The country was working its way out of a depression, and there were rumors of war in Europe. Eleven years before in 1929, Texas and Oklahoma had resumed their dormant football series, choosing to meet in Dallas at the Texas State Fairgrounds.
It was almost 170 miles from the little town of Hollis in the southwest corner of Oklahoma to the big stadium in the sleepy little college town of Norman just south of Oklahoma City.
It was on a typical Autumn day, when the sun crisps the day and the wind sweeps the plain, as the song from the musical "Oklahoma" says. And it was there that Darrell Royal first saw a guy who would change his life forever.
Football had been big for Royal, who had hitch-hiked back from the fertile fields of California which had drawn his parents from the Dust Bowl just because he had a job and a promise for a chance to play football for the Hollis High School team.
But now, there he was, a teenager had made his way to see the Oklahoma Sooner football team play a college game. And there he stood, mesmerized by one guy in one moment in time.
The rest of the "color and the pageantry of college football" probably swirled in Norman, Okla., that day, but all young Darrell Royal saw was a guy punting a football in pre-game warm-ups. He was, thought Royal, a most remarkable fellow. It was a moment that Royal, 60 or so years later, still vividly recalled.
"I just remember watching "Indian Jack" Jacobs kick," he says. "The way he held the ball, the measured steps, the swing of his leg. I was glued to him."
After a fine high school career and time out for a stint in the service during World War II, Royal began looking at colleges in 1945. And as he weighed his options of where to go to school, the image that kept coming back to him was of "Indian Jack" Jacobs.
All of this is important because it gives a time line to arguably the most significant figure in a Texas-Oklahoma series that celebrates its 100th meeting this year. Few people have been associated with the two schools longer, and nobody spent more time as a participant in this game than Darrell Royal.
In the 1940s, Royal was a star at Oklahoma. He was a good quarterback, and a fine defensive back. Fifty-six seasons since he played his last year at Oklahoma in 1949, he still holds the school's career interception record at 18.
Royal was a quality punter for the Sooners, but as much as he tried to learn the magic of his idol Jacobs, he never quite got there. A career average of 38.45 ranks in the top 17 all time at Oklahoma, but as good a player as Royal was, his fame and destiny would come as a coach.
On the other hand, "Indian Jack" Jacobs was a remarkable athlete who averaged 47.84 yards per kick in 1940 and posted a career average of 42.10. The former is still a school record, the latter ranks second all-time for the Sooners.
Jacobs, who was the Oklahoma starting quarterback, also led the team in passing and two other offensive categories during his years in Norman. He followed his college career by playing for three NFL teams and later earning a spot in the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame. He was so good, in fact, that they called the stadium where he played in Winnipeg "The House that Jack Built."
Royal would cross paths with him several times after that day in the early 1940s, playing with him in Alumni games at OU, and coaching against him when the future Texas coach was working at Edmonton, in the Canadian League.
At both Oklahoma and Texas, Royal has figured prominently in the "streaks" that seem to be representative of the series. In 1948, he helped second-year head coach Bud Wilkinson start the Sooners' most successful run in the series. Over the next 10 seasons, only a 9-7 Longhorn win in 1951 blemished an otherwise perfect Sooner run.
When Royal took the head coaching job at Texas in 1957, Wilkinson's team was in the midst of the longest winning string in NCAA history. And when Oklahoma held off Royal's first team in a hard-fought game, 21-7, the Sooners had won six straight games and nine of the last 10.
Of all of his wins in the series looking back over his 20-year career as UT's head coach, Royal remembers the 1958 game as the most significant.
It was a game that featured the first-ever contest decided by the new two-point conversion play and Texas beat the Sooners 15-14.
There were other games," Royal would say later, "like the 1963 game that made us No. 1 in our first National Championship year. But by that time, the program was established. In 1958, we were still trying to earn respect."
Royal earned more than respect. His teams reeled off eight straight victories, and won 12 of the next 13 games as they dominated the decade of the 1960s. But in a testimony to the fickleness of the series, the well would run dry. Over the next six years, Oklahoma won five and tied one.
After the 6-6 tie in 1976, Royal retired from coaching. He remained as UT's athletics director for three years, and in January of 1980, he left the athletics department and became an advisor to the UT President on athletic matters.
In a series that has produced both character and characters, no person has had an enduring legacy in the 100 years of the game as has Royal.
There have been other significant coaches. Royal is one of four UT and OU coaches who have been named to the College Football Hall of Fame. D. X. Bible of Texas, and Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer of Oklahoma are the others.
Today, Mack Brown and Bob Stoops are both recognized as two of the leaders of the college game today.
As the 100th game approached, media outlets began scouring the rosters and the records for "all-time" teams. They are impossible to name. This game has had more well-known All-Americans and award winners as any series in college football history, and there have been an almost equal number of "unsung heroes"-guys whose defining moments came in this stadium, on this field.
Game day at the Fairgrounds is like a kaleidoscope of the senses-an ever changing picture of sights, sounds and smells. More than 150,000 people will be on the Fairgrounds that day, and 75,000 will be inside the stadium. The other 75,000 will care far more about little Johnny's lamb and Aunt Susie's prize pickles, and they are probably the blessed ones in this deal.
David McWilliams, who as a Texas player, assistant coach and head coach, spent more time on the field of the Cotton Bowl Stadium as a participant in the football game matching Texas and Oklahoma than any other person, says the magic of the event is about momentum.
That is not necessarily earth shattering. Most games are.
But McWilliams maintains that the "karma," if you will, of this particular game, now officially the SBC Red River Rivalry, has to do with a unique ebb and flow that makes it unlike any other contest.
"The key," he has always said, "is to not get too high in the high moments, and too low in the low ones."
If there has ever been a game that conjured images of old-west "shootouts," and range wars between those who live north of the Red River and those who reside south, today's probably fits.
After all, isn't the most famous western movie of all time "High Noon," starring Gary Cooper?
And doesn't this thing kick off at 12 o'clock?
While there will be a lot of speculation about what will happen to the next few years of this series and what venues in which it will finally reside, it is appropriate today that we leave all of that for another time.
Today speaks to everything that has made college football what it is. It is a tribute to rich tradition, wound tightly with the emotions of what is, and what can be, in this particular moment.
Perhaps this game was best defined in its very early days by a Longhorn captain of German decent named Louis Jordan. Jordan was an immensely popular blond-haired guy who was recognized as the best Texas football player in first quarter century of Texas football.
In 1914. in a game played at Gaston Field, the Texas League baseball park in Dallas, Oklahoma's Hap Johnson ran the opening kickoff back 85 yards for a 7-0 Sooner lead. In those days, betting was allowed at games, and a lot of Oklahoma money went on the line immediately.
But Jordan gathered the Texas team around him, and as teammate Clyde Littlefield described it, "told us in no mincing words, with a few cuss words in German and some in English, 'nobody leaves this field until we beat the hell out of them.'"
Texas won the game, 32-7. The same eleven who started the game finished it.
What we saw then, and what we know now, is that this is a game of spirit, and a game about people. It is about a popcorn vendor and a ferris wheel rider; a red-clad fan with a Fletcher's corny dog and a cold drink...and a couple dressed in orange checking out the new cars in the exhibit hall.
Above all, it is about pride. It's about two teams and coaches and states and their people. It takes an Autumn Saturday afternoon and turns it into a glorious walk through a special part of Americana.
And when it is over, the red people or the orange people will be gone. It is funny how a specific color seems to disappear from the fairgrounds when the game ends.
What will remain will be the memories. The capsule view of life through a football game, played for the 100th time.