April 20, 1996
Harold Daniels was the kind of football coach who could motivate young men to play far above their real skill level or natural ability. He was nicknamed "Hump" because he made his players work harder than they knew they could. Nowadays we call it "giving 110 percent" or words to that effect. Hump frequently got that result in the 1930s and 1940s by holding the threat of physical pain over their heads -- the pain you experience from running laps or fast-stepping it away from a 2 x 4 paddle. He barked his commands like a Marine Corps drill instructor and woe be unto the perspiring player who didn't respond with sufficient zeal. It's a technique that might not succeed today, but Hump's way was eminently successful back there in another era.
Somehow, I doubt that even one former member of Hump's many PHS squads would criticize him for his methods. Most of them held him in the highest regard, not simply fear, during their playing days and they would accord him the same degree of respect today. He was an honorable man. He persuaded the young men under him that his methods would work. The proof of that was demonstrated to them regularly in their many victories over teams from much larger schools where the players were more numerous, sometimes faster, and, frequently, bigger physically -- Enid, Stillwater, Ponca and Guthrie, to name a few. But not one of those opponents was ever tougher or more grimly determined than Hump's Maroons. The satisfaction the Perry lads experienced from such triumphs made the difficult preparation process worthwhile.
Our high school football stadium is named Daniels Field in Hump's honor. However, many of his most notable victories came before that layout was built as a WPA project in the late 1930s. Hump's Maroons achieved a lot of glory on the old Fair Park Field where bits of glass, sticker patches, gravel and occasional animal droppings enriched the playing surface. It was also known jocularly as the Dust Bowl because of the swirling red clouds that sometimes shrouded the field in those drought-plagued years. It had virtually no grass cover.
Fair Park Field was at the Noble county fairgrounds northwest of the present main exhibit building in an area where the weekly auction sale building was later located. On the west side, the playing field had a wooden grandstand with a bobtailed canopy, just a few yards from the Santa Fe Railroad tracks. Steam locomotives pulling freight and passenger trains tootled past-there routinely during each game and added another element to the color and environment. Bleachers for visitors were placed across the field on the east side. The same field was used for rodeos, livestock exhibits, horse races, semipro baseball, and many other things. The Perry National Guard unit, a horse-drawn Artillery outfit, used the old fairgrounds livestock exhibit building as an armory and the weekend warriors frequently worked with their animals on the playing field. It truly was a multi-purpose area, but Hump Daniels' football teams drew the biggest crowds.
Hump came to Perry in 1931 after having coached at Yale high school in Payne county. He had a winning record at Yale but his greatest achievements were racked up here. He was our head football coach, usually with no more than one assistant; head basketball coach, head baseball coach, athletic director and social science teacher. In later years he became drivers education instructor. During the summer he was director of the Perry supervised play program in which hundreds of youngsters learned to swim and throw a baseball. For many seasons he also was player/manager of the Perry Merchants semi-pro baseball team, and he made winners out of them, too.
Hump's body was lean and athletic, His hairline was receding but he had an adequate crop of slicked-down brown hair covering his pate. High cheekbones suggested a Native American ancestry. The eyes were intense and the usual facial expression was serious, but he could quickly break out a disarming smile to dispel the notion that he was grumpy. He, sometimes seemed ill at ease addressing a group, but in truth he was outgoing and liked being around people. Kids just naturally flocked to him. Hump had no children of his own but hundreds of Perry youngsters loved him and viewed him as a father figure. Adults found him to be pleasant company.
His golden decade in football was in the 1930s. From 1931, his first year, through 1939 his Maroon teams had a combined record of 68 wins, 19 losses and 10 ties. He spoiled this town for years to come by averaging only about two defeats per season over that nine year span. Considering the quality of the competition, that is a remarkable record: The Maroons outscored their opponents by a combined point margin of 1,820 to 524. In 1936 Hump's PHS squad was undefeated and untied and only one team managed to score on them. (A one-game forfeit later erased that undefeated season from the record. More on that in another column.) The state high school athletic association had no playoff system to determine a state champion in that era, but Hump's 1936 Maroons would have challenged anyone.
Was that 1936 football team Hump's best? The next Northwest Corner will continue the story of the Maroons in that decade, their conquests and the disappointment that spoiled a perfect season. Please stay tuned.