Posted in Central Athletics, Purple Pounders

Frawley Field and the Legendary Purple Pounders

Mr. Fred Frawley

Research by Ed Hoback:

Description: Article taken from The Frawley Field and the Legendary Central High Purple Pounders by Harmon Jolley posted May 21, 2008

article_128352 Frawley Field and the Legendary Central High Purple Pounders by Harmon Jolley posted May 21, 2008

The new Frawley Field was one of several photographs in “Report of Hamilton County Schools, 1937/1938.” Click to enlarge. A reader recently asked me a question about the origin of the name of Frawley Field, which was the old Central High School football/baseball field. What a quest this turned out to be!

Let’s first review the historical setting of Central High School itself. In “A History of Hamilton County, Tennessee, “  Dr. James Livingood noted that the county education program began to move from the days of one-room, all-grades schools to the high school concept following Tennessee government’s funding of secondary education. Around 1902, Hixson, Sale Creek, Soddy, and Ridgedale (soon renamed Central High) acquired new high schools.

On January 3, 1908, Central High School was dedicated. At a cost of $72,000, Hamilton County had constructed the school on Dodds Avenue near McCallie Avenue. The location was at the time outside the city limits of Chattanooga, which operated a separate school system. However, Chattanooga residents were allowed to attend Central High as long as they provided their own transportation.

Class sizes of Central were initially relatively small in the early years. The graduating class in 1911 numbered only 65 students. However, by 1934, there were 1,730 students being taught by 38 teachers. Central High’s curriculum included a variety of the arts and sciences.

Even in its early years, the school chose purple as its primary school color. The Central High Digest was even printed in purple. The school fielded athletic teams before other high schools began to offer sports. The players who would be called the Purple Pounders needed an athletic field.

The book “Report of Hamilton County Schools 1937/1938” reported that funding of $30,008 for Frawley Field was included in a system-wide building program. Work started December 23, 1937 and the field was accepted on April 30, 1938.

But who was Frawley?

* I consulted the library’s inventory of Hamilton County Schools personnel booklets, and did not find a principal or teacher by that name. I did see that S. Dean Peterson was the team’s football coach in the late 1930’s. Mr. Petersen was later a Chattanooga City Commissioner of Education.

* I reviewed newspapers on microfilm from 1938, including the date in April when Frawley Field was completed as well as the September editions that covered the start of the football season. No Frawley was mentioned. However, I did note that September, 1938 had more coverage of baseball clubs in pennant races and University of Chattanooga Moccasin football than any other team. High school football received very little coverage. Central High had far-away teams on their schedule, since there were few local opponents other than Notre Dame.

* I perused the library’s newspaper clipping file on Central High School. There was lots of other interesting information, but no Frawley.

* I browsed the Chattanooga city directories of the era, and saw that there was a C.E. Frawley Furniture Company on Dodds Avenue. That lead also turned up empty, as I could not connect the business owner with the nearby school.

* I remembered that William Frawley, later a star on “I Love Lucy” and “My Three Sons,” was a vaudeville performer. Chattanooga had some vaudeville houses, so maybe William Frawley was in town and donated funds for a school athletic field. It was plausible because he loved sports –  I read that he had it written into his “I Love Lucy” contract that he would be given time off if the New York Yankees were in the World Series. I kept the thought of this being William Frawley Field to myself, until now.

I put the research aside for a few days. Then, undaunted, I returned to the library to have one more look at the “Report on Hamilton County Schools, 1937/1938” which had mentioned Frawley Field. Just inside the cover of the book was a group photo of the Hamilton County Court, which had oversight responsibility for the school system. There was a new lead shown in the lower right corner –  Fred Frawley, County Chief Clerk.

My next stop was a check of the library’s Local Obituaries link on its Web site. The passing of Fred Frawley was first reported in the December 3, 1940 Chattanooga Times. I read through the obituary, but still could not find mention of a connection to Frawley Field. I had to check one more possibility, that a subsequent printing of his obituary contained more information.

