GEORGE RANDALL, BADGER FAN – PART 1
Our hero was born in the small town of Lodi, Wisconsin, in the year 1937. Red-haired George grew up in a house overlooking the small stream that ran through town. Whenever grownups asked him “What do you want to do when you grow up?”, George would always reply “I want to be there when the Badgers win the Rose Bowl!” They all laughed at him. So he shied away from humanity. His one true friend was Suzy the Duck. George sought out his fowl friend whenever his burden of woe proved too much to bear.
He would tell her, “I know that I will see the Badgers win the Rose Bowl. I will be there when it happens.” “Quack,” Suzy always cheerfully replied. She would then bob her head under the water, flap her little wings, and playfully splash George.
George learned to keep his vision of the red-clad Badgers to himself. The strain of doing this was great. He grew moody and his grades suffered. Finally, he lost control and erupted at the worst possible moment.
July 4, 1953 would prove to be a day that the good citizens of Lodi, Wisconsin would never forget. Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin had been invited to be Marshall of Honor for the town’s Fourth of July parade.
All the good townsfolk participated in the festivities in one way or another. The Clark boys rode in a canoe in the back of a pick-up truck to symbolize the expedition of Lewis and Clark. All admired Sally Magnusson as she walked along sewing an American flag, in a perfect imitation of Betsy Ross. The little Thorvald triplets performed a darling re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg. Miss White’s second-grade debating club entranced all with their re-enactment of the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates.
Then George Randall strode onto the parade route. The crowd gasped. George was dressed all in red. Senator McCarthy stared open-jawed; George must be trying to humiliate him! It became worse. George pointed at the Senator, while jumping up and down and yelling “Go Big Red! Go Big Red!”
“George is mocking me! Me, a great man!” McCarthy fumed. Quickly plotting revenge, he rose to point an accusing finger at George. “Communist!” he thundered. The good townsfolk, including his parents, peeled away in horror from the offending George, shunning him for the disgrace that he had brought to their parade. His mind in a swirl, George fled Lodi that very night.
It transpired that this very incident changed the fate of this great country. McCarthy later confessed in his memoirs Crisis at Lodi that George’s brazen of defiance fatally shook his confidence necessary to carry on in his red-bashing campaign. George had saved American democracy. However, he was unaware of this and would wander the Midwest for some years in sullen despondency.
George eventually settled in the town of Stoughton, Wisconsin and married the lovely Anna Knudson. Together, they operated a small but cheerful Norwegian deli. In November 1962 they had a son, whom they named Vanderkelen after the brilliant Wisconsin quarterback who had just led the Badgers to their first Rose Bowl appearance in decades.
How could they manage to get to Pasadena? Anna and he had gotten deep into debt setting up their deli. “How about selling the store?” he wondered. He broached the idea to his wife. Initially, she resisted, but his infectious enthusiasm overcame her misgivings. So they hurriedly sold the store. They were ready to fulfill George’s lifelong dream.
Disaster struck! Their precious Vanderkelen came down with measles three days before the Game. The cost of fighting the dread sickness, and its complications, used up every dollar gained from the sale of their unused Rose Bowl tickets. George and Anna were at the hospital on New Year’s day when their son’s fever broke. They were so happy they did not mind missing the game, or even the Badgers’ narrow defeat. Their faces did, however, betray small smiles when they read of the heroic exploits of the Badgers’ Vanderkelen….