For 55 Civil Wars, a Medford couple have cheered opposing alma maters, defied the odds.
Dick and Betty McLaughlin of Medford were young newlyweds when they went to their first Civil War football game in 1954.
For four quarters, Dick, a 1952 graduate of the University of Oregon, cheered loud and long for his alma mater during the game played in Eugene that year. Betty, who graduated from Oregon State University the same year, was equally boisterous in her support for the Beavers.
"Sitting right in front of us was an old girl friend I had in college," recalled Dick, now 79, as is his wife. "When the game was just about over, she turned around and said, 'Listening to you two, I don't think that marriage of yours is going to last.' "
That was 55 happy years of marriage, five sons — all of whom graduated from either Oregon or OSU — and 55 Civil Wars ago.
Dick and Betty's love for each other remains rock-solid. So does their personal support for the Ducks and the Beavers.
"It's always in fun — we've never had an argument about it," she said of the Civil War, then added with a laugh, "At least not one I can remember."
First played in 1894, tonight's game marks the 113th battle between the Beavers and the Ducks, which makes the rivalry the seventh-oldest in college football.
The Ducks, who won 33-14 when the McLaughlins first attended the Civil War as man and wife, lead the series 56-46-10.
This will be the first time in Civil War history that the game will decide whether the Ducks or the Beavers play in the Rose Bowl. The Ducks are ranked seventh in the nation and the Beavers 13th in the latest Associated Press poll.
While their marriage and family always has come first, this is the one day a year when civil war breaks out in family McLaughlin.
"Our family is totally split when it comes to the Civil War," Dick said. "With our sons, two-and-a-half went to Oregon and two-and-a-half went to Oregon State."
The way it works out, son Mike, 49, now of Beaverton, attended OSU for two years before transferring to Oregon, where he graduated. His twin brother, Mark, of Issaquah, Wash., also graduated from Oregon, as did Steve, 53, of Wenatchee, Wash. Brothers Dave, 51, of Medford, and Andy, 46, of Bozeman, Mont., both graduated from OSU.
There's also a grandson at Oregon State and a granddaughter at Oregon, but the Duck-Beaver balancing act isn't quite perfect.
"Mike's allegiance is with Oregon," offered Beaver believer Dave, a banker in Medford.
Dave, who has a son attending his first year at OSU and majoring in engineering, plans to watch the game in Medford with his family and his parents.
Of course, he will be siding with his mom in support of the black and orange.
"It is all in fun, but I can tell you right now everybody is getting jazzed," he said.
Sadly, longtime family friend Fitz Brewer of Medford, who was Dick's fraternity brother at Oregon, won't be around this year to root for the Ducks. Brewer, who played for Oregon as a freshman, was an avid Duck fan who died in October at age 78.
For years, Betty had a bet with Brewer over the game. If the Ducks lost, Brewer had to bake a chocolate cake. If OSU fell, she baked brownies.
"I quit doing that after losing too many in a row," she said.
While they have attended many of the Civil War games, the McLaughlins have also watched many on television, as they plan to do tonight.
"This will be our 56th Civil War game together," Dick said. "We don't fight, but this is the day we do get a little competitive. But it is all in good fun, and it has only been 56 days out of 55 years."
Given the game's deciding role in the race for the conference championship, this year's Civil War will be hard fought, they predicted.
"I think the Ducks will win by seven," Dick said. "It will be a close game."
"Oh, fudge," his wife replied. She predicted the Beavers will walk away from the Ducks, beating them by 40 points.
"I may be pacing a little during the game," she added. "Dick will be sitting still like always. He's always very calm."
Like most fans, she hopes there will be no controversies that taint the outcome.
"I want both teams to play well and fair," she said. "I don't want any nonsense."
Her husband agreed.
"Whoever wins, it will be a blessing for the state of Oregon," he said, adding, "May the best team win."
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at email@example.com.