Eureka! In the announcement of Mr. Frawley’s funeral service, it was reported, “Members of the Cnetral High school band will form an honorary escort for the funeral. Mr. Frawley’s friendship to Central High school resulted in the naming of Frawley field in his honor.” Judge Will Cummings announced that the courthouse would be closed out of respect for Fred Frawley, who was a prominent local businessman and political leader. He had been purchasing agent since 1926, and likely was instrumental in the acquisition of land and building of Frawley Field.


No article on Frawley Field would be complete without also mentioning the rich history of Central High School athletics. For that information, I called my uncle, Jack Jolley, a 1948 graduate of Central and authority on the Purple Pounders as well as the Tennessee Volunteers.

My uncle recalled Frawley Field, and said that it was reported at the time that it had been named for a coach. That is possibly correct, for Mr. Frawley may have served as a part-time coach or was at least on the sidelines encouraging his team.

By the time that my uncle attended Central, the school was playing many of its football games at Chamberlain Field on the University of Chattanooga campus. Many were sell-outs, such as game against its storied local rival, Chattanooga (City) High School. Uncle Jack still remembers the 81-6 victory over the City High Dynamos in 1945.

He recalled that teams from Memphis, Knoxville, and Birmingham often requested games on Central’s schedule. Central won several state championships. The Purple Pounders, led by many years by Coach E.B. “Red” Etter, included players who went on to outstanding college football careers. Ed Nobles (University of Chattanooga) and Bob McCoy (Georgia Tech) were known as the “Touchdown Twins.” Even players on the second squad were often given college scholarships.

Frawley Field also served as the baseball field of the Purple Pounders.


As early as 1955, studies were being made concerning relocating Central High School, which was still a Hamilton County school but physically located inside Chattanooga’s city limits after annexation. In 1957, some Central High alumni favored switching the school to the Chattanooga system, and having its name be attached to the new high school in Brainerd. Others favored a plan to move Central to the Glenwood community.

In the fall of 1969, Central High School opened at its present location on Highway 58. Considerable discussion and controversy took place over disposition of both the old school building and Frawley Field. Proposed uses for the school included relocating the library to it, as well as re-opening it as a part of the Chattanooga school system.

Many alumni waxed nostalgic as the former Central High building was eventually demolished, and the property became part of the McCallie School campus. Yellow bricks from old Central were offered to interested individuals, with my uncle being one such person. I remember that he called us from his relatively new out-of-town address, and asked us to be sure to get a few bricks for him.

As for Frawley Field, it is today the site of Parkridge Hospital.

While much is remembered and written about the old Central High School, let us not forget that the Central High students and teachers of today are also creating many positive memories to be shared in the future.

If you have memories of Central High or Frawley Field, please send me an e-mail at Also, anyone who would like to correspond with my uncle, Jack Jolley, about Central High or Tennessee Volunteers history may contact him at

Posted in Central Athletics, Early History, Football

More of Charlie Sedman’s Posts to The Central Connection

September 9, 2008:

On Tuesday, September 10, 1907, the Chattanooga Times reported on page 3, “The Central high school is now figuring on a football team.   Among the members of the county high school faculty is Coach (Curtis) Green, formerly of the Battle Ground Academy, Franklin, Tenn….it is believed he will put out a fast team at Central high school, providing money can be secured to start the movement..”

This answers the question, “Which came first, Central or the football team? And the answer is the school, but only by a few days.   The football team did precede classes in the new building by nearly three months. I’ll have a few followup notes under the 101 Years ago heading, leading to Central’s first two football games in October 1907 against Baylor and City.

September 12, 2008:

Central’s football teams have faced many great players and coaches over the years.   One such encounter occurred in the Fall of 1919. New head coach Rusty Cornelius had to cope with losses of star players who were “recruited” along with Coach Rike to Baylor, and an inexperienced team that had played only three games the previous year with no head coach. Cornelius hastily cobbled together a schedule of seven games with whoever was available. Remarkably, with great leadership from a junior quarterback named Dean Petersen, Cornelius forged a 5-1-1 record, with five shutout wins, the only blemishes being a 0-0 tie with Rike’s all-star Baylor team and a decisive 33-6 thumping by an obscure military school, Fitzgerald-Clarke Academy of Tullahoma, Tennessee. The 33 points by Fitzgerald-Clarke were the only points allowed by Central that season.

