This revealing photo shows Whitinsville Track and Field President, the admirable Mr. Robert E. Gibson (left), talking to Mr. Donald Coyle, Chairman of the Trophy Committee, which awarded 100 trophies and 36 medals to outstanding athletes in this meet alone !

 

ARTICLE 17 : The Whitinsville Track and Field Meets

National attention was focused on the Village of Whitinsville when the Whitinsville Track and Field Association held its fifth Annual All-Star Meet at Lasell Memorial Field on June 8, 1957. Represented were 34 colleges and athletic associations, ranging geographically from Montreal, Canada to Winston-Salem, N.C., as well as eleven high schools with 67 schoolboy entries. This meet had the official sanction of the NEAAAU and the Massachusetts Secondary School Principals’ Association, Incorporated. 

The large number of entries and the presence of internationally famous athletes highlighted Whitinsville’s fame because of this event. Its success was based on the unusually outstanding physical facilities of Lasell Field, and the dedicated efforts of a large number of local men who devoted a large amount of time to this project each year. 

Originally suggested by Robert E. Gibson, former Traffic Manager of the Whitin Machine Works, and helped by Norman A. Wright, Spindle Editor, and Samuel Currie, Whitinsville Postmaster, this undertaking involved scores of persons handling innumerable details, from the time of the 5-mile road race at 9 A.M. until the last event was finished at 5 P.M. to ensure that the track meet ran off rapidly, smoothly, and successfully. And as Mr. Ralph Colson, Supervisor of Physical Education, Massachusetts State Department had remarked, "This year’s Whitinsville Track Meet was the best conducted meet that I have seen in my 40 years’ experience in attending such meets." 

Among the many Whitin Machine Works personnel who acted as officials or supervisors were : Robert Stewart, Thomas Driscoll, John Sanderson, Norman Wright, John Sloan, Henry Crawford, Robert Wood, Evans Bedigian, Kenneth Greenwood, Howard Cook, Joseph Hetherington Jr., Llewellyn Lyman, Harvey Deslauriers, George Rae, Philip Rae, Harry Bedigian, Harold Buma, Joseph Greenwood, Philip Holmes, Raymond Young, Al Blanchette, Raymond Woodcome, JOHN RATCLIFFE, Raymond Tebeau, Henry Lawton, James Houghton, Herbert Wholler, Harvey Royer, Francis Veau, Ernest Bonoyer, George Ferry, Norman Burroughs, George Dumas, William Bramen, Donald Lange, Paul Brennen, Edward Wallace, Louis Vermette, Francis Joslin, John Stanovich, Joseph Denault, Darrel Burroughs, and Paul Roy. 

WOMEN’S 100- YARD DASH : 17-2.jpg (60140 bytes)

One of the highlights of the Whitinsville meet was the Mount Royal, A.C. Women’s Team from Montreal, Canada. Pictured here is Diane Matheson, Canadian champion and Olympic contestant who won the women’s 100-yard dash. Her teammates Gillian Bastian and Louise Huot placed second and third. Diane’s time of 11.3 seconds in a heat established a new track record then ! (NO PHOTO) William F. Anderson, from Harvard U., set a new track record for the ½ mile .His time was 1.54.6 minutes! 

HIGH HURDLES : 17-3.jpg (44162 bytes) 

Another new record for the local track was set by Charles Pratt, First Army, when he completed the 120 -yard High Hurdles in 14.2 seconds ! 

POLE VAULT: 17-4.jpg (41369 bytes) 

In the Intercollegiate Meet, Murray Carter of the University of New Hampshire, broke the local pole vault record by clearing a height of 12 feet and 9 inches ! 

HIGH SCHOOL MEET :17-4b.JPG (60010 bytes)
(TO THE LEFT)Also during the Interscholastic Meet, Stephen Paranya of Lexington High School, tied for the track record for the 220-yard dash in 22.4 seconds. Donald Hootstein of Brookline High placed second, and Joseph Goodwater of Boston English was third. (TO THE RIGHT) 

Fran Washington, of Winston-Salem Teachers College, won the Intercollegiate 100-yard dash in 9.9 seconds ! Charles Miller of Northeastern U. was second, and Alan Sherman, of William and Mary College, came in third. 

440-YARD DASH:17-5.jpg (79322 bytes)
(LEFT) : Bill Merritt, from Holy Cross, New England’s 440-yard champion, set a new Whitinsville track record when he completed the distance in 48.8 seconds! (Olympic champion Charlie Jenkins held the previous record of 49.1 seconds.) 
(RIGHT): Edward Martin of Harvard U. is shown winning the Whitinsville Mile in 4.23.2 minutes. 

5-MILE ROAD RACE :17-6.jpg (53643 bytes)

Harold Swidler, of Pioneer A.C.,New York, was the winner of the 5-Mile Road Race. Here he was presented the J.Albert Cullen Trophy by Margaret Cullen,, the daughter of the late Northbridge Police Chief. Now just three years later, more New Englanders achieve fame and popularity at another Whitinsville Track and Field Meet. Lasell Field continues to draw thousands and thousands of enthusiastic sports fans. Who would have thought it to be possible in a small mill town ? 

