Reliving fall Friday nights in 1945
This Friday night, the Warren G. Harding Raiders will once again face Massillon’s Washington High School Tigers. The rivalry dates back as far as I can remember. In fact, a little research shows that it goes back as far as 1932.
Let’s journey back to 1945. What a thrill it was back then – just as it is today – on Friday nights in the fall! School was over for the weekend. There would be no homework for a day or two. Mom and Dad and I would drive down Atlantic Street to the Warren G. Harding High Presidents’ football stadium on a crisp fall evening to see the Presidents face off under the lights against the Massillon Tigers. Attendance was announced at an overflow crowd of over 12,000.
Little did we know that the Presidents would become the Panthers in the early ’50s, when my friend and classmate, Bob Hood, became the guy inside the Panther costume. Now Harding’s team is called the Raiders.
The rivalry was so thick and intense that you could cut it with a knife. The Tigers were to be coached by Augie Morningstar, and the Presidents by Heinie Beck. To add a personal touch to the rivalry, my dad’s boss was from Massillon, and his kids attended Massillon’s Washington High.
At halftime, the Massillon Tiger Swing Band in their orange and black uniforms and their phalanx of sousaphones blatted out a whoopee cushion sound to their theme song “Hold that Tiger.” Admittedly, our Harding band led by Charlie Corlette, had been outdone.
We stood while the visitors sang their alma mater, and then we sang “All hail, all hail, to the red and white. Our school beloved for standards high, sing we praises to the sky ” It was magnificent! It must be great to be in high school! I was only in the fifth grade.
The Warren G. Harding Presidents had beaten the Massillon Tigers 32, 12 the previous year (1944), and the Presidents were hungry for another victory. This year’s game was exciting, but the scoreboard showed a couple of goose eggs on the scoreboard at the end of the fourth quarter. We could have done better, but my hero, Len Corbin, all-Ohio end in 1944, was ailing from injuries in a game the week before.
After the game, feeling all fresh and ruddy from that ever-cooler night, we drove to Warren Sanitary’s on Youngstown Road to get a hand-packed quart of vanilla ice cream. Les Stauffer, owner, fellow Rotarian and good friend of Dad’s would wait on us. He would take what looked like a galvanized rectangular steel form, place a quart- sized cardboard inside and scoop out the ice cream from a refrigerated barrel into that device. He would really cram that ice cream into the container. Mom would pick out a small bag of Spanish peanuts and a little can of Hershey’s chocolate syrup.
We would get home in time to turn the radio on to listen to Bill Stern’s 15 minute program called “The Colgate Sports Newsreel” at 10:30 on WTAM. Stern would tell about really weird, far-fetched and what turned out to be false stuff that happened in sports.
One of his sports legends was that Thomas Edison lost his hearing when he was hit in the head by a pitched ball as a semi-pro ball player. Of course, Edison was never a semi-pro ball player. To top it off, Stern said the pitcher was none other than Jesse James! Bill Stern really earned his initials on that one.
I would loll around on the floor in front of the radio, and then Mom would bring the piece de resistance into the living room for our after-game eating pleasure. It was what we called a tin roof – vanilla ice cream, covered in chocolate syrup and Spanish peanuts.
I was allowed to stay up later than usual so that I could listen to “I Love a Mystery” radio program that was rebroadcast by transcription. After all, it was Friday night, and I could sleep in Saturday morning.
Mumford, of Warren, can be reached at columns@ tribtoday.com.