As a six-year-old boy, Burr Odell cheered on the Husky football team in its first-ever game at Husky Stadium—a 28-7 loss to Dartmouth in 1920. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, as Odell went on to cheer for the Huskies for another 90 years until his passing in December 2010.
Odell’s family believes he could have been the last living person to attend the Dartmouth game in 1920. He followed the UW all his life and talked about that game right up to the end, they said. All told, Odell attended roughly 330 Husky football games, including six Rose Bowls in Pasadena.
Above, cars surround Husky Stadium on the day of its opening in 1920.
Odell and his father went to the Dartmouth game in support of the visitors, not the Huskies. Together, they walked across the temporary “pontoon” bridge that was later replaced by the Montlake Bridge, to the brand new Husky football stadium. It was familiar territory for Odell’s father, whose construction company had poured the concrete on the sides of the Montlake Cut a few years earlier.
Students wearing purple and gold hats formed a giant “W” in the stands, and they swayed side to side with the music played by the UW band. Gov. Louis F. Hart, UW President Henry Suzzallo, and a few other dignitaries spoke to the crowd during a short dedication of the stadium. Soldiers from Camp Lewis fired a salute from a 75-millimeter cannon as a seaplane swooped over the field.
After the game, Odell asked his father why the crowd was so upset. He was astounded to hear that most of the fans had favored the Huskies. His father’s loyalty to a fellow Ivy League school—he graduated from Cornell—far outweighed his loyalty to the UW, where he was instrumental in establishing the crew team here nearly 20 years before. Mark Odell rowed on Cornell’s famous crew of 1897 and coached the Huskies in the early 1900s.
Despite his father’s Ivy League roots, Odell entered the University of Washington at the age of 15 in 1929. He dropped out after one quarter but returned four years later and graduated a proud Husky in 1937. Odell went on to earn his wings as a blimp pilot in 1942, and he later worked for Boeing. Read his obituary in the Seattle Times.
Special thanks to the Odell family.