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Look Back: Team overcomes grief to keep promise

Harry Kurtz, a member of the 1949 Big Red football team holds, the game ball from their victory over Clarksburg Washington Irving. Their victory was dedicated to Jimmy Rollins. The ball was signed by every member of the football team. Kurtz would later marry Jimmy Rollins’ twin sister, Joan. (Photo by Bob Enoch)

The item that follows was taken from “Highlights on Sports,” by W.A. (Bill) Babcock, and appeared in the Oct. 20, 1949 edition of The Parkersburg Sentinel:

Jimmy Rollins and the 1949 Clarksburg Washington Irving Football Game will be remembered by the Big Red football players and all the fans who saw the game. The fans did not realize at the time the significance of the part which the desperately sick Jimmy Rollins had in that game, but everyone who saw the game could not help but be aware, in retrospect, of the effect on the players of the telegram received by Coach Scott at half time advising him of Jimmy’s death but expressing the belief that the team would not let Jimmy down.

The Rev. Culpepper saw Jimmy at the hospital the day before the game. He knew Jimmy’s thoughts. And while he sat watching the game, in knowledge of the entire story, he sensed and felt the reactions of the players out on the football field. Afterwards he put all this in words — the result being the poem “A Kept Promise” which he read last evening to the mothers of the players, their sons and assembled guests at a dinner.

A Kept Promise:

There are moments in our lifetime, When we know that mighty thrill; That transcends most earthly living, When our very hearts stand still.

As if God himself takes notice, Of a heartfelt need expressed, Or a promise made our brother, In an hour of deep distress.

Like the time young Jimmy Rollins, Lay so ill in Camden Clark, In a room filled full of roses and a light that quenched the dark.

For you see, the Great Physician, Had himself dispelled the gloom, And heavy hearts kept smiling, though the end was coming soon.

Then Paul and Joe and Jimmy, three schoolmates tried and true, All Big Red football players said, “We’ll play this one for you.”

“When we return from Clarksburg way late tomorrow night, We’ll have you a special present, Now isn’t that all right?”

At half time in the promised game, Though they played like men inspired, They were one point short we must report – as they sat there bruised and tired.

Then a telegram. Coach Jimmy Scott. It was from their good friend Jim, And they sat alert, mid the sweat and dirt, as they waited to hear from him.

He was gone. Their Jimmy Rollins passed away that very day, But his brothers and the others — Had this little bit to say:

“Win that game for your friend Jimmy, We await your promise here, Come on BIG REDS you won’t fail him, He will know it, never fear.”

Now, you sports fans know the answer, of a team that blazed this story, How those tear-stained fighting warriors, Fought to please a boy in Glory.

When the story of this season, Goes to join the famous past, And the mighty football stadium are in quiet, alone at last.

Then will you Big Reds remember, How an unseen football fan, Called them on to mighty victory, Then took leave to that Fair Land.

***

Jimmy’s burial

As Jimmy’s was laid to rest at Odd Fellows Cemetery, directly behind the PHS football stadium, members of the Civil Air Patrol from Stewarts airport performed a “missing man formation” flyover.

***

Bob Enoch is president of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society. If you have comments or questions about Look Back items, please contact him at: roberteenoch@gmail.com, or by mail at WCHPS, PO Box 565, Parkersburg, WV 26102.

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