Basketball tournament fan recalls playing in the old Bangor Auditorium

Posted March 01, 2012, at 10:56 a.m.
Among the fans cheering for the Nokomis Warriors during the 2012 tournament was Goodwin “Goody” Gilman of Newport. He was a starting guard for the 1965 Newport Bulldogs, who played Greenville in the Eastern Maine Basketball Tournament on Feb. 25, 1954. That game took place at the old Bangor Auditorium.
Among the fans cheering for the Nokomis Warriors during the 2012 tournament was Goodwin “Goody” Gilman of Newport. He was a starting guard for the 1965 Newport Bulldogs, who played Greenville in the Eastern Maine Basketball Tournament on Feb. 25, 1954. That game took place at the old Bangor Auditorium.

Among the Nokomis fans seated about midway up the Bangor Auditorium’s lower balcony on Saturday, Feb. 18 was someone who had been there 58 years earlier, albeit in a different Bangor Auditorium.

Seated at aisle’s edge, Goodwin “Goody” Gilman watched as the announcer introduced the Nokomis girls: Shaw, Perry, Reynolds, and the others. Nokomis fans applauded, and their Warriors went on to defeat Medomak Valley, 58-51.

Gilman appreciated what the Nokomis girls experienced on the auditorium floor this day. He has fol-lowed Nokomis basketball since 1968 and Newport basketball since September 1950, when he entered Newport High as a freshman. Then “the high school was on Shaw Street,” he recalled. “My sophomore year, 1952, we moved over to Elm Street to a new school.”

Gilman played basketball for the Bulldogs, a scrappy squad belonging to “a league with Carmel, East Corinth, Hartland, Corinna. Back in those years the schools were L, M, and S: large, medium, and small. We were M, a medium” with some 175 students.

In that era, few large basketball courts existed, and teams made do. “In Newport we used to play [basket-ball] up over the library in a little basketball hall,” Gilman said. “I guess they called it the town hall; it’s where they held town meetings.”

At Greenville, basketball teams played on a stage that “had nets set up so you wouldn’t fall off,” he re-called. “Lowell Osgood was the Greenville coach, and he was so good.

“Our freshman year, we moved into the armory here in Newport,” Gilman said. “The armory was built in 1941. It was a pretty good-sized court compared to the other places we were playing. To move into that was a big deal for all the schools around here.”

All four years at Newport, Gilman played basketball for Hazen Moores, then enjoying “his first coaching job out of the University of Maine.” Moores and Osgood “were cousins and good friends. We had a great rivalry with Greenville.”

His senior year, 1953-54, Gilman played on a Newport squad that did well. On Saturday, Feb. 20, the Bulldogs traveled to Waterville to play Hallowell for the District 4 Class M championship.

“A stubborn Newport High Bulldog refused to relinquish his slim lead here Saturday night and hung on to post a 51-43 victory over Hallowell High,” Woody Bigelow later reported in the Bangor Daily News.

“Chief trigger man for Newport was smooth-working guard Goodwin Gilman, whose outside set shots played havoc with Hallowell’s zone defense,” Bigelow wrote. “Gilman was high man for the Newport quin-tet with 13 points.

“Hallowell tried hard to come back, but the damage had been done,” Bigelow reported. “With less than six minutes left Newport had worked to a 47-35 lead and despite a late period surge by Hallowell, the rally was not enough to threaten Newport’s lead.”

The win propelled the Newport Bulldogs into the Eastern Maine Class M Tournament and sent Newport fans heading to Bangor on Thursday, Feb. 25. They converged on the Bangor Auditorium, by then a time-worn, wood-framed building located in Bass Park near Buck Street.

“It was an old wooden building. It certainly was outdated,” Gilman remembered. “It was a big building compared to what the little towns had” for playing facilities.

The 1954 trip to the eastern Maine tournament was not Gilman’s first. “We went my first year, which would have been [in 1951] and played Bar Harbor. They beat us,” he said.

“It was still a big deal to go there. For the players, it was the same thing that goes on now, but on a much bigger scale today. We walked into that place, and it was so big compared to where we usually played,” Gil-man said.

On Feb. 25, the Newport and Greenville boys tipped off for their midafternoon game as falling snow ac-cumulated outside the Bangor Auditorium. The teams battled up and down the court, but the Lakers’ out-standing Wayne Champeon wore down the Bulldogs. Greenville defeated Newport 56-50.

“We played them three times that year,” Gilman said. “We lost by one point in Greenville, two points in Newport, and six points at the auditorium. Wayne Champeon was a great basketball player. He went on and played three or four years at the University of Maine.”

Greenville went on to claim the Eastern Maine Class M crown. Gilman graduated that June with a class of 32 students; he attended Hebron Academy for a year before heading to Dartmouth College, from which he graduated in 1959.

Two years later Gilman started Gilman Electrical Supply, which he owned until 1985. He served with the Maine Air National Guard and played a role in creating SAD 48.

“Consolidation came here to Newport in 1965,” he said. “I was on the first board that put together Corinna, Hartland, and Newport, and that created Nokomis Regional High School. The three [smaller] schools played individually for three years until we could build a high school in 1968. We were putting a lot of rivals together, but it’s been a great high school.”

Cheering for local teams came easy to Gilman, who has “always lived on Main Street in Newport, for 75 years.” He and his wife, Sheila, had three children. Their daughter, Gayle, graduated from Nokomis in 1981. Their sons, Andrew (’83) and Matt (’88), played varsity basketball for the Warriors.

Andrew did not play at the “new” Bangor Auditorium, but Matt did in February 1988, and his father was in the stands, watching the game. “They finally got in, Class A, and they lost to Waterville in the first game,” Gilman said.

“I don’t have any connection to the high school now, yet at tournament time, I try to go in and catch two or three games,” he said.

Gilman attended the Nokomis boys’ game at the Bangor Auditorium on Feb. 17, 2012 before returning the next morning for the girls’ game. He joined hundreds, of not thousands of other Nokomis fans who packed the bleachers and spilled high into the lower balcony.

“We had a lot of fans [in 1954], the same kind of following,” Gilman said. “Basketball was a big sport, and getting to the tournament was a big deal. Back then there was no turnpike (Interstate 95), and when a little town got into the auditorium, it was a big deal.

“It’s similar to today when the smaller schools make it. Everybody goes to the games,” he said. “Bangor, the city likes us when Nokomis plays in there [at the auditorium]. They send a big bunch [of fans] into those tournament games.”

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