Anoka County history: Journey of 1952 Pumpkin Bowl ball

The first Pumpkin Bowl was played in the fall of 1948 when Anoka High School defeated Robbinsdale 12-0.

Dennis Ward (left) presents the Pumpkin Bowl game ball to Tom Ward (right) as a donation to the Anoka County Historical Society. Photo submitted
Dennis Ward (left) presents the Pumpkin Bowl game ball to Tom Ward (right) as a donation to the Anoka County Historical Society.
Photo submitted

In what has become a grand local tradition, Anoka High School has scheduled an opponent for the Pumpkin Bowl every season since.

In the fall of 1952, Anoka collected its first Pumpkin Bowl victory since the 1948 game defeating Little Falls, one of the best teams in central Minnesota, 27-6.

The 1953 Anoka High School yearbook described the team as follows: “In all these games, the last two in particular [which included that Pumpkin Bowl victory], Anoka displayed a brand of teamwork and spirit which made it difficult to pick any star performers except the team as a whole.

“These victories coupled with Anoka’s Suburban Conference showing, definitely marked the Tornadoes as one of the state’s top teams.”

At the end of that 1952 Pumpkin Bowl, Bert Webster, center on this outstanding line tossed the game ball into the stands to Bob Dickman, who then tossed it over the fence to my brother Denny Ward, who jumped into Larry Washburn’s car and took flight.

The ball has had quite a journey over the next 61 years.

Denny tells me that many touch football games were played on weekends when Denny, Ed Flaherty, Dwight Skinner, Larry and Jack Washburn, Buster Talbot, Ed Coleman, and of course Bert Webster and many others played a bunch of guys from Columbia Heights.

Will they all go to the A-Club Prison, or to the Anoka High School and the Halloween Halfway House, or maybe the Lino Lakes Correction Facility where they might meet up with those rowdies from Columbia Heights and play touch football in the prison yard?

Those still alive are, after all, only in their 70s and 80s.

That would be some game.

However I think they are home free because of the expired statute of limitations.

When Denny got married he and Nina bought a home in Champlin, across the street from Bernie and Darlene Ward, and many touch football games were played with their kids and other kids from the neighborhood.

Denny moved back to Anoka and the ball was tossed back and forth across Van Buren Street to Dr. Tom Kuelbe’s kids.

As Denny’s kids started to raise their families the ball got tossed in a box and was forgotten until two years ago when Denny and his wife Nina bought a new home in Anoka.

That is when Denny called me and asked if the Anoka County Historical Society would be interested in receiving it.

ACHS staff gladly accepted the ball in March.

There is a new sports memorabilia store in downtown Anoka called Kyle’s.

Sorry Kyle, it is not for sale — unless you might come up with about one million dollars.

Editor’s note: Tom Ward is a board member of the Anoka County Historical Society.

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