Posts Tagged With: high school sports

1931 Dover Crimsons Replica Jersey — A Christmas Story

1931 Dover Crimsons Halfback Don Foutz

Colt’s grandfather, Don Foutz, set records as starting halfback for Dover in 1931 that would stand for more than six decades.


Recreating Grandpa Foutz’s Football Jersey

It was the doldrums of summer, 2014, and I found myself in a bit of a doldrums myself.

My company of 6 years, VivaKi, had just navigated a series of reorganizations, and on a fateful August morning I learned my task for the following two months: dismantling the 45-person Creative team I’d built since 2008 and saying farewell to my dozen-strong Paid Search team as well.

Oh yeah, and to VivaKi, too.

In the midst of that final transitional slog, I was determined to draw inspiration from whatever sources I could whip up. Among the sparks: throwing myself into a daily workout regimen, mining new business connections in Sioux Falls, soaking in all that summer — and pending severance — could offer, and, in a short list I’d made of dream projects I might get to before the new job kicked off, exploring the creation of a replica jersey to honor my grandfather, Don Foutz.

Grandpa had been a source of fascination for me for nearly my entire life. We lost him far too young, in 1980, at 66. My dad was 28 then. Having benefited form his patient and loving example for nearly 39 years now, I couldn’t imagine having that light cut short as a young man and new father. And having only vague memories of Grandpa Foutz, since I was only 4 years old when he passed away, I found myself seeking to know him, and his family origins, as I grew into a young man with a family of my own.

This blog is filled with the fruits of those efforts. We know about the Foutz (then Pfouts) family’s origins in Wuerttemberg, and patriarch Michael Pfoutz making the journey to America in 1787. We’ve traced our origins through Maryland, and then Harrison County, Ohio from 1810 to 1901, and then on to Dover, which has been home base for our family for four generations.

Getting to know grandpa has meant getting to know more about an essential tradition in my hometown. High school football has formed the core of autumn Fridays since Dover’s squad first suited up in the 1890s. And though I opted for cross country, marching band and track during my years at Dover High, I counted a brother, two uncles, my dad and, of course, grandpa, as familial connections to the gridiron, and have carried my diehard fandom for the Browns and Buckeyes as my own path has wound through Pennsylvania, Illinois and on to South Dakota.

That Dover’s traditions were my own made discovering grandpa’s exploits as star halfback for some of Dover’s first great teams all the more awesome. This blog has recorded those discoveries. Three brief examples: Pictures to commemorate Don Foutz’s 100th birthday, when for a time, I didn’t have any in my possession. A series in 2010 that recounted every game of the 1931 season, culminating in grandpa’s record 220 rushing yards against arch rival New Philadelphia, a mark that stood for 64 years. And, most recently, an examination of the principal players in the 1929 rivalry game, during which grandpa threw a game-losing (for Dover) interception to distant cousin Earl Foutz — though they never knew they were related.

For Christmas, 2011, I collected my blogs and scanned each page of grandpa’s football scrapbook, bound it up and presented the book to my father and three brothers. After moving far from home to Sioux Falls in 2012, I blew up some of the glorious game shots from 1931 of grandpa in action, framed them, and hung that history in our family room, site of many a Saturday spent sweating out Ohio State drives.

This has been my way of hanging on to family history and a sport that runs through our genes. That history makes the game far more enjoyable to me than if I was just following the box scores — a quaint term, there — of today with no memory of the storied past. You could say I’m a bit of an obsessive — opting for a hacked 2008 version of Madden for PC, even as breathtaking updates for game consoles receive annual release, so I can play the 1950 Browns, even the old Buckeyes, in uniforms and stadiums rendered in all their bootleg glory. And when it comes to showing my team colors, I’m more likely to opt for a Woody Hayes cap, or a commemorative 2002 OSU Championship T-shirt (not to mention a 1960 basketball championship tee), or a classic wool 1915 Augustana College cap (nod to my wife’s alma mater) than swathing myself in today’s polyester and mesh bandage material with the names of “stars” unlikely to stick around or attain any weight to their names.

