Memories of old Bulldog stadium
by The Press and Standard | November 14, 2019 5:00 am
Last Updated: November 13, 2019 at 11:18 am
By VICKI BROWN
The old Walterboro High School (WHS) football stadium, a memorable relic from the past, is set for demolition in early January. Most of the WHS graduates have wonderful memories attached to the concrete and metal bleachers. It was a place of fun, friendships, and fiery football battles on the gridiron. For many, the old stadium reminds them of their past: teen anxieties, school romances, college plans, friendships forged, wins, losses and maturing into men and women.
Cordelia L. Jones, a Walterboro High School 1982-83 band member, has fond memories of the WHS Bulldog Stadium. “I remember marching on the field the Friday night during half time after being named S.C. State 4A Marching Band Champions,” said Jones. “On that Bulldog field, we spent endless hours sweating in the heat, practicing to achieve that ultimate goal … state champions,” she said. “Our classmates were close, and I had a lot of friends like Cathy Singleton, Tammy Walling, Paula Tilman. But the band members were the closest because we spent so much time together. They were Kim Williams, Gilbert Pinckney, Carl Mosley, Monique Tracy, David Williams, and my bodyguards (Lol) Willie Seabrook, and Evon Robinson.”
Former football player Jimmy Reed still loves the old stadium. “My most memorable experience was in 1979-80. Head Coach Gyles Hall led a team with 26 players to the state playoffs. I was one of those players. We made people of the community believers. The team was called the ‘The Mighty 26’. People would come to the game with signs all over the stadium shouting, ‘We believe!’ The energy was amazing. The entire state of S.C. heard about ‘The Mighty 26’. It all started when team Chaplain McCoy told our team about the Bible story of David and Goliath before a game. That’s when we began to believe. And that’s when the name ‘Mighty 26’ was born,” said Reed. “I graduated in 1981. My friends were everyone on the team of 1979-80, ‘The Mighty 26’ and we are brothers for life!”
Robert Driggers, a football player for WHS from 1968-1971 and coach from 1975-2005 reminisced about the stadium. “It was a place where people could go and enjoy themselves; it was the center of attention for Walterboro,” said Driggers. “Not only did we go there to watch sports, but it was also the place for high school graduation, band contests and other large events that occurred in Walterboro when we needed a place big enough for everyone to have a seat.
“There have been many professional athletes to play in games at the stadium like James Walker, Darwin Walker, Tony Stephens and Norman Hand, all who played for WHS. When it was first completed, it was probably one of the best facilities in the area. It was the place be on a Friday night. At the old stadium, the whole family could go and enjoy themselves in a safe environment. Small children and younger friends and family would run on the field after a game and pretend they were playing. It has withstood the sands of time, surviving hurricanes, tornadoes and ice storms, but unfortunately, it could not withstand progress. As a result, what was once such a vital part of our community, is no longer needed. It is a shame that such a great facility at one time has now outworn its usefulness. The memories of activities and events which we shared at that stadium will always be etched in our minds,” Driggers said.
Keith Green, class of ’87, was involved in football and the Band of Blue at the stadium. Green joked about his football experience. “I actually played high school football only two years. I was in the Band of Blue and my mom wasn’t having it. She didn’t let me play football until my junior year, and I was oh, so ready to get out there and play with all my friends,” said Green.
“One of my fondest memories is the comradery amongst my brothers in football. From the long practices, weight-lifting and conditioning, riding on the bus to and from games, the list can go on and on. One of our traditions was going to the steak house for dinner before home games. I can’t remember whether it was Longhorn or Western Sizzlin,’ and we couldn’t get the expensive stuff like a ribeye. I think we all had chopped steak, but it was always good … real good!” laughed Green.
Green continued, “I also remember what I think was my very first touchdown. We had practiced all week long on this one play where the fullback would run right up the middle. See, I was a tailback, so I was a little worried. Well low and behold, the time came, and we ran that play. I ran straight up the middle 76 yards for my very first touchdown!
“All the coaches were like mentors and father figures to us, both on and off the field,” Green said. “Coach Adams was not only my position coach, but he also helped me grow to love science and technology. I can remember playing chess with Coach Bullock when I was the chess club president and he was our advisor. I also remember developing my very first computer program in his class. That was huge, especially since computers were not very common back then and his class may have been one of the first of its kind in Colleton County schools. And then there was Coach Burke. Wow. Early on, I can remember when guys from opposing teams would take me down, and Coach would just shake his head and give me that look. One day he said, ‘Dude, if I was as big as you are, I would be breaking some shoulders.’ At first, I was a little upset by his comment, but soon realized he was right. From then on, every time someone would come at me, I would do my best to break whatever I could. And it worked! I credit Coach Burke for that extra confidence he instilled in me that one day.”
Kim McNeil Richardson, also from the class of ’87, was also an athlete who competed at the stadium. She was head cheerleader and ran track.
“I ran track, but cheerleading was also one of my absolute favorites. Every week my best friend (I think everyone on earth knows who that was) and I were in charge of getting the game day banner ready. I don’t think folks know how huge those banners were. The next day we would actually paint it out. Remember — this was back in the day when digital printing wasn’t available. We would draw them out, sometimes the day before in the driveway at one of our houses, roll them up and take them back to the school the next day (usually game day) to paint it out all out. Talking about stress! I have no idea how we pulled that off every week for both home and away games. But it was all worth it. It was awesome seeing that banner on the field and watching the players and coaches burst through it. Ahhh. The memories,” said Richardson.
Kellye Whitaker, organizer for the upcoming tailgating event, reflected on her memories of Pat Rhode. “Pat Rhode worked in the main office, and was the Spirit Club advisor. Ever wonder where the Carolina blue Walterboro Bulldog paw print came from? If my memory serves me correctly, it was Mrs. Pat Rhode’s idea to bring the “PAW” to Walterboro High School. You see, Mrs. Rhode was a huge Clemson fan, and so it was only fitting to bring the paw to our school. As advisor of the Spirit Club, one of the best clubs on campus, she helped locate these little paw print stamps. We would dip the stamps in a really cool Carolina blue body paint and then apply it to all the Bulldog fans’ faces. Wearing the paw was a sign of pride. Everyone — kids and adults — wanted to wear that paw and show their pride on game day. Thank you, Mrs. Pat Rhode for bringing the Paw to our little town. Paw Pride 4Ever!” said Whitaker.
The old WHS football stadium will always be remembered. As Cordelia Jones remarked, “The cliché that ‘All good things comes to an end’ is just a cliché. Although somethings do end, and monuments are torn down, just remember, the spirit never dies. As long as stories like these are told and memories are passed down throughout the generations, the spirit of the old stadium will live on forever.”
The plans for a WHS Farewell to the Stadium Tailgate Party are underway. The party is scheduled for November 23 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. For fees and information, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/79883069411 or https://www.facebook.com/events/526376224606887/.