JOHN KELLEY: 17-7.jpg (45164 bytes)

John J. Kelley, of marathon fame, from Groton, Connecticut wins the 10,000 Meter Invitation Race at the Whitinsville Track and Field Meet held last June of 1960. But, due to the rainsoaked track, he failed to equal the Olympic qualifying time of 29 min. 40 sec. Had he succeeded, he would have been able to compete in the Californian Olympic tryouts. But at the time of this news release, John Kelley had been invited to compete in the main marathon event in the Olympics in Rome, Italy. 

400 CONTESTANTS (6-4-60): 17-8.jpg (52680 bytes) 

Despite a steady downpour, over 400 contestants met in Whitinsville to compete in the NEAAU sanctioned Track and Field Meet, Lasell Memorial Field, held on June 4. One of the major events of the day was the Five Mile Road Race, which this photo illustrates at the start. Larry Damon of Burlington, VT won this event in a time of 25 minutes and 15 seconds. (He is shown in the center wearing an all-white shirt and also white trunks.) 

LOCAL CONTESTANT: 17-9.jpg (39848 bytes)

Noteworthy of the 10th Anniversary Track Meet, held again in June of 1962, was the performance of Mr.Tom Szarek, then a Junior at Northbridge High School. He was the first local participant to cross the finish line, and he came in 14th in the Five Mile Road Race. 

An appropriate slogan follows: "Where records are made and broken". This was used by the Whitinsville Track and Field Association in connection with its annual meets. The Tenth Anniversary Track Meet saw 3 new track records set at Lasell Memorial Field on June 9, 1962. 

  1. Robert Vinton, of the Baltimore Athletic Club, broke his own record in the mile with a time of 4 min.11 sec.(In 1959, he ran this event in 4 min. and 18.6 sec.) 
  2. Peter Gartner, of the Boston Athletic Association, the NEAAAU indoor and outdoor high jump champion, broke the previous record of 6 ft. 5.5 in. by jumping 6 ft. 7.75 in. 
  3. Barbara Brown, in the women’s division, from the New York Police Athletic League, reached a height of 5 ft. 2.75 in. in the running high jump.(The previous record was 4 ft. 7.75 in.) 

The previous year, 1961, had 4 new records set. They were in the one mile relay, the two mile run, the pole vault, and the one-quarter mile relay for women. Many records that were established on the Whitinsville track were close to World or American Records. 

John J. Kelley, who had set a new American Record in Whitinsville for the Ten Mile Run, also had competed in the 1960 Olympics at Rome, Italy. In conclusion, over 300 men and women athletes from diverse backgrounds and varied locales had competed for honors and trophies in 32 contests during the track and field meet in 1962. 

REACTIONS AND EYE-WITNESS ACCOUNTS

  1. Mr. Raymond Woodcome, a former member of the Shop Guard Force with 47 years seniority in the Whitin Machine Works, was on detail traffic duty during several of the track and field meets held at Lasell Memorial Field. He remarks in retrospect: "Those athletic meets were unrivaled in scope and competition, and were very good for our town. Our reputation as an all-sports town grew. Bob Gibson was a top-notch promoter and organizer, and he was very well known and respected by all of us in "The Shop" at that time." 
  2. Mr. Richard E. Piper, who once lived in New Village of Whitinsville, as a 9-year old lad, started to attend the meets with his brother David, and dad, Wendell. He recalls that "they were a really big event held each year and we saw people come from very far away. There were always tremendous athletes. I especially enjoyed watching the pole-vaulting, and I was always fascinated by the hurdles races also." 
  3. Mr. Robert A. Parker, who had made trips to Boston and was a close friend and assistant to Mr. Robert E. Gibson in the selection of athletes for competition, gives his personal views concerning the meets held at Lasell Memorial Field. He asserts that "this was an entirely different sort of annual attraction for the residents of the town of Northbridge. Athletes became nationally known, if not famous already, and they were drawn here to our town from all levels of competition. We were indeed fortunate to have had Bob Gibson as our originator, promoter, and ‘guiding light’ for all of the Track and Field Events. These extremely popular meets lasted for 10 years." 
  4. Mr. John Ratcliffe was an gifted and popular athlete in his own right. He played in the former Blackstone Valley League as a centerfielder, and coached many years, and was later inducted into the Northbridge High School Hall of Fame. He has this to say about the meets: "Bob Gibson was always trying to get me to run, and he was interested as to how fast I could circle the bases! Track was not my interest, but along with my baseball team-mates, Harley Buma and Ernie Bonoyer, we joined a host of local people to act as officials or supervisors at the meets. I knew Don Coyle well. He was another outstanding local athlete (basketball) who chaired the Trophy Committee." 

SOURCES AND CREDITS  
1 The Whitin Spindle (Vol. XV #7 +8), July-August;1962; pp.8,9 
2 The Whitin Spindle (Vol.X #7), July 1957; pp.12,13 
3 The Whitin Spindle (Vol.XIII #7 +8),July +August 1960; pp.14,15 
4 Interview: Mr. John Ratcliffe ; June 1, 2000 
5 Telephone Conversation with Mr. Raymond Woodcome; June 7, 2000 
6 Telephone Conversation with Mr. Richard E. Piper; June 6, 2000 
7 Telephone Conversation with Mr. Robert A. Parker; June 7, 2000


back to the table of contents