The citizens sunbathing on the page opposite, while the athletes exercise below, are inhaling one of the prime pleasures of the American autumn. The breeze is full of gusto, the air is full of festivity, the ladies are full of chrysanthemums, and the trees are beginning to share colored leaves with the earth.
Ensconced here in the tiers of Harvard Stadium, these devotees have filtered over the Charles River from Harvard's Georgian houses along its banks, from the subway that stretches all the way to Boston and from the parked cars in from everywhere.
It doesn't take a college graduate to make an alumnus when football is on. Notre Dame never had more partisan fans than in the days when its subway alumni converged from all the boroughs of New York to see it square off with the Army in Yankee Stadium.
Yale's Merritt Parkway alumni include anybody with a pasteboard and a Pontiac riding the Connecticut highway that leads to the Yale Bowl. Both Yale and Princeton are merely objectives for picnicking families on fall Saturdays. Those who get down to Nassau early enough string out along the edges of Lake Carnegie and old club members head for Prospect Street to set up an alfresco lunch on eating-club lawns.
Both Yale and Princeton turn their practice fields into parking areas on Saturday mornings. By noon the family Buicks are streaming like safari wagons across the green turf, covering the cleat marks where bruised scrubs battled a bare 72 hours before.
Then from the trunks come the wicker baskets that arrived last Christmas tied with a satin bow and loaded with liquor. And the Scotch Koolers decorated with the tartan of the Royal Stewart (may they never know). And from the coolers come the pint-sized whiskey bottles, washed out now and replaced with Martinis which have been chilling all the way from Scarsdale.
From the depths of the wicker, wrapped in cocoons of waxed paper, come the hard-boiled eggs the deep-fried chicken, the well-mashed sandwiches. The formalists dip into the trunk and come up with cocktail shakers. The fastidious are busy taking silver goblets out of felt bags that tie with drawstrings. You can hear the ice cubes clinking in the plastic cups of modernists. And the Lewis & Congerous sit smugly at their picnic tote table that folds up into a kit this big.
Blankets are spread from hubcap to hubcap; the tailgates are down on the station wagons. Both are laden equally with cellophane bags of potato chips and plums and plates crowned with Himalayas of potato salad mixed by mama the night before from a German recipe that calls for green peppers. And what's left over is wrapped again and stored until after the game. There isn't anything quite like a half of a soggy egg-salad sandwich when the car is on the highway, rolling home under the ivy-covered bridges, past leaves burning on a suburban lawn and the white birches and the red maples. Oh, to have an old egg-salad sandwich any Saturday at 5, when Mel Allen's pipes are working over a western game on the car radio and the air is musky with wood smoke and the dying sun is coaxing the last glint of yellow out of a poplar leaf that only lately was a shade for the summer sun.
OLD GRAD'S NOSTALGIA
On a fall Saturday not long ago a gentleman in a polo coat and muffler stood for some time on the corner by the Old Campus in New Haven watching busload after busload leave for the Yale Bowl. Finally the starter, worrying that the gent would miss the kick-off, walked over to him. "Can I help you?" he asked.
"Well, I'm waiting for one of the open trolley cars," the gent replied. For years the local transportation company, as full of tradition as a Yale sophomore, had trotted out the open-air trams every fall Saturday to transport spectators from the campus to the field.
"Ah," the starter said, shaking his head, "they're gone. They've taken them off for good."
At this the visitor spun on his heel and without another word, climbed into a nearby taxi to take the next train to New York.