It is my belief that it is not out of the ordinary for people to look back on their youth, recall memories and reminisce. I’m doing that here. It’s a good thing that in my old age I still have the scrapbooks from my youth.
In the Benicia where I grew up, things were obviously different than they are now. That does not mean they were better or worse, but that they were different.
Some kids went to school with each other from kindergarten through graduation from Benicia High School. Some of that still happens today, but I do not think as much as it was in the past.
In athletics, some of us played together on the same teams through the school year starting in the sixth grade, and summers, season after season. There was no Little League or Youth Football in Benicia at the time. In grammar school we played flag football, basketball, and softball. We would play pickup touch football games on Sanborn Field and the site which now holds the Olympic size swimming pool, and pickup baseball games on Sanborn or what is now called Fitzgerald Field.
An example of longtime connections was the fact that Steve Flick and I met in kindergarten. We met with Charles Kimble, Fred Haderman, Dean Croney, Mike Connell, and Dave Littlefield in the sixth grade at what is now the site of the Benicia Unified School District offices and Liberty High School. We had not all gone to the same elementary school.
Flick, Kimble, Haderman, Croney, and I were fine all-around high school athletes. That is not bragging, but a statement of fact based on the individual and team honors received by each and the college attention some of us received. Connell and Littlefield were fine 190-pound high school linemen.
We each played high school football together, and Steve, Fred, Dean, and I played high school baseball on the same teams. Steve, Fred, and I played summer baseball for a few seasons. One summer between high school years, since there was no youth baseball team in Benicia, Steve and I played on a Vallejo team and were each named to the league’s All-Star team.
The point I am working at presenting is that in the small town which Benicia was, and still is in many respects, some of us grew together, played together, and won together.
Herald all MVC selections named
5 BHS Panthers
placed on team
“Five Benicia High School footballers, four from Galt, two from Vacaville and one from Folsom have been named to the third annual Benicia Herald All Mid Valley Conference team as selected from a consensus of opinion of MVC coaches and the Benicia Herald staff.
The quintet of BHS performers is headed by Fullback Charles Kimble, the Panthers’ Mr. Everything for the past three seasons. Others include End Steve Flick, End Jim Garrett, Tackle Mike Connell and Quarterback Dean Croney.
“Much has been said of Kimble’s football ability. The big Panther has been the top player and inspirational leader on the squad since his sophomore year. He has been named the Panther’s Most Valuable Player three years in a row, the first gridder to be so recognized at BHS.
Flick was another top performer on the Panther squad coming through with his best performance when the going was toughest. A speedy 190 pounder at 6′ 1”, Flick was selected on the fourth team for All Northern California honors, which is quite an accomplishment, considering the size of Benicia’s enrollment.
Another end, Garrett, was possibly the Panthers’ most underrated player, never flashy, but always making the big play when needed. Possessed with good speed, Garrett was a key target as a pass receiver, and was also a giant on defense.
Tackle Connell was a key figure in Benicia’s success. A two-way performer, Connell helped to open the big holes up the middle on offense, and was a hustling, alert tower of strength in Benicia’s highly regarded defense.
Croney was the field general for the Panthers, and, by far, the steadiest quarterback in the conference. A sure ball handler and an accurate passer, Croney figured prominently in Benicia’s quick opening, fast striking offense.
“Handsome scrolls will be presented to all players selected on the Benicia Herald All Mid Valley Conference team.”
(Source, Benicia Herald, Page 6, Thursday, December 15, 1960)
At the conclusion of the 1960-1961 school year, and thus the baseball season, the ties that bind came together for the last time in athletics for Flick, Haderman, Croney, and me. Our team won the baseball championship. It was the last time we all played together. Flick, Haderman, Croney and I were named to the All-League team, with Flick and I being unanimous selections.
GRADUATION CLAIMS PANTHER ATHLETES – – –
“On Saturday evening the annual Benicia High School graduation exercises will claim a flock of fine athletes who have sparked Panther teams for the last four seasons. Fellows like Charles Kimble, Jim Garrett, Mike Connell, Steve Flick, Dean Croney, Fred Haderman to list the first few names that pop into our mind will be missed by local fans who have followed their fortunes on the gridiron, on the basketball court, the diamond and the cinder oval.
“We hate to see them go, they’ve been a great bunch,” was the way coaches Phil Goettel and Barney Corrigan expressed it earlier this week.”
(Source, The Benician, lead article in the “From The Sidelines” column, Friday June 9, 1961. I think the above article is important because Coach Goettel was the writer of the article.)
“Several familiar faces will be missing when Goettel makes his first roll-call. Most notable of these will be Charlie Kimble, ace ball carrier and defensive standout for the last three seasons, Steve Flick, Jim Garrett, Dean Croney and Dave Littlefield. This fivesome were first string performers for three seasons. Others who will be sorely missed this season by the Benicia eleven will be Fred Haderman, Mike Connell, starters for the last two championship years.”
(Source, The Benician, Sports Page article, August 25, 1961. As noted previously Coach Goettel was the sports writer for The Benician.)
“No longer of the prep scene is Charles Kimble, one of the greatest players to ever wear a Benicia uniform; Jim Garrett and Steve Flick, two marvelous ends; Mike Connell, rugged tackle and Dean Croney and Fred Haderman, two outstanding quarterbacks.
“The Panthers will enter their opener still hurting for ends where Garrett and Flick are sorely missed.”
(Source, Benicia Herald, Page 6, Thursday September 14, 1961)
“He also earmarked the end positions, fullback and quarterback as the early season problem areas as boys with little or no experience will be manning those positions.” (The above quote was by Coach Phil Goettel when he was the guest speaker at the Kiwanis Club meeting which was held prior to the start of the 1961 football season.)
(Source:, Benicia Herald, Page 6, Thursday, September 14, 1961)
Coach Goettel’s comments above reflect how important the graduated players had been to the overall athletic program at Benicia High School at the time.
Over the years all of us named above, and others, came to know each other not only as classmates but as teammates. Outside of sports we did not always agree with each other, but in the athletic environment we were as one. As sophomores, juniors, and seniors we were in a league which lasted only three years, the Mid-Valley Conference. Benicia High School won championships in six of the “major” sports: football, basketball and baseball. It was a good time.
James M. Garrett has lived in Benicia his entire life. He retired after a career of teaching at Benicia High School. He is the author of “one Great season 9-0!,” “Benicia and Letters of Love,” “The Mansion Stories,” and the compiler of “The Golden Era,” a history of Benicia High School football from the 1948 through 1960 seasons. Contact him at Jgstoriesnpoetry@aol.com.