NORWAY – The coach of the 1957 and 1958 Norway High School football teams is hoping he’ll have one more meeting with his players when he returns here next week after nearly 50 years.
“I always remembered Norway, Maine, and the kids on my football team,” said Dan Kimball, 79, who lives in Lincoln, Calif., just outside Sacramento. He’s planning to come to Portland with a friend on Aug. 8 and drive to Norway around Aug. 10 in hopes of linking up with team members he hasn’t seen since 1959.
“I never forgot them. I’m looking at them hanging on my wall,” he said, rattling off the names of players Charlie Huff, Bobby Murch, Dave Eaton and Peter Fogg. “I thought some of these people might be around.”
Paris fire Chief Brad Frost was on the 1957 team, and 1958 co-captain Neil Brown of Norway played fullback and lineman.
“He was tough,” chuckled Brown. “I’ll tell you he got me on a better diet eating only whole grain breads. I stuck with that the rest of my life.”
Some of the 1958 players have died, including first string senior end Leon Truman, who was inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame just seven months after he passed away from cancer, senior end Dave Eaton and senior guard Joe Timberlake.
Number 49, Alan Robbins, who has since passed away, was the last player Kimball ever saw.
“He was in the Marine Corps in Camp Pendleton” in the early 1960s, Kimball said of his final contact with Robbins. “My wife and I brought him to Disneyland.”
Kimball grew up in Ohio and served in the 102nd Airborne Division, graduating from the University of Maine and from Columbia University, where he received his master’s degree in education.
In the mid-1950s he had a chance to go to California, where he could teach junior high school for a substantially higher paycheck, or be head coach in Norway.
“My wife said ‘Go to Norway. You want to coach football,'” said Kimball, who also taught general science and biology at Norway High School, now the Guy E. Rowe Elementary School on Main Street.
He and his wife, Amy, rented a small 800-square-foot house with a “hundred” doors from Guy Rowe, then the high school principal, who lived next door. “Guy was fantastic,” said Kimball of the popular principal who passed away in 1960 and whose name now adorns the elementary school.
Along with his coaching duties, Kimball taught general science and biology, where he said he remembered having his students dissect mice. “The older lady teachers made a complaint because it smelled so bad,” he chuckled.
Although Kimball left Norway in the late 1950s for California, his heart remained with the small town football team that ended the 1958 season “in a blaze of glory,” as the yearbook editors put it, when they tied with Bridgton High School for the conference title by defeating their arch enemy Paris High School, 18-0.
That was also the year that Josephine and Ralph Stone, whose family operated the Stone Hotel and Barjo’s Restaurant, sponsored a supper to raise money to buy football award jackets for the team.
“One day some of the boys came to my house next to where Guy Rowe lived. They said Barjo wanted to see me. She found out about it,” recalled Kimball of the woman who was either Josephine or Barbara Stone, but whom they all called Barjo. “She asked me ‘What did you have in mind?’ I told her I need to buy uniforms. She said, “We’ll have a dinner in the basement of the Community Church.’
“I thought we would split the money. She said ‘Get out of here. This one’s for the football team,'” said Kimball of the proceeds from the dinner and the food that was donated by the Stone family.
Kimball’s affection for his team is still evident after 50 years as he relayed the story of a Halloween prank that went awry when the players left a teammate in a local cemetery and then humbly walked to their coach’s house in the middle of the night to tell him they were in trouble with the boy’s father.
The coach went next door to wake up Rowe.
“I don’t know what you’re going to do,” Kimball said he told the principal. “He was really mad.”
Team members involved in the prank were told to be prepared to sit out the next game.
On game day the boys loaded on the bus heading to the Oxford Fairgrounds where the football games were then played and listened to their coach fire them up with a line from the famous Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne that went something like, “‘When the going gets tough, hit em high, hit em low,'” Kimball said.
The boys burst through the bus doors and ran onto the fairgrounds to win one for their coach.
“It was probably the best two years of my life,” Kimball said.