Sunday, September 10, 2017

Football has a long history in Kerr County

Kerrville Tivy Football Pep Rally late 1950s
Tivy High School football pep rally, downtown Kerrville, late 1950s
Click on any image to enlarge
With football season underway, I wanted to check my files for stories about the history of football in Kerr County.
The earliest mention of football I've found is on a 1907 postcard, showing a game underway at the old West Texas Fairgrounds in Kerrville. However, despite the title on the postcard, the game being played certainly looks like basketball: there are two hoops in the photo and the teams are wearing shorts and light shirts. None appear to be wearing padding of any kind, and no one has a helmet.
The first mention I see of high school football was at Tivy, in 1911.
Tivy High School Football Team, 1913
A few years ago Jan Wilkinson mailed me an article from the September 26, 1957 issue of the Kerrville Times, written by Eugene T. Butt, who was himself a member of an interesting Kerrville family.
"Football came to Tivy in the fall of 1911," the page one article begins. "Prior to this time baseball was the principal sport and when school started in September the boys started baseball and played until the weather became too cold.
"In the summer of 1911, Professor Alvin Dille . . . was elected head of the Kerrville Schools. When school started in September, one of the first things he did was call all of the older boys together and to say, 'Boys, we are going to organize a Tivy Football Team. Who wants to try out for the team?'
Tivy football team, 1920
"Of course, almost all of the boys were interested, although there was not a boy who had played football before and but few of them had even seen a game. There were a very few holdbacks, however, for nearly every boy who wore 'long breeches' tried out and there were about twenty on the first squad.
"Professor Dille taught the boys the fundamentals of the game. The team worked from a straight T formation. Only simple plays were used -- such as end runs, 'line bucks,' and forward passing.
"We had one or two so-called trick plays. One was the criss-cross in which the quarterback gave the ball to one end and he gave it to the other end coming from the opposite direction. It was slow, though, and we never gained much with it.
1936 Tivy football team
"The Tivy boys had no uniforms, but wore old baseball uniforms or caps, old sweaters, or anything they had. A few of them got hold of old pieces of football equipment," Butt wrote. "I acquired a noseguard somewhere and it was responsible for the only touchdown we scored that season.
"The town team was punting and I broke through the line and the ball hit my noseguard and bounced back over the kicker's head and over their goal line, and Lewis Moore, a Tivy end, fell on it for a touchdown."
The earliest photo of the Tivy football team in my collection is of the 1913 team. That group at least had uniforms.
The 1936 Tivy football team had a stellar season, and played in Amarillo for the state championship. This was before schools competed against like-sized schools; Tivy was playing for the championship of all of the schools in Texas, against the Amarillo Sandies. In that two-team contest let's just say the Sandies came in next to last, and Tivy came in second.
A lot of folks remember traveling to that game; the team and the Tivy mascot, a young deer nicknamed 'Scrappy' traveled by train to Amarillo. I don't think anyone stayed in Kerrville that cold weekend; they all headed north, to Amarillo.
All of the area schools had football teams by the 1920s, and traditions begun then continue to today.
Houston Oilers at training camp in Kerrville ca 1970
Houston Oilers at training camp
on the campus of Schreiner Institute
Schreiner Institute also had football teams. The earliest dated photo I have of a Mountaineer football team is from 1923, sent to me by Jack Stevens, whose father was on that team.
There is even a little professional football history in Kerr County.
A few readers might remember the Houston Oilers training camp held at Schreiner Institute (now University), though the team arrived in Kerrville in early July for several years. The earliest mention I found was in July 1967, and the team continued coming to Kerrville each summer until 1973. Members of the team stayed in Schreiner dorm rooms.
Here's hoping for a successful and safe football season for all the teams in Kerr County this year.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects photographs and artifacts about Kerrville and Kerr County history. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 9, 2017.

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