The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s football team can partially trace its 1889 beginnings to Iola.
The first Badger football team was co-started by an Iola resident in 1889 and the Iola Historical Society is preserving that history with Historic Iola Marker No. 6.
The marker will be unveiled and dedicated at noon Friday, Nov. 22, at the site of Dr. Truman Elbert Loope’s former home and office. The home was located on Main Street between Voie’s Funeral Home (120 S. Main Street) and the Iola Village Hall. Attendees are asked to wear their Badger gear.
Iola Historical Society historian Lyle Mork found the remarkable story while researching old newspapers.
While he was in Madison attending the 50th anniversary of his graduation from medical school, the then 71-year-old blind Dr. Truman Elbert Loope told the story to a reporter from The Capital Times. The story was published on Sunday, June 22, 1941, and reprinted in the Iola Herald on Thursday, June 26, 1941.
“I remember how football started at the university,” Dr. Loope recalled at the time. “Charley Meyers went east, heard about it and came back wanting to have a team. I remember Meyers and Bill Blackburn and I talked about it all through one chemistry laboratory session. We had a hard time getting players. No one paid much attention to us, and some thought we were crazy. But we got 11 fellows together. We chipped in, bought canvas jackets and pants, and then got red stocking caps for headgear. We used old newspapers for padding.
“Not a single one of us had seen a game when we played the first time in Milwaukee against the Milwaukee Athletic Club. They had former college players from the east and how they licked us! Our mustaches were dragging on the ground when we came home,”
The marker includes the history of the football team and Dr. Loope, along with photos of the first Badger football team in 1889, and Dr. Loope in his later years.
The Dr. Loope marker is the sixth in a series installed by the Iola Historical Society as part of its ongoing efforts to preserve local history in a variety of manors.
Greg Loescher started the program with Historic Iola No.1, commemorating the Iola Winter Sports Club’s 100th anniversary in 2010. The other five markers include Iola’s Early History, Birthplace of Numismatic News, 1999 Father’s Day Fire, and Birthplace of the Iola Old Car Show.
Upcoming markers include Potato Row, Iola’s Cancer Sanatorium, Schoolhouse Ski Hill, among others.
To contribute to the program, send donations to Iola Historical Society, Attn: Historic Iola Marker Program, P.O. Box 412, Iola WI 54945.
For more information, visit www.iolahistoricalsociety.org.