"The Blake-Middleton game is like the Super Bowl for high school," said Blake alumna Yvonne Glasgow, watching last week's sold-out Blake-Middleton game, the first since the schools were shut down because of integration in 1971, the year Glasgow graduated. "It's the joy. It's the old Blake High spirit.
"It's that spirit in your heart. You have to feel it. It's a spirit that says, "We can because we think we can.' I know that it's a new day and time, but you don't want to lose the spirit. We want the kids today to know that you can have a winning spirit even if you are losing.
"I'm 50, and I started Blake High School in ninth grade. We basically lived and breathed Blake High. The spirit of Blake was always there, even when there was football practice or a band practice. I played the french horn, flugelhorn and the flute. The whole community was out there every day watching us rehearse. They knew our names. They encouraged us. You almost thought it was a big (football) game going on because everybody would come out and watch _ mothers, fathers, brothers, uncles, aunts, just people. They didn't have to be a relative.
"The week before the Blake-Middleton game (also called the "Soul Bowl' and drawing up to 10,000 fans in the 1950s and '60s), all of your work, homework was done perfectly. You didn't miss a chore. You even did a little extra just in case because your parents were very strict. They believed in education. You did everything right because you weren't allowed to go to the game if you got in trouble.
"There were so many educators and coaches that played key roles in our lives that we could never say thank you enough, along with our parents. The teachers were one-on-one then. The coaches were one-on-one then. You know at dinner time if you heard a knock at the door, it could very well be one of your teachers or a coach. Anything you did in school, your parents knew about. With the support group we had, we were educated not to fail.
"You know how when you are a child and you see a toy, and it's a toy you've been waiting for all year and you pray you're going to get it for Christmas? Then you get up and look under the tree, and if the toy you wanted isn't there, you're disappointed. That's how Blake was. Our ultimate dream as kids was to get to Howard W. Blake High School. We dreamed of our children going to Blake, our grandchildren going to Blake. It was a legacy. We wanted the legacy to live on."