The Welch-Gary "Barrel" has not always been in existence. Some students think of it only as a keg that had been resting at Gary for eleven years before Welch recaptured it in 1957. The very colorful history of the "Barrel" started when Lilyan England, a member of the 1940 Maroon Wave staff, thought it would be fitting to further promote the rivalry between Welch and Gary by awarding a prize to the winning team each year.
Lois Hunt, now Mrs. Larry King of Los Angeles, decided on a "Barrel. It got its name "Beer Barrel" from the popular rage, "The Beer Barrel Polka". The late Bunny Lovett, manager of Baxter’s Hardware and the father-in-law of Mrs. Lovett, teacher at Welch, emptied a keg of nails and the prize "Barrel" sprang to life.
Many of our present students have parents who were in school then and took part in the history of the "Barrel". Some of our teachers could recall many incidents of that year as well. Mrs. Lovett played clarinet in the band, along with Nick Basso, news commentator on WSAZ-TV. Ray Cox, Clyde’s father, was a member of the band and Peggy Catron’s mother played cymbals. Sammy Cardea, Jerry’s uncle, held the drum-major championship of 1939-1940.
Mrs. Gray and Mrs. Lovett, both now a part of the faculty, were seniors that year, along with Eddie Gamble’s father. Bobby Mitchell, Diane Spressor and Mary Roberta Wysong’s mothers were juniors.
The "Barrel", painted maroon and white on one side and red and black on the other, was unveiled at the Welch-Gary game on Thanksgiving Day, November 21, 1940. At that time, the Thanksgiving Day game between the two rival teams was the "sporting event" for the entire area. People from all around the southern part of West Virginia as well as the northern part of Kentucky planned their day to include the Big Game!
That year, sports fans saw "Little" Tony Colobro as he ran, passed and kicked like a veteran to lead his teammates into Gary Territory three times. Kenneth Jackson made the only touchdown for Welch. The hard battle between the two teams ended in a 6-6 tie. Welch brought the "Barrel" home. Henry Peraldo (manager of Sears) represented Welch on the All McDowell County team that year. The Welch Maroon Wave teams were able to hold onto the prized "Barrel" for the next two years.
Gary won the "Barrel" in 1943 for the first time when they beat Coach Calloway and his boys. The multicolored "Barrel" returned to Welch in 1944, 1945 and 1946. We tied for it in 1947 and Gary won it in the 1948 game. The 1946 game was the last time the Welch-Gary game was played on Thanksgiving Day. It was also the last game of the coaching career of Coach Vernon Calloway. Our principal, Mr. Richardson, was one of the officials at that game. Another member of the 1946 team was "Jolting Joe" Orrison who raced 45 yards for a touchdown.
On the last play of the ’46 game, Gary had the ball on the Welch 4 yard line with only seconds to go. Welch was ahead 14-13. Gary fumbled! Then began the most spectacular play of the game, which left the "Coaldiggers" dazzled! The fumbled ball fell into the hands of a startled Phillip Brunchswyler. As Brunchswyler started to fall on the ball, "Big John" Bearzi grabbed him by the seat of his pants, held his teammate off the ground while he gave him a tremendous kick and shouted in very harsh words for him to run with all his might.
As Brunchswyler ran the 96 yards for a touchdown, the 2,500 spectators went wild. Coach Calloway, in true form, became so excited, the team tore his coat off in an attempt to keep him off the playing field. When he at last freed himself, he ran parallel to the field along with Brunchswyler as the player raced the 96 yards for the Touchdown. This play brought to a fitting end the coaching career of Coach Vernon Calloway as the boys immediately carried him off the field on their shoulders, a victorious coach!
JoAnn Poe, then Welch’s head cheerleader and now the wife of our Booster Club president, Kit Lewis, accepted the "Barrel" and returned it safely home.
That was "the Night" indeed, for the Welch Maroon Wave scrambled the McDowell County football championship race into a three-way deadlock. Scott Hamilton took over the coaching of the squad the next year.
After a tie in 1947, Welch lost the "Barrel" until November 1957. On that day, the last game of the season, the Welch football team led by co-captains Malcolm Day and Don Smith reclaimed the "Barrel" under the guidance of Coach Suba. Don Smith contributed two touchdowns to the cause and Ron Wells recovered a Gary fumble in the first quarter and scored.
Following the pattern, the Waves held fast to the "Barrel" in ’58. Co-captains Sonny Villani and Frank Bary lead the team for the first game under the direction of Coach Colobro. Wayne Hicks carried away the scoring honors with three touchdowns. Hicks made runs of 6, 12, 20 and 12 yards.
This year the game, with co-captains Wayne Hicks and Jim Norton leading the mighty Maroon Waves, is scheduled for the 13th of November. Friday the 13th! Since the Maroon Waves are not superstitious, their spirits are at an all time high as this copy goes to press.
Let's Roll Big Waves! Lets
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"Maroon Wave Closes Welch-Gary Football History with 31-6 Final Game Victory" -- Read the 11/12/77 Welch Daily News Article HERE compliments of GHS Alumni Webmaster.
The authors of the WHS Alumni web site are not exactly sure where the barrel currently resides. Information provided indicates that it is kept at the current Welch Middle School location - still On The Hill.
(info provided by former student: "The
Middle School -currently housed in the former Welch High School
competes with Gary Middle School for the barrel. Not sure
it is still the same barrel though.")
WHS Alumni Web Site