Homecoming last week started me thinking about Noblesville high school football fields of the past. There have probably been more than you realize.
Unfortunately, the really early years of NHS football are a little hard to research. During the first decades of the 20th century, football wasn't nearly as big as baseball and basketball, and the games weren't always written up in the newspaper.
However, I believe nearly all the football games prior to 1923 were played at the Horse Show Grounds, an open area on the west side of North Tenth Street, between Monument and Harrison.
There was one notable exception to that - 1921. That year the games took place at Baker's Field or Baker's Park. (It's not clear which name is correct since both were used in newspaper ads.)
I've never run across Baker's Field/Park before and haven't got a clue as to where it was located. Does anybody know?
The following year, football returned to the Horse Show Grounds one final time, then in 1923 the action moved to Joseph Field, which was located at 17th and Conner (where the new Boys & Girls Club building is currently being built.)
Former NHS football player Garrick Mallery told me that, although there were bleachers and lights at Joseph Field, there were no locker rooms. Garrick and his teammates had to dress at the high school (that would be the Conner Street high school,) then walk down the alley between Conner and Logan to get to the field.
Garrick also mentioned how good the 1943 and 1944 teams were. The 1943 team went undefeated and the 1944 team only lost one game!
One sad note about Joseph Field is the death of Richard (Dick) Zeckel, who may be the only NHS student ever to have died playing football. Dick, the uncle of former city councilman Jeff Zeckel, was kicked in the head during a practice and died later at home. (This happened in the days of leather helmets.)
By 1941 there was a push for a new field. Although the high school owned the trappings of Joseph Field, the land itself was rented, so no permanent improvements could be made there. Moreover, there were fears Noblesville's building boom would lead to the acreage being sold and turned into a housing addition, leaving the school without a place to play football.
It was decided that a new athletic field - owned by the school system this time - would be located just east of First Ward school, between Monument and Harrison. It was supposed to be ready by the fall of 1942, but a little thing called World War II interfered with that timetable.
When the new field was finally dedicated October 6, 1945, it was christened Memorial Field in honor of the NHS students, living and dead, who had served in the war.
The original plans called for a big concrete stadium, but that was found to be too expensive, so they made do with common bleachers like those at Joseph Field.
There was one major difference between the two facilities, however - a quarter-mile cinder track encircled the new football field. According to the June 7, 1941 Noblesville Daily Ledger, it was the first time in history the track team had a cinder track on which to train and hold meets.
The current NHS athletic field was dedicated September 19, 1969 and was named Swanson Field in honor of World War II veteran and former Noblesville Schools superintendent Dale V. Swanson.
The name was changed to Hare Chevrolet Field in 2006 when Hare Chevrolet donated $125,000 to help pay for new artificial turf.
Paula Dunn's From Time to Thyme column appears each Friday in The Times. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: Friday, September 22, 2017
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Great article, but the last few paragraphs a little confusing. I was in attendance in 1969 when 'Memorial Field' was renamed 'Swanson Field'. Your article referenced the "current field" as being named 'Swanson and then renamed'. Wasn't the 'current field' built in the late 80's or early 90's when the old High School was remodeled? When I graduated in '71 'Swanson Field' was still behind First Ward. Though, with my 'swiss cheese' memory I could be wrong on all counts. Really enjoy reading your columns - best part of Fridays. Keep up the good work