by Frank Hyde
October 28, 1978
Louie Collins, Sports Organizer, Athlete
It's pretty much as a man once said, "Louis Collins has been around for about a 100 years and is one of the area's greatest sports boosters."
Louis Collins has not been around for 100 years, but in his day he was a supreme organizer, sponsor, promoter, manager and what have you between three and four decades.
The stout little fellow with the gravely voice stood only 5-5 and weighed 125 pounds, yet he played with and against the giants of his day in both high school and independent football and basketball.
Louis was captain of the undefeated, once tied, Jamestown High School football team. He was sort of a supreme general and brain trust who played end, called signals and did the punting.
Now living quietly in retirement at 118 Lakeview Avenue, Collins is one of the few old-timers still around who played football at both the old Cricket grounds and the Jamestown High field, which has been getting some attention as a possible site for the modern Raiders.
"Although we represented a fairly large school, we were small individually," Collins said referring to the unbeaten team. "I don't believe anyone on the team weighed more than 140 pounds." A partial lineup from which a name had been evidently dropped by a local newspaper after one contest, showed... Collins at left end then Cubbs, Clark, Herrick, Thayer, Hagerson, Phillips, Hultquist, Moore and Strong. Newspapers of that era often did not use first names in referring to athletes.
Louis had been outstanding in high school so after graduation he was asked to play with the All-Jamestown team, an independent outfit noted for its big men rather than small, as was the high school.
"It was the thrill of a lifetime for me, being asked to play with those fellows," Collins laughed. "I was beating a rug in the yard for my mother when I got the word. I dropped the rug beater and took off." How a fellow that small could hold his own with and against some of the behemoths of his time is a mystery but he did it for several seasons.
More surprising is the fact that he was a member of the Spirals, a tough local basketball team, for eight years. The club played the best in Jamestown, Buffalo, Cleveland, Syracuse, and Rochester cycle. They tackled the famed Buffalo Germans, winners of the Pan-American games, at Buffalo and lost 62-60.
Collins Sport Shop was born at one location on East Third Street in 1914 and later moved to another spot on the same street where it became a mecca for athletes, coaches, mangers, school administrators, etc. Although Louis is no longer associated with the operation, the owners have retained the name, Collins Sport Shop, now at 210 Cherry and the Chautauqua Mall.
As a businessman, Collins was an organizer when the post-war sports boom started to jell. He formed the Chautauqua County Baseball League in 1921. Today, as the County Grape Belt, it is the oldest continually operating league of its kind in the nation, according to Ray Dumont who headed up the National Semi-Pro Baseball Congress at Wichita, Kansas, for many years.
In addition to the county league, Collins brought about the Class A, B, C and D baseball leagues in Jamestown and formed softball leagues for both men and women. His major effort was obtaining sponsors. "I tramped the streets for many miles and drove about every road in the county looking for people to back the sports programs after the war," he recalls.
Collins attended the national semi-pro tournament at Wichita one year with a Jamestown team and was presented a plaque by Dumont in appreciation of his efforts in behalf of sandlot baseball. One of his major promotions in baseball was bringing the state semi-pro tournament to Jamestown. It was played at Municipal Stadium, now College Stadium.
Two nationally known ice skaters came to Jamestown at various times as Louie's guests. One was Kit Klein, who came here twice to stage exhibitions on Chautauqua Lake near Lakewood. The other was Charlie Jewtra of Chicago who had been a medal winner at the Olympic games.
As an ambassador of local sports, Collins attended hundreds of banquets, passed out hundreds of trophies and received many, himself. He rubbed elbows with the area's finest athletes in various capacities, and says four he will never forget were Pete Edson (basketball), Pat Riley (football), Bert Hall (basketball), and Carl Munson (basketball and boxing).
Collins never married. "I almost did twice, but got cold feet at the last minute both times," he laughed. Louis was born in Jamestown. His parents were Mr. And Mrs. J.B. Collins. His dad owned the Fair Store, a general merchandise operation.
"Things sure have changed," he sighed. "Everything is different now." The stocky, energetic little man lived through an era that will very likely never return. The Jamestown Evening Journal sold for two cents and when Collins was a kid, Jones, Sharf, and Lincoln at 210 Main Street had heavy winter coats for sale at $10 and the day the unbeaten football team played its opener, the Floss Bowling and Billiard Parlors, to become an institution for years, opened in the Gokey Building. Cricket was a major sport in Jamestown then and the game of quoits was gleaning headlines.
"Yes, sir, things sure have changed," the man added.
No one can argue the point.