Thursday, February 02, 2017

StVHS Sports: 1927/28

Vintage St. Vincent High School pennant from 1920s

[Guest article by Michael Rustad, originally from nearby Humboldt, MN]

In the summer of 1999, my daughter Erica and I visited the town of St. Vincent.

There is no longer a bridge connecting the central business districts of Pembina, North Dakota and St. Vincent. The old bridge connecting the towns that I remember as a child has long been dismantled. The places that I remember in St. Vincent have long since closed. Short's Cafe, Sylvester's Store, the Curling Rink, St. Ann's Catholic Church, and the St. Vincent Fairgrounds. The curling rink is now neglected and in state of decay. The Church is a private residence. The St. Vincent School, too, is in a state of benign neglect. The school is in disrepair and the fire escape slide detached.

It was difficult for me to explain to my daughter that St. Vincent was once a bustling community. We attended catechism each summer in the basement of St. Ann's Catholic Church. We had a large number of ball games in the yard outside the church which is now overgrown and marred by abandoned cars. When my sister and I visited the Kittson County Museum in Lake Bronson, I was amazed to find some high school yearbooks [called Borderlines] from St. Vincent High School. St. Vincent High School closed in the late 1930s and never reopened. Instead, it eventually consolidated its school district with Humboldt from 1957 to 1991.
[Note from Trish:  In-between StVHS closing and St. Vincent consolidating with Humboldt, students had the choice of attending Pembina High School, or other schools in Kittson County like Hallock...]
It was an unexpected joy to find yearbooks from the St. Vincent High School from the 1920s. This was a yearbook from a small town in NW Minnesota prior to the Depression. High school life in St. Vincent was marked by lots of school spirit judging from the many activities. St. Vincent fielded a football team, basketball team, hockey team, track team and baseball team in [school year] 1927/28.

"If you could walk or run, you were in the starting line-up."

A yearbook entry from 1927/28 reveals that St. Vincent fielded a competitive football team. The team photograph above included:
Front: Harris Easter, John Fitzpatrick, Allen Smith, Billy MacKay, Jimmy Bernath.
Center: Ralph Cameron, Johnny Smith, Donald Hutchins, Merlin Twamley.
Back: G.H. Good (Professor & Coach), Fred Stranger, Jim Gooselaw, George Sylvester. 
The first game of the fall 1927 season pitted Stephen against St. Vincent in a home game. John Fitzpatrick and Merlin Twamley, the tackles on the St. Vincent team, were described as husky and good tacklers. George Sylvester, later to become proprietor of Sylvester's General Store made what was described as a "sensational run of 60 yards" to score a touchdown. Jim Gooselaw scored another touchdown on a 70 yard punt return. Stephen won the game 26 to 12. This game was held as one of the attractions of the St. Vincent Fair. The reporter for the game wrote: "The game was played on a warm afternoon with very little wind to interfere. The game was played in connection with the Kittson County Fair. It was added as a special feature."

St. Vincent next traveled to Neche and played a game in miserable conditions of rain and mud. Both teams were backed in the shadow of the goal posts. Neche scored seconds before the end of the game to beat St. Vincent 6-0. St. Vincent moved the ball better than Neche and had twice as many first downs (8 versus 4).

The third game of the season was played in Stephen. Stephen won 47-0 despite Jim Gooselaw's heroics. Gooselaw carried the ball for 256 yards and George Sylvester carried the ball for another 56 yards.

The fourth game of that fall was played on October 19 at St. Vincent against Neche. This game was described as a punter's dual between Lee of Neche and Gooselaw from St. Vincent. Gooselaw, however, ran 60 yards for a score followed by another long gain by Fred Stranger. Stranger, St. Vincent's quarterback, scored and the game ended 12-0.

St. Vincent was beaten decisively by Cavalier. Cavalier's team in 1927 consisted of all seniors. The reporter described Cavalier as the strongest team in the state. Cavalier beat Devils Lake, Valley City and Grafton, so that a defeat of 67-0 " the hands of Cavalier was no disgrace."

