Truly A Labor Of Love
1968...Dr. Christian Barnard performed the world's first artificial heart transplant; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated; the first Big Mac (49 cents) was introduced; the average cost of a new house was $14,950; and the price of gasoline was 34 cents per gallon.
...and Ronnie Bodge took over the reins of keeping the score for the Stevens High School varsity home football games.
...and he's still doing it!
One would think after 50 years of doing something it might just be time to move on to do something else in one's life. In Ronnie Bodge's life, that thought is only now starting to materialize.
Following Stevens' 41-0 win Friday evening at Barnes Park in Claremont, Bodge was asked if this 50th year of scorekeeping would be his last and his answer was very noncommittal.
“I don't know,” Bodge hesitantly spewed. “I like what I've been doing very much and Doug (Beaupre) is very nice to work for. You appreciate working with someone like him.”
Bodge admitted to having no regrets whatsoever in spanning a half-century of watching Stevens High football, especially when athletic directors such as Beaupre, Les Green, Al Kaplinski, and a host of others have made his job tolerable and praiseworthy, let alone the near 20 head coaches who have strolled the sidelines during that span.
"I like watching the kids, too!” Bodge added. “I like the way Coach Silva has control of his team,” he further stated, acknowledging Paul Silva's handling of his Cardinals in this 2018 season.
Over the 50 years, Bodge, when asked which game stood out the most, went back just two years ago, perhaps because it was still fresh in his mind, when the Redbirds won a state championship.
His familiarity with that state title game actually stemmed from an earlier encounter in the season during a Saturday afternoon game at Interlakes.
“They totally ran up the score on us,” Bodge said, “and I told someone on their sidelines after the game they must be proud of their coach for leaving their first string in and I gave them the payback speech everyone knows. He got kind of violent and I just walked away.”
It was that same Interlakes team Stevens met in the finals and handily returned the favor to capture a state championship. “I liked the way Coach Silva let 'em go at Durham,” Bodge recalled. “It was a good game to watch.”
Bodge readily confessed he can't “watch” the games he is tasked with in his score-keeping duties since he must focus on the plays as they unfold.
“You realize after a while everybody watches the scoreboard,” he pointed out. “I have to keep track of the downs, the yards, the time, and everything else that is going on. You don't really watch the game for enjoyment. You are working.”
This labor of love for Bodge began when the former scorekeeper, Buster Papps, quit and Bodge's classmate and friend, Gary Holt, asked him to fill in and, as they say, the rest is history. Bodge recalled first starting out behind plywood with a slit in it, then advanced to a new scoreboard erected by Willard Holt and Arthur St.Martin at Monadnock Park, then having a hut added to it to enclose him, and finally having to relocate to Barnes Park where he now has a seat above the 50-yard line.
Other changes he has seen in his 50 years include the shifting of schedules with Class L, Division II and III teams, and the former Connecticut Valley League encounters. Also, Bodge is not so keen on the black uniforms the Cardinals now sport. “I liked the old gray uniforms we wore back in the 60's, home and away,” Bodge said. “I liked, too, the red and white ones we once wore. It made them look more like Cardinals.”
Not to be forgotten, too, is Bodge's love for racing, He raced at both the Claremont and Monadnock Speedways and took home a dual championship in 1974, capturing titles at both places that year. He listed Punky Caron and Sonny Rabideau as formidable foes on the racetrack. “I was just coming in as Buddy Bardwell was winding down,” he stated in reference to the old number 13 with the horns on the roof. Bodge drove number 9.
“I still play with antique cars,” Bodge said, admitting he perhaps goes to the Claremont Speedway maybe once a year now to see the action.
Bodge will turn 75 this month and retirement is not in his plans. He owns Bodge's Installation Service dealing with linoleum, carpet, and ceramic tile. He has recently built an all-solar home in Norwich, VT, where he resides with his wife, Carol. He had previously resided in the Meriden, Plainfield area for nearly 30 years.
As noted, he believes in doing things for long stretches at a time.