Sunday, October 27, 2013

More Kenosha Flyers

My last blog dealt with memories of the good times surrounding the Kenosha Flyers of the ‘70s. At the end I made a short list of some of the more memorable events involving the Flyers. I encouraged readers to suggest which ones they wanted to hear about. On Facebook, my friend Gregg commented that he wanted to hear about the Flyer Fan Club meetings at the Quonset Hut in Waukegan. He also expressed interest in learning more about the time Joe Rosko kicked the snot out of a referee between periods. Here ya go, Gregg. Today’s blog will be about the Kenosha Flyers Fan Club.

The 1974-1975 season was the first year my brother Mike and friends Glenn Evenson, Keith Panasewicz, Bill Nicoll, Dave Proeber, Tom Tews, Curt Vergenz, Doug Becker and me started following the Flyers. Besides my brother Mike, Doug and Curt, the rest of us were all seniors in high school. Typically, the games were on Saturday night with an occasional Sunday afternoon tilt. Admission was only a couple of bucks, so we attended pretty much all of the home games.

Our group was usually located at the very top of Kenosha Ice Arena, just to the right of center ice. My brother and I were both artistic so we made several large posters that we attached to the wall of the arena right above us. Like the NHL Philadelphia Flyers, the team colors were black and orange, so that was the basic palette for our signage.

Two of the posters immediately come to mind – “Kelly’s Heroes” and “Alfie’s Army.” The first was for goaltender Paul Kelly. He rented an apartment in Kenosha, worked at the arena’s pro shop, and even attended the same church that I did. We got to know Kelly pretty well. In fact, Glenn and I even traveled with him for a road game in Peoria.

The second poster honored winger Alfie Morrison. He was older, good-sized, had jet-black hair, and wore black horn-rimmed glasses when he played. He was a decent player, but not too physical. That is until the playoffs started. Talk about kicking it up a notch! Morrison became a beast, destroying anyone who stood in his way.

Sometime after the holidays, it was announced that that the Flyers were forming a fan club. The club would meet at various watering holes after designated home games and dues would be collected. The fact that the players would be attending these get-togethers made it a no-brainer…we had to join the Kenosha Flyers Fan Club!

I can even remember some of the “administrators” of the fan club. The president was Floyd Hart. “Big” Mike Soens and his wife, Juanita also served as officers, although I’m not sure what their titles were. I do know that Juanita had a thing for Gene Stoney. Stoney was a defenseman that also served as coach of the Flyers. Stoney was American Indian, tough as a pit bull, a bit crazy and was rumored to bring a gun with him on road trips to Peoria. And Juanita loved him. A lot.

Because a majority of the players were from northern Illinois and the Chicago area, it was decided that the first fan club meeting would be at the Quonset Hut on Grand Avenue in Waukegan. This way it would be on the way home for most of the team. The Quonset Hut was a tavern that served pizza and Italian sandwiches.

It sounded good to us.

Yes indeed, it sounded good to us because we were going to get to hang out with the Kenosha Flyer players after the game. Another reason that it sounded so good to us was because it was going to be at the Quonset Hut, a tavern that served pizza and BEER! Hey, I know we weren’t “legal” yet, being only 16 or 17, but we enjoyed an occasional cold one whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Needless to say, four or five of us made the 30-minute trip south on Green Bay Road for the inaugural Kenosha Flyers Fan Club. We paid our dues, listened to Floyd Hart pontificate about the purpose of the club, and sat in awe of being in the presence of the players we had just cheered for.

Then came the pièce de résistance. After ordering a pizza, the waitress asked us what we would like to drink. Being the largest member of our group, I put as much as bass as I could in my voice, and belted out, “Give us a pitcher of Pabst.” And it worked! The server nodded her head and left to get our pizza and beer. This fan club was great!

Well, for a short while it was.

After a short time, Hart and his cohorts decided to move the meetings to Sullivan’s, a Kenosha saloon located right around the corner from the Ice Arena on Highway 50. We weren’t quite sure why they made the switch, but as long as we could get beer, what did we care? Besides we didn’t have to drive to Illinois.

Then we found out why the fan club chose to move the meetings to Sullivan’s. For a nominal fee, the bar would put out a buffet for the club and players to enjoy. Well, the fee wasn’t so “nominal.” Being high school kids with limited financial resources, we questioned the amount. We were told that the price had to cover the cost of the Flyer players; they ate for free.

Suddenly we weren’t so star-struck with these guys. As a group we decided to drop out of the official Kenosha Flyers Fan Club. We didn’t have a secret crush on Gene Stoney like Juanita Soens did. They could buy their own grub. We were content to “admire” them from the top of the bleachers in the arena. Besides, we were resourceful; we knew plenty of places to pick up a cold one after the game.

In a couple of days I will tell you about the number that Joe Rosko did on that referee. Until next time…from the booth.

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