Saturday, April 25, 2009

From today's Muskegon Chronicle

Muskegon district seeking $12.5 million bond issue

Saturday, April 25, 2009
By Lynn Moore

MUSKEGON -- If Muskegon voters turn down a school bond request in May, they'll pay less in property taxes. And if they approve the request, their taxes still will be lower than they were last year.

That's the message Muskegon Public Schools officials are trying to get out to voters who will be considering the $12.5 million request on May 5.

It's not an easy one to get across, said Superintendent Colin Armstrong. Voters will be asked to increase a 5.5-mill property tax levy by 0.2 mill. The extra levy, in place until 2023, would be used to pay off bonds sold to pay for improvements, which include new computers and other teaching technology, building maintenance such as boilers and roofs, buses and improvements to Hackley Stadium that do not include artificial turf.

The tax originally was approved at 7 mills in 1995, and was dropped to 5.5 mills in December. Without the voters' approval, the district is expected to have to drop the millage by about another 1.5 mills by the end of this year. Either way, the tax will be in place until 2023.

The original 7 mills raised $43 million for widespread improvements in the district, and many improvements included in this year's request are left over from the 1995 proposal that ran out of money before they could be accomplished.

Under the proposal, the owner of a home with a market value of $75,000 and taxable value of $37,500 would pay an annual property tax of $214 to pay off Muskegon Public Schools' debt. If the proposal fails, that property owner's annual tax would be $150.

Proposed improvements include $1 million for the stadium, which include cement work in the bleacher area, a new ticket booth, and, most significantly, renovating locker rooms and six bathrooms in the tunnel beneath the stadium. A citizens group is working to raise money for artificial turf at the stadium, which Armstrong said school officials couldn't justify including in the bond request when there are so many other needs in the district.

Armstrong called the stadium an "important part of the community image" that needs to be preserved.

"If you don't look at certain structural issues, you can find yourself locked out -- you get red-tagged," Armstrong said. "If you get red-tagged, you can't use it anymore."

The bond proposal includes "less sexy" but very necessary items like new or retrofitted boilers and roof repairs, Armstrong said. The district spends over $2 million in natural gas and electricity costs each year, and Armstrong said he believes the improvements could save 5 percent to 10 percent on those costs. At Steele Middle School, which would get a high-efficiency boiler retrofit, the cost savings are expected to be between $60,000 and $70,000 a year.

Armstrong called the stadium an "important part of the community image" that needs to be preserved.

And that's an immediate cost savings to the district, which is looking to make spending cuts anywhere it can.

Perhaps most important to the learning that occurs in the district's 317 classrooms is the proposal's replacement of 800 of the district's 1,100 student computers.

The average age of instructional computers is eight years, which means they can't operate new systems and are breaking down often, Armstrong said.

"Anyone who works with a computer knows what that means: You're working with a dinosaur," he said.

The proposal also calls for renovating science labs that don't just get old, but get "out of date," Armstrong said. Labs that would get attention are those at Steele Middle School and Muskegon High.

All classrooms also would get new white boards -- the modern-day equivalent to chalk boards -- and "smart carts" that include a teacher computer, network projector, document camera, audio system and DVD/VCR/CD player.

In addition, the district would buy 10 school buses.

If voters agree to the millage proposal, all projects completed with bond money are expected to be finished by January 2012.

The Muskegon district currently has the county's lowest debt per pupil and will continue to be the lowest if voters in Fruitport approve a bond proposal to build a new high school, Armstrong said.

"I think we can comfortably say to the community we are being prudent," Armstrong said.

When district officials first began contemplating a millage extension, administrators "quickly" came up with $30 million in needs, but knew they couldn't ask voters to support that much, particularly in this economy, Armstrong said.

"We are not trying to add something to the system," Armstrong said. "What we're doing is replenishing the system."

While $1 million sounds like a lot of money to spend at Hackley Stadium, Armstrong said he's been telling community groups to consider the cost of upgrading a residential bathroom and then consider the size and age of the stadium.

