George Boller: A Hawkeye Football Nut.

When George Boller worked for the Mt. Pleasant News (1955-1966), he was known as the fanatic Hawkeye football fan. On October 24, 1964, Jim Rose, the sports editor of the News, wrote up a few paragraphs (above right) about George and his 38th Homecoming. It’s intriguing that twelve years later (1976) another sports writer, Al Grady, of the Iowa City Press-Citizen would do the same on George’s 50th Homecoming. This page is dedicated to that article…

(M-0050) On October 15, 1976, Al Grady, long-time sports editor for The Iowa City Press-Citizen, featured an amazing article on my dad, George Boller: A Hawkeye Football Nut. The occasion was George’s 50th Iowa football homecoming, and the article gave readers a wonderful overview of my dad’s only unhealed addiction: Rooting for the Hawkeyes from his earliest days in Wayland until 1976.

On this page, I’d like to revisit Al Grady’s article, taking it apart one section at a time and giving you a few pictures and other historic tidbits thrown in for free! So, here we go…

Yes, at age five (1926), little George traveled from Wayland to Iowa City with his dad, Waldo, his mom, Olive, and his grandfather, Hiram Hulme. Click here to read more about George’s early years in Wayland.

The 1926 Homecoming game was played on Saturday, November 6 in Iowa Field (see pic above). And, as George told Al Grady, the results of that game (Minnesota 41, Iowa 0) put a sour taste in my dad’s mouth for anything Gopher – a distaste that remains in the Boller tribe even to today!

In the same paragraph, George told Al Grady about being in the brand new Iowa Stadium for the 1929 Stadium Dedication Game. According to my dad, it poured the entire afternoon of October 19th, turning the game into a rain-soaked 7-7 mud bath with Illinois.

Click here to read about the early days of Iowa athletics.

October 19, 1929 – Iowa Stadium is dedicated.

Today, we have the luxury of four-lane highways coming in and out of Iowa City in every direction. Back in the day, when my grandfather and my dad were young, just getting from Wayland in Henry County to Iowa City for a football game was an all-day event, and before Highway 218 was paved (1920’s), it was nearly impossible after a heavy rain or snow. Click here to read more about The Red Ball Route – part of today’s Avenue of the Saints.

The brand new Iowa Stadium opened for business in the fall of 1929. On October 19th, the stadium was dedicated. Ten days later (October 29), the stock market crashed, and over the next decade, nearly every family across America struggled to make ends meet. For the SUI football program, things were doubly bad. The Big Ten temporarily suspended Iowa from conference play, leaving the Hawkeyes to schedule games with lessor schools. Crowds were sparse (see pic below), but still, the Hawkeyes played on.

Click here to read more about growing up during the depression.

Many Iowa fans don’t realize the bigger racial-prejudice story behind the Iowa vs. Minnesota trophy, Floyd of Rosedale. My dad was in Iowa Stadium on October 27, 1934 and witnessed all the ugliness the Gophers directed toward Iowa’s Ozzie Simmons that day. It’s a story everyone needs to read in order to fully appreciate the history behind Floyd the Pig.

My dad had the distinct honor of being on campus in 1939 when the Hawkeyes gave America one the finest football teams in NCAA history. Nile Kinnick, of course, was the star, winning the Heisman Trophy, but according to my dad, every player on the 1939 Ironmen team played their hearts out for Coach Eddie Anderson.

Many confuse the 1939 Homecoming badge (above left) as one that pictures Nile Kinnick – but in reality, the face on the right is Coach Anderson and the quarterback is simply a generic pic. Going into the 1939 season, Eddie Anderson’s debut year, no one in Iowa City ever dreamed Kinnick and his teammates would accomplish all they did. My dad was thrilled to be there to experience it, and back then, football players were simply students, not semi-pros, so my dad got to know a number of the Ironmen, gathering their autographs, by sitting in the classroom with them.

(C-0118) Memories of Waldo & Iowa Football – Postmarked Mar. 10, 1945 in Heart Mountain, WY is a touching letter from George to his mom, Olive, back in Wayland. It is written just seven days before being married to Dixie (March 17, 1945 – St. Patrick’s Day). Click here to read the full 3-page letter.

