Ladies and gentlemen, football season is here, and with the sun setting earlier and earlier by the day, when it comes to high school football, it’s Friday nights under the lights as autumn creeps closer and closer.

However, it wasn’t always that way. Lights didn't always light up the gridiron. The year was 1935, and on Page 1 of the Cincinnati Enquirer sports section on Aug. 9 of that year, a one-paragraph article proclaimed that Hillsboro High School was planning on playing night football. It said, “Night football may be played by the Hillsboro High School this fall, Superintendent E.E. Holt indicated in his announcement that the village had granted the school the use of the waterworks field. The field, used during the summer by the Hillsboro semi-professional baseball club, was equipped this spring for night baseball.”

Let there be light!

Now, back in those days, Hillsboro didn’t have a great reputation as far as its football facilities, but the district seemed to be trying to address that issue.

In the Chillicothe newspaper, an October 1935 column “From the Sidelines by Marty,” (it seemed Marty never provided his last name, his bylines were also “By Marty,” as perhaps the writer assumed everyone knew his last name), the headline read, “No more cow pastures; new grid for Hillsboro.”

Marty wrote, “Hillsboro high, for years notorious for its football gridiron, will have something better to offer the visiting teams next year.

“The town, in cooperation with the FERA and WPA is building a new high school building at the rear of which has been laid out a field that will be the equal of anything in this section of the state. From unofficial sources, we learned on our trek to the C.H.S.-Hillsboro game Thursday that the board of education has put up something like $15,000 for the building of the gridiron. This is quite a contrast to the situation here (in Chillicothe) where the high school association went in debt to build the field and then had to go in deeper to finance the construction of the stadium.

“A big item in the cost of the Hillsboro field was grading and leveling off a hillside. But at any rate, the school athletic association did not have to mortgage its future to get it done. The field is all ready, grass seed was sown last spring, but the wet weather was a handicap and the field will not be used until next season.

“There’s no question but that Hillsboro needed a field. For years it’s been infamous. The school has converted one hillside pasture after another and seldom played in the same place more than two seasons in succession. Always they have been soggy, and a real handicap to a team relying on speed. In our opinion, Chillicothe would have had several more touchdowns, Thursday, had the game been played here at Herrnstein field.

“Anyway, here’s three cheers for Hillsboro and its new field. We sure are glad at the prospect of getting out of the Highland County pasture.”

Chillicothe won that game at Hillsboro, 28-6. While Marty liked to use just his first name (like Elvis, Cher, Madonna and Prince), he often just used last names in his articles. Here’s how Marty described the events leading to Hillsboro’s lone touchdown, “Chillicothe got into hot water early in the third period when Hern (of Hillsboro) punted the ball out of bounds on the C.H.S. five-yard line, and then Lynch fumbled on his own 10 and Hern recovered. Hillsboro gained less than a yard on four tries and C.H.S. regained the ball, but when Strausbaugh kicked out Umpire Seibold called a 15-yard penalty on Elliott for piling on the ball carrier, and Hillsboro took over on the 15 yard line.

“Two running plays failed to click, and then Hern, on a double reverse, shot an aerial to Duckwall, parked in the end zone, which caught the C.H.S. secondary napping. An attempted forward pass for the extra point failed.”

Continuing with the last-name theme, the Hillsboro offensive lineup that day 87 years ago consisted of Duckwall at quarterback, Hern at fullback, Stanforth and Flannery in the backfield, Vanzant at left end, Brown at right end, and an offensive line of Adams, Wilkin, Hottle, Hannaford and Faris. Substitutes listed were B. Stanforth, Dillon, Campbell, Ruble, Smith, E. Wilkin, McCullough and Newell.

Up the road in Greenfield, the football lineup for the McClain Tigers in 1935 was Ralph at QB, Jackson at fullback, Miller and Barrett also in the backfield, Pointer and Clements were the ends, and the line consisted of Jury, Ellison, Ford, Lyle and Garman with subs being Stewart, Chenoweth and Starn.

While injuries have always been a part of football, there was a headline in November of 1935 that “Football fatalities are on the increase.” The article from Nov. 12, 1935 reported that there were five nationwide deaths recorded in the past seven days, and that the “pigskin toll is 34 (deaths) at present; 40 percent of the year 1934” and “the highest since 1931” when there were 49 fatalities that year that resulted in the revision of the rules.

Also, I found it a bit odd that the 1935 Hillsboro vs. Chillicothe football game was played on a Thursday. A little more digging found that the game was originally planned for Friday, but was moved up to Thursday because a district teachers’ meeting was scheduled for Friday and Saturday. It makes one wonder if there were those who didn’t see the notice and showed up looking for a football game on Friday night in their ’32 Ford, Model T or on their trusty horse.

“George, hey George! Where’s the game?”

“Maybe it’s at last year’s cow pasture, Ira!”

Let’s pause for now, and we’ll continue next time.

Steve Roush is vice chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees, a board member of the Highland District Hospital Foundation, a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at [email protected]