The following two oral interviews with William H. Schutte and Kenwood R. Bojens were recently conducted by Bob Wright, chairman of the San Diego Historical Society’s Oral History Program and edited by Trudie Casper. Both Schutte and Bojens were students at San Diego High School during the 1920s and were actively involved in athletics. Unfortunately, space did not permit the printing of the entire interview completed with each of these men. The portion not published here is available at the San Diego History Center’s Library and Manuscripts Collection.
WILLIAM H. SCHUTTE
Bill, when were you born and where?
I was born May 7, 1910 in Galveston, Texas. You probably remember or know Galveston because it is in the center of the gulf storms in the Gulf of Mexico.
When did you come to San Diego?
My folks came to San Diego in September of 1924 when I was 14 years old.
Why did they come here, then?
My father was in the plumbing-contracting business in Galveston, Texas. He retired and the family moved to San Diego. At that time I entered Roosevelt Junior High School—in 1924.
Did your father take on a job out here?
He was sort of retired but then the Depression came in 1929 and he was forced to go back into work to help support the family. He was a plumber.
Can we have a capsule version of what happened from 1924 to 1929. Then we will go back to the San Diego High period.
Well, in 1924—you are speaking now of my school experience. I first entered Roosevelt in the fall of 1924. I went a full year to Roosevelt Junior High School and my parents then moved out to Normal Heights. Woodrow Wilson Junior High School had just been built so I transferred to that school and went there for one year. In September of 1926 I enrolled at San Diego High School. I continued at San Diego High School for the rest of my high school career and was graduated in 1929.
There was no Hoover High School at that time. The major high school in those days, of course, was the San Diego High School. It was the school. Point Loma was a very, very small school; La Jolla was a small school. Grossmont, Sweetwater and the other schools, I would say, were in the area of about one thousand students. San Diego High School in those days was pushing 3,000 students.
After graduating from San Diego High School in 1929 I went to the University of Idaho at Moscow, Idaho. I majored in Education and got my degree there in 1933. When I came back the Depression was on; there were no jobs. I took a job as a custodian at San Diego High School. Then, in 1935, a teaching position opened up so I was employed there, from 1935 to 1939.
In 1939 I went back to Manhattan, Kansas to the State College there, as a line coach. I was there until the war broke out, and on December 7, 1941 I went into the service, in the Navy. I spent a little time in Washington, D.C. at the Anacostia Naval Air Base. Then I was sent to the South Pacific. I came back from there in the early part of 1945. Then I was stationed at Georgia Pre-Flight and after the war ended I went back to Kansas State as a coach for a semester. Then I came to San Diego State College in February of 1946. I was at San Diego State from 1946 and retired in 1975 from the Physical Education Department.
Did you hold a commission during the war?
Yes. I went in as a Lieutenant, j.g., and came out as a Lieutenant Commander.
Were you in physical education in those years in the Navy?
No, no. You go into the Navy and they give you every job but the one you are qualified for. I served in the Islands in various types of assignments. I was Personnel Officer practically most of the time. Along with that I had duties as a First Lieutenant.
We have sort of capsulated that deliberately, but now I am curious as to what San Diego High was like. If you went to Roosevelt in 1924, let’s see, you started in San Diego High in 1926. Did it have that “Grey Castle” campus when you were there?
I started at San Diego High in the fall of 1926. They had the Grey Castle but it is not what the building is today. It has changed completely today from those days. It was a grey castle with the grey stones. It was a take-off on West Point; it looked exactly like West Point: a castle, with ivy over the whole building.
An interesting thing happened in my senior year. I was playing baseball down in the Stadium. This was in the spring, I think, in May. It was towards the latter part of the afternoon when we heard a big bang. They were in process of building a gym and they had it just about completed when the side walls gave way and the roof caved in. It caused quite a com-motion on campus.
It was very fortunate that the building was not completed and there were no students in it when it did give way. Otherwise, we would have had some injuries. They were concrete walls. It was not the same structure as the old high school. The gym was located right behind the library on the north side of the roadway running behind the library—the old library, I will have to say. We never knew what happened and I never found out. They just said that the walls gave way.
Was the Stadium built at that time?
