Bert Gissler played end for the Cornhuskers from 1941 through 1944. He is part of a select few Huskers who played for three different coaches in four years during World War II. This interview was done by David Max on April 20th, 2012 in Stromsburg, NE. More pictures are at this link.
DM: Where are you from originally?
BG: I was born in Osceola. I graduated from high school there and played football and basketball.
DM: What year did you graduate from high school?
DM: Why did you pick Nebraska?
BG: I wasn't an outstanding athlete, but there were about half a dozen businessmen in Osceola who encouraged me to go to Nebraska. A lawyer in Osceola took me down to Lincoln to meet some people, which of course I appreciated. I didn't have that much recognition in high school. I was from a small town, but I did get All-State honorable mention.
DM: Did you have a scholarship at Nebraska or did you pay your own tuition?
BG: I went on my own.
DM: Do you remember how much tuition was?
BG: Boy, no! I don't remember. I do remember that the programs they sold at the games were 25 cents. How much are they now?
DM: They're five dollars.
DM: What position did you play at Nebraska?
BG: I played defensive left end and offensive right end.
DM: Did the offense at Nebraska at the time throw the ball a lot?
BG: I caught a few passes. Not an excessive amount. One of those scrapbooks shows a play that was laid out where I made a touchdown. We had the ball on our 49 yard line and I caught it on the 35 yard line and ran it in for the touchdown. It was against Kansas State.
DM: (Bert kept a scrapbook of newspaper articles and other Husker memorabilia for each year he played football at UNL.)
DM: You played for three coaches in four years. Biff Jones was your coach in 1941. What was he like?
BG: He was kind of a demanding person. He expected you to do your best. He was a nice fellow. I had good coaches.
DM: Glenn Presnell was your coach in 1942. What was he like?
BG: I liked all of our coaches. He was a good fellow. He was quite a professional player. I don't remember for sure whom he played for.
DM: Adolph J. Lewandowski was your coach in 1943 and '44. What was he like?
BG: He was more of a general person. Of all the coaches, he did the most for me. He was not demanding. If you made a mistake he didn't lay into you. He just accepted it.
DM: Describe what a road trip was like in 1941 or '42 after the war started?
BG: One trip was to Pittsburgh and we went by train. It probably took a couple of days to go out and a couple of days to come home. I'm guessing but the travel squad was about 35 or 40 players.
DM: Did you have a job while you were playing football?
BG: I worked at the Coliseum where they played basketball. I was in the cage and the male students would come and work out. I gave them baskets for their street clothes. Coach Lewandowski personally took me to the Coliseum and helped me get that job. I could study when I worked there. I also worked at the track with the athletic trainer. His name was Alonzo Cornell. I gave the athletes rubdowns after their practices. I also worked in the State Capitol on the 13th floor doing custodial work. Then I took care of the rats in the biology department. I got bit by a few of them. My folks didn't have any extra money and that was why I had to work. My dad did give me a calf. I took care of it and sold the cow at the Omaha Stockyards for $99. I didn't get anything from the athletic department. When I wanted to go home on the weekends, I would hitchhike. I would go to O Street and put out my thumb and have no problem getting a ride. I had a big red N on the side of my suitcase, which made it easy. Today you couldn't do that.
DM: When you played at Nebraska about how many fans were in the stands?
BG: Around 10,000. They just had the east and west sides and no end zone seats.
DM: What do you remember about Al Zikmund?
BG: He is a fine fellow. He was a running back on sweeps. He had speed.
DM: What do you remember about Forrest Behm?
BG: He was a tackle and we roomed in the same house. He was quite a knowledgeable person.
DM: What year did you graduate from Nebraska?
BG: 1946 (January)
DM: What did you do after graduation? Did you try out for any professional teams?
BG: No, I didn't. My football was done when I graduated from the University. I really liked football, but I figured it was time to go to work. I was not interested in pro ball. I got letters from the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, and New York Giants. I went to work as an assistant supervisor in a bicycle parts plant in Kentucky. I had a girlfriend back in Nebraska and things were going pretty well for us and we got married on July 22, 1946. I was in insurance for 57 years. It was tough when I lost Velma in 2004.
DM: Your nephew, Dean, is also a Husker. Did you watch him play?
BG: Yes, I did. It got tougher for me to attend games as the years went by. The players sure are a lot stronger.
DM: Do you watch the team play now?
BG: Yes, I do. I wear my number 10 jersey for every game.
DM: What do you think about the current state of the Huskers?
BG: The coaching staff is doing a fine job. I don't know if we will win a National Championship any time soon.
DM: Bert, thank you for sharing your Husker memories with us.
More interviews are at this link.