Sports Extra with Dave Ross: Sidney football revisits the 1950’s


The Shelby County Historical Society is currently celebrating the “Fabulous 50’s” with both programming and an ongoing exhibit at its Ross Center in downtown Sidney. A recent public offering was a men’s luncheon on Sidney High School football in the 1950’s. I was asked to provide the program and did so enthusiastically.

I envisioned working with a group of former Sidney players with most from the 1950’s. While that was our core, some attendees weren’t from Sidney and several hadn’t played football. I liked the mix since it included new knowledge seekers. Audience participation was encouraged.

SHS had a trio of head football coaches in the 1950’s, Tom Pierson (1950), Wayne Gibson (1951-55) and Ollie Cline (1956-59). At least one player from each era was present. There was also a winner of the Dick Flanagan Most Valuable Player award, Dennis Helman from 1954. Dennis brought his son who is a major Sidney sports fan.

The event was made more authentic by the inclusion of a chicken sandwich with each lunch. That’s the signature menu item at Sidney Football Moms concession stands over many years.

The old Julia Lamb Stadium remains just down the street from the historical facility, now serving as a city park. Almost on cue, sirens raced by as I began my comments. “Sounds like we scored a touchdown,” I offered which drew several chuckles. Back in parts of the 1960’s and 70’s, sirens and cannon blasts announced Yellow Jacket scores. The cannon is still on duty at Sidney Memorial Stadium.

Our program lasted about an hour beyond lunch. One amazing item from that decade was the former Miami Valley Preview scrimmage featuring Sidney, Piqua, Troy, and Greenville. Hosts rotated annually with each team playing a quarter against the others a week before the regular season. The 1958 round robin was staged in Troy’s still somewhat new stadium and drew over 9000 paid spectators with all four schools sharing the net proceeds. Sidney hosted in 1951, 1955, and 1959.

Troy was dominant in those days under coach Lou Julleriat with names like Bob Ferguson (back), Tommy Myers (QB), and Tommy Vaughn (back) who all became college stars. Vaughn was later an all-pro defender for the Detroit Lions. Jullierat liked to run up the score and was not bashful against Sidney. Fairmont was also a Miami Valley League juggernaut of that period.

The 1954 season finale was discussed in detail, a 6-0 loss to Fairborn which the Jackets were supposed to dominate. However, four key players were among a group that was suspended for attending a school sponsored Y-Teens hayride which violated Coach Gibson’s “no dating in season” policy. Almost seven decades later, attendees were unanimous in rejecting that policy.

Perhaps the greatest player of the 1950’s was two way lineman Bob Zimpfer who was highly recruited and became an All-American and national champion at Bowling Green before being drafted by the Denver Broncos. He won both the Flanagan MVP and Mom Collins Sportsmanship awards in 1955, with back Jay White doing the same two years later.

1956 saw the debut of the “Little Brown Jug” as a traveling momento of the annual Sidney-Greenville game. SHS took the first two Jug games.

“Dads Night” was an annual event until 1958 when Football Moms President Carolyn Spangler convinced Coach Cline to make it “Parents Night” by including mothers. Two of her sons were in our lunch bunch. From 1953-71 only two Sidney rosters didn’t include at least one son of Jim and Carolyn Spangler. To this day, the name “Spangler” is synonymous with SHS football.

All head coaches and several assistants were remembered in the discussion. The hour went quickly. Some mingling ended the luncheon as other decades entered the dialogue. We all had a really good time.

Shown here in 1954, both Phil Spangler and Lee Woodruff attended the “Fabulous 50’s” luncheon 67 years later. here in 1954, both Phil Spangler and Lee Woodruff attended the “Fabulous 50’s” luncheon 67 years later.

Sports Extra

With Dave Ross

Sports Extra appears each Friday. Dave Ross authored a comprehensive book on the first century of SHS football that is available at the Ross Center. All proceeds benefit the Historical Society.

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