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Southbridge History & More

I remember the 1960s… by Rich Dugas,
SHS class of ‘66


66 Musket - our senior yearbook / Morin Studio photo


Check out my Southbridge 1960s movies/recollections YouTube Video with this recollection included
http://youtu.be/4iYFDBWOPds


Hello there Southbridge… when Dick Whitney asked me to write something on his Southbridge Website, I thought that I could bring back memories from the 60s for Southbridge readers, and those living across the country who follow this popular Web site. I am going to mention a lot of names that folks will recognize, and relay some of the anecdotes that stand out for me from that turbulent decade…

       Attending Wells Jr. High’s 8th grade class in 1961 was quite a change from seven years of Catholic grammar school at Ecole Notre Dame on Pine Street. The public schools were a relief, though, after being with the nuns for 7 years in the 50s and studying religion so intensely. Those were the years before the 2nd Ecumenical Council (1962-65), called for by reformist Pope John the XXIII that signaled the end of 100 years of ultra-conservatism within the Catholic Church, as defined by the First Ecumenical Council in 1869-70. In other words Catholic School was very strict in the 50s and the decades before, as compared with the 60s and after.

   Junior High teachers I remember were Mrs. Sweet, my English teacher, and Mr. Windheim, both excellent educators, and vice-principal Mr. C. Joseph Montigny. I remember Caio Cesolini, Chet Cyganiewicz, Petey Battista, Roger Sinni, Pudgy Plante, Julie Sczypien, Kenny Lacasse, all who were in my classes, and of course the “accelerated class” (hehe) kids Bucky Harwood, Jane Clarke, Mike Bousquet, Margaret Borsari, Natalie Gubb, Thomas Christo  and others would march down the hall and we of the other class would snicker as the “smart kids” had their own advanced classes. Of course many of us in the dumb class had been to Catholic grammar school and were already “advanced”, but had no public school records so were placed in the ‘other class’. By the 6th grade I had already read, in French and English, complete with book reports written in French, all the Hugo and Dumas classics, following the Parisian French course of study practiced by the Sisters of Notre Dame.

    Another 8th grade moment happened when our basketball team traveled to Marianapolis Academy in CT for an afternoon game. Caio Cesolini was our star. I often wondered how great a football player Caio would have been if he hadn’t moved to the Midwest for high school. We were a pretty good team but everything we tried was whistled for a foul. I mean everything. Well our coach Dick Leduc had finally seen enough, and said: “OK boys we are OUT OF HERE! We grabbed our stuff and marched out of the gym behind Mr. Leduc in the 3rd quarter, got on the bus and left. So much for sportsmanship… I loved it. We were not going to take that standing up. I think I would have done the same the officiating was so lopsided.

    It was also at this time in the 8th grade that I first met Fitzy (John Fitzgerald). At recess we would stare at each other in the schoolyard. I was 6 feet tall and had always been the tallest in my class. Not any more. Fitzy was 6 foot 2, and a lot bigger than me. We kept a good distance from each other. Everyone gave Fitzy a wide berth. He was not a bully, just a very large presence for the 8th grade.

    Things got a lot better as a 9th grader at SHS. I see why they called us “freshmen”. Immediately I had several crushes simultaneously: Penny Collette, Sue Bastien, Sue Shauweker, to name a few upper-classmen, and several teachers too.

  Freshmen were ignored back then, except the big kids. Football Coach Don Marino had his eye on us in the 8th grade and was ready to pounce. He got us “big guys” to go out for football, and I was told by Coach Marino: “Don’t quit, Dugas!” I actually think I would have if he hadn’t said that. He had a way to motivate young men. It wasn’t the fear of God anymore; now it was the fear of Mingo. I made the team. Actually, everyone who didn’t quit made the team. Everyone who didn’t mind eating dirt and getting their butts kicked.

   I remember having a knack for tackling from the beginning. We were put out on the field to defend the first team offense. Like I said we got our butts kicked. But from the defensive end position I would rush in and tackle Bruce Giovanello every time there was a screen pass on my side.  No one blocked me, and I’m not sure I was supposed to tackle him but I did anyway and didn’t get chewed out. Bruce never complained, either. He was the star runner and in retrospect I think I was supposed to let him go. I remembered standing next to Mr. Windheim, the SHS track Coach in the 9th grade (1963) and watching Bruce set the Southbridge High School record with a 10 flat hundred-yard dash, and he played football too. Mingo didn’t protect anyone, except when Billy Brousseau had two sprained ankles and when Coach Marino turned Fitzy into a 300 lb fullback in 1964, gaining notoriety across the state, Mingo took Fitzy off defense. Of course Big John went on to Boston College and then had a stellar career as a center for the Dallas Cowboys, his number 62 forever enshrined in historic NFL films as the man who protected the Cowboys great QB Roger Staubach, and Fitzy made every film clip from that storied era. Years and even decades later you would see him in the replays of Cowboys games from the 1970s. I can’t remember how many times I said “Look, there’s Fitzy!”… when watching pro football on Sunday. Myself and many athletes of our time had watched every pro football championship game since 1958 and I still haven’t missed one.

