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October 25th, 2011

Published by: mooresb

A Sporting Life By Richard H. Evans October 25th, 2011

When not concentrating on academics, University School students devoted many happy hours to athletic activities of every variety. Of course, whether it was grade school, high school, college and beyond, football was King. It was no different at the school located on the Ohio State University campus at the corner of Woodruff and High Streets, in Columbus, Ohio. The school lacked a playing field and proper practice facilities, so the team enjoyed privileges at several Ohio State University venues. Each morning and afternoon, the football players would descend upon the natatorium building for both playbook class work and full dress practices. It was generally cool in those early mornings, and the grass was wet with dew. But, it was a daily ritual driving to the campus, and invariably a Jo Stafford song of the day would be playing on the car radio. Unfortunately, by the end of the season I had accumulated a glove compartment full of parking tickets, that nearly prevented my sister from graduating from O.S.U., since the car was registered in her name. But that was worked out with the bursar, in time for her graduation. Our coach was the popular William O. Williams, known for his outstanding character and high moral values, which he instilled in all of his students. Many hours were spent in the classroom studying the football plays and carefully diagramming the play patterns, which each player kept in a notebook. Safety and hygiene were also class topics worthy of discussion by Coach Williams. Somehow, with his biology background and knowledge, the subject of disease from pork was brought up in relationship with knee problems. When asked what the disease was called, I shouted out "trichinosis" (caused by eating undercooked pork), which proved to be correct. Surprisingly, it was recently announced that researchers now have a theory, based on known symptoms, that this same disease may have caused the death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at the age of 35 in 1791 (Lindsey Tanner, Associated Press, 6/11/01).

the Battelle Institute on King Avenue. Bob Butche and myself would usually huff and puff ourselves down and back, only to find out that the team was already in a huddle and running plays by the time we returned. Jack Williams (54), son of the coach, was quarterback and wore low-slung cleated shoes. It seems like the rest of the team wore klunky high-top shoes, the style of the times. My family had recently purchased a new pair of shoes for me to wear. After a few times using them, they turned up missing! Coach Williams called the entire team together to tell of the situation, and asked for whomever might have the shoes to please return them, and no questions would be asked. Unfortunately, I never the saw the new shoes again, and I spent the rest of my short career wearing a pair of used ones. The University High School team was a member of the MidState Football League. The league consisted of: Columbus Academy, West Jefferson, Liberty Union, Frankfort, Berne Union, Bremen, and Mt. Sterling. Sometimes non-league teams would be played, such as the Cincinnati Country Day school. There was usually a mix of afternoon and evening games under the lights, with bus or car travel involved. On the evening of a game, a meatloaf and baked potato dinner was served to the team at Pomerene Hall before departing for the conquest. Home games were played on a field directly south of the Ohio State Buckeye stadium, and the second floor college dressing room was used before and during half-times. Away games usually required a drive of some distance to the town being played. The locker room facilities usually were not the best, being in a cold cement block building under the stadium. Homecoming was always a time of excitement around the school, as special decorations were made and the queen and her court being announced at the fall assembly. Several players over the years, were named to All Mid-State League honors. The David Curl section of the AAUS.net website has some excellent photographs of several athletic events. I selected some of those wonderful photographs to illustrate this story.

Football equipment in those early days was somewhat crude and rather bulky. There were helmets, shoulder, hip, and knee pads to contend with, and it seemed that they were never dry between the morning and afternoon practices. The O.S.U. natatorium locker rooms were used, and a field near the campus stadium was where blocking, running, and scrimmages were performed. After warming up, the team would be sent on a long jog over the levee to the south towards 1


October 25th, 2011

Published by: mooresb

Many other sports were offered at the University School, besides football. During winter, basketball was just as popular with the students, and was played in the school gymnasium. The gym was very well equipped, and had a balcony that could seat some 370 avid fans. On Dec. 1, 1949 a new scoreboard was dedicated that was mounted in the balcony on the east side wall. Funds were raised to purchase this improvement, and could be controlled from the west end of the playing floor below by statisticians. Besides playing Mid-State League teams, other schools would be visited such as Aquinas Catholic High School downtown. Other sports encompassed the boys swimming team, and informal wrestling matches. Many of the girls played basketball, and participated in field hockey teams. Lucille Burkett was the consummate girls coach in all sports, including gymnastics. She could also hold her own with the boys. This was proved by her taking the youthful lads to Pomerene Hall, which was a womens facility, for swimming sessions. She would peek into the dressing cubicles to make sure the boys were getting dressed, after they were required to go single file up to a window for towels. Nearby, it was always fun to watch an O.S.U. team play a lacrosse game, using long-handled rackets and a hard rubber ball, on a field just outside the main north entrance to the stadium.

One of our non-league games one year was at Worthington High School, and my parents came to see me play. But a strange thing happened to me that night, as I was thrown out of the game. Coach Williams was astonished, and couldnt imagine why a referee would send me to the locker room. It turned out that player #45 was the offender, and the referee transposed in his head the jersey number to mine, which was #54. The Coach got a good laugh out this, but no matter, I still was kept out of the game. Capt. Jack Williams was disappointed to miss a few games when he required an appendectomy in the middle of the season. However he was able to watch us play in the distance, from a University Hospital window. The cheerleaders were always on hand to pep up the players and the home crowd. A gray UHigh pennant, made of felt, could be purchased for fifty cents. Another amusing thing occurred to Jack Williams, Bob Butche, and myself. We each received letters from the U. S. Naval Academy recruiting office to come in for a physical and a possible football career on their team. I think this request may have resulted from the school obtaining a copy of the informational football brochure that was published. The Naval Academy most likely, selected the Captain and the two largest players listed on the roster. Well, Jack went for his physical, but was turned down because of the Academys stringent eyesight requirements. I believe that Coach Williams served in the Navy, and got a kick out of this episode.

College swimming meets could be watched in the natatorium arena with the renown coach Mike Peppe and 1948 Olympic springboard diving champion Bruce Harlan performing. Ohio State basketball games were played in the Ohio State fairgrounds coliseum on a movable court floor, until St. John Arena was later built. For a nominal fee, O.S.U. athletic cards could be purchased by University School students for certain events. Boy Scouts would on occasion usher at Buckeye football games, and University Schools Troop #100 would often participate in this activity. Another popular pastime was watching the Columbus Redbirds play baseball, and "Knot Hole Gang" cards could be purchased for ten cents from the school office each year. At one time, George Banisters (49) father was the Redbird general manager. The closest bowling alley was located on High Street near 10th Avenue. It was very small, and used pin and ball boys before they were replaced by automation. How fortunate we all were to have had so many sporting activities for us to choose from. There certainly are few small schools today that can offer such a varied athletic program for the benefit of their students. This is a legacy that the students and faculty can all be proud of on reflection.

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A Sporting Life