- Dick Mason
Turn back the calendar to Monday, Nov. 5, 1956.
What would you hear on EOU's campus?
Silence a quiet directly attributable to the success of Eastern's football team.
Eastern President Frank Bennett canceled classes that day to salute the Mountaineers' Oregon Collegiate Conference championship, the first and to date, only outright conference championship Eastern's football team has won.
"The old professors couldn't believe it,'' the team's head coach, Archie Dunsmoor, said in a March 31, 1997, article in The Observer.
The championship, which Eastern clinched with a win over Southern Oregon College in Ashland on Nov. 3, became an integral part of Dunsmoor's legacy, one saluted Sunday during a remembrance ceremony in Eugene. The event recognized Dunsmoor, who died June 9 at age 84.
Dunsmoor's passing touched people like Gary Feasel of La Grande. Feasel served as an assistant football coach under Dunsmoor in the 1960s. He described Dunsmoor as a cordial person with a great sense of humor who everyone liked.
"He was a lot of fun. I enjoyed him,'' said Feasel, who later served as Eastern's head cross country and track and field coach.
Doc Savage of La Grande served as a graduate assistant for Dunsmoor in 1956. He said a key reason for Dunsmoor's success was his communication skills.
"He had an ability to interact with young people. He was a very social and amiable person,'' said Savage, who later became La Grande High School's head football coach and directed the Tigers to a state championship in 1974.
Dunsmoor came to Eastern in August 1955 after nine years at Redmond High School, where he taught and was its head football coach. He left Redmond less than a year after leading the high school's football team to its first win over Bend since 1923.
In addition to serving as football coach, he worked at various times as Eastern's track, wrestling, golf and freshman basketball coach.
Dunsmoor recalled in 1997 that Eastern's football team had anything but luxurious modes of travel in the 1950s and 1960s. The team rode to games in two old 15-passenger limousines. There were five doors on each side of the vehicles. They were a sight to behold.
"People just about drove off the road when they saw us,'' Dunsmoor said.
Eastern teams continued traveling in the limousines through the early 1960s. The team did not need anything more to transport its football team because it had relatively small squads.
The 1956 team, for example, had only 30 players.
Dunsmoor stayed at Eastern for 13 years. In 1968 the popular coach moved to Sacramento, where he coached tennis and taught at two junior colleges for 19 years.
Dunsmoor returned to La Grande many times to meet with alums and EOU colleagues.
"We used to go down to The Smokehouse and trade lies,'' Feasel said with a gentle laugh.
Dunsmoor, who grew up in Portland, enjoyed telling stories about things such as what it was like playing football before the 1950s when facemasks were introduced. Dunsmoor said it then took a lot of fortitude to make high tackles because players risked facial injuries. He noted that his high school coach admired players with cuts around their eyes because this meant they were making face-risking tackles.
"He used to say, 'If you ain't bleeding you ain't succeeding,'" Dunsmoor said.
Dunsmoor served as a Navy officer after high school with the Atlantic and Pacific fleets. He later earned his undergraduate degree from Western Oregon University and his master's degree from the University of Oregon.
He married Shirley Petersdorf on Sept. 18, 1944, in Miami Beach, Fla. She died in 1992.
Dunsmoor was earlier inducted into Eastern's athletic hall of fame.