Community stepped up to secure iconic Victory Bell
By Colin Anderson | Photo by Jason Duchow Photography
As Memorial Field was undergoing its major renovation, Sandpoint Parks and Recreation was also taking a look at the longstanding Victory Bell tower and thought it might be in need of some attention as well. Not long after, Brody Durfee, owner of Durfee Construction, got the call and went to work assessing the structure that had stood since the class of 1961 donated the bell to the school.
“We rented a lift to get us up the 40 feet or so,” recalled Brody. “We went to step up on the platform up there, and it started swaying about 3 feet in each direction. You could actually hear the poles cracking, so it was time to get out of there.”
Brody has called Sandpoint home for more than 25 years after growing up in Southern Idaho. His wife Abby is a Sandpoint High School graduate. After it was determined the entire structure would need to come down, the only question left was how—and who was going to help? “Abby told me we are doing this for free, and I agreed, so we got rolling,” said Brody.
He called local designer Matt Kemp and said he was instantly on board with the project. Matt drew it up also at no cost. Local structural engineer Jeff Jensen also came in with an assist. The new structure housing the bell would be made from steel, and though the materials would be expensive, the team wanted to do it right so it would last the next couple hundred years. Mountain Metals was able to keep material costs down to a minimum and handled all the fabrication and welding manpower, again, free of charge.
While the project came together relatively quickly, the ongoing construction around Memorial Field paused the hoisting of the bell. “There’s underground water and electricity, so we didn’t want to dig this monstrosity of a footer and then have to move it or work around it,” Brody explained.
While the bell wouldn’t be up for the season, it created a unique opportunity for Brody and the Bulldogs. After the old structure was dismantled, the bell itself was placed on a flatbed trailer and taken to Brody’s shop, where it would be secure until it was ready to rise again. As the team was on the road and wrapping up a season-opening victory over Moscow, a coach called Brody to see if the bell could be delivered to Memorial Field so the players could celebrate their victory. The team wouldn’t get home until around 1am, but Brody would be sure they got their chance. “I called the city, not asking for their permission, but letting them know that this was going to happen,” he laughed. “When they got home, 60 high school kids, running on a full blast of adrenaline, shot over to the bell, climbed up on the trailer and started ringing it. I thought to myself, ‘Man, I hope it stays on there!’”
Thankfully, the bell was secure, and that special moment was a realization for Brody. Instead of letting the tradition pass for a season, he would be able to bring the bell to all games—home and away—utilizing the trailer. Brody and Abby already go to every game in support of the Bulldogs, and hooking up the trailer to transport the bell would be an easy way to keep the wonderful tradition alive.
When it was finally time to raise the bell back up, overlooking Memorial Field, it was again a group of volunteers and local professionals coming together to make sure it was done right. After five decades of mostly neglect, the new structure is set to stand the test of time. It’s adjacent to the concession stand and was turned slightly from its original position to face the grandstands. As someone who truly enjoys giving back to his community, Brody made sure everyone on his construction crew got a turn in helping with the project, whether it was during the original tear down or its rise to glory. “Everyone was so great to work with, and Abby and I are so thankful and happy to have been a part of it.”
While there was much talk of the structure, what about the bell itself? Though it’s been exposed to the elements year-round since 1961, the crew was surprised to find it in impeccable shape. “It’s pretty magnificent and, aesthetically, it’s exactly the same as when we took it down,” said Brody. Over the decades, a few brave, possibly foolish, souls had climbed the tower and scratched their name in the bell. There were other marks that could have also been eliminated, but the group decided to leave everything as it was, again preserving the history of the bell itself.
The giant white “victory” V stands proud alongside the bell, and players, fans and family members are hoping to hear the bell ring after each home game this season. Brody and Abby remember times when support for the Bulldogs was rampant and believe they are beginning to see more of that energy return to the field each home game. “Going down to the field on Friday night, seeing the grandstands full, it’s just fun! It’s such a great place to meet up as a community and cheer on our Bulldogs,” said Brody.
With each Bulldog victory this season, fans will be treated to the ringing of the bell; one ring for each point scored in the game. Despite the players giving their full energy to the game, they still find the strength to run full speed to the bell in celebration of another Bulldog victory. It’s something that Brody and Abby never tire of seeing and are thankful to have been a part of keeping the tradition alive for generations to come.
“I just love watching them sprint 100 miles per hour over there to ring it, to keep the tradition going, and provide all the work for free just makes hearing it each time all the better.”