The beginning of a new school year is normally a routine rite of late summer and also an indication that it’s time for high school football. In 1949 football was the only fall sport and there were no girls sports in Sidney and many other places.
Sidney High School football was concluding a decade that lacked any stability at the top. Coach Wayne Gibson arrived in 1948 and stayed just a single year before Tom Pierson became the Yellow Jackets ninth head coach of the decade. Yes, nine field bosses in ten seasons though two carried the “interim” tag due to a terminal illness and a military obligation.
In the late 1940’s Sidney was at least fielding competitive squads during this coaching carousel. 1948 was 5-4-0 and 1949 4-4-1. It’s interesting that Gibson actually preceded and succeeded Pierson, returning for five years in 1951.
In a nutshell that’s Sidney football of 70 years ago. All the coaching changes were minor inconveniences compared to what happened to the overall school district just before school was to resume in 1949.
The Sidney Board of Education and administration knew that the old elementary buildings were collectively in crisis mode. A levy for new construction was defeated in 1948. Four days before the start of school in 1949, the state forced the issue by inspecting the entire district and closing three Sidney facilities along with Maplewood and Port Jefferson. An appeal and delay of the order were both denied.
The SDN headline proclaimed, “Three Ward, Two Village Buildings Are Declared Unsafe.”
The immediate issue was to formulate and implement an emergency operation plan until new building and fixing could take place after another levy attempt. Three elementary schools remained and would be fully utilized with two shifts of students. Bus schedules then had to be solved including district wide coordination. Fortunately, all 7-12 students were housed in the same downtown building to simplify the task.
As part of my service on the Sidney City Schools Hall of Honor Committee, I’ve read every set of school board minutes from 1947-62. This story is an amazing testament to what can happen when leadership and community engagement synergize to conquer a seemingly impossible task. It’s fully documented in the microfilms of the Sidney Daily News. I’ve included some highlights in my book on the history of Sidney High School football.
The makeshift elementary schedule would last only two years. The plan was to build four new elementary schools and fix both Maplewood and Port Jefferson. The levy passed emphatically and the result was open for business on September 17 as summer concluded in 1951. Emerson, Longfellow, Lowell, and Whittier became part of the Sidney City Schools.
The school district had momentum throughout the 1950’s that led to both a new junior high and high school by 1960. At that point the Sidney City Schools were in great physical shape.
That “coaching carousel” I mentioned earlier also gained stability during that decade and beyond. After Wayne Gibson’s five years, Ollie Cline stayed four seasons, and then Dave Haines arrived in 1960 for 15.
Next week: OHSAA football playoff prospects for Sidney Memorial Stadium.
Sports Extra appears each Friday. The Ross book on the first century of Sidney football is available at the Ross Historical Center in downtown Sidney.