Favorite AFL Images – The Chargers Visit Niagara Falls

san diego chargers at niagara falls

The Chargers get ready to leave for the practice field.

There are an abundance of photos that speak to the overall simplicity of the American Football League.  While teams still had to transports a 33-man squad, plus coaches and staff on the road, there was a lot less fanfare than there is with contemporary teams and players.  I have always enjoyed this photo for just that reason.

Each season the Chargers would go on what they called their “East Coast Swing.”  As a means of saving money and minimizing jet lag, the team would fly east and typically play three games (Buffalo Bills, Boston Patriots, New York Titans/Jets) over a two-week period before returning to San Diego.  They often stayed at the Bear Mountain Inn near Niagara Falls, and took quick trips into the cities for games.   While these road trips were undoubtedly difficult for wives and children of players who had to live without their husbands and fathers for a couple of weeks, the players typically enjoyed the trip and all of the hijinks that could be crammed into two weeks on the road with teammates.

In this photo, several Chargers players are boarding an old double-decker bus that would shuttle the team to practice.  From left-to-right are Paul Latzke, Rick Redman, Jacque MacKinnon, John Farris, unidentified, Frank Buncom, Dick Degan, Ernie Wright and Ron Mix.  The other thing that I find fascinating about this photo is that the players traveled in uniform, meaning that there was no locker room facilities at the practice field, which was often simply a public park or high school field.  Can you imagine modern players practicing at a public park?  Professional football has come a long way in the past 50+ years.  Contemporary players should be grateful that these men paved the way for them.




Todd Tobias (790 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.

9 Responses to Favorite AFL Images – The Chargers Visit Niagara Falls

  1. Tim Tryjankowski says:

    Along that story line. I grew up on the East side of Buffalo, NY. The old-timers tell me that the Bills used to practice/hold camp at a City park..Houghton Park off of Clinton Street in Buffalo. I have proof that the Bills held camp at the Royroft Hotel in Hamburg.. http://www.buffalobills.com/team/training-camp/camp-history.html they practiced in the parking lots and adjancent grass fields..they also held camps at Niagara University..does anyone recall the Bills at Houghton Park..or better yet have photo evidence ? If so please share with Todd..Todd with all..THANKS THANKS THANKS

  2. 1967 says:

    After ‘Rough Acres’, anything else was like a ‘walk in the park’ for the Chargers, comparison…

    : )

  3. chris burford says:

    We (the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs), would do the same thing….Bear Mtn was great…but we often would have a “bussey” who would get lost when looking for those vacant parks in Buffalo and Boston….lots of fun adventures as one looks back….a different world. Never forget having to walk down rickety stairs, then along the concourse past the fans and hot dog stands at Buffalo’s War Memorial, then down the steps on the third base side of the old field to enter on the playing field…many interesting conversations with the fans!

    • I love hearing how it was in those days before I was born. In some ways, it sounds like you guys had more fun.

      Make no mistake–I love my favorite players of today: Portis, Chris Lightning Johnson, Vick, etc. In some respects, though, it sounds like players and fans had it better then. It may have been harder in terms of equipment and facilities, but to see pro football players practicing at a local park? Conversations between players and fans at the stadium? Man, that must have been really cool.

  4. TK says:

    Did the teams traveling from east to west stay at Stanford/Palo Alto? ..

  5. John Freeman says:

    Wow, what a classic photo…love the way Ron Mix is waving to the camera…

  6. Tom says:

    Degan and Farris were teammates in Junior College at Cerritos, Degan went to Bellflower HS the high school that produced Heavyweight contender Irish Jerry Quarry. I’m not sure if Jerry would if he were alive admit it, but think he knew, as tough as he was, he was no match for Degan. Degan was seriously injured in his second season, in a game I believe against the Raiders and never played a down of football again.
    Football shoes Latzke and MacKinnon are wearing Spot Builts all the rest Riddel, Mix held true to the old school with High Tops, not sure of the make, possibly McGregor.

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