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Deceased Pantagraph Sports Editor Fred Young rode in a horse and buggy to officiate area high school basketball games during a time when the only objects flying were insects and birds.

Athletics director Dennie Bridges, a living historian of Illinois Wesleyan University sports, was a tad more modern than Mr. Young. Bridges played at Wesleyan when all the teams - except for football - rode in private cars, driven by the players.

"We found players who had decent cars. Coach (Jack) Horenberger usually took 12 players, himself, and sometimes a manager. We were paid mileage and, although it was not a great deal, you could buy a tank of gas for $10 then," recalled Bridges.

Bridges noted the rides were crowded, but the athletes didn't think twice about the discomfort.

"We were just happy to be playing college sports," he said.

Bridges, in his athletic, coaching and athletics director years at Wesleyan, has seen the university run the gamut from private cars to 15-passenger vans to shuttle vans to charter buses.

"When I started out, I was just happy to travel by car. But as athletic director, I am happy that we now use charters and safer vehicles," said Bridges.

According to Bridges, cars also became a liability because players no longer brought big sedans to school. "They brought smaller cars with stick shifts and this cut down on the number who could ride in one car," said Bridges.

"Then, our players, like Jack Sikma, became taller and you could no longer put six in a car."

Life in the early days had its humorous moments. Bridges remembered the baseball trip to New Orleans when there were four cars with five players to a vehicle.

"Bob Cushman was late in getting to the rides," said Bridges. "So he was running from car to car, trying to find a spot. He finally found one, but he had to sit between Mr. Young and Coach (Jack) Horenberger all the way to New Orleans."

Hopefully, Mr. Young did not light up one of his famous cigars.

There was the basketball trip to play games at Carroll and Carthage.

The Titans spent the night between games in Milwaukee.

"It was 20 below that night," said Bridges. "The next morning none of our cars would start. I called a taxi and we got one started. Then, we had the other two towed to a gas station.

"They put Steve Wiegand's car up on the rack to change the oil. But the oil was so dirty, it had frozen solid. I don't think he had ever changed the oil. They had to chip it out with a screw driver."

There was the adventure in New York City when the Titans left their hotel in Times Square for the Bronx and a game with Iona. "Try to drive in that rush-hour traffic with three guys trying to follow you," said Bridges.

And Bridges recalls the trip from New York City to Niagara Falls.

"We made the right turn on the New York Thruway, but another car, with Bill Patterson and Don Davidson in it, passed us. One of them was driving and the other was grinning.

"They thought they were smart in passing the coach. But we were there three hours ahead of them. I think they went almost to Canada."

Wesleyan usually took the two-lane highways and Bridges recalled driving from Quincy to Bloomington. "I was nursing the car, so I would not have to stop for gas," explained Bridges. "I knew that when we got home, my parents would fill the tank for me.

"But I ran out of gas between Havana and McLean. We went up to a farmhouse and the farmer came out with a shotgun. But, we managed to buy some gas from him."

Such is life on the road.

Jim Barnhart is the retired sports editor of The Pantagraph. Contact him at brnhrtj@aol.com

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