1966 Sports Illustrated September 5th.


In 1964, and for approximately ten years thereafter, one of the features of the summer season was the Summer Festival.  Parades, circuses, dances and athletic contests of all kinds abounded.  One of the most popular athletic events was a road race sanctioned by the New England Amateur Athletic Union, an event in which Tony DaPonte (Warren Hall of Fame Inductee, Class of 2006) and others played a major role.  This excerpt from the September 5, 1966 Sports Illustrated, written by Hal Higdon, indicates why it was so popular with both the running fraternity and Warren residents.

A Road Runner's Bonanza, or, Has Anybody seen Kelly?


    Buschman rolled this over thoughtfully like a connoisseur sampling wine. "I was reading about you the other day," he answered finally. "You ran way back in the 1952 Olympics Trials, eh? Remarkable."

    Buschman beat me in the race, too, by the desperate tactic of beginning his sprint when he had five miles to go in a 5 1/2 mile race.  For the remainder of the race I concentrated on the scenery, which included groves of fir trees, a crystal-like reservoir and Buschman's footsteps.  I planned ahead to the next day's race in Warren R.I.

    At any race, particularly one where valuable prizes are offered, the better runners dress with one eye cocked toward the door lest someone enter who might threaten their chances that day.  New England athletes have their pecking order, with everybody more or less knowing who will beat whom.  As I walked into Warren's Mary V. Quirk School, the heads turned, and you could see the numbers turning over like digits on a speedometer: from sixth to seventh, from 11th to 12th. Kelly was not here, but sitting on a bench was Jim Keefe, who had run on the U.S.-Russian team several years ago.  "Who let the ringer in?" asked Keefe.   I was pleasantly indignant.




    With the crack of the starter's pistol the field arranged itself behind a heavily muscled lad who, from the shouts of the crowd, must have been the mayor's son.  A police car with a flashing light led him, and we all trustingly followed for perhaps three-quarters of a mile when the local lad veered to the right.  After we had been standing on the sidewalk for a few seconds we suddenly realized he had quit.  Tony Sapienza, who earlier had been passing out more entry blanks to the Son's of Italy race, now had the lead.





    In my own analysis of the pecking order before the start I had rated myself no better than fourth, but I forgot to mention this to the other runners.  After struggling stiff-leggedly in the rear for four of the five miles I suddenly found myself in the lead.  I sprinted home before a crowd of several hundred bathers who had deserted the beach long enough to applaud me.

"It's a course record," a man said.

" Did I run that fast?"

"No, it's a new course."

    A band that had been at the Newport Jazz Festival stopped its infernal playing to permit trophies to be presented.  Clutching my Joseph Nicpon Memorial Trophy with one hand and David with the other, I wandered through a veritable wonderland of elephants, camels and amusement rides for kids.  But we could not stop.  The real loot was being dispensed at the beer-and-Polish sausage party at the nearby firehouse.  My mouth watered, not at the Polish sausage but at both the quality and quantity of merchandise on display: lamps, glassware, ties, shirts, a box of cigars, a can of paint and, best, a combination barbeque grill and rotisserie.  Great only what do you do with a combination barbeque grill and rotisserie when you have to cram half a dozen suitcases, one wife and three small children into a compact sedan?  You settle for one of those wristwatches that people wear on TV commercials  when they dive off the rocks of Acapulco.  The grill went to the second-place finisher Amby Burfoot, who had wisely driven to the race in a station wagon.  The box of cigars went to John Hurley, who finished 39th and presumably will never do as well again after smoking up his prize.  As far as I know, the can of paint is still standing on the Warren award table.   Road runners are not that industrious.

"Let's spend our vacation in New England," said the author, whose motives were ulterior.  While the family rode the Ferris wheel he would run mad races and win Good Prizes and Top Trophies.  He might even meet stiff competition, if spectral Johnny should ever materialize.