Bellows Falls sports history

Last fall Bob Miller, publisher of The Vermont Journal & The Shopper, gave me about a dozen antique glass plate negatives. These negatives were something Bob’s father had owned. I sat in Bob’s office holding the glass negatives up to the light so I could see what the images were.

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1910 Bellows Falls High School baseball team. Photo provided by Bob Miller

I should mention when handling these old glass negatives, you should always hold them by their edges. Never put your fingers on the surface of the glass plate. This will leave fingerprints on the image and can ruin the emulsion surface rendering the plate useless.

There are a few negatives that were taken in Adams and North Adams, Mass. My grandmother, Carrie Gay Patch, was from North Adams so these negatives were of interest to me. Of local interest are several negatives of Bellows Falls sports teams. There are baseball team negatives, a 1909 football team, as well as the 1910 track and field team.

I took the negatives to Newsbank here in Chester to have them scanned and put on a disc. Over the years, Newsbank has scanned several hundred glass negatives for the Chester Historical Society. Tom Hildreth converted the tiffs to jpegs for me.

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1909 Bellows Fall High School football team. Photo provided by Bob Miller

Now that the negatives are scanned I can clearly see each photo. In the “History of Rockingham 1907-1957” by Lovell, I found some relevant history. While we have the negatives, I’m sure that someone has the original printed photos. These paper prints often have information written on the reverse.

Below is what I found in Lovell’s history.

“A.E. Tuttle was Bellows Falls High School Principal from 1904-1924. In 1912 the new playground had ‘arrived to stay’ as Dr. Elmer, athletic director at the high school said, it was pretty wonderful. Track meets had been held in Assembly Hall; no wonder that, years later, Mr. Tuttle declared the hall unsafe for large crowds. Baseball and football were practiced and games played at Barber Park and the boys rode back and forth on the trolleys.

“There was no real manual training course nor physical education in the early history of the school until 1908 when the first such course in Vermont was started here.

  “Among the men who have made the name BFHS famous – or perhaps it was the other way around – was Owen Murphy, the most outstanding athlete to come out of the school. He was the son of John Murphy of Center Street and a freshman in 1920 when it soon became evident that the school was destined to have a crack athlete in football, baseball and track. During his senior year, along with Bill McAvoy, he brought home the state championship from Burlington track meet. He was one of St. Michael’s best men for a year in football until the major colleges got their eye on him and he chose Boston College in 1924. While there he had three years as halfback in football, three years as basketball guard, three years as baseball outfielder and pitcher and one year as track broad jumper, earning the honor of being the second athlete up to that time to win four sport letters. 

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1910 Bellows Falls Track & Field team. Photo provided by Bob Miller

“Paul ‘Bucky’ O’Connor, a big lad from North Walpole who graduated from Mt. Kilbourne School there and BFHS in 1923, went to Notre Dame that same year. At B.F. he played fullback for three years and was on the baseball team but he really excelled in football, rated, in his senior year as the outstanding star in football circles. At Notre Dame not too much was heard from him until, as a senior, Knute Rockne gave him his big chance at Southern California where so many Notre Dame men were laid up from injuries that O’Connor was called in to help out. There were 105,000 people in the stands and Rockne’s team hadn’t a chance – until the opposition receiving the ball and putting a perfect play through the California’s left flank with every blocker getting his man, a large hole was opened and O’Connor, seeing his chance, went right through it for 80 yards and a touchdown. He scored again and his name went all over the country as the New England boy who upset world football and his name is still mentioned when football is talked—the boy who didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘quit.’

“In 1944 Bellows Falls won the state football championship defeating Springfield, 75-0.”

Perhaps a reader will know the history of these early 1900s sports teams and contact me. The “ball” is in your court.

  This week’s old saying is from Yogi Berra. “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might wind up somewhere else.”

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