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VIRG FOSS: Pack rat for college sports memorabilia

Virg Foss portrait

The other night, I was sorting through boxes I hadn't opened in years.

What I discovered was that I've been a bit of a pack rat. The pack rat definition that fits is being someone who saves something not needed or used, but may have sentimental value.

How else can I explain a collection of football homecoming buttons dating from 1949 through 1962 from my alma mater, St. Olaf (Minn.) College?

I played on the football team in college, so that explains some of it. But I didn't enter college until 1958 and graduated in 1962, so how the early buttons came into my possession is a mystery.

The biggest question is one all of us now in our golden years face -- what do we do with items of sentimental value to us but will likely be thrown in the trash by our children when we're gone?

The buttons are beautiful and colorful, about 2 inches in circumference and dressed up with black-and-gold (school colors) ribbons.

They come from such years as the undefeated, untied St. Olaf team of 1953 and the 1960 and 1961 championship teams, my years on the team.

So there's some history there. All buttons carry the homecoming year on them. They feature cute phrases such as "pop Cornell" or "Snarl the Carls" in reference to Cornell College and Carleton College, two rivals in those years.

I had forgotten all about the buttons until they surfaced as I sorted through boxes. Now, I'm obsessed with them.

I think I've come up with a plan to preserve them in a place they belong.

I'll get someone to set them into an attractive display in a shadow box, compete with one of the antique felt St. Olaf College banners that are part of my rat pack collection.

I'll get a plaque made up for the shadow box saying they are being presented in honor of the 1953, 1960 and 1961 championship football teams and donate them to the St. Olaf football program.

Maybe they can be displayed where returning alumni can relate to the homecoming of their college years half a century ago.

Maybe they'll be displayed where current football players can see from this display that some of us old folks still care about our colleges, our school teams, and traditions.

Perhaps it means more to me to return them to the college than it will for the school to receive them.

And that's OK, too.

Most all of us in our retirement years have items with sentimental value to us that will mean little or nothing to our children.

If I can pass on this button collection so that others over the years can appreciate them and tickle their memories, I'll feel good about that.

So I'll soon go to work to get them displayed properly.

And next fall, when our championship teams of 1960 and 1961 hold our annual reunion on campus for a home football game, I'll bring the buttons and hand them off to the football staff.

One small step toward cleaning out some of my pack rat collections.

Virg Foss reported on sports for the Grand Forks Herald for 36 years until his retirement. He writes a column exclusively for the Herald from October through April. Contact him at or (701) 772-9272.