Inside his room at Heritage Hill Assisted Living complex near Caro in Tuscola County, Ed Schell flashes a mischievous grin when a reporter tells him the Millington High School football team is in the state semifinals.
“I heard that; I saw it in the paper,” says Schell, winking in delight about the Cardinals’ trip to today’s Division 6 state semifinal matchup against Jackson Lumen Christi. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. at Lansing Catholic High School and, with a win, Millington would reach the state finals for the first time in school history.
Millington history, you see, is something 100-year-old Ed Schell knows a bit about.
He worked as a teacher in Millington starting in 1947, when he also began a six-year stint as a coach. He remained a Millington school district employee through 1976, working as high school principal from 1954 through 1969, and as assistant superintendent from 1969 to 1976. A bus drive on school grounds bears his name.
“I don’t know if you’d say I’m ‘rooting’ for them, but I hope they win (Saturday),” Schell said. “We’ve won our share through the years.” Schell said he coached baseball and basketball teams at Millington in an educational career that began as a 19-year-old teacher at Spring Hill School, a country school along Goodrich Road east of North Lake Road in Tuscola County’s Watertown Township.
He once coached his younger brother, the late Dan Schell, who starred as a Millington High School athlete and went on to play professional baseball for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1954 and 1955.
“He was a pitcher for Millington, so we got our wins,” Ed Schell said.
Millington football teams in the mid-1940s, with Dan Schell and Carl Rader and Jack Collins, excelled on the field, said Russ Rader, 92, who married Schell’s sister, Agnes, and lives with her in same assisted living complex as Ed Schell.
A reporter asks Schell for his hometown.
“You ever hear of Fostoria?” Schell said, cracking a smile. “I graduated from Fostoria High School. I’m 100 years old, so you figure it out from there.”
Russ Rader said his brother-in-law loved playing baseball on the Fostoria town team, a squad that included Schell’s brother, Dan.
“Back in those days, most small towns had a town baseball team,” Ed Schell said. “Baseball was a Sunday afternoon thing. People went to the baseball games.”
Ed Schell said he was known as a left-fielder and leadoff batter in his youth. “I could run pretty good,” he said. “If I got on first base, I probably would end up on second.”
Both Ed Schell and his sister, Agnes “Peg” (Schell) Rader, started their teaching careers at Spring Hill School.
“Back at that time, you could attend County Normal School (in Caro) for one year and then you could start teaching at country schools,” said Ed Schell, son of a Fostoria blacksmith, Ernest Schell.
“That was about the time that tractors used steel wheels outfitted with lugs, and Ernest would make the rim for a tire out of it, and mount the (rubber) tire on it,” Russ Rader said. “He was converting the steel wheels to rubber tires.”
Rader recalled six gas stations in Fostoria after his family moved there in 1930 after the start of the Great Depression.
“Some of them were just one-pumpers; both hardware stores had one,” Rader said.
Agnes Rader said that when she taught at Spring Hill School, “I got to school and made the fire so it was warm when the kids got there, and when I reached the end of the day I had to have everything cleaned up.”
Russ Rader said his wife once taught as many as 52 children inside the country school.
“I was tired when I got home,” she said.
Ed Schell said that during his career in education, he obtained several college degrees in addition to his training at County Normal School.
He said his job as a 19-year-old teacher “was a challenge, but I started out when I was young and I just kept teaching,” Schell said.
As a principal, Ed Schell was a disciplinarian with a caring heart, Agnes Rader said.
“A student didn’t get away with anything with him, but he was somewhat kind with those he (disciplined) and he would make it easy for them,” Agnes Rader said. “He’d have the class do so many things in a day, and when they would finish, he’d let (a disciplined student) pick out something they’d like to do.”
“When I was principal, in my bottom drawer, I had a paddle,” Ed Schell said. “When the kids were sent for misbehavior, the first thing we’d do is sit down, and I’d take that paddle and put it right there on top of my left leg.
“Then we’d start talking. Sometimes I didn’t use it, and sometimes I had to paddle ’em. I paddled a lot of kids, and a lot of times I didn’t use it.”
Ed Schell said the Millington High School basketball teams that he coached played inside a building now housing the Millington Baptist Church, 4727 Center St.
“Back in those days, they had to find a place where they could play, because they didn’t have fancy gyms like they do now,” Schell said.
Ed Schell said he’ll watch for the results from today’s semifinal football game, via television or a newspaper. Win or lose, he’s a Cardinal with an eye on the big picture.
“I’m feeling pretty fortunate to be able to live this long, and get by,” Schell said.
Tom Gilchrist is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org