2013-10-04 / Front Page

Beal gym floorboards, a piece of history for the taking

By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – When a leak and roof collapse this summer at South Portland High School’s Beal Gymnasium made the wooden floor unsuitable for athletic use, Todd Livingston had an idea.

“Just through conversation with a few people, I thought, ‘Geez, what a great idea if we could save some of the gym floor and cut up pieces to sell as memorabilia,” Livingston said.

An alumnus of South Portland High School’s class of 1989 and the current athletic director, Livingston played soccer, basketball and baseball in high school, and recognizes the important history of the gym.

“Being an alum myself, I’ve a lot of memories in that gym,” Livingston said. “A lot of great athletes have come through South Portland. These pieces, I think, are going to be a high commodity.”

Beal Gymnasium was constructed in 1954. The gymnasium floor was replaced sometime in the 1960s, said Livingston.

Scott Trebilcock, a career prep and shop teacher at the high school, has agreed to store the 500 feet of fragments in his classroom until a plan for cutting the wood is decided upon. Trebilcock will help shape and cut the pieces when dimensions are decided, Livingston said.

Other teachers and administrators have begun voicing their interest in, and support for, the project.

Renee Helmke, who has worked in the front office and in the guidance office as administrative support for the last six years at South Portland High School, showcased her support.

“I have many, many memories on that floor,” Helmke said. “Both of my sons graduated from the high school – one in 2007 and the other last year – but I’ve been following South Portland basketball since I moved here in 1981,” Helmke said.

“Over the years I’ve come to know the history of basketball in South Portland, and there is quite a lot to it,” Helmke added. “So many people had experiences in that gym, there’s so much to tell – from those who played to those who cheered to those who coached to those who watched. There are so many people who have memories like I do.”

When Helmke initially heard about the rain damage, her first reaction was to salvage the wood for everyone who wants to share in her catharsis.

“The first thing that occurred to me was to somehow make souvenirs, in fact,” Helmke said. “We thought we would dismantle it and finish it and perhaps sell it to those who would like a piece of it for prosperity, and to also use it as a fundraiser for the high school.”

Because there is so much wood, and it evokes strong emotions from a lot of people, Helmke and Livingston anticipate that the fundraiser could potentially produce a noteworthy sum of money. The proceeds could be put toward a larger project such as a turf athletic field.

“What we’re going to try to do is tap those who played and who have memories like I do,” Helmke said. “We’re selling pieces of history.”

When asked how the pieces would be presented to those interested in buying, Livingston said, while ideas are still on the table, he does have a few.

“I’m working with a vendor who designs awards to come up with a design, whether that’s attaching a plaque or doing some sort of laser engraving,” Livingston said.

Those involved in the project said the idea will come to fruition by the end of the school year.

Recalling how sad she was when she first heard of the damage to the floor, Helmke said, “I think it’s important to add that, history of this nature needs to be preserved in a society where those things often get overlooked. In all things it’s always important to remember, and to reuse, and to celebrate. And, if possible, to profit.”

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