*Included in the summer-long exhibition at Union Station of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's history of the game is a substantial collection of Kansas City Chiefs artifacts dating back to the earliest days of the franchise and the creation of the American Football League by team owner Lamar Hunt *
Over the next couple of weeks, we'll identify some of what fans and long-time football enthusiasts might call "treasures" – some never seen by the general public before the exhibition's opening this past Memorial Day weekend. The exhibition, which traces the history of the game from its roots, is open daily at Union Station and closes September 7.
"The Huddle Club"
Kansas City Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt was never one to rely totally on formal studies – although he read many of them and authorized the completion of more than a few – preferring to make decisions much of the time on instinct, how he felt or what he perceived to be a fan's interest. He acknowledged as much at the occasion of his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Hunt believed from the start that success of his new league would come in time and from a far younger audience than the one the NFL was attracting. Hence, the creation of his "Huddle Club" first in Dallas and later in Kansas City when he moved his team here in 1963.
A Huddle Club membership in Dallas cost $1 for youngsters of junior high age or below entitling them to admission to any home game, a membership card, and a tee-shirt. Many of these artifacts are part of the Gridiron Glory exhibit currently at Union Station in downtown Kansas City. The goal, Hunt said, "was to have every child in the area in a Texans Huddle Club shirt." The goal remained the same after the franchise set up shop in Missouri, and at the Gridiron Glory exhibit opening more than a few older visitors shared happy memories with their friends from their days as fellow club members.
This was a different time. As a child, entertainment came cheap. Kids didn't need much and, believe it or not, something as simple as a membership card was a big deal to a youth in the early 1960s. It meant he or she belonged.
Kids played sandlot games in those days, had fewer organized teams or leagues to belong to, saw coming to a professional football game as something special – often unreachable for someone so young.
But Hunt knew a child's passion for sports first-hand. He had been passionate for the games from an early age, collected photos (like the one found in the exhibit containing autographs of Len Dawson and Fred Arbanas), kept stat sheets, and anything else he could gather from a team he favored. Moreover, a child's interest in football paved the way for a parent's interest, or so he believed.
Huddle Club members sat in one end zone in the Cotton Bowl. When the team moved to Kansas City the perks from the earliest days of the club came with it.
Today, those kids continue to follow the Chiefs but as grown season ticket holders, proof positive that Hunt had it right all along. The items included in the case are courtesy of former Huddle Club member Jack Monath.
If you go
The Huddle Club case may be found as you round the curve of the Chiefs section of Union Station's Gridiron Glory along with artifacts from the Wolfpack, another Hunt creation.