by Jim Riggs
May 4, 2013
Area Sports Nearly 40 Years Ago
It was April 28, 1975.
It was on that Monday night that I made the short walk from the apartment my wife and I had moved into nine months earlier following our wedding to The Post Journal building on Washington Street to begin working in the sports department. The shift was from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m., perfect for me since I had never had and still never have worked a 9 to 5 job.
Sports editor Frank Hyde, who was the only sports department employee who worked in the day from about 4 a.m. until 1 p.m., stopped in to get me situated and to introduce me to my fellow employees, Terry Heslink and Dent Thorpe. While Hyde showed me the ropes for a few minutes, a loud bell would occasionally sound indicating a telephone call for the sports department. Those calls were answered by Heslink and Thorpe while Hyde had me watch. Hyde told Heslink and Thorpe to let me answer the next call and my career was underway.
I didn’t know it would still be going 38 years later and that anniversary was reached on Sunday.
In between answering calls, Heslink was working on a story that would top the sports opener the next day. It was about the resignation of Flash Olson as the Southwestern Central School wrestling coach. Olson was definitely going out on top because just a few months earlier the Trojans had five wrestlers at the state tournament- Jerry Holmes, Paul Donner, Bob Traniello, Jeff Swan and Tim Morrison.
Among the results we took that night was a high school golf competition in which Jamestown defeated Southwestern in an 18-hole match at Moon Brook Country Club. That was a rarity because at the time most high school matches were 12 holes.
That was also one of few setbacks for the Southwestern golf team that season. In June, the Trojans squad made up of Rick Bell, Dan Bjork, Gary Freeman, Randy Holmes and Mike Widener won the state team title and Bell was the state individual champion.
That was the first state team title for any school in the area and it would be the last in golf because team titles were later dropped at the golf state championships.
My thrill the next day was checking the sports section to see the stories I had written. I ended up writing about three baseball games, a golf match and three briefs for events in the Buffalo area. I was amazed that each story was exactly how I had written it. In journalism school, every article I turned in always had something marked with a red pen for corrections, even if the story was only a couple of graphs long.
One of my stories was a Bi-County Golf League match between Westfield, Brocton and Sherman. Steve Card of Sherman was the medalist after shooting a 64 for 12 holes in the match at Peek’n Peak Resort. What’s interesting is that later Card became the head pro at Peek’n Peak.
I also took the report of baseball game in which Cassadaga Valley had 16 hits and benefited from 11 errors by the opponent in a 17-9 win.
In that Post-Journal sports section after my opening night, a Hyde column appeared. And it was appropriate that it was about his favorite sport – boxing.
There was plenty of national news. The Stanley Cup playoffs had reached the semifinals and Buffalo led Montreal, 1-0, in one series and Philadelphia and the New York Islanders were ready to open the other series.
The World Hockey Association playoffs had also reached their semifinals with the Quebec Nordiques taking on the Minnesota Fighting Saints against Chicago. The ABA semis had the Kentucky Colonels playing the Spirits of St. Louis and the Denver Nuggets meeting the Indiana Pacers.
In the major leagues, Chicago and Los Angeles were the division leaders in the National League while in the American League, Detroit led the East and Kansas City and Oakland were tied for the West lead.
You can’t do on of these “back-in-the-old-days” columns without a mention of prices, so here you go. A half-gallon of milk was 69 cents, which was the same price for a pound of ground beef at Chautauqua Provisions. Acme had Kraft dinners for 22 cents and ice cream for 69 cents a half-gallon.
A lobster tail dinner, with two halves, was $4.95 at Gandy’s.
Acme Appliance was selling ranges for $168, refrigerators for $318 and a 19-inch color TV for $328. And the ad noted that owner Jim Phillips said to come in and browse around.
That was a long time ago, Phillips no longer owns Acme, but Heslink and I are still here.
The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame. We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.