In 1940-41, my dad had to leave school to help take care of the Boller family back home in Wayland. My grandfather, Waldo, was suffering from exhaustion and despair as he attempted to keep the family business, Boller Furniture Company, afloat during the depression years. You can read the full story here. Waldo died, at age 57, in November, 1941, just a couple of weeks before Pearl Harbor and the start of WWII.

My dad never was able to return to SUI, since he went into the service, like most young men, in 1942. But isn’t it just like God to take sour apples and make sweet cider? In 1944, while stationed at Heart Mountain, Wyoming – one of the many horrific Japanese-American determent camps of WWII – my dad met Dixie Boyer, who was working as an elementary school teacher, coming alongside young Japanese-Americans who had been forced to leave everything just because of their parent’s skin color. George and Dixie were married on a weekend-pass in Billings, Montana in March of 1945. Click here to read more.

Yup, dad missed four of his 50-straight Iowa homecomings (1942-45) while serving his country, but we Bollers really believe we got the good end of the deal!

(L-0117) The 1956 Iowa football season resulted in a run at the National Championship. On November 17, 1956 in Iowa Stadium – the Hawkeyes won the Big Ten Championship with an exciting 6-0 victory over Ohio State.

For those who don’t keep up on such things, Iowa football was in the midst of a long 20-year drought when Al Grady wrote about my dad. Iowa lost that 1976 Homecoming game to Indiana 14-7 (October 16, 1976), and when my dad recalled the glory days of Evy’s Rose Bowl teams (1950’s), he had no idea, of course, that a determined-Texan named Hayden Fry would ride into Iowa City in 1979 and bring the Hawkeyes back into the winning column.

Fortunately, my dad lived long enough to experience, first hand, many of those exciting victories. According to my calculations, George attended another 17 Homecoming Games (1977-1993) before he passed in April of 1994. I guess that makes for a total of 67 Homecomings in Iowa City (less the 4 missed during WWII).

Click here for an overview of Iowa Homecomings from 1912 to the present.

Click here to read about the 1985 Iowa football season.

Hey, and get this. The circle is unbroken. My dad, who took me (like his dad did in 1926) to my first Iowa football game in 1956 (when I was 5) got to travel with me to Pasadena after the amazing 1985 season to see the Hawks play in the 1986 Rose Bowl. The final score wasn’t pleasing, but the rest of the trip certainly was!

As you can see from the pictures, our Boller family Hawkeye addiction has continued long past George’s 67th Hawkeye Homecoming…

(M-0051) As the old expression goes … the nut doesn’t fall too far from the tree!

From 1951 until his retirement in 1987, Al Grady worked as the sports editor for the Iowa City Press-Citizen where he twice received the Iowa Sports Writer of the Year Award.

Enjoy Bob Hibbs tribute to Al GradyAl Grady died last week (December 2003) leaving a great big hole in the psyches of all who knew him. He was this reporter’s first boss out of college nearly 40 years ago when the P-C didn’t have an expected opening in the newsroom, so put us to work as Al’s assistant. Al’s strongest trait was writing; his absolutely nit-picking insistence on correct language, spelling and punctuation, as well as sentence formation and the rest. It remains burned into us to this day. When it came to language, Al was a perfectionist; a damn good one! He knew when to use “which” rather than “that;” when to use “during” rather than “in,” and “more than” rather than “over.” Their regular incorrect use still drives us to distraction, an outgrowth of Grady’s coaching. Al had a gift for telling the story. We covered spring baseball for him, and even after moving to the news side that fall, he insisted that we attend UI football games to help with statistics and to learn something of the game. Such tough overtime duty! Al Grady – a towering intellect of Iowa athletics and an All-American coach of the American language.

(M-0128) Here’s a tip of the old hat to late-great Al Grady, the Iowa Hawkeyes, and, of course, to George Boller: The Ultimate Hawkeye Football Nut.

Click here to continue.

Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

Homecoming 1964 – George Boller, Mt. Pleasant News, October 24, 1964, p 2

Iowa 1956 – 1956 College Football National Championship,

George Boller – A Hawkeye Football Nut, Al Grady, Iowa City Press Citizen, October 15, 1976, p 11

Alfred D. Grady Obituary 1927-2003, Gay & Chia Funeral & Cremation, Iowa City, Iowa

Al Grady, Bob Hibbs, IAGenWeb, Saturday December 27, 2003 

Alfred Dean Grady, Find-A-Grave

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