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Sixty-Something: Those Wonderful High School Varsity Jackets

T.J. Clemente

That jacket now is one big memory and relic of high school sports. (Photo Courtesy of the author)

I still have my high school varsity jacket 50 years later. I wonder if they even have varsity jackets anymore. I think they just have windbreakers now. Pelham Memorial High School varsity jackets were actually reversible but I don't recall anyone ever wearing them on the silver side. I remember having my mom sew on my first varsity letter and how proud I was to wear the jacket to school that next day. I never misplaced it, or lost it. I treasured it as did half the guys in the school who also had them. After all there were about 13 different boys varsity sports then at Pelham High and back then almost everyone did something in sports.

In fact, I believe I wore that jacket everywhere for two years and yet after high school graduation I never wore it again. During football season it was quite a scene at the McDonald's in Mamaroneck on Saturday afternoons post all the football games. Back then there only was that one McDonald's (hamburgers were $.15) for like 20 miles so all the high school dudes with their cheerleader girlfriends showed up to celebrate their victory's or to lament their loses. It was quite amazing the array of different varsity jackets in that parking lot. Red ones, gold ones, black ones and our blue ones. Everyone wore theirs with pride. It was quite scene there and occasionally some foul words were exchanged but I don't recall any fights.

In today's world with everything being measured as appropriate versus inappropriate I just can't believe there is anything like the scene at that McDonald's in Mamaroneck. There were zero parents anywhere in sight in those pre-helicopter parents era. Nowadays I use the jacket as a prop for Facebook posts every couple of years. On it still are pins for the various varsity letters I earned in four different sports. Those little shinny pins represented many hours of practice and training. Just thinking back to some of those routines like diving into the mud for football, a drill to toughen us up, or catching batting practice for three hours for baseball in March when it was still cold were crazy. However, winter track was never that tough for training because I was a sprinter and would stretch, practice some starts and then go shoot some baskets with the other sprinters. The varsity letter for golf quite frankly was a treat. The only exercise for golf was bending over to put the tee in ground and then carrying the golf bag for 18 holes around the best golf courses in Westchester County and at 17-years-old that was not tough to do.

That jacket now is one big memory and relic of high school sports. A time literally 50 years ago when I could run to race, jump to catch a football pass, crouch to catch a baseball game and carry a golf bag for 18 holes. Now at sixty-something I just can't do those things, but yet the jacket endures hanging in my basement closet dry-cleaned still in its clear plastic bag. Funny how in a lifetime certain things get preserved and other things perish. The varsity jacket from George Washington University that I was awarded for wrestling is long gone. It was a casualty of my divorce 20 years ago. But somehow my mom preserved my high school varsity jacket and I salute her. Thank you Mom, because of your actions I have the material to write this column.

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