Basketball legend’s death stirs local memories

News this week that basketball great Bill Russell died brought back memories of his appearance as the special guest at a Gorham High School athletic banquet in 1963.

The Gorham boys basketball team had won the state championship in their class that year for Coach Dean Evans, and Russell’s banquet attendance capped off the year in great style. Team members Ron Boothby, Ken Knapton and Bob Francoeur had the honor of meeting Russell at the former Exit 8 on the Maine Turnpike to escort the Boston Celtics icon to Gorham High School. The Gorham team even had their picture taken with Russell.

When contacted this week on social media, Knapton, who now lives in Westbrook, summed up the experience as “amazing.” He recalled that Russell, who signed an autograph that Knapton gave to his grandson, drove a Lincoln convertible with “his head above the windshield.”

Walter Ridlon of Lewiston, also a Gorham player on the championship team, said he attended Russell’s basketball camp in Casco. Ridlon recalled Russell was “very humble.”

“He showed me a simple trick so I could rebound against bigger players,” Ridlon said.

Russell and the Celtics also played an exhibition game in the Westbrook High School gym about 65 years ago.

Final concert in series

A summer series of concerts wrap up with the Delta Knights Band from 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 9, at the gazebo on the lawn at Gorham Municipal Center, 75 South St.

50 years ago

The American Journal reported Aug. 2, 1972, that Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Wagner of Connecticut and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Sylvester Carlyons of Holland, were visiting his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Nelson Wagner of Libby Avenue.

U.S. taxpayer debt

The Bureau of the Fiscal Service reported July 28 that the U.S. public debt was $30,580,925,386,856.72.

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