Friday, 29 April 2016

We Regret To Inform You...

Some things never change, or at least never changed for decades, and one of those things was having the initiative to reach out to the professional football clubs in existence at the time, in search of a job, banging heads, in a foreign country if need be, to either put food on the table or to continue chasing your dream.

Luckily the process involved in promoting yourself as a capable prospect for a team in need of your particular gridiron skills, would generate ephemera in the form of letters and envelopes (covers in the collecting vernacular of philately), some of which have survived offering fascinating time capsule glimpses of the era.

1953 Edmonton Eskimo letterhead with hand written rejection letter and 1953 Calgary Stampeder letterhead with typed rejection letter. Both feature great vintage logos and word marks.

One such case played out in 1953 when lineman Karl Giesler sent letters to multiple CFL clubs looking for an expenses paid tryout. Giesler played at Pepperdine University and random internet information credits him with time at Green Bay and Washington in the NFL as well but I can't find any record of him playing regular season NFL games in the Total Football II reference guide.

The associated covers the letters were mailed in also feature the vintage logos and word marks but with some variation on the Edmonton cover.

By reading these letters (and doing some persistent googling) you can get a pretty good micro summary of Karl's career (I have scanned the letters at a higher resolution than normal for the blog images so you can click on them to get a larger view). The Tiger-Cats at least offered to allow him to come to camp and if he made the team he would be reimbursed expenses, which apparently he didn't as there is no record of him playing in the CFL either.

Giesler's 1953 rejection letters from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Bomber letterhead is very plain (some glue residue creating the comet effect) but the Tiger-Cat letterhead has a superb real image of a tiger's head that differs from the traditional logo. 

These letters can also be worth considerable sums of money for those that collect autographs of football players and administrators. The Bomber letter is signed by head coach George Trafton who was previously a hard rock perennial All-Star and eventual Hall of Famer with the leather helmet era Chicago Bears. I believe I read somewhere that it was Trafton that severely injured former teammate Red Grange in 1927, a hit from which the superstar Grange never completely recovered his former form. It is another example of the overlapping of Canadian and American football legacies due to the peculiar nature of the historical intertwining of the two sports.

Both the Hamilton and Winnipeg 1953 covers are about as plain as they can be.

Flash forward more than twenty years to 1976 and another hopeful player, Chuck Slater is also sending letters to CFL clubs in search of on field employment. Unfortunately for Chuck there is no record of him having played professional football in either the CFL or NFL either.

Montreal Alouette 1976 letterhead and Hamilton Tiger-Cat 1976 letterhead. The stationary was a little more reserved in the seventies, but still interesting. 

Here are two Ottawa letterhead versions, the first from 1976 being Chuck's PFO letter and one from four years earlier showing the slight evolution of the graphic design of the top header from monochrome to two colour.

These types of items appear on Ebay every now and then and are often fairly reasonably priced since this type of memorabilia is not heavily sought after by most collectors.

Here are the respective covers from 1976 with the Montreal and Ottawa items featuring colourful designs, but the Hamilton item is almost identical to the 1953 version. However of interest is the custom meter cancellation promoting Canadian Football as Canada's Most Exciting Sport. 

1966 Hamilton Tiger-Cat Commemorative Cover and 1962 Winnipeg Blue Bomber colourful vintage logo cover with custom meter cancellation 

Lest you think Hamilton and Winnipeg always had drab covers for their correspondence, above are two more stylistic examples. Somewhat unusually the same Most Exciting Sport slogan is used for the Winnipeg metered cancellation in a different design, but a full 14 years before the Tiger-Cat example. Hard to believe somebody coordinated that promotional slogan across multiple teams over that time span, maybe just a crazy coincidence.

1957 Toronto Argonaut letterhead with nice double blue colour scheme and great player graphic and 1963 B.C. Lion letterhead with classic mountain lion logo over Empire Stadium schematic drawing.

Finally above are two attractive vintage letters from two of the clubs not represented in the earlier images. There are undoubtedly many more unique items out there waiting to be be rediscovered, similar to those presented in this blog post. Just another fascinating aspect of CFL history that can be collected and enjoyed.