- Associated Press - Saturday, August 30, 2014

LIBERTY, Miss. (AP) - Among the many side effects of World War II was shutting down high school football programs as boys left to join the military, some even lying about their age to get in.

When the war ended in 1946, football rebounded with a vengeance - especially at Liberty High School.

“Those were some of the best days of my life,” said Charles T. Dixon, 83, of Liberty. “I really wouldn’t take nothing for it - not just because I played football but from all that I learned.”

In 1946 the school didn’t have much to work with. The football field - located at the present site of the old Kellwood Building on Main Street - was low and boggy, sometimes mucky with overflow from the school’s large septic tank.

The school hired Coach Harold Dickerson to resurrect the program, and one of the first orders of business was building up the field.

“We’d bring shovels with us from home,” Dixon said.

Dump trucks would haul dirt to the site, and boys would do much of the work with shovels.

“I remember when that old field was just a field, and they graded that off and it became a football field, and that was when the boys came back from service,” said the Rev. Ernest Whittington, 83, of Liberty.

There were no age restrictions, and Whittington said “boys” even in their 20s who had suspended their schooling returned from the war to play ball.

“There were some real powerhouses,” said Whittington, whose small size landed him the job of manager. “Coach Dickerson asked me to be the water boy. Of course, they gave me the title of manager.”

One of his duties was to pour merthiolate on wounds inflicted during games, and Whittington said he used the stinging red antiseptic liberally.

Equipment was hand-me-down.

“Some boys did not have correctly sized shoes or even two shoes the same size and they used fishing line for shoelaces,” according to “History of the Rebels,” an article quoted in “Amite County & Liberty, Mississippi, Celebrating 200 Years.”

“The shoulder pads were not much more than a croaker sack around their shoulders. Some of the helmets could be folded up and put into a pocket. Jerseys - there were no jerseys. They bought some old sweatshirts, and the ones they wore for the games had numbers out of old felt hats and sewed them only on the backs of the sweatshirts.”

Dixon played fullback and was a hard-hitter, ramming head-first in his tackles. The old leather helmets didn’t offer much protection.

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