NEGAUNEE — Nov. 20, 1951 was an exciting time for Negaunee High School, its basketball team, fans and the community.
The new Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium, which adjoins the Lakeview elementary school, was being dedicated on that night. Representatives of the John H. Mitchell American Legion Post 66, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3165, the board of education,the Negaunee High School band under the direction of Walter L. Daly and the Negaunee City Band under the direction of John Violetta participated in the ceremonies.
On behalf of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Otto Korhonen presented the American Flag to Leslie Richards, president of the board of education.
Howard Lehto presented a bronze plaque from the American Legion. This plaque was placed in the lobby of the gymnasium.
The inscription on the plaque reads as follows:
“This gymnasium is dedicated to Negaunee citizens who have served in the armed forces of the United States.”
The 1951-52 basketball team had the opportunity to have their first home game on the new gymnasium floor.
This game was a contest between the Negaunee Miners and the Ironwood Red Devils.
Those players were Donald Price, Dave Stromquist, Donald Anderson, Ray Trewhella, Lowell Johnson, Fred Northey, James Cleven, Ronald Maki, Ronald Cardone, Ronald Laitinen, Gordon Farragh, Ray Lindstrom and Jack Johnson. They were coached by Bob Carey.
Coach Carey indicated that although his charges have had only three weeks of practice and only eight days in which to work out in their new home, he was pleased with their performance.
The boys were determined to make their debut a favorable one. Which they did, beating Ironwood 48 to 36, before a crowd of 3,000 fans.
The five starters for that game were Don Anderson and Don Price who were forwards, Lowell Johnson and Dave Stromquist were guards and Ray Trewhella had the center position.
Lowell Johnson made the first two points. He said it was a 25 foot shot that he probably shouldn’t have taken, but he banked it in. They had a record of 15-1 that year with their only loss coming to Ishpeming.
Verl Wills, a biology teacher at Negaunee High School spent more than 100 hours carving wooden figures of the starting five of that 51-52 team who were the Great Lakes champions.
The carvings are on display in the showcase in the lobby of the Lakeview gym. Lakeview gymnasium, as most people call it these days (leaving off the memorial) was a state of the art gym when it was built 70 years ago and it still continues to be a jewel among school facilities in the Upper Peninsula and probably the state. There is not a bad seat in the house for watching a game.
In those early years it was not uncommon to see Negaunee’s businessmen in suits seated in one of the upper sections which were reserved seats only.
It was always a packed house. When Negaunee played Ishpeming both schools would get out at noon.
The fans started lining up at one p.m. although the tickets didn’t go on sale until 5:45p.m. Most of those in line were students with their paper bags containing their supper.
Some students were lucky enough to have a mom that provided them with a pasty for their wait in line.
Originally the gym did not have a concession stand. Different youth organizations had a chance to earn money selling popcorn by going up and down the stairs.
The booster club operated a concession stand in the lobby. In recent years an addition was constructed on the south side with handicap access and a concession area.
New modern seating has been installed on the lower section and handrails have been added to the upper sections.
The gym floor has been transformed from its plain hardwood to a piece of art with the “N” at the center and the two Negaunee logos on either end.
The lower lobby has been completely renovated to showcase the Hall of Fame members. This was a class gym in the 50s and it will be a class gym for many years to come.