Carroll Everard "Deke" Houlgate
By Deke Houlgate II
The original Deke Houlgate, my dad, moved around the country frequently as a "Preacher's Kid," son of the Rev. Joseph Everard Houlgate and Gertrude Emma Houlgate. He had an older sister, Louise Emma Houlgate, who became a school teacher after graduating first from University of California Southern Branch (now known as UCLA) and earning her teacher's credential at University of Southern California. A younger brother died as a child in his fourth or fifth year and young Carroll had a sickly young life, which he overcame with a devotion to
sports as he grew.
In high school at Ventura, Calif., he couldn't turn out for football, which wasn't offered. So he turned out for track and field. He set a school record in the 440-yard dash which wasn't broken for 30 years and was offered a track scholarship at the University of Southern California. He ultimately turned that down, because he had elected to write for the school newspaper. the Daily Trojan, instead.
Deke Houlgate, Football Statistician/Historian
The "stigma" of being a preacher's kid followed him to college, however, and his first byline in the Daily Trojan turned out to be "by Deacon Houlgate." He decided right then to make his pen name "Deke," and to drop all his given names of "Carroll" and "Everard." The name "Carroll" turned up in a Los Angeles newspaper when it reported an athletic feat he performed on the streets of Los Angeles, recorded by the LAPD. He witnessed the theft of a grocery bag from a middle aged lady pedestrian and took off in pursuit of the thief. After a three block chase he tackled the miscreant, recovered the groceries and was hailed as a hero by officers who followed the chase.
Deke Jr. (left), Deke Sr., (center) & Dottie Houlgate (right)
Houlgate had no more heroics during college, busying himself with part time jobs driving a cab, working as a hotel desk clerk and other odd jobs to finish SC. He met a coed studying pre-law, Dottie Penry of Fort Worth, Tex., and their romance led to marriage in 1928, officiated by Rev. Joseph E. Houlgate, his father, at the church he most recently built in Redondo Beach, Calif. At the time of his wedding, Houlgate was working as a proofreader at the Los Angeles Times. Soon thereafter he applied for a job in publicity and was hired at the Southern California Gas Company. This led to a promotion to special representative for the American Gas Association, representing the gas industry in Hollywood's fast growing entertainment industry. During the Great Depression, when many of his school chums and other friends in the newspaper business were unemployed or struggling along on a few dollars a week, Houlgate was one of the few among his peers who was employed full time. In that period the Houlgate friends met weekly at his home and brought the ingredients for a dish called Slumgullion. Houlgate supplied the beer and the stove where Slumgullion was concocted. Years later the friends looked back on those parties, where some of them experienced the only complete meal of the week, with pride.
During this period Houlgate compiled a statistical tome he titled "1,001 Scores." He also teamed with a friend named Nat Spieler to create a weekly football tip sheet, titled "Monday Morning Quarterback." After World War II ended he sold the rights to that title to J. G. Taylor Spink, publisher of Sporting News. For his rights to
the title, he took out an ad for his soon-to-be life work, "The Football Thesaurus."
"Monday Morning Quarterback" grew quickly into a sponsored tip sheet titled "7-Up Football Form & Digest," which he co-publshed with Bill Durwin of Pacific Palisades, Calif. The 7-Up paper, in tabloid form, was needed by the bottlers of 7-Up, which were excluded from bars and restaurants by union-supported truck drivers, who protected Coca-Cola brands. The 7-Up strategy was to bypass the bars when they could and place the products in liquor stores and markets. Eventually, a lot of bars and restaurants fell in line, due to the popularity of "7-Up Football Form & Digest." That tabloid expanded its name to "Deke Houlgate's 7-Up Football Form & Digest."
Houlgate had a staff that kept the readers informed and entertained. Starting with a young cartoonist at the Los Angeles Herald-Express named Karl Hubenthal, the Football Form added Maxwell Stiles, a former sportswriter at the Los Angeles Examiner, Lee and Martha Bastajian, turf writers at the Daily News, and others. That was the staff, but most of the work was performed by Deke and Dottie Houlgate, who made up the publication at the offices of the West Los Angeles Independent on Saturday night into the wee hours Sunday.
The publication began in 1937 and continued through 1942. By that time Deke Houlgate had been inducted into the Army Air Corps as a First Lieutenant.
It was only a matter of time before the 7-Up sponsors would seek another publisher. Houlgate's long time friend, Bill Schroeder of Helms Hall, took over the publication and continued it through the rest of the war. Houlgate continued his rating system, which was separate from the Football Form, and by 1945 was ready to publish "The Football Thesaurus," a complete statistical history of college football. Houlgate was released from the Army Air Corps in 1945 with the rank of major.
During his time in the Army Air Corps, Houlgate had several unique assignments. The first was as advance man for Sgt. Gene Autry, who enlisted in the Army in violation of his contract with P. K. Wrigley Chewing Gum Co., sponsor of his Sunday evening radio show. The Air Corps worked out a compromise that called for Autry to tour military bases in the U. S., giving performances for the GI's and sailors during the week and remote his Wrigley show from another base on the weekend. Houlgate and Autry, whose fame as a team owner came when he ran the Los Angeles Angels, became lifelong friends on that tour. Later, when Major Houlgate was operating the PR arm of the Western Flying Training Command in Santa Ana, Calif., he was prevailed on to do a special assignment at the Pentagon. On that tour he revamped the Women's Army Corps and created a PR campaign for low-flying B-24 bombers, which graduate pilots wouldn't sign up to fly in combat. His final assignment was to hype "Winged Victory," the Army Air Corps movie premiered just before the end of the war.
During his days with the American Gas Association, before induction into the Army Air Corps, he originated the phrase, "Now, you're cooking with gas!" and planted it with Bob Hope's writers. They, in turn, wrote it into one of his radio scripts and put it into the mouth of comedian Jerry Calonna, who made it nationally famous.
Offstage with Bob Hope
After the war Houlgate resumed his career at the American Gas Association, but soon left that position to concentrate on promoting his book, "Football Thesaurus," and his rating system. During the early postwar period he helped sportswriter John B. Old develop a basketball team that allowed periplegic veterans to play in their wheelchairs. That later was expanded to include all victims of missing limbs in every sport. Houlgate's friends in the Army Air Corps elicited his help with several projects, including the development of Air Force Academy sports on the same level with Army and Navy sports. Paul Helms, founder of Helms Athletic Foundation, elicited Houlgate to support athletic expansion in place of the typical statues commemorating war heroes.
Around 1950 or 1951, Houlgate hooked up with an SC alumnus, Bob Fluor of Fluor Corporation, an engineering company that built refineries and pipelines in the Middle East. Fluor decided to use Deke's football facts and figures to build a newsletter around. It was called the Fluor Forecaster. Fluor hired an artist, Harold Bordelon, to sketch his head shot that was used on the cover. The newsletter was angled toward keeping in touch with his key employees and customers around the world. Nearly all of them were college graduates and had ties to their alma maters.
Houlgate's funeral in 1959 was indicative of his influence in the world of sports. His pallbearers were all sports columnists and editors of leading Los Angeles newspapers.