In West New Brighton, the smell of burning leaves hung in the air. Charlton Hairsuit and Willie Sutton were able to make a little money raking leaves after school. Some people didn’t have the patience to wait until all leaves fell off their trees and would hire kids to clear their sidewalks and burn the piles of leaves.
In less than an hour, they had finished their jobs and each had collected a quarter for their work. “Hey, whaddya say we get some kids together and play a little street touch?” said Charlton. Willie said that was good idea, but his football was flat and the pigskin cover was torn. Charlton replied now that they had some ready pocket money, they could fix the football and start playing.
Willie took his quarter and went to the Gulf Station down on Castleton. While he was buying a patch kit, Charlton went over to Bell’s hardware on the corner of Davis and bought a roll of friction tape and an inflation needle. It seemed like they needed a new needle every season…the damn things would break off inside the bladder almost every time!
Cutting off the old laces that held the ball’s cover shut, they fished out the rubber bladder and soon found the leak...it was at one of the ends where the cover had been worn through by too many drop kicks on the asphalt. Roughing the rubber up with the patch kit’s scraper, they then applied the glue, lit it with a match to make it tacky and applied a patch. After the patch was firmly affixed, the bladder was stuffed back inside the cover and pumped up enough to fill out the cover’s indentations.
Now came the tricky part: lacing the cover up correctly so that the when ball was fully inflated, it would be balanced both longitudinally and spherically thus allowing it to fly in a spiral when passed or punted. Neither Willy nor Charlton had the skill to perform this task correctly…if one laced the ball too coarsely, it would fly awry, and if one laced it too fine, there wouldn’t be grip enough to throw a decent pass. In addition, the friction tape applied to both ends would also create an imbalance if applied incorrectly.
They decided to call on the local expert, Billy M. He was a bit of a nerd, and didn’t really participate in the neighborhood’s street games…but he could fix ANYTHING!
Standing* out in front of his house and yelling at the top of their lungs: “HEY BILLY, HEY BILLY!” they waited for some response…
*In the pre-60’s era on SI, no kid would EVER ring a doorbell or call on a telephone, so standing on the street and yelling was the approved method.
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