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  • Ednold

South Salem 9/4/21

This was a weekend I’d been looking forward to for a long time. I was hoping to get to South Salem last year, but the virus got in the way. Then, last spring I had the chance, but the weinerpus spring season didn’t seem like the right opportunity to really get the whole experience, so I decided against it. So, when the schedules came out early this summer I saw that the Saxons would be at home on the opening Friday of the season. It would be the perfect opportunity to sit in the stands with my dad while the weather was still warm. I think he was looking forward to it too but, unfortunately things have changed between then and now. Almost simultaneously, Papa Ednold had some serious health problems and this new strain of virus took the country by storm - not a good combination for someone planning an outing with their octogenarian father. So it was up to Mrs. Ednold and me to represent at the rare Saturday evening contest as the Saxons hosted the Jefferson Democrats from Portland.

My dad knows a lot of people, and a lot of people know him, but I don’t think many of those people know the whole story. If you’re one of those people who know him you may have known him as the CEO of the Saleco/L.D. Thomas conglomerate. My brother, who knows about such things, claims he is an accounting savant. I’ll take his word for it. You may have known him as the Owner and Head of Cattle Operations for the Poison Creek Ranch. Maybe you knew him in his role as Chairman of the school board, or as a stringer for the Oregonian. Maybe to you he was Lord of the Manor of Ashley Close, Harestock, or a classmate at Stanford Business School, or the gentleman farmer of Linn County, Oregon. You might know him through his books: I have a whole shelf full of them that he’s published, both novels and non-fiction. Some of you may remember him as the adventurer of the dusty trails of Baja, or the National Guardsman, or the wildland firefighter, or maybe he was your little league baseball coach. But I’m guessing not many people know he was all of the above. And even fewer know that, on top of all that, he was also a state champion football player.

In my very first story for this blog I recounted our trip to North Salem High School, where Papa Ednold began his high school career. He was a Viking for three years until South Salem opened for his senior year and he was in the first graduating class at South. You would think that having the student body of one big high school split into two smaller schools would weaken the athletic teams at both, but South Salem defied the odds for an “expansion” team and won a state championship that very first season. Many schools never win a state championship. Ever. Yet before the students at South Salem had even received their first report cards the Saxons were state champions. That’s amazing and, though I admit to not spending days in the state archives confirming this, I’m confident that it’s never happened anywhere else.

Back in that first season in 1954, the Saxons had thrashed the Jefferson Democrats of Portland 26-0 in the first round of the playoffs. And here we were watching those same two teams square off in the season opener of the 2021 season; a rematch 67 years in the making. It would have been nice to have Pops there to provide some commentary on how things have changed during that time, and also what hasn’t, but I did interview him before writing this and got a little background. For starters, this stadium wasn't here at that time. South shared an off-campus field with North until on-campus facilities were put in years later at both schools, so despite the rematch things wouldn't be quite the same.

The year before South opened, administrators polled the incoming South students to come up with a mascot and school colors for the new school. I remember my uncle telling me many years ago of how he lobbied hard for the mascot to be the Slippery Salmon so that their trademark cheer could be SSSSssssssssssss!! He could be a goofy guy himself and I always thought it was pretty fitting that he was my godfather. I wish he was still around to add his perspective to this story. My dad was always the more practical of the two and agreed that Saxons made sense since North were the Vikings, the historic rivals of the Saxons since the dark ages.

A real saxon

I’m just not sure about the picture of that mascot on the school logo, though. Is that really what a saxon looked like? Did they all dress in striped turtle-necks and those funny horned helmets? I googled it and found this guy. I don’t know if that’s better or worse than the guy in the turtle-neck, but that’s apparently what they really looked like. Unless, of course, you’re talking about the British heavy metal band from the 1980’s who looked completely different and maybe even worse than the guy in the turtle-neck.


The Saxons won a second state football title in 1971 and have occasionally won titles in other sports, but it’s their music department that has really cleaned up. Their orchestra has won 11 state championships, their wind ensemble, whatever that is, has won 12, and their choir has won 13.

