Pecans, burning leaf smoke in the air, redfish in the bayous, and north winds blowing. An oblate ellipsoid spirals through the air. Its fall and pigskin mania has arrived. Whether you're a tailgator or a couch potator its kick off time again. Please enjoy this tale of that Golden Era of Ocean Springs gridiron greatness.
It was during the time of the commencement of the Cold War that political, ideological, and economic confrontation between the Soviet Union and the West. The Berlin Blockade (1948-1949) and the Korean Conflict (1950-1953) dominated the era. Although World War II had ended four years earlier, the Russians in 1949 exploded an atomic bomb. The fall of 1949 saw Chairman Mao proclaim the Communist People's Republic of China, and the seeds of discontent and hatred between Jews and Palestinians, which are manifested today in the Middle East were being sown.
Fortunately during these dark times, the people of Ocean Springs were blessed with an athletic era (1949-1952) unprecedented in modern times. Dominated by one man, Raymond Beaugez, a hard charging fullback, the Ocean Springs Greyhounds under the tutelage of Coach Vernon Clay Boyd (1911-1974) brought glory to the gridiron at Freedom Field. As if the people of Ocean Springs envisioned this future football dynasty, they made preparation for the success of their athletes by building a new, lighted athletic field at Porter and General Pershing to be utilized for football, baseball, softball, and festivals.
Although the first collegiate football game was played in the United States in 1869, it cannot be determined with any degree of certitude when football was first played at Ocean Springs. The Biloxi Daily Herald in December 1902 reported:
The "Regulars" a combination team composed of the best players of Biloxi and Ocean Springs will play the Scranton-Moss Point "Blues" on Christmas Day at Ocean Springs. The "Regulars" are playing their third season this year, and average 153 pounds. Colors-"Old Gold and Purple". Mr. Clark of Ocean Springs is acting coach for the "Regulars".
J.K. Lemon (1914-1998) who played football for Ocean Springs High School in the 1930s remembers teams playing day games in a meadow on what is now Bills Avenue. Later games were played in the area where the National Guard Armory is presently located on Pine Drive. It may have been completed in 1934.(The Jackson County Times,
March 31, 1934, p. 3)
In March 1949, the Ocean Springs Athletic Association (OSAA) was formed under the leadership of W.H. "Cal" Calhoun, J.C. Gay (1909-1975), and Judlin H. Girot (1912-1970). The primary goal of the organization was to provide a first class athletic plant with a link fence around the perimeter of the property, dressing rooms for two teams including showers, ample public toilets, and stands of modest capacity. Interest bearing bonds (4 per cent) were sold to the general public to finance the project estimated to cost $8300.
The ground chosen for the new athletic field was owned by Miss Josephine Friar (1884-1958). She was the daughter of Thomas R. Friar (1845-1916) and Marie Dolbear (1846-1914). Mr. Friar came to Ocean Springs from Lumberton and married Miss Dolbear circa 1868. At Ocean Springs they reared a large family consisting of: George L. (1870-1924), Thomas A. (1871-1896), Louise A. Davis (1874-1952), Robert A. (1878-1948), James (1882-1962), Marie Antoinette VanCourt (1886-1978), and Josephine (1884-1958). Thomas Friar made his livelihood as a house carpenter and seafood dealer. He served as postmaster at Ocean Springs in 1893. Miss Friar worked as a clerk at the Davis Brothers store on Washington Avenue until her retirement.
The densely wooded site chosen by the OSAA was located on the southwest corner of Porter and General Pershing and described as Lots 6, 7, 8, and parts of Lots 13-16 of Block 33 of the Culmseig Map. The OSAA purchased the land from Miss Friar on July 15, 1949 (JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 107, pp. 308-309).
Most of the work required to clear and level the purchased site was performed by the local citizenry. Buford Myrick volunteered to do much of the physical work. He moved sod from former athletic field on Pine Drive (present day Public Works and National Guard Armory) to General Pershing site.(Buford Myrick, September 6, 2001)
By mid-September 1949, the light poles for the new field were in place and that enough sod for the playing field had been located. Workers were still grading the field and it was anticipated that a least two football contests would be played on the new turf.(The Daily Herald, September 19, 1949, p. 4)
The following advertisement was run in mid-September 1949.
Now, Let’s Go Ocean Springs!
That clearing, grading and leveling at Porter & Pershing is the new
O.S. Athletic Field
For day or Night
Of the $8300 subscribed for bonds $6391 has been paid in and bought land, poles, lights and labor. The other $1909 is needed NOW!