"When I tell people (the restrooms) were built in 1929 and last renovated in '29, I haven't had one person say we shouldn't spend the money," Armstrong said. "They just curl their lips and say 'ewwwww."'

Contrary to some rumors, the tunnel underneath the stadium would remain intact for traditional marching band processions, Armstrong said.

Muskegon Athletic Director Michael Watson said the stadium locker rooms have become somewhat of a "running joke" with alumni who used them when they attended Muskegon High. He said the locker rooms are small and need to be expanded, showers are inoperable and every year, maintenance staff have to deal with frozen pipes because of the inability to keep the facility warm enough in the winter.

Watson said he'd also like to move the coaches/officials room out of the stadium boiler room.

Watson has been working with a private group to pay for other improvements to the stadium, including artificial turf. The improvements administrators agreed to ask voters to pay for are "not frills," Armstrong said.

The district decided to seek the bond proposal this year because the district needed to drop the number of tax mills it has been levying since 1995. Under state law, a millage can generate only the amount needed to pay off bonds, and in this case the 5.5 mills will be more than is needed for the 1995 projects.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Big Reds in the State Basketball Finals

State titles in basketball at Muskegon High School are relatively rare, with the last coming in the spring of 1937 and their most recent appearance in the final game occurring in 1942.
Still, the team is no stranger to the final rounds of the tournament.

The Big Reds have advanced to at least the quarterfinal round in the spring of 1920, 1921, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1927, 1935, 1937, 1940, 1942, 1947, 1952, 1962, 1975 and 1999.

Here are some Flashbacks to those teams that have appeared in the championship game.

1923 Finals - Continuing the tradition of alternating the sites of the state basketball tournament, Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University in East Lansing) played host to the Class A prep championships, while the University of Michigan played host to the Class B and Class C games.

The contests were staged as Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Associations events. The MIAA was a forerunner to the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

Muskegon, led by future University of Michigan All-American Bennie Oosterbaan, defeated the tourney favorite Detroit Northwestern 36-24 at the M.A.C. College Gymnasium. The senior chalked up seven field goals in the contest, as Muskegon opened up a 17-9 lead at the half and a 15 point margin after three frames.

Following the victory, Muskegon advanced to the National Interscholastic Tournament hosted at the University of Chicago. On Wednesday, April 4, Muskegon dispatched Yankton, South Dakota, 18-13, then downed Windsor, Colorado 29-26 on Thursday.

Oosterbaan, playing center, worked the backboards for 14 points as Muskegon squeaked past the championship squad from Osage, Iowa 26-25 in Friday’s quarterfinal. Tied 13-13 at the break, Muskegon had opened up what looked like an insurmountable nine point lead with nine minutes to play and went into a stall. The strategy nearly cost Muskegon the game.

In Saturday afternoon’s semifinal, eventual tournament champions Wyandotte High of Kansas City defeated Muskegon 44-28. With the loss, Muskegon faced Charleston, South Carolina in an evening consolation match, losing 35-26. The team finished the tournament in fourth place, earning a shield in honor of their accomplishment. Oosterbaan was named to the first-ever All-American team for his play in the tournament.

1926 Finals - The championship contests were played at split locations, with the Class A and D games at Waterman Gymnasium on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and the Class B and C games at College Gymnasium in East Lansing.

Detroit Southeastern defeated Muskegon 26-20 in the Class A title match, played before the largest crowd of the tournament.

The game was described by an Associated Press writer as "one of the most sizzling games ever played on a Michigan court." Shaw of Southeastern and Norm MacDonald of Muskegon tied for top scoring honors, with eight points apiece. Due to "the furious play" Muskegon was whistled for fouls on 13 occasions, while Southeastern was called for 11 in the tightly called contest. Two players were dismissed from the game after "collecting four fouls each."

