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DIY Project Leads to 50-year Helmet History of a Reader’s Small High School

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[Editor’s Note: Paul is on his annual August break from site (although he’s still writing his weekly Substack column). Deputy editor Phil Hecken is in charge from now through the end of the month.]

Good morning!

Yesterday was yet another quiet day, uni news-wise, but today I’m joined by reader Munch Suchland, who has what are actually a pair of projects to share with us today. A few weeks back, Munch reached out to me with this: “I recently dug into the complete 50-year helmet history of my small high school in midwestern Ohio. It’s not much but may spur similar endeavors by other people who Get It. And strangely enough, the whole project started with an old Uni Watch post about reconditioning old football helmets. I actually wrote up a piece that we were going to run in our town’s Historic Associations newsletter but are still actually working on taking the next step of the project a little further.”

Munch begins with his initial DIY project, which he ended up sharing on social media, and which morphed into the much larger project (the helmet history of his school), and he’s going to take us through both of these today.


• • • • •
DIY Project Leads to 50-year Helmet History of my Small High School
by Munch Suchland

It all started rather simply. In January of 2020, I read a Uni Watch article that was guest-written by reader Brian Gutner.

At the time, it simply made me recall that I had an old helmet shell somewhere in a box in the house. I had tried, unsuccessfully, to make a Buckeye helmet out of it many, many years ago. It didn’t have a facemask, or hardware, or pads. Just a shell, with deep gouges, and now a crappy thin coat of silver paint on it. So when I read the article, it piqued my interest and hit the recall button in my brain, but that was about it.

A few months later, my town was just finishing building a new K-thru-8 school, now attached to the high school. And with that, the process of cleaning out the old school before it was to be torn down began.

They had a garage sale. Most of it was books, old office and school supplies, and things that really didn’t interest me. (They had an auction later that had all of the good stuff.) But next to some of the old athletic equipment sat a box that had a few facemasks. I picked one up and noticed it looked like the one my oldest brother had in high school. And I remembered that old shell I had somewhere in the house. And I remembered the Uni Watch article on how to get that old shell to look new again. So I grabbed it. Then I second-guessed myself. I had two other brothers that played football. How could I make a replica helmet for one but not the others? I went back to the box and there were two more facemasks. So I grabbed them, not knowing what I was really getting myself into.

I looked through eBay and, thanks to Brian’s advice, I knew that scratched and gouged helmets were cheaper and not a problem. I got two more and got to work. It was a lot more work than I anticipated, to put it lightly. But I love this kind of work. I was able to take my time (I had no deadline) and work on it as much or as little as I could or wanted. I’d spend evenings in the garage watching the Reds and just do what I could before going to the next step. I decided these helmets would make great surprise Christmas gifts for the three.

On December 3rd, just three weeks before Christmas, the hometown team won its first State Championship in football. To say New Bremen football pride was at its all-time high would be an understatement. And my three brothers, in one way or another, laid that groundwork many years before and had a little more sense of pride in the feat. To say they were surprised and thrilled with the gift would be an understatement.

So I thought all of that was behind me. Except that I shared the whole ordeal on social media. I had a lot of people asking how to get one. I wasn’t really interested in making this a thing. I enjoyed it and wanted to keep it that way. I have a job and certainly don’t need another. I made another for a friend of mine who put in countless hours helping me and my family completely gut and remodel a getaway cabin and this was a small gesture of thanks. I also made three replicas of the high school’s current helmets. One was for my cousin, who wanted to gift it to his son for his birthday. I was Santa’s elf for my friend’s kid on another. And the third I gave to my godson. I thought that planting the seed for more Cardinal Pride was worth the work. I made 2 concepts just for me, just to see. I’m sure fellow readers understand that reasoning. Again, I shared these on social media.

That all spurred my next project. At a high school basketball game, another fan asked if I was the guy doing the football helmets. (Small town.) He showed me a picture he had taken of a display case of old football helmets at state and national powerhouse Canton McKinley High School.

We talked about how neat it would be to do something similar. New Bremen won another State Championship in the fall and just celebrated their 50th year of football. (There were some teams in the early 1900s, but the program was brought back in 1972.)

1972 team
But in order to get that done, we had to know what every helmet looked like.

Being the Uni Watch guy as well as being on the board of our Historic Association, I took on the task. I had already started some discussion on Facebook on our town’s Memories page so I started by resurrecting that discussion.

I started with a simple Excel sheet database. I entered in descriptions based on things I already knew from being there and made my best guesses on certain things outside of that. Nothing concrete, but getting the process started. Then I went about trying to confirm what I thought I knew and discover and correct what I didn’t know.

And what an experience. I dug through a lot of old online newspaper articles, visited the library to look through old yearbooks, and found some old vintage football films that other local schools put online.

