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Moments In History

Boys Town Bus

​​​​​​This 1952 Flxible Visicoach transports its passengers back to an era when integrated schools such as Boys Town experienced many difficulties when taking their athletic teams on the road to compete. Now housed permanently in the Boys Town Hall of History, this old bus serves as an important reminder of ​Father Flanagan’s ​​​progressive views on equality and fairness. Watch the video below to ​take a trip back in time.

 

This old bus has many a story to tell. Not only of games won and lost but also of a sad chapter in our nation's history when children were prevented from the joys of athletic competition purely due to the color of their skin.

Why would an Omaha school need a bus specially equipped to travel great distances? It all started with a disheartening incident in 1946. It was one of Father Flanagan's core beliefs that every boy engage in some form of athletic competition to build his character and physical strength. And from its inception, and at Father Flanagan's insistence, Boys Town's policy was to accept all boys in need regardless of race. Because of this, Boys Town's sports teams were fully integrated at a time in America when this was sadly a rare occurrence even in large Midwestern cities such as Omaha. This meant that in order to compete, Boys Town teams had to travel relatively large distances by road, rail, and air to play games against other integrated institutions.

In 1946, the Boys Town football team traveled to Miami, Florida to play an exhibition game in front of thousands of spectators at Burdine Stadium later known as the Orange Bowl. Originally slated to stay at the Blackstone Hotel on Miami Beach, the team was forced to find accommodations elsewhere when the hotel refused to allow Boys Town's integrated squad to stay there.

At the stadium, things took a turn for the worse when the game's organizers forced Boys Town's non-white players to sit out the game. At one point, the team's African-American quarterback was booed by the crowd simply for venturing onto the field to bring water to his teammates. Upon hearing of this, Father Flanagan refused to allow his athletic teams or any other Boys Town groups to travel anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

So in early 1953, Boys Town used donations to purchase this bus, a 1952 Flxible Visicoach, built in Loudonville, Ohio to transport its student-athletes around the nation. After it was taken out of service in the 1960s, the bus was left to rust on the Boys Town farm until it was discovered, restored, and cut in half by Boys Town students so it could be placed on permanent display in the Hall of History. Today, Boys Town alumni visiting the campus once again climb those familiar steps, turn left, and take a seat on a bus that now takes them on a journey back in time without ever moving so much as a foot.

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