So what was Fitzgerald-Clarke Military Academy? Turns out it was one of a handful of college prep schools used by Vanderbilt and other colleges to help promising athletes pass college entrance exams. In this particular year, 1919, Fitzgerald-Clarke had, amongst others, a 6-1, 210 lb lineman named Lynn Bomar from Texas, who would later become an All-American at Vanderbilt and play professional football for the New York Giants. Ironically, 1919-20 was Fitzgerald-Clarke’s last year as an institution, for the school barracks burned down just after the football season ended, then the school burned down and never reopened.   But perhaps more noteworthy was their young football coach who, out of a job after the school calamities, followed the pipeline to Vanderbilt as an assistant coach. By 1923, at age 31, he was head coach at Alabama, then by 1930 head coach at Duke, where he would remain until 1950. Overall he won three National Championships at Alabama in seven years and had an unprecedented winning   (110-36-7) record at Duke. Plus a 1-0 career record against Central. His name   –   William Wallace Wade.

Posted in Football, Purple Pounders

Ledford’s Biggest Hit; a Football Story Almost Forgotten

The following posted on The Central Connection November 11, 2008

On October 15, 1937 Central made a return trip to Cleveland where two years before they had so decisively dominated the Bradley County football team, that Chattanooga Times reporter Springer Gibson anointed them the “Purple Pounders” for the first time.   On this evening, Central again ruled the first half in front of a disgruntled group of Bradley fans.   During the opening kickoff of the second half, the Pounder’s football Captain, Dexter Hodges, was running free on an apparent 80-yard touchdown return, when he was rudely upended by a shoestring tackle via one Charles Ledford on the 10 yard line.   On the next play Central would fumble near the goal line, and Bradley would temporarily hold, eventually losing 21-0; so Ledford’s solid hit would not change the outcome of the game, other than shaving 6 or 7 points off Central’s winning margin. Hodges would later remark that Ledford’s tackle was the hardest hit of the game against Central.

There would not be a story here, except that the 5 ft 8 inch, 130 pound tackler was a 21 year old taxi driver, who, taking the dare of some buddies at halftime, resolved to tackle the next Central runner approaching Bradley’s goal. And the opening kickoff breakdown by Bradley’s coverage team gave him ample opportunity to show his talent.   As Hodges looked back to see if any Bradley player were in close pursuit (they weren’t), he didn’t see the fan come out of the stands and lunge headfirst at his ankles, ending his race down the sidelines.   The referees didn’t know exactly how to rule, and curiously decided (as home refs are wont to do) to penalize Bradley half the distance to the goal, rather than award the visitors a touchdown that was the certain outcome, had Ledford not inserted himself into the fray.

The Chattanooga Times gave this play the game highlight, as it was the most newsworthy action that occurred that evening in Cleveland.   Some 16+ years hence at the Cotton Bowl, an Alabama player named Tommy Lewis came off the bench to tackle Rice star Dickie Moegle , abruptly ending what would have been a 95 yard touchdown from scrimmage.   In that venue, the referees rightly awarded Rice a touchdown in a 28-6 win over ‘Bama.   The following day, Wirt Gammon of the Times favorably compared the 1937 Bradley-Central and 1954 Cotton Bowl fiascoes in his “Just Between Us Fans” column.   Upon reading Gammon’s essay, Mr. Ledford, still a resident of Cleveland, made a hasty phone call to Gammon, in which he protested the comparison, asserting that (1) he was a civilian in street clothes while Lewis was a highly skilled athlete in full pads, and (2) Lewis did not prevent the opposing team from scoring, while his own effort had indeed prevented Central from scoring.

