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  • Ednold

Brookings-Harbor 9/10/22

Updated: Sep 18, 2022

I’ve been wanting to go to Lakeview for a long time. If there’s one thing I like even more than watching waterfalls, it’s viewing lakes, and they surely wouldn’t name a place Lakeview unless it has a pretty spectacular view of a really nice lake. But on this trip it was just not meant to be. Lakeview High School had been scheduled to host the Brookings-Harbor Bruins for a Saturday afternoon game, but apparently someone decided it would be better if Lakeview traveled to Brookings-Harbor instead. Fortunately, this time someone at the OSAA had taken the time to update their information and we didn’t drive all the way to Lakeview to find an abandoned stadium. It would mean getting on the road a little earlier, but if anyone thought we wouldn’t be at the game they would be sorely disappointed.

Before I go any further, let me just go on record as saying that I’m going to miss the queen. The whole monarchy thing is kind of a silly idea, but the queen always seemed like a very decent lady. She was always exceptionally polite and always had a smile on her face. You never saw the queen shout at anyone and she had enough class to understand that not every woman needs to wear stretch pants all the time, at least in public. All of her kids turned out a little odd, but she appeared to be a genuinely good person. So I’m not glad that she died, but I have to say it was convenient that they canceled the soccer games this weekend in her honor and we didn’t miss anything by having to leave early for the football game.

We’d been to Brookings not long ago on an unsuccessful quest to visit the WW2 bombing site in the area, and were looking forward to another trip to the small town on the coast just a few miles north of the California border. The only thing really wrong with Brookings is that there isn’t an easy way to get there. You can take the coast highway and go through every little town along the way, which is very scenic but can be pretty slow on a Saturday morning. Or you can drive through the redwoods from the east, down into California, and up to Brookings from the south, which is also scenic and also often tedious. We drove the California route, which got me wondering if anyone has ever confessed to that old man at the border that they have fresh fruit in the car. I always say no, and I’ve never lied to him, but if I had a banana in the back seat I don’t know if I’d tell him about it and honestly I don’t think he’d really want to know. They never pull me to the side and ask me to open the trunk, and they never bring the dogs out to sniff around The Bucket to find fruit that I might have sewn into the seat cushions. Nobody appears to take it seriously and I wonder if the old man would even know what to do if someone said yes. That probably wasn’t part of his training because nobody in their right mind would say it. It all seems so pointless, but maybe it’s just me.

About five miles after crossing back into Oregon in our fruitless (as far as the old man knew) Bucket we entered the small unincorporated community of Harbor. Harbor sits on the southeast side of the Chetco River where the Port of Brookings is located, which is a little confusing. It was originally called Chetco, after the river, but someone with no imagination thought Harbor sounded better so that’s what it is now. Across the river to the northwest is the town of Brookings, which was founded in 1908 as a company town for the Brookings Timber Company and named for its president, John Brookings. The two communities share one high school: Brookings-Harbor High.

In 1925 Brookings' largest employer, the C&O Lumber Mill, shut down and was bought out by a man named Elmer Bankus. Bankus went on to be the owner of the Brookings Water Co., the Brookings Ready-Mix Co.,the Brookings Townsite Co., and the city sewer system. He was also a major player in the region’s lily bulb industry. He pretty much owned the town for many years and his methods were sometimes a little shady, but he was also a generous philanthropist, and for that the high school football field is named for him. From the looks of things, Brookings is more of a fishing town than a lumber town these days, and they also benefit from the tourists and retirees attracted by the scenery and the warmest weather on the Oregon Coast.

At first glance you wouldn’t suspect that Brookings has much in common with Houston, Texas. Even at second glance it may be hard to see the similarities, but if you look close enough you’ll see it. There are only sixteen cities in the country that have been designated Azalea Cities by the Azalea Society of America, and Houston and Brookings are two of them. Brookings has an Azalea Park, Azalea Middle School, and the town throws an Azalea Festival every summer. They are all about their azaleas. They also have an annual Kite Festival in June and the Pirates of the Pacific Festival each August. Think Houston has one of those? Nope.

For our Saturday afternoon game it was comfortably cool and there was scant trace of the wildfire smoke plaguing the rest of the state that day. There were patches of fog around town, and just a touch of coastal breeze coming off the ocean. In short, it was a perfect day for a football game as we drove a few blocks north of Highway 101 and found the high school at the corner of Pioneer Road and Easy Street. We pulled around back and found a spacious parking lot behind Bankus Field.

