Bill Dye, Ed Bradley, Gene Pambianchi, Jim Garry, Tom Palmer

The 1949 Dixie Bowl

Some amazing artifacts that just arrived at the museum seem to have virtually time-traveled straight from a mid-century Dixie Bowl match-up between the Demon Deacons and the Baylor Bears! The game was played at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama on January 1, 1949. Regrettably, Wake Forest College was not victorious. Baylor won 20-7.

But today, the Wake Forest Historical Museum couldn’t be happier to share the incredible football memorabilia donated by the family of Gene Pambianchi (WFC ’50), who was a 20-year-old left guard in that thrilling game. The six-foot junior from Phillipsburg, New Jersey played under legendary Coach Peahead Walker. Several remarkable items include his gold football jersey, the white wool sweater he wore in the Lettermen photograph taken for the Dixie Bowl program, and the program itself. All are in pristine condition and together comprise a significant addition to the museum’s collection. The Wake Forest College Birthplace Society is most grateful to the Pambianchi family for choosing to donate these items.

It’s a happy coincidence the museum has also just been selected by the Smithsonian Institution and the North Carolina Humanities Council to host a 2015 traveling exhibition titled, Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America. Appearing at the Wake Forest Historical Museum from April 16-May 31, 2015, the exhibit combines elements of Americana, athletic artifacts, sports stories, and local history to paint a vivid picture of the way games have influenced our culture.

As the Smithsonian Institution says:

“Sports are an indelible part of our culture and community. For well over one hundred years sports have reflected the trials and triumphs of the American experience and helped shape our national character. Whether it’s professional sports, or those played on the collegiate or scholastic level, amateur sports or sports played by kids on the local playground, the plain fact is sports are everywhere in America.

Our love of sports begins in our hometowns–on the sandlot, at the local ball field, in the street. Americans play sports everywhere. We play pick-up games and organized league games. Each weekend, hundreds of thousands of Americans participate in some sport, on some level. We win and we lose, and we yearn to play another day.

And if we’re not playing, we’re watching: in the stands, on the fields with our sons and daughters, or in our living rooms with friends in front of a television. Football, baseball, and basketball capture our attention most, but more and more, other non-traditional sports vie for our time and support. On any given weekend in America, sports are a big part of what we do.”

Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America is part of Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and the North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress.

Dixie Bowl Players
Dixie Bowl Players


  1. What made this particular game so “thrilling” ? Did it have an historical significance in college football?

    1. Hello Virginia! This was a pretty big deal for Wake Forest… the 1948 Wake Forest College football team finished the regular season 6–3, and this invitation marked the first time WFC played in the Dixie Bowl. It was only their second bowl game ever, in fact. More importantly for the museum, we received a generous donation of artifacts from the family of Gene Pambianchi, which allowed us to create some exciting new athletic exhibits while we hosted the Smithsonian Institution’s “Hometown Teams.”

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