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Football prepared Wolfe for life's Super Bowl

Standing there in his football uniform, Harvey Wolfe looks tough enough to chew nails.

If you look closely, you'll notice he is wearing a leather helmet, the kind that would leave you with a zinger of a headache should a bruiser on the other team ring your bell.

If you could zoom out, you'd also notice there are only 11 players in the black-and-white photograph, just enough to make a gridiron squad. Harvey played both offense and defense.

"I don't know how good he was but Dad was in the starting lineup," quipped Duane Wolfe, his eldest son.

The photograph is of the 1928 Antelope High School football team. It was there 70 years ago this May that Harvey graduated as the class valedictorian.

True, there were only five in Harvey's graduating class, including his sister, Elsie.

But a copy of his speech given seven decades ago reveals a bright, observant fellow. He began his speech by relating an incident during a football game that previous fall between the University of Washington and the University of Idaho.

It seems one of the U of W players didn't get up after a play. A player from Idaho was the first to notice. Calling timeout, he ran over to help the fellow. The Idaho player was hailed by both teams for his sportsmanship and elected the Idaho team's next captain.

"We want a leadership that will help the person who is down whether of the opposite side or not," Harvey wrote in his valedictory speech.

"Like that football team, we want a leadership that will help everybody, that will be fair and honest and open in all dealings," he added.

Duane recently rediscovered the notebook containing his late father's speech and other memorabilia. His father passed away in 2002.

"A lot of what he said could easily apply to our world today — it's amazing how true it still is," Duane said.

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted Harvey's son is a circulation manager here at the Muted Trumpet, as one waggish copy editor once dubbed it.

For the Oregon challenged, Antelope is a remote hamlet in the central Oregon high desert not far from the ghost town of Shaniko. Unfortunately, Antelope gained international notoriety for being the location of the short-lived Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh cult in the early 1980s.

But the real story of Antelope, as with all of Oregon's hamlets from Ophir to Rome, is told in the aspirations and dreams of its young people. Ophir is just north of Gold Beach; Rome is a few miles east of Burns Junction.

Tucked behind the football photograph is a yellowed envelope containing Harvey's report card for 1928. Wearing a thin leather helmet apparently didn't hurt his grades: He received top scores for his four classes, which included English, arithmetic, bookkeeping and U.S. history. He only missed half a day that year.

He would go to Oregon State University where, after being repeatedly sidetracked from his studies by the need to earn money during the depths of the Great Depression, he would graduate with a degree in agronomy in 1938. That would be the same year he and his wife, Orace, had their first of three children.

After graduating from OSU, Harvey began working for the Farm Security Administration created three years earlier as part of FDR's New Deal. He later worked as a supervisor for the Darigold company for 30 years.

But his son will tell you the lessons his father learned in sportsmanship as a young man stayed with him throughout the game of life.

Let's go back to his speech, one that could have been given today with a few adjustments. He spoke out against political corruption and cronyism.

"We all want the United States to be a clean free place to live, and to have good strong sportsmen for our leaders," said the young man whose nation had already lived through one world war and would begin fighting another in a short 13 years.

"When a plan can be suggested that will purify our politics ... when the nations shall outlaw wars," he continued, "then we will have a far better world and place to live in."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

Football prepared Wolfe for life's Super Bowl