Rise and fall of the New Deal
What it means to be born in the West.
Flag protocol, what the flag has become.
My Old Man
Bio of my father given on his 94 birthday.
VGR (Very Good
I want to congratulate the Republican party for almost, almost
dismantling FDR’s new deal. It’s only taken 80 years and it’s not
quite there yet. If the democrats lose the next election it will be
done. Obama is trying to save the tatters. It’s been a long trip for
the elite now known as the one percent.
Following the Civil War the Republicans ruled the Whitehouse,
because most white southerners weren't allowed to vote.
All social and economic decisions were made by the elite. There were
some rumblings but the Republicans were able to keep it all under
control. Democrat Grover Cleveland was twice elected to the presidency,
and for 2 four-year terms the
had dignified rule. The Republicans ran William McKinley, a VGR (very
good republican) against William Jennings Bryan. When it became known
that the election was close Mark Hannah, the Republican God Father,
started a rumor that if
won the election all the businesses in
would shut down and everyone would be out of work. What effect that had
on the election has been debated. It is just an illustration of what
they were able to get away with in those days.
The good news for the Republicans was that they got their VGR.
The bad news was that he got shot. The worse news was that this event
elevated republican Theodore Roosevelt to the Presidency. TR was not a
VGR. He was a VBR or (very bad Republican). He tore up the Republican
script and ran everything his own way. He had a boxing ring in the
Whitehouse, so nobody was messing with him. He retired and Taft got the
job. TR, (VBR again), split the Republican vote in the next election and
the Democrats elected Woodrow Wilson (gasp) a man who had among other
things had been President of Princeton University. Well I swan.
After the corrupt Harding Presidency ended with him dying under
suspicious circumstances, ‘Silent’ Cal Coolidge, who was steady and
a VGR took over. He is famous for his quote, “The business of
Government is business”. Awesome. You can’t get more out front than
that. But at the end of his term he said, “If nominated I will not run
and if elected I will not serve." He
was normally judged as being pretty boring but he let go a couple of
Hoover, VGR, was blindsided by the depression. His famous "Chicken in
every pot and a car in every garage" didn’t resonate too well
with starving people.
did begin several social programs for which
later took some credit. FDR, who spoke directly to the people and at
least made them believe that he cared about them, opposed the Republican
‘The floggings will continue until moral improves’ attitude. Whew.
But he did more than that. He began to create a new social order.
He instituted restrictions on Banking and Finance to control
speculation. The business powers were furious. Some of them even tried
to organize a coup to get rid of him. Democrats took over both houses of
the legislature. His economic vision was that if you distribute the
economy more equally across the spectrum you could create a large new
middle class and increase consumption and therefore the economy. The
Republicans were seething. They were watching the intentional
restructuring of society. They couldn’t believe it.
Through the ripples from this new concept, blue collar workers
and poor people gained a sense of dignity. FDR understood that the
industrial age was just beginning and it would change society and
society’s needs. He was put to the test just before the war; he was
future involvement and instituted a number of war related activities
that didn’t go down totally with a lot of people, Democrats and
Republicans alike, but when we entered the war the government and
military already had begun total mobilization. His handling of the war
was magnificent. He may have gotten juked by his Russian friend Uncle
Joe a couple of times, and he bent the constitution a bit, but not too
With the new post-war
, the future looked tremendous. He and the Republicans instituted the
G.I. Bill of Rights for returning veterans, setting up the
infrastructure for the new middle class society.
The democratic party began to fracture under Truman's civil
rights stance, with Southern Democrats splitting away; he barely
defeated Thomas Dewey in the 1948 election. The republicans were
beginning to gain some credibility by denigrating the New Deal and its
evil 'communist' agenda. The House Un-American Activities and the
Senate's Joe McCarthy began to erode public support, a situation
exacerbated by the cold war and the Russians exploding the A-bomb. The
Republicans nominated General Dwight Eisenhower for President. He buried
Adlai Stevenson in the election and the Republicans had the presidency
for the first time since 1932. This was good except... DDE was something
of a populist, coming from the poor rural
upbringing and he thwarted the attempted overtaking of the government by
big business. He kept in place many of the hated New Deal policies and
even added a few of his own. He had first-hand experience with the
military-industrial complex and warned against it. Even though he had
won back the presidency he proved to be a VBR.
Kennedy of course and Johnson installed their own version of the
New Deal, although their stance on civil rights eroded some of their
support. Nixon was a Republican, but was not a VGR type Republican. I've
heard that he was in favor of universal health care. That couldn't have
set too well with the party. Regan blew up the whole New Deal for once
and for all. Deregulation, deficit spending, back to silent Cal
Coolidge, the business of government is business. So long New Deal, the
miracle was that the Capitalist fascists were thwarted for a number of
years. That glorious time seems to have passed.