When it comes to celebrating my love of football, and saluting my hometown and family that developed that love, I could think of no better — no cooler — way to embody that history than somehow recreating my grandpa’s 1931 Dover Crimsons jersey. And sharing that celebration with my family. But how?


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Ebbets Field Flannels for the Win


Like a lot of kids, my admiration of sports uniforms — the designs, the colors, the functional cut — probably grew exponentially with the tens of thousands of football, baseball and basketball cards I collected. As a budding writer and history buff, the stats and bio snippets on the backs were equally engrossing.

Even as my bookshelves grew heavy with sports tomes and their giddy tales and even giddier glimpses at the past, nothing quite captivated me with its blend of stories, images and, as a knockout bonus, “gettable” apparel the way a certain catalog did in 1990.

That summer, my dad’s Sports Illustrated profiled a new company in Seattle that produced “vintage authentic” baseball jerseys from the old, old days. Ebbets Field Flannels took their name from founder Jerry Cohen’s hometown Brooklyn Dodgers, and paired a nose for research with a dogged commitment to authenticity to track down the old mills, the actual fabrics and the handmade processes that went into the flannel works of art of a bygone era.

That these replica jerseys and caps could be bought and worn ranked second in my fascination with the Ebbets catalog itself. I’d signed up virtually the moment I read the last word in the SI piece, and though the prices were out of reach for my 14-year-old self, I savored every page of the catalog when it arrived in the mail, poring over the old names, stadiums, leagues obscure and renowned, and pages and pages of unique, colorful apparel with history.

With a growing family and the usual list of expenses, I didn’t indulge in my Ebbets obsession beyond grabbing a Portland Lucky Beavers T-shirt in college, and snapping up that Woody’s Cap — a partnership with Homage — after moving to Sioux Falls. But this summer I took advantage of a rare $100 jersey sale and chose another team close to home, the Cleveland Buckeyes, 1945 champions of the Negro League. I was jubilant as a damn kid when the package arrived a couple days later. The outstanding, handmade quality and attention to historic detail made this instantly the favorite item in my closet.

So I had my eyes on Ebbets again when the company brought back a favorite I’d remembered from my teenage days devouring the catalog. Their hand-knit wool football jerseys set me dreaming about heading back to 1931 to produce a replica Dover Crimsons jersey.

But grandpa’s garb presented a unique challenge. “Friction strip” jerseys from the 1920s and ’30s are among the most sought after by collectors, with rare unearthed finds from teams of distinction selling for tens of thousands of dollars at auction, and examples of well-preserved uniforms from practically unknown teams still fetching hundreds and thousands.

There’s a reason why no one makes the jersey today. The canvas “friction strips” sewn into the chest and arms had long ago outlived their usefulness, dating back to when runners were only down by contact, and when the refs’ whistles blew, and the rough fabric helped players hold onto the ball. Despite the often gorgeous geometric designs in the era’s uniforms, all that material — yarn, wool, felt and hand-sewn canvas fabric — makes it an impractical, and expensive, jersey to produce.

If anyone could do it right, I figured it would be Ebbets. But their custom flannel page, itself an inspiration for jersey buffs dreaming up the perfect apparel, advertised only baseball duds. But with the release of football and hockey wear, I decided to take a chance.

I emailed them in early October, after first gut-checking my dream project with my brothers, who, to their credit, were all-in from the beginning. I got a quick, and respectful, response. But a “no” answer all the same. Or rather, a not yet. Ebbets was gearing up to roll out more football jerseys in the coming months, but had tied up their unique, era-authentic knitting machines through the early spring. Christmas was not going to be an option.

But then, a lightning bolt. A second email hit my inbox from Jerry Cohen — founder of Ebbets. Jerry offered to oversee the project if we could get a minimum wholesale order together and promised to do his best to hit our Christmas deadline. Wow!


