Tag Archives: Staples High School football team

Roundup: Henry Wynne, Pops Concert, Teacher Of The Year …

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Ever since he was a Staples High School track star, Henry Wynne has been called an “Olympic hopeful.”

Now that the Olympics are near — they’re supposed to begin next month in Tokyo — how hopeful is the Class of 2013 grad?

Very. And that’s despite a litany of issues that dogged him as a University of Virginia star, and beyond. Since 2016 Wynne has suffered a knee injury, pneumonia, and surgery on his small intestine.

But Brooks Running signed him to a pro contract. And now — with the Olympic trials underway now through June 27 in Eugene, Oregon — Wynne is giving it his best shot.

Yesterday, Runner’s World magazine profiles one of Westport’s top athletes ever. Click here for the full story.

Henry Wynne (Photo/Will Hoffman for Runner’s World)

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Did you miss the Staples High School Pops Concert earlier this month? (No, you didn’t overlook it. Tickets were limited, due to COVID.)

Here’s a highlight reel, courtesy of Jim Honeycutt. Strike up the band!

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Speaking of education: Sure, the Westport Public Schools select a Teacher of the Year. But there’s something special about earning that honor from a different source: the Staples High School football team.

This spring, the Wreckers — used to be cheered for — turned the tables. They gave shout-outs to their favorite educators in a homemade video. At the end, they announced the winner.

Who is this year’s football team Staples Teacher of the Year? Click below to see:

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Another Staples tidbit: The Westport Garden Club has earned raves for their #FridayFlowers arrangements. Each week, there’s a different one somewhere in town.

This week’s was unveiled a day earlier. On Thursday evening, Class of 2021 graduates and their families saw this as they drove into Staples from North Avenue:

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Two more sings that Westport is getting “back to business.”

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce held its first in-person gathering in 20 months yesterday, at Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center. Over 60 people gathered in the garden, in beautiful weather. They shook hands, ate food catered by Calise’s Deli, and — as they did for years before the pandemic — exchanged business cards.

Sal Gilbertie spoke about the 100 years since his grandfather began as a flower grower, then turned to herbs. Today Gilbertie’s is a major micro green seller, in addition to their nursery’s plants and trees.

Sal Gilbertie addresses the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

But the Chamber wasn’t the only major Westport organization holding its first live-and-in-person meeting yesterday.

Sunrise Rotary also gathered together, for the first time in over a year. Attendance was solid. Handshakes and hugs were heartfelt.

And for those unable or not yet ready to attend, the event was livestreamed.

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Enrollment is open for MoCA Westport’s summer courses, for toddlers through adults. Among the choices:

  • Summer Sunset Painting Series (High school and adult)
  • The World of Digital Art Animation (High school and adult)
  • The Art of Cinematography (High xchool and adult)
  • Intro To Digital Photography (High school and adult)
  • Skateboard Design (Middle school through adult)
  • Summer Saturday Art Workshops for Kids (PreK to grade 3)
  • Learn How To Code (Middle school through Adult)
  • Robotics (Middle school through adult)
  • Expressive Art for Toddler

For more details and to register, click here.

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Westport Country Playhouse has 4 new trustees. Three are from Westport: Jessica Caldwell, Will Haskell and Margie Jacobson.

Haskell — a state senator whose district includes Westport — has a long theatrical history. As a member of Staples High School’s Class of 2014, he was elected of Players, the drama troupe.  One of his first memories of live theater was seeing “Curious George” as a child, at the Playhouse’s old barn.

Caldwell graduated from Columbia University’s MFA film program. She produced independent feature films, while her feature film productions have premiered at Berlinale, SXSW and Tribeca. Her short film work has premiered at Sundance, Telluride, and Tribeca. Caldwell was also the writers’ room assistant and showrunners’ assistant on “Billions.” She is also a Moth storytelling contest GrandSlampion.

Jacobson is a nonprofit leader and attorney with legal experience spanning a variety of diverse settings. She is currently of counsel to a boutique law firm advocating for students’ rights from birth through post-secondary education, and co-founder of Woman’s Compass Forum. Jacobson previously served on the Playhouse board, from 2010 to 2016. She also serves on the boards of the ADL and the Remarkable Theater.