Jim Bernath, a star player on the team became a leading citizen and one of our neighbors. Jim and Dora Bernath had two children, Mary Ann and Jerry, who were classmates. Merlin Twamley, one of the leading tacklers, had a large family with a child in nearly every grade of the Humboldt-St.Vincent School. Billy MacKay ran the Customs House at Noyes (succeeding his father1). Fred Stranger become the proprietor of a popular cafe in St. Vincent. The Easters were long associated with the St. Vincent Elevator.

The 1927/28 tennis team featured Ralph Cameron, James Bernath, James Gooselaw, Donald Hutchins, Brooks Perry and William MacKay.

St. Vincent's Track Team was the best in the area. Jim "Ace" Gooselaw was one of its top track stars and won numerous first place ribbons and trophies.  James Bernath is pictured as a lanky young man with glasses holding a shot put. I always remember Jim Bernath with that cheerful visage, one of the good guys!

Standing:  James Gooselaw, Fred Stranger, James Bernath, George Sylvester, and Ralph Cameron.
Seated:  Brooks Perry.  Note the athletes holding the disc, shot put, and javelin.  Perry holds a trophy,
but we cannot read the plate as to what it was for.  One can only wonder where the pennants, trophies,
and other objects of the school's history are now - Kittson Central H.S.?  Kittson County Museum?

St. Vincent won the county track meet held at Hallock by a score of 86 1/2 to 39 1/2. James Gooselaw scored 33 1/2 points almost equally the second place team. Gooselaw won seven firsts and tied for a third. Gooselaw won every event: all dashes and weight events. Carlson from Hallock won the high jump at 5 ft. 1 inch. Anderson of Hallock won the baseball throw. Gooselaw faced little competition in any event. Anderson was described as the "sensational Hallock speed marvel." St.Vincent High School won "the beautiful loving cup." The reporter for the meet noted that "...the boys say they are going to keep it."

Another meet was held on May 11th with four contesting teams. The high school boys won the trophy for top track team for three successive teams. "The Upper Grade Boy" returned with the pennant, allotted their group, with a large margin. The trophy offered the highest "school tally" is now in the hands of the St. Vincent School.

In another track meet St. Vincent won first place in the first five events, second place in the following three events and fourth place in the ninth event. Once again, Jim Gooselaw was the crown jewel of the St. Vincent track team, winning more "...first place ratings than any contesting team." The reporter also mentioned the contributions of Roy Clow, George Sylvester, Ralph Cameron, Harris Easter, Fred Stranger, Jim Bernath, Brooks Perry and Donald Hutchins. The events mentioned in the track stories were: 1) 75 Yard Dash; 2) 8 pound shot put; 3) running high jump; 4) running broad jump and 5) relay races.

The yearbook also mentioned some of the track teams of the lower grades. Winton Cameron and Nazareth Gooselaw were stars on the Upper Grade Track Team. Louis and Manual Gooselaw won 1st and 2d place in every event. The reporter hopes that Manual will join the High School Team the next year. He also has high hopes for Louis, his younger brother. St. Vincent's athletic success could be summarized with three word: the Gooselaw family! The Gooselaw girls were also strong athletes. Rose and Violet were excellent players for the upper grade girls. Rose Gooselaw,Violet Cleem, Mary Stranger and Mary Easter were upper grade girls who excelled in sports. The girl's high school track team featured Mamie Cleem, Isabel Fitzpatrick, Lelia Davis, Fidessa Wilkie and Alberta Fitzpatrick.

The year book also mentioned that the girls competed in a singing contest, winning second place. St. Vincent had outstanding community support for its teams. St. Vincent, which is 20 miles from Hallock, had 100 students and supporters at the County Track Meet.

