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Hamrick Influenced CCHS Sports

by Robert F. Bonar

     

Updated on Wednesday*:

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(The following information was presented at the Calhoun Historical Society’s meeting.)

 

"Hick" Hamrick

 

Morgan Tamblyn “Hick” Hamrick was born on Nov. 22, 1888, on Woodzell Point Mountain, near Webster Springs. He received his early education in Webster County, but Webster Springs lacked a high school at the time, so he attended West Virginia Wesleyan College’s Academy in Buckhannon.

He received his diploma from Wesleyan Academy in 1914 and finished Wesleyan Normal School in 1916. He enlisted in the army and served for two and a half years during World War I. Upon his discharge, he earned an A.B. degree from Wesleyan in 1921 and a masters degree from WVU in 1929.

Hamrick’s athletic education was no less distinguished. Throughout his career, he attended coaching schools directed by many notable state coaches, including Dr. Clarence Spears of WVU and “Crafty Cam” Henderson of Marshall and Davis and Elkins fame.

An ardent disciple of Knute Rockne, Hamrick employed the Notre Dame offense for most of his career to great success. He also enjoyed coaching and talking about the game, and The Parkersburg News commented that he was well renowned for his “quick wit and humorous football stories.”

His first teaching position was at Ravenswood High School shortly after returning from military duty. After serving as teacher and coach for a year, Hamrick transferred to West Union High School and coached football there in 1921 and 1922.

In 1923, he accepted a coaching position at Cabin Creek District High School, East Bank, where he spent 10 years, and earned a reputation as one of the best coaches in the state. His Pioneer basketball teams won the Kanawha County championship four years in a row, and his baseball team never lost the county championship.

His 10-year record in football was 75-13-4, and the Pioneers averaged 25 points per game while holding their opponents to three. Hamrick’s teams were famous for their passing attack, and claimed the odd distinction of never having lost on a dry field. Aside from Charleston High, East Bank was considered the most powerful team in the Kanawha Valley.

Following his decision to move to Calhoun County, Hamrick was presented with a large engraved silver football by the Cabin Creek Alumni Association in appreciation of his achievements.

The Calhoun football teams in the 1920s and 1930s were never ranked very highly in state circles. The Red Raiders (as they were known) rarely traveled past the neighboring counties to play football, and thus were virtually unknown past the Little Kanawha Valley.

The 1932 season ended in the controversial firing of Coach Miles Kochenderfer, who had played only underclassmen during the last game of the season against Pennsboro, a move that infuriated Calhoun supporters despite a victory over the Cardinals.

Why Hamrick decided to leave East Bank to come to Grantsville is unknown, but his impact on the small school cannot be underestimated. His success at East Bank spoke for itself, especially his 7-1 record against Spencer. Calhoun had managed only three ties and six losses against their neighboring rival.

Hamrick’s impact on Calhoun football was immediate. During fall practice, he replaced the old, worn-out khaki jerseys with new red ones, the first colored uniforms in the Little Mountaineer Conference. He also tagged the team with the nickname Red Devils, though The Parkersburg News would continue to refer to Calhoun as the Red Raiders until World War II.

The team managed a 3-3-2 record in 1933, but Calhoun notched its first win against Spencer, a 27-6 thrashing on the local field (the 27 points scored were more than Calhoun had scored against Spencer in 10 years). Keeping a promise he made during the fall, Hamrick purchased every member of the team a new red silk jersey for beating Spencer. After only one year at the helm, Hamrick was praised by local fans and the county papers for turning the football program around.

The Spencer victory seemed to be all the Calhoun boys needed to get going. In 1934, Calhoun posted a 7-1 record (the best in school history at the time), and topped that the following year with an 11-1 record (still the school record for wins in a season).

Though the Red Devils never won the Little Mountaineer Conference, they were consistently in the hunt for the league championship, and by the late 1930s were being touted by The Parkersburg News as one of the best small schools in the state.

Not content to let Calhoun remain the best kept secret in Central West Virginia, Hamrick used connections from his East Bank days to expand Calhoun’s schedule. He arranged games with Parkersburg, Point Pleasant, Winfield, Saint Albans and Webster Springs (near his birthplace), all larger schools that would provide more competition and exposure for his team.

The plan worked brilliantly, as Calhoun football in general and players in particular began to receive more press. Four members of the 1937 squad earned honorable mention on the All-State squad, more than ever before.

The following year, Orman Ewing was named first team back on the Huntington Herald-Dispatch’s All-State team, a direct result of his showing in the Parkersburg game in 1938. Calhoun was more than a match for most of the larger opponents, though the two games against Parkersburg stand as the most lopsided losses in Calhoun history (not surprising considering that enrollment at PHS was over six times that of Calhoun).

Apparently, Hamrick used his Kanawha County connections in another way, to recruit players from the Kanawha Valley to play for the Red Devils. Orman and Raymond Ewing, two of the finest backs Calhoun had seen to that point, were recruited from Clendenin. Juarette “Bat” Poling, All-Conference tackle, also hailed from Kanawha County.

