The crowd was going crazy at Dort Memorial Field. The inaugural Thanksgiving Game between the Central Red-blacks and Northern Eskimos was scoreless midway through the fourth quarter and Central had just made the first mistake. The Red-blacks were pegged back against the goal line when the running back fumbled the ball while fighting for more yardage. A scrum ensued and when the pile was finally sorted out, the ball was in the hands of an Eskimo on the one-yard line. Now, with all the momentum on his side, Northern’s quarterback, Joe Supak, needed to capitalize. Just a year before, he and all of his current teammates were lining up alongside their Central adversaries and joining them in classes and rallies. At this moment, Supak had the chance for glory and bragging rights over his former friends. The crowd hushed as Supak started his cadence. On “three!” the ball was snapped. Supak took the ball and leapt forward under the protection of his linemen, extending the ball forward as far as he could reach. When the play was over, the ball had crossed the goal line and after a perfect extra-point kick, Northern led 7-0. After holding off a frantic comeback attempt by Central, Northern left for Thanksgiving dinner as winners. The rivalry holiday game would last for nearly 50 years with the final game played in 1976 and won by the Central Indians 7-6.
When the Flint High School year ended in 1927, the students didn’t know what to expect when they returned. A new high school was being constructed on the corner of McLellan and Buick Streets next to Emerson Junior High, and no student knew to what school they would be assigned. In the early 20s, Flint, along with the rest of the country, was booming. The new Flint High School building was built only four years previous and was already overcrowded. So, a new school was proposed, accepted and quickly finished. Dubbed Flint Northern, it was set to open the next school year. (In 1928, Flint High School was officially renamed Flint Central.)
As soon as classes began in 1928, Flint Northern was a powerhouse in both academics and sports, winning its first two state championships just two years later in football (behind bruising fullback, James McCrary) and in tennis. Soon thereafter, the mascot was changed to the Vikings and the first of many basketball championships was won under legendary Coach, Jim Barclay.
As a way to commemorate the school’s 25 anniversary in 1953, the Wildanger Field House was built along with a new auto shop and cafeteria. In 1955, Charles Stewart Mott had the Manley Pool built as a gift to the school and in 1961, the Henry Cook Auditorium was dedicated. In 1963, track and cross country Coach Norbert Badar won the first of five state championships with his last coming in 1981.
By 1967, the Northern student body was outgrowing the building and a new school was proposed off of Mackin Rd. The new building was opened in 1972 and the old building became the new junior high. (From 1976-1988, the old building housed Flint Academy. The building was demolished after the 1988 academic year.)
In the ‘70s, Northern High owned the basketball court. Coach Bill Frieder won back-to-back men’s titles in 1971-72 and women’s basketball Coach Dorothy Kukulka guided her team to four straight titles from 1978-81, led by the McGee sisters.
As the world crept into the 1990s, Flint Community Schools were dealing with declining enrollment and lost revenue. Still, Northern kept up its winning tradition and in 1995, would have its best athletic year winning state titles in men’s basketball, women’s basketball and wrestling. Those three titles, however, would be the school’s last. Northern continued to suffer enrollment decline and would close for good at the end of the 2013 school year.
Flint Northern was a school built on excellence. The students settled for nothing but their very best efforts (they only celebrated state championships and nothing less). All in all, Northern won a total of 33 state championships, an impressive number that may never be surpassed by any other Genesee County institution. Until that happens, Flint Northern will be remembered as the Home of the State Champions.
1933, 1936, 1939, 1940 (Coach Jim Barclay)
1947 (Coach Les Ehrbright)
1971, 1972 (Coach Bill Frieder)
1978 (Coach Bill Troesken)
1995 (Coach Tony Holiday)
1978, 1979, 1980, 1981 (Coach Dorothy Kukulka)
1994, 1995 (Coach Leteia Hughley)
Men’s Cross Country
1974 (Coach Norbert Badar)
Women’s Cross Country
1981 (Coach Norbert Badar)
1930, 1956, 1960 (Mythical)
1930 (Coach Lois Nickels)
1950, 1955, 1961 (Coach William Cave)
1963, 1976, 1979 (Coach Norbert Badar)
1979, 1980 (Coach Al Sigman)
1981, 1983 (Coach George Dedrick)
1963 (Coach Francis Bentley)
1995 (Coach Al Collins)
Notable Flint Northern Graduates
Wayman Britt (1971)
Leroy Bolden (1951)
Steve Boros (1955)
Mateen Cleaves (1995)
Eugene Marve (1978)
Mike Miller (1977)
Deanna Nolan (1996)
Thomas Rawls (2011)
Robaire Smith (1995)
Leo Sugar (1947)
Bunyan Bryant, U of M Professor (1953)
Tony Burton, Actor (1955)
Dan Kildee, Congressman (1977)
Jack Minore, State Representative (1956)