By Randy York
All kinds of emails arrived in our firstname.lastname@example.org box yesterday after we asked Nebraska football fans to send us their favorite memorabilia that represents the Huskers’ upcoming 125th consecutive season. One of the coolest pieces of memorabilia was a ticket mailer for reserved seats for the inaugural 1923 season inside Memorial Stadium. Like countless other Nebraska fans, Doyle Lyon, a 45-year-old Marine who lives in Stafford, Va., has Big Red decanters, Nebraska field turf and Husker buttons. But he also has an advertisement mailer published by the University of Nebraska in the fall of 1923, soliciting the public to order Cornhusker football reserved seat tickets by mail. It has a one-cent canceled stamp on the envelope, the address of a Lincoln woman living on north 32nd Street and every printed piece inside.
There was no limit on the number of tickets that could be purchased in 1923. The price for five home games – Oklahoma, Kansas, Notre Dame, Syracuse and the Kansas (State) Aggies – was $9 for the season and $14 a season for boxed seats. Nine decades ago, the season didn’t begin until October and all games started at 2 p.m. The 1923 schedule highlighted Nebraska’s October 20th Homecoming game against Kansas, which would be the formal dedication of Memorial Stadium. The mailer also included a large photo of Memorial Stadium taken on Sept. 3rd, 1923, after 89 working days. “I have hundreds of pieces of Nebraska football memorabilia, but this is my absolute favorite,” Lyon wrote. “Good luck with the search.”
Bowl Mementos, Silver Spoon Can’t Match Mailer
Good luck indeed. What we have here is a full spread of a 30,000-seat stadium, replete with building facts and financial facts that paint the portrait of Memorial Stadium, a facility that was built on donations and was one-third the size then of what it is now. Lyon has an official game program, plus a game ticket from Nebraska’s 36-34 Gotham Bowl win over Miami at Yankee Stadium in 1962. He also has a silver spoon and on the very tip of it is an architectural rendering of what Memorial Stadium was supposed to look like before it was built in 1923. The sketch showed both ends enclosed by colonnades. “There was supposed to be a walkway from the North Stadium to the South Stadium that would make a complete circle,” Lyon said. “I knew the owner of Bob’s Gridiron Grill on 27th and Highway 2 (in Lincoln). Bob had memorabilia galore, and when I showed him that silver spoon, he said he’d never seen anything like it.”
That left a big impression on Lyon, but not big enough to keep the silver spoon hidden like he keeps his treasured piece of 1923 history. It’s not priceless but it’s most certainly precious to a Husker fan that grew up in Newman Grove, Neb., and still remembers when he woke up one Saturday morning at the age of 7 and asked his mom where his 9-year-old brother and dad were. “Oh,” she said, “they drove down to Lincoln this morning so they could watch Nebraska play Oklahoma.”
“I was so mad that they didn’t take me to the game that day,” admitted Lyon, who was too young to understand how difficult it was to find a football ticket. “Tickets were hard to get, and when I turned 9, my parents and grandparents took my brother and me to see Nebraska play New Mexico State,” Lyon said, remembering a game in which Jarvis Redwine, Craig Johnson and Junior Miller all scored in the first quarter. “It was insane,” he said. “I realized immediately how much better it is to see a game live than watch it on TV,” he said, acknowledging how his first Husker game-day experience keeps him coming back to see at least two games a year 3½ decades later.
Collector Part of the Few. The Proud. The Marines
Lyon joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from high school. He spent 22 years in the Marines before retiring in 2009. Three years ago, Nebraska football historian Mike Babcock and I had the pleasure to meet Lyon at the Nebraska-Minnesota game in Lincoln, where he was an honored guest, witnessed the coin toss on the field and got to wave to Husker fans in a stadium he still holds sacred. His wife, Rachelle Kamrath, a former competitive speech coach at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, now teaches speech and communications at Marine Corps University in Quantico. Va. “Rachelle is my No. 1 favorite Husker memorabilia because she received her M.A. at UNL in 2004,” quipped Lyon, who works in human resources for Marine Corps Recruiting Command.
Since Lyon was among the first to send memorabilia to Huskers.com for consideration in a summertime fan voting contest, I ask him how passionate a fan he really is. His response speaks for itself. He and his friends rented two vans and drove from Omaha to Miami to watch Tom Osborne win his first national championship in the Huskers’ 24-17 1995 Orange Bowl win over Miami. “I told my friends that if we win the 1994 national title, I was going to get a football tattoo to commemorate it,” Lyon said. Two weeks later, Doyle Lyon had a Nebraska football helmet as a tattoo on his right calf.
Doyle Lyon and wife Rachelle take the time to sit on “sacred” ground.
Can a Tattoo Compare with Vintage Memorabilia?
Like his memorabilia, that tattoo is precious, but not priceless, and fortunately, before we end our conversation, I ask Lyon how the 1923 memorabilia wound up in his hands.
“I bought it on eBay,” he said.
“Do you mind telling me how much it cost?” I ask.
There’s a brief pause and a smile that I can feel but not see.
“It costs all of 12 dollars and 40 cents,” he said, waiting for me to respond.
When I hesitate, Lyon fills the gap. “It’s insane,” he said.
“In your mind, it’s almost priceless, isn’t it?”
“Absolutely,” he replied. “That’s why I keep it hidden.”
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