IF YOU signed a purchase agreement but haven’t taken up your bonds PLEASEmake a serious effort to do so THIS MONTH.
(The Gulf Coast Times, September 23, 1949, p. 6
The first game to be played on the new but undedicated field occurred on November 4, 1949 between Pass Christian and the Ocean Springs Greyhounds. This football contest in addition to having been the first night game in the town's history would also determine the opponent who would face Perkinston later in the season for the Coastal Region Class B District Championship. Ocean Springs won the game 27-13 with the strong arm of Quarterback Larry Williams hurling three touchdown passes to Ferdinand Kiernan to highlight the offensive attack.
The 1949 football year began on September 16th with the young Greyhounds spanking Wiggins 13-0 at home. Freshman "Big Boy" Beaugez running from the fullback position showed signs of his future gridiron brilliance when he scampered 30
yards for an apparent TD, but it was nullified by an offside penalty. Beaugez carried the pigskin to the Wiggin's goal line in the 3rd quarter from twenty five yards out only to
fumble the ball to a Wiggins player in the end zone.
At Biloxi the following week the Greyhounds of first year coach, Clay Boyd, were derailed by a determined Rebel squad from Notre Dame 19-0. By the time of the Pass Christian outing on November 4th, the team sported a 3-2-2 record with victories over Wiggins (13-0), Eatonville (20-7), and Bay High (38-13). The two losses were to Notre Dame (0-19) and Perkinston (6-26), and the ties at OLV (0-0) and Long
By defeating a heavier Pass Christian eleven, Ocean Springs gained the finals against Perkinston for the Class B Region Eight District Championship. This contest took place November 11th at Ocean Springs. Perkinston led the Greyhounds 13 to nil with only ten minutes remaining in the championship tilt. Speedy back, Billy Joe Butler, led a late Greyhound charge with strong rushes and adroit pass receiving. When Raymond Beaugez plunged over the goal line for the extra point, which put Ocean Springs ahead 14-13, great joy and celebration filled the new stadium at Porter and Pershing. Former East Mississippi Junior College head mentor, Clay Boyd, had his first champion at Ocean Springs.
Coach Clay Boyd wanted to name the field for W.H. Calhoun. He declined but chose the name “Freedom Field”. W.H. “Will or Cal” Calhoun, was a retired Sears & Roebuck executive from Chicago. According to Buford Myrick, Mr. Calhoun was an “outstanding man who had financial resources and used them to benefit Ocean Springs’ public projects, especially Freedom Field, which he named. Coach Clay Boyd recommended the athletic field be called “Calhoun” Field, but W.H. Calhoun declined”.(Buford Myrick, September 6, 2001)
Dedication of the new athletic field occurred at the Homecoming Game played during the evening of November 24, 1949. At the half time of the Ocean Springs-Mize contest, Mayor Albert Westbrook (1900-1980) gave the welcome address. This was followed by W.H. Calhoun, President of the Ocean Springs Athletic Association, who gave the dedication speech. This segment of the evenings events was culminated with a parade of young people dressed as children's toy alphabet blocks spelling out "The Name of The Field is Freedom Field".
At a later date, a bronze plaque was placed at the northeast corner of the field, which reads:
November 24, 1949
Dedicated to the development of that spirit of fair
play which is essential to the preservation of real
freedom. Because the life of Albert C. Gottsche so
truly portrayed the spirit of fair play. And because
Arthur Hunt, Mark Seymour, and Eugene White made the
supreme sacrifice in World War II that freedom might be
preserved. Their names are inscribed hereon to serve
as an inspiration to our future citizens. With special
appreciation to W.H. "Cal" Calhoun.
Twelve hundred loyal fans and Greyhound alumni witnessed the 19-12 defeat of the Smith County visitors from Mize. Mize lead in the game most of the way. The Ocean Springs Greyhounds rallied from a 12-6 deficit early in the fourth quarter when Freshman Raymond Beaugez scored on two short goal line plunges to ice the victory. During the Homecoming festivities, team Captain Larry Williams crowned the queen, Joyce Noble. Williams and co-captain, Charles Beaugez, then presented corsages to the queen and her court: Trixie Mullin, Gwendolyn Beaugez, Aline Thomas, Ann Joachim, Mildred Webb, and Vallee Noel.
