Norwalk Reflector: Sad news delivered to families of miners
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Sad news delivered to families of miners

By Don Hohler • May 23, 2019 at 12:00 PM

Nov. 30, 1968 was a sad day. The nation was eagerly awaiting for some good news, perhaps a miracle-bulletin on the 78 miners who were trapped some 700-feet under the ground. Just maybe they had been located in an air pocket and were just waiting to be rescued. This was all taking place under the small community of Manningtown, W.Va.

But, rather than good news, it was bad news. Representatives of the Consolidated Coal Company telephoned the 78 families and asked them to come to the local Methodist Church. The church, located just a stone’s throw from the mine entrance, seated 100. Two-hundred lined the aisles, walls and loft.

John Cochran, the company president, walked slowly down the aisle, turned at the altar and spoke:

“When I first came here a few days ago, I made a promise that when the time came I would be with you. That time has come. Every human effort has been made to save the men. I can no longer jeopardize the lives on the drilling crews and rescue teams.”

And with that, the order was given. The fires that were known to be ranging deep in a mine that was seven miles long would be snuffed out by sealing the entrances. In doing so, it would also seal the fate of the 78 men.

Wracking sobs filled the room as Rev. John Barnes, the pastor of the church, rose and said a prayer.

Season not over

It was anything but a downhill pull for the St. Paul football team after its shocking win against Edison on Week No. 5. On Oct. 27, Mike Gottfried’s team played Western Reserve in a Homecoming game and barely escaped, 6-0.

As good as St. Paul played against the Chargers, it played just that bad against a fired-up Roughrider team. St. Paul would score on its opening drive as quarterback Chris Amato, with barely three minutes gone in the game, hit end Mike Wasiniak on a 30-yard pass play for what would prove to be the lone score of the game.

After that, a tenacious Western defense allowed the Flyers not more than seven plays in any one possession. They managed just two first downs after that game-winning drive. Fumbles and 80 yards in penalties halted a number of them.

Western’s offense came from Bill Finley and Greg Kidd but never concentrated enough to get the ball into the end zone. It would be St. Paul’s fifth shutout of the season.

St. Paul completed the perfect season with a 23-6 win at Plymouth.

Crowned AP runner-up

The Flyers could not overcome a 16-point deficit in the final week of Associated Press polling, finishing second to state small-school power, Newark Catholic. WLKR Sports Director Jack Weisenberger presented the school with the runner-up trophy at the annual banquet while Duane Schooley from the Toledo Blade was present and made a trophy presentation naming the school the best Class A club in the northwest district.

Cory-Rawson had a huge advantage over second-place West Muskingum with one week left in the United Press wire service poll and it stayed that way although the Muskies made it close, 220-215 on the final ballot. The Flyers finished third with 163 followed by Newark Catholic (137).

Trucker award winners

At the Norwalk fall sports banquet, end Dan Smith was named the team’s Most Valuable Player in football while Ray Sizemore won the same honor in cross country.

Greg Lever was named the Truckers Outstanding Back while Denny McCreary, at 5-3, 130-pounds, the teams smallest player, was chosen the Outstanding Lineman. Winning the title as Most Improved Underclassmen was sophomore Ted Ickes.

It was not a good years for the Trucker football squad. Len Hardman was glad to move inside after his team lost 43-2 to Willard. Rich Meisler scored the safety.

Meanwhile, Willard runners Bob Stover, Bill Sowers, Jim Thornton and Chuck Barrison had a fun time running for six touchdowns.

In fact, that last Friday night of the season was a dismal one for area talent as Hillsdale topped South Central 18-6, Mapleton crushed Monroeville 40-6 and Clearview handled New London 24-6.

Edison saved face as far as area teams, winning big over Black River 44-0.

Kris Ultican is queen

There were some smiles at Whitney Field in 1968 such as the night Kris Ultican was crowned the homecoming queen. She won over Debbie Meyer, Jacque Koehn, Debi Holtz, Janet Bahnsen and Chris Calhoun.