The WCP board of trustees is chaired by Westporter Ania Czekaj-Farber.

The Westport Library has 2 new trustees too.

Anna Alemani is CFO of Pierrepont School. Previously she had a 15-year career in finance. She holds an MBA from Columbia Business School and a BA in Business Administration from Bocconi University in Milan, where she focused her studies on management of museums and cultural institutions.

Dave Briggs spent his career in television, as a sports and news reporter/anchor. He has moved from South Dakota and Oklahoma to Boston, where he covered Red Sox World Series championships, Patriots Super Bowl titles and a Celtics NBA crown. He also hosted “Fox & Friends Weekend,” and (for NBC) NHL, NASCAR, NFL and Olympic tennis, before anchoring “Early Start” on CNN. He currently interviews important Connecticut residents for Moffly Media content.

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We see a lot of old things at the transfer station.

Yesterday morning, it was a Model A Ford. Fortunately, it was running fine. The driver was there just to drop off some newer trash.

(Photo/Frank Rosen)

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The VFW is not just for men!

The other day, Y’s Women’s Trivia group met for their monthly luncheon. The VFW’s great chef, Joe Gallo, fed them well.

Other Y’s Women groups include Tuesday morning Compo Beach walkers, and one that meets in the evening to watch spectacular sunsets.

To learn more about the Y’s Women, email dynamicr@icloud.com.

Joe Gallo hosts the Y’s Women.

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July 4 is the publication date for not one but two Carl Addison Swanson books. The Westporter’s latest works are written “Venezuela Vengeance” and “Brotherly Hate.”

He’s CEO of Bermuda’s CAS Publications, which publishes 14 other writers, and  is a contributing editor at HBO. Click here for details.

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Seen this morning at Compo Beach: either the remnant of a Friday celebration for Staples High School’s graduation, or “saving a spot” for today:

(Photo/Michael Calise)

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Lauri Weiser calls this “Westport … Naturally” photo “Lurking in the Grasses”:

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)

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And finally … Juneteenth has been celebrated — in one form or another — for 155 years.

Today, for the first time, we honor it as a national holiday.

Amen.

This week, immediately after the bill was signed in the House of Representatives and sent to President Biden, the Congressional Black Caucus sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

It’s been called the “Black National Anthem.” But it’s a fitting anthem today for every American, of every color and background.

 

 

 

 

Paul Lane: “We Give You A Uniform To Look Uniform”

In 2005 I published a 400-page history of Staples High School. “120 Years of A+ Education” included interviews with many influential educators. 

One of the most interesting was Paul Lane. The legendary football, track and golf coach died Tuesday, at 93. Here’s my 2004 interview with him, conducted at his Soundview Drive home.

In 1954 I was working in my family’s leather tanning business. But as the business declined, I decided to go into coaching. It’s what I always wanted to do.

I took Bob Carmody’s place at Coleytown Elementary School. I met my wife Pat there.

In those days interscholastic athletics was hit or miss. In football you made up your own schedule. We’d play Darien and New Canaan twice in one year. We’d play Stonington – we went all over the state. And we hired our own officials – that did affect the game! We fired our officials too.

You didn’t get paid to coach in the ’50s. It was considered an honor, and we fought to coach. And Doc Beinfield, our team doctor from the ‘50s through the ‘80s – he did it for love, not money.

Paul Lane, 1957.

As a phys. ed. teacher, I took all the sophomores. I tested them in the quarter-mile one day, and the softball throw the next. Our program was geared to the philosophy that athletes should be discovered in gym class, so we trained in the fundamentals there – football, soccer, track, basketball, volleyball.

Albie Loeffler and I ran the intramural program at night. We refereed it too. Kids worked their way from gym to intramurals to interscholastic sports.

The girls had 6-person, half-court basketball, but it was definitely a boys’ world – a football and basketball world. Football had the edge, because it started off the year. We had pep rallies before games, and dances afterward. It really brought the kids together.

