History of the Hatchet Nickname
The name “Hatchets” is unique among school athletic teams. No other high school or college uses the “Hatchets” nickname for its teams. The team name was a result of the success of the Washington High School basketball teams between 1918 and 1925.
High school level athletics came to Washington, Indiana in 1896 when Washington High School fielded its first football team. Basketball was added in 1906. During these first years, Washington adopted old gold and black as the school’s colors. The school did not have an official mascot and the Washington High School athletic teams were simply known as “The Old Gold and Black”. Until the early 1920’s “The Old Gold and Black” was commonly used as the name for the Washington High School teams. That all changed when James “Bud” Gill began playing varsity basketball for Washington in 1922. Gill quickly became the star player for Washington. He was a three-year starter for Washington and he was captain of the 1925 state finalist team and later played at Indiana University. Gill’s family ran a funeral home and his nickname was “Undertaker”. Gill’s father at times furnished transportation for the team in the funeral home’s cars. Fans began calling the team the “Undertakers” instead of the traditional “Old Gold and Black”. Some people in the community were upset by, or at least disapproved of, “Undertakers” as a mascot for the local team.
At the beginning of the 1924-1925 basketball season Edward Brouillette, a sports reporter for the Washington Democrat, wrote a column calling for a name change. Washington rolled through the regular season with an 18-2 record, defeating opponents by an average of 19.6 points. As Washington marched through the regular season and into the final four of the state tournament, Brouillette had written in one of his columns that Washington had cut through its opponent just like George Washington’s hatchet had cut through the cherry tree. Brouillette began comparing Washington’s opponents to cherry trees and frequently referred to the team as “Washington’s Hatchets”.
The fans apparently like the idea. As the “Washington Hatchets” moved into the state tournament, the fans began to carry small wooden black and gold hatchets to the games. The “Hatchets “ advanced to the Final Four in 1925, losing to Frankfort, the eventual state champion in the semi-final game. After the 1925 state tournament, Washington’s coach, Harry Hunter, retired from coaching. A new coach named Burl Friddle was hired to take over the successful Washington program. Friddle, a future hall of fame member, like the idea of a new nickname. The member of the basketball team voted to ask the principal of Washington High School, A.O. Fulkerson, to approve “Hatchets” as the official name of the athletic teams of Washington High School. Fulkerson readily agreed with the team’s request. Since the 1925-1926 basketball season, all Washington High School teams have been officially known as the “Hatchets”.
With their new name, the “Hatchets” also had a new gymnasium. On November 6th, 1925, the Washington Hatchets opened the new gym, which quickly became known as “The Hatchet House”, with a 47-33 victory over Martinsville. The game was the first victory for a Washington team officially name the “Hatchets”. Playing in the game for Martinsville was a reserve player named John Wooden.
Sources: Hatchets (1905-1906) by Bill Richardson and Bob Padgett, The Washington Democrat, The Washington Herald, and Don Spillman
The Hatchet House
Washington takes great pride in this facility, as it is home to not only boys and girls Hatchet basketball, but also many community events, and finally is the yearly home for IHSAA sectional and regional basketball tournaments. The original Hatchet House, now our junior high gym facility, was constructed in 1925 and was home to three state championship teams in 1930, 1941, and 1942. Today’s Hatchet House opened in 1967 with a capacity of 7,090 seats. During the forty-three years it has been the home of the Hatchets, it has been the site of many great games and events, including being the home of the 2005 and 2008 3A state champions.
One of the most notable events to occur at the Hatchet House happened in February, 1968. Richard Nixon had agreed to speak at the Daviess County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner. In the days prior to the scheduled speech Nixon had announced his candidacy for President of the United States. The speech Nixon gave in the Hatchet House was the opening speech of his campaign for the Presidency. Another notable event was the hosting of the Soviet National Junior Olympic team’s game with the Indiana All-Stars in 1979. The Indiana All-Stars were led by Mr. Basketball, Steve Bouchie, of Washington. The Hatchet House has also hosted several exhibition games for the Indiana All-Stars and collegiate all-stars over the years.
Some of the notable figures to have appeared at the Hatchet House include current and former NBA players: Larry Bird, Damon Bailey, Calbert Chaney, Steve Alford, Craig Neal and Coach Jack Butcher (Indiana’s high school career win leader), NCAA championship coaches: Bob Knight and Roy Williams. Washington Hatchet All-Stars who have called the Hatchet House home include Julie Helm, IHSAA Mental Attitude Award winner, 1979 Mr. Basketball and Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame member, Steve Bouchie: 1983 All-Star and former NBA player and coach, and current associate head coach at New Mexico, Craig Neal; 2005 Mr. Basketball Luke Zeller (also a recipient of the IHSAA Trester Mental Attitude Award), and 2008 Mr. Basketball Tyler Zeller; and Hall of Fame member, Coach Dave Omer.
Cody Zeller 2011 Mr. Basketball Coach
Gene Miiller Hall of Fame Member
Hatchet Hollow, home to Washington Hatchets football, is a picturesque setting for high school football that is one on the unique football venues in the state of Indiana. The Hollow is one of the oldest high school football sites in Indiana, as games were first played at the site going back to 1937. The facility was built with federal works program money during the Great Depression.
Hatchet Hollow is situated between North Elementary and the Washington Armory just to the north of Washington High School. The field gained its name from a 1939 Washington newspaper reference to “having a big time down there in the hollow.” Concrete bleachers with locker rooms underneath provide a distinct home field advantage for the Hatchets.
Hatchet Hollow is also home to the famous Hollow Bell that is rung during all Hatchet touchdowns.