The St. Vincent baseball team (no photo of the team in yearbook) played Lancaster in their first game that year losing 7 to 6. The yearbook reported upcoming games with Hallock and Pembina.

The St. Vincent lineup had Robert Cameron as Pitcher; Jim Gooselaw as Catcher, Jim Bernath at First Base; Herb Easter at Second Base; Manual Gooselaw at Third Base; Billy MacKay as Short Stop; Fred Stranger in Center Field; Brooks Perry in Left Field; and J. Bielemayer in Right Field. Arnold Reese, Allen Smith and Don Hutchins were reserves.

I would be remiss in not mentioning the girls' basketball team from 1927/28. The starting lineup had Mamie Cleem as Center. Fern Fitzpatrick was the right forward. Lelia Davis was the left forward. The guards were Isabelle Fitzpatrick and Fidessa Wilkie. Verlie Cameron was the first reserve to come in. Violet Cleem and Mae Gamble were also reserves. The first game was the high school team versus the women from the town of St. Vincent.

Members of the town team: Eva Parenteau, Dorothy Bernath, Edith Clow, Ruth Davis, Flora Perry, and Cecilia Bielemeyer. The girls had colorful nicknames. Mamie Cleem was known as "Slivers". Ferne Fitzpatrick was nicknamed "Coon". Fidessa Wilkie was "Fido" and Verlie Cameron was the "Plug." Violet Cleem's nickname was "Cutie." The game on December 9, 1927 ended with a tie.

St. Vincent Girls WIN!
St. Vincent's team played their second game with Stephen. The boy's coach, Good, acted as referee. The game was rough. Isabelle Fitzpatrick (Issy) cracked two fingers. Ferne "Coon" Fitzpatrick twisted a knee and was substituted for by Cutie Cleem. Mamie Cleem led all scores with 12 points followed by Cutie with 6 and Lelia "Lee" Davis with 3. It must have been a tough match. Even the referee got knocked against the wall and lost his whistle. The final score was 21 to 16 in favor of St. Vincent. 

St. Vincent lost the return match with Stephen on January 20, 1928. The reporter noted, "Cutie played in Coon's place on account of the latter's sore leg." Again, the game was physical: "Issy received a large lump on her arm from her small Swede forward." Pembina played the St. Vincent woman's team on February 8, 1928. The game ended in a 10 to 10 tie!

I found the St. Vincent yearbooks to be interesting records of what was obviously a very spirited high school. As I drove past the forlorn building in August of 1999 with my daughter, I tried to take my mind's eye back to the school's heyday in the 1920s.

1 - From MacKay v. Railway Express Agency, Inc.: William Fraser MacKay became a custom-house broker in 1900, while in charge of the office of the Great Northern Railway Company and the Great Northern Express Company at St. Vincent, Minnesota, then a port of entry located four miles south of Noyes, and ever since that time his main business has been the custom-house brokerage business. In 1904 the Great Northern and Soo Lines built a joint station at Noyes and the United States Customs Office was then moved to Noyes. In 1905 plaintiff was employed in a supervisory capacity for the joint station of the two railroads and he continued in that capacity until June 11, 1946. Plaintiff's duties with these two railroads were supervisory in character and required only a limited portion of his time. These duties were performed by him in addition to his duties as a custom-house broker. At the same time that plaintiff became the supervisory agent of the two railroads he also became supervisory agent of the two express companies then operating, and he continued in this capacity for the two express companies until they were absorbed by the American Railway Express Company as of July 1, 1918. This company was formed as a war measure for the purpose of consolidating the seven express companies then in existence and was employed by the Director General of Railroads to conduct the express transportation business on all lines of railroad under federal control. During the period immediately following the advent of the American Railway Express Company plaintiff was the only individual custom-house broker at the Port of Noyes and he continued to conduct his custom-house brokerage business which he had built up over the preceding eighteen years and at that time he had powers of attorney for such purpose from approximately 75 per cent of the shippers and importers.

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