Remembering the 1945 ‘Kelly Bowl’ Football Classic

More than 80,000 fans at Chicago’s Soldier Field saw the Fenwick Friars (8-1-2) defeat the favored Tilden Tech Blue Devils by a final score of 20-6.

By Jack Lambert ’46 (written in 1996)

This marked the 12th game of the All City Championship between the Public and Catholic league schools. Fenwick had last played in the city-championship game in a 19-to-19 tie with Austin High in 1936. Tilden lost to Leo in 1941 and 1942 – and then beat Weber 13-7 in 1944.

Tilden was a one-point favorite for the 1945 game with Fenwick. The largest crowd in Kelly Bowl history was the 115,000 which saw Austin (with Bill DeCorrevont) beat Leo in 1937. In 1939, the north end of the stadium [at Soldier Field, Chicago] was shortened to make room for a building to house the Park District offices, so the 90,000 expected to see the Fenwick contest was tremendous for a high school football championship.

Mike Swistowicz (left), of Public League champ Tilden, gains a mere two yards against a stingy Fenwick defense in late 1945. No. 29 for the Friars is Bill Crowley, 32 is Frank Duchon and 48 is Coleman Caron. (Chicago Sun photo.)

In 1945, a state football championship was not yet in existence, so for a Chicago city or Catholic League team, the All City game was the biggest championship available.

Four of the two teams’ starters at the beginning of the season were out of action because of injuries – Tilden’s end Tom Kernan, tackle Emil Ciechanowicz (6’4” 220 lbs., which was gigantic for a high school player in 1945), guard Ed Dembuck and Fenwick’s halfback Bill Barrett.

Fenwick’s first-string center, Coleman Caron, had contracted an infection, which caused him to drop from 165 lbs. to 145 lbs., the weight he played at the rest of the season. Coleman was the youngest starter in the history of Fenwick football when he started at quarterback at the age of 14 years, 8 months in the fall of ’43. He was also first-string QB on the 1944 North Section championship team and switched to center for the 1945 season.

In 1995, former freshman football coach and athletic trainer Dan O’Brien ’34 (left) reunited with Coleman Caron ’46. Mr. Caron, a former QB who started at center for the Friars’ mighty 1945 Chicago City Championship team, passed away in 2013.

Coleman was the twin to Justin, ‘Dud,’ who was a halfback on the team, which had a second set of twins: first-string guards Frank and Bill Duchon. Bill went on to win Little All American and small college honors for two years at Wabash College. Bill would go on to coach at Glenbard West from 1961 through 1976, bringing his team to the 1976 state championship finals. Bill was Athletic Director from 1977 to 1988, and the stadium was named after him.

Fenwick’s Dick Martin, captain and right halfback, would go on to win Look magazine’s first-string All American honors as defensive safety in his senior year at the University of Kentucky, and he placed on Bear Bryant’s all-time team as defensive safety. Dick was voted the Catholic League’s Most Valuable Back in 1945.

Fenwick’s Roger Brown, Bill Barrett and Bud Romano would go on to Notre Dame. Joe Bidwell, first-string tackle, would attend Notre Dame for two years before entering the Dominican Seminary.

Ed Reidy, the other first-string tackle, would go to the University of Dayton, and Bill Crowley, the fullback, would play at St. Norbert College.

Late alumnus Fr. Joseph Bidwill, O.P. ’46 (1995 photo) started at left tackle on the offensive line for Fenwick’s 1945 All-City Championship football team.

Father Joe Bidwell celebrated the Mass at the 50th Reunion for the senior members of the ’45 team at Florence and Bud Romano’s home on December 16th [1995]. Bud, a right halfback on the team, has been hosting a dinner for the senior members of the team and their wives for a number of reunions over the years. [Mr. Romano passed away in 2017 at age 88.]

A number of years later, Bill Barrett, Dick Martin and Bill Duchon would be inducted into the Chicago Catholic League’s Hall of Fame along with their coaches, Tony Lawless and Dan O’Brien.

At their 50-year football reunion, late alumnus Don Romano, Sr. ’46 held a sign recalling Coach Tony Lawless’s motto: “It’s not the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog that counts!” Teammates Roger Brown and C.J. Berrigan, Jr. are to Buddy’s right.
Jack Lambert’s 1946 Blackfriars yearbook portrait.

About the Author
Alumnus John “Jack” Lambert, a proud member of Fenwick’s Class of 1946, was among the 80,000 fans in attendance at the big game on Saturday, December 1, 1945. Lambert had played football for the Friars his sophomore and junior years. He also boxed those years, played intra-mural basketball and was on the Debate Team. He would go on to become a securities broker at Peregrine Financials & Security, Inc., passing away in 2013.

Fourteen Friars from the ’45 team gathered 50 years later (bottom row, from left): Dr. Bob Huspen, guard; Fr. Joe Bidwell, O.P., tackle; Frank Duchon, guard; Cole Caron, center; Bill Duchon, guard; and Ed Reidy, tackle. Middle row: Ralph Davis, guard; Dud Caron, left halfback; Bud Romano, right halfback; Dan O’Brien, trainer; Bill Darley, swim team captain; and Dick Martin, captain/right halfback. Back row: Roger Brown, left halfback; Bill Crowley, fullback; Clay Berrigan, tackle; and Dick Jordan, end.

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