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There is a memorial to the forgotten history behind the football field in the old town

Almost none of the Old Town High School athletes who played over the decades at Victory Field, the school’s football and soccer facility, had a clue that their field hadn’t been named for their success in sports, as has generally been assumed for many years. .

But 100 years ago, when the land was first opened, it was named in honor of veterans of the First World War, which ended on November 11, 1918 – the day of the armistice, the day we now observe as Veterans Day. A marker noting that the honor was never installed, however, and over time the reason for the memorial began to be forgotten.

Last month, Old Town High School’s JROTC finally completed this century-old project, installing and then dedicating a new bronze plaque in honor of World War I veterans, as the founders planned. of the estate when it opened in 1920.

Mary Giboleau, a longtime volunteer at the Old Town Museum, knew the land was a memorial to World War I veterans, but had never looked into why there was no marker. At the start of the pandemic, however, some serious vandalism on the ground while it was closed to sporting activities sparked his interest in finding out.

Old Town High School’s Victory Field was named after World War I veterans 100 years ago, but this memorial has been forgotten over time. Last month, Old Town High School’s JROTC installed a new bronze plaque in honor of these veterans, as planned when it opened in 1920. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN

“This vandalism really drove me crazy, but it also reminded me that I had always wanted to know why there was no memorial,” she said. “It turns out they ran out of money all those years ago, and it never happened. They are really well maintained, beautiful fields. The only thing missing was a plaque.

Giboleau asked almost everyone she met in town if they knew what Victory Field was named for, and no one did.

“Nobody knew,” she said. “There may be a few older people who remember it, but there aren’t many left. New administrators arrive, new teachers, families move away. Things are forgotten. That’s why it’s important to make sure people don’t forget.

Giboleau passed this information on to the Old Town JROTC instructors, Lt. Col. Steve Szewc and 1st Sgt. Joel Peaslee, and they and their cadets quickly adopted it as a service project for 2020. They nicknamed the project “Operation Doughboy,” after Americans serving overseas in World War I.

The cadets raised money for the plaque, with help from the Old Town Historical Society and locals of the VFW and the Daughters of the American Revolution. A re-dedication ceremony took place on October 23, ahead of an Old Town High School girls’ soccer game.

Although World War I saw more than 4 million U.S. servicemen mobilized and over 116,000 U.S. servicemen killed in the 21 months the country was embroiled in the conflict, public awareness of what was once known as the name “Great War” is nowhere near as high as it is for other conflicts such as civil war. Over 32,000 Mainers fought in the war and 1,032 were killed.

Old Town High School’s Victory Field was named after World War I veterans 100 years ago, but this memorial has been forgotten over time. Last month, Old Town High School’s JROTC installed a new bronze plaque in honor of these veterans, as planned when it opened in 1920. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN

Perhaps this is in part because the last American veteran of World War I died in 2011. Additionally, the conflict was largely eclipsed 23 years after its end when the United States entered World War II, a much larger, longer, and bloodier conflict.

But World War I memorials are everywhere in Maine, from the Lady Victory Memorial in Bangor’s Norumbega Parkway to the 100 lime trees planted in 1921 along Baxter Boulevard in Portland to the Memorial Tower atop Mount Battie in Camden. Most of them were created by fundraising committees in each city, which solicited donations and whose members were involved in their creation.

And now the Old Town, with its newly dedicated sports ground, officially has one as well.

“It’s nice to think of all the people in town who put together all the money to build the field in the first place. The farmers took their horses out to plow it. It was a real community effort, ”said Giboleau. “We just had to cross the finish line 100 years later.”


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