Tracking a Myth: The Rumored 1938 Exhibition Game


Six-man expert
Tracking a Myth: The Rumored 1938 Exhibition Game Prairie Lea v Martindale for the UIL
By Leman Saunders

It is well known that 1938 marked the first season six-man football was an officially sanction University Interscholastic League, the governing body for extra circular activities in Texas, however it has long been thought that only 55 schools participated in the sport that fall. Research has shown that the sport was far more wide spread and popular than originally thought during that season.

It has also long been thought Rodney Kidd, the director of the UIL, asked two Austin area schools, Prairie Lea and Martindale, to learn the six-man game and stage a demonstration game to see if it would be a viable option for Texas High Schools, and that that game was the first played in Texas. However, schools in Fisher County Texas were playing the game in 1936, and group of schools were playing six-man in West Texas during the spring of 1938 as well. To date no record of the Prairie Lea v Martindale game played prior to the start of the 1938 football season has been found. However, there were several demonstration games and clinics put on in various cities throughout Texas in the summer of 1938 that brought massive exposure to this relatively new game.

Back tracking the sources: – Granger Huntress
Granger has been involved with covering the game of six-man in Texas since 1993 and currently maintains a website devoted to aspects of the game. One part is a history section that talks about this game pitting Prairie Lea and Martindale against each other. It reads:

“Very little is known about the exhibition these two squads put on, other than it was the first six-man football game played by Texas high school teams. University Interscholastic League Director, Rodney Kidd, asked coaches at the two schools located just south of Austin to study the rules. They later played the exhibition for UIL officials, who must have been impressed, as they officially sanctioned six-man play for the fall of 1938.”

It has been proven that 6-man football was played in Texas two years before this mythical game…and in fact teams were playing it out west in the very early spring of 1938 as well. There is truth in the statement about Rodney Kidd asking coaches to study the game as he seems to have helped put on as many as 5 different demonstration clinics and games of six-man football during the summer of 1938, but newspaper accounts of those games show that college players were the ones who played the games and not high school players.

No citation is listed on the website for this information; however, in conversations with Granger, he pointed to C. H Underwood’s book “Texas 6-Man Football”, and to an article by Carlton Stowers titled “Heroes in the Hinterland” as the source material.

Let’s examine those sources.

“Six-Man Football” & “Texas 6-Man Football” – by C. H. Underwood

There are three printings of this book. The first two, a limited hardback blue copy, and an orange paperback copy, citing Carlton Stowers, “Heroes in the Hinterland article.”

“Heroes in the Hinterland” – by Carlton Stowers

This is where the idea of a game between Prairie Lea and Martindale originates. Stowers’ piece was published in various forms. Here is an excerpt of it from his book “Friday Night Heroes” where it is reprinted as a chapter:

States throughout the Midwest adopted Epler’s plan and in 1938 Rodney Kidd, the athletic director of the Texas Interscholastic League, governing body of the state’s schoolboy sports, wrote Epler for information on the game.

“We had a lot of small schools which were unable to field 11-man teams,” Kidd recalls, “but they had expressed a desire to play some kind of football.

“We contacted a couple of coaches at small schools, Praire Lea and Martindale, in the spring and asked them if they would study the rules, practice for a while, and put on an exhibition game for us so that we might see what the game was all about.”

They liked what they saw and the following fall such previously non-football playing schools as Dripping Springs, Harrold and Oklaunion and the two squads which had staged the exhibition were sporting their first district championships.

This mythical first game cannot be traced to any other source and is absent from several key primary sources. Thus, it is my opinion that Kidd, interviewed by Stowers many years after the fact, mistook helping Prairie Lea and Martindale’s district form (to which there is evidence of) as having them play a game to help decide if it was a worthy sport to play, confusing the fact that the UIL did have several demonstration games played at clinics by college kids in the summer of 1938 to help build up the new game of six-man football.

