Not long before she died at the age of 97, my Grandma Mary told me about her classmate Eso Naranche.
“He was such a nice boy,” she said. “He wasn’t an ass like a lot of those boys were.”
Coming from my grandma, this was the highest praise. Naranche, who was killed during World War II, was the first — or at least one of the first — members of Butte High’s Class of 1938 to pass away. My grandma was the last in August of 2018.
Grandma Mary and Naranche were part of the class that moved from to old Butte High — where Butte Central is now — to the current location in the middle of the 1937-38 school year.
While my grandma was a Hall of Fame grandma, Naranche went on to a Hall of Fame career at the University of Montana before sacrificing his life in the fight for our freedom. Every Butte High football player knows his name and story. They see his Purple Heart on display in the hallway between the school’s two gyms.
The reason players know the story of the man who died decades before they were born is Naranche Stadium, the best high school football stadium in Montana.
Naranche played in that stadium, which sits right next to the school, as a member of the Montana Grizzlies when it was called “Butte High Stadium.”
It was named Naranche Memorial Stadium after his death, and later shortened to Naranche Stadium.
The reason I asked my grandma about her classmate was the name of that stadium, which was condemned and tore down in the 1970s. The stadium was rebuilt for the Bulldogs to move back in late in the 2011 season.
Because of that stadium name, Naranche’s name is mentioned with every Butte High home game.
If it was not for that stadium name, I never would have asked my grandma about Naranche. While the former Bulldog and Grizzly great would still be a Butte and an American hero, most of us would not know his name.
That right there is the reason for naming a stadium after a deserving figure. The point is for future generations to know the name and now the story long after that person is gone. Long after we are gone.
Butte has been very good at making such names legendary. A matter of steps from Naranche Stadium is the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gymnasium in honor of the longtime Bulldog coach, teacher and fan.
We have fields named after Ed Austin, Ron Godbout and Jim Scown, three men who dedicated so much for Little League Baseball. We have 3 Legends Stadium named in honor of Jack Whelan, Jack Cavanagh and Jim Hanley.
Soon we will have a brand-new clubhouse named after Jack Crowley at the Highland View Golf Course.
East Middle School is the site of the Charlie Merrifield Track. That is named after the longtime Butte High coach who is still coaching long after his official retirement.
The track is part of Bulldog Memorial Stadium, which apparently is named after every Bulldog who passes.
The stadium and track are part of the Gene Fogarty Complex. That also includes the gymnasium and the under-construction new gymnasium at the school. The Fogarty Complex includes the fields to the east of the football stadium and the three-wall handball courts.
Coach Fogarty is clearly deserving of such an all-encompassing honor. He was such a great coach at East that he was an instrumental figure in Butte High’s football success. When Fogarty’s Bulldogs got to Butte High, they were ready to win championships for the Bulldogs.
Coach Fogarty is also the grandfather of the great Tommy Mellott. That right there is worth at least the name of one gym.
Butte Central’s football team practices on the Torger Oaas Field by the Maroon Activities Center. They play their games on Montana Tech’s Bob Green Field, which is a stone’s throw from the Kelvin Sampson Court.
Just down the hill from Tech is the George Foley Memorial Gymnasium at West Elementary School. I am kind of partial to that one because George was my grandpa’s brother. He went from being a master of skipping school at the St. Patrick’s grade school to being the vice principal at West when it was a junior high school.
George was only 54 when he died in 1978. I was only 4, so I never really knew him. I think we would have a lot in common, though.
Looking through old newspapers, I found a November 1971 photo of George with principal Ed Dennehy and students Craig Hill, Jeff Dyer and Glen Granger hanging the sign that reads “Swede Dahlberg Field” that still stands on the west end of the field at West Middle School.
George, Dennehy and Bill Kambich spearheaded the project that I am told was never approved by the school board or superintendent. They did not even ask. They just knew that the legendary Harry “Swede” Dahlberg, who died that June, deserved the honor.
Just like with George, I always lived by the motto that it is easier to receive forgiveness than it is permission.
Without question, Dahlberg is the most successful coach Butte has ever seen. His teams won 26 state championships in four sports. Yes, 26. That includes nine football titles, four basketball crowns, a cross country championship and 12 track titles.
As nice of a gesture as it was to put up that sign at West, Dahlberg deserves so much more. The only team that plays games on that field now is the Butte Blizzard Lacrosse team, which is, unfortunately, not associated with Butte High School.
While most people in Butte know Dahlberg’s name, not enough know the story of the World War I veteran who served as a mentor of the students, coaches and faculty at West after his retirement. If you are ever lucky enough to talk to one of Dahlberg’s players, you will hear him go on and on about how Swede was so much more than a great coach, too.
It would be great to hear the legendary coach’s name every time the Bulldogs play.
“Swede Dahlberg Field at Naranche Stadium” has a nice ring to it. Who knows, maybe Butte High’s players could run onto that field and enter the stadium through the Jon McElroy Plaza.
The “Jim Street Gym” also sounds nice. That would be a great name for what we call the “old Butte High gym,” which has once again become the home of Butte High’s wrestling team.
For one thing, calling it the “old gym” just does not do the storied arena justice. Butte High’s wrestling teams piled up tons of wins in that gym, which was home of the Bulldogs for most of Street’s run of 13 straight Class AA State titles from 1980 through 1992.
In all, Street’s wrestling teams won 15 titles at Butte High. He was also the defensive coordinator of the state champion 1977 Butte High football team that registered eight shutouts and surrendered a mere 20 points in 11 games.
The Mining City Duals was renamed the “Jim Street Classic Mining City Duals” several years ago, and that is a great honor. But it is only once a year.
People know Street’s name, but fewer and fewer know why.
Like with Dahlberg, it would be nice see Street’s name brought up each time the Bulldogs compete.
Such honors would make sure that people will be asking their grandparents about the legendary coaches long after we are gone.
— Bill Foley, whose name you can never forget, writes a column that usually appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74