FROM PANTHER VALLEY AREA SPORTS HISTORY
Where yesterday's stadium, cinder tracks and gymnasiums the places where yesteryears' sports heroes gained their right to fame ? Of course, you'll answer, "Where else ?"And we say their reputations were really made--not where they performed their acts of daring-do--but in the fire-houses, the pool-halls, the bar-rooms, the barbershops, the garages, the gas-stations and in ethnic social-halls, where men made their second homes in the good old days when radios were run on wet-batteries and television was beyond the greatest comprehension.
For these were the institutions where the words of all men were respected, listened to, deliberated upon and argued about to pass the boring hours of the evening. These were the edifices where conversation reigned because there was nothing else to take its place. It was in such places that the concepts of the Constitution of the United States were fully exercised--the right to speak--the enjoyment of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Each particular place of masculine retreat offered what each individual truly desired. The well-groomed man frequented the barbershop. The man of thirst had his bar-room. The pool-hall held interest for the gambling man. The gas-station harbored the daring man--the owner of a Durant, a Paige or Model-T Ford. And nthe ethnic social-halls offered certain men the fullest opportunity to communicate with others of the same background--who shared discussions in the mother - tongues of LITHUANIA, SLOVAKIA, HUNGARIA, POLAND--their original place of birth. And not forgetting the fire-houses where a man wasted away his liesure hours ever-waiting for the alarm to sound that he could serve his neighbor.
It was in such gathering places where yesterday's sports heroes gained their reputations as super - stars in the universe of athletic endeavor. Here, the hometown hero was gently lifted onto a Grecian pedestal to receive the plaudits of his worshippers. It was here, too, he was knoced off the same pedestal with a pick-axe handle if he as much as fumbled the ball, missed a critical basket or dropped a baton the very same afternoon.
More All-American teams ( with the members all being from the PANTHER VALLEY ) were selected by customers of MILLEN'S BARBER SHOP in LANSFORD than ever made print in the Associated Press columns. The acts of super-human heroics on the playing fields of our valley towns and hamlets were hashed over and over in the fire-halls of TAMAQUA, COALDALE, LANSFOR, SUMMIT HILL, NESQUEHONING to such a point that if the Saturday afernoon football hero wanted the fire chief's job--he could have it for asking.
To hear it told in the pool-halls, " FROGER" GILTNER and LES ASPLUNDH held a punting contest during a practice session late one Fall afternoon. It became gospel fact the LES stood on the south goal-line of COALDALE'S field and booted one into an upstairs window in LAIGON'S HOME on Phillip Street. By accurate measure this punt travelled, in flight, from the point of ASPLUNDH'S TOE into the window. a distance of 156 yards.
In "BUNKER" BOYLE'S saloon in LANSFORD it was told the "BIG JOE" GARLAND broke the legs of five opponent guards, the shoulder-blades of three opposing tackles and smashed the noses of four backfield opponents--all in one season. The steady customers in "BUSTER" HOBAN'S saloon stated that GARLAND topped BILL "HONEYBOY" EVANS' record by Three Fractures.
The gentlemen who enjoyed the privilege of membership in the LITHUANIAN CLUB, or the POLISH CLUB or the other Centeral-European ethnic social-halls alleged that their sons were the backbones of the COALDALE BIG GREEN and the lesse area high school teams. This you could believe with the names like LUJACK, PAVLICK, BUBERNIAK, FLYZIK, and KALENIAK who starred as giants among football mem.
Reverend Frank Pascoe invoked prayers for the sons of his ENGLISH CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH--who offered their bodies to the fates and the foe all during Autumn. This meant the MORGANS, the WILLIAMS, the PHILLIPS and the EVANS had Someone up there watching over them.
The RIGHT REVEREND FATHER ANGELINI was not called on to pray for the few ITALIANS playing on the BIG GREENS because he did not yet arrive in NEW COLUMBUS to guide his flock. So, FATHER ROBERT HAYES prayed for the ITALIAN boys at the same time he was asking the Lord to make safe the day for his brawny IRISH lads wearing the GREEN of course, of COALDALE'S fine PROFESSIONAL TEAM. Truthfully, someone had to pray for the GIANTS of CASEY GILDEA'S EMPIRE--because the players were too damn busy worrying about the FRANK "YELLOWJACKETS" next Sunday than they were about praying.
FATHER EDDIE BOYLE always came over from TUSCARORA to see his hometown friends from COALDALE knocking themselves out on the playing field. One time, JOHN "P" McGeehan asked FATHER ED to say a prayer for him before a crucial game. FATHER ED replied: "If you're man enough to play footbll be man enough to pray for yourself !" "P" McGeehan got even with Father Boyle a few months later when the good priest put the "BEE" oon John for a donation to buy coal for his little church and rectory in Tuscarora. "P" smiled at Father Boyle and said: "You only work One Day a Week, Father. Go out and pick your own coal !" But you can bet John McGeehan helped keep the church fires going in Tuscarora with a crinkly twenty he slipped into his boyhood friend's hand.
Winters long ago in the PANTHER VALLEY were long and severe. "SQUIRE" FISHER often used the horses and sled to deliver milk to his customers. And in the bar-rooms, pool-halls, fire-stations, barbershops, gas-stations and the ethnic groups social-halls the accomplishments of the COALDALE BIG GREEN and the up-and-coming respective towns' high school teams took on proportions that made Paul Bunyan look like a piker.
It was in such places heroes received their shiny wreathes--luckily those heroes were not there in person to receive such honors or their helmets never would fit their heads anymore.
And in spite of myth--PANTHER VALLEY athletic heroes of yesteryear were ordinary guys--just like you and I--with one exception. They made their dreams come true while our burst like pretty bubbles in the sky.
SUBMITTED BY: RICHARD C. REHATCHEK