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Kicking off the New Year with an old tradition

Posted on Monday, January 7, 2019 at 5:03 pm

‘Toilet Bowl’ hits 55th anniversary


Since 1964, local men have faced the cold weather, wet fields and New Years hangovers to throw down in an annual game of football at the Old Monroe Toilet Bowl, held Jan. 1 every year.

The tradition simply started one year, said longtime participants Randy Henke, Joe Vehige, and John Reller, all of whom were out watching the game on Jan. 1, 2019.

At the time a group of guys had been playing ball on sundays in the fall, and they decided to have another game to mark the New Year. With names like Rose Bowl and Super Bowl already taken, calling the game the “Toilet Bowl” seemed to fit.

“We thought it was just about the worst one it could be,” Henke said. “So we called it the Toilet Bowl.”

Thanks to heavy rain around New Years, the field was sloppy with mud and the temperature was low for the most recent Toilet Bowl. Henke said he couldn’t remember the conditions that first year in 1964, but since the first kick-off 55 years ago, the game has weathered some rough conditions.

“We played some nasty [games],” Henke said. “Ice, we played on ice and everything. New Years day we played, if it was raining, we played. Sometimes we might not play near as long, but we played.”

One time it was so cold, Reller said that wine was freezing on the sidelines. It’s a game for the strong-willed, and for guys unafraid of a few bruises.

“We played when it was ice down here, I remember that because my legs hurt for about three weeks after that,” Vehige said.

Most of the games have happened at the Old Monroe Ballpark, but the Toilet Bowl has been played behind the Legion Hall or at a local church, depending on field conditions. Up to 30 players have shown up for the games in the past; in previous years, a separate kids game has even gone on alongside the adults’ match.

Many of the players come from all around as well. While he grew up in the area, Vehige lived in St. Charles for a time and still made it out to the game frequently. Some guys are friends outside the game, and others only see each other once per year.

“Some guys bring other friends along, then they come back the next year because they like it,” Henke said.

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