Football in the Family

Winding Gulf High School - 1927
Collins High School – 1927 – See Story Below

Several years ago, my mother-in-law gathered photos of her sons’ grandfathers (with their football teams) and had them professionally cleaned up and enlarged, suitable for framing. My husband and I were inspired to expand on the idea by assembling a collection of photos (portraits and sports both) of grandparents on both sides of the family. I was able to find the football photos for my grandfathers (and a fabulous 1923 photo of my grandmother in her high school basketball uniform – that’s worthy of a separate story coming later). Below are those four photos, and a couple others of related family from roughly the same era. They represent participation in a variety of roles – player, manager, coach. You can click on any photo to bring up a larger version.


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Alderson Baptist Academy – 1921

My paternal grandfather was Willis Hite Farley (1906-1983). Despite a keen intellect, he struggled to find a good academic fit as a teenager, and attended three different high schools in Alderson, WV (yet another good story for later). The first was Alderson High School; my understanding is that he did play football but we do not have a photo. The second high school was the Alderson Baptist Academy and Junior College. He’s shown here with that team, seated on the first row, third from the right; I am unable to identify any of the other players. He would have been about 15 years old in this photo, which comes from the first issue of the Aldersonian (here’s the full publication), a school paper that appears to have started at ABA and later taken over by Alderson High School. ABA combined with Broaddus College in 1932 to become Alderson-Broaddus College and relocated to Phillipi, WV.

Willis Farley - High School Football Team - 1923
Allegheny Collegiate Institute – 1923

After a year at ABA, Willis matriculated into his third and last high school, Allegheny Collegiate Institute. He was coming into his adult height and weight at this point, and clearly one of the larger members on the team; by his own account he was a talented player. The coach, Major Stover, tried to talk Willis into attending Davis and Elkins College on a football scholarship, but Willis turned it down in favor of a more exciting life working in the coal mines (yet another story to be pulled together). Willis would have been 17 in this photo from 1923, and he documented the names of the everyone on the back. I’ve included that below, which may be helpful to others researching their family. (Side note: I have found a couple of gems over the years through carefully crafted internet searches — think wildcards and boolean operators — and have learned to keep searching as new material does surface.)

  • Bottom Row – Left to Right – Harold Yates, Nash Kious, Lucien Giddens, Sam Osborn, Forest (“Boob”) Logan
  • Middle Row – Left to Right – Ernest English, Robert Smith, Robin Bryce, Virgil Thompson, Russell Black, Major Stover (Coach)
  • Top Row – Willis Farley, Sherman E. Miller, Edward Sackett, Wirt Honaker

Allegheny Collegiate Institute closed in 1925, just two years after this photo, and the same year that Willis graduated. I recommend this very informative article about schools in Alderson, WV.


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Fishburne Military School – 1925

My maternal grandfather was Keith Campbell Hopkins, Sr. (1905-1965). He attended Fishburne Military School in Waynesboro, Virginia for his last three years of high school, graduating at the age of 20 in 1925. He was joined during his last two years by his younger brother Henry Frederick Hopkins (1907-1986) who also graduated in 1925. Both Keith and Henry later served in the Navy during second World War (and Henry for many years beyond); I wonder how much Fishburne prepared them for their service more than 15 years later and whether it eased the transition or was no real comparison for going to war.

In this photo Keith is shown with the 1925 football team, for which he was the manager. He is standing on the back row, second from left in military uniform. He died before I was barely a toddler, so I don’t remember him, and there are not too many stories about his young life that have handed down; photos like this one really help fill in the blanks.

Fishburne is still in operation.


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Columbia Military Academy – 1910

My husband’s parents and grandparents are about a half-generation older than my own, so these photos are a bit older than those above. His maternal grandfather was Samuel Hardeman Jones, Sr. (1890-1988). Here “Sam” is shown in 1910 with the Columbia Military Academy team in Columbia, Tennesse. He is first from the left on the second row (rows are tricky in this photo; his arms are hidden by the player in front of him, whose own arms are akimbo; Sam has no one directly behind him). His daughter Geraldine (my mother-in-law) shares this about his attendance at CMA:

He went to Columbia Military Academy for two years to prepare to go to the University of Tennessee but his father died and he stayed home as the oldest child to help his mother run the farm. My mother said that it was the tragedy of his life because he hated farming and was a gifted engineer.

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Columbia Military Academy – 1910

In this photo (very likely from the same day), the team is in formation; note the horses and buggy in the background. Sam is the third from left on the front line, kneeling and ready for (faux) action in this staged shot. There are eleven players are on field, which had become standard by 1910, as was seven on the front line as shown here. The other five players (and two who I assume are the managers) from the other photo are not in this photo, though the coaches are included.

Columbia Military Academy transitioned to Columbia Academy in 1979.


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South River High School -1920

My husband’s paternal grandfather was Wilbur Aaron Bryan (1884-1964). He was principal of South River High School in South River, New Jersey for 25 years. He also coached the football and basketball teams for at least the first several years.

In this photo, Wilbur is standing with hat, tie and overcoat on the far left. He was newly married earlier in the year, his first at SRHS as principal and coach.

South River High School is still in operation.


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Alderson High School – c. 1925

My grandfather Willis had two younger brothers who both played for the Alderson High School football team. This photo is from about 1925. My great uncle Paul (Frederick Paul Farley, 1910-1968) is second from the left on the second row; Paul and Willis married sisters, Audrey Hale and Frances “Rook” Hale (resulting in double cousins, double aunts and uncles for my dad and his siblings and their cousins). My great uncle Tom (Thomas Duvall Farley, 1912-1936) is next to last on the first row; he died of pneumonia at the young age of 23; this is one of the few photos of him that survive.

Alderson High School closed its doors in 1968 when Greenbrier East and Greenbrier West High Schools were formed to consolidate all high schools in Greenbrier County.


Collins High School - 1927
Collins High School – 1927

My grandmother’s brother was Frank Curtis “Prune” Hale (1910-1986); “Prune” is just one of many interesting nicknames in that clan, and I hope to have a story on that down the road. In this photo, Prune is the first player on the first row, with arms crossed over his legs. The Collins High School team from Epperly, WV (near Winding Gulf) is displaying their entire season record on the pants held up by the player in the center of the front row. This is what I can make out; don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you interpret it differently; you can read some parts better depending on the angle. Some of these guesses come from consulting this history of Beckley and Raleigh County.

Athens – 6 Collins – 7
Shady (probably Shady Spring) – 0 Collins – 7
Besoco – 6 Collins – 7
Faytt (probably Fayetteville) – 33 Collins – 0
Oak Hill – 31 Collins – 6
Lego – 0 Collins – 6

Collins High School, which opened in 1924, was destroyed by fire in 1944 and never rebuilt.

3 thoughts on “Football in the Family”

  1. I am just enjoying this so much. Hope you don’t mind an outsider’s participation. My grandfather, Arthur Mann Straughan also attended Fishburn but I don’t know the years.

    1. Glad you are enjoying, Debbie. If I run into anything more on your clan I will let you know. Looks like your tree on Ancestry has lots of hints waiting for you to peek at.

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