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Sunday, October 6, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Pacific Northwest Magazine / Now & Then

Hooked on Football

In a section of the University of Washington campus now mostly given to tennis courts, the true glory years of UW football were played out on Denny Field. Between 1908 and 1916 the team won 58 games, tied three and lost none — accumulating 1,938 points to their opponents' 119. The football coach, Gil Dobie, a silent sergeant who chain-smoked cigars on the sidelines, was to students and alums only a little short of divine.

In Dobie's fourth year, yell leader Bill Horsley introduced "the hook." It was 10 feet tall, made of oak and inspired by the team's dominance. A popular expression of the time — "get the hook, the hook, the hook" — suggested to him that a giant hook be carried to each game to symbolically dispatch UW's opponents even before the kick-off. It was first carried to Portland at the end of the 1911 season. Oregon State fans put up such a fight to capture it that the following year the hook was left at home. Instead, Oregon boosters brought their own stuffed hook as parody of the missing one.

Eventually the original hook was fitted for chains and guarded by members of the "W" Club. In 1919 the Knights of the Hook were formed — a cheerleading committee of 60 underclassmen representing every university program.

In the "then" scene, the hook is held above wedges of college boys embracing on Denny Field. The year is probably somewhat late in the football life of Denny Field. The last game was played here in November 1920. The next game was played a week later at the new Husky Stadium — a loss to Dartmouth. Still, the hook was there. Later that month in the UW Daily it was described as "perhaps the most sacred of Washington's emblems and the oldest of them all." But what do we know of it now?

Vol. 1 and Vol. 3 of Paul Dorpat's books, "Seattle Now & Then," are $19.95 each from Tartu Publications, P.O. Box 85208, Seattle, WA 98145.

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