I am beginning to realize the implications of being
a westerner. Obviously all Caucasian westerners came from the east at
one time or another. I think there is a bit of psychological difference
between those who chose to leave home and those who stayed behind. There
is also some difference between those who crossed the country before the
railroad and those who came later. Before the railroads there were
basically two ways of getting from the east coast to the west coast. By
horse, stage and wagon by land, or by sea from
By sea you had two choices, you could take a
clipper around the horn to
, or sail to
, walk across the isthmus and pick up a ship on the west coast and
continue the journey north. Many who took the
route couldn't afford the whole trip, but they may have gotten the best
of the deal. Depending on the time of the year, it was a very dangerous
trip around the horn. If the winds were not right you'd keep getting
blown south, sometimes almost to
. Many ships didn't make it at all.
The difficulty of migration by land is very well
documented. The west is vast, and at the time of wagon migration almost
no population. It's still quite lightly populated. Of course there was
always the danger that the people whose land you are taking or
trespassing on had a tendency to take umbrage at this, and cause
trouble; but for most, the Indians were the least of the problems. Early
on the west was not divided into states, it was territories which meant
no government or infrastructure. It is mind-boggling to me that people
could be in such dire straits back east that they would take such a
chance. Of course they probably didn't have a clue what they were
getting themselves into.
My great grandfather on my mother's side walked
across the Isthmus in 1854. My father's family left
after the civil war, during which at least one of the boys rode with
Quantrill's raiders. After the war the Jayhawker's came down and killed
all the males they could find. The rest of the family got wagons and
rolled to the
valley. My family farmed and logged to keep it together.
It has recently been shown that trauma can be
passed on hereditarily to children. Probably many other things can be
passed on also. I am now beginning to feel like a link in the chain from
Quantrill's raiders to my life today. My drop out and live in the woods
was definitely spawned by the past; even though my parents were
horrified, I think they secretly understood what I was doing. I remember
my mother one time telling me that she thought I was born in the wrong
The juxtaposition from this heritage to my love of
technology and literature must have caused some damage to my nervous
system. I remember on at least two occasions I took some of my
working buds down into Bald rock canyon on the middle fork of the
. After the second time the boss told I couldn't take employees down
there because they got too banged up.
There was another environmental situation to add to
the rural western influence. I was born during the depression and grew
up during WWII. These were times for mighty men, who survived the
depression and the war. At least in the country it was a time of rugged
individualism. When I was younger I never felt that I could live up to
these ideals of these giant men I grew up with, but to my surprise I
have carried out this trait in my own fashion. Early on I learned the
importance of dignity, integrity honor and responsibility. I am aware
that not all people subscribed to these philosophies; however I
personally knew a number of them, my father being the prime example, so
I'm not talking hypotheticals. I'm sure that rural people have a bit
more social flexibility than city folk. And the stories. I remember my
grandfather saying that when he was a kid there was talk going around
that Frank James was seen riding through town. Could have happened,
Jessie and Frank did spend some time in
, though they didn't seem to have robbed any trains out here.
Although my family were quite eclectic in their
reading matter, Zane Grey and other westerns were a part of our reading.
My father told the story that when he was young, and when Zane Grey was
hot, pop was friends with the Walton Powell family. Powell fly rods were
very popular. One time he saw Zane Grey when he came to town to buy some
rods. Another connection. Although I never actually read Horatio Alger,
his formula of young people of meager means scaling the heights through
grit and high-mindedness, and maybe a little luck, made it to the
pinnacle of American society.
But that way of life is over now, egalitarianism
has risen to the point where striving for excellence for it's own sake
seems pretty crazy. Society's
ideas about nobility and courage have really morphed. This is a natural
result of technology; it couldn't turn out any other way. Like the old
Indian, encouraged to adopt the white man's way, couldn't change. It
made no sense and didn't touch his soul. I feel like Chingachgook,
the last of the Mohicans or Ishi last of his tribe. By the way, There is
some evidence that the character Natty Bumppo was modeled after one of
my forbears on my mother's side, William Crum. So there.
I remember one time when I was in Takilma and it
became clear that the movement was doomed,
I asked, "will we go out with a bang or a whimper?" We decided
that we probably going out with a whimper. Not strong enough to make a
real stand. Maybe the Indians won after all.
I remember my friend Jane in Sweet Home told me
that I was the last hippie. The truth is that I was never a hippie, I
may be the last of the beat generation, although I have spent a lot of
my life among the baby boomers who were mostly from the city originally.
Well, that 'last of' sounds pretty damn final. Ha, ha, ha. I will not
use on line acronyms. It can get lonely because most people quit
following their journey at a fairly young age. There isn't much talk
about. Isn't that what middle age is all about? Getting comfortable
physically and psychologically?' I guess I just never grew up. The sense
of anticipating adventure in life never left me. When you are
super-inquisitive life is never boring.
