History of the Big Reds

NHS Student Council | Music Memorial Park | Baseball | Basketball |Football Golf Swimming | Tennis | Track | Wrestling Cross Country


It was a long time ago . . . only five months after the Civil War ended . . . that the first class of only four students entered Port Huron High School. The first high school was probably built prior to 1840 on a site almost in the middle of Court Street, just east of Seventh Street.

Four students were in the first graduating class of Port Huron High School in 1869. An admission fee of 25 cents was paid by anyone who wanted to attend the graduation. James T. Atkinson was the first to receive his diploma. He was also the valedictorian of his class. The other three students who received diplomas were Alice Skinner, William Boyce and Charles Stockwell. There were 64 students enrolled in the high school in the 1868-69 school year.

A new high school on Erie Street was built in 1870 and was destroyed by fire in February of 1873. The following year a new high school was built on the same spot, doing service for about 30 years when it too was destroyed by fire on May 29, 1906. Three hundred students were attending school at this time.

School was held for two more years in the Sanborn House on the present site of St. Joseph's Catholic Church. Two years after the fire in 1908, the third high school was built on the same site as the former high school. With increased enrollment over the years, the high school building was vacated in favor of a new modern high school on Court and 24th Street. The student body moved from the old building (which is now St. Clair Community College) to the present site of Port Huron High on January 28, 1957.

The land where the Port Huron High School buildings were built, was once part of the Black River Ojibwa Native American Reservation.



The Port Huron Chapter of the National Honor Society was established in 1922. This was the year after the Society was formed in Washington D.C. by the National Association of Secondary Principles, who recognized the need to focus attention upon the many outstanding students contributing to the welfare of their high school. In the first year, there were 14 members that were a part of the Port Huron High School's National Honor Society who were chosen for their character, service, scholarship, and leadership. Through the years, many students have been elected to membership. In the year 1964 the chapter became inactive. They became inactive because they felt there were no students who deserved recognition. No one could meet the qualifications required by the NHS. For 12 years other means of honoring students were used. In the year 1958, the NHS was activated once again. There were various means of being elected to the Society. Originally, the faculty nominated students who were ranked academically in the upper one-third of their class. That made it so no more then fifteen percent of the class was permitted to be initiated. This method was soon discontinued due to larger graduating class.

The present point system of selecting evolved as the result of extensive study. Students with a 3.00 (B) average, or better are considered for nomination. These students are rated numerically by the faculty on four cardinal objectives of the Society: scholarship, leadership, character, and service. After the total number of points is tabulated, and the final selections are made from the points accumulated. Names are omitted on the final ballot. No more than fifteen percent of the senior class, ten percent of the junior class, and five percent of sophomore class may be elected. In the year 1963, sophomores were selected for the first time. The members of the Chapter have all gone into the walks of life in this community and others.



The Student Council of Port Huron High was organized on February 27, 1929. The student body voted to try out the plan of student government. Five representatives were chosen from each class making a total of fifteen in all. Class meetings were held and the purpose of the organization was to act as a medium between the faculty and the student body. The main achievements for the first year was the introduction of the monitor system and the sponsoring of a football-basketball banquet. Since then the Student Council has grown due to the larger student body and the inauguration of the home room system. Some activities sponsored by the student council were: the sale of athletic tickets, they conducted War Bond and War Stamps sales during World War II, they contributed to drive for Memorial Stadium, sponsored canned good drives for the Salvation Army at Christmas time, and etc..



Music in Port Huron High School began in 1910 as a definite part of the curriculum. Before this time, bits of singing took place very infrequently and mostly from a four-by-five and a half-inch book called The Knapsack. In the year 1902 Miss Edna Fraser became the first supervisor of music in the Port Huron Public Schools. Formal music education began at this time. In 1919, credit was first given for Music Appreciation and Orchestra. Instrumental music came into its own in 1923, when Mr. Ernest Staffon joined the high school faculty. He began to build up a band. A year later, Mr. Leonard Challinor came to Port Huron High; he was a string expert who established an excellent high school orchestra. He also produced a Junior College Orchestra and a Kiwanis Club Orchestra. Because of the depression, the orchestra was allowed to die. Vocal music took its place because no expensive instruments were needed. Since there was only vocal music, vocal music flourished. Besides voice technique, ensembles and choirs, solo training and theory were offered. Each Monday after noon a huge chorus assembled in the auditorium for a hour of fun and profit. Small groups were greatly in demand by service clubs and other organizations.

