Thursday, January 26, 2012

Face to Face with the "Bear"

It might have been the coldest night of my life, some time in December of 1977. The occasion was the annual Blue-Gray game in Montgomery. Our small marching band from P.L.A.S. had been invited to perform at the halftime show. It was exciting but what we found more exciting was that Bear Bryant was dining in the hotel restaurant just below us. When asking the band director if we could go down and meet him and receiving a very firm NO, we persisted and eventually won the battle. We agreed not to "make a scene" - to just walk past the restaurant to see him - that's all! didn't quite work out that way. As we arrived at the exit to the restaurant to get our look at him, he was at the register just inside the door, paying for his meal. Forget the promises we made to the band director! As we all gathered in the hallway to meet him, we knocked over the Christmas tree! Remember those silver trees with the color wheel? One of those! A brave one asked for his autograph. He was so very kind and stood there and signed autographs for each one of us. We took a brochure from beside the register and tore it into strips for him to sign. What a memory! Several years earlier, 1972, to be exact, I had written Coach Bryant a letter telling him that I was the "biggest Alabama fan in the whole wide world" - addressed to Bear Bryant, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He got it and you can see the letter I got back from him. For a 12 year old in Brundidge, Alabama, that was a big deal! Never did I ever think that I would meet the "Bear" face to face as we did that night in Montgomery. On January 26, 1983, as Coach Bryant was being laid to rest, I stood on the streets of downtown Tuscaloosa, with thousands of others (in a scene much like yesterday in State College, PA) to remember the man who took time for a young girl and her friends so many years ago.

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