Unfunny April Fool's Joke
I think one of the most unpleasant experiences I have ever had as a Tar Heel fan occurred on April 1, 1946. I was 14 years old and had a paper route at the time. I had never seen a Carolina football game but I was well on the road to becoming a RamFanatic even though the name wouldn't surface until much later. Try thinking back to how it was when you were 14, at time when most kids are just beginning to form school (team) allegiances. Remember all the razing that used to accompany talk about games at school the morning after a game had taken place. It was worse in football because you had all day Sunday to dread going to school on Monday because you knew it was going to be hell all day until every fan of the team that had defeated you got their shot. It was worse than that. Just like today, there were people who were not for the team that had defeated your team, they just wanted to kick you while you were down and they knew they had better do it fast. They knew if they didn't Carolina might come back and win a game and then all the fun would be gone. I remember Monday's when I tried to pretend I was sick because I didn't want to go to school and face the music. Fortunately, we gave more than we got but I can honestly say that I never engaged in teasing other kids over the games. That is unless they had started it earlier by razing me. In which case I would weigh in with both feet.
On April 1, 1946 , the evening newspaper in Raleigh, the Raleigh Times, came out with a banner headline on it's sports page which read "Doc Blanchard To Return To UNC." This was after Choo Choo's freshmen year and hopes were high in Chapel Hill. I remember and remember well that Doc Blanchard along with Glenn Davis had achieved nationwide celebrity as the "touchdown twins" at Army during the war years and I about had a heart attack when I saw the headline. Visions of Carolina becoming national champions with Blanchard at fullback and Justice at tailback immediately came to mind and I had no reason to doubt the information because I was aware that Blanchard had played freshman football at Carolina before going to West Point. He was from South Carolina, the cousin of Jim Tatum and later had a son who played for Carolina in the 70's.
I whooped and hollered and celebrated at the corner where the papers were dropped off. Looking back on it, I guess I was fortunate there were only about 5 other kids there who also used the corner as their drop off point. I didn't bother to read the article under the headline and began to deliver my papers and inform anyone who would listen to the fact that "Doc" Blanchard was coming to Carolina to play with "Choo Choo."
I can't remember exactly when I read the article but it was before I finished my route and, lo and behold, the last line in the article were words to the effect that all this would be great if it wasn't April Fool's Day.
When I read this, I was destroyed. In addition to having to adjust personally to the fact that my dream was shattered, I had to try and recall all the people I had talked with. Whether I had boasted or not, I knew they would think that I had and the penalty for me was going to be the same. Laughter, because I had been wrong. I will never forget the name of the person who wrote the article and I have never and will never forgive him. He may still be alive but if he is, he and I will have to part this earth never having made up. Of course, Neale Patrick, who was originally from Gastonia but sports editor of the Raleigh Times at the time doesn't know anything about this and I have never met him. I am told he is or was, whichever is appropriate, was a big Carolina fan and for a while, at least , held the record for consecutive Carolina home football games attended. I'm sorry. It's going to take more than that for me to forgive him. Maybe he didn't mean any harm and maybe I'm too sensitive but he sure caused the bottom of a 14 year old kid's world to drop out that spring day in '46. It might be an understatement to say that I read things more carefully after that incident. That's the best I can do to find a silver lining to what, at the time, was a very large and dark cloud.