Cheerleading was a big deal too. The bleachers at Doubleday only held 200, so fans stood all around the field. We only had 18 or 22 kids in football, sometimes hardly enough to scrimmage. The kids went both ways.

The athletes were also in the choir and student government. A kid like Tommy Dublin – football, basketball, track, head of student government. No one told him he couldn’t do one thing because he was in the other. And the school was big then, too.

That was after we moved to North Avenue. We felt people cared about us; we were no longer in a dungeon. But that first year (1958-59), we still did sports at the old school on Riverside Avenue (now Saugatuck Elementary School). The football field on North Avenue had a huge drain in it – it was a mess – and the track was a big bucket that held water. It took 20 years to get it right.

At the same time, we changed from a single-wing football team to a T-Formation. The FCIAC (Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference) was being formed. Our schedules and officials were handed to us. And at that time, the school was growing by leaps and bounds.

At that time, I helped build the weightlifting program. Parents made the weight racks. They also built the press box, and donated the scoreboard and filming equipment. We formed a Gridiron Club, which met every Thursday night to look at film.

We had a great team in 1963. The number of transfers was phenomenal. It hit its peak in 1964. John Bolger went on to West Point, Buzz Leavitt to Wake Forest, and Bill During to Syracuse.

Steve Doig carries the football.

In the 1970s the phys. ed. department grew from Albie, me and Jinny Parker to 11 teachers. But in the ’60s gym was still a foundation for our sports program. We had boxing, wrestling, tumbling – to teach athletes how to fall – track and field, including high jump and pole vault, weightlifting – with demonstrations at halftime of basketball games, to “sell” it to parents – and a great touch football program.

But the high school just didn’t work. The environment was so disruptive. Still, we were always rated in the top 3 schools in the country. But from day one, the facility was horrible.

Stan (Lorenzen, the principal) had asked us about smoking. We had coaches smoking on the sideline. But we told Stan to start the new school clean. He said he’d try an experiment for a month. He created a smoking plaza, with a custodian to clean up after the kids. It took 30 years to get rid of that.

Paul Lane’s 1967 team won the FCIAC championship, in a memorable game. Stamford Catholic was riding high — and lost 8-0.

Before Staples was built on North Avenue, we put in for a fieldhouse. The only other one at the time was in Florida. But that one had a clay floor, and people were worried it would get tracked through the school, so they didn’t include it in the plans. The gym, the cafeteria and auditorium were all built for 1,200 kids. We blew past that number quickly, and it was not enlarged for years.

That was the era when we started recruiting coaches: George Wigton for basketball, Chuck Smith as a line coach from Ohio State – he started the wrestling program too – and Frank Henrick for baseball. They were good coaches, who could also teach.

During the drug era – the ’60s and ’70s – kids were told not to buy into “the system.” Well, to have a good team you have to buy into the Paul Lane, Albie Loeffler or Brian Kelley system. The kids with long hair were thumbing their noses at us. That was a horrible time to try to coach.

Some coaches just let them run wild. Some tried to oversell “values.” I said they could have their hair as long as they wanted, but it had to be in their helmet. It’s a team. We give you a uniform so you can look uniform. Some believed it, some didn’t.

We had kids pass out doing their physical fitness tests, from drugs. There were 2,000 kids in the school, and hundreds were on drugs. A certain number of adults liked that freedom of expression. We weren’t all on the same page at all times. The ability of teams went down, especially in the suburbs. City teams started beating us then. Bright suburban kids were reaching out for another world, but the city kids kept playing sports.

Paul Lane in 1969, with assistant coaches Saul Pollack and Dick Agness, and co-captains Dana Williams and Jono Walker.

Title IX – it was evident that girls were not being treated fairly in terms of the number of teams, things like that. By then Westport had come up with a complicated 10-point system for coaching pay. The girls’ coaches got less than the men – that was a time when all the athletic directors were men, many of them former football coaches.