So what I figured is I am a 78 year old westerner
from the depression and War eras following my path but always thankful
for the early lessons I learned from the great men of the day. It has
all been very rewarding.
The Flag Code, which formalizes and
unifies the traditional ways in which we give respect to the flag, also
contains specific instructions on how the flag is not to be used. They
flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown
upside down only as a distress signal.
flag should not be used as a drapery, or for covering a speakers
desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general. Bunting
of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The
blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.
flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not
be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as
cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be
discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be
attached to the staff or halyard
flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform,
except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military
personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic
flag should never have placed on it, or attached to it, any mark,
insignia, letter, word, number, figure, or drawing of any kind.
flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding,
carrying, or delivering anything.
When the flag is lowered, no part of
it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by
waiting hands and arms. To store the flag it should be folded neatly and
The flag should be cleaned and mended
When a flag is so worn it is no longer
fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by
burning in a dignified manner.
Note: Most American Legion Posts regularly conduct a dignified flag burning
ceremony, often on Flag Day, June 14th. Many Cub Scout Packs, Boy Scout
Troops, and Girl Scout Troops retire flags regularly as well. Contact
your local American Legion Hall or Scout Troop to inquire about the
availability of this service.
the Flag Outdoors
When the flag is displayed from a
staff projecting from a window, balcony, or a building, the union should
be at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half staff.
When it is displayed from the same
flagpole with another flag - of a state, community, society or Scout
unit - the flag of the United States must always be at the top except
that the church pennant may be flown above the flag during church
services for Navy personnel when conducted by a Naval chaplain on a ship
When the flag is displayed over a
street, it should be hung vertically, with the union to the north or
east. If the flag is suspended over a sidewalk, the flag's union should
be farthest from the building.
When flown with flags of states,
communities, or societies on separate flag poles which are of the same
height and in a straight line, the flag of the
is always placed in the position of honor - to its own right.
..The other flags may be smaller but none may be larger.
..No other flag ever should be placed above it.
..The flag of the
is always the first flag raised and the last to be lowered.
When flown with the national banner of
other countries, each flag must be displayed from a separate pole of the
same height. Each flag should be the same size. They should be raised
and lowered simultaneously. The flag of one nation may not be displayed
above that of another nation.
and Lowering the Flag
The flag should be raised briskly and
lowered slowly and ceremoniously. Ordinarily it should be displayed only
between sunrise and sunset. It should be illuminated if displayed at
The flag of the
United States of America
is saluted as it is hoisted and lowered. The salute is held until the
flag is unsnapped from the halyard or through the last note of music,
whichever is the longest.
the Flag Indoors
When on display, the flag is accorded
the place of honor, always positioned to its own right. Place it to the
right of the speaker or staging area or sanctuary. Other flags should be
to the left.
The flag of the
United States of America
should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a
number of flags of states, localities, or societies are grouped for
When one flag is used with the flag of
United States of America
and the staffs are crossed, the flag of the
is placed on its own right with its staff in front of the other flag.
When displaying the flag against a
wall, vertically or horizontally, the flag's union (stars) should be at
the top, to the flag's own right, and to the observer's left.
and Saluting the Flag
When carried in a procession, the flag
should be to the right of the marchers. When other flags are carried,
the flag of the
may be centered in front of the others or carried to their right. When
the flag passes in a procession, or when it is hoisted or lowered, all
should face the flag and salute.
To salute, all
persons come to attention. Those in uniform give the appropriate formal
salute. Citizens not in uniform salute by placing their right hand over
the heart and men with head cover should remove it and hold it to left
shoulder, hand over the heart. Members of organizations in formation
salute upon command of the person in charge.
Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem
The pledge of allegiance should be
rendered by standing at attention, facing the flag, and saluting.
When the national anthem is played or sung, citizens should stand at
attention and salute at the first note and hold the salute through the
last note. The salute is directed to the flag, if displayed, otherwise
to the music.
Flag in Mourning
To place the flag at half staff, hoist
it to the peak for an instant and lower it to a position half way
between the top and bottom of the staff. The flag is to be raised again
to the peak for a moment before it is lowered. On Memorial Day the flag
is displayed at half staff until noon and at full staff from noon to
The flag is to be flown at half staff
in mourning for designated, principal government leaders and upon
presidential or gubernatorial order.
When used to cover a casket, the flag
should be placed with the union at the head and over the left shoulder.
It should not be lowered into the grave.
I was in the fifth and sixth grades I was one of two school crossing
guards. Part of our duties were the raising and lowering of the flag. We
folded it and carried it to its storage place.
