Thanksgiving Day Football
Slatington v. Palmerton, Thursday, 26 November 1936

blue bar

Game Location: 10 AM, Victory Park, Slatington

Final Score: Palmerton 19 - Slatington 12

Weather: Fair but cold, high for the day at 35 degrees

Coaches: Fred Maass (1910-1994) and Lloyd Williams (1907-1992) for Slatington and Bill Braucher (1894-1941) for Palmerton

1936 Slatington High School football team

1936 Slatington High School Football Team Yearbook Photo

With the year 1936, both Slatington and Palmerton embarked on their second year of high school football. For both teams, the year did not go well.

Heading into the Thanksgiving Day contest, Slatington had won two games (Coplay and East Greenville) and lost five (Pen Argyl, Lehighton, Northampton, Emmaus, Catasauqua). The team had been outscored by a whopping 262 to 13. Meanwhile, Palmerton had won one game (Lehighton), tied one (Emmaus) and lost five (Summit Hill, Wilson, Northampton, Whitehall and the Bethlehem JV team) while being outscored by a more modest margin of 99 to 14.

As The Morning Call noted (24 November), “neither team has played exceptional football this year.” And Palmerton’s coach Braucher seemed to agree, “as far as I am concerned, it looks like anybody’s ball game.” Still, it was a big game for the two schools, as The Slatington News noted (19 November), “The football squad, the high school students, the faculty, in fact everybody as all keyed up over this game.”

In the days before the big game, preparations proceeded for the game to be played at Victory Park, Slatington’s home field. Portable bleachers were brought in from an Allentown firm to accommodate an expected crowd of 2,000. The gates were scheduled to open about 915 on Thanksgiving morning.

Just in time for the game, the band, which had only been organized in September, received new uniforms delivered in the school colors of blue and white (cap, cape, military jacket coat, trousers). There were 37 students in the band under the direction of Edgar Acker. The first public appearance of the band in the new uniforms was going to be at the game on Thanksgiving. It was expected that the Palmerton band was also going to be attending the game.

Slatington High School Band

Slatington High School Band 1936

In the days before the game, Slatington had two pep rallies. The first was sponsored by the Slatington Rotary Club as a “pep” rally in the gymnasium of the high school on Friday night, November 20th (about a week before the big game). Guests included members of the school board, high school faculty, the football squad and the band. Dr. Harry Kern, school board member, was the program chairman for the event. Dinner was served by the Rotary; the new blue and white band uniforms were dedicated; and then everyone took turns speaking. The keynote speech was given by Paul Stagg (1909-1992), the Moravian College head football coach. He was the son of the famed football coach Amos Alonzo Stagg, and after coaching at Moravian, Paul Stagg would continue coaching at a number of different colleges (record of 94-99-12) before becoming an athletic director at the University of the Pacific.

The other pep rally took place on Wednesday afternoon, the day before the big game, in the high school auditorium with the band, cheerleaders and over five hundred student there to “whoop things up.” Everyone sang songs and grew excited with cheer after cheer. And there were some inspirational words spoken by Slatington’s Coach Maass who roused the spirits of those in attendance by reminding all “that even though it was only three miles from Victory Park through Slatington it would be the longest three miles that Palmerton would ever travel on their homeward journey on Turkey Day.”

Game day, Thursday, 26 November 1936, dawned fair and cool in Slatington. The high temperature that day was only about 35 degrees. Since Victory Park is up at the top of the hill at the south end of Slatington, the field was icy that morning. The Palmerton Press reported that "due to the recent snow and rain and the sudden drop in temperature, the field was icy and made playing difficult at times."

A crowd estimated at 2,500 gathered for the game.

The Lineups
Position Palmerton Slatington
Left end Berke D. Kern
Left tackle Jeringo Wotring
Left guard Krex Zellner
Center John Sobota Welty
Right guard Joe Sobota Mantz
Right tackle Lesko Thomas
Right end Bohunicky Stermer
Quarterback Elliott Price
Left halfback Balliett F. Kern
Right halfback Boyer Ibbotson
Fullback Werkheiser Eckhart

Palmerton emerged as the 19-12 winner with Palmerton’s backfield as “the shining star” of the game. ”Touchdowns were scored by Kern, Tergo (a Palmerton substitute), Ibbotson, Boyer and Urda (a Palmerton substitute). While Slatington “outclassed [Palmerton] Coach Bill Braucher’s proteges in the air” with a passing attack led by Ibbotson and Price, it was not enough.

A 12-7 Slatington lead evaporated in the fourth quarter. According to The Morning Call, Palmerton unleashed “a terrific fourth period assault which carried the pigskin twice across the Slatington goal … Charlie Boyer darted time and again into a broken field and emerged with considerable yardage … Paul ‘Pooch’ Urda dealt stunning blows into the Slatington morale with an exhibition of plowmanship during line plunges when a first down was at stake.” The Palmerton Press was colorful in its description of the game. "Harold Balliet held up his assignment in the backfield with a series of short, but all-important dashes across the line of scrimmage." And "Paul 'Pooch' Urda, man mountain on the Blue Bombers eleven, dealt stinging blows into the Slatington morale with an exhibition of plowmanship during the plunges when a first down was at stake."

Both Don Kern and Ray Ibbotson, who had recorded a safety in the 1935 game, scored touchdowns for Slatington, but it looks like it was Kern who scored the first Slatington touchdown in the Thanksgiving rivalry. He had several pass catches during the game.

After this game, the series stood at Palmerton 2 wins, Slatington 2 losses.

Newspaper sources