1927 Finals - Clair Helmer and Bill McCall starred for the Big Reds as Muskegon downed Battle Creek 32-24 in the Class A championship hosted at Detroit Central High School. Ray Priest, who finished with 12 points on six field goals, led the Battle Creek squad throughout.
Trailing 15-12 at the half, Muskegon rallied to a 22-20 lead at the end of the third, then shutdown their opponent's offense in the final frame. McCall finished with 11 points, while Helmer added nine. After winning the state crown, the team again advanced to the National Interscholastic Tournament at Chicago, but dropped their opening round contest to Batesville, Ark 28-20. The team immediately returned home, forfeiting their spot in the consolidation round.

1937 Finals - Muskegon ended the year as the state's only new champion, with a 31-27 Class A win over Holland. Played at Flint's spacious Industrial Mutual Association Auditorium which had opened in 1929, Bob MacIntyre scored 11 and Charles Vanderlinde eight points for the Big Reds, while Jim Grisson scored all of Holland's second-half points, to lead the Dutchmen with 14. Muskegon finished the season undefeated in 18 contests.

1942 Finals - At Jenison Field house in East Lansing, Saginaw's speedy Tony Pabalis pumped in 18 points as the Trojans defeated Muskegon 27-24 in overtime for Class A laurels. Pabalis netted five of his team's points in the first half as Saginaw trailed the Big Reds 13-8 at the intermission. Saginaw cut the margin to one, 18-17 at the end of three to set the stage for a wild finish. A bucket by Larry Savage, who converted following a stolen pass, gave Saginaw a 23-21 lead with just over a minute to play. But a field goal by Muskegon's Paul Bard as the gun sounded pushed the game to overtime. Pabalis and Stewart Francke each contributed a basket for the Trojans in the extra frame to secure the victory.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Stadium for the Big Reds

by Ron Pesch
Big Red Historian
Class of '79

In 1907, Muskegon High School's home football games were moved to the newly christened Hackley field. The success of Bob Zuppke's squads put strains on the new facility. Around 1911, the field was enclosed by a brick and iron fence, and in 1914, solid wooden bleachers seating about 4,000 were constructed. Crowds soared in size for contests with rivals like Grand Rapids Central. The twenties represented a period of gridiron dominance for Muskegon. Between the seven year span 1920-26, Muskegon won or shared the mythical state championship four times. Three titles came under coach J. Francis Jacks; the fourth, under his replacement, C. Leo Redmond.

The success of the Big Reds, combined with increased demand for tickets and 13 years of wear and tear on the facility, illustrated the need for a new athletic complex at the high school.
"We walked out to the bleachers at the football field" recalled coach Redmond years later, "and Joe Bicknell (the Hackley Manual Training School director and the person in charge of finances for athletics) pulled out his pocket knife. He then pushed the blade completely into one of the wooden beams supporting the bleachers and said, 'They will fall down if they have to support another season.'

A plan to replace the bleachers was publicly announced following the 1926 season. At the football team's annual banquet in December, Charles W. Marsh, secretary of the Board of Education and chair of the stadium committee discussed the project. He noted that due to the narrowness of the Hackley field, serious consideration was being given to the proposition of erecting the stadium at a vacant field located on Park and Southern, west of the high school. If the move were made, the Park Avenue site would be rechristened Hackley field.

Marsh announced the proposed stadium would seat 6,000 on permanent concrete bleachers. With the use of temporary bleachers already owned by the school, the facility could handle crowds of 10,000 "without overcrowding the space allotted."

The proposed move to Park Avenue (later the site of John A. Craig school) was controversial and short lived. On May 7, the Chronicle announced the plan to fund the project.

"Muskegon football followers next week will be asked to invest $75,000 dollars in bonds to pay for erection of an athletic stadium on Hackley field which is designed to be the largest high school stadium in Michigan." The classes of '27, '28, '29 and '30 were asked to undertake the job of selling the bonds to the public.

