By JULIE LAVENDER
Special to the Herald
Three men were recognized at the end of the first quarter on Nov. 30 during Georgia Southern’s 38-10 victory for having front row seats to Eagle home football games since the re-birth of Georgia Southern football in the early 80s.
Although, technically, no seats were involved, and the men pulled chains up and down the sidelines for each game.
Fred Page Jr., Vick Page and Johnny Tremble were honored as the Georgia Southern Eagle football team’s original “Chain Crew.” Tremble’s retirement after the 2018 season from the Chain Crew meant the last of the original three members was stepping down. Fred Page stepped down in 2001 and his brother, Vick, retired from the Chain Crew in 2009.
Brothers Fred and Vick, along with Tremble, began their Chain Crew career even before Coach Erk Russell came on the scene. All three men pulled chains for Statesboro High School football games during the late 70s or early 80s. When Russell came to Georgia Southern in 1981, he asked Fred Page to put together a three-man chain crew for the newly-revised football program.
Thus began a longstanding friendship between the Pages, Tremble and Russell with the formation of the original Chain Crew.
The passion the three-man crew feel Georgia Southern and the football program is remarkable and is accompanied by their rich history with the university.
Triple Eagle Fred Page begins career as teacher
Fred Page began his professional career with GS as a sixth grade teacher with the Marvin Pittman Laboratory School. Later, he served with Johnny Tremble as a co-administrator of the school and then hired in Georgia Southern’s College of Education, where he held a multitude of professional and administrative roles. His last two roles for his alma mater, which he loved passionately, were that of director of Field Experiences and associate dean of the College of Education.
Once the football program landed at Georgia Southern, Fred was deemed the official “Official” of the Georgia Southern football officials for games, and for the next 20 years, he proudly donned his black and white attire on game Saturdays to prepare for his unique opportunity to be in charge of both the Chain Crew and the GS officials.
Whether during humble beginnings on the fields of Statesboro High School or on the fields of Paulson Stadium, Fred, with help from his wife Christie, provided snacks, drinks and meals to the football officials prior to the games. Christie remembers that officials often said that no other college or university provided them with the graciousness and southern hospitality that Dr. Fred Page and Georgia Southern provided them.
Unfortunately, a severe closed head injury in 1999 occurring on the sidelines and another similar injury two years later forced Fred to become a spectator of the job he so fondly began with Russell. In December of 2016, Fred was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. Because of this illness, he was unable to join his colleagues at Saturday’s game; however, his heart will forever remain on the sidelines of Paulson Stadium, his wife said.
Emeritus Fred Page is married to Christie Page and has three sons, Fred Page
III, John Page and Chase Page and two stepsons, Haze Smith and Bailey
Fred spoke often about being part of the Chain Crew.
“I had the best seat in the house. It put me in a great position to see all of the big plays up close. I got to work with my brother, Vick, at every home game, and later, I got to work with my other brother, Will," he said.
Fred has fond memories of his Chain Crew tenure and said one of the highlights was driving the officials from Hanner Fieldhouse to Paulson Stadium, with police escorts, and then getting the officials back to Hanner after the game.
Fred quipped, “It was vitally important to get the officials off the field as quickly as possible, especially if our fans deemed them the reason we lost the game," he said.
"Being on the Chain Crew at Georgia Southern meant you were a member of the best little football team in South Georgia and beyond,” he added.
Eagle pride runs in the family
Growing up playing sports with Statesboro-Bulloch Parks and Recreation, Vick Page, Fred’s brother, remembers attending GS baseball and basketball games on campus while just a young child. Vick, like his brother Fred, served as a bat boy during GS baseball games, prior to the revision of the football team.
Vick said that it was a privilege for him to pull the chains that helped determine first downs for the game.
“I enjoyed being on the Chain Crew especially because of the people I worked with. All of us loved sports, making it a special camaraderie from day one,” he said.
Working with his brother Fred, and later, brother Will, was also a highlight of the job.
“Being on the Chain Crew was the best seat in the house,” Vick said. “We had a close-up view of the action on the field, and I enjoyed the interactions between players, coaches and officials.”
Vick said one of his slightly unnerving memories of his tenure on the Chain Crew took place during the 1989 championship game.
With a packed Paulsen Stadium crowd of 25,000-plus fans, Georgia Southern pulled off a win to cap a perfect 15-0 season. Vick said, “I will never forget trying to get off the field after the game. The students stormed the field running at full speed. It was truly scary trying to dodge them and not get trampled by them. When I got into the officials van, I looked back at the stadium and I could see the goal posts coming down.”
Vick also remembers with fondness the number of people that were willing to show up in torrential rain to attend what fans like to call the “Hugo Bowl” during Hurricane Hugo.
“It was a blessing to be a small part of Georgia Southern football and to watch their incredible journey from restarting football in 1981 to winning national championships so quickly,” he said. “There is no better place to be on a fall Saturday than the prettiest little stadium in America.”
Georgia Southern pride flourishes in the Vick Page household, too, as his wife of 43 years, Nancy, is a graduate of GS, as is his daughter, Nancy Lee. Retired from Spartan Nash Company after 42 years, Vick, along with his wife and daughter, enjoy exploring national parks as often as possible.
Immersed in GS on and off the field
The last of the original three Chain Crew members to “retire” from the sidelines, Johnny Tremble, has a resumé that bleeds Georgia Southern, too.
Johnny first worked at Marvin Pittman Laboratory School, on the GS campus, as a graduate assistant and then later taught math and science until he was named as principal in 1979.
During his tenure as principal of Marvin Pittman, the school provided all of the field service experiences for students in the School of Education at Georgia Southern College and University.
The year Marvin Pittman closed, 1998, Johnny was named “Alumnus of the Year” for GS’s College of Education. The following year, he became principal of Langston Chapel Middle School and served there until his retirement in 2005. Not finished professionally just yet, Tremble then taught middle grade education for nine years in the College of Education at Georgia Southern.
His chain pulling at SHS started slightly later than his colleagues Fred and Vick and began when his son Anthony played football there in 1980. Johnny is also the father of Michael and has five granddaughters.
A lifetime football fan, he agreed with his colleagues that working as a Chain Crew member allowed him to be close to the action of the football game.
Johnny said that the friendship with fellow Chain Crew members was an invaluable part of his job.
“Additionally, I have developed lifelong relationships with some of the Georgia Southern football players, as well as some of the coaches,” he said. “At times Coach Russell would ask me to provide support for some of his recruits considering Georgia Southern.”
Johnny says his decision to step down from the Chain Crew wasn't an easy one to make.
“My decision to step away from the Chain Crew and the current and formal relationships I have developed over a period of more than 35 years was difficult for me; however, I knew it was time for me to do so," he said.
Johnny had the unique opportunity of providing hospitality to new football players, also, through a short-lived program called “Eagle Wing,” in which host families provided a home-away-from-home atmosphere for the players.
“Eagle Wing brought great joy to the host parents. Among the football players who were assigned to my wife and me, football great Tracy Ham was our Eagle Wing player. His success on the field during his college football career made us feel as if he was our biological son. He made us proud,” he said.
In addition to being an original Chain Crew member, Johnny kept stats for Eagle basketball games for four years, served on the search committee for the hiring of head football coach Paul Johnson, has been a Southern Boosters/Eagle Fund member since the inception of the athletics program and served on the Board of Directors for one term.
On the field and off, the original Eagle football Chain Crew are true blue Georgia Southern ambassadors.