One of Port Huron High School's most important contributions to the local scene was the annual presentation of a Christmas Concert in the Desmond Theater. This went on for ten consecutive years starting from 1943, and ending in 1954. Over the years both the choir and the band attended and participated in various state and local festivals. The most memorable of these festivals was the Bach Festivals in Ypsilanti. Yearly state festivals where ratings were involved were both an incentive and rewarding. Regional festivals were yearly events. These included the Down river cities and Sarnia, and last being an International endeavor, which was enjoyed by both sides of the St. Clair River.



1945 marked a new era in the athletic and recreational life of Port Huron, an era born of necessity and accomplished by ingenuity and persistent willingness to sacrifice time and effort for a common cause. Memorial Recreation Park, a memorial to the veterans of World War II, was constructed at a cost of approximately $300,000. The facility include a stadium seating 5,500 people and also lighted for night football games. In the twenty-seven acres, there are also tennis courts, baseball fields, four softball diamonds, practice football fields, and a quarter mile track.

This park was created by several moving forces that brought the project about. Some people that helped make the park possible are: principle C. V. Fowler, athletic director of Port Huron Schools, and Howard D. Crull, superintendent of the Port Huron's Public schools. Through the prodding of Crull, Fred L. Riggins, Sr. President of the Muller Brass Company, along with other industries, business and professional men, offered to form a pool to start things going. This was the birth of the Port Huron District Foundation.

D. J. Mitchell developed an educational and promotional program. The promotional program paid off. With a backing of sixty-nine organizations with a collective membership of 10,000, a campaign committee to get money to augment the foundation treasury was formed. George C. Higgins, mayor, added $113,00 to the $82,000 already in the foundation treasury. With the money in the bank, the foundation entered into the an agreement with the Board of Education on management and maintenance of the project. The foundation agreed to permit the school board to operate and manage the park for twenty years, while it retained a controlling lease with the stipulation that it would be operated for the benefit of all interested groups, public schools, parochial schools, and non-school groups. At the end of twenty years, the Board of Education would gain full title to the property and facilities. The schools and community have enjoyed the facilities for over sixty years. The Memorial Park is still one of the finest facilities of its kind in the state.




Baseball started at Port Huron High around 1900 with scrub games in vacant lots. The first organized baseball games were played at southwest corner of Griswold and Seventh streets about 1912 to 1920. In 1920 the teams moved to Watkins Field in South Park. Baseball was played in South Park on what is now the Presto-Lite parking lot. The field was the one that was used by the Port Huron team in the old Michigan Ontario League and when the team disbanded the high school obtained the field.

In spite of the inconveniences, baseball was a very popular sport in high school. Port Huron High would always play the best teams like: Flint Northern, Flint Central, Kalamazoo, Ferndale, Fordson, Royal Oak, and many other smaller schools. In the year 1947, baseball games were played at memorial Park Field. Now they had a fine and beautiful field and club house. When they went to away games, they no longer had to drive them selves, now they had a bus.

At each practice, the baseball team practiced at the site which is now McMorran Sports Arena. They dressed at the high school and then jogged up to the park. Practiced started at 4 o'clock and ended when a train passed the park at a quarter after seven. The practice field was too small for baseball. There was a bush in right-center field. The right field foul line extended across the park road and the pitcher had to wait for a car to go through before they pitched the ball. Once in a while someone would run into a car or hit the ball on a upper porch. Opponents from other cities didn't like the field because of a continuously cold northeast wind that came from the lake. The baseball team hardly ever played a game during normal weather. In the year 1949, the Port Huron Baseball team moved to Memorial Park. The park had much better playing conditions. The only thing that was wrong with playing and practicing at Memorial Park was, there was also three other teams playing there.



Basketball started in about 1908. Games were played on the third floor of the old K. of C. Hall which was the northwest corner of Huron Avenue and Murphy Boulevard. Washington Junior High School was their Home until 1935. Very few people went to these games at the Washington Junior High School. When the old Monarch Bowling Alley, was remolded they took the second floor out of the bowling alley and made a gymnasium. This was the first time that Port Huron High School could have a physical education class.

In the late 1920's Port Huron High School's schedules were mostly made up of schools from the Detroit area. They were a member of the South Eastern League. There were 17 schools in the Detroit area that made up this league. In the 1930's to the 1940's many of the leading teams in the state were added to their schedule including: Saginaw, Lansing Central, Pontiac, Gross Pointe, Royal Oak, and etc.. From 1930 to 1940, the Big Reds won eight regional. Interest began to go up. People tried to get into the games but couldn't because the gym wouldn't hold enough. This helped to get a new school.



The Port Huron High School football team started in 1896. At this time period, the only sports available were football and baseball. During this time period the field was located at the corner of Griswold and Seventh Street. The field area was about the size of one square block and it had a wooden fence enclosing it . In 1908 Tubby Myers came to Port Huron as coach and athletic director from Western Michigan University. This is when the athletic teams in Port Huron really got started.

