Monday, April 25, 2016

Letter to the Editor: Beeks Athletic Field

Dear Baldwin City Gazette,

I am enjoying your online newspaper very much. Thank you!!!

Recently you had an article that mentioned that Baker University was interested in buying the open block between 5th and 6th, Baker to Chapel most recently used as a playground, ball and soccer field. I remember some of the people who were involved with this project and also C.E. Beeks. Tom Hitchcock later ran his father’s drug store in Baldwin (4 generation family operation), and others were well-known families in the community that I’m  sure many of your older readers will remember.

I thought maybe you and your readers may be interested in a tidbit of history on that lot. If so, use whatever of the following as you wish.


                In 1946 the high school and Baker University were both using the University’s stadium for their football games. However, the high school needed to have lighting so they could play night games. The prospect of installing temporary lighting at the stadium was deemed inadvisable by the University, thus hanging up the prospect of a lighted field for the new football season. As a result, the high school decided to build its own football field and purchased the land now being considered by Baker University. At that time, the high school was in the red brick school building to the west.
                Coach Charles Bonebrake took it upon himself to see that the new field was made ready for the season opener against Eudora. By August, 1946 leveling of the new field was progressing rapidly and lighting equipment had been ordered. Members of all the teams worked long hours digging up unused poles and resetting them around the field, grading the field and attending the countless other tasks that must be done. Lights were donated by Baker University, and Melvin Cook took over the job of lineman to secure them on the poles and connect the wiring in preparation for the installation of the transformer. The field itself would cover about three-quarters of the block.
Baldwin High School was the defending Champions of the Little Six league and would begin their defense of that title with the first of four games under the lights in the 1946 season. The opening game of the new season was against Eudora High School. Thirty-six men, including eleven former lettermen, had checked out football equipment for the season. The lettermen were Tom Hitchcock, Joe Emery, Gene Kalb, Charles Caskey, Jerry Carver, Vernon Sturm, Alfred Gooding, Frank Ford, Jim Harmon and Dale Kring.
By game night, September 28, 1946, the field was ready and the lights were turned on. A special dedication ceremony was held during which the new “Beeks Athletic Field” was dedicated to the late Charles Beeks. Wilson Counts, president of the Board of Education, conducted the ceremony recalling the many years that Beeks had given as president of the Board and of his other interests and support to the interests in the welfare of the school and community. Claude Beeks, son of the late Charles Beeks, and Mrs. C.E. Beeks accepted for the family.

The Beeks home and farm was the acreage north of Highway 56 and west of County Highway 1055 until it was finally sold and developed with businesses and the Fire Creek neighborhood area. Beeks Field was abandoned when Baker University decided to install permanent lights at the stadium so they could play night games as well. I believe some or all of the lighting equipment from Beeks Field was moved and used in that lighting project. The high school and University games have both been played at Liston Stadium ever since.

Thank you again for what you are doing for the Baldwin community. I’ll try to get news and tidbits of historical interest to you when I can. I hope they will help.

Loren K. Litteer
Baldwin City

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