Oh, yes. The Stadium goes back to a period of around 1905-1906. There is quite a story about the Stadium. It was originally built by students selling things and raising the money. They constructed the Stadium. It has quite a history, that old Stadium. It was quite an old structure back in the 1920s. The Stadium didn’t have lights; we played Saturday afternoons. We had quite a league in those days consisting of Long Beach, Pasadena, Glendale, South Pasadena, Whittier and Santa Ana. Each city in those days had one major high school. San Diego High was the main high school for this area. Every Saturday when we played we would practically pack the Stadium. In those days that was a good crowd. It held 15,000 people.
How many students were at the high school?
In those days, as I can remember, there were about 3,000 students.
I didn’t know you played teams from out of town.
In those days there wasn’t anyone else for San Diego High School to play because we were so much larger than any of the teams in this area. The other high schools in this area—in Point Loma, in those days, there were approximately 1,000 students. La Jolla High, I would say, had 600 or 700 students. Grossmont had less than 1,000; Sweetwater had less than 1,000 students. The only competition San Diego High School could find was from out of town. This was true in all the other cities, too. They had what was called the “High School Coast League.” This was made up of teams in southern California like Long Beach, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Whittier, Fullerton, Santa Ana and San Diego. This made it a pretty strong athletic conference.
Did you stand up pretty well in competition? Are you talking about football, baseball, or what?
We did quite well; we won our share; we lost some, too. I’m talking about all sports. Baseball in particular. San Diego High School had been strong over a period of years going back into the 1920s to the present and had always been strong in baseball. It produced many great baseball players. I think this is mainly attributed to Coach Morrow who was interested in baseball. He had quite a history of coaching baseball at San Diego High School. He turned out a lot of great players. His name was Dewey J. Morrow but his nickname was Mike.
And you called him Mike. Any reason for calling him Mike?
I can’t answer that; I don’t know. When we played for him we called him Coach.
Was San Diego High integrated then?
Yes, it was integrated then just as it is today. But they didn’t have the number of black students that we have today. The great influx of blacks into southern California came with the war in 1942. But some of the better athletes in those days were black students, such as Bert Richey. He was a black ball player and a great, great athlete. He went on to USC and made an outstanding record for himself.
Getting back to the 1920s, you had the use of the whole Stadium and you had a defunct gym.
You say a defunct gym. Before that gym was built we did not have a gym. San Diego High School for a number of years used the YMCA for basketball. Then a period of years after that they used the National Guard Armory which was located downtown, for their basketball teams. I don’t think that they had a gym to play their basketball games in until around 1930 or 1931. Before that everything was played off campus.
Where was the National Guard Armory, do you remember?
I know it was almost right across the street from the old Coliseum. Do you remember when the Coliseum was a Boxing Coliseum?
That was way down off of Market Street at about G and Twelfth, a few blocks south of Broadway. Did the kids walk down there?
They just used it to play their basketball games, not for physical education or anything else. They used the Stadium for that, but we had no indoor facilities in those days. First when I was there we played our games at the YMCA. Then after that they were moved to the National Guard Auditorium down around Twelfth and G Streets. For gym classes they would use the playing surface in the Stadium.
Did any one game stand out? Was football the big thing, or baseball a big thing, or basketball a big thing, or anything else?
I think in those days—well, I would have to say three sports stood out fairly equally. Not having a basketball home floor or an area in which to play, basketball was not particularly strong then. But football was strong; baseball was very strong because we won many, many conference championships in southern California in baseball. We participated strongly in track. We have had many outstanding, good trackmen. For example, in track we had Bill Miller. Bill Miller went to Stanford. He performed in the pole vault and he won the Olympics. He was an outstanding performer.
You are talking about the 1920s, now.
I am talking about the period from 1926 up.
Then he was a classmate of yours.
Yes, he was. You are talking about sport strength in baseball. We had a number of boys who played baseball there in 1926 through 1929 and then went on and played professional baseball. In those days we didn’t have the Padres; there was no pro team here. No Coast League. A number of our boys went on to play in the Coast League. We had outstanding players like Al McNeely who went on and played pro baseball. Joe Dobbins; he was very successful in baseball. Will Pappert. Al has passed away; he was killed in a wreck a number of years ago.
