As of the posting date of this Memories article, we’re in the middle of the high school football season. Whether you’re playing with the team, cheering with the squad, marching with the band, or watching from the stands, you’re creating lifelong memories.
Artifacts from local high school football are difficult to find. School yearbooks usually have coverage of the team, but those are not always available. The Public Library and some Web sites have a few editions. Football programs are even rarer than yearbooks. I suppose that souvenirs of high school are usually kept by the alumni or their families.
I did recently find a football program from the September 16, 1949 game between the Lions of Red Bank High and the Maroon Dynamos of City (Chattanooga) High school. Through a combination of the 1950 City High yearbook (Red Bank’s wasn’t available.) and archives of local newspapers at the Public Library, let’s replay that game and its era of history.
In 1949, the City of Chattanooga ran its own school system for students within the city limits. City High School was located on East Third Street where the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences is presently located. Red Bank High was in the Hamilton County Schools system, and was located in the recently demolished building on Dayton Boulevard. Both school systems were segregated in 1949.
City had been fielding a football team since 1900, when the team from South Pittsburgh, TN defeated them in a game played on Thanksgiving. By 1949, City had gained state-wide recognition for its school teams. The rivalry with Central High School, then located on Dodds Avenue and part of the Hamilton County system, was well-established.
Students attended City High after graduating from one of several junior high schools. The football program listed where each player had gone to ninth grade. Several, including #37, future Chattanooga mayor Gene Roberts, came from Dickinson Jr. High on East Eighth Street. Part of Dickinson’s building was the former location of City High. Other schools supplying players included Brainerd, East Lake, East Side (at Main and Kelly streets), Hardy, Lookout (40th Street in St. Elmo), and North Chattanooga.
The school had both varsity and junior varsity teams; the latter being known as the Buttermilks. The Maroon Dynamos coaching staff included head coach Dean Petersen, and Ed Henegar, Bobby Matusek, and George Mathis. Petersen became the director of athletics for the city school system the following year, and was later elected Chattanooga’s commissioner of education.
Though City High had its own stadium on the school campus, the big games were played at Chamberlain Field on the University of Chattanooga campus. By 8pm on Friday, September 16, 1949, a crowd of about 7,000 fans watched the kickoff. It was a warm mid-September evening, with a forecasted high of 82 degrees and chance of showers that day.
If you weren’t at a game, you might be home, listening to the Red Bank/City game on WDXB. You might instead follow “Break the Bank” on WDEF-AM radio, “ “My Favorite Husband” on WDOD, or the Rossville vs. North Fulton game on WAGC. You could also read the evening Chattanooga News-Free Press, which had a banner headline of “BRIDGE AT DAM TO BE STARTED SOON.” That bridge is today the heavily-traveled Wilkes T. Thrasher bridge of Highway 153.
Back at Chamberlain Field, the Lions of Red Bank were outmatched by the City team. The News-Free Press reported the next day that “Statistically, the game was all City but even the cold figures fail to point out conclusively the supremacy of the Third Streeters.” City gained 264 yards to Red Bank’s 160, scoring in all but the third quarter. Red Bank managed only a single touchdown in the fourth quarter. The final score was 28 to 6.
City High was later trounced by Central High 41 to 6, and finished with a record of 7 wins, 4 losses. The wins came against Soddy-Daisy, Hixson, Red Bank, Morristown, Rome, Bradley, and Nashville. Defeats were by Memphis Central, Landon, Birmingham, and Central.
If you have memories of these two teams from their 1949 season, please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.