Football to basketball

The Reflector basketball poll showed Bellevue No. 1 in the NOL with 77 1/2 points with Norwalk second with 71 ½. Shelby was a distant third (58). Willard was sixth with 35 points.

In the Firelands, it was Hillsdale shading Edison, 73-70 with Mapleton third (54) followed by Western Reserve, Monroeville, St. Paul, Black River and Monroeville.

Truckers have talent

Len Hardman welcomed a wealth of talent that year. Tom Diringer for one. Add veterans Jack Buckingham, Doug Ott, Tom Edwads and Mike Grose and Hardman had quite an array of quality players. And waiting in the wings were players like Stu Schillig, Sonny Coles, Dave Hughes, John Doubledee, Jim Bignall and Dan Smith.

Hannan debuts at St. Paul

Tom Hannan came to St. Paul after 17 years at Lima Central Catholic. He has his work cut out for him as just four players with experience returned. The best on paper was Dave Didion. Others who saw enough varsity action the previous year to letter included Chris Amato, Mike Mushett and Al Bignall.

Irons wants better than 7-10

Western Reserve coach Jim Irons believed his team lost way too many close games the previous year. And the numbers prove his point...10 losses by a total of 35 points.

Irons will try and turn this thing around by using Jim Kern, Bill Mesenburg, Harry Dalton, Bill Fugel, Terry Patrick, Mark Murdock and Denny Miller. And there is also hope that if needed, sophomores Greg Kidd, Jim Weisenberger, Mike Mesenburg, Jerry Hilaman and Keith White, all members of a 17-1 freshmen team, can help out.

Everhart has two back

Jerry Everhart gave the rest of the conference a two-game head start after his team lost its opener last year to Milan by a point and then to Berlin Heights by two one week later. They then won seven in a row and ended up handling Milan 76-64 and Berlin Heights 68-47 the last two weeks of the season to salvage a piece of the conference title.

Can Everhart get his team off to a quicker start with veterans Ron Schneider and Mike Carter as his only returning lettermen?

There is other talent, however. Steve Moore is one. Chet Roberts is another. Also on the roster is Steve Miller, Mark Colahan, Rich Herner, Hank Fairchild, Bob Lord, Dave Gerber and Jeff Eby.

Edison has eight back

Edison, in its first year after consolidation, returned seniors Dick Schuster, Dick Schlessman, Dave Welfle, Joel Poyer, Brian Czaplicki, Dan Gurney, Mark Vanderpool and Jeff Kernel.

Defense is word at South Central

Gale Reinhart claims he lacks shooters so he is preaching defense. With no player taller than 6-1 with the exception of 6-3 Dave Baker, Reinhart hopes players like John Lofland, Mike Goodman, John Dendinger, Forbes Shipman, Bob Smith, John Wilken, John Seidel, Burton Lewis, and George McNemar can come up with enough game to better the 1-17 record of last year.

Tuesday’s election results

Dana Call was re-elected Clerk of Courts but was given a good run for his money by Norwalk barber Gerald Simon.

In the commissioners race, Art Herner was re-elected for his fourth term as was Don Robertson.

Not so fortunate was Maurice Smith. The same held true for commissioner-hopeful Richard Pflieger.

Harold Collier was re-elected to an eighth term as county treasurer, this time fending off Greg Richards.

In other races, New London “went wet” as resident approved liquor sales by 79 votes but there were stipulations as to where people can drink wine and liquor by the package, namely not on the premises where it is sold.

Berlin Heights voters passed a fire protection levee and one for township operation while North Fairfield folks approved a new fire truck and a rescue vehicle as well as an addition to the station to park both vehicles.

Milan folks said OK to a 2-mill levy for five years for new storm sewers with Center Street and Sleepy Hollow areas the first to get attention.

Don Hohler is a longtime Reflector sportswriter.

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