have guided the program for a majority of its existence,” Lund wrote. “These men have been the model for courage, hard work, honesty and upright standing that have meant so much to so many.”
The following is a sample of the content of the book.
“The football program began with the consolidation of the Iola and Scandinavia school districts. The first official games were played in the fall of 1961, with the team finishing the season with a record of 1 win and 6 losses.
“Early games were played on a field at the Iola Village Park, with games being played on Friday or Saturday afternoons, as at this time there were no lights. There were also no bleachers nor was there an on-field scoreboard/clock.
“The first Homecoming game was played Oct. 12, 1962, with the T-Birds hosting the Marion Pigeons (they later became the Mustangs). The Thunderbirds were ahead at halftime, but ended up losing a close game.
“After a brief time at the Iola Village Park, games were moved to the I-S Elementary School field. The grade school field was the home for the first conference championship in 1974 and the first undefeated and untied team in 1975.
“In 1970, the T-Bird Booster Club began a fund-raising project which ultimately brought weight equipment to the high school, an electric scoreboard to the grade school field and, shortly thereafter, lights to the athletic field in the village park.
“In the spring of 1977, the field lighting project was finally enabled when Mrs. Grace Taylor contributed $12,000, with the booster club adding a further $5,000. A scoreboard previously purchased from Waukesha schools was moved from the elementary school field to its new location. A large volunteer group wired and installed the light poles, lights and scoreboard and the field was ready for football by fall.
“It was a vast improvement to be able to play on Friday nights under the lights. There were a few interesting occasions where wet weather, in combination with slow drainage, made for some delightfully sloppy conditions.
“Play at Taylor Field continued through 2003, with 10 conference championship teams, six undefeated regular season schedules, the first T-Bird team to qualify for playoffs and the first state finalist team in 1999.
“In 2003, another community project, headed by Bruce Meagher and Gary Marx, was begun to raise funds to construct a proper football field at a location that would have proper bleacher seating and not have a baseball infield as part of the playing surface. WIAA rules had evolved to the point where if playoff games were to be hosted, there must be minimum seating, adequate lighting and a proper field surface.
“The new location – in Scandinavia – has the best natural playing surface in mid-Wisconsin. The first game to be played at the new Scandinavia facility was in 2004 and is currently the home of three conference championships, one undefeated regular season schedule and the second T-Bird team to qualify for the state final in 2007.
“A point of historical interest: During construction of the Scandinavia field, as the new sod was laid, a section of sod/turf taken from Lambeau Field, as well as about one pound of soil from the stadium floor, was added to the Scandinavia field. This historical portion of turf can be located by walking a certain number of paces directly south from the westernmost scoreboard support post. The soil was spread from 45 to 45 at midfield. Certain members of the coaching staff know exactly where this ‘lucky’ turf spot is and make it a point to touch that spot before each home game.”