Tracking Down a Family Gem

The dream project was now gaining footing. Instead of presenting only my dad with a replica of grandpa’s 1931 jersey, we quickly recruited cousins Whitney and Lauren, Justin and Ketter, to produce jerseys for uncles Bob and Don, and a few for ourselves as well. I had a feeling my 14-year-old self might even be impressed.

Even though we had to move quickly to get the work going for Christmas, the obsessive in me wanted to be sure to get the details right. And true to form, Ebbets wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Although I could supply dozens of pictures from all angles from my grandpa’s scrapbook and other historic accounts, and countless examples of Dover’s traditional crimson and gray, could we really be sure of the colors? A phone chat with Jerry revealed our contradictory opinions — through his long experience interpreting old black and white shots, he believed the main jersey fabric was probably gray, and the friction strips some shade of red, but thought the shoulder and cuff materials were likely darker, maybe even black. Knowing our rival New Philadelphia’s hated red and black shades, and the length of that rivalry stretching to 1896, I doubted it… but how could we be sure?

The question I needed to answer: had anyone seen a jersey from 1931 before? And what were its colors? I turned to some trusted hometown sources, and ended up being surprised beyond my wildest estimation.

At first, I came up empty. Denny Rubright, author of several books about Dover Crimsons/Tornadoes football history, thought he had once seen color pictures of legendary Doc Kelker, a 1931 teammate of grandpa, in uniform, but thought they may have been colorized after the fact. My old classmate Matt Lautzenheiser, historian and author of two books on Dover history, including on the Dover-Phila rivalry — and, coincidentally, the player who first broke grandpa’s 64-year-old single-game rushing record, in 1995 — had captured the stories from players on both sides, but details like uniform colors were lost to memory.

Newspaper accounts from that season mentioned the uniform only once, in the several-story followup to the big game against Phila. Apparently, that Thanksgiving day Dover had donned, for the first time, a special all-white getup, from painted leather helmet down to pants and shoes. This uniform wasn’t in evidence at all in any of the pictures from grandpa’s 1929-31 seasons — though it probably is the uniform depicted in coverage of Kelker’s great undefeated teams of 1932 and 1933, which makes sense, given that the uniform likely debuted in the 1931 finale.

I even checked in with classmate, now principal, Karie McIlvaine McDade, whose own family history in Dover is rich, in the hopes somehow, somewhere, a uniform had been on display or at least seen. No dice.

Finally, I followed up on a rumor I’d heard a few years back, that someone in town had closeted away a jersey from that 1931 season. Like most folks back home, the connections were deep with former superintendent Emmet Riley. He’s been a Mason for 75 years, like my late grandfather Dr. Robert Earl Ley Jr. and ancestors before him. He was superintendent while three Foutz uncles, one Ley uncle and four Ley aunts were at Dover High School. And, following a career that included stints coaching Strasburg basketball, he substitute-taught for my mom, Janet Ley, in Garaway and Dover city schools.

It was a delight talking to the 97-year-old Riley from his retirement home in Dover. And, to his recollection, the jersey had been tried and true red and gray, certainly not black. He remembered “having a jersey like that once,” and said he would try to track it down. I thought, well, good enough. That was likely the closest I’d get. Though, like Matt Lautzenheiser, as an author I’d come to view the fuzziness of memory — learned firsthand as a newspaper journalist and while researching my book on 60 years of the Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps — with a jaundiced eye.

I decided to pursue one more angle. I phoned the Dover Public Library to ask for some research legwork on any possible mention in the newspapers of 1929-31 of Dover’s uniform manufacture or colors. My next call would have been to the Reeves Home & Museum to see if they — longshot — might have a uniform in their holdings or on display. But I was lucky enough to chat with director Jim Gill.

Gill, in another (now common) coincidence, had been a roommate at Ohio State of my classmate Nate Aames, whom I’d just reconnected with at our 20th high school reunion in September. Gill knew Emmet’s son, Eric Riley, quite well, and volunteered to check with Eric to see if rumors of his father having a 1931 Dover jersey were true. Barring that, Gill would put the library’s research team to the task of scouring old papers.

They never got the chance.