Hamrick remained head coach through the 1945 season. Twice he ceded control of the team to his assistant coach, in 1942 to Lloyd Vaughn and in 1945 to Wayne Underwood, who would inherit the job.

Though his work with the football team gained the school greater notoriety, Hamrick also did an excellent job with the basketball team. Cage games at this time were played in the basement of the high school, in a cramped gymnasium referred to as the “Crackerbox.”

Dressing rooms were located beneath the wooden bleachers, and the playing area was irregular. The floor was not regulation size, and the ceiling was sloped at an odd angle due to the corresponding slope in the auditorium above.

This provided something of an advantage to the Calhoun boys when shooting near the low ceiling, but practicing in the cramped conditions handicapped them when they played in standard gymnasiums.

Despite these hindrances, Hamrick immediately worked his magic on the basketball team. His initial team of 1933-34 finished the season with an 11-7 record. Those 11 wins were more than Calhoun had managed to win cumulatively since beginning the sport in 1926-27.

The following year, Calhoun notched its first victory in a sectional game, a 35-13 victory over Spencer. 1938 marked the biggest leap in the basketball program, as Calhoun defeated Sand Fork, Walton and Glenville to capture their first sectional title. Advancing to the regional in Clarksburg for the first time, Calhoun beat Victory 34-31 before bowing to Washington-Irving. It was the last time that Calhoun advanced to the regional tournament until 1994. The 1938 team still holds the record for most postseason wins in one year with four.

Though he had overcome many obstacles to make the basketball team competitive, one he could not overcome was the fire that destroyed the school in February of 1942. Without a gym, Calhoun had to cancel the remainder of its home games, and, after a sectional loss to Harrisville, discontinued the program entirely.

In the spring of 1945, Hamrick revived the program and played three away games against the JV teams of Normantown, Spencer, and Glenville. The following year, he turned complete control of the basketball team over to his new assistant, Wayne Underwood.

Football and basketball seem to be the only sports Hamrick coached while at Calhoun. Baseball, which had always been spotty, seems to have been cancelled prior to Hamrick’s arrival in Grantsville, as the 1948 baseball team claimed to be the first in 15 years to represent the school.

Hamrick introduced a variety of other sports to the students during physical education class, including boxing in the mid-1930s.

Following the firing of principal Don McGlothlin in 1941 (another controversial personnel move that was reminis­cent of the situation that led to Hamrick coming to Calhoun in the first place).

Hamrick was named principal. Sensing that coaching athletics and overseeing the high school would be very taxing, Hamrick named Stan D’Orazio head basketball coach midway through the 1941-42 season. D’Orazio’s tenure was halted by the fire which destroyed the high school in 1942.

With many records missing and classes scattered among various buildings in town, Hamrick’s job was even harder, and he handed control of the football team to assistant Lloyd Vaughn in 1942.

Resuming his coaching duties in 1943, Hamrick guided the team for two more years before handing the reigns over to Wayne Underwood in 1945. In 1946, Hamrick resigned his position as principal and accepted a position with the Kanawha County Board of Education.

Hamrick was married to the former Edith May Smith in 1924, while he was a coach at East Bank. He had met her while coaching at West Union. They had a son, Frank, who was born in Grantsville and later graduated from Stonewall Jackson High School in Charleston.

Hamrick remained in the Kanawha County school system for the rest of his professional career, though he occasionally returned to the Little Kanawha Valley, including a speaking engagement at the 1958 LKC banquet. He died in August 1966 in Charleston.

 Hick Hamrick’s
Football Coaching Record

1920  Ravenswood unavailable                      

1921  West Union unavailable

1922  West Union unavailable

1923  East Bank            8-1   

1924  East Bank            8-1   

1925  East Bank            7-1-1

1926  East Bank            6-3   

1927  East Bank            7-1   

1928  East Bank            8-1   

1929  East Bank            6-1-2

1930  East Bank            8-2   

1931  East Bank            9-1   

1932  East Bank            8-1-1

1933  Calhoun              3-3-2

1934  Calhoun              7-1   

1935  Calhoun            11-1   

1936  Calhoun              8-2-1

1937  Calhoun              8-2-1

1938  Calhoun              7-4   

1939  Calhoun              6-3   

1940  Calhoun              6-4   

1941  Calhoun              7-2-2

1942  Calhoun              7-0-1

1943  Calhoun              4-2   

1944  Calhoun              3-2-2

Totals                    153-39-13

 

 

Basketball Coaching Record

1934    Calhoun           11-7  

1935*  Calhoun            14-6  

1936*  Calhoun             6-5  

1937    Calhoun           14-6  

1938*  Calhoun            10-3  

1939    Calhoun           11-9  

1940*  Calhoun            5-10  

1941    Calhoun           16-5  

1942*  Calhoun             0-9  

1943-1944 No Basketball

1945    Calhoun             1-2  

Totals                          88-62

 

*indicates a year for which a complete record is unavailable.

Thanks to the East Bank Alumni Association for Hamrick’s East Bank record.

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