Jackson Newspapers - Ripley, WV
  • Once a Red Devil, Always a Red Devil: A chat with the Oldest Living Red Devil

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  • RAVENSWOOD - On Friday March 28, 2014, I had the honor of sitting down and speaking with Ravenswood alumnus Harry “Bud” Hysell. Bud is a 1939 graduate of Ravenswood High and played football, basketball and baseball while attending school in Ravenswood in the late 1930s. Bud, who will be 93 years old in November, has been identified as the oldest living Red Devil through our 100 Years of Ravenswood Football project.
    Back in the fall of 2013, we asked for help from our community to identify any individual who played football as the oldest living player. Chris Fleming Landis, whose father was the late Bill Fleming, had previously met with me about items her father had kept over the years. Chris realized that her uncle, David Fleming, had a friend who lives in St. Marys, WV, who he speaks with on a regular basis that may be the Oldest Living Red Devil. She provided a contact number, and the first time I called to speak with Bud I knew that I was in for an amazing glimpse back into what Ravenswood Football was like 76 years ago.
    Harry “Bud” Hysell Jr. was born on November 14, 1921 in Ripley, WV. His mother was Dixie Kerwood Hysell and his father was Harry Hysell, Sr. He had one sister, Helen Hysell Walker. Bud married his wife Carol in 1985 at the age of 63.
    After graduating in 1939 from Ravenswood, Bud spent several years learning the trade of surveying. He is a Navy veteran of WWII. He served from September 6, 1942 until February 28, 1946. When he returned to West Virginia, Bud continued his career working in surveying and construction for the state and retired in 1985. He was also in the Army reserves for 23 years.
    Bud provided me with information about Ravenswood Football, Ravenswood High School, and life in the town of Ravenswood in the late 1920s up through 1939 - the year that he graduated.
    Bud made it clear that he loved the town and the people he grew up around. When asked specifically about what he liked about Ravenswood, he said, “We were all in the same boat in Ravenswood. No one had much, not even those who were well off. The good thing was, that we all realized it, and everybody treated each other with kindness. Everyone treated each other the same. My teachers were so nice at Ravenswood. I went to school in both the 1887 building and the 1921 high school. We were all so proud of that building. It was a beautiful building for its time. There weren’t many like it, especially in little towns like Ravenswood.”
    I asked Bud to talk about sports back when he was in school and he said, “Ravenswood was competitive in everything and I loved being part of every sport we had. We had football, basketball and baseball. I loved them all. They talked about trying to start tennis and I was the first one to sign up. We never did get tennis though. The girls didn’t have anything while I was in school except cheerleading, but they were very good at it.”
    Page 2 of 4 - While Bud was speaking about sports, I asked him to talk specifically about football to allow me to get a clear picture of what it was like in the 1930s playing football for Ravenswood High. His first words were: “We were tough! I know you got to be tough to play football but Ravenswood had a reputation of being some of the toughest boys in the state. We were also proud of where we came from. People from other places talked about us and we took pride in that. We all had a part in our football team.
    “All of us had to help line Flinn Field back then. But we enjoyed being around each other—it was all we had.
    “As the quarterback, I didn’t score much. I also played halfback though. Our best ball carrier was Bob Evans. He did most of the scoring and he was big. Another player who scored was Cecil Wright on my favorite play—the double reverse. I liked the quarterback sneak also. Many times, I was allowed to call the play once I got to the line of scrimmage. We did not care if the defense knew the play we were calling. I would say our ball carrier’s last name and the side I wanted him to go to, then we would run a pitch to that side. All the lineman knew we were going that way so they would block any man in front of them.
    “Bob Evans was a big ball carrier and he would run right through many of the defenders. The people of Ravenswood really supported us no matter if we won or lost. I remember Flinn Field didn’t have many bleachers, if any at all. Most of the time, the fans would walk along the edge of the field with the action. If you were close to the goal, all the fans were right there with you giving their support as loud as they could whether you were on offense or you were on defense it didn’t matter –they wanted you to know they were there supporting you.