The purpose of the flag and flag ceremony is to reinforce the
rule that it is above all of us as individuals. Violation of flag
protocol was potentially a serious offense. I'm not sure when its ideals
began to erode, but use for commercial and political purposes began
sometime in the '50's I would guess. Companies named American something
something were often excuses to use the flag to sell whatever crap they
were flogging. If you are looking for a used car lot look for the
biggest flag in town. The whole complex
will probably be surrounded by small flags proving the
loyalty of Honest Harry or whoever owns the lot.
The counter culture used desecration of the flag primarily to
point out the hypocrisy of the establishment using it to justify things
such as racism and military aggression in
. I don't know what laws were actually on the books in the '60's and
70's but I know that Patty Shepherd was arrested in Grant's Pass when
she visited Shawn in jail and was busted for having an American flag
patch on her shorts. I know this because I put up the $100 to bail her
out, then she and Shawn split for the hills. I never got the money back
of course, I guess it was a donation to the cause or something. In this
case the flag was used to punish Americans who were looked on with
disfavor by the legal establishment.
In the last twenty or thirty years it has become the symbol of
nothing. Businesses manufacture and sell flag apparel, an abuse of the
flag per etiquette in both instances, then people purchase them and wear
them, also a violation, I suppose to proclaim the world that the wearer
has enhanced the value of the flag by wearing it. It is shown on postage
stamps which is also against the protocol, so it really means nothing
anymore. I have encountered no opposition to this practice, although
there may be some out there. I was totally flabbergasted this last
fourth of July to see a picture of a dog dressed in flag clothing.
Adorable. Any official complaints? I don't know.
So I do not salute the flag. I will stand during the ceremony,
but will not salute or recite the pledge. I'm sure that I can be accused
of arrogance for this behavior and I will not deny it, it's just that
the flag means more to me than dog dress up. I know this will shock
those who are comfortable with my curmudgeon-ness. curmudgeonosity? I
think I just made that word up, but I revere the flag and what it is
supposed to represent.
Interesting note on
the flag, at least to me. Europeans had lived on the north American
continent for about 150 years before the war of independence. The had
fought an intense war against the natural environment in order to subdue
it and prosper. It seems that Europeans never had any love for nature.
After all these years of co-existence the Americans produced a flag
containing no earth colors. It is made up of primary colors which only
exist in an un-natural environment. This is in contrast to our neighbors
in the frozen North who adopted the maple leaf as their national symbol.
My Old Man
(The reason for this brief biography was his 94 th birthday party. Actually it was one of the few parties he has had because he was born on Christmas day) Hugh was born Orland, California on December 25, 1903, on his mother’s birthday. It would be reasonable to look on this as a portent of the future.
His antecedents? His father, William Harrison, left St. Louis, Missouri in 1873 at age six months, and traveled by wagon train to the Northern Sacramento Valley, where he lived for the rest of his life, along with most of the Harrison Clan. His mother was Lyda Heaton. There are still a number of Heatons living in Glenn and Tehama counties.
There are stories about the days in Missouri during the Civil War period when one of the boys joined William Clark Quantrill’s raiders and participated in the raids, named bleeding Kansas. According to the story, after the war a group of Kansas Jayhawkers rode to the family farm and shot all of the adult males. The ones left alive immigrated California.
There were also stories that they were related to the Harrisons of Virginia including Presidents Benjamin and William Henry Harrison and William Henry’s father Benjamin, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. If this is true then his family line long predates the Revolutionary War.
The Harrison family lived a typically hard life, farming etc. Bill Harrison had a number of jobs during Hugh’s early years in Hamilton City. Farming was one of their main occupations. Hugh learned about hard work early, delivering milk and produce door-to-door early in the morning, and working in the sugar beet industry. The entire family supplemented the food on the table with wild game and fish. He was the youngest of three brothers, and became extremely close to his mother. She was the matriarch and force that kept the family together, as is so often the case in marginal income working families. Although Hamilton City was not an extremely affluent community, and therefore there was not an incredible amount of social pretentiousness, Pop was occasionally subjected to prejudice because of his station in life. I think this helped him later in life to identify with the economically handicapped young people he was associated with.
I see him in his younger days as a sort of Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn sort of character, having fun, getting in trouble like any other kid. He has not discussed his childhood much in depth. However, when we recently toured Hamilton City and he began reminiscing, he mentioned in passing something about some dynamite and irrigation ditch levee. I guess whatever happened has passed the statute of limitations by now.
The boys participated in athletics, and of course fought a bit between themselves. Their father played baseball before the turn of the century, before players became sissies and started using gloves. His brother Claude was an excellent pitcher in the Valley league and had tryouts for the Pacific Coast League, however he enjoyed hunting, fishing and partying too much and could never commit to baseball. Everyone who saw him play said that he was the hardest thrower with the best stuff they had ever seen, and would have been a major leaguer for sure. My father should know. Claude forced pop to catch for him and he hated it.