Now for track, did they use just the track in the Stadium?
Not the Stadium we have today, but the old Stadium had the track.
Then for cross-country they just ran through Balboa Park.
We were always very strong in track. I mentioned Miller and the pole vault. At State Joe Dobbins was a very outstanding broadjumper. We had a distance man by the name of Charles Snyder who performed very well at State.
Now those were the names of fellows in track; were there any outstanding baseball players?
Yes, we had a number of baseball players during the period that I was here from 1926 to 1929 who played at San Diego High School and who went on to play professional ball. Such as Al McNeely, Will Pappert, Joe Dobbins, Athos Sada—you probably remember Sada, he later became Assistant Chief of Police here in San Diego. He was a very outstanding baseball player. After finishing in San Diego he went on to play Coast League ball. Marshall Pearson was an outstanding ball player. He played pro ball. That is about as far as I can go.
How about football, then?
Well, when you play football you don’t go from high school to pro football. We had a number of players who played that went on to four-year schools while I was there. If I was to remember rightly, I think Ed Reed was a half-back during that period. He went on to college and was very successful as a football player. And I’ll have to stop there.
And how about Bill Schutte?
I played at San Diego High School; I played center there. In my first year and the next year, 1927, I played in “Class B.” Then I played varsity in 1928 and 1929, as center. After finishing there I went to the University of Idaho and played there for three years. After graduating I came back to San Diego.
Let’s stay with one sport at a time. Schools usually started in September, so did the football season start about that time?
Yes. In those days football started the first day of classes. For me, that was in September of 1926; the next year, 1927; the next year, 1928; but then I graduated the following semester which made it 1929.
Before school started you didn’t have any practice; there was nobody coming out to play before school started?
No, no. There was no pre-season practice.
I guess among 3,000 students they had a choice. Anyone who wanted to play could try out?
It operated a little differently than it does now. In those days the operation of athletics was altogether different. The purpose was to give everyone an opportunity to play. I think we had more individuals participating in sports than we do today. During all these periods that I was at San Diego High School there was a freshman team in each sport—”Class B in football.” In basketball, we had a “Class B” and a “C,” along with the varsity and a junior varsity. Now today because of finances and the costs of operation, most schools only operate a one-team schedule. But in those days we had a lot of participation. In the spring, each class: “Sophomore B,” “Sophomore A,” “Junior B,” “Junior A,” “Senior B” and “Senior A;” each fielded a football team. We had an inter-class play-off in football. Then we had the championship in a class game. This brought in a lot of boys to play. And it was from this group that the coaches got an idea whom they would have available for the fall.
Did they have enough uniforms for all these people?
Yes, they had enough uniforms; they were supplied by the school board.
Really, I was thinking about football. I can see that in basketball, there wouldn’t be much in the way of uniforms.
No, no problem in basketball for uniforms or the equipment. But in football there was a problem.
Did the school board feel that physical contact was good for the boys men-tally and physically?
I think that the competition—all types of competition—was good. And I think they felt that there was a certain amount of discipline boys got in participating in sports. They felt that boys had to sacrifice something to participate; they had to give their time to participate. And this, of course, is good training for kids. We didn’t have the protective equipment in those days that you have today.
What was the basic football uniform like?
The basic football uniform that we had back in the 1920s was shoes, cleats—about the same as they have today, a little bit different, they’ve been modified—and the pants were different. Then a lot of the pants were one-piece; hip pads were part of the pants. Now they have cut-away hip pads, slide-away hip pads, but in those days pants were made with the pads in them. They fitted around the waist just like a corset that came up above the waistline a little bit. We had fly-pads in the pants.
The big difference today in equipment compared to what the boys had in those days was principally in the shoulder pads and the head gear. In those days most of our head gear was flat and level. Our shoulder pads were flat pads and most of them were constructed with ribs instead of cushions. Today, we have what is called large cantilever shoulder pads that take the bruises off the body and the head gear is air-cushioned. Whereas in those days they were flat and there were no mouth pieces; there was no face guard; there was nothing to protect the face. I don’t know whether that is an advantage or a disadvantage because when the face guard came into football, individuals started using their heads for blocking instead of their shoulders. So they were really substituting head injuries for shoulder injuries.