Good to go, right? Not so much. The local library doesn’t have a whole lot of past yearbooks. (That’s another project I intend to take on soon.) And I noticed, frustratingly enough, that there are clearer photos and video footage of Babe Ruth taken 100 years ago than there was of our local football teams 25 to 50 years ago.

I was getting to the point of thinking this may be impossible for me to get even close to being accurate. I took some good guesses, erring on the side of caution, and put some images together to share with the community. And wow, did that get the ball rolling!

I heard from seven former football players over the next few weeks. Some were able to definitively answer some lingering questions. Some had an old photo of their old helmet. Some still had their actual decals from their helmet in a scrap book! (He said, “My mom saved everything,” and was I glad she did!)

I “discovered” two new helmets in these discussions. None of the photos I had were clear enough to know these helmets existed. I thought the 1986 helmets had the same cardinal head that was on the 1985 helmets but found out it was a wing.

And what I thought was a weird reflection off a plain gold helmet or possibly award decals ended up being a NB logo on the 1976 helmets. My aunt had the yearbooks from the early days and went through those years and sent me photos so I could nail down years for certain helmets and confirm that I wasn’t missing something. The yearbooks had much clearer photos!

This project isn’t done yet. I will update if or when it is. I can’t say if we will try to put a display case together or simply get a graphic designer to make some cool prints or a large wall mural. But I think what I’m most looking forward to is meeting with one of the players from the first football team. He reached out and went over some of my lingering questions and sent me some photos. He has more stories to share and wants to bring photos and memorabilia. Team picture day was the day they were given their new home uniforms and he said “Look at the pride in the faces.” I’m excited to see where that goes. And who knows, maybe that will be the start of the next project.

• • • • •
Thanks, Munch! Wonderful projects, and I really love the custom helmets you created for your brothers! The database is tremendous as well. Thanks for sharing these with the readership.



Guess the Game from the Scoreboard

Guess The Game…

…From The Scoreboard

Today’s scoreboard comes from Chris Hickey. Chris adds this could probably also work as a Guess the Game from the Uniform, so you’ve got multiple clues today!

The premise of the game (GTGFTS) is simple: I’ll post a scoreboard and you guys simply identify the game depicted. In the past, I don’t know if I’ve ever completely stumped you (some are easier than others).

Here’s the Scoreboard. In the comments below, try to identify the game (date & location, as well as final score). If anything noteworthy occurred during the game, please add that in (and if you were AT the game, well bonus points for you!):

Please continue sending these in! You’re welcome to send me any scoreboard photos (with answers please), and I’ll keep running them.



Guess the Game from the Uniform

Based on the suggestion of long-time reader/contributor Jimmy Corcoran, we’ve introduced a new “game” on Uni Watch, which is similar to the popular “Guess the Game from the Scoreboard” (GTGFTS), only this one asked readers to identify the game based on the uniforms worn by teams.

Like GTGFTS, readers will be asked to guess the date, location and final score of the game from the clues provided in the photo. Sometimes the game should be somewhat easy to ascertain, while in other instances, it might be quite difficult. There will usually be a visual clue (something odd or unique to one or both of the uniforms) that will make a positive identification of one and only one game possible. Other times, there may be something significant about the game in question, like the last time a particular uniform was ever worn (one of Jimmy’s original suggestions). It’s up to YOU to figure out the game and date.

Today’s GTGFTU comes from Jimmy Corcoran himself.

Good luck and please post your guess/answer in the comments below.



Uni Tweet of the Day

I like everything about these but the “GIANTS” on the hat. Give them a lower case “ny” and I’m on board


And finally...

…that’s going to do it for the early morning article. Big thanks to Munch for sharing both the helmet and the database projects! Quite the undertaking that!

I’ll have at least one more article later this morning (more NCAA football uni news), and of course if anything else of note breaks, I’ll try to have an article on that ASAP.

Everyone have a good Tuesday!



Comments (32)

    Wonderful project with the helmets of New Bremen. Those gift helmets are priceless. My favorite hemets from the timeline is the 1980 Cardinal with the closed eyes: I am so good that I am not even looking at you. Speaking of Bremen, the old Bremen in Germany has a football club as well with an under 18 team: the Bremen Firebirds. Wouldn’t it be cool to have the Cardinals play the Firebirds somewhere in the future?

    Ah, sorry, just read that the Firebirds are rebuilding a team. But there is another team in (old) Bremen: The Bremen Union Bulls. They have a U16 football team, might be cool to play them at one point.

    Bummer. “Cardinals vs Firebirds” has a nice ring to it but the Bulls would be very cool as well.
    Here’s an on-field pic of the 1980 helmets. link

    I can only imagine the amount of work you already put in, but to see a wall of helmets you had a hand in creating no doubt will elicit an incredible sense of pride! Good work!

