Former Ravenswood football defensive coordinator Jason Jackson remembers Jim Porter - Part II
In 2013 I spent several evenings, stretched over a few weeks, interviewing Mr. Porter for the Ravenswood Football 100 year project. I had over six pages of notes from our talks! I had talked to every Ravenswood coach, or their family, over several years leading up to 2014. I have to say the days spent with Mr. Porter to gain his perspective on Ravenswood Football, as the band director was very special.
When I sat down to put all the interviews together and write the biographies for the 100 year book, Mr. Porter’s stretched out over four pages. I tried several times to pare it down, but just could not do Mr. Porter’s story justice and what he meant to Ravenswood Football - and what Ravenswood football meant to him.
I was able to show how important he was to the team, students, school, and community of Ravenswood during his tenure. This story was originally printed in the 100 year, 190 page game program in 2014. This story is very long, but I felt it was worthy of sharing here, so that more people could see what a great impact Mr. Porter had. Read on to find some unique information and stories on the man we all loved...Jim Porter, Ravenswood High School’s legendary band director.
Porter immediately made his impact on Ravenswood High as he built the band from a 25 piece band to an 85 piece band in a short time. He became fast friends with the football coach Bill Jones.
Porter met Bill and his wife in their backyard at a cookout. He remembered Jones as a disciplinarian and a coach with vast knowledge of football. He also met Kelly Somerville and Harry Marsh that same day and became friends. This combination of friends would later lead to something very special that has stood the test of time in West Virginia high school football history – The Hatchet - which is awarded to the winner of the football game between Ravenswood and Ripley each year.
Porter dedicated himself and his band to complete support of Jones and his football players. He promised his band would always be there for the football team and that was their main purpose during the games. Porter carried this philosophy throughout his career and pledged his support to four head football coaches spanning close to 30 years.
In 1954 Ravenswood hired Jim Spano to replace coach Jones. The principal brought coach Spano in to meet Porter, immediately they both realized they knew each other. Spano had attended Chatteroy High in Mingo County and Porter had attended Inez High in Kentucky. The two schools had played each other in sports and each man remembered the other.
Porter and Spano would become very close friends. Their friendship and love for Ravenswood High led to the school fight song that is loved today.
During coach Spano’s first season, the team had not fared well in a couple games, despite Porter doing his best to create excitement for the team by having the band play a college fight song. Ravenswood high did not have a true fight song at that time so every week a random song was chosen.
In the Harrisville game of 1954 the fight song of the week was Michigan’s “The Victors.” The team was victorious and after the game coach Spano came to Porter and excitedly asked what song they were playing. Coach Spano loved the tune and felt that it fired the players up to a victory.
Over the next few weeks the two of them began writing the words to the Ravenswood Victors. Porter vividly recalled sitting on the porch after supper with coach Spano and penning the words over coffee. His favorite portion of the song was, “We Will Win Again!” This was not the only contribution to Ravenswood school songs that Jim Porter made. He also helped a panel of students write out Ravenswood High School’s Alma Mater.
During the late 50’s Porter and Spano became even closer friends and also built a friendship with assistant coach - Joe Bokovitz. While the team was winning championships the three confidants were always planning out ways for the band to support the football team. One in particular was a signal on certain plays from coach Spano that signaled for tremendous noise. Coach Spano would make the signal to Porter and then he would fire up the band with the thunderous noise of the instruments. Often times the band could turn the tide in favor of the Red Devils, especially on third downs.
Porter was very fond of the coaches for a favor they did for him when his father Jim Porter Sr. passed on. When the football coaches came to see Jim Jr. they told him that they would be responsible for the band during a scheduled concert event. The football coaches took the band and allowed them to play in the event during Porter’s absence. He vividly recalled that coach Spano said, “You have always been supportive of the football team and now we support you. Please rest assured we will take care of the band students for you.”
After Spano’s untimely passing, coach Joe Bokovitz took the head coaching position of the Red Devils. Porter pledged his support to coach Bokovitz and the tradition carried on with a winning combination. While some did not agree with coach Bokovitz loading the schedule with bigger opponents, Porter pledged himself and his band to support the coach and the team no matter the circumstance.
Porter remembered Bokovitz as always ”happy and jolly.” They often went squirrel hunting and loved to fish together.
Porter loved to talk baseball with coach Bokovitz - especially the Pirates. (Part III in The Jackson Herald on Tuesday.)