These old helmets, were they padded at all?
Yes, they had a slight pad a quarter of an inch thick, but very little. There wasn’t enough padding in them to distribute a blow in one area to all areas in the head. The modern headgear is so constructed that when a boy receives a contact blow in the head in a certain area, that blow is distributed over the whole head, rather than localized in that area. The head gear in those days did not distribute the blow and as a result you had a number of head injuries—concussions.
I’m surprised that somebody didn’t put a stop to that.
They did. Years ago, back during Theodore Roosevelt’s time, football was very rough. So Theodore Roosevelt curtailed football all over the country for a period of a year or two. Because there had been so many injuries he put a stop to it. But it came back. Because of these injuries—the concussions they were having in those days with that type of head gear—the new headgear came in.
But the major thing is the game was different in those days than it is today. We didn’t have the wide open type of attack that you have today. Everything was close contact. We didn’t get the momentum that the boys hit with today in the open-type game. In those days a big gain was three or four yards. Today, the game is wide open, the passing attack. To go back to those days, there was a time when if you threw two passes in a row that were incomplete you were penalized five yards. So this discouraged passing.
Also, there was a period back in the 1920s when if you threw an incompleted pass behind the goal line, you lost the ball and your opponent got the ball back on the 20-yard line. They had rules then to prohibit passing or the slow-passing down. The forward pass was not part of the game. The first forward pass came in Knute Rockne’s time at Notre Dame. He accidentally threw a forward pass and one of his players caught it and from then on they started using it once in awhile in a game. But the forward pass didn’t come into the game really, as the major weapon it is today, until after World War II.
I am surprised because I thought it was logical to use any means you can to advance the ball.
You have to realize that football originated out of Rugby. That was carrying the ball. No forward passing in Rugby; everything was done laterally. Out of Rugby grew football, but it took a number of years for this to evolve.
Everything is evolution.
That’s right; everything grows, sports as well as plants and trees.
Did you have a medical backup when these people got hurt?
Yes. The same regulation applied in those days that applies today and this has been a regulation in athletics as far as I can remember. In any particular contact sport you have to have a medical doctor present. The schools hired a medical professor. Second, in those days, students had to have their own insurance. A boy could not participate unless he had insurance and his parents had to sign that they were more or less responsible for his insurance in the case of a major injury. But the schools did have a medical attendant at all games who cared for all injuries.
Do you remember any of the students who were in school at that time who played ball but who didn’t go on to great things.
If I look back I can name a number of individuals who went on . . . For example when I was in school in athletics, the field in which I was, we had several boys who did very well. A boy by the name of Cotton Warburton. He went on to USC and at USC he made All-American (in football). We had boys at San Diego High School who were there before I was, but I had an opportunity to watch them participate, such as Russ Saunders. He went on to SC and made All-American. On the campus (in Los Angeles) across the street from the bookstore right in front of the administration building, they have the figure of a Trojan and it was Russ Saunders who posed for that statue on the SC campus.
Then we had that boy Al McNeely in baseball. He made quite a name for himself in Hollywood in professional baseball. We didn’t have professional basketball in those days, but we had a number of boys who played basket-ball who went on to college. Such as Steve Fletcher; he was a very good athlete.
I’m also looking for people who went on to the business world, or medical world, or fields other than sports.
Well, I haven’t kept track of them and I haven’t kept up with many of them to know what they have done.
When did football season end; what was the last day of football?
Usually in those days football ended with Thanksgiving; and usually on Thanksgiving Day that was the close of the season. Most of our seasons were eight- or nine-game seasons; it wasn’t ten and eleven, as it is today. During the season we would have one home game and one away- we would alternate with teams. But we would play every team every other year at home. And we would play them at their home base every other year.
KENWOOD R. BOJENS
Would you give me your full name?
I’ve tried to disguise it for years. It’s Kenwood R. Bojens. Most people think it’s Kenneth.
When were you born?
In 1912 in Davenport, lowa.
What was the date?
March first. I went up for my seventieth birthday.
When did you come to San Diego?
What brought you out here?