Most of the above information was recently e-mailed to me by Charles Ledford, Jr. of Hiram, GA, who had read my Central Football history essays at the and wanted to know if I had any details of the incident (I didn’t, other than that an unnamed Bradley fan had indeed tackled Mr. Hodge to start the second half). This was apparently a favorite family story of the Ledford’s for many years. Charles E. Ledford Sr. went on to serve in the Army during WWII, and was on Iwo Jima when the famous flag-raising occurred on Mt. Suribachi February 23, 1945. Ledford returned to Cleveland after the war and raised a family, serving as a firefighter.   His youngest son played for Bradley County against Central in 1967 in a game won by Central in Cleveland 26-7, but was marred by the collapse and eventual death of Central’s star end Mike Perkins.

[Just another hidden story in the annals of Central football; thought some of you would enjoy it.]

Posted in Basketball, Central Athletics, Early History, Football, Sports Teams

Articles From Chattanooga Times 1907-09 school years

Times Notes from 1907-08 (* indicates facsimile to be posted)

9/9/07*  Central Opening

9/20/07*  Central to play football

9/27/07*   Central football update

10/26/07*  Baylor 15 Central 7

11/01/07*  City 63 Central  0

1/16/08    Enrollment figures for County Schools (start of 2nd semester)

Central 146 freshmen, 45 sophomores, 35 juniors and 14 seniors  240 total

Hixson      9 freshmen, 20 soph, 9 jr                                                         38

Tyner       34 freshmen, 6 sophomores                                                    40

Soddy       15 freshmen, 11 soph, 9 jr                                                        35

4/9/08     Central to have play in Spanish put on by the Spanish Society with music accompaniment by

Katiebel  Darrah

April 10   Central baseball has 1-1 record (lost to City; beat McCallie); games at Olympic Park

April 22    Baylor 2 Central 0  Central pitcher Krichbaum, catchers Leake, Maddox

April 23   W K Greene, Central football and baseball coach  and Latin instructor  accepted position as

Chair of Latin dept at Baker-Himel; had been living with S J McCallie while at Central.

April 29    City 5 Central 1

May 13    Central 10 McCallie 2

May 28*   Central graduation

Times Notes 1908-09

9/01/08*   Rike Hired as football coach of Central and UC

9/04/08     Central opening

9/05/08*     Football practice starts

9/25/08*   Central news

9/26/08*     Announcement of Central-Rhea County game at Chamberlain Field

9/27/08*     Central 10 Rhea County 6

10/01/08   Central trying to schedule games

10/11/08*   Rike hospitalized

10/18/08*   TMI 10 Central 0

10/31/08*   Huntsville Williams 23  Central  0

11/08/08*     Central  0  Rhea Co  0

11/21/08*     Central  6  City 0

11/26/08*     Central- Huntsville Butler line-ups

11/28/08*     Central 11 Butler 0

1/09/09        First basketball game:  Baylor 23 Central  9  for Central Shackelford scored 5, Divine 2 and Cushman 2;

games played at Armory (Central played McCallie on 1/15 and City

1/22 but sports sections missing from 1/16 and 1/23 microfilm)

1/30/09        Baylor 26 Central 22 (Faucette 6, Divine 2, Cushman 8, Shackelford 6)

2/6                Central 22  McCallie 12 (Faucettte 6, Divinee 2, Cushman 8, Shackelford 6)

Also announcement of bank added at Central

2/13              Central 25 City 40  (Divine 12, Faucette 4, Cushman 6, Shackelford 3)

2/20              Central 29  Baylor 28 (Faucette 16, Elmore 2, Gray 2, Cushman 4, Shackelford 5) Sam Divine

left school to travel to Mexico

2/27              Central def McCallie no write-up

3/6                City 29 Central 23 (Revington 9, Shackelford 8, Faucette 4, Cushman 2)

4/2                Central 0 Huntsville Williams 6

Announcement of an Education benefit game at Olympic Park on April 30

County team will feature Rike at catcher, J B Brown pitcher and Darrah at 3B

5/6                Central 14 City 1 Central ends season undefeated in league play game with Knoxville champ,

Baker-Himel (also undefeated) to be played on Chamberlain Field at 3:30PM May 25

5/26*          Central 4  Baker-Himel 3  Central claims E Tenn baseball championship