Union Hill High School

Union Hill High School was a public high school serving students in grades 9–12 from Union City in Hudson County, New Jersey, United States, operating as one of two high schools of the Union City Board of Education, an Abbott District.[1] The school was built in—and named for—what was formerly Union Hill, New Jersey, a municipality which merged with West Hoboken in 1925 to form Union City. Until 2008, Union Hill was one of the city's two high schools, with the former Emerson High School the other. The Union Hill and Emerson campuses continued to serve high school students for an additional year as separate campuses of the new Union City High School, after which that school's main campus was completed and both schools were converted to their current designation. The building that housed Union Hill High School is now Union Hill Middle School and houses students in grades seven and eight.[2]

Union Hill High School
3800 Hudson Avenue

, ,

United States
Coordinates40°46′26″N 74°01′24″W / 40.773754°N 74.023435°W / 40.773754; -74.023435
School districtUnion City School District (New Jersey)
Color(s)Orange and Blue

History Edit

Union Hill originally opened at Union Hill High School. It served the town of Union Hill. In 1925, the town merged with its neighbor to the south, West Hoboken, which had been served by Emerson High School, to form the city of Union City.[3] As the city was now served by two high schools, students who lived north of Route 495 (which previously divided the two municipalities) would attend Union Hill, while those who lived south of it would attend Emerson, though that boundary was shifted in later years to keep the school enrollments roughly equal.[4]

By 2007, both Union Hill and Emerson, which are separated by one mile, had close to 1,500 students and offered the same schedule, courses, and after-school sports, and their test scores and student demographics were comparable. Unlike Emerson, Union Hill did not have a Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program, though Union Hill had a stronger arts program than Emerson, and both schools had different career education programs that allowed students to pursue interests like child care, hospitality, and fashion (the city was once known for its embroidery factories). Superintendent of Schools Stanley M. Sanger stated in 2007 that he received 25 to 40 requests a year from students who want to switch to the rival high school due to a particular academic interest or a family connection. Most such requests were granted.[4]

In September 2009, Union Hill High School and Emerson High Schools converted into middle schools, and a new school, Union City High School, opened for grades 10–12 in new a building on the site of the former Roosevelt Stadium.[4]

The school was the 233rd-ranked public high school in New Jersey out of 316 schools statewide, in New Jersey Monthly magazine's September 2008 cover story on the state's Top Public High Schools. The school was ranked 268th in the magazine's September 2006 issue, which surveyed 316 schools across the state.[5]

Athletics Edit

During Union Hill and Emerson's time as Union City's two high schools, the Union Hill Hillers and the Emerson Bulldogs were rivals in athletics. In competing for the Hudson County Interscholastic Football Championship, Union Hill beat Emerson five consecutive years from 1923 to 1927. During the November 1927 game, Union Hill beat their rivals 19 to 0 in front of a crowd of 12,000 people.[6]

The boys' basketball team won the Group IV state championship in 1919 (defeating Passaic High School in the tournament final), 1955 (vs. New Brunswick High School) and 1956 (vs. Trenton Central High School).[7] A crowd of 2,000 spectators at Rutgers University saw the 1956 team win their second straight Group IV title, holding off Trenton with a 70-68 victory in the championship game.[8]

The boys' bowling team won the overall state championship in 1972.[9]

Turkey game Edit

For 88 consecutive years, the most notable aspect of their rivalry on the field was the annual Turkey Game, held on Thanksgiving, a tradition that began in 1919, when the high schools served the neighboring towns of West Hoboken in the south and Union Hill in the north, a rivalry described as "simmering hatred" that gave the schools' principals cause to fear that the first game might turn ugly. That game ended in a tie of 0–0. When the towns of Union Hill and West Hoboken merged in 1925 to form the city of Union City, the Turkey Game remained, despite the fact that schools in the same district usually do not often compete directly against each other.[4]