Westport jumped on Title IX. They decided to equalize the numbers in gym classes, even though the law didn’t say they had to. We forced girls to play with boys, who didn’t want them and thought they weren’t capable. We cut out not only wrestling and boxing, but also Ann Rabesa’s, Judy Punshon’s and Jinny Parker’s fabulous tap dancing program. Boys’ and girls’ basketballs are different sizes, and the volleyball nets are different heights. So we started doing things in gym that had nothing to do with the sports we play. Boys used to run to phys. ed. class, because it was an outlet. Now they were going to play things like street hockey, but they couldn’t have physical contact.

The girls gained in basketball, but the boys stopped playing. It was a total waste of a gym period. We built big shower rooms, but no one sweated enough to use them.

But the good things – the FCIAC is a great league. It’s definitely improved the coaching. There’s been the introduction of soccer, hockey, skiing, lacrosse, wrestling, and about 10 girls sports. And there’s been the addition of junior varsity and freshman teams. And the facilities now – artificial turf, lights….

Paul Lane and assistant coach Earl Smith on the sidelines in 1977.

But the athletes haven’t changed. Sure, they know more now, because they see it on TV. The kids I coached in the ’50s, most of them hadn’t seen football. We had to teach them how to tackle and throw.

The best teams always stay together. They have reunions, and stay in touch. Success bonds them. That doesn’t change. There was no difference between my 1963 and ’75 teams. In the ’80s kids could throw and catch a little better, because of all the advantages they had, but a lot of success is the luck of who moves into town together.

One thing that was a real big blow for all sports was losing junior high interscholastics (when the 9th grade moved to Staples in 1983). That had been a real feeder program for us.

Let’s see – what else – well, uniforms in phys. ed. went out with the drug era. Gym classes became a lot less structured. They did away with mandatory showering. That was probably a bad policy; the lack of privacy was overdone.

The fieldhouse made a huge difference.

And I remember taking track teams to the Penn Relays and the New York Armory. That was tremendous for our kids. It’s probably the reason Laddie Lawrence is still involved in track!

Paul Lane, 1984.

Remembering Paul Lane

Last month, Paul Lane had a seat of honor at the dedication of Staples High School’s Laddie Lawrence Track.

Lane spent nearly 30 years as a Staples coach and physical education instructor. Though best known for his football teams — including a powerhouse 1967 FCIAC champion squad, and 1975 state champs — he was also a noted track coach.

In fact, he coached a young Laddie Lawrence. The dedication last month spurred a drive to name Staples’ football stadium for Paul Lane.

Town boards will make the decision soon. But now the honor is posthumous. Lane died this afternoon. He had been in good health, until a recent fall. He was 93 years old.

Paul Lane, by the Staples High School football trophy case.

Naming the field should be a slam dunk.

Between 1962 and 1987 Lane led the Wreckers to 4 FCIAC Eastern Division championships, 2 FCIAC crowns, and 122 victories. His 11-0 1975 squad was the last single state champion — determined by sportswriters — before the current playoff system began.

In the 1967 FCIAC title game, Staples snapped Stamford Catholic’s 30-game win streak, 8-0. The Crusaders — ranked #1 in Connecticut – had outscored their opponents 333-66. The Wreckers stopped them twice on the goal line, in the last quarter.

Paul Lane at a 2016 Staples High School football game. He is flanked by his sons Peter and Skip. Both played for him as Wreckers.

Lane started coaching football in the Army in 1950. He then served as an assistant to Frank Dornfeld for 8 years, before taking over the top job.

At Staples, Lane also won state championships coaching indoor and outdoor track — and girls golf.

He grew up in Bethel, but his family has long ties to Westport. He was a Compo Beach resident nearly all his adult life. Former players — and of course his sons Skip and Peter, both of whom played for him — often dropped by to chat with their former coach.

He entertained them — and anyone else who passed by — with a constant stream of stories. Lane remembered every game, every athlete, and every bit of Westport history.

Service arrangements are incomplete. Arrangements for the naming of “Paul Lane Field” will begin soon.

The Staples High School football field may soon be named for Paul Lane.