Byline: David Elfin
CARLISLE, Pa. - The "Welcome, Washington Redskins" sign is up again outside Rillo's. The Super Bowl XXVI championship plaque has been dusted off at the G-Man. The grass at Biddle Field is freshly mowed.
Bubba and the boys are coming back to town . . . Sunday.
The economy of this college town of 20,000 has survived quite nicely - thanks largely to car shows at the fairgrounds - since the Redskins jilted their summer home of 32 years and moved from Dickinson College to Maryland's Frostburg State University in 1995.
"Our business has greatly increased each month. June and July were very strong, so it's hard to say how much of a difference having the Redskins in town is going to make for us," said Heather Kattouf, general manager of the Comfort Suites in downtown Carlisle. "But we are offering a special Redskins rate for fans and media."
Neither Carlisle nor the Redskins, who broke their contract with Frostburg to train at Redskin Park last summer, were quite the same without each other.
It was in Carlisle, after all, where Vince Lombardi began the Redskins' renaissance in 1969, where George Allen turned them into contenders in 1971 and where Joe Gibbs molded three Super Bowl champions from 1982 to 1991.
"I always thought the Redskins would be back because this is where they trained when they were winning," said restaurateur Joe Rillo, whose parents used to feed coaches and players at their home when the business was closed on Sundays back in the 1960s.
Those were the days of six-week training camps, of boys will be boys hi-jinks, of innumerable rookies standing on chairs singing off-key renditions of college fight songs and of post-bed check exits out the back door of Adams Hall to the G-Man (officially the Gingerbread Man).
Today, training camp is half as long, there are only half as many rookies to harass and many of the millionaire veterans are too busy checking on their stock portfolios or too worried about staying in top shape to have much time for carousing in Carlisle.
But while cornerback Darrell Green, trainer Bubba Tyer and assistant general manager Bobby Mitchell are the only current Redskins employees who have summered at Dickinson, it might not take long for a new generation of Redskins to fall in love with Carlisle.
"This is where my career started, so to me this is the most beautiful place in the world," said Green, a 12-year Carlisle resident, on the eve of the Redskins' 1994 departure.
That feeling is mutual.
"When my husband and I were in Hawaii in 1983, we were asked where we were from, and we were proud to say that we were from Carlisle, Pennsylvania , summer home of the Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins," said Arlene Merisotis, owner of George's Subs and Pizza, just down High Street from Dickinson.
"It's fun when you see houses down the street from yours on ESPN," said G-Man manager Dan Miller, who fondly remembers Redskins greats Russ Grimm and Dave Butz as regulars at the establishment. "Having the Redskins and their fans here enhances the quality of life just by having a more metropolitan crowd for a month."
And the Redskins, who considered William & Mary, Gettysburg and Richmond among other colleges before coming back to Dickinson, know that they're in good hands. …