Fieldhouse holds great memories

Friday nights are special in this campus landmark.

A packed house watches another big win in the fieldhouse (large panther in the center) over a GCL opponent as broadcast on EHSTV, the predecessor to todays ENN.

from Elder archives

A packed house watches another big win in the fieldhouse (large panther in the center) over a GCL opponent as broadcast on EHSTV, the predecessor to today’s ENN.

As many people know, Elder high school is known for its long tradition. A huge part of the Elder tradition is the famous fieldhouse. It is the gym that has hosted many Elder basketball and volleyball state champion teams. If you have ever been to a game on a Friday night in the fieldhouse, you would know just how historic it is. It is known for putting fear into the visitors who venture there. There is nothing quite like playing in the fieldhouse on a Friday night.

In our journalism class, we were asked to find something that interests us in the heart of Price Hill. I decided to do my project on the history of the Elder Memorial Fieldhouse. While researching, I had the chance to talk to Coach Joe Schoenfeld, who many know has spent countless hours in that gym coaching the Elder basketball team.

In the 1980’s, construction was being done for the new fieldhouse. Furthermore, the only gym being used at the time was the now wrestling/volleyball gym. When the gym was first made there were stands on both sides and also stands under the basket. However, as time went on this would later change as they expanded. Before the fieldhouse was built, it was just a piece of land in the northeast corner of the pit.

I asked coach when the fieldhouse was made. He responded telling me it was completed in 1980. He also asked some of his friends from St. Williams who remember playing as kids in the dirt piles as it was being built.

I then asked Coach Schoenfeld, what all sports have been played in the fieldhouse. He responded, “The opening event in the FH was an Elder vs. West Hi, Thanksgiving Day BASKETBALL GAME in 1980.

That was the first year Elder didn’t play Western Hills in football on Thanksgiving Day and the schools tried to keep some form of the tradition alive. Obviously, volleyball and wrestling (including the CIT) have taken place in the fieldhouse. “Even Seton high school has used the fieldhouse for some basketball games in the past.”

After our conversation, coach was able to send me a link to a newspaper story about Thanksgiving Day in Price Hill. Here it is:

Price Hill Thanksgiving Day Parade, through history

Diane Clark Community Press guest columnist

The origins of the upcoming Thanksgiving Day parade can be found in the fierce competition between Elder and Western Hills high schools.

Elder opened in 1922 and Western Hills, a few years later in 1929. It didn’t take long for the students to develop a strong rivalry which was heightened by the annual West Hi-Elder football games that were played on Thanksgiving until 1979. In the early years, students, fueled by a driving enthusiasm and team spirit marched to the games in support of their teams. Within a few years, these impromptu “parades” became better organized, with many families and community groups participating.

In 1979, when the game day was moved to days other than Thanksgiving, the parade faded. There was still an occasional small pre-game parade, but the Thanksgiving Day Parade itself was disbanded. That is, until its revival by the newly formed Price Hill Historical Society in 1991. The Price Hill Civic Club and the East Price Hill Improvement Association lent their help and funding to get it off the ground. The community itself became involved, as the parade grew into an annual event, drawing participants from all over the Tristate.

I was very curious about all the renovations that have been made to the fieldhouse. I know in just my four years at Elder many things have changed in the gym, so I wanted to know what all has changed. Coach told me how the building itself hasn’t changed but some aspects of it have. A couple of years ago there was a water problem in the fieldhouse.

The water damaged the old floor and it was replaced with a new one. Coach explained, “The original floor had the “running panther” cutting across the half-court line. The south walls had big arrows (wall graphics) that pointed to the stairwell to indicate where the restrooms and concessions stands were located.” These pictures show the new and the old court.

Coach Schoenfeld stalks the center circle on the old court (running panther). (from Elder archives)

As you can tell from these pictures, there have been many renovations done to the fieldhouse based on the court. However, there has been more renovations that I had no idea about.

The new court at the fieldhouse features the panther head over center court. (Mrs. Hirth)

Coach went on to tell me that the current training room used to be Coach Frey’s office. The current tiny coach’s office used to be the training room. He wasn’t even sure if they had a table for the training room.

I asked him how that was possible, he responded saying, “We really didn’t have a trainer in 1980.” He then went on explaining the old locker rooms saying, “When you exit the current training room, the door immediately to your left led to another locker area under the stands of the football stadium that the basketball team used for a pre-game meeting area with a space large enough to accommodate a wide U-shared area of chairs and a chalkboard.  This area was important because the varsity locker room was completely filled up with rows of hand-made wooden lockers. The varsity locker room had tall, wooden lockers built out of plywood that were constructed by Dave “Sarge” McQuaide, Elder’s original equipment manager and members of Elder’s Dads Club.  They ran in rows from the current trainer’s room toward the showers. It was a tight squeeze in there.

The JV/visiting team locker room had metal lockers with doors around the perimeter of the room with benches in front of them.  The center of the floor was left open.” This is all so shocking when you look at the current locker rooms, you see a very nice space for the players.

We then discussed the gym as itself. Like I mentioned earlier, the walls under the hoop only had a little padding from underneath the hoop itself. However, now the padding runs from sideline to sideline. The original side hoops had wooden backboards, but they have now been replaced by glass ones. He then went on to say, “I don’t remember the exact years, but sometime in the early-mid 90s we got gigantic used message boards from either Miami University or Wright State University that were hung on the north and south walls.  The message boards were full of individual bulbs and were cool at the time, but now would be like pong instead of playstation.”

Old court featured a message board near the scoreboards. (from Elder archives)

During my time talking to Coach Schoenfeld, I learned a lot more about the fieldhouse than I ever thought possible. For so many years it has been a place where people come together and support their team. It is a rich part of the history of Elder and the Price Hill community. The fieldhouse is a place that has always made everyone’s Friday nights better.