"Principal John Craig talked to us Thursday night after practice," remembered Gont Miller, captain of the 1929 Big Reds. He said, 'We're going to ask you to get out and sell some bonds.'
"Bub Meier and I were walking home after practice and we talked about selling the bonds. Together, we decided we weren't going to do it.

"After I got home, I told my mother about the bonds, and she said, "Boy, that will be easy. After dinner go on over and see Mr. Runzel across the street, and the Nelson's on the side of us. I'm sure they will be interested."

"Well, I guess she got me inspired. I went over an saw Mr. Runzel and he bought four. And Lester Nelson bought three and Otto Meeske bought six. Mr. Runzel said 'Go down and see my son' and I did and he bought two. People really supported Big Red football. We sold all the bonds, and they built the stadium. It was quite an experience for a kid."

The Osborn Engineering Company of Cleveland, Ohio (builders of Michigan Stadium, Wrigley Field, and Notre Dame Stadium among others) was employed to design and oversee the construction of the facility. Sorensen-Gross Construction Company of Grand Rapids was selected as general contractors. N.J. Yonkers handled heating while McCullom Plumbing and Hall Electric handled plumbing and electric work at the stadium. Actual work started on Wednesday, June 15 and was completed in time for the first game against Muskegon Heights on Saturday, September 17. According to the files of Osborn Engineering, the concrete structure was completed in 24 days - July 20 to August 12.

"Impressive and colorful flag raising ceremonies marked the dedication of the new stands," wrote Jimmy Henderson in the Muskegon Chronicle. "A massed assemblage of over 2,000 students who paraded on the field following the Heights and Muskegon High school bands, and close to 3,000 spectators in the stands stood at attention while the massed bands under the leadership of Ronald Hinchman played the national anthem, as the new flag was slowly raised to its position over the stadium."

The Big Reds posted a crushing 89-0 victory over the Heights and their new coach Oscar E. "Okie" Johnson. It was the first of nine shutouts posted by Muskegon en route to a 10-0 season and another mythical state title.

For more on high school football stadiums in Michigan, check out the article Hallowed Grounds.

Friday, April 10, 2009

1948 - Detroit Lions Stage Colorful Exhibition contest before 6,842 at Hackley Stadium

by James Henderson

The Detroit Lions, led into Hackley Field by Coach Alvin (Bo) McMillin, starting his first season at the helm of a professional machine, presented a colorful spectacle for 6,842 football fans last night.

The game, which didn't mean anything even to the Detroit coach except as a medium for testing recruits, was won by the regulars who will open the season for McMillin and Detroit, 21-0.

However, the large crowd of fans received many thrills during the full length intra-squad game. McMillin didn't spare his star players, while giving everyone on the bench at least a short period on the field.

The "Grays" struck twice through the air, on passes from end to outstanding recruits, and once on the ground, with a rough and ready regular of past seasons doing his stuff to the delight of the customers.

The Muskegon "M" Club led by Co-chairmen Al Bielinski and George (Shorty) Rojan, and President John (Smitty) Vanderplow, were pleased at the turnout, which means a good sum for the treasury of the club, to be used in promoting athletics for Muskegon High.
An interesting note about the Lions' 1948 season: According to a post on, the Motor City squad wore Scarlet and White uniforms during the season, substituting an all-Black uniform with white numbers combination for big games. Based on Henderson's article, it doesn't appear that the team sported this new color scheme during their visit to Muskegon.

After posting a 2-10 mark in '48, they returned to their traditional Honolulu Blue and Silver color scheme for home games and used the Scarlet and White jerseys on the road in 1949. After the two-year experiment, they returned to their traditional Honolulu Blue and Silver for all games.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Around Our Campus

Selections from an October 1945 Said and Done.
(Click on the images for a larger view)

Muskegon Senior High school was erected in 1925 by the order of the Muskegon Board of Education. It was built on the property known as Deer Park and covered the area between Sanford St. and Jefferson St. and Southern Ave. and Grand Ave. At that time it also included the Muskegon Junior college, which moved to the Hackley School in 1934.
. . . . . .