    That’s definitely the ultimate plan. It would look so much better than a mural and can be updated each time they get a new helmet. Just need to find the best way to go about it.

    GTGFTS: March 4, 1987, Bulls @ Pistons at the Pontiac Silverdome. This one was definitely helped by uniforms, given the potential range could’ve been 1984-88 due to Jordan, but a) the VA “BULLS” eliminated 84-85, and Kurt Nimphius’ presence on the Pistons further limited it to the 2nd half of the 86-87 season, and this was the only Bulls game at the Dome where he got off the bench. Jordan scored 61 points, two less thsn the top two Pistons combined (Adrian Dantley and Isiah Thomas), and the Bulls won, 125-120.

    Oh, Rob!
    Yes, that’s the correct game…good guessing & great research!
    Must have been a lot of work getting that scoreboard up/down.
    Love Kurt Nimphius’ (who?) team-branded socks – but can’t say I was/am a fan of Air Jordan II’s (I don’t know if this element helped narrow down the timeframe).
    Was attending a game inside the Silverdome a pleasant fan experience? Anyone?

    I attended the Pistons game against the Kansas City Kings on January 30, 1985 (120-116 Pistons in OT), just over a month before the roof collapsed as the result of a late winter snow. I spent a part of the game wandering around the concourse and taking a peek behind the curtain, seeing the exposed turf for the Lions. I was 10 at the time, and I just remember the place being big.

    The only other time I went to the Silverdome was for a 1996 preseason game between the Lions and Washington.

    Silverdome for basketball was a pleasant experience if you were sitting in the lower bowl or the temporary seats near courtside. I sat in the upper bowl plenty of times and it was like watching a video game on a 19″ TV. My cousin and I would get so bored we’d sail paper airplanes around.

    I saw a few Pistons games at the Silverdome.

    My dad took me to a few games – Buffalo Braves in the Aud, Cleveland Cavaliers in Richfield, but there was nothing like the Silverdome. It was a bonkers place to watch the game. The only other thing I saw that was similar was Raptors at Skydome.

    Incredible that the Pistons and Wings never shared an arena until a couple of years ago.

    Thanks, Kevin! Both projects were quite the learning experience but really enjoyable. I like making something old look new again and digging through old photos and stories and getting that AHA! moment when something clicks.

    GTGFTS: March 4, 1987 at the Pontiac Silverdome. The Bulls beat the Pistons, 125-120 in overtime. Jordan scored 61 points.

    Re the GTGFTU pic of the ‘Skins player, is the helmet logo photoshopped out, or did it really look like that (worn or rubbed of somehow)? If it’s intentionally covered due to the nature of the logo, does removing that take away a vital clue?

    Thought for this purpose (and others?), the old branding/logos was OK to mention and show.
    I know it’s a no-no using Native imagery for concept work and membership cards.

    Awesome project, Munch!
    I swear I’ve seen that yellow angular cardinal logo before…but where?
    Best of luck collecting information – can’t wait to see more from this project.

    Louisville. Mid to late 70s before they got the dumb idea to give their bird some teeth.

    Great project, Munch!

    Yes, Louisville is correct. Another Uni Watch connection that I forgot about to that one. Uni Watch friend Blaise D’Sylva hooked me up with the artwork for that one after I saw he had it on a Twitter post. I began following him after this Uni Watch article. link
    Another reason why I love this comm-Uni-ty. This project never would have happened without it.

    The photo is likely from the August 2, 1975 NFL Hall of Fame Game – Washington 17, Cincinnati 9.

    #55 is Chris Hanburger, aka the Hangman.

    His jersey is featuring the AMERICAN REVOLUTION BICENTENNIAL patch.

    Hanburger entered the HoF in the 2011 class.

    Very cool to have little old New Bremen featured here on Uni Watch! Can’t wait to see whatever eventually comes of this project!

    And Munch, please let me know if I can be of help with anything.

    I did not alter that photo in any way, the logo was on the helmet when I submitted the photo.

    Might be a whole different set up where you are compared to me, but where I am the high school libraries have past yearbooks. For high schools that have closed, I believe those are kept at the Board office (and from what I’ve heard far from easily accessible to the public).

    Other places I’ve seen past yearbooks are antique and thrift stores as well as used book stores. Some Facebook groups have been created for some past and current high schools as well.

    As always, pictures of more prominent sports and championship teams are more common and prevalent both in yearbooks and newspapers.

    I think the school library would have them. I honestly didn’t even think to try that. (Embarrassing) Not really public access to the school anymore but I’m sure they would have let me in if they knew what I was working on.
    I went to the local library in town and they only had what was donated to them. They had one for every year from the mid-90s to the present, I’m hoping to change that and find and donate as many of the missing years as I can.

Comments are closed.