Huling Bowl tonight: Not just football rivalry; it’s about community

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Tonight, West Seattle High School and Chief Sealth International High School face off on what is now their shared home field, in the annual quest for the Huling Bowl.

Rather than out-and-out rivalry, it’s a celebration of community, points out Sam Reed, athletic director and activity coordinator for Sealth, which is this year’s host: A barbecue, the two schools’ bands and cheer squads performing together, for starters (more later).

But what about the game’s namesakes – the Huling family?

The name might not be familiar to the high schools’ players and students, since it’s been more than five years since the family’s name topped signs and buildings along Fauntleroy Way and Alaska Street, on sites that are now largely taken over by other businesses, like Trader Joe’s and Les Schwab Tires.

But while their namesake auto businesses are gone, the family is still deeply involved in the community, particularly in the support of education.

On Thursday, one day before Game Day, we sat down to talk with Steve Huling (Chief Sealth Class of 1965) and Sam Reed – not only about the game, but about the Huling Bowl’s origins.

Huling is a lifelong West Seattleite. He notes that he grew up at a house on Erskine Way, not far from Uptown Espresso, where we interviewed him.

Though he went to Sealth – where his graduating class numbered 700, suggesting a school population twice today’s 1,300 – he had cousins that went to West Seattle High School, and his best friend went to WSHS, also a ’65 grad. So many longtime West Seattleites who went to one of the schools have friends and relatives who went to the other, he considers it a “blended family.” Reed concurs, noting this game almost could be held without separate seating sections.

“Our family has always been particularly interested in education and youth and helping the community, it’s kind of what we do,” Huling told us, as he started to tell the story of how the Huling Bowl came to be.

It all started a decade ago, in 2002, when, Huling recalls, “We were asked by the leadership of the two schools if they could use our name to draw people to these games, that’s how it started.” He admits to being a little embarrassed about that, still not sure why that might have been a draw, but … They asked parents from WSHS and Sealth how they could help, he continues. “They said, ‘Can you buy us a trophy?'” That, they could do – here’s our 2010 photo of that trophy:

The Huling Bowl continued annually until 2007, the year the Huling Brothers dealerships were briefly under new ownership before permanently closing. The following year, 2008, “the community said, would you pick (the Huling Bowl) up again.” And the family did; 2008 happened to be the first year WSB covered the game.

The traditions that resumed included the pregame barbecue – here’s our 2009 photo of Steve and Tom Huling at the grill:

Tonight, it’ll be the principals – Sealth’s Chris Kinsey and WSHS’s Ruth Medsker – at the grill instead of the Hulings, though Steve and wife Sharon are planning to go to the game; Tom Huling, also a Sealth alum, sent word he’ll be there in spirit – the spirit of giving back to the community.

He was the athlete in the family, Steve Huling said of his brother. Tom lettered in football (as a quarterback) as well as in basketball and baseball. As for himself – Steve was a swimmer on the Y’s fabled Dolphins swim team, but otherwise, couldn’t even get onto the “yell squad.”

No hard feelings.

Along with the annual tradition that’ll play out tonight, their community support runs deep – and stretches around the city and region.

“I honestly believe that education keeps the kids out of trouble and gives them choices. Talk about freedom – it gives them freedom to have choices later in life, even if they don’t quite understand that now.”

Steve and Sharon Huling are involved in philanthropy and boards for local schools and nonprofits. Last night, they co-sponsored the Crisis Clinic‘s benefit; Sharon Huling is a board member. Steve says she chaired the Holy Rosary capital campaign a few years ago.

He is on the Board of Regents for Seattle University, where their son just started the MBA program. He is also on the President’s Advisory Council for South Seattle Community College (WSB sponsor).

Tom Huling supported the new YMCA in South King County.

But they also have been involved in college and high school programs, including marketing mentorship. Steve brought along books he still has that were prepared by students as part of those programs – with marketing plans and pitches. One book has photos from an auto-related program with which they were involved at West Seattle’s only private high school, Seattle Lutheran.

“It was fun to work with the kids,” Steve Huling enthuses.

And there were fun benefits like the celebrity golf tournament they sponsored on behalf of SSCC for 15 years. It built to the point of adding an auction, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars. His brother worked with the SSCC Foundation, too. And earlier this year at the college, Steve and Sharon Huling were there for the dedication of the Automotive Center named after them in honor of what they have given over the years.

He’s excited about a project that now involves both SSCC and his alma mater, Sealth, the Thirteenth Year Promise Scholarship. And there’s synergy between SSCC and Seattle U – whose regents will hear soon, he says, from SSCC president Gary Oertli. Former SSCC president, now college-system chancellor Dr. Jill Wakefield is a Seattle U regent, Huling explains.

One other datapoint we learn during our conversation: He was an Army Reservist. “A drill sergeant!” no less, in the 104th Light Weapons Infantry.

The conversation turns back to the Big Game.

Athletic director Reed recaps that there’ll be a DJ during the barbecue, 5:30-6:30 pm. Face paint will be available in either (or both!) school’s colors. Since it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, you’ll see a lot of pink, including the 150 socks purchased so both football teams, coaching staffs, and cheerleaders can wear them.

The bands will perform together and the cheerleaders will too at halftime.

“We’re expecting a really big crowd,” Reed says.

And you are invited to be part of it, whether your loyalties lie with WSHS, Sealth, both, or neither.

(Southwest Athletic Complex is at 2801 SW Thistle, just east of Southwest Pool/Teen Life Center/Neighborhood Service Center, with a big parking lot just west of the stadium.)

5 Replies to "Huling Bowl tonight: Not just football rivalry; it's about community"

  • Jennifer October 12, 2012 (9:10 am)

    As someone who was born in WS and raised here and still lives here I want to send a big Thank You to the Huling family. I love my neighborhood and growing up Huling was where my family went to buy cars and it’s where I bought my car…and still have it by the way. It’s old now and I dread not having Huling there to go get my next one! I appreciate all the support they have always given then community and continue to do so today. You are a role model of how people should be and I thank you.

  • Me October 12, 2012 (9:24 am)

    How much does it cost to get into the game for non-students?

  • AN October 12, 2012 (10:36 am)

    The high school football games are $6.00 for adults.

  • Russ Gendolfe October 13, 2012 (5:36 am)

    Steve and Sharon, Great story. You should be proud! Keep up the good work.

  • David Wright October 15, 2012 (9:02 am)

    Steve, Tom, Sharon: Your unselfish acts of support and love for your community will carry on long after we are gone. It was my privledge to have spent many years of my working life with the Hulings, and I never before or after have experianced a more genuine and true people. God bless them and their families.

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