To my indescribable awe, Gill phoned me back within a day or so and let me know that, yes, Eric thought he had come across an old Dover jersey while packing up his parents’ home. And in fact, he remembered intending to give that jersey to the Foutz family after conversations years ago. Why was that? Because the jersey was thought to be the actual jersey my grandpa Don Foutz wore in the 1930-31 seasons.

After some emails back and forth verifying the look of the jersey, and a couple phone calls comparing hometown bonafides — turns out, Eric had graduated with my Uncle Bob, and knew my uncle Don and dad, Fred, for years and years — Jim sent a goosebump-inducing picture of the jersey. There it was — grandpa’s #6 on the back and Emmet’s memory vindicated — though the friction strips had faded to pink, the jersey was undoubtedly the historic red and gray, through and through. Eric agreed to mail me the jersey in order that a new plan might take shape — to surprise my dad with his father’s actual gameworn jersey when we gathered in Nashville for Thanksgiving, with the replica to follow for Christmas.


History You Can Hold — Smiles, Memories, Tears

Ebbets, by now, had started knitting the jersey. Jerry indulged a couple questions from me, and set me to the enlightening task of measuring the jersey for their reference. (I wasn’t about to send it to Seattle, even though that made sense, with the big reveal scheduled for Thanksgiving.) I grew to admire even more the everyday craftsmanship back then.

I haven’t yet discovered who made the jersey — and part of me wants to imagine mothers cutting and sewing each friction strip to a stock long-sleeved sweater of the day — but the geometry, the dimensions, the design: Dad has called it a “superman suit,” and I agree, our imaginations fired, no doubt, by images of the old “Crimson Flash,” as grandpa was called that magical 1931 season, darting around end and bulling in for a touchdown.

We all decided to wait until all sons – Colt, Dan, Jake and Sam – were present after the Thanksgiving meal to sit Dad down and lay the whole ton of bricks on him. We honestly didn’t know how he’d respond. Puzzlement. Joy. Tears. I wrapped it up in tissue paper and sealed it in a designer clothes box, and rehearsed my spiel.

It had been such a story to this point, I didn’t have to do more than just note what we’d all done to make this quirky dream a reality. A bit of odd timing: the Dover football Twitter page, on Thanksgiving day, posted a throwback tweet on the 1931 Dover-Phila game with a pic from my grandpa’s scrapbook. I chuckled and traded quips with them, looking forward to sharing this whole story after it had played out.

I don’t know if Dad expected to open up a replica jersey, a placeholder coupon, or what. But his face changed, unhinged really, when he put his hands on grandpa’s actual jersey and held it up for examination. “He was kind of a little dude back then, wasn’t he?” Dad asked, gauging the long-sleeved medium or large grandpa’s then-superman frame would carry today. Tears came then. And smiles. And hugs.

Christmas was almost an anticlimax. But there were still goosebump shivers ahead. The Friday before Christmas, a call came through from Seattle. Ebbets!

They were confirming shipping addresses and I couldn’t help asking, “is it done? Can I see pictures?”

Jerry emailed his account of “one of the most challenging sewing projects we have ever undertaken”:

Because the original jersey is a different size than these, we had to make some compromises in the placement of the friction strips between the photos you sent, your measurements, and the actual dimensions on the jerseys. This is so that when it was finished it lined up proportionally as close to the original as possible. It all had to work together like a puzzle. The top “V” had to come down a little lower than in the picture so that the strips below it and to the sides could line up proportionally. If we had brought the “V” up higher, the vertical strips below and the ones on the sides would not have had the proper relative dimensions.

To our misty eyes, and to our hearts and bodies as we donned the jerseys the first time, the work was a masterpiece, and one we can all be proud of. The family spent Christmas trading selfies with each other. And I don’t know about my brothers and uncles and cousins, but I now have a new favorite in my closet. And feel closer than ever to my grandfather every time I put the “superman” Dover Crimsons suit on.

