Excited to roll out “Two for Tuesday” from the Bash Brothers blog folks. All one of them 🙂
We like things in pairs: shoes, married couples and Twinkies top the list. But what if we had our SEC FOOTBALL games in twos? Like one right after the other, on the same day, in the same stadium?
Bonkers! But it used to happen most every Saturday at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson, Miss. And the scene was just that: bonkers.
“It was a great big party. You had people from all over Mississippi who would, and a lot of times from surrounding states who descended upon Jackson,” Rick Cleveland told us in our interviews for “The Vet. “Normally it would be Ole Miss playing in the afternoon and State at night. Jackson reveled in it. Every motel room would be booked. All the restaurants would be filled. You had lots of people that went to both games. You had people who would just set up a grill outside and cookout between games. It was just a really, really neat scene.”
It was the stage where Jackson came to be known as “the college football capitol of the South,” as Cleveland and many others described it.
It was also the setting where black players at SWAC schools had to square oppression with opportunity on the football field. The glory days of Jackson State football often played out in the second game of the night, after the still mostly all-white SEC teams had given way.
“We would always play the second game. The field would be immaculate, with the exception of the end zone. The ‘Ole Miss’ or ‘Mississippi State’ spray painted would always be wet. You go in the end zone and you come out either maroon and white or blue and white,” Tigers legend Eddie Payton, who shared a backfield with his brother Walter, remembered laughingly in our interview.
“But the opportunity to play in that stadium was worth any minor inconvenience that we had at that time. Being a segregated system, for us to get a chance to play on the same field at Memorial Stadium, that Ole Miss and State was playing on…One it was a great feeling. Two you got to be motivated. It was like, we can do the same thing that they’re doing if given the chance. And we can do it on the same field.
“It was a step. You didn’t think about you were playing second, you’d think about, ‘I’m playing in Mississippi Memorial Stadium,'” Payton said.
Can you imagine the double-headers happening today? It’s just one of many unique elements that make The Vet the symbol and center of Mississippi’s past, present and future.
See the full story in “Between the Pines” Part Two: The Vet — coming soon.