In the 1930s and 1940s, the Turkey Game attracted as many as 15,000 fans. A wooden chariot would be pulled around the field at halftime, carrying the football king and queen from the defending school, who were booed and pelted with paper when they got to the opposing side of Roosevelt Stadium. This part of the tradition fell into disuse by the early 1970s.[4]

The Alumni Trophy, which was awarded to the victor of the annual Turkey Game, now sits in Union City High School. On the lower right of the trophy is the inscription:
End of an Era

Stanley M. Sanger, who graduated from Emerson in 1969, and who never set foot in Union Hill until he became a teacher, characterized the Union Hill–Emerson rivalry by saying, "It's our Mason–Dixon line. You knew Union Hill was north and Emerson was south, and you respected the boundary. It was the natural state of things." An old traditional greeting before the game was "Are we having hot turkey or cold turkey?", as the loser was said to eat "cold turkey", figuratively speaking. Over the decades, coaches were known to zealously guard their game plans and players, who were alert for spies, were often excused from their classes to practice in secret locations. When sharing Roosevelt Stadium for practice, they would use opposite ends of the 50 yard line. While the athletic coaches were not permitted to recruit players from the rival school, students were known to often recruit players from the elementary and middle schools to attend their high schools. A 50 lbs. brass trophy whose base is engraved with scores from every game, was passed back and forth between the two schools, and the winning school was rewarded with a half-day of school on the Monday after the game. According to David Wilcomes, a former football player and later football coach and the last principal of Union Hill High School, the Turkey Game developed a nearly religious significance as a Thanksgiving ritual for Union City citizens,[10] and a loss for one's favored team would cast a pall upon the day's subsequent holiday festivities, commenting, "If you don't win, it's a long Thanksgiving dinner." Wilcomes, whose father also played for Union Hill, stated that he stopped answering his home phone following losing games because of the endless reviewing and second-guessing of his strategies by various relatives. By 2007, the Union City district spent $130,000 annually on football.[4]

Neither school was a regional powerhouse. Statistically, both endured cycles of consecutive wins and losses, and were roughly even in statistics, with Emerson having won 40 games, Union Hill, 39, and 9 ties. Union Hill won the 2006 game, while Emerson won the seven games prior. The Turkey Game tradition ended with its final game on November 22, 2007, prior to the two schools' merger into Union City High School, which is now housed on the site of the former Roosevelt Stadium, and features an athletic field on its roof. (During the year between the end of the Turkey Game and the September 2009 opening of Union City High School, the two schools shared the facilities at José Martí Middle School.) The district spent $2,000 on newspaper ads to invite alumni from around the state to the game and to an alumni breakfast that preceded it. The district installed additional bleachers to accommodate an expected turnout of more than 4,000. It sold commemorative tickets featuring photos of the 1919 Union Hill and Emerson teams, and a game program whose proceeds went the new school's scholarship fund. During the final game, both principals sat together at halftime to present a united front, and the players on both teams were required to wear T-shirts bearing the new school's name under their shoulder pads.[4] The final Turkey game was attended by 6,000 spectators, including Senator Robert Menendez[11] (an alumnus of Union Hill[12]), and saw Union Hill beat Emerson with a score of 20–8, tying Emerson's historical win record of 40-40.[11]

The Turkey Game trophy is today housed in Union City High School,[4] whose players are known as the Soaring Eagles.[13] The end of the Turkey Game came amid waning Thanksgiving football traditions in communities across the United States, as earlier football seasons and competing holiday demands on players and their families made them less relevant. Post-holiday state championships have also overtaken such traditions in importance, as coaches grew reluctant to risk injury to players headed for the championships.