Getting this biography together has gotten me thinking about a lot of questions about his life that I had never considered before.
No one in his family had ever attended college as far as I know. I don’t really know what prompted his thinking in this area, or why he chose Athletics as a major. I can only guess that he took a look at his options in life and decided that logging was not to his liking as a lifelong profession. I imagine he also was strongly motivated to upward social mobility, the wonderful option available in America. One story that I heard was that the summer after he graduated from High School, his brothers somehow got him to blow his entire summer logging wages. He is supposed to have decided that if he was that dumb he’d probably better get some more schooling. I don’t know if this is true or not. I also don’t know what influences helped shape his moral and ethical sense, which he has shown throughout his life, and which is one of the main reasons we are all here today to honor him.
He was a product of the Western frontier, loved the stories and books about the West, and passed this love on to his children. He was friendly with the Walton Powell family who lived nearby. Walton was and is world famous for his fishing equipment the Powell Rod being the top of the line at one time. Pop remembers that Zane Grey occasionally visited the Powell’s to purchase gear. I remember Bill Harrison reminiscing one time, remembering when he was a child and heard the rumor that Frank James had been seen riding through town.
Pop attended Chico State College. From what I have gathered he was not an honor roll student, finding a lot of other things to like about college life. I can relate to that from my own experiences. He played football, basketball and baseball but didn’t excel, although I am sure he gave it everything he had. Some of us are destined to be great players and others are destined to be great coaches and directors of the games. At Chico State he met and became smitten with Dorothy Belle Crum, a local beauty from another pioneering clan. Although she was born in Fresno, she spent almost her entire life in Butte and neighboring counties, living in Chico, Paradise and Sterling City. One of her aunts was born in Prattville, now at the bottom of Lake Almanor. One of her grandfathers came to California by taking a clipper ship from New York to Central America, walking across the Isthmus of Panama, the catching a West Coast clipper to San Francisco, in 1856.
Her grandfather ran a stage stop about half way between Oroville and Chico. He was beaten to death in a sensational murder case. The perpetrator was lynched. Her family could also be traced to early America. One of the first Millikan’s in America, around the turn of the 18th century left a will that listed as assets one slave, a barrel of molasses and a barrel of whisky. One of Dorothy’s relatives is working on a family tree of the Crum family, and has some evidence that one of the early Crums was the model for James Fenimore Cooper’s Natty Bumpo. Dorothy’s mother played theatre piano and organ in the first silent movie theatre in Chico. She later fronted a dance band, the Espa Crum Orchestra, which was very popular into the middle 1950’s.
The purpose of this lineage boasting is to emphasize that the Harrison family was a product of the American West. People of the soil. They were simple people who never exploited their neighbors or their community. As one of my friends once observed, they are the salt of the earth. My mother and dad were married in impulsive style. Since Dorothy’s mother was against the marriage they eloped by hiring a pilot to fly them to Klamath Falls, Ore. There were several things wrong with the plan, the first of which was that the pilot didn’t know where Klamath Falls was. Pop first got an idea that they might be in trouble when he observed that they flew past the wrong side of Mount Lassen. They finally landed in a field in Idaho, where the pilot found someone who could direct him in the general direction of Oregon. As far as I know Dorothy only flew once after that and Pop has never flown again. But what a start to a marriage.
Hugh graduated from Chico State with an Industrial Arts degree in 1929 just in time for the Great Depression. He managed to get a job in the Marysville school system where he taught while Dorothy finished her teaching curriculum at Chico State. In 1932 Hugh was offered the job of coach/athletic director at Summerville high school in Tuolumne, California. Hugh and Dorothy moved into a small mill town in the depths of depression. This was an excellent chance for Hugh, because there was no athletic program at the time and he had free reign. Within several years this small school was challenging all the schools in the area, most of which had larger enrollments, in all sports.
In the years following his graduation from college he sought out anyone who could teach him new concepts in sports, and he developed some of the most innovative strategies in high school sports at that time. A component of success over the years has been the scheduling of any larger or stronger schools. He became very close to the athletic department at Modesto high school. However, after he defeated them once in a track meet, they would no longer schedule Tuolumne for any contests. That’s one problem with trying to schedule larger programs. Be careful not to beat them. They get no respect if they win and they are open to derision if they lose.
It was incalculable how important a healthy athletic program was to this small, depressed community. They didn’t have much to hold onto when the mill closed down. Dorothy was very accomplished in drama and music, and she became involved as a volunteer with the arts program. She helped stage musicals and wrote the school fight song. Although their income was small, they shared as much as they could with their neighbors. My father talked about some of the unemployed mill workers sniping for gold in the cracks of river rocks. He said that many times he loaned them small amounts of money and he said that they always paid him back.
