It was a chilly day in early December of 1974 in Millinocket when I stumbled a bit going up the steps while boarding a bus for our trip to Caribou.
The reason for my stumble was that I was very wet-behind-the-ears sophomore and I was making my first trip on a Bangor and Aroostook bus as a member of the first basketball team I ever made, the Stearns High junior varsity. I knew about the Stearns’ tradition of taking B&A buses for long road trips — those lasting more than an hour — for its varsity and JV away games but it was still a pretty awesome feeling to be surrounded by the comfortable confines of a bus that included a cushioned reclining seat.
For those too young to remember B&A buses, today’s equivalent would be a Cyr or Concord coach bus.
The days of the B&A bus trips for Stearns’ basketball trips were fueled by a strong local economy in Millinocket backed by a booming Great Northern Paper Company mill that featured 11 paper machines with its newest machine, No. 11, covering an area about as long as a football field.
Those bountiful days are gone and the last paper produced in Millinocket occurred in 2008. Some of the mill was sold for scrap a few years ago before its buildings were demolished.
What does remain is a passion for Stearns’ youth love of sports and the desire to compete. Several young women would like to do so in the sport of high school soccer and it’s time for Stearns High alums to step up to the plate to provide the funds needed to let those players be part of a cooperative team with Lee Academy.
With practices for soccer season beginning Monday, Aug. 15 and regular-season games to follow in a little more than two weeks, the time is now for Stearns alums — especially those of past sports teams who enjoyed rich budgetary support — to make a donation to support the Stearns soccer players.
They deserve the opportunity to compete and all the benefits being part of a high school sports team offer, just like we did.
And for those wondering if this thrifty newspaper man has backed up his words with a donation, yes, I have.