Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Coach-Turned-Author Gordy Scoles Takes a Look at Football in Nashua

This is something different.

It’s got a lot to do with the northeast Iowa community of Nashua, but it’s not about the Little Brown Church in the Vale.

That, my friends, takes some doing.

For the past 150 years, very few people talked about Nashua without mentioning the nearby Little Brown Church, too.

But what this column is about is Gordon “Gordy” Scoles and his book, “Best In the Land—The First Half-Century of Nashua High School Football.”

On Page 231 [the last page] of the book, Scoles writes that he “grew up four blocks from Nashua High School, where he graduated with the class of 1961 and was overshadowed on the gridiron by his dad and uncle…..”

Scoles, a 62-year-old former coach, now lives in Bennettsville, S.C.

“Bennettsville is about 85 miles from Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Raleigh, N.C.,” he tells me. “We’re either in the middle of nowhere or in the middle of everywhere. Depends on how you look at it.”

Scoles said he’ll be “signing and, I hope, selling books Saturday at Nashua’s Sesquicentennial Celebration and at the Nashua-Plainfield alumni banquet. The celebration is in the morning and the banquet is in the evening. We plan to be in Iowa from Wednesday through Tuesday, June 28.”

The well-written book is filled with facts and photographs, and will be of interest to anyone who has followed high school football in this state.

This isn’t Scoles’ first book. His others include “Freedom in the Huddle,” “The Creative Edge in Coaching Psychology [With Darrell Mudra],” “Higher and Farther: Complete Guide to Coaching Field Events,” and “Maxing Out: Total Strength Training for Athletes.”

“I have heard from people all over the country who read “Best in the Land,” Scoles said. “Many wrote to thank me for writing about their fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers and uncles.

“One person who wrote was a retired 84-year-old University of Iowa graduate and University of Oregon law professor who read about his dad who played football and basketball for Nashua over 85 years ago.

“I also reconnected with Doug Pinkham, who coached at Nashua from 1953-1960, and then went on to be selected to the Iowa Football Coaches Hall of Fame after a successful career at West Marshall of State Center. In writing about Nashua football, I ran across Kent Taylor [Louis Weiss], who was probably the most well-known Nashuan of that period.

“I could never find that Taylor/Weiss ever played football for Nashua, or that he ever graduated [as he claimed] from Nashua High School, but he did go on to star in several movies in the 1930s and 1940s, and then starred in ‘Boston Blackie,’ an early-1950s TV show.”

Scoles said it took him about 3 ½ years to write the book.

“I started in late-June, 2001, and finished around Thanksgiving, 2004,” he said. “I think I’ve sold a little over 200 of these self-published books. I’ve printed 325 books and I think if I sell another 40, I’ll financially break even.

“’Best in the Land’ hasn’t sold quite as well as your book [“Tales from the Iowa Sidelines”] or “The Bridges of Madison County,” but I have really felt good about the comments I have received from the people who have read it.”

Scoles said his interest in writing track and field coaching articles began at “almost the minute I started coaching and teaching at Columbus High School in Waterloo in 1967. I had several articles published in coaching journals, then took off for Western Illinois University, Northern Illinois University [where they dropped track] and Iowa State [his years there were 1976-1980].”

Among Scoles’ other coaching stops were St. Andrews College in Laurinburg, N.C., where he was the track and cross-country coach from 1986-1989, and Minnesota State in Moorhead, where he was the track coach in 1990-1991.

Scoles said he “was the first assistant coach Iowa State’s Bill Bergan hired when he took over for Jerry Barland in 1976. I coached the field events, which included shot-putter John Scheetz and Scott Crowell, the discus thrower. I left coaching at ISU in 1980 because my first wife had died suddenly during the 1978 track season and I couldn’t juggle NCAA Division I coaching and two little kids.

“When I coached with Bill, I wrote those track and field and weight training books, along with several coaching articles. After I left coaching for several years, my writing stopped, and it took me a few years and lots of reading to shift gears and genres, if that’s the word I should use. I ended up teaching high school history in South Carolina seven years ago, and kept trying to figure out how to get the kids interested in history of the kind that also interested me.”

Scoles said, “The next thing I knew, I got this idea to write about Doug Pinkham, my high school coach at Nashua from 1957-1959. As you can see, I expanded on that topic, and I’m now working on a football novel aimed at middle school-high school kids that is based on one of the stories I uncovered in ‘Best In the Land.’

“My daughter, who helped with the photos and printing of the book, suggested I get an editor for the next one.”

Scoles said his intention was to write about Nashua High School’s undefeated, untied 1959 football team that was ranked No. 1 among small schools in the state.

“The story grew on me,” he pointed out. “Before I knew it, I was back to 1896 and writing about the first half-century of Nashua High School football and all the different people, facts and figures of the town during this period. My original plan was to print 50 books and give them as gifts to family, friends and people who donated photographs and stories.

“Instead, I ended up printing 100 copies the first time around, which was good because word spread after people began reading it. Soon others wanted to buy it. I dedicated the book to my dad, Don Wesley Scoles, who died in 1962 and was a great player for Nashua High School during the 1921, 1922 and 1923 seasons.”

Scoles said he and his wife, Pat, who is from Waverly, have three grown daughters and four grandchildren.

There’s more writing from Scoles on the way. He said he’s “about 80 percent finished with the book ‘Onward To Victory: The First Half-Century of Greene High School Football.’

“Greene is about 12 miles from Nashua, and before the schools were consolidated with other schools, the two were fierce rivals.

“Clare Grendler was a great athlete at Greene from 1956-1960. I sent him a copy of the [Nashua] book to rub it in on how badly we beat them in 1958 and 1959, Instead of getting mad, he suggested I write something similar about Greene’s past football teams.”

Vol. 4, No. 353
June 21, 2005