He told me a story about coaching the Tuolumne town team against the Harlem Clowns, a pretty good minor league version of the Harlem Globetrotters. The Clowns barnstormed many of the little burgs in the US, as well as Canada, as far as I know. Now most people know that this game is entertainment, not a contest, but of course Hugh would never enter any game on that basis. He told the team not to try to beat the Clowns early in the game, to hang 6-8 points behind until the last few minutes and let them do their act, then at the end really pour it on. Well, they did, and they beat the Harlem Clowns. Some time later they came to town again. The town team played them again and won again. After the game the coach came over to Pop and said, “I remember you now. You did the same thing to us the last time we were here.”
There was a local family, which was destroyed by the depression. Mom and pop took one of the boys in and he lived with them until he graduated from high school. Pop managed to get him a scholarship to Cal. He is in the University of California Athletic Hall of Fame.
I was born in 1937, and a brother, Jerry, was born in 1939. He died at an early age of croup, and this was cause of much sadness for a long time, but I was very young and remember almost nothing of the time. Pop was very happy living in Tuolumne. He had gotten to know and fish the rivers in the area, the Tuolumne and Clavy, and had become really comfortable living there, but Dorothy wanted to get closer to home. So with an introduction from Lincoln Peckinpaw, regional director for the USFS, he interviewed for the open job at Oroville. In the interview with J.C. Nisbet, he happened to notice a stack of applicants for the job, the top one being a famous all-American football player. His confidence sagged just a tad at that moment, but he got the job. One of the coaches at Chico called and congratulated the school for hiring a coach instead of an all-American.
But things didn’t start out too smoothly. His football team lost every game the first year, and in basketball he kicked off some of the players because he caught them smoking. Add to that a scenario akin to the movie “Hoosiers” in which some of the local sports buffs would gather at Walter Fish’s clothing store and analyze the coaching style of the new coach, especially his insistence on abandoning the zone defense in favor of a pressing man-to-man. Brick Mitchell, who was one of Walter Camp’s first West Coast all-Americans, from Oregon State, aided him through the experience. Brick was very supportive, and served as liaison with the community at large.
Some of you were here at the time I’m talking about. During his awful beginning in Oroville, he told Dorothy that maybe she’d better not unpack everything yet; they might not be here very long. The rest, however, is history. His approach to competitive athletics caused immediate changes in the way high school sports were played in Northern California. My brother, Dale was born in 1941. When the war began pop tried to join the service, but was told that he would serve better by preparing young people for the military, which he did extremely well.
He hired some great coaches in the early years, most of who came from the local area. When Joe Felipe began showing his genius at offensive football Hugh turned the team over to him, staying on as offensive line coach. This must be one of the few times when a boss demoted himself to assistant.
In the 1950’s, through the intercession of Mr. Nesbit, he began studying psychology at Chico State and found the subject fascinating. I remember that every time someone came to visit me he’d end up for about an hour taking a battery of psychological examinations. No one was safe. Then he entered the world of counseling. Of course counseling had been a strong component of his coaching life. But as a coach he shared the bond of teamwork and combat with his players. He had a connection. With the non-athletic students he no common bond, no connection. He listened to a great many sad stories of sad lives, and he must have been extremely frustrated at how little he could do for these confused youth. It almost killed him. I believe it gave him a glimpse of life that he hadn’t really experienced before, but I also think that it helped to make him a better and stronger person.
As a father he was demanding in many ways, but he was always aware of the pressure on his children. We spent a lot of time at Bidwell Bar during the summers. I remember that when I was quite young he used to swim across the river, carrying me on his back. That was a great treat. Of course Dale and I loved the water and we would do all the stupid things kids did. I was faintly aware that one or two of Pop’s childhood friends had drowned, but I was not aware that this had profoundly affected him. I remember seeing him waist deep in the swirling waters of the North Fork, and it didn’t seem to bother him. Later in life he told me that since his childhood experiences he had a great fear of water. He was not going to let us know that, however. He didn’t want us to share that fear. When he told me about his fear, I think I realized for the first time his great love and courage.
During the 18 years he was athletic director of the school, his first football team was the only team in varsity or jv football or basketball which had a losing record. As far as he can remember. He served for 16 years on the city recreation board and was a strong force throughout the development of the Table Mountain golf course. He has been remembered at various times over the years for his contribution the local community by being the grand marshal of the local festival parade, the football field has been named for him, and he is a member of the Chico State University, Northern California and Summerville High School sports halls of fame. In 20. (He was posthumously inducted as charter member of the Oroville High School Hall of Fame.)
The local football field is named "Harrison Field". He is still very close to his friends in Tuolumne and many of his Oroville ex-players get together to take him it lunch on a monthly basis.Pop once told me that he would consider his coaching job a success if upon graduation his players understood the game as well as he, the coach did. He said that he felt his last team, the undefeated 1956 team, understood the game. Art Acker told him that this was the best high school team he had ever
seen. Pop was grand marshal of the Fiesta days parade one year (early 90’s).
