5 decades of memories Football: Charles Magee, part of Westminster's program since its beginning in 1947, will be part of tomorrow night's celebration of 50 years of football at the school.

September 11, 1997|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SUN STAFF

Charles Magee, it is safe to say, has taken more snaps than any player connected with Westminster High School football during the last 50 years. And he never played a down.

He was there at the beginning and he'll be there tomorrow night when Westminster honors 50 years of football. The program, preceding the game (and at halftime) with Severna Park, will salute past coaches, players and friends of Westminster football.

Several members from the first team in 1947 will be present, along with then principal Gerald Richter, whose approval led to establishing the sport.

Magee remembers them all. Not only has he been the photographer for every one of the annual team pictures, but he took game films, home and away, for nearly 30 years.

Magee, 76, who owned and operated a Westminster photography studio for 40 years before retiring some 10 years ago.

"During my years, traditionally, Friday night was football night. It was a nice situation for me, because I'd be busy at the studio all week, and this provided a break. Now, I don't see as much of that tradition. There is too much going on."

It was different in those early post-World War II months.

Magee, in the first graduating class (1937) at Westminster High School when it was located on the current site of East Middle School, worked at the studio before going into the U.S. Navy.

Upon his discharge in 1945, he returned and soon after bought the business. "The school yearbook work came with it, and that's how I became involved with the high school," Magee said.

Magee also was involved in building the first football field, an effort that turned into a community project.

In the fall of 1946, Herb Ruby Jr., a physical education teacher at Westminster, was intent on fielding a team, and he went to

Richter for permission do it.

"A survey of the site was done, and the math teacher [Doc Erhart] took charge of getting the bowl built," Magee said. "Once we had that, Ruby [who was to be the head coach for the first 12 years, and is deceased], had a group of us out there grading and seeding the field.

"I remember, we got a hose from the fire department to water it. We watered every night, trying to get the grass to grow."

A creek below the field was temporarily dammed, and the water pumped out, prompting Magee to add, "One time, we were using a pump, and coach broke his arm when the thing kicked back on him.

"There was no money available from the school board, so the Lions club contributed some for the lights. We were the first school in the county to have lights."

At the time, Westminster was easily the largest school in the county, since the others in those pre-consolidation days were small, local community schools such as Hampstead, Manchester, Mount Airy, Sykesville, Taneytown and Union Bridge.

"Then, Dick Rupert and I canvassed the community to get funds for a scoreboard. Public display of sponsors [companies who came in and paid for such a thing in return for advertising as might be done now bracket] was not allowed on school grounds. We raised $620 and the shop teacher erected it."

When Magee began filming games in 1950, he used some of his Navy contacts to get the special movie film needed, and it wasn't until about two years later that the product came on the regular market.

Funny incidents?

"I remember one time, we were playing at Allegany in Cumberland, and the officials became so confused they didn't know where the ball belonged. Our coach was so disgusted, he pulled the team off the field, and it came out the next day that it was Westminster's fault.

"Another time, we were at Bel Air, and it was so foggy, you couldn't see the field, and I had to go by sound. Still, the sensitivity of the film was so good that we got some half-decent pictures and we didn't even know what was going on."

Filming the games was expensive, and Magee remembers one student going to Ruby and asking him why he was spending all that money for film. Coach told him that, in addition to using them himself, he distributed the films to colleges, and if one kid gets into college, it will be worth every penny spent."

Although Magee never played football, his son John did, and the father's interest shifted when John became a football coach, first at South Carroll and then at Liberty. He still teaches at the Eldersburg school and coaches its golf team.

"I hope their celebration works Friday night," Magee said. "They have gone to a lot of trouble. Plenty of time and effort has gone into it."

Pub Date: 9/10/97

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