By Scott Levine
Herald Associate Editor
---- — My life became a little less hectic this week.
After months of planning and hours of research, the Clinton Herald’s book, “Decades — Camanche, Clinton, Fulton, Prince of Peace,” is finished and will hit the shelves next week.
The book will detail some of the best athletes and teams to play for those schools, and includes a list of all individual and team state champions in state-sanctioned sports from those schools. It features 100 pages of content, including profiles and pictures of more than 60 individuals and 15 teams and dynasties.
To say that this was an exhaustive process would be an understatement. Just ask my wife, who has sat at home many days wondering when I would finish looking for one last picture while caring for a 3-year-old and newborn.
Without her support, my role in this book would not have been possible.
During this process, I became much more appreciative of people who research historical documents. In today’s world, the “search” function makes life too easy. If I want to find a file on my computer, I just type a word in the “search” function, and the file appears.
Looking through old newspapers and microfilm isn’t quite that slick. There’s no keyboard or word search. Just two eyes and the ability to scroll through newspapers that have been around before anyone on this planet was born.
And all of the features — individuals and teams — were under the same scrutiny. Sports Editor Jon Gremmels, Assistant Sports Editor Brenden West and Bob Whitten spent countless hours researching facts and writing stories about athletes and teams on the list. And while they examined content, I looked for photos, which became even more troublesome than I had previously imagined.
Finding original negatives from the 1950s and ‘60s sounds tough. Throw in four more decades and I can safely say it was as difficult as it sounds. But the pictures are unique and help tell the story of that particular person or team.
But the book would not have been anything without the help of the countless people I talked to and leaned on for firsthand accounts of these athletes.
I’ve been in this area since 2008, so I’ve seen only a few people actually play that are on this list. Without much of a firsthand knowledge of many of these athletes and teams, I knew that compiling a list would be impossible without the help of people who were in the stands while these athletes played.
Hearing stories of how great these men and women were in sports was likely my favorite part of the book. It helped me understand why so many people speak fondly of the great teams and athletes that graced the area in the 1950s through the 1980s, and how much has changed (especially with specialization in one specific sport).
Those conversations and research have given me a much better understanding of the sports landscape for the past 60 years. I now have much more of an appreciation of the history associated with high school sports in this area.
Through much of the research, I encountered one major consistency that has occurred during the years.
Area residents truly care about their high school sports. On more than one occasion, more than 4,000 people were reported to watch basketball games at W.J. Yourd Gymnasium (featuring Bob Bentley-led St. Mary’s squads against Dick Broderson-led Clinton squads). Football fans turned out in record numbers for Fulton’s championships, and Camanche’s success in the 1980s garnered a heavy interest in many sports.
And that’s what sports are all about — bringing people together. There are many athletes and teams who have given thousands of people something to root for, and we’re confident this book will put the reader right back in the stands, reminding them of the great athletics of the past and present.
When the books arrive next week, pick up a copy at either the Clinton Herald, Paul’s or Hy-Vee, and take a step back into the area’s history.
Scott Levine is the Associate Editor of the Clinton Herald. He can be reached at email@example.com.