“Scooter” Wilson was “Liquid Dynamite” for Alton Football, Track
Gerald Wilson was elusive and electrifying scoring 10 touchdowns on punt returns in two seasons with Alton Redbird’s football in 1967-68.
“The kid’s liquid dynamite,” said Redbirds trainer Ed Yonkus in the fall of ’68.
An Alton Telegraph article once compared Wilson to a scooter “because it was so fast and so fast,” recalls his sister Brenda Williams-Cannon.
Liquid dynamite never stuck. Scooter lasted a lifetime.
“He kept Scooter all the way,” said Williams-Cannon with a laugh. “He was always Gerald ‘Scooter’ Wilson. And many of his friends who played on the team, Oscar Wallace and a few others, still call him Scooter. “
Gerald ‘Scooter’ Wilson died on January 23rd at the age of 69 after a long illness. His greatest success was the family with four daughters and three sons, who gave him 17 grandchildren, 48 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.
But his legacy as an athlete earned a Hall of Fame plaque on the wall at Alton High School. Wilson may not be remembered as Liquid Dynamite, but he was definitely dynamic.
In press cuttings, the words were often used as “small” and “Flitzer” before the name Gerald (Scooter) Wilson. He was both.
The listed weights for the 5-foot-7 halfback ranged from 140 to 155 pounds. As a senior he hurried more than 1,000 meters, but the scooter’s calling card was the return.
“My mom tells the story that he was always quick,” said Williams-Cannon. “He didn’t run, he ran when he was nine months old. Just a born athlete. “
For two seasons as a junior and senior, Wilson routinely returned punts for TDs, including a 90-yarder in a 42-0 win over Edwardsville. With Wilson behind quarterback Mike Jefferies, “a good family friend” as Wilson-Cannon calls him, Alton Football took a 9-0-1 lead in 1968 to his first undefeated season since an 8-0-1 win in the Year 1939.
The only sister – another died as a child – in a family of eight brothers loves the memories of Scooter and the Redbirds.
“Alton High Football, I remember very well the year they went 9-0-1,” said Williams-Cannon, who lives in Champaign. “I remember every soccer game.”
Wilson’s last fight with the Redbirds came on November 18, 1968 when Alton defeated St. Louis CBC 34-19 in a public school stadium she was packing up for AHS football, including 6,500 spectators watching the Redbirds Marquette Catholic 60-0 when Scooter was a junior.
With a 7-1-1 record in 1967, the 16-1-1 mark in the fall of ’67 -68 is the most successful biennium in more than 100 years of Redbirds football. And after the season finale 68 against the Cadets, the coach made sure the city of Alton knew.
“We’re going to go straight down Broadway and let this town know that we just wrapped it up unbeaten,” Yonkus said, yelling at Telegraph sports writers Jim Bell and Don Plarski, who were invited to Redbirds for an impromptu parade of two buses and a police escort.
Wilson continued to play college football with the Salukis in southern Illinois, where he set a school record for punt returns. And he went to Carbondale as state champion from Alton.
The 1960s was a glorious decade for Alton athletics. The Redbirds won state championships in a row from 1963-64. They added a third in 1969.
Wallace set a state record and took first place in the long jump with a jump of 24 feet (6.25 inches). Sophomore Gale Murphy finished third in both the 100 and 220 yard sprints, and Milton Johnson finished third in the 440.
Scooter scored its points in the seasons. Alton won the State Championship in the 880 season, with Jim Scruggs, Wilson, Wallace and Murphy lapping the track twice in 1: 28.4. The Redbirds’ mile relay took second place while Wilson drove the third lap behind Charles Ross and Roger Bower before handing the baton on to Johnson.
These are some of the achievements that made its Hall of Fame plaque at AHS for its launch in 2016.
“We were so proud of course,” said Williams-Cannon about her brother’s admission to the fifth grade in the hall. “Some of us asked why it took so long. I felt that. But Scooter was very proud of it, very happy. He has great-grandchildren who still live in Alton and grandchildren who watch this and know we are coming here. This is your legacy. You can tell your friends, yes this is my grandpa, this is my great grandfather. It means a lot. “
Wilson raised his family in the Alton area. He sought a better climate for his poor health and spent his final years in Houston.
Gerald ‘Scooter’ Wilson would have turned 70 on Wednesday. Instead, February 3rd will bring a virtual memorial service with COVID-19 restrictions preventing a crowd from gathering to remember and honor Scooter. A celebration of life is planned in Alton if conditions permit.
Stories of Scooter Wilson, the athlete, are told. His sister remembers the brother.
“How easy it was to talk to him. And he was listening, ”said Williams-Cannon. “Wisdom, sage. He was that kind of person. He had a sense of humor. He will be missed. “