Hardship. My father had been in business back in Davenport and the business failed and he came out here to search for a new life. He had a cousin who encouraged him to come out, so we came to California.
Did he find employment here then?
Yes, he did. Various types. I think the Depression actually started in San Diego before it did elsewhere around the country because times were real difficult.
You started school here?
Yes, I started at Roosevelt Junior High School. Woodrow Wilson Junior High had not been built yet. When Woodrow Wilson opened in the fall of 1926 those of us who lived in East San Diego transferred to Woodrow Wilson. My sister was in the first graduating class there and I was in the second one.
What were you saying about Art?
Art Linkletter and I were friends. We played basketball at Woodrow Wilson together. He was on the 110-pound team and I was on the 90-pound team. I weighed 72 pounds at the time, incidentally. A service club in East San Diego—to show its support of the new junior high school—put up a scholarship for the outstanding boy student and for the outstanding girl student. None of us knew about this until one day our principal, a wonderful man named John Aseltine, called me into his office and informed me of this $50 award and he said at the present time you are tied with Art Linkletter. We’re going to bring him in and tell him that we are putting you on two weeks’ notice and whoever emerges on top at the end of those two weeks will receive the $50. It was for scholastic standing and participation in other activities. We were both in athletics and I was working on the school paper and Art was already immersed in drama. And both of us were working after school and on weekends to help with family support. Two weeks later John Aseltine called me in again and told me that they had been unable to deter-mine the winner and they thought that it was only fair for Art and me to divide the $50. I assumed at the time that they called Art in and gave him the same information. At an assembly a week later Art and I each received a check for $25. The girl winner received $50. Twenty-five dollars looked like $2,500 to us and even more.
Many years went by and I became a newspaper man and did quite a bit of public speaking around service clubs, etc. And by now John Aseltine was the principal of San Diego High School—no he was principal of City College. He asked me if I would address the football banquet and I agreed to.
I was sitting at the head table with him and we started conversing about the old days at Woodrow Wilson, and he said, “Ken, do you remember when you and Art shared a $50 scholarship?” And I said, “Yes.” You see the $25 that I got meant an awful lot to my family. And he said, “Did you ever hear the true story about that?” And I said: “No, but I assumed that we got it because we were the two poorest kids in East San Diego.” He said: “I don’t mean that, you’ll recall that I brought you into my office to tell you that you and Art had tied and that you would share the $50. Subsequently, I sent for Art so that I could give him the same information. He wasn’t in school that day. Art was playing hookey and had gone to the beach to go swimming.” Art, incidentally, is a fine swimmer. John Aseltine said: “You almost got the $50.”
Ever since then Art has been so fabulously successful that every time I see him I kid him and say, “Art, how about that other $25 that I earned, I can use it and you don’t need it.” It’s been a standing joke with us.
What kind of guy was he then—dynamic?
Very outgoing—always was. He was an extremely good athlete. He taught me how to dive and swim down at the YMCA. He was a good basketball player, although he played on what they called the “Class B” team in those days. They had the varsity and then for fellows who weren’t big enough to be on the varsity had the “Class B.” They played a full schedule just like the varsity. After graduation—Art and his friend named Denver Fox—as I say times were difficult—the Depression was on us and they decided to hobo around the country. They worked their way to the East Coast and then they got a job on a freighter to South America. They were gone about a year. After his return to San Diego Art enrolled in San Diego State College where again he was an outstanding personality and an outstanding athlete. He played center on the basketball team and was All-Conference Center and led them to a Conference championship.
Art Linkletter did that?
Yes. And, as I say, he was a fine swimmer and diver. And, during the 1930s, he became one of the outstanding handball players in the country. I remember he would go back to Chicago and play in the championship matches there.
Did you say he took a year off and went bumming around?
Yes, he and a fellow named Denver Fox—one of my classmates—decided they needed a year to mature and hoped to make enough money to get into college and help support themselves.
I guess that’s why he is so well off now. He learned the value of a dollar.
Yes, Art is a highly intelligent individual. I know he has been on the boards of many corporations. He’s a good businessman, a fine entertainer, and a very warm individual.
You went to San Diego High School from what years?
From the fall of 1926 and I was graduated in June of 1929.