     Sophomore year brought new challenges. In school I was looking for a good laugh all the time, and plenty of girl-watching too. Very funny guys like Ron Simonelli, Tom Zotos, Ray Madore, Mutt Morrill and Chris Volpini kept me laughing throughout the day.  Fitzy and Rudy made the starting football team. I played varsity special teams, but 2nd team offense and defense, providing a big body for the first team to knock around. Important job though, to keep the first team offense and defense sharp. The football tradition at SHS was the best around and we won more games than any other team in Central Mass.

   I started that year for the awesome JV basketball team, and played some varsity too. All those years playing pickup and summer basketball at Dresser Street Field, my home away from home, with the likes of Dick Stewart, Chuckie Wright, Paul Mani, Ronny Wayne, Gerry Henault, Mike Bousquet, Bob Desaulniers, Ralph Loconto, Pete Janezcek, Paul Hapgood, Phil and Pete Cournoyer and Nellie Carpenter and many others was paying off, and we clicked as a team and I think we were 22 and 1 for Don Bernard our JV coach. The varsity also did well that year with Donnie Ferron, Fulvio Gentili, Paul Mani, Tom Borghesi, Jimmy Kane, the amazing Billy Curboy, Jimmy Damien, Scotty Phipps, Timmy Hughes, Justin Dupaul and Steve Zoto. Across town the Notre Dame High School team was really making noise. I think we split with them but they beat just about everybody for three years running. For a school with maybe 50 boys they played like God was coaching them. Among their players were Chuckie Wright, Pete Janeczek, Henry (Hank) Bishop, Skip Pelletier, Leo Farrand, Russ Lesniewski, and Len Lazure. The magic of Notre Dame Hall, with its undersized basketball court, provided ND a long winning streak there. I loved that court too, once canning 8 jump shots in a row from the wing in a losing effort at Notre Dame Hall. The best high school player I ever saw play was Dave Brumbaugh, who canned 56 points (before the 3 point shot) in a losing effort against Notre Dame.

  A new year and a new crop of cheerleaders to flirt with, including Celine Poirier, Ruth Krasnov, Donna Palmerino, Charlene Bourdelais, Diane Suprenant, Donna Magoon, Anne Palmerino, Suzanne Asselin and Marcia Domijian. Our first-class majorettes included Cheryl Rodio, Sue Whitney, Starr Barth, Diana Rossman, Trina D’Angelo, DeeDee Allard, Jeannie Dubreuil and Louise Sandman.

   Our baseball players were Jack Litchfield, Stan Szolusha, Ronny Szumilas, Bob Desaulniers, Jimmy Jowett, Ray Trahan, Ted Mach, Bill DiGregorio, Dave LaFlamme, Kim Palmerino and Pete Gaudette, with myself and Spider Cronin competing for the last position so vigorously that our manager Bob Young kept us both on the team. I remember doing wind sprints and laps with Spider at my side every step of the way. Football and then basketball were bigger, but we played baseball too, despite no one coming to watch the games.

   The YMCA downtown was a great place to hang out after school playing ping-pong and handball with the likes of Arthur Girouard, Steve Pontbriand, Franny Lippe, Ronny Giovanello, Ray Madore and Len Nicoletti. Heated and competitive table tennis matches lasting up to an hour and lifting weights was a big part of the time spent at the old Y in the building at the corner of Main and Elm streets. Other weightlifters included Ronny O’Hop, Louis Dhembe, Bob Desaulniers and John Fitzgerald.

   I remember the Elm Café was an awesome place to hangout, play pitch and drink beer. Marathon full deck pitch matches for money against the house champs Pudgy Plante and Alan Desmarais. Everyone knew they had signals but we beat them many times anyway. Mutt Morrill, Len Nicoletti, Ray Madore, Putsin Plouffe, Bill Brackett, barkeepers Corky Plouffe and Rudy Sabatinelli, buddies from work at Cohasse CC Chauncy Phipps, Ding Damien, Gerry Henault, and many others would stop in for some sports talk and beer.

