Thanksgiving Day Football
Slatington v. Palmerton, Thursday, 24 November 1938

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Location: 10 AM, Victory Park, Slatington

Final Score: Palmerton 19 - Slatington 13

Weather: The weather forecast that morning called for “mostly cloudy and colder with probably light snow,” and it did snow. The temperature was around 26 degrees in the morning for the game.

Coaches: Fred Maass (1910-1994) and Willard Hawk Wilhelm (1906-1981) for Palmerton

1938 Slatington High School football team

1938 Slatington football team photo from the 1939 Slatington High School yearbook

Players were much smaller in the 1930s. Here are some listed weights for Slatington's team: Norwood Hankee 145, Norwood Mack 158, Earl Kendig 160, Donald Wotring 178, Carl Wotring 158, Francis Weinman 140, Roy Henry 150, Ray Mantz 194, Alfred Neff 165, Francis Kern 150, Homer Moyer 145, Gerald Best 179, Allen Coffin 138, James Snyder 125, Thomas Binder 147, Paul Smith 210, Charles Fisher 135, James Rex 210, Quincy Lehman 142, James Ibbotson 128, James Jones 120, Carl Hankee 145, Reynold Davies 125, Donald Roberts 142, Kenneth Owens 125, James Mack 149, Richard Thomas 149, Adelord Heery 140.

In 1938, both Slatington and Palmerton entered their fourth year of high school football.

Slatington approached the Thanksgiving Day showdown with Palmerton having achieved a “fair” record of 1-6-1.

Tied Pennsburg 0-0
Lost to Lehighton 13-6
Lost to Emmaus 16-0
Lost to Northampton 28-7
Lost to Catasauqua 51-0
Beat Whitehall 7-6
Lost to Stroudsburg 14-0
Lost to Coplay 27-0

Palmerton approached the Thanksgiving Day game having achieved an excellent record of 6-2.

Beat Whitehall 7-0
Beat Stroudsburg 6-0
Beat Catasauqua 14-7
Beat Summit Hill 6-0
Lost to Northampton 25-6
Beat Wilson 20-6
Lost to Emmaus 7-6
Beat Lehighton 19-6

1938 Palmerton High School football team

1938 Palmerton football team photo from the 1939 Palmerton High School yearbook

Activities leading up to the game

The week leading up to the game was filled with the usual excitement. Neither team played the week before Thanksgiving, which gave more time to prepare for the big, rivalry game. The Morning Call estimated that more than 5,000 people would witness the game. A “keen rivalry exists between the two school, and a record turnout of football fans is anticipated.” (23 November)

Pep rallies took place in both high schools on Wednesday afternoon. In the Slatington high school auditorium, “Beat Palmerton” was the cry of 1000 Slatington High School students yesterday afternoon at the annual pep rally in Smith Hall. The band played, the five cheerleaders led cheers; the captains and coaches addressed the students.

Palmerton was the prohibitive favorite coming into the game even though two important starters for the team were not available. Leibenguth and Elliott were replaced by Carazo and Romig. “Slatington to Have Hands Full” wrote The Morning Call. This will be “the strongest group of Blue Bombers the Zinc Boro has known since it adopted the gridiron sport several years ago.” Palmerton had defeated Catasauqua and Wilson already, and those were two of the best teams in the Lehigh Valley that year. “The forces at Slatington expect one of the hardest contests of the year.”

The game

The Morning Call wrote, “Four thousand fans shivered through four exciting periods yesterday morning at Victory Park” as Palmerton scored its fourth win in a row in the series. (The Morning Call, 25 November) “Palmerton started with a bang and recorded two touchdowns in the first half“ before the Slatington crew woke up and got to a 13-12 edge at the start of the fourth.

Palmerton jumped out to the 12-0 lead on TDs by Carazo and then a pass from Joe Wisocky to Joe Honzo. For Slatington, Dutch Kern scored on an 8-yard run, and then Norwood Mack scored a PAT on a run around end. (This was the first ever extra point scored by a Slatington player in a Thanksgiving game.)

At the start of the 4th quarter, “young, flashy [Jim] Snyder scored on a 45-yd scamper giving Slatington the lead.” But “the joys of our team did not last very long, however, for Honzo ran the kickoff to the SHS 45.” “Then Honzo, Carazo, Maurice Romig and Wisocki took chances lugging the leather until Palmerton gained Slatington’s ten-yards marker. From this point Romig skirted his own left for the winning touchdown.”

Joe Honzo (1918-1998) was one of the key players for Palmerton in the game. He was the younger brother of Steve Honzo (1917-1996), famed collegiate referee.

The Slatington News also noted that it had been an exciting game that “will go down in history, both for the quality of playing and attendance record.” And The Palmerton Press added that “approximately four thousand fans shivered through four extraordinary and exciting periods of football” (The Slatington News, 1 December)

As of November 1938, Palmerton had won the first four Thanksgiving games played.

The Lineups
Position Palmerton Slatington
Left end Joe Honzo Norwood Mack
Left tackle Mendez Donald Wotring
Left guard Terpay R. Mantz
Center Ondravich Hankee
Right guard Shepherd Earl Kendig
Right tackle Stemler Smith
Right end Hartna or Hartman Weinman
Quarterback Carazo Moyer
Left halfback Maurice Romig Dutch Kern
Right halfback A. Mendez Jim Snyder
Fullback Joe "chick" Wisocky Alfred Neff

The Slatington News claimed an average height of 5’10” and weight of 158 lbs. for Slatington players compared to 5’11” and 157 lbs. for Palmerton. That’s pretty small compared to the size of many high school football players today.

Some Statistics

First Downs: Slatington 10 - Palmerton 14
Yards: Slatington 320 - Palmerton 340
Passes: Slatington 3/9 - Palmerton 2/3
Turnovers: Palmerton had two interceptions and 1 fumble recovery; Slatington had 1 fumble recovery

Newspaper sources