Then you knew Bill Schutte then?
Very well. I first met Bill in 1924, at Roosevelt Junior High School as I recall. He had just come out from Texas and my family had just come out from lowa. My first recollection of Bill Schutte was during the lunch period. The boys would play baseball and, I presume, Bill was like most of us and had one suit. Bill’s happened to be a blue serge with knee pants and he would always be the catcher. I can still see him out there during the lunch hour blocking the plate, catching or sliding into a base after getting a hit, and then going to class with blue serge pants just covered with dust.
Was he a chunky guy?
Yes. He was always a chunky, rather sturdy, individual. He subsequently went to Wilson when it first opened and played football and basketball there. As a matter of fact it’s hard for people who knew him in later years to believe he was the quarterback on the Woodrow Wilson football team. In those days the junior highs played a schedule almost like the high schools. Memorial, Wilson and Roosevelt competed in football, basketball, track and baseball.
They played essentially the same rules as they do nowadays?
Basically they were the same. I’m sure there have been some changes. Of course there are vast changes in playing procedures and strategy and equipment. They played on all dirt fields.
I went to Roosevelt, but that was a long time ago. I don’t remember of us playing against anybody—this was during the war years of course—I just remember basketball and baseball. We really didn’t have any interscholastic games at all it was just “Physical Ed,” as I remember.
I think the reason for that was the expansion in the number of high schools.
We just had San Diego High School. Of course there was Coronado and Point Loma which was a combined junior and senior high school. And there were Grossmont and Oceanside and Escondido and La Jolla.
I’m referring more to the junior high schools.
Then we had a vast expansion in the number of high schools. That’s when the interscholastic athletics were dropped in the junior high schools.
Then if a boy wanted to get involved in sports he just had to wait until he got into high school and then just go from there?
Yes, from the standpoint of competing with other schools. Of course they would have their intramural sports within the school.
I’m sure it was a dollar problem, too, to support a junior high school.
Undoubtedly. Because you buy football uniforms and even in those days it was quite a costly thing. You had to have the income for it.
I don’t think we played football, we played scrimmage and things like that.
I think football was dropped as I recall in the early 1930s.
In the junior high schools?
Yes, in the junior high school level.
Why don’t we concentrate right now on San Diego High School sports?
My class annual has helped out a little bit. My recollection of high school sports would, of course, concentrate on the period that I was in high school. And, also, what I had heard and read about in previous years— athletes, in previous years, going back before 1920. For example, they had some great baseball teams that won the national championship. I believe that was in 1921. Interestingly enough one of the outstanding baseball players they had up there was a fellow named Wes Sharp who, many years later, was to become San Diego Chief of Police. He is now retired and living in Mission Hills. A great individual! We have pictures of him with some of those championship teams hanging in the Hall of Champions in Balboa Park.
Another fine baseball player was the late Earle Brucker. He played in the early 1920s at San Diego High and went on to an outstanding career in professional baseball. He and his son, incidentally, are the ones who established the El Cajon Speedway. His son still operates it. Earle played in the City Coast League. He suffered an injury when hit by a pitched ball and was out of baseball for a couple of years. Then he made a fine comeback and wound up with Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics and played with them for a few years. Then he became Connie Mack’s assistant as a coach. He later was manager of several teams. People who knew Earle have high regard for his talents not only as a baseball player, an athlete but as an individual.
Of course nobody could forget the nucleus of the University of California Wonder Team of the early 1920s—1921 and 1922. The mainstays of that team came from San Diego High School with their coach who was a fellow named Nibs Price. He went on to become coach at University of California and his friends followed him up there, most notably Dr. Harold Mueller, known as “Brick” Mueller, one of the all-time All-Americans and then there was Pesky Sprott, Stan Barnes, Cort Majors.
After that period there were some other names that made history—Race Horse Russ Saunders for example who went on to USC and became an All-American. The symbol of USC today—the Trojan Horse with its rider on it— Russ Saunders posed for that. He had a marvelous figure—a very muscular guy. Hobbs Adams, who was to come back to San Diego High School in the early 1930s as coach, was a top player there with a player named Rockey Kemp, who later was a coach in the Long Beach area. There were the Ritchey brothers—Bert and Al Ritchey. Bert went on to USC. Some years later on he became a member of the San Diego Police Department and now is a highly recognized attorney.
