Edward Little High School fans cheer their team during Thursday’s boys basketball game against Lewiston High School in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

AUBURN — Whatever needed to be said about the big game Thursday night, it needed to be said at full volume because the thunder of celebration in the Edward Little High School gym was very loud indeed. 

Whether it was basketball or a ceremony taking place on the court, the gymnasium was a raucous place as the last games ever to be played there got underway. 

It was an important event and everybody knew it. 

“It’s a big night because history is being made,” Carlene Magno, a 1970 graduate of the school and a teacher since 1991, said. “There’s so much energy in here tonight and it’s wonderful to see all these people supporting the players. There is just no place like Edward Little.” 

There was a lot of that sentiment going on in the gym, which was filled to capacity for the big event. The spacious gym was built in 1966, an addition to the school that was built just five years earlier. Over the ensuing 53 years, countless assemblies, rallies, graduations, award ceremonies have been held there, although what it’s most known and beloved for is its history of basketball. 

Saying goodbye was not going to be easy. 


“Knowing we’re going to have a newer gym is great,” Magno said. “But it’s bittersweet. There’s a lot of emotion here.” 

For Malcolm Philbrook, a 1951 graduate, ‘bittersweet’ was an apt word indeed. He played basketball in high school, of course. But over the years, he’s been in the stands, watching the next generation of ballers on the court, including his seven grandchildren. 

“This is bringing back great memories for a lot of us,” Philbrook said, shortly before the boys varsity game got underway. “It’s been a great gym for a lot of games and a lot of great kids have played here.” 

And it’s not just the decades of high school basketball games that stand out in Philbrook’s memory. There are all the tournaments played as well. 

“Back in the ’70s, the ’80s and the ’90s, this place was rocking,” he said. “It’s just been great basketball and it’s been great for the community.” 

Paul Bernier, described as a Red Eddies ‘super fan,’ came to Auburn in 2012, from Aroostook County where every high school basketball game was a big event. When he moved, he thought he was giving all that up. He was wrong. 


“This gym is one of a few gyms where it can sound like County basketball,” Bernier said. “My wife had never really been to a basketball game, but I loved it and she fell in love with it, too.” 

The games Thursday night were sold out almost as soon as tickets had gone on sale earlier in the day. That was no surprise to anyone connected to the E.L. basketball community. 

Linda Galway, wife of retired Edward Little Principal Steve Galway, said for a lot of people who turned out, it wasn’t only about watching the Red Eddies take on their longtime rivals from Lewiston. 

“A lot of people are here for the memories,” she said, “because this is the last opportunity to step foot in this gym while it’s still like it was when they were here for basketball games, dances or whatever. It’s not going to be like this again. I think people are excited tonight because this really is historic.” 

This coming fall, Edward Little’s aging facility will be replaced by two gyms after the $144 million new school is completed and ready for classes at the site of the current school on Harris Street.

Evidence of Galway’s observations could be found all over the gym. Minutes before the boys teams were scheduled to get started, a burly, bearded man in a ball cap came gliding over to talk to Steve Galway at the edge of the court. The man was smiling brightly and he was clearly overjoyed by how the night was turning out. In ways, it felt like a bona fide class reunion. 


“I’m seeing so many faces I haven’t seen in a long while,” the fellow said. “It seems like everyone’s here tonight.” 

Like everyone else in the gym, he had to shout to be heard. Once the doors opened, it felt like one nonstop party. When the E.L. girls went toe-to-toe with the team from across the bridge, the place was loud and raucous. When awards were handed out and speeches delivered after that game, it was loud and raucous. 

Then the E.L. boys varsity team was introduced and, ‘loud and raucous’ were no longer adequate words to describe the hullabaloo. There was cheering and foot stomping. There were whistles and howls of support for the players. There was an unending clamor of people enjoying a game, recounting old stories and indulging in more than five decades worth of memories centered on the old gym. 

Over the din, Linda Galway noted that not everybody in the bleachers was a die-hard basketball fan. The historic nature of the night drew others out, as well. 

“There are people here who maybe have never been to a basketball game,” she said. “They’re here tonight just to see what it’s like and to feel the excitement.” 

There’s no doubt about that. The excitement was unavoidable. And once the final buzzer sounded to end that final game, that would be that. The sounds of cheering fans and basketballs bouncing off the tiles were never to be heard there again. 

And yet for some, it’s hard to complain about five decades worth of great memories. 

“It’s been a great run,” Philbrook said. 

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