The school gave each player pants and a sweater. Each player had to dress at home and then walk to the field. To get to out of town games, the team used interurban street cars and train. The coaches and the player also had to mark off the field each Saturday morning for the game the following day. In the year 1919, games were moved to the north end of Pine Grove Park. The team now could dress at the Y.M.C.A. which was located on sixth Street, and then they would walk to the field. Also in the year 1919, the team was provided with shoulder pads.

During this time, the hardest teams to play against were Detroit Central, Detroit Eastern, and Detroit University School. Other teams the team played against were: Alpena, Ann Arbor, Bay City, Flint, My. Clemens, and Saginaw.

Between the years of 1920 and 1930, the Big Red Football team won 28 games and lost 21 games. During this time many new teams were added to the Southeastern Michigan League. The league started with five teams. In the late 1930's, the membership grew to 17 teams. From this league came the present day leagues: Border City League, Eastern Michigan League, Southeastern League, and the Valley City League.

In the 1920's the Big Reds were very successful. In 1922, The Bid Red Football Team won the State Championship against Battle Creek. The 1925 season was one of the happiest that Port Huron has ever had. The team ended the season with a perfect season. That same season, they never had an opposing team cross their goal line.

The Big Reds were also very successful 1930's. During this time period, they won 65 games and lost 18. Some of the finest football players to represent Port Huron high School were developed during this time period. Many of these players were selected for All-State. In 1937, the team won the State Championship. At this time period, the team played at South Park Field. This facility was terrible. It was seven miles from the high school, and the dressing facility was also bad. As the public interest grew, talk about a new field began to grow.

In the 1940's, the team won 111, and lost 88 games. The team still played at South Park Field in the early 1940's, but in 1944 they moved to the Grand Trunk Park. This field had the conveniences that the last one didn't have. One of the conveniences that the field had was lights. Now the team could have night games. The lights were a long ways from the modern lighted football field of today. One game had to be called of late in the fourth quarter because the lights went out. In 1947 the team moved again. They moved to Memorial Park.

In the 1950's through the late 1960's the Big Reds were a successful team. The team won 71, lost 81, and tied 8. The team also won 2 championships during this time period. The 1951 and 1952 teams went undefeated. At one time they had a string of 27 wins with out a lose.



Golf started in 1935. Port Huron is fortunate in being able to have two golf clubs that helped them. The golf teams played at Black river Country Club and also Port Huron Golf Club. Port Huron has entertained three State Golf Tournaments in 1950, '54and '56.



Swimming started at Port Huron High School about 1946. The team swam at the old pool at the Y.M.C.A. Through out the years the Athletic Department at the high school kept swimming alive hoping that when a new school building was built a pool would be in the plans. The new Port Huron High School building was built and also a new Port Huron Northern High School building was built, and yet there was still no pool.



The Port Huron High School Tennis Team started about 1930. The team only had four tennis courts in town they could use. The tennis courts they used are: White Park, Pine Grove, Gratiot Park, and Lincoln Park. As interest grew, once again the Port Huron District Foundation came to the rescue and built Memorial Park. Memorial Park had eight lighted tennis courts. The Big Reds Tennis Team was very successful. They won numerous Eastern Michigan League, and Regional Championships.



Track started at Port Huron High around 1930. The teams worked out at White Park and Pine Grove Park. The first cinder track was at Memorial Park in 1944. From the beginning, the Athletic Department kept track alive hoping one day they would have a cinder track. In 1944 the District Foundation helped Port Huron high School get their quarter-mile cinder track. Another thing that took place in 1944 was track becoming a permanent sport at Port Huron High. The next year they entered into the Eastern Michigan League. This was a long series of track meets and league meets between Eastern Michigan league Schools. That same year also saw the beginning of the first E.M.L. annual track meet. Birmingham won this first meet with Port Huron finishing fourth. Through out the years many records were set and broke, but the biggest year for the track team was in 1963. This was the biggest track year in Port Huron High's history. The team won six meets and lost two, but one of there wins was from the Regional Championships. This was Port Huron High's first track trophy. The team set eleven records that year and scored a total of 593.5 points.



Port Huron High's Wrestling team started about 1933 at a local Y.M.C.A. Through the years, the wrestling team became very successful. There were some outstanding wrestlers who represented Port Huron High School. One of the best wrestlers who came from the program is, Jack Barden. He won the State Championship, the Big Ten Championship, the N.C.A.A. Championship, the Pan American Wrestling Tournament, and he lost in the finals of the Olympic Tryouts.



Cross Country started about 1940 at Port Huron High School and competed in the Eastern Michigan League. The team worked out at White Park And Pine Grove Park. The team won numerous championships as well as several regional meets.