It has been more than 50 years since that foggy night in Toledo, Ohio, when a Cal Poly fullback from Madera High School climbed into a twin-engine C-46 with the rest of the team. As Don O’Meara got in and took his seat in the forward section of the cargo-turned-charter plane, he looked around at the 47 other passengers — teammates, coaches, and supporters.
Nobody was doing much talking; the Bowling Green football team had just given them a 50-6 drubbing. Of course, by now the California team was used to losing. Cal Poly opened the season at Brigham Young University and lost by a score of 34-14. The Mustangs then came home to defeat San Diego State 34-6 and then suffered three straight losses to Montana State, Fresno State, and Long Beach State. That set the stage for the shellacking by Bowling Green on October 29, 1960. It was a humiliating experience.
For more than an hour, the plane sat on the end of the runway as the pilots tried to decide whether to take off in the heavy fog. We will never know what Don was thinking about during that time, but it probably was not football. It most likely was his wife, Karen, whom he had met when they were students at Santa Rosa Junior College and later married. He could have also been thinking about his hometown of Madera. After all, there is where his roots were.
Don was the son of Michael and Melissa O’Meara; he had been born in the Sanitarium on Yosemite Avenue in 1935. He was baptized at St. Joachim’s Catholic Church and received his first communion there in 1942. After his confirmation in 1947, he graduated from St. Joachim’s School in 1948...