One of the regulars at River Downs is an old guy who has lived in Northern Kentucky all of
his life, was born in Dayton in 1921, vividly remembers the 1937 flood, played football at
Dayton in 1938 where he was All Northern Kentucky at fullback and kicked Highlands'
booty 35-6 when he was a senior in an era when the players wore leather helmets with no
face-guards. He played basketball under John Wooden during the legendary coach's stint
at Dayton High School and remembers Coach Wooden scrimmaging with the players at
practice. His dad died when he was six and his mother opened a candy store in Dayton to
support the family. It closed when the building was taken to build the floodwall. His
mother passed away in 1955 and his only sister died ten years ago. After high school he
joined the Navy and served for five years during World War II. He was a torpedo man on
the U.S.S. Leary in the Northern Atlantic that was sunk by a German torpedo on Christmas
Eve of 1943 at 11pm. 130 of 189 men on board were killed. He survived by clinging to a
piece of cork in the frigid water, while his friends were dying all around him, and was
picked up eleven hours later the next morning by a friendly destroyer at 10am. After the
war when he returned to the United States, he attended Xavier University and earned a
degree in Physical Education. He then returned to his alma mater where he taught Physical
Education and coached football at Dayton beginning in 1947 and was part of the 1949
team which was crowned mythical state champons before the the days of playoffs. It was
then that he met his wife Louise, married and chose to find a more lucrative occupation,
which turned out to be barbering which he still does in his one chair shop in Highland
Heights off of Renshaw Drive. He has a tradition of giving the Highlands football players
and coaches free clips.
This man is Jim "Smokey" Mountain who was seated on the hill overlooking Highlands'
Football Practice Field "Death Valley" back in 1999 watching the team practice and was
recruited by Jim "Red Dog" Daugherty to help coach the Bluebird kickers. He has been
there ever since, earning four or five state championship rings in the process. Jim has
never hesitated to show me each new ring as he receives one, but I never had a clue as to
the man's background. I simply thought that he was just one of us who became
associated with a team/program and didn't have the good sense to get out and enjoy his
retirement. Jim was inducted into the Northern Kentucky Hall of Fame last week and was
written up in the September edition of "Inside Fort Thomas," a community newspaper
which Jim brought to the track one day this week to show me. It was through an interview
with an IFT reporter that I was made aware of the man's "walking-talking legend" status.
Jim lost his wife sixteen years ago, still runs Jim's Barber Shop when he's not at practice or
a game, plays the ponies in his spare time, and enjoys being accepted by the Highlands
players and coaching staff.
In addition to all of the above, he vividly remembers swimming across the Ohio River and
back, socializing at old Tacoma Beach, and drafting behind the Island Queen in a canoe up
to Coney Island and back as a kid.
If you get the chance drop in to his barber shop where business is slow because all of his
old customers are dying off, and he will be happy to relive the memories with you.
The complete interview is available in the September edition of Inside Ft. Thomas and a
lesser article in the Campbell County Recorder.
Dave Schabell - October 30, 2005
|Highlands' 84 Year Old Assistant Football
Coach Jim Mountain's Induction Into The
Northern Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame
Brings To The Surface A Walking-Talking
|Photo By The
Campbell Co Recorder