Through newspaper archive research I have put together a comprehensive time line of six-man football in Texas in 1938 up to the cutoff date for schools to apply to officially play in a Texas Interscholastic League district. There was talk of a demonstration game being played in San Marcos and Austin and it is possible these two school could have performed at either of those, but no concert evidence has surfaced to date. Here is what can be proven:

1938 Time Line
January 4, 1938 – Riggs Sheppard of Courtney schools organized a meeting in Big Springs to discuss forming a six-man football district among area schools. Would later become a spring football league under the Pioneer Schools Activities Association (TIL rival organization) that would have a larger district in the fall of 1938.
Feb 21, 1938 – Rodney Kidd starts his new job as Athletic Director at the TIL
March 4-5, 1938 – Press Release picked up by various newspapers announcing TIL will offer six-man football. Also announced that one district had been announced already in Hays and Guadalupe counties.
March 22, 1938 – First district formation meeting in Oklaunion with likely official formation meeting taking place on April 5th. This would be District 5 in the fall of 1938
April 22-May, 1938 – Pioneer School Activities Association (PSAA) spring football district is formed and games played between Westbrook, Coahoma, Garner(Knott), Ackerly, and Courtney.
April 27, 1938 – Per article in May 5th Lockhart newspaper, Prairie Lea and other schools’ officials met in San Marcos and with the help of Rodney Kidd and Roy Bedichek organized a “6-man football league” for schools in Hays and Guadalupe counties. J. D Fulton of Prairie Lea was elected district chairman and L. J. Wehmeyer of Prairie Lea was named secretary. Article noted that a second meeting would be arranged to make schedule of games. This would be District 3.
April 30, 1938 – Pyote played Barstow in a six-man football game at Wink.
May 5, 1938 – Friona played a six-man football exhibition game at Friona between a split squad of Friona high school players. Reds beat the Whites 31-26. Friona had intentions of playing six-man in the fall of 1938 and even formed an early district but they changed head coaches and ended up playing 11-man instead.
June 18, 1938 – Article in the Amarillo News Globe newspaper on Sunday June, 19th states that “to give school officials and coaches attending the University of Texas summer school, and other over Texas, an opportunity to see 6-man football, a game between two Austin high school teams under the direction of Coach Standard Lambert of Austin and H. L. Berridge of the university’s physical education department will be played here June 28.”
July 12-15, 1938 – North Texas State Teacher’s College in Denton hosted a coaching clinic with a demonstration game played at the end on July 15th at 7:30pm. Clinic was put on by Jack Sisco, coach at North Texas, and Joe Ailett, varsity backfield coach at Louisiana State Normal College in Natchitoches, LA. The two teams that played the game were made up of former football players for Teacher’s College. 1,500 people attended the game between the Whites and Reds, the Whites won 14-6.
July 31-August 6, 1938 – Texas High School Football Coaches Clinic and school was held in Lubbock, rumored to have talked about six-man football sometime during the clinic.
August 3, 1938 – A six-man demonstration game was played at East Texas Teachers’ College in Commerce. 4000 fans attended the game which featured two teams made up of “present and former Lion football stars.” The Blue team beat the Gold team 25-13. This ended a six-week summer course taught at the college on six-man football.
September 15, 1938 – Cutoff date for enrollment into a TIL district.

Here printed for the first time is a comprehensive list I have compiled of schools that played or possibly played six-man football in 1938, including those that were “officially” part of the Texas Interscholastic League. While most modern printed source material claims about 55 schools played six-man football in Texas in 1938…in reality over 100 schools played the streamlined game that year.

