Tonight reigns in Football Season in Marietta! Bring it on! Thanks to the MDJ for this story!
By Amanda Casciaro
MARIETTA – There’s an aura at Northcutt Stadium that’s hard to describe, even for the hundreds of football players, cheerleaders and band members who have made it their Friday-night home since they began at Marietta High School.
Inside the rock wall that surrounds the historic stadium, the community has come together every weekend since construction was completed in 1940 to cheer on their sons, daughters and friends.
They’ve seen Howard Simpson catch a touchdown pass from Johnny Sinclair on the last play of a game to win 13-12 in the 1950s.
They sat in awe as Eric Zeier threw the longest TD in the history of high school football in 1990, a 99 and 9/10-yard shot in the state championship game.
And they’ve cheered alongside the 1967 state champion Blue Devils, the only team in the school’s history to earn that honor.
It’s a special place for students, teachers and other MHS fans, and the Class of 1980 wants to make sure everyone knows the real story behind Northcutt Stadium.
The group of alumni is scheduled to hold a dedication ceremony today for a plaque that details the stadium’s history as told by The Cobb County Times, the Northcutt family, Marietta Board of Education members and several community members who shared various memories with the group.
“We came up with the idea at our 25th reunion,” said Mickey E. King, a class representative. “Leading up to it, we were looking to come up with some gift to give the school. We got to talking about it, and we really felt strongly that the story of Northcutt Stadium isn’t told over there. Many people, even Old Mariettans, don’t know the story.”
Plans to build a new football stadium were introduced in 1938 through then-Mayor Thomas M. Brumby’s “Program of Progress,” which also called for a new recreation center adjacent to the high school and a new facility for black students on Lemon Street.
When Brumby died before the measure was approved, newly elected Mayor L.M. “Rip” Blair made a commitment to continue his predecessor’s work.
The Marietta City Council contributed $200,000 to the projects and $100,000 was secured through a bond. About $25,000 was budgeted for the stadium, and Board of Education Chairman Judge J.H. Hawkins charged textile engineer Guy Northcutt to head a three-man committee to lead the project, along with Sam L. Rambo and Ralph W. Fowler.
“He was chairman of the athletic committee at the Board of Education when that bond issue was passed,” said 78-year-old Guy “Buck” Northcutt of his father. “It just fell in his lot to be the person who headed up the stadium project, and when he took on a job he had a very thorough and comprehensive oversight.”
After meeting with famed Georgia Tech coach W.A. Alexander, the committee decided to add lights to the stadium, which would allow night football for the first time in the school’s history. At the time, games were played at Brown’s Park baseball field, which was shared with the city’s Little League teams.
To keep the school’s two largest athletic teams together, Northcutt decided to build the stadium next to the park in a densely wooded area.
“Some people didn’t want those trees taken down, but of course it didn’t hold them back,” said 102-year-old Ruth Northcutt, Guy Northcutt’s wife. “They were to determined to have a football field there.”
Northcutt enlisted help from County Commissioner Charles M. Head and County Warden Ely Garrison to arrange for Cobb jail inmates to help clear the land.
According to information Buck Northcutt compiled, workers began cutting down trees in 1939 by way of two-man crosscut saws and axes, and used several mules to pull dirt scoops.
Once the clearing was complete, Northcutt enlisted help from the Civilian Conservation Corps to gather rocks from farmers throughout the county, and the Workers Progress Administration used them to build a wall around the stadium.
“I remember Guy going to the WPA out there camping at the foot of the mountain,” Ruth Northcutt said. “Guy talked to the head man and he was delighted to furnish the men out there. After he got permission from the farmers to come pick up rocks, those men went all over the county. Most of the farmers were delighted to get them off their property.”
Edgar Anderson, Henry Ridgeway and Cleveland James donated most of the material for the wall, an October 1940 story in The Cobb County Times reported.
Once construction began, Northcutt arranged for Marietta’s Holeproof Hosiery Company to provide clinkers for the drainage system under the field. The pourous, rock-like residue was used as a substitute for buying gravel.
Superintendent Banks Dupre, City Engineer Don Lawrence and City Electrician P.D. Hill provided assistance from the City of Marietta, and Director of Recreation Albert Bishop led the overall coordination for those departments.
Even BOE members contributed to the project, namely Max Pittard, who made “grass grow where none ever grew before,” The Cobb County Times story reports.
When completion of the stadium neared, it became clear the $1,500 needed for lights could not be worked into the budget. Instead of just leaving them out of the project, Blair and Northcutt each paid $750 of their own money to ensure the lights would be installed by the first game.
A few weeks after the stadium was dedicated Oct. 4, 1940, money raised from ticket sales more than made up for the debt.
“They used to play on Friday afternoon, which was when everyone was working, and the spectator crowds were very small,” Buck Northcutt said. “They expected a huge increase in the crowd, and that showed up. It seems like the first game I saw there were 1,500 people. You could measure it in dozens before.”
Once the project was finished, the Board of Education named the stadium after Northcutt due to his “untiring efforts given to the physical aspects of education,” The Cobb County Times reported.
After two years of hard work and organization, Blue Devil fans were left with something to be proud of.
“I’ve always said that no other event in the city of Marietta brings a bigger portion of our community together than Friday night at Northcutt, other than the Fourth of July parade,” said Hap Smith, the Voice of the Blue Devils for the past 18 years. “Many people have been going there for 50 years or longer and still come back. There have been a lot of special moments in that stadium, and a lot of people who graduated 20, 30, 40 years ago can tell you something special that happened to them on that field.”
According to Smith, there are even several former players who elected to have their remains spread on the field after they died.
“The big thing is we want people to appreciate the history of the stadium,” King said. “We think football or anything else played in that stadium is like nothing else you’ll see. At Northcutt, you’re right on top of the action and it makes it a special place.”
The Class of 1980 has arranged for the marker to be installed near Polk Street, which will allow for many people to stop and read about the stadium’s history.
Class officers are Dee DeFoor Crouch, president; Sonja Moon Jackson, vice president; Wayman Bryant, treasurer; and Alan Downey, secretary.
Dana Corn Crissey, Beth Tabb Duff, Heidi McKinley Majors, Tommy Maloney, Rick Stocks, Mickey King, Meg Glover, Colleen Parker, Nelson Foster, Marsha Robinson and Paula Reeves Kirchofer serve on the reunion committee.