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History in the hills: a football field steeped in history | News, Sports, Jobs

One Friday evening in September, my family and I decided to attend a soccer game at Weir High. It was to be my first Friday night football game in high school in at least 15 years or more. In fact, the last time I attended a game was at the old Jimmy Carey Stadium in downtown Weirton, off Virginia Avenue.

Nestled between a hill and the mill, the whole was full of character. The old concrete stands were unique, and I have a distinct memory of spectators, mostly older men, standing under the announcer booth smoking cigars and cigarettes while watching the game. The rising white smoke, mixing with the cool autumn air under these giant spotlights, made the scene memorable. And who could forget the announcement of Bob Rossell, whose distinct voice would echo through the night, bouncing off the chimneys and walls of the nearby sheet metal amid the jubilant crowd?

I always thought the old stadium was a bit out of place, to be fair. It seemed that it was hidden and not very accessible to the visiting team. My family would often park downtown on Main Street near the Strip Steel office and drive to the stadium. We would sometimes stop at an establishment called the “48.” My dad tells me that at one point, Weirton Steel’s hot rolling mill could roll a 48 inch steel plate into a coil (hence the name) weighing around 20 tons on average depending on length and specification. client.

The Hot Mill later expanded to 54 inches. This place was near Mill Gate 5, you could see it from the front door, and it was a popular spot for factory workers and families before the Weir High game. There, factory workers could cash their paychecks, but the cashier would keep the change as payment for the service.

The case had been there for a long time, before the 1950s, certainly before my time, but I remember it was crowded before the games. Leaving the place with my friends, we began to climb Virginia Avenue to the stadium. At the corner of Virginia Avenue and West Street, there was once the old Jewish Beth Israel Synagogue, and one morning before a Weir High game, she fell. The building was constructed in 1927 and clearly in a state of disrepair. We would pass the telephone building, now Union Hall, and pass the crowded parking lots from the mill to the stadium.

The stadium was not always isolated, but was part of the old Weir High School complex that faced Orchard Street. These buildings, constructed in 1917 and 1923, respectively, ceased to be a high school in 1963 and were demolished in the early 1980s. The site of the old Weir High Stadium had been occupied since about 1794 by the Griffith House. This stone building served as a blockhouse at a time in our local history when the threat of Native American attacks was common in our region.

If threatened with attack, settlers nearby could move to this fortified stone building to repel their enemy. This building was demolished to make way for the new stadium which, according to local historian Dennis Jones in his book “Weirton – A contest of nations”, “was completed in the summer of 1935 at a cost of $ 50,000, and on Labor Day, the Second Annual Festival of Nations would become the first official event to take place attracting over 15,000 visitors. “

The Festival of Nations was an idea, according to Jones, that was featured in the 1929 Weir High yearbook where all of Weirton’s nationalities were represented in a contest. The first festival in 1934 was held at the new Margaret Manson Weir Memorial Pool in Marland Heights, where, according to Jones, around 10,000 people gathered for the festivities. The purpose of the party was “designed to be non-competitive and create a sense of brotherhood and oneness between different ethnic groups and also provide heartwarming memories of their homeland.”

From 1935 to 1944, the annual event took place at the stadium. During World War II, the festival shifted from celebrating distinct nationalities to promoting our common effort in this era, the cause of freedom and inspiring patriotism in this difficult time.

After the festivals ended, the stadium was just home to high school football. The first football game to be played at the stadium was on September 21, 1935, and Weir defeated Cleveland South, 14-0.

Also that year, coach Carl Hamill led the team to a season record 10-0-0, and the school was state champion. The first night game was on September 16, 1938, in which Weir beat Follansbee, 27-0. In 1981 the stadium was renamed Jimmy Carey Stadium in honor of the late coach Jimmy Carey. Many students who have played at the stadium have embarked on professional careers.

The Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center maintains a list of professional Weirton athletes, not just soccer players, but also professional basketball, baseball and golf players who have had a connection with Weirton. The list is not complete, but those who have played on the field include Bob Gain, a 1947 Weir graduate who went on to play for the Ottawa Rough Riders and Cleveland Browns; Bob Jeter, Weir graduated in 1956, who went on to play for the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears; Bill Tucker, graduated from Weir High in 1962, who went on to play for the San Francisco 49’s and the Chicago Bears; Tony Jeter, Weir High grad 1962, who went on to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers; Gene Trosch, a Madonna graduate in 1963, who went on to play for the Kansas City Chiefs; and in my day, Quincy Wilson, a Weir High graduate in 1999, who went on to play for the Atlanta Falcons and Cincinnati Bengals.

The list goes on and on, and it is very impressive that so many professionals have come to our city and have excelled in the sport. Today there is a marker made from the goal post at the old Weir High Stadium at the corner of Cove Road and Weir Avenue, which lists Weirton’s known athletes. The marker was installed in 2014. It should be located along Weir Avenue, as this street has the distinction of producing at least seven professional athletes within a few blocks.

Weirton’s sporting heritage is rich.

The old stadium’s story came to an end on October 28, 2011, when Weir High played his last game on the pitch against East Liverpool, losing 40-0. After 76 years of community events, the doors were closed for the last time to enthusiastic fans, enthusiastic groups and determined players.

The following August, the new Jimmy Carey Stadium was inaugurated, next to Weir High. This place now holds about a decade of memories for a new generation of students and members of our community. I’m sure if the new venue lasts as long as the last stadium, great things are going to happen on this pitch.

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