1938 Original Six-Man Districts (Official UIL Document undated)
(District Champs in Bold)

District 1 – Beasley, Blessing, Crescent, Louise, Markham
District 2 – Asherton, Big Wells, Catarina, La Pryor, D’Hanis
District 3 – Prairie Lea, Dale, Lytton Springs, Uhland, Martindale, Dripping Springs, Kyle, (Wimberly)
District 4 – Blue Ridge, Floyd, Merit, Princeton, Prosper, Nevada, Josephine (Allen, Murphy)
District 5 – Fairview, Harrold, King, Oklaunion, South Locket, Five-In-One, Geraldine, Medicine Mound, Megargel, Thalia, Valley View
District 7 – Flat, Ireland, Pearl, Turnersville
District 8 - Hemphill, Diboll, Indian Village, Shelbyville
District 9 – Fairview, Hancock, Harmony, McCarty, Sparenberg, Woody, Union (unknown if this district formed at all; Union did play football)

UIL Noted as not playing in a District but following UIL rules: Ben Bolt, (Dowdy), Draw-Redwine, (Hobbs), (Pyote)

Others that played Six-Man and their district, but maybe not a part of the UIL (according to UIL paper work undated):
- Poth, Sutherland, Lavernia, Dowdy
- Pyote, Balmorhea, Toyah, Buena Vista (possibly Barstow they did play 1 game in April v Pyote), Mentone but likely withdrew)
- Courtney, Westbrook, Garner, Garden City, Sterling City (PSAA league)
- Trent, Hobbs, Blackwell, Pyron, Divide, Dowell
- McAdoo, Dickens, Patton Springs, Roaring Springs
- Powell, Streetman, Rice, Emhouse
- Agua Dulce, Driscoll, Orange Grove, Chapman Ranch, (Flour Bluff but don’t think played, Ben Bolt might have been in this district)
- High Island, Winnie, Nome, Fannett, China

Others that played six-man:
Hungerford (1), Devers, Castroville (2), Natalia, McCaulley, Sylvester, Dodson, Hedley, Ad Hall, San Gabriel, Forsan (dropped out of the PSAA league), La Ward (possible in District 1), Booker, Gruver (Booker played Gruver 10/17 and lost 13-6), Southmayd, Sadler, Texline, (Grenville, NM, Clayton, NM), Bells (or Bells JV), Lipscomb, Adrian, Avery, Annona, Stratford
La Poyner - played both 11-man and six-man
Mildred - played one game against Streetman (winning 38-0)
Vega – played at least 1 six-man game against Adrian on 11/4 Vega won 18-13
Hebbronvill – played Mirando on 12/2 in a 6man game
Mirando – played Hebbronville on 12/2 in a 6man game Mirando won 20-8

Alabama-Coushatta Indians – Indian reservation team played at least one game of 6-man against Devers winning 46-19 in Beaumont 11/18
Friona – played an inter-squad game in the spring of 1938 as an exhibition game of 6-man for the area
Cameron JV - played at least one game of six-man against Ad Hall (38-12)
(Abilene Central (junior high) played six-man amongst itself with several teams being formed)
Private Schools:
Saint Joseph (Victoria)
Abilene Christian College (Abilene)
Price Memorial College (Amarillo) played both 11-man and six-man

Talked about Playing but may not have or did just not in a district (possible district):
Wharton (likely just 11-man), Stephen F Austin demo school (8), Pineland (8), Elysian Fields, Greenwood, Williams (pretty sure they played 6man games), Frost, Loveless, Bradley, Community Center, Kirkland Tell, Carey (NM-Clayton, Amistad, Grenville, Folsom), Oklahoma Lane, Lazbuddie, Friona (changed coaches and likely just played 11-man), Bovina, Springlake, Farwell (NM-Hollene, Pleasant Hill, Texico), Edgewood, Pampa JV, Mobeetie
- (Southmayd, Sadler these two played for sure and tied for the championship), Gordonville, Tom Bean (pretty sure they were in an 11-man district), Pottsboro, Savoy, (also a junior team from Bells or Bells for sure played)
- (Avery, Annona both played and played for the title of their district), Boxelder, Fulbright, Detroit
- Sharp, Buckholts, (Ad Hall, San Gabriel these two for sure played) – also invited Friendship, Gause, Milano to join