A few years ago, I compiled and printed a collection of articles from the archives of the Manitou Messenger, the student newspaper of St. Olaf College. I titled the collection “The Book on Hal Bergeson: A St. Olaf Lion 1946, 1948-51”. Hal is my uncle, Harold Parke Bergeson, and the occasion that inspired my project was his induction into the St. Olaf Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001.
During his college career, Hal was a four-time baseball letter winner and played on the 1949 baseball championship team. He also was a three-year football letter winner, and as a sophomore, led the conference in passing yardage. He was impressive.
Recently, I got the booklet out and reread it. This time, a consistent detail in some of the articles became evident, particularly during the reporting of the 1948 and 1950 seasons. The scoring boxes often listed “St. Olaf Substitutes” and a common entry was “E-N. Bergeson”. N. Bergeson was my other uncle, Norman Bernhard Bergeson.
Norm and Hal had both attended Foreman High School in Chicago and played together on the football team there. Hal was a running back and Norm played center. (The picture at the top of this post shows Norm and Hal with their Foreman coach during the 1945 season.) When they both ended up at St. Olaf, it was only natural that they would again be teammates on the football team.
The November 12, 1948 issue of the Manitou Messenger has an article titled “’48 Football Standouts–Brothers.”
“St. Olaf’s football team this year has had two brothers that could aptly be titled Mr. Offense and Mr. Defense. They are Hal and Norm Bergeson of Chicago. The leading passer of the conference was Hal; his unerring and devastating aerials were the chief Lion ground-gainers and usually managed to pay off in the touchdown columns. the amazing part of his passing was the diversity of this attack. Flat passes, jump passes and long passes, seldom missing the receiver, kept the opponents baffled as to how to stop his magic with the pigskin.”
“As a linebacker, Norm was the stalwart of the Ole defense. His alert play-diagnosing and rugged tackling sparked the Ole defense and made him one of the conference aces. He was a hard man to move in the middle of the line and usually was found on the bottom of the pile, with the ball carrier very near by.”
“With the Bergeson brothers around for the next two years, the outlook for better faring with the Lions is bright indeed.”
Hal started his time at St. Olaf in the spring of 1946 so he didn’t play football as a freshman. At the end of the school year, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and spent the next two years on duty in Japan. He resumed his St. Olaf studies in the spring of 1948 and graduated in 1951.
Norm started his academic work at St. Olaf in 1947, but he didn’t play football that year. He played football in the 1948 season and again in the 1950 season. He played basketball in the 1948-49 season. He and Hal also were actively involved in the intramural program at St. Olaf as members of the Badgers.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one other detail about the Bergeson Brothers. In the second to last game of the 1950 season against St. Mary’s University , Norm scored a defensive touchdown! The Manitou Messenger reported it this way:
“Norm Bergeson, Ole linebacker, intercepted a partially blocked pass in the fourth quarter and followed with unusually good blocking for 45 yards and the final St. Olaf tally. Holland split the uprights to make the final score 27-0.”
I’ll have more to say about the Bergeson Brothers in later posts, including Hal’s success as a baseball player at St. Olaf. For now, it makes me happy that I can call these two fine men my uncles and that I can share these gridiron moments with friends and family.