Coming to Oroville (Transcribed from recorded interviews)
It was pretty much fate that came into my life when I got this job in Oroville. When I walked into the office of Lincoln Peckinpaw, the administrative supervisor of the Plumas National Forest in July of 1940 I had signed my contract to remain at Tuolumne for my 10 th year and had no idea of moving. When I stepped in the door Link welcomed me with the statement, Hugh, it’s time for you to take a new job. I want you to apply for a job at Oroville High School. He was holding a copy of the Oroville Mercury and showed me an article that stated that Elwood Lang had just resigned as coach at Oroville High and the school was searching for a replacement.
It was late in the year and adequate replacements for the job would be hard to get. Link was certain that I was the man for the job. He stated that the editor of the Oroville Mercury was a good friend of his and I could depend on his support. To me the position of head coach at Oroville High was the pot at the end of the rainbow. Link insisted that I drive down to Oroville that minute and apply for the job. There was much to do. My credentials were on file at the placement office eat Chico state and I had to call them to have the papers sent to Oroville High, which I did. I wanted to wait for a day or two for my credentials to arrive from Chico but Link insisted that I go immediately. And I did.
He, Link, in the meantime called Mr. J.C. Nesbit for an appointment that afternoon. Mr. Nesbit was the principal of Oroville High School. I arrived at the office at about 1:30 P.M. and Mr. Nesbit was waiting for me. He asked me for my credentials which of course I did not have. But they were on the way. Naturally he could not hire me without knowing something of my teaching credential and my experience as a coach and teacher. We talked for some time and he assured me that the job was open. And he would not fill it until my credentials came. He did not offer any encouragement at that time and he had a stack of applications on his desk. I could see the name of Al Nicolini, an all American football player at Santa Clara. Naturally that didn’t help my confidence any. I was determined however to go out for the job.
When I returned to Spring Garden I immediately wrote to every friend in my acquaintance that knew of my record at Tuolumne. Among them were Pete Linz at Stockton High School Earl Crabb of Placer High School and Jeff Hicks, the CIF commissioner for Northern California, Matty Matson and Tommy Koster at Chico High and Arch Henry at Tuolumne High, and there were several others, asking them for a recommendation for the Oroville job. Evidently they all responded and favorably because at our next meeting Mr. Nesbit stated that I was the most recommended teacher he had ever had. Evidently it helped because several days later I got a phone call telling me that I had been accepted for the job. Archy Henry at Tuolumne High stated only “Our loss is your gain.” Matty Matson at Chico High called Mr. Nesbit, congratulating him for hiring a coach instead of an All American. I was told by Mr. Nesbit that I had had a fine recommendation from George Hicks, the CIF commissioner, and that he and Mr. Hicks were very good friends having competed against one another in high school, he at Oroville and Mr. Hicks at Sacramento.
To say that was thrilled was putting it mildly. I came into the job with enthusiasm and vitality and fell flat on my face. We did not win a football game. I was certain that I would be fired and was really low when Mr. Nesbit sent for me when the football season was over. He asked me to be seated. He said Hugh, we didn’t do very well in football did we? He said that at the board meeting the night before he was notified to tell me that they thought I had done a good job, and to assure me that I would be the coach the next year. Wow. What a relief. What a plug from a fine friend. The culture he inherited could be seen in a story my mother told me. During a practice the team was huddling for a long time and pop went out to find out why. One of the players said, "They said I went out with a girl and it's not true." Oh boy. I would have loved to have heard the explosion.
We had a fine basketball season tying Chico for the Big 6 basketball championship. We lost the playoff game, but that was the best season Oroville had had for 20 years or more. All sports were go from that time on. That first football season was a disaster that was never repeated. We lost to Chico the first year I was here 20 – 6. The second year was 14 – 13 and the third year we won 26 – 0 and from then on we were on the way.
When I came to Oroville in 1940 we had not been too successful in football, basketball or Track. Our baseball had been fairly successful. However, financially the student body funds were at a very low ebb and we had trouble paying the officials after each game. Often times we would have to tell the officials we would have to mail them the check. After we had counted the gate receipts to find out if we had enough money to pay them. I couldn’t understand it however, and in talking with Mr. Nesbit I found that Oroville and Chico had been breaking a CIF rule for umpteen years. That rule was that no individual enterprise or organization could receive the gate receipts for any student body sponsored function. All the money received went back to the student body.
Well, every year the Chico - Oroville game was played on armistice day, November 11, one year in Chico and the next in Oroville. Even though we had a lousy year the game always pulled a capacity crowd and I figured that capacity crowd would surely pay the officials for the rest of the year. However, I found out that here and at Chico the American Legion sponsored the game, they advertised it and they provided the ushers and ticket takers at the game and of course took all the gate receipts. When I discovered that I talked with Tommy Koster at Chico.