Bill Schutte belongs with the best of them. He captained a team at San Diego High in 1928 and later went on to the University of Idaho and became one of the outstanding centers in the old Pacific Coast Conference before he went into coaching. He eventually came back to San Diego High as a coach and then went on to San Diego State College as a coach.
A few other names in the 1920s were Ted Wilson, who not only was a good football player but an excellent wrestler. Ted was the youngest fellow I ever saw who acquired what they refer to as cauliflower ears from wrestling. It bothered him a little bit when he played football, because the tight fitting helmets they had in those days were rather cumbersome and would hurt his ears. One of the coaches came up with a great idea. One of them happened to have a friend who was a pilot at North Island and he got one of those pilot’s leather hats which had a place for the ear phones and Ted Wilson wore that in lieu of a helmet. And I remember one time he drove into the line to make a tackle and hit head on with an opposing player and the other player’s teeth drove right through that thin leather protection that Ted had on his head.
Then there were Brad Woolman and Harry Jones, who was not only a good football player but a top track man and Charlie Addison. My recollection of much of the 1930s and thereafter is a bit hazy because being a sports writer I was covering other fields than high school athletics. I was covering service activities, which were big in those days, and San Diego State College and boxing and things of that nature.
One of the great San Diego High names of the 1930s, of course, was Amby Schindler—Ambrose Schindler. (He went on to USC and became an All-American and a successful coach.) Hobbs Adams had come back to be the coach at San Diego High. And he was a fellow who worked very closely with his men. He was not only a fine coach but just a top person. Amby was susceptible to leg cramps and in a particular game in Balboa Stadium he went to the turf in agony. I happened to be at that game. Hobbs was so concerned—he knew what had happened—he ran out there and gave him some immediate attention and then wanted to get him to the bench where the trainer could take over. Hobbs, who wasn’t a heck of a lot bigger than Amby, picked up that football player in his arms and literally ran to the side lines with him and put him on the bench.
Now you had your “Class B” sports in those days for the smaller men and they played a schedule just like the varsity did. Some of those “Class B” guys were just outstanding. The most notable of them all was Irvine “Cotton” Warburton, one of the all-time greats later at USC—an All-American at USC. He was a four sports man: football, baseball, track and basketball. Incidentally, in 1929, he was a State quarter-mile champion. San Diego High School won the State Championship in the Los Angeles Coliseum and I happened to be up there covering it for the paper. Cotton had been a 100-and 220-yard-dash man. Coach Glenn Broderick, another legendary sports figure at San Diego High, switched Cotton to the quarter-mile. Warburton was a small fellow, never weighed over 148 pounds in his life, even when he was playing for USC. He got to the finals in the State Championship meet.
Starting on the quarter-mile on the track in the Coliseum you are back in the tunnel and you come out of the tunnel, go around the turn and you finish on the back stretch. Well we figured that Cotton had a pretty good chance because of his early speed but he couldn’t go 440 yards. There was a fellow named Jimmy Luvall who later became a national figure as a track star at UCLA. Jimmy Luvall was in that race and he was a heavy favorite. Well, as anticipated, Cotton was leading after 220 yards, with those little short legs of his. Well, up came Luvall and they ran shoulder to shoulder ’round the turn. Then, as they straightened out for the back stretch for the run to the finish, Cotton just pulled away from him and won the event to the surprise of everybody. He ran the race, as I recall, in something like 49 and 3/5 seconds which was astounding for a high school athlete in those days. Nobody had come close to 50 seconds flat at San Diego High for example. So he was exceptional.
Others in the “Class B” group were Art Jacobs who has been a very successful business man in San Diego. Art was not only a good football player but he was a wrestler. Also a fellow named Ray Russell. And Don Clarkson, who, many years later, was to become a CIF Commissioner for the San Diego section. Don passed away a couple of years ago. Another named Joe Gintellalli and there was a guy named René Dupree who was a good football player and also a good track man.
THE PHOTOGRAPHS are courtesy of the San Diego High School Alumni Association.