October 6, 2017


   If you Google the phrase, "Benny Scott Run of the Year" you will find a video showing one of the most incredible punt returns in College Bowl game and even football history. The year was 1949 and the game was the “Pasadena Bowl,” also known as the "Junior Rose Bowl." The Little Rock Trojans' undefeated season led them to the California bowl game, and thanks to Benny's amazing run a crowd of almost 34,000 watched the Little Rock Junior College Trojans beat the Santa Ana Dons by a score of 29- 19.

   Benny Scott, who now lives in Independence, hails from a town called Smackover, Arkansas, growing up in a large family of athletes. By the time Benny made the famous touchdown his older brother Clyde had already won a silver medal in the 1948 Olympics for the 110-meter hurdles, played track and football for the University of Arkansas and the U.S. Naval Academy, and was playing halfback for the Philadelphia Eagles.

But on December 10, 1949, it was Benny Scott who was the family and the nation’s football hero. As told the next day by the San Bernardino County Sun newspaper:

"The big thrill of the day was a punt return by Benny (Little Smackover) Scott, Little Rock's 127-lb safety man and brother of pro football's Clyde (Big Smackover) Scott. Benny fielded a punt on his own 25 and scampered back to his 15, reversed himself three times as the Santa Ana Dons began to decorate the turf, and finally cut loose with an 85 yard run and a touchdown that sent his mates into the fore, 19-12. "

   During their trip to California the Benny and the Trojans were given VIP treatment on the Hollywood Scene by leading celebrities like John Wayne and a bevy of pretty girls.

   But Benny wasn’t just some talented college athlete. In 1943 Benny Scott went to war. Two Navy ships set sail from San Diego, California, one for the Navy and one for the Army. The Army ship sunk but Benny was in the Navy and his ship made it to his duty station in the Aleutian Islands. For a whole week they headed due north to an ice box called Amaknak Island where "you will never get a hot beer." The Army had just run the Japanese off which ended for them in a suicide charge. They would never be back and for over two years Benny and his fellow American service men would subsist on a diet of lamb.

   Benny’s job was as a crew member in a U.S. Navy PBY, an amphibious aircraft (flying boat) designed in the 1930s, also known as a Catalina. The PBY was a two engine patrol boat used to spot enemy submarines and sink them, both in the Atlantic and the Pacific theaters of operation, with a crew of five led by a lieutenant who was the pilot. There was also the co-pilot and three 50 caliber machine guns; every ten rounds was a tracer. One gun was on either side with one in the tail. Benny was the gunner on the port side (left).

   The job of hunting Japanese submarines was a flight of several hours at 130 mph. If a sub was spotted bombs would dispatch them. One problem was that the alcohol needed to precipitate an explosion had sometimes been consumed by the ground crew, making the bombs inert; a dud.

   Luckily the Japanese didn’t want the Aleutians and so there wasn’t much war going on there. These men needed some form of recreation. Gambling took that role. The Army had a casino but the Navy wasn’t allowed so the Navy set up their own and almost every night enjoyed games of chance. The black market supplied the booze smuggled from Alaska. $5 worth bought there could sell for $50 if you didn’t get caught. There was a 3 beer a day limit with no exceptions unless you were an officer.

   After almost three years of freezing in the Aleutians, Benny returned to San Diego to become a civilian again. As Charles Dickens said, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” After five years of war 14 million men and women could get back to the things that were more important -- like the Baby Boom.

    Once again a citizen Benny's first job was with the Standard Oil Co. in El Dorado, Arkansas. In 1948 Benny enrolled at the Little Rock Junior College, excelling in track and field, winning many honors including the heart of his wife of over 60 years, Helen Cecile.

   Soon the responsibilities of raising a family caused him to leave college and move back to El Dorado, Arkansas where he returned to work for Standard Oil. When that refinery shut down in 1970 Benny was transferred to the Amoco Refinery in Sugar Creek and retired as a supervisor ten years later.

It’s been 35 years since Benny Scott retired, and at the age of 92 he is still an athlete, playing golf every Wednesday, followed by beer at Dr. Pikls.

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