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100th Anniversary of Don Foutz’s Birth

Donald Dale Foutz

Donald Dale Foutz, March 4, 1914 to November 14, 1980

Donald Dale Foutz: 100th Birthday Slideshow

There was a time, not so many years ago, when I had no photographs to remember my Grandpa Don Foutz.

He died of lung cancer in 1980, when I was just 4. But I had glimmerings of memories, growing up.

A weekend staying with grandpa and Grandma Erma Foutz at their house at 115 Cross St. in Dover: waking up, I wandered from my dad’s old bedroom at the end of the hall to the bathroom next to their bedroom. Grandpa stood at the sink, then leaned over and helped me “wipe the sleep from (my) eyes.” It was the first time I’d heard the expression.

Their house was the province of puzzles — an old TV Cowboy one — and dominoes, the calico cats my grandma or one of her sisters made at the time, the big ugly wolf stuffed animal that was once my dad’s. And grandpa’s big sausage pillow. I remember him stretching out on the couch, propped up on it, his salt and pepper hair in the same crazy corkscrews mine resemble, most days.

I remember picnics in the backyard of our place at 1028 Dover Ave., and grilling out off the back porch of their place. It was always novel for Grandma and Grandpa Ley to join us in a cross-family, crosstown breaking of bread. The benefits of having moved back to our hometown.

Christmases, there and at our place. Mom’s sausage souffle and the tingling bells on our stockings. Grandpa’s voice calling out as he and grandma burst in — never a need for a knock — calling for my brother, “Danny. Hey, Danny!”

We visited him in Maryland near the end of his life, a trip I remember more for the wild horses on the beach at Assateague Island, and the novel elevator buttons and smell of the big NIH hospital where Grandpa was taken for experimental treatment of oat cell carcinoma.

I don’t remember his death, or funeral that November. But Dad and Mom have said he called Dan and me bedside and whispered the locations where grandma secreted her Christmas cookies. A good story.

My window on Don Foutz’s life was a brushstroke of sun, a mere sliver. Six percent of a life still far too short.

Through my family history research, I’ve been able to appreciate the full measure of his years. Discover what his family life was like, growing up. Detail his high school football exploits. Trace his work at Potschner Ford and in the Greer Steel Mill. Relive, through photographs, family gatherings.

Today, I’m blessed with countless photographs of my grandpa. A shot from his wedding day shares space atop our mantel with those of our parents and other grandparents. The picture heading this post sits next to a similarly y0uthful portrait of my grandma on a cozy bookshelf in our living room. There are photos of grandpa among other relatives in the collage by our dining table — family, gathering with my family. And downstairs, cool yellowed photos from his football scrapbook, dramatically framed and lending a bit of gravitas to the usual Technicolor nonsense blaring from the TV and surround sound speakers, most nights, all weekend.

Today would have been Don Foutz’s 100th birthday. I thought it a fitting tribute to share some of the photos I’ve collected in my research. And remember a lifetime, each in our own way.

Don Foutz: 66 Years in Photographs

(Scroll to view the gallery below, or click on any photo for a closeup slideshow.)

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Dover, New Phila Foutzes Connected by Football, Genes

Foutz Don Earl

Don Foutz, left, and H. Earl Foutz reminisce in 1974 about the pass Don of Dover threw that Earl of Phila hauled in for an interception and 85-yard return for a touchdown that won the 1929 rivalry game.

Foutz-to-Foutz Pass a Familial Feat

In the yellowed newspaper clipping, Don Foutz wears a turtleneck and a smirk. He looks less formal than the man in the suit and tie standing next to him, a guy also named Foutz, but also less than thrilled to be reliving a shared moment on the football fields of their youth.

Maybe because the moment happened to be one of the few that didn’t go a teenage Don Foutz’s way, particularly against rival New Philadelphia.

Maybe, too, because aside from a fabled pass that went the wrong way for Dover’s Tornadoes (and the right for Phila’s Quakers), the two men appeared to share little else.

Well, a shared name, in Foutz. But as the article says, the two men “are not related.”

