Over the next several weeks we will occasionally be sharing some of Morgan’s Finest Behind the Scenes Volunteers over the past many years. This week’s choice was an easy one. Clifton Hanes was the man behind the football camera for 38 years (to the best of his recollection). From 1970 as a MCHS graduate until 2008 he only missed a handful of games taking care of the filming for the Morgan County Bulldogs.
Hanes mentioned a few others that could also be considered as some of the greatest volunteers in MCHS history including Dr. L.K. Lewis, Phil Neugebauer (the former filmer before his time), and Doyle Huff. There are many others we could include here.
The 66-year-old Bank of Madison employee for the past 28 years said, “I love my work. I’ve been fortunate enough to become the Chief Financial Officer, Senior Vice-President, and elected to the Board of Directors. It’s been a good run.” He also served 12 years on the Board of Education.
Hanes began his tenure as the filmer somewhat by default. Neugebauer was the first man to work behind the camera for Bill Corry when 16 mm black and white film first came into use around 1957. Hanes observed, “In 1970 Phil asked me to step in for him at the first game of the season. I had just graduated from high school, and he asked me to help him out. He knew that I knew cameras so I agreed. The school had an old Bell and Howell key driven camera that had to be wound between every play. It worked you to death. He told me it was easy, but I’d never done it. He handed me the camera at the old Baldwin Drug Store in front of the post office and told me that you only have 400 feet of film. Use it sparingly, but you may run out of film toward the end. I think I missed about the last 30-40 seconds of the game. Roscoe Carden was the head coach then.”
Neugebauer called him again the next week and the next finally telling him he wasn’t going to film again. Hanes got the job and spent the next three decades filming for the Dogs. It’s one of the most important yet thankless jobs you could ever have. He told us, “I filmed two years for Carden somehow making the 155 mile trek from Statesboro where I was in school back to Madison. Many times I had to hitch a ride with whoever I could. Somehow I made it to every game. He then filmed for head coaches Kelly Sargent, Wayne Bradshaw, Alvin Richardson, Richard (Dicky) Williams, and Kenny Moore.
Richardson is still an avid supporter and writer who covers the Bulldogs each week in the Morgan County Citizen. He said, “Clifton and I went to high school together and when I came back to Morgan County in 1987 he let me know that he would take care of filming the games. It meant a lot to me to have a trusted friend taking care of this critically important task. With Clifton doing that job there was never any worry on my part. I knew he would always be there and it would be done in a professional manner. Every coach will tell you how important it is to have a high quality game film to help teach the kids from. Clifton has always been very civic minded and his dedication to our kids and program was something I’ve always appreciated. Thanks Clifton for another job well done.”
Hanes gave some perspective of what it was like in those early years saying, “The filming at that time was sponsored by the Touchdown Club because the school didn’t have the money. The first years we only filmed four or five of the more important games like Region contests. Later they stepped up to do all the games. It was an expensive process; maybe $400 to $500 dollars per game. There was only one processing company in Macon (Middle Georgia Film Processing) that did all the processing for Georgia and other states in the Southeast. The film was delivered to the bus station late Friday night and picked back up the next night around 7:00 p.m. The coaches would spend the next night and most of Sunday pouring over the film for Monday’s practice against the next opponent. I filmed with 16 mm for about 14-15 years before the transition to videotaping.”
The father of two (Robert and Jennifer) gave some insight on what the conditions were like for filmers in his formative years. “You’re always perched at the highest spot on the press box. It was usually on the roof or in a crow’s next attached to a light pole. There was zero protection from the elements (he laughed). I’ve filmed in scorching heat, rain, snow, sleet, wind and everything in between. In places like Madison County and Oglethorpe there was a little crow’s nest. Filming from there was an art. I’m not a pole climber and didn’t work for Georgia Power or Southern Bell. You had to take a rope, hook to the camera and tripod and climb 40 feet to get up onto a little 4×4 sheet of plywood. There was a little hole to scoot up through. Those poles would sway two or three feet to each side on a windy night. Those were the days. Close friends like Buddy Hansen and Bill Cochran helped me out a lot through the years. We were loading film, watching and filming while trying not to fall off or drop our equipment.”
Hanes weighed in the changes over the years saying, “All the stuff today is amazing. Back then you traded films because you couldn’t afford to duplicate them. The technology today has changed everything, but you still have to have a filmer. People always told me I was lucky to have the best seat in the house when filming, but that wasn’t true. You were so busy between plays grabbing film, winding the camera, and getting ready for the next play that you really didn’t get to see the game the same way that fans did. It was somewhat of an abstract way of watching the game. I guess the perks were getting in the game for free and getting to watch a lot of great players. Someone once asked me if I was paid or got mileage or meal money. I just laughed. I was just a fan who loved going to the games.”
The grandfather of two (Katie-7, and Eliza-4) was also involved when the transition from 16 mm to videotape occurred. “It was a smooth transition. You no longer had the issue of changing film, losing plays, but you had a lot more equipment to tote. The camera, battery pack, extension cords, video player, video tapes and other electric equipment came into play. One concern you had was standing on a wet platform with all that electrical equipment. None of it was solid state at the time.”
Hanes completed his career at about 57 years old and told us, “They were fun years. In many ways I hated to give it up, but you get to a point where you’re better off to stop something when people still appreciate you. You don’t want to wait until people start to say when are you going to get out of here. There became a time where I didn’t know the kids, parents, and even their last names. I knew it was time to decide if there was someone else who could do it.”
He ended the interview with a statement about volunteers. It was a good one. “If everybody would just a little piece, then a few people don’t have to do it all.” It takes dozens of volunteers to run a football game. Hanes certainly did his part…in a big way.