WILMINGTON/JACKSONVILLE, FL., — A short while ago, a retired Deputy Sheriff/Police Officer from Jacksonville, Florida, came across a piece of Wilmington High School Football history.
Jim Jordan recently bought a "Spalding J5-V Football" from ebay, only knowing that it was a game ball from a high school football game played over 50 years ago.
The date: November 24, 1966. And where did the ball come from? The Wilmington-Tewksbury Thanksgiving Day game.
"I bought the game ball on ebay and me being a retired deputy police officer, I had to do background work on the football,” explained Jordan. “I soon found the school, Wilmington Mass, with the town of Tewksbury located nearby. I realized that the ball was the game ball played between the two schools on Thanksgiving Day, a rival played between the two schools ever since 1935."
All of Jordan's background information was certainly true. He then contacted Wilmington High School's interim (and formerly retired) Athletic Director, coach and player, Ed Harrison.
"I received an email from a Jim Jordan from Florida with information on a very special football from our school. He purchased the Spalding J5-V Football on ebay only knowing that it was a game ball. The ball is in great shape and had the players and coaches names on it.
“He told me the score written on the side is 22-0 and that he researched our school’s history and saw we had many winning teams in the late 1960’s and beyond. I told Jim that I was a sophomore on that team in ’66. Jim got right back to me saying I see your ‘Eddie Harrison’ on the back of the ball."
Jordan was asked how all of this came about.
“I was looking at several used ‘Duke’ (University) Wilson Footballs, and I ran across the Spalding J5-V Football, which was forty dollars and then another ten dollars for shipping and it looked to be very interesting with all of the names on it,” he said. “Upon receiving the ball in the mail, I could not help but look up the two towns (Wilmington and Tewksbury).
“I then emailed the woman who I purchased the ball from on e-bay and she explained to me that the ball was purchased at an Estate Sale in New Hampshire, which was Dr. Fagan’s residence before he passed away. Dr. Fagan was honored with the ball after that 1966 Thanksgiving Day Game. The ball must have kept inside a box in a closet for 53 years due to its pristine condition.”
From there Jordan contacted Harrison.
“I had the football seating on my bedroom dresser, and at night time I felt the ball was telling me to get it back to Massachusetts where it belongs,” he said.” Mr Harrison emailed me back and said that he would love to have the ball, that he played on that team that year as a sophomore. I went and looked at the ball and there as big as the state of Dallas, was his name. We made an arraignment to transfer ownership of the ball.”
Jordan happens to be the same age as of Harrison. He said he was a sophomore at a high school in Jacksonville, Florida in 1966 and after graduation, he went into the Navy. From there he had several jobs including 24 years with the Jacksonville Sheriff Office.
Additionally, he worked at a law school, worked manual labor at the Tournament of Players Championship Golf Course at Sawgrass.
“I have never been to the New England area but have worked with several people that lived there for many years and the moved down here. I have always liked the people that grew up outside of Boston, but never the ones that grew up in (the city),”he said with a laugh.
The Good People who live outside of the city, the Wildcats finished that 1966 season with a record of 5-2-2. Wilmington opened the season posting four shut outs with a scoreless tie against Andover, a 14-0 win over North Andover, before another scoreless tie against Methuen and then an 18-0 win over Dracut.
From there was a 22-6 win over Burlington, before back-to-back close defeats to Chelmsford, 13-12 and North Reading, 13-6, before ending the season with two more shut out victories over Billerica, 28-0 and then Tewksbury 22-0.
The team was coached by Hall of Famer Fred Bellissimo with assistant Kenny Palm.
After that Tewksbury game, the members of the team signed the ball. The team's captains were Dick Doucette and Rick Ely. It was Doucette who scored two touchdowns in that Turkey Day win.
The other offensive members of the team included ends Paul Maloney and Mike O'Rourke, tackles Eddie Gillis and Roland Wood, guards Jackie Gillis and Ely, centers Jim Cushing and Wesley Kobylac, quarterback Billy Walls, right halfback Bobby Flores with Danny O'Connell, Henry Devlin and Doucette as well.
Other members of the team included Billy Sheehan, Bobby Barry, Jimmy Tildsley, Jerry Land, Jimmy Kennedy, Tommy Ely, Doug Keller, Jimmy Moore, Allen Greene, Bob McAllister, Billy Pickowitz, Danny LeDuc, Gary Hebsch, Chuckie Casey, Doug Smith, Jack Irwin, Jack Burns, Harrison, Dickie Reitchel, Bobby Stewart, George Phillips, Kevin MacMillan and Rober Quandt.
"Jim said the ball was given to Dr. Gerald Fagan after the game and he kept it in his closet for (53) years. There was an estate sale and a woman purchased the ball and placed it on ebay and he bought it. He told me that he loved the ball but deep inside, something told him to find the right owner and place to display it."
And indeed it is on display.
"Jim is pleased to know that we will put the ball in our trophy case," said Harrison.