    I remember “parking” at THE BRIDGE near the Westville Dam, a public road where no cars would be seen all night. I remember ‘parking’ at the Dudley sand pits with my best girlfriend Nancy Gelineau, along with Roger Sinni and Mal Gorski, with Roger’s portable record player spinning Stones and Beatles songs on the back window sill.

   I remember the Rat Dances at the Town Hall with Mickey and the Motions sounding just like the Beatles. Mickey McDonald, who had been my classmate at Ecole Notre Dame since kindergarten, was the best singer around. Mickey was scheduled to reprise those great Friday nights at Southbridge Town Hall at our 25th reunion in 1991, but he passed away at the young age of 43, a few weeks before the reunion.

   I remember celebrating the Southbridge sesquicentennial with Randy Morse, Lucille Blais, Bucky Harwood, and Ray Madore, with Bucky’s father Ken Harwood living in a cave under Deneson Rock to recreate the life of the first white settler in Southbridge: James Deneson. (See pictures elsewhere on this site of the 1966 sesquicentennial parade)… only 6 more years until the Southbridge Bicentennial, and the 50th anniversary of my class of ’66 in 2016.

   I remember playing in the fast pitch softball leagues at Henry Street Field, and playing against the King and His Court at Dresser Field in July or August of ’69 on the same diamond that I played Little League games 10 years before, and this was sandwiched between Woodstock and the Moon Landing. Interesting that Al Jackson, the King’s regular 1st baseman, and I worked along side of each other for years in Pawtucket, RI, himself as a coach at St. Raphael Academy, and myself as a photographer at the Pawtucket Times newspaper. Jackson, who hit 1014 home runs in a 22-year career with the King, still plays at age 77 in a senior softball league in Woonsocket, RI.

     I remember skating at Carpenter’s Pond behind Henry Street field (documented elsewhere on this site) to Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens blaring over the loudspeaker “The Day the Music Died” (Feb.3rd, 1959).

    I remember clearly November 22nd 1963, when Mrs. Casavant and other teachers were hysterical when the news of President Kennedy’s death became known.
    I remember hoping that football practice was canceled that fateful day (it wasn’t).
    I remember clearly the worried look on Mr. Varin’s face 13 months earlier in October, 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

    I remember clearly the week in 1965 SHS students boycotted the cafeteria and made the newspapers, and made the lunch ladies cry. Coach Marino made the football team march into the cafeteria and buy lunch to set an example for the school after a few days of everyone bringing their lunch instead of buying it. I remember hating that, and I also hated it when Mingo made the football team march into sportswriter Ray Hebert’s mother’s wake at Morrill’s Funeral Home wearing our undefeated jackets, (presumably I recall, to show respect after all of the 1964 team’s publicity in the newspaper… or was it a publicity stunt?) I definitely felt like a pawn in a chess match those days. But worst of all for me was the Monday football practice after the late October, 1965 game against Northbridge that we lost, to spoil our chances at 19 wins in a row. Coach Marino made us scrimmage Tantasqua full-contact, for two hours, on a day of rest normally. I think he had wanted to match Head Coach Paul Duhart’s run of 27 straight wins in the late 1950s and was punishing us for losing. I remember even the coaches were avoiding him he was so upset. Only Chet Cyganiewicz was smart enough to avoid practice that day by leaving school early with diarrhea. Coach Marino upon hearing Chet’s excuse the next day screamed: “Diarrhea SH**!”

     Tantasqua power runner Al Dhembe ran my side repeatedly that day, and I had to drag Al to the ground after he ran over me on several plays. Monday was not supposed to be a full-contact day. Starting football players, especially both-ways players, needed 2 days off after a Saturday game just to recuperate from the full-body aches and pains you would have the next day after a game. But high school football builds character, and we survived and became better people because of it. Coach Marino and staff were top-notch as teachers and coaches, and very good at getting scholarships for the best players. The coaches would shop game films around to football schools with a lot of success. Coach Marino helped kids get jobs, too.

   I remember my final high school football game against Bartlett on Thanksgiving Day 1965: the SHS defense, nick-named the “Chain-Gang” held Bartlett scoreless and we beat them 14-0 to finish a 2-year record of 18-1. I made several tackles all over the field, chasing down Bartlett RB Paul Deary and tackling him many times. Deary had shot his mouth off about beating us and they didn’t score a point. I also intercepted a screen pass but got “leadfoot” and was tackled from behind by Bartlett QB Tony Tomasso before I reached the end zone. The “Chain-Gang” allowed very few points in two years except at Northbridge where we gave up 26.

