If you lined up all the notable people from Hudson, Mich. the queue would stretch maybe two feet. You would have a couple of state supreme court justices and the man who claims that Grover Cleveland was his fourth cousin. That's about it.
The president of the Hudson Chamber of Commerce and some of his cronies had given the subject a good deal of thought. "Custer was raised in Monroe," said one citzen. But isn't that 50 miles away? "Well, to be honest, yes," he answered. Nor could Hudson truthfully lay claim to Buffalo Bill, who did some growing up in Brooklyn, 25 miles to the north and east of Hudson, which is 70 miles south and west of Detroit.
Hudson booster Dick Hazen said it was easy to think of things the town is known for. He was able to rattle off one: "Hudson was the second town in the county to get dial telephones. That's something good." So are the crime stats. The most recent biggie occurred three years ago, when Delaney's Tavern was held up for $125. Murders? "Nope," says Police Chief Mel Tanner. "But we've had a few suicides."
Hudson has worked hard to attract new residents since 1950, when the population was 2,773, but without success. The 1970 census was 2,618. Among those Hudson tried to attract were the pandas given to the United States by China. Stickers were printed that read PANDA CITY, U.S.A. HUDSON, MICH. But no one took them very seriously. Said one townsman, "I don't know what we would have done with them. Nobody knew how to take care of them. Perhaps we could have shot them and then put them on display in a museum."
All in all, Hudson has been a classic example of small-town America, right down to its one traffic signal (two if you count the blinker over by the A&W root beer stand). Until last weekend, that is. That is when the town closed its doors, hung out a GONE FOOTBALLIN' sign and drove north to Grand Rapids for The Game. And that is when Hudson found fame, for on Saturday its team, the Hudson Area Tigers, won their 72nd straight to set a national high school record.
The Tigers trotted out onto unfamiliar artificial turf on an unfamiliar field at Grand Rapids, and they whupped Kalamazoo Hackett in the state Class C semifinals. The final score was 24-14. One of the stars of the game, Fullback Terry Carr, whose 56-yard run was the day's longest, walked off the field holding hands with his girl friend; the band played Varsity; everyone cried (win or lose, you get to cry in high school); and Coach Tom Saylor said, "Our young men met the challenge. We worked hard. We deserve to be where we are because, gentlemen, we earned it." Saylor's wife Madeleine, standing behind him, reached out and hugged him.
It was a victory shared equally by town and team, demonstrating that a modestly financed high school athletic program can have its day in the sun. Hudson plays Ishpeming Saturday for the Class C (medium-small school) championship, and the Tigers are heavily favored. The timing could not be better; this is the first year Michigan has had statewide playoffs.
Saylor was the coach when The Streak began, and he promises that he will not entertain any idea of leaving until it ends. Attempting to describe his coaching style, he said, "Well, sometimes I'm a raging maniac." This could be true. One moment he is slamming his baseball cap to the ground, the next he is calmly discussing strategy with his arm around a player's shoulders. If the rage part be tyranny, the players couldn't care less. Says Quarterback Dan Salamin, "Coach Saylor is only the best coach in the world."
A little hyperbole is excusable. In 1966 Saylor took over a team that had been 1-6-2 the previous season. His record since then is 85-4-1. Two of the losses occurred in his first year. "When I came here," says Saylor, "I knew we didn't have much, but I was determined not to waste what we had." He says he has mellowed now and can even accept the idea that the players needn't walk, talk and act exactly alike.
Hudson's last defeat is sharp in Saylor's mind. Blissfield beat his Tigers 13-0 on Sept. 13, 1968. Friday the 13th. When Saylor had 13 seniors on his team. And when he had predicted his team would win 13-0. "That day," he says, "I became very superstitious."