by Frank Hyde
March 6, 1981
If they ever conduct a contest to name the persons who have done the most for sports in Jamestown over a long period of time, Louie Collins will have to be listed among the leading candidates. Louis, former local athlete, sports supporter and businessman, lives quietly these days in reasonable good health as the years roll by.
Thousands of athletes - male and female - flexed their muscles in sports programs Collins sponsored and we believe it would be nice if some of them sent a few congratulatory cards to the old boy wishing him luck and continued health. This writer has known the man for more than 35 years and there are probably a few still around who competed against him on the football fields and basketball courts and who also did business with him at his long-standing base - Collins Sports Shop on Third Street. He would receive a note from some of his friends addressed to 118 Lakeview Ave.
Louie stood 5-5 and he told me the other day he never weighed more the 138 pounds when he played on the Jamestown High School football team so long ago that many of his old teammates have passed on. Louie was the captain, signal caller, played some end and did the punting one year when the Raiders were undefeated and tied once. He was a versatile little fellow, belligerent as a pit bull and as quick as the gray squirrel that makes monkeys out of the cats in my yard almost daily.
"We represented a large school but we had an extremely small team, player for player," he recalls. A look at The Post-Journal files lists lineups of fellows like Cubbs, Clark, Herrick, Thayer, Hultquist, Phillips, Moore, Strong and Collins, to name some of the regulars. Newspapers of that era usually did not report first names.
Collins thinks athletes today are better coached, have better equipment, but for the greater part are not in as good physical condition as the huskies of his time. "I was never injured, never felt a bump," he laughed, "and at my bodyweight you can imagine I took some pretty solid knocks."
Louis opened his sports shop in 1914 and was at the East Third Street site for many years. He was the master sports organizer of his day when there was no city recreation department. Among his promotions was forming six sandlot baseball leagues, Double A through E, plus football leagues of varied classes and helping form the Chautauqua County Baseball Association, now the Chautauqua Grape Belt League. The county league is the oldest continually operating amateur circuit in the nation, the National Association of Semi-Pro Baseball announced a few years ago.
When the state semi-pro tournament was played here in the middle '40s, Joe Nagle managed the winners, the Boosters. Louis accompanied them to Wichita where he was presented a plaque honoring him for his years of devotion to sandlot baseball.
Collins' promotional efforts also included sponsoring softball for women and he was an ice skating enthusiast. He brought Olympic gold medalist Kit Klein to Chautauqua Lake for an appearance. Another Olympic winning skater, the late Charlie Jewtraw of Chicago, also came to our lake at Collins' urging and skated two exhibition races.
Louis, still able to get around, talkative as ever, can look back at a world that has changed. The Jamestown Evening Journal sold for two cents when Louie peddled it as a kid. The day the unbeaten JHS team with which he played launched its season, the Floss Bowling establishment was opened in the Gokey Building. Cricket was a major sport in Jamestown then and quoits was getting headlines on the local sports pages.
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.