Charles W. Watson
Elementary, Mr. Watson
The mastermind behind Edgewood’s great teams of ’30s heads to ACBF HOF
By CHRIS LARICK
For the Star Beacon
Dr. Charles W. Watson packed a lot of living into a very short life.
Watson, who will be inducted into the Ashtabula County Basketball Hall of Fame on March 25, died in 1957 at the age of 48.
But Watson had already made an impression on the county as a teacher, coach and administrator.
Watson coached both the Edgewood boys and girls basketball teams between 1933 and 1943, enjoying great success, especially with the girls team.
Though records from that era are incomplete, we know some details of those years from the scrapbook that Watson kept and his daughter, Beverly (Willis) and son, Ron, preserved.
Most notable was a stretch from 1933 to 1935 in which Watson’s girls team won three straight undefeated Ashabula County Class C League championships. In a two-year span between 1933 and 1934, the Edgewood girls won 29 of 30 games, the lone loss by one point to Austinburg. Records indicate that that team won at least 29 consecutive games; it may have been more.
CHARLES WATSON (back row, third from left) poses with members of his 1934-35 Edgewood squad that won a third-consecutive Ashtabula County championship. Members of the team were (seated, from left) Wanda Gagat, LaRue Fink, Genevieve Scherman and June Bixler, (middle row, from left) Captain Ethel Fedor, Dorothy Gran and Esther Jordan and (back row, from left) Ilene Newbold, Geraldine Mirabell, Watson, principal Wallace Braden, Dorothy Ray, Ruth Mapous and Mary Shislowski.
The leading players on those girls teams included their center and captain, Ethel Fedor, who scored 304 points between 1933 and 1935, in an era in which 20 points for one team in a game was usually enough to win. LaRue Fink and Ilene Newbold were also big contributors, with Dorothy Gran, Wanda Gagat starting and Mary Shislowski adding support off the bench. Other members of the team included Winifred Blake, Genevieve Scherman and Mary Snodgrass.
Watson’s boys teams weren’t quite as successful, though the team of 1934-35 finished tied for the league championship and was second in the tournament. That group was led by Charlie Colantino, Ray Emery and Walter Palm.
The Edgewood squad of 1938-39 also had a very good year, going 14-6 and winning the championship of its league behind leading scorer Joe Colantino (219 points), Vernie Hawkins (140 points), Paul Jenkins, Bob Montomery, Guy Hastings and Harry Jordan.
Charles M. Watson was born at Orwell on Sept. 7, 1908. He attended the Ohio State University, receiving a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education in 1931, and a Masters Degree in 1934. After graduation, Watson served as a teacher in the Ashtabula County school system from 1931-1955, having taught at Edgewood School until 1943, when he became Superintendent of Schools at Williamsfield. In 1945, he accepted a position as Superintendent of Schools in Jefferson, where he served until 1955. He then moved to Perry Township, where he served as Superintendent until his untimely death on January 30, 1957.
After Watson died so early the Jefferson Rotary Club passed a resolution enumerating his qualities:
n “Charlie had that remarkable talent of being able to do many, many things very, very well. He was a friend of and respected by all of the hundreds of students in his schools. He maintained discipline with dignity and without permitting personalities to bias his decisions.
n “Charlie was a good administrator, carrying out the duties of the office which he held without fear or favor, rancor or prejudice; he never yielded a political expediency. His life was an inspiration, not only to those whose destiny he guided, but to his host of friends who learned to respect his judgment and love his character.
n “Charlie was always interested in the athletic program of his schools. He was noted for his devotion to fair play, even at the expense of his will to win.
n “Charlie loved to sing, to be with his friends. He enjoyed a rich, full life and succeeded in packing more living into his forty-eight years than most men can accomplish in three score and ten.
n “Charlie gave greatly to the life of his community. He produced a succession of Minstrels for the benefit of the PTA in Jefferson. He was always a participant, giving freely of himself and of his talents. He gave hours of pleasure to the many citizens of our community who became regular attendants year after year.
n “Charles served the Rotary Club in Jefferson as its president. He was ever regular in his attendance at its meetings. He was a Rotarian, in or out of meetings, exemplifying the rotary motto of ‘Service above Self.’ It is often easy to give of material things, but one gives most who gives of himself.
n “Charlie Watson was a Gentleman.”
