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A Tale of Two Stadiums

This story appeared in the August 30, 2008 Claremore Progress by Larry Larkin.

The construction of the new Lantow Field football stadium has triggered some special memories for Claremore resident Pat Staggs. “It has been fun looking out my back window each day and watching all the work going on,” Pat said last week. While she is experiencing new feelings daily as workmen continue their tasks, several old memories have also surfaced. These deal with the 1960 opening of the Lantow Field that has been demolished to make way for the new facilities.

Pat is the daughter of Bob Henning, an assistant coach for the Zebras at the time the team moved from the Claremont School field to the new location on North Sioux Avenue. “I was too young to remember the games, but I do recall going there Friday nights to watch my father down on the field,” she said. Her recollections have become clearer with the recent discovery of the Oct. 28, 1960 issue of the Claremore Daily Progress. It lists a busy schedule for Homecoming, including the official dedication for Lantow Field.

Apparently, her father didn’t throw away much during his time as a coach. Pat and her sister, Barbara Tedder, now living in Tulsa, have recovered countless newspaper articles and clippings he had saved. Among other items are a 1959 Zebra coach’s letter jacket and the whistle he used.

Actually a head basketball coach, he also served as an assistant in football. Henning started his coaching career at Lordsburg, in New Mexico, in 1956. He taught science in the classroom. When three years later he was offered the same positions at Claremore, he gladly accepted. He and his wife, Carolyn, had driven through Claremore a short time before and both agreed it was a community where they might enjoy living.

“My father was an intelligent man to begin with, but he always sought additional knowledge,” Pat said. “Our Claremore stay came during a time we moved quite often, or so it seemed. We were here from 1959 to ’61 and then Dad took us back to his hometown, Albuquerque, after he accepted a Natural Science Foundation grant. Then it was off to Florida for two years before we moved back here for the ’64-’65 and ’65-’66 school years.

Following a divorce, the mother and two daughters returned to Claremore.
While attending her final five years of junior and high school, Pat said she didn’t take interest in football and basketball. “About the only athlete I remember talking to back then was Tojo Johnson,” she said. “He was older than I was, but he was always pleasant to be around and he could be so funny at times. He was never too busy to stop and visit. An all-around Zebra athlete who graduated in 1968, Johnson lives in Amarillo, Texas. A former electrician, Johnson is a successful high school wrestling and softball coach.

Despite being separated from her father, Pat remained in close contact with him. “We became even closer when home computers became popular,” she said. “He took a quick interest in them and it wasn’t long before we would e-mail each other almost every day. Before his death, I believe he knew he was running out of time because he started putting items concerning his past all together.”

Following a decade stay in Hawaii, Henning moved back to Albuquerque to care for his mother. He remained there until his death in 2005. “Even though he left, my father always loved Hawaii. He often said he wanted his ashes to be scattered in Waikiki Bay,” Pat said. “Last year, it was my privilege to grant his wish. So he is there now with Don Ho and a whole bunch of others.”

Following her 1975 graduation, the former coach’s daughter left Claremore. Now with two teenage sons, Pat decided it was time to come back home.
“I was fortunate to be able to move back into the first house my family lived in,” she said. “Although I never gave it much thought, I guess the opening of Lantow Field has had a hold on me all these years. When the opportunity to build a home on 11th Street came, I seized it.” 

During the past several weeks, she has been awakened early in the mornings due to noise coming from the construction site. Recently, bright lights have flooded the north side of her home. “Friends have asked me about this, but I tell them it is not bothering me at all,” she said. “In fact, it has been fun. I enjoy seeing the workers add new things. 

“Both of my sons love sports. If they are not playing sports, they are watching it on television. Now, when the stadium is finished, all of us can watch the games without leaving the back yard.”  So, while she enjoys watching the new stadium being built, she also is having fun discovering more information about her father’s time in Claremore. The 48-year-old edition of the Progress and the story about the stadium dedication caused her to recall another article.

The second article was published two years ago and also told of the earlier dedication. It gave details of the first game while listing the names of the players and the coaches, Lester Bear Jensen, Bill Dost and her father, Bob Henning. “At the end of that story, it read that someday a new stadium would be built. It also said when that day arrived; hopefully the name of Lantow Field would carry on,” she said.

Well, that day is here. Someday in the future, when it becomes necessary to build yet another stadium, maybe the daughter or son of one of the current coaches will walk into the newspaper office with another album of newspaper clippings and memories.

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