MEMORIAL FIELD

In 1953, a group of invested fathers and local business leaders formed the Archbishop Williams Men’s Association. As the group evolved, they would do anything and everything necessary to support the school and to keep its activities going. No job was too big or too small. By way of example, they counseled school leaders, provided critical financial guidance and support, and even supplied manual labor.

The Men’s Association played a particularly key role in the early years of AWHS sports. Working closely with AD Garrity they provided the tools needed to establish and expand the school’s nascent interscholastic athletic program. Their contributions included raising funds to purchase buses to take teams to and from games; purchasing trophies, letters, and jackets to recognize individual and team success; and, starting an end-of-the-year banquet to acknowledge and celebrate the year’s athletic successes.

The great AWHS football teams of the 1950’s through the early 1960’s practiced at Houghton’s Pond and played at Hollis Field in Braintree.* So one of the group’s early goals was to provide a suitable home field for the football program.

* As hard as it is to imagine now, nearly 10,000 fans crowded onto Hollis Field to see the 1957 football team finish off its perfect season with a 27-19 win over Western MA Champion Agawam.

In that context, member Dr. Norbet Lough, also the team physician, arranged for a local businessman, Mr. Joseph Barile of Barile Plumbing Co., to donate the Storrs Avenue property to AWHS. After acquiring the parcel, the Men’s Association spent months surveying, clearing trees and brush, bulldozing, installing drains, and grading. Some of the work they hired out; some they did themselves.

Coach Colombo’s 1962 football team began using the field for practice. Despite all of the site preparation work, however, the ground was still uneven, rocky and prone to flooding. Everyday players, coaches and team managers had to walk the area to pick up rocks and debris before they could start practice. The development work continued apace through the start of the 1963 season.

Finally, on November 3, 1963, before a Homecoming Game against St. John’s Prep, Memorial Field was dedicated. This momentous event was due, in large part, to the untiring work of Athletic Director Fr. Daniel Moran, Men’s Association President Bill Spencer, P’60, ’63, ’69, ’74 and Association member Nick Pepe, P’65, ’67, ’71, ’76, ’78. Mr. Pepe selflessly donated his time and financial expertise to the school for more than 50 years (1961-2013), and pledged his family home as collateral on a loan needed to purchase the first bleachers for the field.

AWHS prevailed that day 16-0 on its way to an 8-1 season and a 4th straight Catholic Conference title.

Although the flooding problems continued, maintaining the grass was a challenge, and the surface would prove to be little shy of 100 yards long, Memorial Field would serve the school well and be the site of many exciting and memorable games, events and moments over the next several decades.

In 2006, AWHS began plans to replace the grass field and track and add some needed features to Memorial Field. The design team was ably headed by Jim Edwards ’63, a professional architect and long-time school Advisory Board member and Trustee. His design called for landscaping and drainage changes to remediate the flooding issue; replacing the grass field with artificial turf and the track with a state meet-qualifying 6-lane version; installing new aluminum bleachers; and, adding locker room/storage and concession stand/lavatory structures.

The new field was introduced at the Thanksgiving game against arch-rival Cardinal Spellman in 2007. The Bishops won 30-14 to win the coveted “Gravy Bowl” and finish at 5-5.

The new track was completed and the two new structures were added soon thereafter. All of the improvements were well-received and made a real difference for our student-athletes and coaches.

Hindsight being 20/20, we came to realize that the improvements were not sufficient in the long run and, coupled with changed circumstances, some fundamental renovations, upgrades and additions are now required.