It was strange to me that the JV teams played a game right before the varsity game. In fact, I was a little surprised that either school had enough players for a junior varsity squad, especially considering that Brookings-Harbor had to abandon most of their season last year because participation was so low. They ended up going 1-2 in a 3-game season playing against teams from lower classifications. That was a bit of a drop from 1994, when the Bruins made it all the way to the state championship game for the only time, losing to a Seaside team coached by a man named Stubby Lyons. We paid our $5 each and took our seats in a quiet area of the spacious concrete, steel, and aluminum grandstand on the west side of the field. Since there’s no visitor’s seating across the field on the east side, they have their own section on the south end of the grandstands, and there weren't a lot of empty seats by the time the game got going. A black rubber asphalt track surrounds a natural turf field that was starting to look a little like the third cut of rough at the US Open, or my backyard at the moment.

When the JVs had finished there was a short intermission, and then it was showtime. The Brookings-Harbor Bruins entered the field through an inflatable bear and roared their way onto the field. At least I think it was supposed to be a bear. It was a retiree from across the street who accosted Mrs. Ednold during intermission to ask who was playing. When she learned that the game was between the Bruins and the Honkers, she asked “Well then, why is that Lion out there?” And the more I looked, the more that big inflatable did look like a lion. Or maybe a tiger. Maybe they just got a good deal on a lion and knew that people like me wouldn’t even notice. I don’t care. I still like it. We didn’t have stuff like that in my day, and I’m a little bit jealous no matter what species it is.

At about the same time the players were making their entrance, the Bruin Marching Band walked around the track, silently, and after playing The Star Spangled Banner took their seats in the stands right across the aisle from us. A troop of flag twirlers took position in front of them on the track to twirl along with them, but there were no cheerleaders in sight. Last week in Redmond we’d had cheerleaders but no band, and this week we had a band and no cheerleaders. There was a group of vocal students dressed in white who sat below the band and periodically did some leaderless cheering, and did it pretty well, but they could have benefited from some cheerleadership. Their “Let’s go Defense” cheer when their own team had the ball produced some eye rolling and head shaking from the rest of the crowd. Though the cheering, the band and the twirlers all left a bit to be desired, it was just the second week of the season and the first game after the beginning of the school year, so a little rustiness was to be expected.

The Lakeview Honkers came into this game 0-1, having lost a close game against North Valley, while the Bruins were also 0-1 after losing a not-so-close game against defending state champion Coquille. Though their records were the same, it was clear from the outset that Brookings-Harbor was outmatched. Their defense put up a commendable fight, but their offense just couldn’t get anything going. They somehow scored 6 points in their first game, but watching them in this game only made me wonder how. But they were only down 2-0 after one quarter, and 8-0 at halftime, so it still seemed within the realm of possibility that with a few lucky bounces they could somehow pull this one out.

But before that could happen we were treated to a performance by the Bruin Marching Band. They didn’t march, but they arranged themselves on the track in front of the stands to play a few songs accompanied by the flag twirling team behind them on the field. Like I said, some rustiness was to be expected after the first few days of school. I just hope they get rid of the rust before one of those twirler girls seriously injures someone, or themselves. I also took a few minutes to eat some cold popcorn from the concession stand just inside the entrance north of the grandstand. The menu was small, and if I didn't want popcorn, candy, or a bottle of Gatorade I was out of luck. But the popcorn tasted just as I expected it to, and that's not a bad thing.

Lakeview came out from halftime to score two more touchdowns in the third quarter, and the game was all but over. The Bruins defense stayed tough throughout, though, and held the Honkers scoreless in the fourth quarter to make the final score 21-0. Not a bad result, I’d say, for a school that couldn’t even field a team this time last year. They do have some good athletes and by the end of the season they might get that offense clicking and be able to spoil someone else’s playoff plans.

Game over, we hopped back in The Bucket and headed north on 101 where, from Brookings north to Port Orford and beyond, we admired the seastacks off the coast with the sun dipping down behind them. Then Mrs. Ednold climbed into the back seat and unthreaded the seam in the upholstery where we had stashed our load of apples and grapefruit, and we feasted on them all the way home.

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Gil Stewart
Gil Stewart
Sep 14, 2022

Thanks for another backroads adventure. As I recall Brookings once turned out some decent sprinters.

By the way, were you trying to cause an interstate incident? Chances are the grapefruits you smuggled into and out of California were from Florida.

Good job.

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