Memorial Field Where Memories Are Made
Cheering from the stands as your son makes his first touchdown. A first date enjoying a Festival at Sandpoint concert. Proudly observing as your child waves from the grandstands on graduation day. There are many memories that have been made at Memorial Field over the past 70 years. The field’s grandstands, which were first built in 1946 when Harry Truman was President, the federal minimum wage was a mere 40 cents per hour and first class postage was 3 cents, were torn down last October. The recently completed new grandstands mark the beginning of a new era that will allow future generations to enjoy the beautiful venue on the shores of the Pend Oreille River for decades to come.
Crews worked diligently over the long, wet winter to ensure that everything was ready for the first kickoff of this year’s football season, and the end product is sure to impress. As you enter, you are awed by a beautiful brick gateway that welcomes visitors to Memorial Field. Located just inside the gateway entrance is the donor wall, built with bricks purchased by and engraved for donors who contributed to the “Buy a Brick” campaign several years ago by the Friends of Memorial Field. The wall serves as a beautiful resting or gathering place.
When this year’s team takes the field, they will be the first SHS football team to play for their hometown crowd in the new stands that hold approximately 1,500 fans, an increase from the previous capacity of roughly 900.
While parents and community members have attended some of the games, there are few who have made it to virtually every home game over the last 40 years. One of those people is former Bulldog football announcer Ron Hanson, who retired a few years ago after announcing for the Bulldogs for 37 years. But he never intended to stay that long.
Ron shares that when the announcer for the Sandpoint High School football games moved out of town, he agreed to take over the duties at Barlow Stadium for the remainder of the season. That was 1978.
Ron’s daughter, Robin Hanson, recalled that retirement from announcing was just never meant to be in spite of a few attempts by her dad.
“My dad tried to ‘retire’ from announcing in 1996, and SHS honored him at the football awards banquet that winter. The following spring Jack Dyck, the activities director at the time, said ‘see you this fall,’ and my dad reminded him that he quit. Then my dad went on to announce for 17 more years!”
A 1967 graduate of Sandpoint High School, Ron Hanson has followed Sandpoint football for decades and recalls many fond memories of athletes and coaches of days gone by.
One of Hanson’s more vivid memories from his years as an announcer occurred a number of years ago when Coeur d’Alene came to Sandpoint, and Ron quickly observed that the players on Coeur d’Alene were substantially bigger than those on the Sandpoint Bulldogs. In an interview a few years back, Hanson recalled that game with a devious smile.
“I could tell our kids were intimidated so I took it upon myself to shrink the size of the Coeur d’Alene players,” said Hanson who announced the opposing players’ weight as much less than they actually were. While the home crowd caught on to what he was doing and cheered, the response from then Sandpoint’s Athletic Director Duane Ward was less than enthusiastic. “He let me know in no uncertain terms that it was not okay,” said Hanson.
What Ward told Hanson in that short conversation remained with him throughout the years and was a constant reminder of his role as an announcer of the games. “He told me I was doing this for the kids, and that I was not announcing only for Sandpoint but also for the visiting team,” said Hanson who adds that as a lifetime resident of Sandpoint, he is naturally biased towards the home team.
If you were ever wondering where the signature phrase “How ‘bout those Bulldogs!” came from, that is something credited to Hanson. He said it one time several years ago, and the reaction of the crowd was overwhelming so he continued to do it each time the home team scored. It became his signature line.
“I always wondered before each game how many times I would have the opportunity to say it,” said Hanson. He recalls one time when the Bulldogs were beating Coeur d’Alene and at one point when he made his post-touchdown announcement, the Coeur d’Alene coach sitting in the booth next to Hanson tried to reach over and grab the microphone.
As time would allow, he and his colleague in the announcer’s booth, Dwight Sheffler, attended many of the away games. However, they were not able to attend the game where the Bulldogs won the State Championship in 1997 but that did not deter the two from celebrating. “We listened to the game on the radio, and when they won we went to the stadium and rang the victory bell,” said Hanson.
Announcing games for the hometown crowd for nearly four decades was something that Ron looked forward to each week. His only payment was a delivery of a hamburger from the concession booth, but he likely would not have wanted to be paid for his role. “Ron did it for the community,” said his wife Ranel. “He loves the sport and he loved the kids.
She shares stories of how Ron and Larry Jeffres, a friend of theirs and one time radio announcer for the Bulldogs, used to share “cocoa” in the booth. “I think he also did the announcing for the ‘cocoa,’” she said as she laughed.
Ranel also shared a story that demonstrates not only how long Ron’s tenure was, but also the dedication of fans in our community.
“There was a family, the Becker family, who came to every single home game for years and always sat in the same place,” said Ranel. “Over the years, Ron would look down from the booth and they would always be there. Over time, their hair changed from dark, to gray and eventually to white.”
Ron took his role as announcer seriously and would show up at the stadium before each home opener to test the sound system. “He would usually be there all day, rewiring or fixing something,” Ranel said of his foresight to make sure everything was in order for the first kickoff of the season.
Ron’s passion was contagious in his 37 years as a Bulldog announcer. He would get the crowd excited and do his best to still build up the excitement even when the Bulldogs were down. And according to Ranel, he loved every game, but Homecoming was one of the more special times.
“He loved those kids,” she said.
Thank you Ron, for the many years of cheering on our Bulldogs! It was great to have you in the announcers’ booth for so many years. It was a gift to the fans and players! See you at the game!