Notable alumni Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ Abbott School Districts, New Jersey Department of Education. Accessed June 15, 2016.
  2. ^ "School Data for the Union City School District". National Center for Education Statistics. Archived from the original on August 29, 2023. Retrieved August 29, 2023.
  3. ^ Snyder, John P. The Story of New Jersey's Civil Boundaries: 1606-1968, Bureau of Geology and Topography; Trenton, New Jersey; 1969. p. 148. Accessed June 18, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Hu, Winnie (November 22, 2007). "After 88 Years of Rivalry, the Last as Us and Them". The New York Times. Accessed January 2, 2008. "But today's so-called Turkey Game signals the end of the tradition. Next fall, the two schools will merge in a new $176 million building.... The new Union City High School will take up four-and-a-half acres in the center of the city, squeezed between row houses and commercial strips. It will have a football field and bleachers built on the roof so that players will no longer have to share the facilities at José Martí Middle School."
  5. ^ "Top New Jersey High Schools 2008: By Rank". New Jersey Monthly. September 2008. posted August 7, 2008. Accessed August 19, 2008.
  6. ^ Staff. "Union Hill Captures Hudson County Title; Vanquishes Emerson High School Eleven, 19 to 0, Before a Crowd of 12,000.", The New York Times, November 27, 1927. Accessed April 13, 2020. "Union Hill High defeated the Emerson High School eleven for the fifth successive year here today before 12,000 persons to clinch the Hudson County Interscholastic football championship. The score was 19 to 0."
  7. ^ NJSIAA Boys Basketball Championship History, New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. Accessed October 20, 2020.
  8. ^ Lovas, Joe. "Union Hill Retains Cage Crown In Group 4, 70-68; Hudson County School Top Trenton; Ramming, Orlando Ignite Last Period Rally", Herald News, March 19, 1956. Accessed March 11, 2021, via Newspapers.com. "Union Hill High School, which had waited 36 years to win a Group IV basketball championship last year at Elizabeth, repeated as New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association titleholder Saturday night at Rutger University Gym, New Brunswick. Before 2,200 fans, the Hillers of Hudson County staged a fourth quarter rally to defeat Trenton, 70-68, and win their third Group IV state crown."
  9. ^ History of NJSIAA Boys Bowling Championships, New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. Accessed September 1, 2020.
  10. ^ "The Last Turkey Game". The New York Times. November 24, 2007
  11. ^ a b Fahim, Kareen (November 24, 2007). "High Schools' Football Rivalry Is Now History". The New York Times.
  12. ^ a b "MENENDEZ, Robert, (1954 - )". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Accessed September 23, 2012.
  13. ^ Pizarro, Max (October 3, 2009). "Stack honors McGreevey at new high school opening". PolitickerNJ.
  14. ^ Al Bansavage, Pro-Football-Reference.com. Accessed November 26, 2019. "High School: Union City (NJ)"
  15. ^ Rappaport, Melissa. "A look inside", The Hudson Reporter, October 4, 2009. Accessed November 26, 2019. "School Business Administrator Anthony Dragona said the event brought in nearly 450 guests that included celebrities such as NFL Hall of Famer and NY Giant Harry Carson, who shared a few words about the importance of an education in his life; Union Hill graduate Bobby Cannavale, an actor; and Tito Puente Jr."
  16. ^ Benson, Michael (September 27, 2007). Everything You Wanted to Know About the New York Knicks: A Who's Who of Everyone Who Ever Played on or Coached the NBA's Most Celebrated Team. ISBN 978-1-4617-3478-9.
  17. ^ Hague, Jim. "A teen Latin pop star North Bergen resident featured on MTV’s Making Menudo", The Hudson Reporter, November 13, 2007. Accessed November 26, 2019. "'I’ve seen videos and heard their music,' said Escalante, a North Bergen resident and a recent graduate of Union Hill High School."