South Salem has several notable alumni, including a few pretty unique pro football players. Bob Horn was a member of that championship team in 1971, then went to Oregon State and ended up playing linebacker for the San Diego Chargers for several years. Craig Hanneman also went to Oregon State and was a defender for the Steelers and Patriots as a professional. But his real claim to fame is that he’s climbed The Big Seven: The highest mountains on each of the continents. He was 63 when he climbed Mount Everest. Not to be outdone, Joe Douglass, class of ‘92, is the only man to have played for The Big Seven: After graduating from Montana, Joe played for the Amsterdam Admirals, Orlando Predators, Birmingham Bolts, Chicago Rush, Colorado Crush, Los Angeles Avengers, and Las Vegas Gladiators. I don’t even know who those teams are or what league they were in, but I think it's safe to say nobody will ever accomplish that feat again. Of course, Napoleon Dynamite himself, Jon Heder, was a Saxon, and the sometimes drummer for Journey, Deen Castronovo, graduated from South in 1982.

There’s no easy route to South Salem if you’re coming in from out of town. We drove up Commercial and turned east on Rural Ave., but no matter which side you approach it from there are no highways that go anywhere near it. On this night there was plenty of parking in the small campus lot and on the streets surrounding the school, but I would think that once school is in session it might be best to arrive early if you aren’t in the mood to walk. We parked in the lot just off of Rural. That name probably made sense 150 years ago when the guy who came up with it couldn’t imagine the urbanity that would grow up around it. By the way, the next street to the south is named Electric Avenue and if you were around in about 1983 there’s no way you can keep from singing that song every time you see that sign. I’m sure my family’s glad we don’t live there.

Another cool thing that Papa Ednold had clued me into is the fact that his grandfather had been a member of the school board during the time the new high school was built, and now his name is attached to it forever. I may have been the first person in decades to actually read the plaque outside the main entrance on Church St., but it was pretty cool to see great grandpa Ednold’s name on it. A little piece of Ednold family history.

South is no architectural gem. It probably looked pretty modern 67 years ago, but it's all straight lines and a great example of function over form. It’s kind of a clunky, boxy, monstrosity that could really use a new color scheme. I hope it wasn’t great Gramps who decided to paint the school that beigeish, light gold exterior. If you pick up that paint chip at Sherwin-Williams I believe that color is called “Institutional Blahhh”. It’s ugly. And it appears that the landscaping crew has been given an extended break during the covid shutdown. The whole campus looks shabby and unkempt. But a lot of that can be excused by the fact that they are in the middle of trying to spend 84 million dollars to refurbish and upgrade the whole place. There is construction going on everywhere and in a year or two it should be a really impressive campus once again, but we managed to catch her at that awkward moment when the facelift was still ongoing.

I risked life and limb for this picutre of the east end-zone

Entry to the game was in the southeast corner of the stadium. $7 will get you inside with a program. The football field is surrounded by the horseshoe-shaped school building, which is a unique setting compared to other schools we’ve visited. The building on the north was, until recently, Leslie Middle School, to which the high school had been added. My grandmother had gone to school there in the 1920’s. As part of this renovation that old school building is gone and a new one, truly part of the high school now, is in its place. On the fourth side of the field, just beyond the east end zone, there is a retaining wall that drops about 20 feet to the lower end of campus where the track and other playing fields are located. Immediately east of the east goal post the turf starts to slope downward toward that wall and fortunately there is a chain link fence there to catch any player who catches a pass at the back of the end zone and tumbles down the hill. I’ve never seen anything like it and I would guess it’s been responsible for a few twisted ankles, or worse, over the years.

I hope a new field turf will eventually be a part of the ongoing renovations, because it looks like the current turf had reached the end of its lifespan about three seasons ago. There are huge patches where the fake blades of grass aren’t even visible, and the little rubber pellets that are supposed to remain unseen constitute the playing surface. Another season or two and it will be nothing BUT a field of rubber pellets. This caused a lot more slipping and sliding than you normally see on artificial turf, but it fit in well with the theme of shabbiness that was prevalent all around.

