by Travis Normand
Originally Published: June 8, 2017
Updated: August 24, 2017 & May 24, 2018
A couple of years ago I found an old black and white photograph of what appeared to be a college, or maybe high school, football team. While finding an old football photo is nothing special, this photo had my maternal great-grandfather in it (James P. Fitch). I instantly recognized him but I had no idea what team or school the photo was of.
The only identifying information that was ascertainable from the photo itself was the word “Normals ’08,” that someone had written across the bottom of the photo. There was also the coach, who was standing behind his players, wearing a white sweater with a logo that I couldn’t quite make out. The logo appeared to include a “T”, a triangle, and an “S”, although I wasn’t entirely sure. It wasn’t a lot of information to go off of, but with that, I began my search for the source of this photo.
I knew a lot about my great-grandfather but for some reason I didn’t know where he had attended college. I started searching for Normal schools in states where he had lived as a young man. As you can imagine, this didn’t narrow my search very much as there were a lot of Normal schools in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
I also tried searching for the logo, but that didn’t yield any results either. This wasn’t too disappointing as I knew that even if I found the logo, it might not be for the same school that my great-grandfather had attended. After all, it is not like schools during this time period had Nike contracts for their athletic apparel, and the coach’s sweater could have been from another school (or anywhere else for that matter). In other words, there was a very real possibility that the logo had nothing to do with this particular school or team.
I continued searching and put in an inquiry with a college football historical research group that I am a member of, but that turned up very little information. Everywhere I looked, I found another dead-end, and I was having a difficult time figuring out what school this photo was of. After a lot of searching, the only information I had was that my great-grandfather was in the photo, it was a “Normal” school, and the year was 1908. I started to think that I would never figure out what school my great-grandfather had attended. My biggest fear was that the school was a small college, located in the middle of nowhere, that had long since demised without a trace, and thus there was little chance that I would ever learn of its existence.