The Apple Cup and Snow always means magic

You know, I can’t help but get a bit nostalgic when the Saturday before Thanksgiving hits.  From the year I started in WSU, 1982, until very recently, this was the day of the Apple Cup.  That legendary game between the WSU Cougars and those other guys who have a school on the lake.

I have many memories of Apple Cups past, and yep, we have lost a lot more than we have one over the years.  But whenever I think of the Apple Cup, my most vivid memory was 29 years ago, 1985, when Seattle came to a standstill due to snow, and the Cougar Band was in the middle of it.

Let me set the record straight. I was NOT in the band.  Hell, I couldn’t (and still can’t) carry a tune in a bucket.  However, Scott and I had become great friends with Jim and Dave (the then and future presidents of the band, respectively)

Jim on left, Dave on the right

The band was gearing up for the Apple Cup and traveling the 300 miles from Pullman to Seattle for game.  The plan was to get there early, and travel to some High Schools to perform.  The band director let Jim and Dave know they wanted a few extra hands (roadies) to come along and help with the equipment, and we were tapped!

It was an easy decision to make, We could either stay in Pullman and attend a few more classes, then drive ourselves over and HOPE we could get tickets for crappy seats (that we’d have to buy) OR we could come along, carry stuff, get free tickets and be on the field itself!  DONE! we were in!

The trip from Pullman to the Mountains was uneventful.  Blue sky, clear, no worries, and even the pass was clear.  However, the closer we got to Seattle, the worse the weather got.  By the time we got to the water front, it was starting to snow.  If you have never read about snow in Seattle, let me tell you, the city shuts down when there is a flake.  We just don’t handle it well:



But I am getting ahead of myself.  We had over 100 band members who were starving.  So, while the roads were getting bad, we invaded the local Godfathers Pizza!  We all started walking in, and I saw a worker come out of the kitchen, grab his chest and fall back in.  He thought we were a swarm a locust! I felt a little sorry for him, but little did we know, one the band faculty members had called ahead and ordered 100 pizzas.  They’s been cooking all day!

Here, I must leave the story for a second and show you what may be the first documented selfie ever, LONG before there were smart phones.


Well, while the locust ate, the band director was on the pay phone calling the schools we were supposed to perform at (yep LONG before Cells).  We were finding out that each and every one of them had already decided to close the next day.  We had nowhere to go.

Luckily, the Hotel we were going to be staying in the next night (the Weston Hotel) had not gotten booked by people scared of the snow (yet).  We booked all of our rooms for a second night.  But now we had a problem.

We were at sea level, on the water front, our hotel was at the most 1.5 miles away.  But it was up STEEP hills, crowded with people who didn’t know how to drive.  Luckily, we had a secrecy weapon.  Our driver HELGA! (no really that was her name)


Nothing stopped this woman.  She drove that bus like a tank.  Sometimes she had guys from the bus push cars that were stuck, other times, I swear she pushed cars out-of-the-way WITH the bus.  I even have a vague memory of her driving on the side-walk a time or two.  3 hours later, we were there and moving into our rooms.

We now had two nights to kill, in Seattle, in a major snow storm.  There was only one thing we could do that first night.  Those of us who were 21 took up a collection and went in search of survival rations.  Yep you guessed it, BEER



We drained the local 7-11 (now Bartell Drugs near Westlake Center) dry!  But we knew we’d make it through the night.

The next day was official band business, they had to practice



While Scott and I had to go to the local McDonalds to get everyone lunch!  (35 Quarter pounders, 25 Big Mac…..)

However, that night, the band took over the Seattle streets.  Freezing cold, and we marched and played all over the city.


Hell, they even gave me cymbals!



We walked and played for hours, Cougs from all over town cheered, danced and sang the fight song with us.  We even had a Husky alumnus in a green coat tag along



It was snowy, it was cold, and that, was one of the  greatest examples of Cougar spirit and pride I had ever seen!

But then, the day of the game, Cougar magic took over.  Ladies and gentlemen, there is something that happens to a Cougar team when there is snow on the ground in the Apple Cup.  We can’t be stopped!

It was a hard-fought game, but in the waning minutes, the Cougs were where they should be, ahead 21 – 14!  All they had to do was stop them one more time and the game was ours! I was on the side lines, screaming for the team, stressed beyond belief.  In my short time as a Coug I’d seen us lose too many like this.

Then, with seconds left, disaster struck.  Yep, one of the receivers broke loose, and sure as hell, scored a touchdown.  Crap, 21 – 20.

Now a couple of things you should know here.  First, the Dawg Coach Don James, a helluva coach, was NOT know for taking a risk, we were all sure he would kick the extra point, and go for the tie.

However, this was back in the day.  There was no overtime!  A game that ended as a tie, was a tie.  And nobody wants the Applecup to be a tie…

He lined his boys up for a 2 point conversion.  This was it, either we won or lost with this play.  I was right on the side, the ball was hiked, the pass was thrown and it was way to high!  Holy crap we won!!!!



The week I turned 21, after one helluva fun trip to and through Seattle in the bus, dancing and marching our way through the city streets, the game of the year ended just as it should have, with the Cougs on top for the 3rd time in 4 years.

Like I’ve said, I’ve seen 31 Apple Cups since I’ve started and been to quite of few of them.  This will always be the one I think of first.  And every year since, I look at the forecast and do a little prayer to the snow gods.  All we need a flurry next Saturday!   You’d think a team called the Huskies would do better in the snow…


8 thoughts on “The Apple Cup and Snow always means magic

  1. Love the pictures and story, Tony! Snow and bad traffic reports from I-90 still bring me flashes of travel anxiety from many, many Thanksgiving trips to the Tri-Cities… I’d much rather be watching football with a beer. 🙂

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