Dave Ream writes:
The sweater, which should still be with Nancy, was one of the Old Man’s proudest possessions. It is a “letter sweater,” awarded to him when he won a varsity sports letter at the University of Kansas (KU) in 1923. It is a bulky, maroon sweater, style of the 1920s, with a large blue K on the left chest. The K stands for Kansas, of course.
The OM was an undergraduate at KU for the usual 4 years, from 1921 to 1925. He majored in Economics. In his fourth year, he also took courses at the KU Law School. After graduation in 1925, he went on to Yale Law School.
The OM was quite studious and never much of an athlete. Still, he joined the Kappa Sigma fraternity, which apparently was the “jock house” at that time and place—i.e., home of the less-than-intellectual football players. So, to “get along” with his fraternity brothers, he felt a need to try out for one of KU’s sports. He thought: which varsity sport would require the least effort from him? The answer: cross country. So, in the fall of 1923, as a junior, the OM ran cross country for KU. He was not one of the better runners, but he did participate in each of the intercollegiate races that fall, so he could hold his head high at the Kappa Sig house.
At KU, in every cross country race only the first five finishers for each team counted in the scoring. The OM was always the sixth or seventh finisher, which was fine for him because he took such a casual attitude toward the sport. Then came the Missouri Valley Conference championship race. The KU rule was that, if you finished in the top half of the 40 runners in the MVC race, you earned a varsity letter. The MVC race was in Lawrence that year—familiar home turf for the Old Man, and a rather hilly course up and down Mount Oread. The runners from flat country like Nebraska and Oklahoma were not used to such terrain and thus were at a disadvantage. For once, the OM took the race seriously, and finished 14th out of 40—to win the varsity letter and the sweater! All of this happened in the fall of 1923. The next year, he was too consumed with his law and economics studies to run cross country again. I.e., he quit while he was ahead.
The OM got a tremendous charge out of wearing that sweater. During his senior year, when he was taking courses in the KU Law School, he liked to stand on the steps of Green Hall (the law school building, in the center of the campus), wearing the sweater, and checking out the coeds as they walked by on their way to class (think “Joe Cool”). He figured that, being in law school, and wearing the proof that he was an accomplished athlete, the chicks would be impressed and much more inclined to accept a request for a date! For the rest of his life, the sweater was one of the very few material possessions that he made sure moved with him every time he moved—which was frequent.
There was another reason the Old Man joined Kappa Sigma and tried out for a varsity team at KU. He was the baby of the family, with four big brothers. While Frank was already gone from home by the time of OM’s birth, he had a close, somewhat hero-worship attitude toward the other three—Clarence (Jack), Dwight, and Merrill (Jay). A good part of OM’s attitude was attributable to the fact that all three were accomplished athletes and fraternity brothers at Kappa Sigma (I‘m not sure about Clarence) at Washburn College in Topeka. So, to maintain the prestige of the family name, OM figured he had to be a jock as well as a Kappa Sig.
The KU Sweater 1972 (Casey is 8 1/2 years old)
The KU Sweater 2007|