   One of the most impressive sights during the football season was our exit from the locker room just before a home game. We would growl and bark like angry pit bulls as we rushed through the doors at top speed and sprinted onto the field, a strategy not only to fire us up, but scare the wits out of our opponent. Fans would gather near the locker room just for the experience. Before our big match-up against Athol in ’65 (we were ranked 1 and 2 in Central Mass.), I remember Coach Marino smashing a chair to pieces and screaming “Now get out there and kick some butt!” and 25 guys bolted upright in full pads and ran for a door 30 inches wide… I was surprised we didn’t burst right through the cement wall. We dominated 30-0, with our “Touchdown Twins” Rudy Sabatinelli and Billy Brousseau running left, right, and center all afternoon, which of course set up our “down” game against Northbridge the following week; a team that was so hell-bent on beating us they sent spies to document our plays during the weeks before the game, and were well prepared for our match-up. I remember Mingo screaming at Dresser Field superintendent Arthur Girouard: “Artha, get those scouts away from the fence!” They wouldn’t dare come inside the field. The game could have been worse… I remember a goal line stand during that late October, 1965 debacle, when Bob Desaulniers and myself stood up 2 blockers and stopped their RB at the one-foot line four straight downs. It must have been those extra monkey-rolls Line Coach Tony Santilli made us do the week before in practice that helped us, but Northbridge was too prepared and fired up for us that day. From what I understand this rivalry continues today, Southbridge with its head coach Frank Koumanelis, who was a SHS player in my day, and Northbridge Head Coach Ken LaChappelle, who was the captain and quarterback of the NHS ’65 team that beat us 26-12.

   Two heroic actions that I remember from my senior year in football: Rudy Sabatinelli played with a broken jaw in 1965, (his jaw was wired shut – everything he ate was through a straw) and John Fitzgerald playing in the Bartlett game after the death of his father the day before the game.

   I also remember the following year playing across the line from my high school pal and teammate Jimmy Tiberii, who, as a pulling offensive guard at Southern Conn., was assigned to trap-block me when I was a 280 lb. defensive tackle playing at American International in Springfield.

  I remember following the incredible Red Sox “Impossible Dream” season in the fall of ’67, celebrating until the end with friends and New England’s own Narragansett Lager Beer. As Ken Coleman used to say: “Hi neighbor! Have a ‘Gansett!” Sure enough we would support the Olde Towne team by drinking plenty of ‘Gansetts, and sending dimes to the Jimmy Fund. That magical season might have ended “The Curse” if not for the beaning of Tony Conigliaro that summer when Angels pitcher Jack Hamilton threw wildly and hit Tony C. in the face, ending his season and damaging his career. His teammates would later say that not enough warm-up pitches after a delay (due to a smoke bomb) contributed to Hamilton’s wild pitch. This near-fatal beaning led to a major change in the design of the batting helmet to include a large earflap. Conig was the youngest player ever in the American League to reach 100 home runs, and had the most home runs (25) as a teenager in major league baseball history. This Boston native was filling the seats at Fenway Park, too. The Red Sox in the 60s were not just about Yaz, Jim Lonborg and Rico Petrocelli; Tony Conigliaro was a budding superstar, and Dick Williams was a great manager.

   When the 60s were history, our college deferments ran out, and young men across the country were included in a national draft lottery that took place in 1971. Three hundred sixty-six little balls with days of the year printed on them were drawn on national TV. Draft-age men from the first 160 birthdays chosen at random would receive letters of induction from Uncle Sam by the end of the war. My birthday was picked 177th.  New found freedom allowed the fortunate sons and returning vets to develop careers and start families without the fear of going to war.  -- Rich Dugas  - richdugas@gmail.com

All B&W pictures were in the '66 Musket - our senior yearbook.
I credited them to Morin Studios, our yearbook contractor, on my FB page -
my best recollection is that all photos I used were taken the day of the Thanksgiving football game pep rally, as Mr. Morin was at the school all afternoon.
He photographed in the school hallways, at the pep rally and took the team picture. - Rich Dugas


John Fitzgerald Wedding photo submitted by Rich Dugas
 


SHS Football Game from 1963- Don Whitney photo

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Last update Aug 17, 2010