He said that yes, they were aware of it, but the Legion was such a powerful organization that they were afraid to do anything about it. I said that I had nothing to lose and we needed the money so badly I certainly would do something about it. I talked to Mr. Nesbit. He was reluctant, somewhat reluctant to do anything although he was aware that they were breaking a rule. I said what is the problem? He said, “Well, it has to do with politics. The American Legion has been doing this for a long time and they are a very strong supporter of athletics at Oroville High School and we hesitate to cause them any inconvenience.” I said, “All in the world you have to do is read them the rules of the California Interscholastic federation it seems to me.” And he said, “Well, I guess it’s about time we broke this thing off,” and he did that.
The paper came out the next day stating that the American Legion would no longer sponsor the Armistice Day football game. Chico copied that off and presented it to their American Legion. That was the last time that the American Legion sponsored any sporting events at Oroville High School. You might wonder about the all-star games that are put on by various organizations for charity. Well, the CIF does not sponsor them and has no control. The students who participate are all seniors who no longer are members of the CIF and of course the colleges encourage them because it allows them to see the best players in Northern California or wherever it may be, in their selection for scholarships.
After the first year our finances were in much better shape. However, I was never thereafter a favorite of the American Legion in Oroville. When I arrived at Oroville High School in September of 1940 I was issued a key to the gymnasium and told that all athletic supplies and equipment were in storage there. I found the equipment in lousy condition and not too much of it. On enquiry I found that student body funds were virtually nonexistent. I was rather familiar with a low-income budget at Tuolumne so I was able to make out as best we could with the funds we had. I found that the coaching staff was expected to purchase all supplies locally. There was only one store that could supply equipment and that at to me inflated prices. It caused some problems. I had to think that one over very carefully.
The first year of course we were really strapped for funds. For instance in basketball we only used one official. I had started down south with only one official but as we progressed we realized that one official couldn’t handle a game properly so we started using two, even in the little schools way off like Tuolumne. I was amazed that a big school like Oroville would only hire one official to work a basketball game. But the first time I had to organize a game we had to import portable football bleachers down one side of the gymnasium for spectators and benches and chairs on the other side, totaling possibly 150 people to watch the games. To my great surprise and chagrin I found that with the exception of a small gathering of student body, mostly girls, and the parents of the athletes themselves, that sports were not supported too well by the public and that was a problem.
However, I found that the style of basketball that had been used for some time was, well, slow, and my personal feeling was lets get this thing over with, lets get it done, lets keep the ball in motion all the time. I had always used the fast break offense that I instituted immediately and was immediately successful. It speeded the game up to beat the band. The only defense the players knew was the zone defense. They didn’t understand and didn’t practice the man-to-man defense. I called a team meeting at which I explained to them that the basic defense must be a man-to-man defense and I think the point I put over with students that impressed them more than anything else was the pros considered the zone defense so poorly that they had legislated against it. The pros all used man to man. And it’s still against the rules to use a zone defense. So they went after it in good shape and were able to master it in good shape.
Before the year was out we were crowded. We filled the stands with students and adults and were able to pay the two officials. The first year we only had one official but the next year I convinced Mr. Nesbit and as we had a little backlog of money from basketball and he decided that we had enough for two, and we did from then on. It worked out very well. It was really embarrassing to have to tell the officials that we don’t have enough money to pay you tonight. We’ll have to send you a check. Ant they weren’t too happy about it either, but things were changing. By the time we got our new gymnasium we were more than filling the old gym. We were putting up all the temporary bleachers we could, but of course that was a backbreaking job and sometimes twice a week we had to take the temporary bleachers out because we had to use the facility for physical education.
We got by in pretty good shape except for the Chico game. The place was so packed that people were standing around the edge and standing at the ends of the gymnasium. At the ends of the gym the distance from the backboard to the wall was no more than 6 feet and with people standing back there, the kids driving in for a lay-up would pile into them and they’d have a big old collision. It worked out pretty well though because there were people in the corners and when players were inclined to hide out in the corners there were no corners. They had to be involved in play all the time.
By the time the new gymnasium was completed and for the Acker tournament, which we held in the first year, we had all the tickets sold out before the first game on the first night, which was a good indication for things to come because the following year. We’d get phone calls during the week from people wanting tickets remembering the old gym and wanting to get advanced tickets. So we I even started selling season tickets and we did very well with that. But after the second year finances were no problem I’m sure. Even football was a paying proposition.
When the two schools split they split the athletic funds. I never did get the exact figures on how much but Las Plumas received enough of our funds to outfit their football, basketball, baseball, track and what not in real good shape believe me. Everything new. Wow. But I felt very good about it because from scratch, nothing to a real going concern was a real, real satisfactory feeling on my part.