"But when McCauley walked off campus for the last time," says Jack Williams, the university's sports information director, "nobody knew he was gone. When Charlie left, everyone was in a state of mourning."
Kay Kysers's office is in a small house only a few blocks from the campus. He is 68 now, quiet, gentle, wholly at peace with himself. He is a Christian Science practitioner, both a minister and a doctor to those of his faith. In the late'30s and'40s he was the Dean of the Kollege of Musical Knowledge, a wise-cracking, exuberant bandleader and master of ceremonies, a consummate performer who gave the world Ish Kabibble, "Three little fishies in an itty bitty poo..."and "That's right, you're wrong."
But that was long ago, Charlie's time. Kyser quit show business 23 years ago. He and his wife Georgia came back to Chapel Hill, this time to stay. He needed peace, and in his dark, almost gloomy office, you hear only the sound of his soft Southern voice.
"It is simply a matter of thinking it through," Kyser says. "All this glamour can end quite suddenly, so you have to think where you will be when the superficialities are through. I watched Charlie when he was on top. I was up to here at the time with my own entertainment career, so I was looking to see if it was getting to him. It takes a thief to know one, you know. I tell you, when they recruited Charlie to play here, after his great football career in the Navy, it was a little like getting Clark Gable to appear in a local little-theater production. He was a star even before he got here.
"But Charlie was just the opposite of a prima donna. It never got to him, as it has to so many people in entertainment. It never devoured Charlie. When I think of him and Sarah, I think of two people who loved each other and kept their feet on the ground.
"Let me tell you a little story. 1 took Charlie to a big Hollywood party once. The Hollywood people were dying to meet him. Charlie was flabbergasted. His face must have fallen a foot when he walked into that place. He didn't act like a football hero at all. He acted like the smallest of small-town hicks. He was the one impressed with them. All those movie stars. He'd never seen anything like it. I remember he came over to me and said, in that high voice of his, 'Man, this is tall cotton.' He just kept on saying it: 'Taaa-lll cotton.' "
Charlie hefted the scrapbook. Unlike Lu-jack, he recognized the figure inside, but he seemed bemused by the sheer bulk of his press clippings.
"Fame is strange," he said finally. "Once you get it, your life is never your own. We always felt we belonged to the public, Doak and me and the rest. People need heroes. Kids, they just gotta have somebody to idolize. At least they used to. I sure did. I remember when Frankie Sinkwich won the Heisman in '42, I turned to Sarah—we were sweethearts even then—and said, 'I'm going to get me one of those.' And I should have had it in '48, too. Doak won it, but he'd had a better year in '47. Forty-eight was my year.
"Of course, in those days there were lots of heroes—Presidents, generals, movie stars, sports figures. All gone now."
Charlie set the scrapbook down and sat back heavily in his chair.