    “We played many games on Friday afternoons. The students would get out of school and everyone came to the game. On Thursday night, there was always a thuse. The cheerleaders would have some of the boys bring in wood and we would have a bonfire. It was always an enjoyable time.
    “Coach Carter Linger taught math. He was a big man. He played football at West Virginia Wesleyan. He was a fair coach, but he demanded discipline. There were no assistants back then and he coached every part of the game. He was competitive, and I remember he was the state checkers champion.
    Page 3 of 4 - “The toughest team we would play was Elizabeth over in Wirt County. We beat them but they were always tough. It seemed like we always played Spencer on Thanksgiving Day. Ripley was our rival and nobody liked to hear about how they had a courthouse. We always reminded them that we had the Ohio River! They could never get a Ohio River. I remember we beat them 19-12 my senior year. That was a good feeling."
    “I got hurt once when I was a freshman. I broke my collar bone in a game. I walked myself to the doctor after the game and he set my collar bone. I didn’t have any money to pay him so he allowed me to do chores for him to pay him back. One day, after mowing his yard, he said I had paid in full."
    “When we traveled, most of the time we went in parents’ cars. Sometimes it would be by a bus. We once went to Winfield and had to dress in a classroom. It was the only time I can remember that we didn’t have showers. We had to get cleaned up after the game in water troughs out back. I was lucky to have played football for Ravenswood High. It was a great school and a great place to live.”
    I wanted to ask Bud a final question on memories of Ravenswood and he said again that everyone helped each other and were kind to each other because they were in the same boat – nobody had much after the depression. He said he had many jobs while growing up and one in particular he never did get paid for by money. He said he would take up the money at the pool hall in town once a day, and the owner would always make him a big sandwich. He said that he sold subscriptions for the Ravenswood News for $1.00 a month. He said he would walk all day from house to house and might sell one. He told me that he worked for the local dentist’s wife in her yard and garden. He worked for two weeks solid and she asked him how much she owed him. He told her $1.15, and she argued that it was too much. Bud said, “I never did work for her again”.
    Bud told of his favorite things he saw growing up in Ravenswood. He saw the Harlem Globetrotters in their early years at Ravenswood. During a Fourth of July celebration, he got to go on a plane ride for helping the pilot sell tickets. He also enjoyed the early years of the Ohio River Festival. He said there was always something to do and enjoy in the town of Ravenswood.
    Page 4 of 4 - As a fellow alumnus of Ravenswood High, and also a former football player, I couldn’t hide my joy as I was speaking with Bud Hysell, who wore the Red and Black in a different era. The longer we spoke I began to see the joy spreading to our 1938 quarterback as well. It seemed as if a 92-year-old and a 41-year-old were both were 17 again. As he talked, I could hear the quartrback under center barking out the play, I imagined myself in my guard position intently listening to the signal so I could make a path for the ball carrier. It is something I will never forget. I count myself lucky in two instances when it comes to my football career. I wore the Red and Black and played for the great school and great community of Ravenswood. I have also coached for the last 17 years, again, wearing the Red and Black of Ravenswood High.
    I can now add a third blessing to my association to Ravenswood High; knowing the Ravenswood quarterback of 1938—Bud Hysell. Even though we played the game 51 years apart, there is a connection that we both felt.
    I think that connection is best summed up in the words of of our 18th head coach Dick Sturm, “Once a Red Devil, Always a Red Devil!”
    the family with the most generations of Red Devil players. I think it is the Ritchies but I also think the McCoys could be one also. I am not sure. Also, I still need help finding information on Coach Bob Manning and a few other coaches. He left Ravenswood and went to Marietta and then it went cold. A couple others I still haven’t found anything at all. Bob Staats thinks that he went to Arizona to coach. I have searched many archives in Arizona and his name does not come up anywhere. I was thinking that someone may read the article and be able to help me complete a few loose ends.
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