It’s what they thought that November day in 1929; it’s what they believed 45 Novembers later on the eve of another annual rivalry football game.

So I guess it’s OK that my first post here in seven months is so long in coming since it will undo more than 100 years of missed conceptions and forgotten connections. Because the article’s wrong. The Dover and New Phila Foutzes are related.

Don Foutz’s Errant Pass Gives Earl Foutz Glory

A series of Tornadoes Time Warp posts in 2010 thoroughly documented Don Foutz’s football glory days from 1929-31. Among his exploits against hated rival New Philadelphia:

  • Scoring on an early run and throwing a 4th-quarter TD pass in a 13-7 Dover victory in 1930
  • Piling up a school-record 220 rushing yards (it would stand for 64 years) and 2 TDs in a 27-6 Dover victory in 1931

Grandpa was a fixture in print that senior season, as Dover notched a best-ever 10-1 record and #5 state ranking, an opener for a stretch of football and basketball dominance under Coach Hermann Rearick and grandpa’s successor at halfback, Doc Kelker, that briefly made Dover Ohio’s city of champions.

But his legend faded quickly and he settled into the daily routine, raising three kids and working for a Ford dealership before following his father and two older brothers into the steel mill.

Occasionally, the Dover Daily Reporter would catch up with the old Crimson Flash, as in a 1961 article about son Donn’s rushing exploits for Dover. The 1974 article, however, focused on a rare miscue — a year before Don Foutz played the hero against New Philadelphia, he sealed Dover’s fate with an interception to opposing player Earl Foutz. Read all about it by clicking the thumbnails below.

Don Foutz 1929 interceptionEarl Foutz intercepts Don Foutz

In addition to sharing details of the 1929 contest as a preview to the rivalry’s 70th installment, the article states: “that game marked the first time Don and Earl — who are not related — ever met.” While I don’t dispute the truth of the football covered in the article, I thought I’d dig a little more deeply into the genealogy.

Sharing a Common Great-Great Grandfather

Earl and his brother, Dick Foutz, were well-known around Dover and Phila, and to my family, as the operators of Foutz Appliances on Tuscarawas Avenue in New Philadelphia. I even remember as a kid asking about the cross-town Foutzes, but being told we weren’t related.

As it turns out, grandpa Don was third cousin to Earl and his brothers Dick and Lloyd. The connection goes back to where our Foutz — originally, Pfouts — ancestors started in Ohio, a couple dozen miles east near Bowerston.

According to well-documented research, Michael Pfouts — Don’s and Earl’s second great-grandfather — emigrated from the lower Neckar River region of Wuertemberg, Germany in 1787. He first settled in Washington County, Maryland, where he probably farmed with other German immigrants. He married a woman named Catharine in Maryland in 1799, and over the next 26 years they had 8 children — about half in Maryland and, beginning with Jacob in 1811, the rest in Harrison County, Ohio.

The early Pfoutses owned several parcels of land throughout Monroe and North townships, on which they farmed for the better part of 150 years. Gideon Pfouts, my third-great-grandfather (grandpa Don’s great-grandfather), farmed 80 acres along what is now Grundy Ridge and Mill Hill roads south of Bowerston. John, a brother more than a decade Gideon’s senior, farmed an area in the southeast corner of Monroe Township with siblings Jonathan and Elizabeth Pfouts. Although his homesteading siblings would never marry, John wed relatively late in life, marrying Irish immigrant Margaret Sprowls in 1850, when he was 43 and she was 27.

John and Margaret Pfouts are Earl’s great-grandparents. They’d have four children. Their second, born July 3, 1854 on the farm, was named Andrew J. Pfouts. That’s Earl’s grandpa. I dipped into the spreadsheet I started keeping in 2010 to track all the many (related) Foutzes (Pfoutses) from census to census in 19th century Harrison County. There, in 1860, was five-year-old Andrew in the home of John and Margaret Pfouts.

