Friday, December 7, 2012

The Tiger's Big Orange Machine Returns


The Big Orange Machine

Jeff Campbells gives history speech!
Last week we had the privilege of witnessing what one young man’s determination can accomplish.  It’s rare in this day and age to see a high school freshman getting excited about “historical” events and to turn that excitement around with a determined effort to inspire others.  Most people that age don’t care much for history.  It usually involves just putting forth enough effort into remembering stuff to pass a test. 
Wellsville has always been a strong basketball town.  About 40 years ago there was a basketball coach at Wellsville High School that everyone called Bobby.  When he was hired he immediately pushed a program that started with kids in the 5th & 6th grades.  By the time these grade school kids reached the high school level they knew what to expect.  They knew each other, how they played, their strengths and what their coaches expected of them.  Before he hung up his coach’s whistle Bobby’s teams put together an impressive string of victories over the years.  To this day it’s still called the Dawson Dynasty.  Today’s Head Basketball Coach, Bug Thompson, played during the Dawson Dynasty.

Coach Bob Dawson and his teams developed a strong, loyal, faithful and fanatical following. The Wellsville fans would pack the gym to where there was standing room only for each and every home game.  They formed convoys for the away games.  There were the Looney Ladies.  Most of them were mothers and grandmothers of players past and present.  It didn’t matter if their child was still in school or graduated. They were loud, enthusiastic cheerleaders that got together for every game to support their team. They even had special t-shirts. They loved their Tigers.
During the Dawson Dynasty the pre-game introduction to the introduction of the Wellsville players was something like we’ve never seen elsewhere.  Until last Friday it’s been awhile since we’ve seen it.  They would blast the theme song of the popular television series Hawaii 5-0, turn out the lights and put a spot light on the individual players as they came out of the locker room.  A replica of an orange tank would slide down the gym wall and burst a big balloon that had the victim’s name on it.  The orange tank was called the Big Orange Machine.  It was nearly pandemonium in the gym when the balloon went “pop!”.  The victim who had their bubble burst represented the opposing team that was visiting Wellsville that evening.  It was last used in 1981.   That is until a fellow we call Iron Mike came along.

Iron Mike introduces modern
Big Orange Machine

Iron Mike is one half of the Reiner Team.  The other half is his twin brother Mitchell.  They are the sons of very proud parents known as Paula & Bill Reiner.  Iron Mike earned that nickname long before we got acquainted.  When we heard the story behind that we thought it was very fitting.  Brother Mitchell is a “roundballer” on the Wellsville Reserves this year. 
Mike learned of the tradition of the Big Orange Machine from his uncle Steve Poynter.  Poynter was a Wellsville student back when the original machine was the high light of the pre-game activities.  Learning of that historic tradition inspired Mike to rejuvenate it.  He set the wheels in motion going to everyone in a position of authority in the Wellsville School District, from the Superintendent, High School Principal and Athletic Director to just about every coach that has anything to do with the school’s basketball program.  According to Mike they all gave him their enthusiastic endorsements. 

Mike then went to a Beaver Local coach named Campbell.  Jeff is the owner of Campbell Signs and a member of the Wellsville Class of 1981.  He may put some time in coaching the Beavers but his heart still bleeds Orange & Black.  He remains a loyal Tiger friend and supporter.  Campbell said when Mike came to him about designing a new Big Orange Machine he was really excited.  He not only designed a modern version he offered to build it and to help get Mike’s idea off the ground. 
Mike was pumped.  He said he hoped to revive the tradition of all that the Big Orange Machine represents.  It’s his dream to bring back the excitement and promote the enthusiasm for the basketball team.  He put in a lot of work and some sleepless nights getting everything organized.  He really hopes its something the whole student body will take pride in. 

Tiger Nate Scott is spot lighted in pre-game introductions
Last Friday they had a Pep Rally to introduce Mike’s new Big Orange Machine to the student body.  Iron Mike told everyone the story behind it.  For some it was a first they heard of it.  Jeff Campbell told the students the unbelievable excitement he experienced back in the days he came out of the locker room in that pre-game hype.  Jeff said the original Big Orange Machine was a kid’s peddle car and the idea evolved into the tank crushing the balloon.  His uncle built the first machine.  Campbell said some of the visiting teams were so intimidated their coaches wouldn’t let them come out of the locker room until after the Wellsville team was introduced. 
Prior to last Friday’s game against East Liverpool history repeated itself.  The lights went out, the bright spot light highlighted the players as they were introduced and the place went wild.  Incidentally it was SRO and the Tigers whooped the Potters!  We think Iron Mike got an A-plus on that history test.

The WHS Spirit Team is selling commemorative t-shirts for the revival of the Big Orange Machine.  All proceeds go to the Spirit Team.  They’re only $10 and are sold in the lobby before the home games.  The Tigers play next Tuesday night at home against Southern. 
Hope to see you there…

ole nib




Anonymous said...

I hope the kids start participating, or else we won't have a basketball team in 2 years. There is no freshman team at all.

Anonymous said...

Its a cycle...I think if you get 2 or 3 kids from class ahead of you then 2 or 3 kids below you then in HS if your class has 2 or 3 it works..PLUS i see the jr high has a number of kids playing. Its just not wellsville, not many area teams have reserve football or even 9th grade basketball...

Phil L. said...

I remember something - sorry, can't recall what it looked like - that slid down to pop a huge balloon at the beginning of basketball games in the 1980-81 timeframe. Yes, they made quite a production of it, a really amped up the crowd!

Anonymous said...

Great job, Iron Mike! So nice to see school spirit and interest in WHS traditions of yesteryear.

hootch2 said...

I wish I had time to work on this project! There are a couple of X-Tra touches missing from the 70's show. One is when the starting 5 are announced, their picture (I think it was their individual basketball picture for the yearbook)was projected onto the wall. (Gigantic)Another was when the team was announced, an orange carpet was rolled out from the corner of the court to center court. The players would be announced and stay at center court. The chearleaders would stand on both sides of the carpet. Another big part of the show was John Henry Martin singing the National Anthem. It was like having Al Green do it. While most other schools would play an old scratchy record, John Henry would step to mid court and put on a show. Those were some of the best memories of my youth. And in my opinion, the reason my generation of Wellsvillians became so close.

Anonymous said...

This post gave me goosebumps. I fondly remember the Dawson Dynasty. Great times!!!

Karen Poynter-Taylor said...

Good job Mike, Jeff, Jay Fife-- son of one of the Looney Ladies--dedicated fans that bled orange and black for sure. Thanks Steve Poynter for sharing the heritage with the younger generation--may the new teams attract as many admiring and loyal fans. Go Tigers!