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1993: Renewal of Friendship (introduction)

Note: A series of articles about the history of the Gloucester Catholic vs. Gloucester High football games was published in a booklet released in 1993 entitled "The Renewal of Friendship”.  This great history of the series was put together my members of the Gloucester High Alumni Association.

Unfortunately I don’t have the entire book. But over the next couple of weeks leading up to this year’s game on Thanksgiving Day I will post the articles and photo pages that are in my possession.

~ Bill Cleary



It has been nearly three decades since the last City-Series game was played in 1965. At times, it seems like it was only yesterday. But, sadly it wasn't. With the final whistle, on that sunny autumn day, the City-Series passed into memory. Memories that have endured over the years. They have lived in the hearts and minds of those who remember the series and attached a special meaning to it.

It is with those in mind, that the idea for this program began. It started out as a history of the series, but a true history would require a book of Rams_lions_1 several hundreds pages. What we have instead is more like a memoir of the City-Series. I hope that as you read the game stories and look at the old pictures, it will bring back the memories. Not just of the games themselves, but of old friends, old teammates, and a different time.

In the old industrial city on the Delaware, the year 1948 marked the beginning of the annual football games between Gloucester High and Gloucester Catholic. It was a time when semi-pro and town teams were still popular and attracting good-sized crowds. However, the largest and most loyal following was reserved for high school football. Across the country, in rural towns, in cities large and small, people filled the bleachers by the thousands to cheer their local school teams.

In some areas of the country, the games drew crowds of 25,000 to 30,000 or more. Closer to home, the Collingswood, and Camden High game used to attract 15,000 to 20,000 spectators. The City-Series games never approached numbers like these, but the crowds of 4,000 or more were common. For a small city of 15,000 people, it was a tremendous show of support.

If measured in length, it was not a long series. In South Jersey, many of the football series began in the 1920's or before. Vineland and Millville began their rivalry in the 1890's. In comparison, the City-Series was only played from 1948 to 1965. Nevertheless, for those eighteen years the people of Gloucester had a game that somehow, seemed to touch the very soul of their proud, old city.

In a small town like Gloucester, everybody seems to know everybody else. This familiarity made the games much more personal. Playing against a school located miles away; the opposing players were only numbers. In the City-Series games, that "number" had a name, and you better not forger it! If not brother against brother, surely there were cousins facing each other. Childhood friend’s kids from around the corner and down the street battling each other for 48 minutes. It was a neighborhood rivalry in the truest sense of the word:

Like the town it was played in, the games themselves were rough and tumble affairs. It was a hard-nosed and smash-mouth football. This was literally true before the facemask came into use. They were emotional games, played in a charged atmosphere before large, fanatical crowds.

Given all this, the remarkable thing is, the emotions never really got out of hand. Not on the field, nor in the stands. For the most part, the games were cleanly played. The hard hits came before the whistle, not after. This is not to say the games were perfect, they weren't. Nevertheless, the minor disputes that did occur were soon forgotten.

The very nature of the series made this possible. All of the ingredients that made this a fiercely contested game worked in reverse as soon ass it ended. It was high school football the way it was meant to be.

The first five years of the series belonged to Gloucester High. The Raiders (or "Paiseleymen", as they were also called at the time) won the initial game in 1948 by a close score of 18-12. Matters only became worse for the Irish/Ramblers over the next four years! From 1949 to 1952, the Raiders completely dominated the series, winning by 21-2, 56-7, 19-6, and 25-7.

In 1953, Gloucester Catholic, tired of being a doormat for their city rival, recorded there first win of the series, winning by a score of 12-7. The Ramblers must have found the victory to their linking, as they set out on a winning streak of their own. The next four years found the Maroon and Gold on top by 20-13, 52-7, 26-0, and 12-7.

With the series tied at five games apiece, the Raiders pulled ahead by winning the 1958 game 18-7. However, there were to be no more long winning streaks in the series. The following year, the Rams triumphed over the newly named Lions by 19-0. 1960 was more of the same as a powerful Catholic Eleven rolled over the Lions 34-0 to take their first lead in the series.

To be continued