Then the Rotary Club resolved that “with the death of our dear friend, Charles Watson, we, and the great community of mankind, have suffered an irreparable loss; that his death creates a void which will not soon be filled; that we extend out sympathy to his wife, his children, his parents, and to those unnumbered students who will never have the opportunity to enjoy the benefit of his guiding hand.”
At Orwell High School, Watson played baseball for four years, basketball for three and track for two. The Orwell team, according to the records, won two “pennants.” Watson was selected to the All-Ashtabula County basketball teams in 1926 and 1927. He was also class president for three years, a member of glee club and orchestra for three years and had parts in all the school plays during his high school years. In basketball, he played on a team with a pair of double-first cousins. Carleton and Elton Johnson.
Though Watson’s favorite sport was basketball, he was a better baseball player, according to his son, Ron, going on to play catcher for Ohio State. “He wasn’t very tall, about 5-10,” Ron Watson said.
“One day, he heard someone yell, ‘Charlie!’” Ron said. “He turned and the ball hit him right in the mouth, knocked out the four top front teeth and the four bottom front teeth. He was knocked cold.”
When he graduated from Ohio State, Charles Watson took the previously mentioned teaching job at Edgewood, coaching both boys and girls.
“Joe Donatone told me that one of his dad’s brothers played for him,” Ron Watson said. “He met my mom when both started teaching the same year. She had to resign, since at that time married women weren’t allowed to teach. When World War II came, they were allowed.”
Watson also did a lot of refereeing and was considered one of the top officials in the area.
“He was good friends with Ange Candela, Bob Ball and Pat Meehan,” Ron Watson said.
When he moved on to Jefferson, Watson made it a crusade to get the old Memorial Field built.
“He put on shows every year and all the money went toward Memorial Field,” Ron said. “CEI put up the light poles. It was a community effort.”
Though Watson loved Jefferson, he found it impossible to turn down the $15,000 Massillon Perry offered him in 1955. He was making half that much at Jefferson.
“I didn’t want to leave Jefferson,” Ron remembers. “I graduated high school in Canton (Massillon Perry).”
Ron didn’t turn out to be the kind of athlete his father was.
“I was one of the guys that played if we were real far ahead or real far behind,” he said.
Though Charles Watson’s widow, who never remarried, continued to teach, salaries at the time weren’t that good and Charles’ untimely death made for tight finances. But Ron managed to put himself through school, partly with the money he earned at Maple Ridge Golf Course, at the time owned by an uncle (Lawrence Porter).
After college, Ron got a job teaching elementary school in Stark County.
“I coached basketball and football in Stark County as an assistant for four or five years.” he said. “I coached Dan Dierdorf in high school. I taught for a while, then moved into administration. My first job as a high school principal was under (ACBF Hall of Famer) Russ Bethel.”
Ron Watson eventually had to leave Ohio because of his son’s health problems and taught and administered in Colorado, Wyoming and Arizona. He moved back to Jefferson a few years ago and is now on the board of education.
His sister, Beverly (Willis) also worked at Maple Ridge to help put herself through college (Ohio State) and taught at Washington Courthouse, then Stow, where she has lived for the past 45 years. She fulfilled her dream of becoming a librarian several years after she started teaching.
“Ron and I were not such good athletes,” Beverly, whose husband is a professional museum now after retiring as a professor, said. “But our children were very good at wrestling and softball.”
That has continued to this generation. Several of the grandchildren (Charles’ great-grandchildren) are very good athletes, particularly in gymnastics.