The building consists of three stories, 37 classrooms, a library, two counsellors' offices, two conference rooms, an office, two gyms, a modern stage and auditorium, a Little Theater and a fine cafeteria. Through the halls you will see different statues and pictures given by different organizations. As you come in the front door, you will see a statue of Lincoln (by Lorado Taft) given by the Said and Done staff of 1928. On the third floor the is a place for posters and paintings.
. . . . . .

Hackley Gymnasium was built in 1901 under the sponsorship of Charles Hackley. It is north east of the Muskegon Senior High School. Maybe some of you remember before the baskets were put in the locker rooms, when it was divided into sections with about 10 lockers each.
. . . . . .

As everyone should know by now, Wilson Field borders Hackley Stadium on the north. The field was purchased by the Board of Education in 1921. It was given over to the Physical Education Department in 1923. Since that time it has been used for boys' and girls' outdoor classes. The field has also been a practice place for the high school baseball and football team.
. . . . . .

Remodeling of the Hackley Stadium has been carried on throughout the summer under the direction of Mr. George Hansen, maintenance man in charge of buildings. Although the work is not yet completed, a number of changes have been made. The ticket window now is located in the north end of the permanent stands, where two rooms have been made available for the ticket sellers and faculty managers. The men's room has also been moved to the north end of the stands with the former men's room added to the football players' locker room. A new fence that will probably cause some discussion has been placed along the Jefferson Street side of the field. A treatment of the turf on the field has been made. The scoreboard is to be painted before the first game, Sept. 21. Later the lower part of the stadium will be cemented , and an electric scoreboard will be installed.

Nash winding up basketball career at Wayne State

Muskegon Chronicle Article On Joy Nash
by Scott Brandenburg
Sunday February 08, 2009

Joy Nash's basketball days are going to end a little earlier than she'd like this season.

Nash, a former All-Area performer at Muskegon, isn't complaining though. She's had a long career as the starting point guard at Wayne State University.

For four years, Nash has been a fixture in the Warrior lineup, starting every game she's played. She missed the last 15 games of her freshman season with an injury.

Going back the previous four years, when Nash was starring for the Big Reds, the 5-2 point guard has been helping varsity squads for the last eight years.

"I've really been blessed with an ability I've been able to use for the last eight years," said Nash. "It's given me a great opportunity to play here and get my degree."

Nash will begin her year of student teaching at Wayne State following the regular-season finale against Ferris State on Feb. 28 unless the Warriors can put on a miraculous finish in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Association race and make the postseason.

Beginning the home stretch of earning her degree in elementary education is something Nash is looking forward to, even if she's still not completely ready to "hang up her sneakers."

"I want to return to teach in the Muskegon area," said Nash. "I want to be able to give back at or near the place where I started."

For her career, Nash is sixth in Warrior history in assists with 365 assists and is 12th in free-throw percentage at near 78 percent.

Running the team's offense has always been one of Nash's strong points.

"Joy's been phenomenal -- she's been our steady player in the backcourt," said Wayne State coach Gloria Bradley. "She's a natural point guard in that she can handle the ball and she looks to pass first."

Nash plays 30 minutes a game and averages seven points and four assists a game.

The only knock on Nash is she tries too hard sometimes to get her teammates involved in the offense.

"Joy does a great job of that, but she looks to pass to a fault," said Bradley. "She gets frustrated sometimes when she can't find an open teammate and it's usually because she's the open person. She's got a good shot and could shoot more.''

Nash's defense has been another key to her game.

She has been named to the GLIAC South all-defensive team the last two years and could make it three straight seasons.

Nash has 98 career steals and Bradley said her aggressive defense sets the tempo for the team.

"Defense has always been something I've taken pride in," said Nash. "Coach wants us to start with defense so I focus on making sure we take care of that end of the court."

Nash set a career high in 3-pointers made (4), field goals made (9) and points (24) in a game last year against Grand Valley.