The south (home) stands at Guido Caldarazzo Stadium

The grandstands, on the other hand, are nice and spacious. They run the entire length of the sideline on both the home and visitor sides of the field. They’re the aluminum type that have become popular these days, and I’m sure cost was a much more important factor than comfort. If you don’t find sitting on the aluminum benches very comfortable, at least you don’t have to worry about any roof overhead to keep the blinding sun or drenching rain off of you while you watch the game. I expected better, but maybe it’s unrealistic to expect modern stadiums to be covered like all of the old ones are. The best feature is that there is no track surrounding the field, putting the fans much closer to the action and creating a more intimate experience than you would expect at a place so big.

North (visitor) seating

We picked out our seats on the opposite end from where the band had set up, resulting in just about the right volume of thumping percussion throughout the game. As mentioned above, the band is good. But there were no cheerleaders and, since school hadn’t started yet, few students were in attendance. There was still a good crowd: Almost a sellout, according to the announcer. And, accounting for a little social distancing, that looked about right, at least on the home side of the field.

Once again, we found that the concessions were running at a limited capacity, but that was good enough for me. The only stand open was located under the press box on the home side of the field, but the polish hotdog was good and hot and they may have served the best cold popcorn I’ve tasted yet.

Bennett field is named after Frank Bennett, the Superintendent of Schools in Salem in the years leading up to the construction of South High School. The stadium is named for Guido Caldarazzo, who I assumed was the loan shark who had put up money for the stadium, but I was wrong. He was actually a teacher and administrator who worked many years at North Salem and McKay high schools and was the project manager for the building of West Salem High but, strangely, never worked at South Salem. I feel there’s a story there that I haven’t been able to uncover yet. Guido, by the way, was my dad’s frat brother in college. I told you he knew lots of people, but even I didn’t know he knew anyone named Guido.

This was a fun game to watch for the Saxon fans. The Saxons have their weaknesses and I predict they will run up against a few teams who will beat them as badly as they beat the Democrats on this night, but in this game they were dominant. There was a time when Jefferson produced football players like Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker and NFL Hall-of-Famer Mel Renfro. If this game was any indication, those days won’t be coming back anytime soon. They finished 3rd in their league in 2019 with a 6-4 record, and I had reason to believe they would be a good test for the Saxons, who had finished dead last in their league with a 2-7 record.

It wasn’t much of a contest, though. The Jefferson quarterback was listed as 6 feet tall. He may have been 5’6” and, though he has some talent, he didn’t show it consistently enough for his offense to ever get any momentum in this game. They couldn’t move the ball when they had it and when the Saxons scored two early touchdowns off of Jefferson punt team miscues it was all downhill from there for the Democrats. The fact that they were afraid to put their punt team back on the field meant they went for it on fourth down throughout the game in situations where they really shouldn’t have.

When the Saxons scored early in the second half to make it 35-0 the clock ran continuously for the rest of the game, much to everyone’s relief. Later in the third period they scored again to make the final 42-0, and even that isn’t indicative of how bad Jefferson was. It was hard to watch and I think by the second half even the most die-hard Saxon fan was rooting for the opposing team to show some signs of life. Occasionally they did show glimpses of what they might do if they had about 10 more good players, but it had to be demoralizing for the few good ones they have now.

Thankfully, the weinerpus season is a thing of the past. But things are definitely not back to normal. With everyone trying to keep their distance and listening to periodic reminders from the announcer to keep their masks on, no cheerleaders, and no halftime entertainment there wasn’t much spirit in the crowd. Few people talked or made any noise at all. This season may not be shorter than normal but I still think it will be a weird one. Perhaps not a weinerpus, but maybe a platygator - long and strange.

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08 sept. 2021

Well done, Ednold. So glad you caught the Saxons on a good day. I can remember a lot of those. Hopefully they will find a way to upgrade their playing surface. As for. a "platygator" season, here's hoping we can avoid that.

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