1949 Ocean Springs Greyhounds
September 16 Wiggins (13-0)
September 23 Notre Dame (0-19)
October 1 OLV (0-0)
October 6 Perkinston (6-26)
October 14 Long Beach (18-18)
October 21 Eatonville (20-7)
October 28 Bay High (38-13)
November 4 Pass Christian (27-13)*
November 11 Perkinston 14-13
November 22 Mize (19-12)**
* First night game at Freedom Field
Coach Clay Boyd
Manager Bobbie Storey
Otho Ray Spiers, RE Larry Williams, QB
Charles Beaugez Billy Joe Butler, FB
Gene Seymour, RG Travis Lowery
Mac Baker, C Phillip Schaffner
Horace Gladney, LG Bruce Miller
Charles Mosner, LT Stanley Webb
Percy Miller, LE Herbert Beaugez
Melvin Sims, RH Jimmie Hatcher
Raymond Beaugez, FB Donnie Mitchell
Ferdinand Kiernan W.T. Broome
Alvin Endt Malcolm Parker
Robert Cox, LH Benny McMurtray
Cheerleaders: Llyod Lee, Donna Eglin, Mildred Noel, Joyce Noble, Trixie Mullin, Gwendolyn Beaugez, and Ann Joachim.
The next three years would be very successful for the Ocean Springs Greyhounds. Coach Clay Boyd's 1950 Team won nine of ten games on their schedule. The lone defeat was at the hands of Poplarville (14-19). This defeat was met with retribution at the season finale Homecoming when the 'Hounds won 24-20. The 13-6 victory over Notre Dame of Biloxi was savored well in the Discovery City.
1950 Team was an offensive machine of the first magnitude. Lead by Donald Catchot, Alvin Endt, and "Big Boy" Beaugez the Greyhounds scored over 380 points while holding the opposition to only 60 points. Sophomore fullback, Raymond Beaugez, scored 142 points to lead all scorers in Mississippi.
The 1951 Greyhound squad was also successful. The offense ran rough shod over the opposition while the defense played extremely well. Ocean Springs averaged 37 points per game while controlling the football and gave up only 4 points per contest on defense. The 1951 season record was 7-1-1. The only loss was to Poplarville (6-7). Amazingly Poplarville would be the nemesis of the 'Hounds during the years 1949-1952 as they would be responsible for three of Ocean Spring's seven losses during the time span. Raymond Beaugez led all scorers racking up 184 points through the season which included a spectacular seven touchdown performance against Long Beach (66-7) at Homecoming November 30th on Freedom Field soil.
The final year (1952) of the Beaugez era found Coach Boyd's mature squad play a tougher schedule, which included Big Eight power and neighbor, Biloxi. Eleven returning lettermen included backs: Wayne Catchot, Bruce Miller, Donald Catchot, and Raymond Beaugez, and linemen: Ernest Cox, Terry Thibodeaux, Pete Fountain, Joe Fink, Charles Redding, Donald Mitchell, and Herbert Beaugez.
The 1952 squad managed a six win and two-loss campaign, which earned them a berth in the Shrimp Bowl at Biloxi on December 5th. The loss to powerful Biloxi was very close as the Greyhounds battled the highly favored Indians all the way only to lose 18-12. The hitting was so ferocious in this contest that two Biloxi players were carried unconscious from the gridiron. Although held in check by a strong Biloxi rushing defense, Raymond Beaugez completed a 15-yard scoring aerial to Donald Catchot who also made a few long runs during the evening.
Although not as prolific as their previous three years, the Greyhounds still out scored their opponents on the average 26-11 during the season. Raymond Beaugez had a 25-point outing against Notre Dame as he rushed for 322 yards on just 23 carries. Donald Catchot added 148 yards on 14 rushes. Ocean Springs won the game 39-19 at Biloxi.
The Shrimp Bowl was played against a veteran St. Stanislaus eleven who had played Vigor and McGill of Mobile, De La Salle of New Orleans, and Big Eight dynamo Picayune. In a defensive struggle, the Rockachaws dominated and were victorious 13-6. It is curious to note that Coach Clay Boyd played for Bay St. Louis against Biloxi in the first Shrimp Bowl contest on December 7, 1941. His team was victorious 12-0 as Boyd, the quarterback, hurled several touchdown passes.
It should be noted that a seventh grader by the name of Andrew Jackson Holloway was on this team. "All the way with Holloway" as the crowds would later cheer at Biloxi High and Ole Miss is now the Honorable Mayor of our younger city to the west, Biloxi.
The 1949-1952 football season ended a four-year span in which the Ocean Springs Greyhounds football team earned an indelible mark in the annals of Mississippi Gulf Coast Sporting history. One might reasonably argue that later Ocean Springs squads were equally as good or better. The Greyhounds of 1957, 1963, and 1964 were certainly stellar elevens.