  18. ^ Fitzgerald's Legislative Manual, 1984, p. 284. Accessed April 13, 2020. "Mr. Fraguela was born June 7, 1955, in Cuba. He moved to Union City as a child and graduated from Union Hill High School in 1974."
  19. ^ "The Commissioner as the Artist!", The Hudson Reporter, October 11, 2009. Accessed November 26, 2019. "Commissioner Fernandez also tells us that he was a graduate of Union Hill High School in Union City, and in 1985 he achieved a bachelor of arts degree in Theater Arts at Rutgers University/Newark Campus."
  20. ^ Psarakis, Yannis. "Nikos Galis – Europe's Greatest-Ever Scorer". FIBA Europe. Accessed November 24, 2007. "Her horror at seeing her son come home every day with a new facial injury led to Galis taking up basketball and in 1970 began to play at Union Hill High School."
  21. ^ Strunsky, Steve. "In Person; A Former Sports Star Finds Politics A Rougher Field". The New York Times, October 22, 2000. Accessed June 4, 2010.
  22. ^ "Obituary: John W. Markert", The Star-Ledger, June 5, 2011. Accessed November 26, 2019 . "John W. Markert, a former mayor and New Jersey state legislator, died June 2, 2011, at his home in Hobe Sound, Fla.... Born in Union City, N.J., Mr. Markert graduated from Union Hill High School, Union City, and the RCA Institute of Technology in New York City."
  23. ^ "Tommy O'Brien". Peach Basket Society. November 11, 2015. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  24. ^ Doyle, Bill. "Togo Palazzi a 'coach, mentor, friend'", Telegram & Gazette, February 14, 2015. Accessed November 26, 2019. "Palazzi was named one of the top five high school players in the nation when he played for Union Hill High School in Union City, N.J., the same hometown as his future HC teammates Earle Markey and Tommy Heinsohn."
  25. ^ Pope, Gennarose (March 25, 2012). "Bridge of troubled Kennedy Boulevard". The Union City Reporter. p. 12.
  26. ^ Frederick Reines: The Nobel Prize in Physics 1995 – Autobiography, accessed April 5, 2007. "By this time the family had returned to New Jersey, and I was a student at Union Hill High School."
  27. ^ Silber, Zach. "Caridad Rodriguez (D-West New York)", New York Observer, February 28, 2011. Accessed November 26, 2019. "Born September 20, 1947, Mrs. Rodriguez attended Union Hill High School and studied to be a paralegal at Berkeley College."
  28. ^ Fred Shabel, UConn Hoop Legends. Accessed August 12, 2020. "Fred went to Union Hill High School in Union City, New Jersey, and played on the basketball team with other future New England great players Togo Palazzi and Tommy Heinsohn from Holy Cross University, and Billy Baird who played at the University of Rhode Island."
  29. ^ "Pedro Sosa Stats". ESPN. Accessed August 30, 2013.
  30. ^ "Pedro Sosa, G". CBS Sports. Accessed August 30, 2013.
  31. ^ Hague, Jim. "A dream comes true for Union City’s Sosa Former local grid standout and Rutgers lineman signs with Miami Dolphins", The Hudson Reporter, September 9, 2008. Accessed November 26, 2019. "Union City’s Pedro Sosa was one of those players. In the months prior to the NFL Draft, Sosa, the former Union Hill standout who had a brilliant career at Rutgers, thought he was going to get selected in the draft."
  32. ^ "NFL Event: Draft Player Profiles – Pedro Sosa". NFL. Accessed August 30, 2013.
  33. ^ Moses, Claire (October 15, 2009). "Hudson teen in Broadway cast of 'Bye Bye Birdie'". NJ.com. October 15, 2009
  34. ^ Hortillosa, Summer Dawn (August 12, 2011). "Union City actress lands a role in Broadway's 'Mamma Mia'". NJ.com
  35. ^ Rosero, Jessica (April 9, 2006). "Love and sharpshooting Union Hill High School presents 'Annie Get Your Gun'". The Hudson Reporter.
  36. ^ Staab, Amanda (April 5, 2009). "A local 'little woman'". The Hudson Reporter.

External links Edit