Strangely enough, without a word from anyone, we found ourselves becoming more careful of our own appearance. No more leaving the house in the morning without at least washing our faces and combing our hair. We started wearing tennis shoes and socks and even concocted a uniform of white middies and heavy, blue serge gym bloomers we borrowed from our older sisters in high school. The bloomers were always falling down round our ankles and were much too hot for the summer. But we thought Mr. Rockne would like the uniforms.
One day Mr. Rockne brought us some baseball caps bearing an advertisement for Pillsbury flour, and handing us each a cap, he asked, "Now, how about a name for the team?"
This made us feel more important than ever. What shall it be? We pondered the question for a few days, and the next time Mr. Rockne came around we rushed up to him with: "What about 'Live Wires,' Mr. Rockne?" We watched with pride the electric response in Mr. Rockne's face.
"Live Wires! Yes, I like that!" And we all fell to drawing zigzag lines all over our new Pillsbury caps and proudly printed the name of our team across the front of them.
We were ready now to go out and play other teams. When the game was at a nearby playground, we always walked. But when it was scheduled across the town, we knew we could count on Mr. Rockne to show up in his two-seater. How he ever got us all into that little car I'll never know. Sometimes there were as many as 12 of us. And how we did love those rides with Mr. Rockne!
"What makes your nose so flat and funny, Mr. Rockne?" we would ask. And Mr. Rockne would tell us how he had broken his nose playing baseball.
"Gosh, that must've hurt!" we said and winced. Then passing quickly over the thought of pain, "And have you got a rock in your knee, Mr. Rock-nee!" we teased.
"No, but I've got a silver rib," he said in his modest way, and we knew he wasn't fooling. A silver rib! We were filled with awe. Here was a special sort of man with a silver rib he got playing football, and he belonged to us. I know now Mr. Rockne was famous then and was assistant coach at Notre Dame. But we certainly didn't know anything about it at the time. We didn't need to. We only knew he was somebody who cared about us, and somebody for whom we wanted to be our very best selves in everything that we did.
But the most remarkable thing of all about Mr. Rockne was a way he had of going straight to the heart of things and studying them out until he really understood them. He must have had an awful lot to do, supervising all those playgrounds, and yet he never seemed to be too busy to pay attention to even the smallest things—even such a silly little thing as the Highland fling that day we were in the basement learning it.