As for old Freedom Field, the final quarter ended on November 13, 1964. Ocean Springs defeated Stone County that Fall Friday night 27-13. The next year, the Greyhounds moved to their new stadium on Hanley Road. Here, the new turf was baptized with the Greyhounds grinding Notre Dame (Biloxi) 24-6 on September 3, 1965.
Memories of Freedom Field will always be in the hearts and minds of those who participated there as spectator, contestant, or entertainer. Let us hope that future
generations will be able to enjoy its green space. Protect and guard that it doesn't become a victim of the "concrete jungle" which is so pervasive in Ocean Springs today.
Regina Hines, Ocean Springs 1892 (2nd Edition), (Lewis Printing Services: Pascagoula-1991), p. 97.
Ocean Springs High School Annual, "Hi Memories" (1949-1952).
The Biloxi Daily Herald, "Foot Ball", December 15, 1902, p. 6.
The Daily Herald, "Ocean Springs Practicing for ND Tilt", September 19,1949, p. 6.
The Daily Herald, "Ocean Springs", September 19,1949, p. 4.
The Daily Herald, "Ocean Springs Wins Two Football Games", November 7, 1949, p. 9.
The Daily Herald, "Football Under Lights at Ocean Springs", November 11, 1949, p. 9.
The Daily Herald, "Beaugez Paves Way for 19-12 Greyhound Win", November 23, 1949, p. ??
The Daily Herald, “Calhoun Re-Elected President Of Association”, January 12, 1950, p. 9.
The Daily Herald, "Greyhounds Down Long Beach 66-7 in Reunion Tilt", December 1, 1951, p. 8.
The Daily Herald, "Greyhounds Have Seasoned Vets to Bolster '52 Team", September 5, 1952, p. 8.
The Daily Herald, "Indians Defeat Greyhounds in Close Contest", September 27, 1952, p. 8.
The Daily Herald, “Calhoun Re-Elected President Of Association”, January 12, 1950, p. 9.
The Daily Herald, "Beaugez Scores 25 Points Over Notre Dame Rebs", October 11, 1952, p. 2.
The Daily Herald, "Hounds-Rocks To Clash Tonight in 14th Biloxi Bowl", December 5, 1952, p. 16.
The Daily Herald, "St. Stanislaus Puts Skids Under Foe in Shrimp Bowl", December 6, 1952, p. 6.
The Gulf Coast Times, March 25, 1949, p. 1.
The Gulf Coast Times, "Freedom Field Dedicated with Colorful Ceremony", December 12, 1949, p. 6.
The Gulf Coast Times, "Greyhounds Down ND 13-6; Leakesville on Schedule for Sat. Night", October 27, 1950, p. ??
The Jackson County Times, “Local and Personal”, March 31, 1934.
The Ocean Springs News, November 19, 1964, p. 1.
The Ocean Springs News, September 9, 1965, p. 1.
The Pascagoula Chronicle Star, October 7, 1949, p. 5.
The Sun Herald, "Shrimp Bowl Passes the Test of Time", December 5, 1991, p. ???
Buford Myrick, September 2001.
Gay-Lemon Park is a ten-acre recreational site located in the NW/4, SW/4, of the SW/4 of Section 23, T7S-R8W. This land was part of a larger parcel acquired in October 1946, from W.E. Applegate Jr. (1876-1948) by J.C. “Champ” Gay (1909-1975).(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 95, pp. 15-16, Bk.)
J.K. Lemon became Mr. Gay’s partner in March 1952, after H.P. Heidelberg, a Pascagoula attorney, cleared the title for them. Champ Gay sold his one-half interest to Fred L. Lemon in March 1961. In July 1971, George J. Sliman (1934-1997), a local developer and proprietor of Le Moyne Associe’, Inc. bought the tract from the Lemon brothers.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 123, p. 383-385, Bk. 206, p. 338 and Bk. 407, pp. 7-9)
Le Moyne Associe’ conveyed the ten acres to the City of Ocean Springs in December 1973. In the Sliman warranty deed to the City, the following was related:
“property is conveyed for use as a park or for school purposes with the request that the request that area be honoring the Lemon and Gay families of Ocean Springs, Mississippi”.(JXCO, Ms. Land Deed Bk. 485, p. 573)
Construction of three soccer fields and two softball diamonds at the Gay-Lemon Park commenced in August 1979.(The Ocean Springs Record, August 30, 1979, p. 1 and September 13, 1979, p. 10)
The Ocean Springs Record, "Recreation Board to use field for games only", August 30, 1979.
The Ocean Springs Record, "Still under construction [photo]", September 13, 1979.