The Piqua Vs. Troy Football Game: Once a Local Thanksgiving Day Tradition
By Judy Deeter
An old Piqua High School football program is stored away at the Local History Library in Troy. It has mostly been forgotten. Yet, it tells a story about local sports history. It is from the annual Thanksgiving Day Troy Vs. Piqua football game played on November 29, 1934 at Roosevelt Field in Piqua.
For many years in the first part of the 20th century, the two teams played their season-ending game on the afternoon of Thanksgiving Day and both towns turned out to watch the game. Back then, the game was a local Thanksgiving Day tradition.
The football program pictured below was donated to The Troy Historical Society a few years ago as part of a larger collection of artifacts by Michael Grilliot in honor of his parents Linus and Vivian Grilliot. The society does not know who originally owned the program or why it was kept for so many decades.
Inside the program, there is a Probable Line-Up and Reserve Squad listing for both schools. It shows the last name of each player, his position, number and weight. It is interesting to note that in the Piqua listing there is an Ed. Vetter and El. Vetter; on the Troy team listing a J.P. Kessler and J.C. Kessler. A set of boys possibly related to one another may have played on both teams.
The coaches were George P. Wertz of Piqua and William Howald of Troy. Next to the name of both coaches in the program is the name “Heidelberg.” Local historical researchers have found out why the name is there.
A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP
The two coaches had a special relationship to one another. An article in the TROY DAILY NEWS on November 28, 1934 explains the meaning of the name Heidelberg. It says: The game tomorrow will mark the end of the tenth season Coach Wertz has coached at Piqua. It will be the close of the eighth season for Coach Howald here in Troy. It is seldom two coaches stay as long as either of these men at neighboring schools and to make it more remarkable Wertz and Howald are college classmates having played on the same college team. (Heidelberg was the college where the two played as football teammates.) Despite their intense rivalry as coaches the two remain the best of friends and the loser tomorrow will be the first to congratulate the winner. The friendship of Wertz and Howald is typical of the relations of the two schools. The greatest of rivals in every line of sport yet the schools are on the most friendly relations standing together for clean athletics and all the best in sport.
Local sports writer David Fong wrote a chapter about Wertz in his 2015 book OHIO’S TROY VS. PIQUA FOOTBALL RIVIALY—THE BATTLE ON THE MIAMI. He gives details of Wertz coaching career writing, “His record of 165 wins would stand as the school record for more than sixty years….” Troy Daily News sports writer Jack Miller said in his column of November 22, 1934 that a testimonial dinner was planned in Piqua to honor Wertz’s 10 years as coach. Miller said, “It is not often a coach stays 10 years at a high school and still more seldom that as good a record is compiled as that made by Wertz.”
Trophy Game & Record Crowds
This particular game was played for the permanent possession of a trophy sponsored by the Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call newspapers. It was referred to as the Troy News-Piqua Call trophy. Over the previous years to 1934, the schools had been given points for the games they had won and the winner of the game for the year kept the trophy until the next Troy-Piqua game. At the start of this game, Troy was in possession of the trophy. Piqua had 29 points for permanent possession of the cup; Troy 24. (The rules for the distribution of points for trophy has not been located.)
In the days leading up to the game, local newspapers predicted a record crowd would be watching the game. An article in the Troy Daily News on November 28, 1934 (the day before the game) says, “Surrounded by all the glamour of a traditional rivalry extending over a period of near a half century, the Troy and Piqua football teams meet tomorrow on Roosevelt field, Piqua, in the final ring down of the curtain on the 1934 season.”
Fans were able to purchase reserve seat tickets prior to the game. Piqua had 1,700 reserve seat tickets and Troy 1,000. The day before the game it was reported that all the Troy tickets were sold and most all of the Piqua tickets were gone. The total attendance at the game is reported to have been 4,500.
Troy marching band members wore a new uniform at the game. In spite of the fact, that the United States was in an economic depression in the 1930s (the era was known as the “Great Depression”), the Troy band had raised $1,300 through a fundraising drive to buy new uniforms. This game was the second time they had worn them; the first time was the previous week at the Troy-Fairmont football game.
Though Troy High School colors were purple and white back then, the uniforms were navy blue and white. This may have been because at the time there was a problem getting cloth in the color purple. The Troy Daily News of November 24, 1934 reported, “Of Navy blue the uniforms are trimmed in white. The word ‘Troy’ appears on the left sleeve of each uniform in white and purple. The caps are blue with purple bands and white letters ‘T.H.S.’ on the front. White Tom Browne belts and white pom-poms complete the outfits. Special uniforms of white and gold were purchased for the drum major and for the director.” It is believed that there were about 60 members of the marching band at the time.
A SPECIAL TREAT
Troy students had also been given a special treat in the days leading up to the game. On the Monday and Tuesday prior to the game, the Troy football team and band members were guests of the Mayflower Theater in Troy to see the movie “Gridiron Flash.” Troy High School and Junior High students not part of the football team or band were invited see the movie at the ticket price of 20 cents. An advertisement for the movie says it is “The story of a college football hero who stole the watch of the campus cop and the heart of the campus queen!”
Piqua won the game and permanent possession of the Troy News-Piqua Call trophy by a score of 28-6. It was reported that Piqua won by using an air attack. The Troy Daily News said the Troy team was “bewildered” during the game. The Troy Daily News of November 30, 1934 said: Troy entered the game a slight favorite and the complete reversal came as a sad surprise to the Troy fans while the Piqua rooters beside themselves with joy, were almost as much surprised as the Troy followers. Incidentally it was the worst defeat of the season for Troy.
Piqua richly deserved the victory, outplaying and outsmarting Troy throughout the game. Playing with a dash and making but few mistakes the Indians easily outclassed the Trojans who displayed none of their vaunted form except in the latter part of the second quarter when they shoved over their lone score.
Since this game was one to be forgotten in the minds of many Trojans, perhaps this program still exists because it was treasured by someone from Piqua. We will never know.
The Troy-Miami Public Library Local History Library at 100 West Main Street in Troy has Troy microfilmed Troy newspapers from 1934 and the Piqua Public Library Local History Department at 116 West High in Piqua has microfilmed copies of the Piqua Daily Call newspapers for further review. Both may also have other materials related to their local high schools in the 1930s. Contact the libraries for further information.
For further information about this story, contact The Troy Historical Society at (937) 339-5900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.