Former Mayor of Oelwein (served during the “68 tornado) and owner of Samar Music. Sam went out of his way to help young bands in Oelwein by selling, renting or even letting musicians borrow equipment for gigs. In addition to selling professional band equipment, he also had all the current records for people to browse and buy. Sam ran what musicians call a “Pro Shop” featuring high-end Gibson & Fender guitars and Marshall & Fender amps. They also carried PA equipment and a constant supply of reasonably priced used equipment. Sam’s son Jim ran Samar in the later years.
A Football Story: Written by Jim Mazziotti
My father, Sam Mazziotti was a straight shooter. You always knew where he stood, but you might not know of his accomplishments. He wasn’t a “war story” kind of guy. He worked hard and paid his dues…perhaps beyond what we might regard as “fair” in today’s world. I don’t recall hearing my father brag or boost about anything, unless, of course, he was joking around, maybe taking the occasional opportunity to add an “embellishment” here and there. But, this is what I do know about my father. He was born in 1918 from parents who had immigrated from Italy and who worked very hard. His father, Frank and Frank’s brother, James, built a real estate business house-by-house, often providing affordable housing to other Italian immigrants and many times providing them with food and pocket cash. His father earned most of his income by operating a small neighborhood grocery store and worked hard to provide for 13 (some say there were even more) children.
When my father was a junior, and playing football for the Sacred Heart Catholic High School in his home town, coaches from the largest Catholic school in Iowa came knocking at his door. Dowling High School was a perennial football powerhouse then, and still is, more than 80 years after my father’s playing days. Somehow his father allowed him to go to Des Moines, 160 miles from home, to attend his final years at an academically sound high school and…of course…play football.
In 1935, at least in Iowa, there was a “Catholic All-State Football Squad” and a separate all-state squad representing players from public schools. My father was a member of, what was referred to as, “The Star Eleven”….the Catholic’s 1935 1st-Team All-State Football Team.
My father didn’t keep any newspaper clippings (I had to dig deep in some historical archives to find the attached article) of his high school sports career. He might have mentioned that he was an all-state player, if you asked….and when asked, he would just say, with a huge grin (and tongue in check), that “the other players were good….but I was great.” I suspected that while he joked about it, that he was really as talented as I might have imagined by sizing him up with his strong muscular body and his massively huge arms. He just looked like an athlete.
Today I write this short story, mostly for my kids. I want for them to know the football story regarding their grandfather, the grandfather who never had the opportunity to tell them himself….so I want to try. I want for them to know about this “tiny moment,” in our lives of “moments,” and about the gentleman that was their grandfather.
My father graduated from Dowling High School in 1935 and was offered a football scholarship to play college football at two Catholic universities….Creighton University and the University of Notre Dame. Yep, “the Notre Dame.” A small town kid, born of Italian immigrants and…unfortunately in the middle of the Great Depression, which, of course, was the deepest and longest-lasting economic downturn in the history of the Western industrialized world. A depression that didn’t allow for him (and so many others) to follow their dreams.
Even with the scholarship offer he was unable to attend either Creighton or Notre Dame. It was out of the question that his parents could find money for his travel, books and college expenses. After all, it was the depression! So, he stayed home, worked in the family business, later served in the military and missed the opportunity of a lifetime. He did the “right thing” for his family.
I can’t even imagine what he must have thought years later with the “what-if’s.” I’m guessing many Catholic kids grew up on playgrounds DREAMING of someday playing for Notre Dame. The door was open for him….he just couldn’t walk through it.
My father never pushed me to play football. Never. If fact, not much at all was said about football to me. Music was my deal…and he didn’t try to live his life out through me. He supported my music pursuits without pause. However, I do remember vividly, my father taking me to a football game. A special football game, in fact. Only one. It was in 1961. I was 7. The game was in Iowa City. It was an Iowa Hawkeye game. The opponent was Notre Dame. I still remember how excited he was to have tickets for this game, of all games. It might have been the only college football game he ever attended as an adult. I don’t remember another. Never.
My father has been gone for more than 20 years. Much to my disappointment he never had the opportunity to attend his “first-born grandson’s,” football games. He would have loved watching Tony play ball. I bet he would have enjoyed it even more than I did. Now, 81 years after his senior season at Dowling High School in Des Moines, his grandson, Christiano Mazziotti is finishing up HIS senior season as a college football player at Pacific Lutheran in University in Tacoma, Washington, a fine academic institution with a storied one-of-a-kind football history of it’s own.
My father completed HIS senior year as a 5′ 10″ 190 pound RIGHT TACKLE. Oddly enough, Christiano, a grandson he never met, who happens to be 6’1″, and weighs in at 290 pounds and lifts, god only knows how much in the weight room, will complete his football playing days in just 5 short weeks… and oh…. by the way….Christiano is a 6’1″ 290 pound RIGHT TACKLE for his team too. Two RIGHT TACKLES. Both so close to my heart. One left their dream behind. Another accomplished his.
As I watch my son go through his final days on the football field at Pacific Lutheran University I wonder if he runs like my father ran. I wonder if he hits the opponent and blocks in the same way as I have imagined my father did. I am curious to know if my father reached out a helping hand to the opponent he just knocked down, like my son does regularly on the gridiron. I do know that my father was a real gentleman. I also know his grandson is a gentleman as well. So, here is to DREAMS! Some dreams are found. Others are lost. But “tiny moments,” like this short story, keep MEMORIES alive.
Here’s to RIGHT TACKLES! Go Dowling. Go Pacific Lutheran!