Earl and brother Richard would take over the store their father, James Howard Foutz, began on Tuscarawas Avenue in New Phila in 1920. (A talented brother, Lloyd, would perform as a musician around the country before dying young in 1961.) The connection between our families is confirmed by J. Howard Foutz’s 1901 marriage certificate to Effie Leggett of Carroll County. The certificate names Andrew J. Foutz and Mary Ayers of Harrison County as Howard’s parents. A 20-year-old James H. Fouts appears in their household in the 1900 census, the only one between his 1880 birth and 1910, 1920, 1930 and 1940 censuses documenting his married life with Effie and the kids in New Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, Gideon would marry Delilah Jones in 1843. Together, they’d raise six children. Their oldest, Jonathan Foutz, would marry Rebecca Caldwell and have seven children of their own. Their very youngest, born in 1887 in Bowerston, was Vance Cleveland Foutz, my grandpa Don Foutz’s dad.

The final resting places of our Foutz cousins mirror our own clan’s trek from the farms of Harrison to the city life of Tuscarawas county. John and Margaret Pfouts are buried with Michael and the rest of the original Pfoutses in Conotton Cemetery, while Andrew and Mary Pfouts are buried in Grandview Cemetery near Scio.

James Howard Foutz is buried, with Effie and infant daughter Mary, in East Avenue Cemetery, New Philadelphia. Son H. Earl and wife Isabel Marie Foutz are buried at Maple Grove Cemetery in Dover.

Earl outgained Dover by a crucial 85 yards in that 1929 contest; he outlived my grandfather by 13 years. I wonder what they’d chat about, today, if they’d lived to see the roots of their family history reconnected.

foutz andrew grave grandview harrison oh

Foutz James Howard grave 1941

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High School Life in New Philadelphia, Ohio, 1913

New Philadelphia Ohio Senior Class 1913

The young men and women of the New Philadelphia Ohio High School Class of 1913 gather for a portrait. Among them — back row, fourth from left — is Colt’s great-grandmother, Zula Lucrece Fisher.

Zula Lucrece Fisher | 1913 Senior Yearbook

One of the sad side effects to genealogical research, and — let’s admit — the limitations of the space-time continuum, the laws of physics, an unclear itinerary of the afterlife, etc. and etc. is that as much as you come to know of those in your family who came before, you’ll never truly know them.

Never hear them speak or laugh, never see them smile. Never listen to them tell a story, or a joke. Never share a meal with them, reel in a fish with them, kneel to pray with them.

You can pore over the dates, photographs, the documents, the details endlessly. Not a single one takes the place of sitting awhile, in the flesh, with them.

Still, cobbling together the bits of narrative that make up the life of a beloved ancestor is one way of understanding them — and yourself — a bit better. And preserving their memory for others.

I’ll admit, for most of my life knowledge of my great-grandmother Zula Lucrece Fisher was limited to tragic facts and my mind’s loose imagining of them.

I knew that my grandfather, Robert Earl Ley Jr., had lost his mother when he was not yet two. That he had been sent to live in the care of his maternal grandparents for awhile, and later rejoined his father, stepmother and young half-brother, Dickie.

I think, in my childhood subconscious, I saw all this playing out in an early 20th-century edition of my grandfather’s dental office in downtown Dover. And all resolved in a short matter of time. When in fact the locales and the length of time and the circumstances were all quite different.

In an early series of posts in this blog, I already recounted Zula Fisher’s tragic death of pneumonia and resulting miscarriage, and the places Grandpa Ley called home as a boy. Other posts have documented Zula’s obituary, as well as the life and times of all the particulars: her parents, John William and Addie May (Smith) Fisher, Great-Grandpa Robert Earl Ley Sr., grandpa’s stepmother Florence Wilma (Jones) Ley, even where the Leys could be found in the 1940 census.

Chalk up more details to help us get to know those who came before.

But I was delighted in recent weeks to discover more source material out there that shined an even more lively light on Zula’s spark back then. Before its all too early extinction.

There are an increasing number of sites online that are stockpiling scanned yearbooks, from high schools, colleges. A lot of ’em are out to bilk you, charge you $80 and up for a reproduction copy. All entrepreneurship aside, my goals in this blog have been simple, and cheap: share all I know, make it freely available.

