The 1946 inaugural Perkiomen Indians team of the Big Six Conference. Pictured, front row, left to right, Fred Mutter, Donald (Doc) Miller, Francis Wampole, Donald Eschbach, Dip Raysor, Raymond Davis, Charlie Bieler. Second row: Jim Bardman, Karl Winsch, Herm Weiss, Tony Malasky, Barney Hoffel. Third row: Atlas Rothenberger, Curtis Kuhns, Woody Seasholtz, Stanford Buck, Jim Scholl. Fourth row: Claude Hallman, Bobby Freed, Gene Metz, Bill Conway. Fifth row: Ernest Bauman, Claude Perrosa, Chuck Schwendt, Ed Weiss, Ed Postel, Paul Bower. Top row: Coach Leo Prendergast, Kenneth Hammand, Ed Kuhns, Pat Renninger.
The end of the summer of 1946 sparked thoughts of the upcoming school season and along with it the traditional football rivalries of the Greenies or Yellow Jackets of East Greenville High School and the Bulldogs of Pennsburg High School. But this year would be a little different.
With no college or professional football teams close-by and television still a luxury most homes couldn't afford, many area gridiron enthusiasts had to be satisfied with cheering on their favorite high school team every other week at the home field.
Seeing the potential to provide the local sports fans with quality football games played by athletes beyond high-school age, a group of sports enthusiasts met in the winter of 1945 to map out a new league of competitive football in the area and called it the Big Six Football Conference.
It wasn't the first time amateur football was organized in the area. Prior to World War II, in the late 1930s and during the Great Depression, the East Greenville Athletic Club hosted a team that eventually disbanded as the United States' entry into the war neared.
With the war over, teams representing the Quakertown, Sellersville-Perkasie, Souderton, Lansdale, Upper Perkiomen and Doylestown communities committed to the amateur football endeavor. The Upper Perkiomen Valley entry eschewed the Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs moniker to become the Indians; almost a decade before the creation of the Upper Perkiomen School District was created and adopted the name. Their colors were orange and black.
Joseph K. (Dobbie) Weaver, president of the Big Six Conference, made it perfectly clear that this was an amateur league and that he trusted all of the teams to abide by that rule and avoid bringing in "ringers" from outside the area.
The first games of the 1946 season were played amid great pomp and circumstance. Perkiomen played most of its home games at the football field of East Greenville High School. A parade preceded the first game as marchers – led by the Pennsburg Fire Company Drum, Fife and Bugle Corps – led the way from the Pennsburg firehouse to the East Greenville field. The Drum, Fife and Bugle Corps would provide the entertainment at many of the home games.
More than 1,500 fans lined the sidelines of the East Greenville field on Sept. 15 to see the home team fall to the Souderton "His Nibs" by a score of 20-2. What made it worse for the Indians was that 240-lb. halfback Eugene Metz went down in the first quarter with a broken leg. Perkiomen fumbled a total of nine times, most inside the red-zone, in the game.
The Indians, coached by Leo Prendergast, would go on to lose their first three games before battling to a scoreless tie against the undefeated Greenjackets of Sell-Perk. They followed that game with a bit of payback when they played Souderton the next week to a scoreless tie.
It wasn't until their eighth game that Perkiomen put up its first win with a victory over Quakertown – a 20-0 shutout. They closed out the season with a 6-6 tie against the Lansdale Hawks when Herm Weiss hit Karl (Haps) Winsch in the end zone in the fourth quarter. Winsch tore a cartilage in his knee during the first quarter and, later in the game, suffered two cracked ribs. He refused to be replaced and played the entire game.
The team ended the season with a 1-6-1 record, but the amateur league had one grand finale left – the all-star game. The contest would pit the regular season winners, the Doylestown Vets against the best of the rest.
Representatives from the Perkiomen Indians played a big part in helping the All-Stars top the league champs, 21-7. On the first play of the game, Perkiomen's Donald "Doc" Miller grabbed a pass and scampered 50 yards for the first score of the game. Other All-Stars from the Perkiomen team included Bill Conway, Atlas Rothenberger and Chuck Schwendt.
Although Big-Six football only lasted a few years, it helped to provide a pastime for fans who were biding their time and enjoying their favorite game while they waited for television and televised football games to become the entertainment giant that it is today.