Some of the stunning possessions I’ve been able to inherit have brought Zula to life like no census document ever could. The pictures of her family when she was a girl. The portrait of her clad in virginal garb, cradling my infant grandfather. A teacher’s textbook of hers I was fortunate to inherit, with her handwriting inside, noting students’ names and the gifts they were to receive, assignments for her to complete, her own signed name.

The fact of her birthdate — Dec. 24, 1895 — brings to mind joyful Christmas and birth celebrations, bedecked in 19th century traditional finery. Ah, but there my imagination revs up again.

This week — a nice anchoring for more images of forever youthful Zula. Her senior portrait and entry in the 1913 Clover yearbook of New Philadelphia High School, and her team portrait as senior player on the women’s basketball squad.

Yes — quaint detail — the 1913 yearbook for crosstown Phila was not yet called the Delphian. But more dear is how they preserved the graduating seniors in their own mini-odes. Zula’s, for your pleasure:


Basket Ball ’13. Class Play.

“All the beauty of the place

Is in thy smile and on thy face.”

Her beautiful blue eyes first gazed upon this world on December 24, 1895. Her smiles would certainly drive the blues from the bluest and she has proved to be a wonder in the English Class.

Bittersweet it is, then, to understand the entry in the 1922 yearbook, which, like those before, including Zula’s 1913 edition, caught up with every single class of alumni to that point. Bittersweet, then, to know such promise would flower without fruition, that we would be deprived of knowing her.

But maybe it’s enough to know her as she was then. And smile at all she gave us, in our ancestry, in who came after. And be thankful for the gift of knowing.

Fisher Zula Clover bio 1913

Great-Grandmother Zula Fisher Ley’s 1913 high school senior class photo and bio from the Clover, New Philadelphia, Ohio.

Fisher Zula Clover bball 1913

Girls’ basketball squads from New Philadelphia High School preserved in the 1913 Clover yearbook. Zula Fisher appears with the senior squad, top photo.

Categories: Ley, quickie post | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

High School Life in Dover, Ohio, 1935

1935 Dover High School Basketball Reserves

Among the 1935 Dover High School basketball reserve squad was my grandfather, Robert Earl Ley Jr — top photograph, back row, third from right.

1935 Crimson & Grey Yearbook – Dover, Ohio

Among the cool genealogical finds on Facebook — of all places — are pages devoted to an area’s history, usually maintained by a devotee whose family has called the place home for generations upon generations.

Gee, I don’t know anybody in my own family like that.

Seriously, though, the work Dan Slentz has done on Facebook collecting and commemorating Dover’s history is fun, indeed. Everything from mid-19th-century shots of the early canal days to ribbon-cutting ceremonies from the Dover today find a place on his page. And the historical shots are abundant!

In this post, some scans Dan shared from the 1935 Crimson & Grey yearbook of Dover High School, then the Roosevelt High School of my grandparents.

Bob Ley and Sue Weible were still in school that year — as juniors — and my grandpa Don Foutz had graduated a mere three years before.

Above, you see the pic of the basketball reserves, on which Bob Ley (top photograph, third from right in the back row) played.

Other finds:

* sponsorship by Great-Grandpa Robert Ley Sr. of the yearbook — a tradition Mom says grandpa carried on, and from the same dentist’s office

* sponsorship by Miller Studio Inc. — although in New Phila, the offices eventually run by my grandma Foutz’s second husband, Max Miller (a graduate of New Philadelphia High School) also came to employ my grandma, Erma Foutz, and my dad, Fred

* pic of the 1934Dover football varsity — thought Grandpa Ley might have played; closer inspection reveals no

* an ad for Fred Pottschner Ford — which employed my Grandpa Don Foutz, a 1932 alum and former star of the DHS football squad

* a page devoted to the Dover School Board — of which cousin Edwin Frederick Weible was president

Categories: Foutz, Ley, quickie post, Weible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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