Former Mayor Jensen pays tribute to Ferndale Memorial Stadium

Fmr Mayor Gary Jensen

Recently, former Mayor Gary Jensen wrote a tribute to the Ferndale High School football stadium which is getting demolished and rebuilt as part of the construction of the new Ferndale High School. As it explores a key part of Ferndale’s history, the City has published it here with permission:

Can you write an obituary for a Football Stadium? How about one that has been at the same location for 80 years?

The Ferndale High School football team played it’s last ever game on the grass of Memorial Field. The old stadium will be soon torn down, allowing for a new high school. A new stadium will be constructed in a different location. To some it might be a simple patch of grass. For many others a field of grass with thousands of memories . A place where high school heroes were made.

My neighbor, FHS class of 1951, recalls most of the school getting out of class to spread gravel on the then new track surface. Imagine that happening today. He did not recall if they received shop class credit for the wheelbarrow work or P.E. credit for the rake work. In the 70’s the track surface was red brick cinder. I can still feel and hear the sound of extra long spikes crunching through that cinder as you pounded into a turn on that track. Ferndale’s track was unique in that it had enough room to hold a 220 yard dash on a straightaway. In my era, the football team locker room was located in the basement of the oldest building on the high school campus. As we left that basement on game nights, the sound of hundreds of metal tipped football cleats hitting the cement floor and then thundering up older, wooden steps, seemed to shake that old building up and down the halls. Out the doors and running out onto the field of grass, now a different shade of green because of all those lights , mounted high on wooden poles.

A buddy and I once rode our Harleys to Idaho so we could watch Ferndale play. In typical American male fashion, no maps or directions required. We simply just rode into town looking for the stadium lights. Similar to small towns all across our country, those stadium lights serving as a beacon, calling the high school fan home. Friday Night Lights!

The grass at Ferndale’s field helped to produce a pretty memorable list of stars. One NFL punter (Michael Koenen), Two NFL Quarterbacks (Doug Pederson and Jake Locker), One NFL Tight End (Cody Boyd), One NFL drafted Defensive Lineman (Ross Boice) and probably WWU’s greatest Running Back (Pat Locker) and numerous other college scholarships in football. It helped to produce one Super Bowl winning coach (Doug Pederson), one NCAA Champion football and Seattle Seahawks Coach, probably wandered the sidelines, when his father Pinky was the Head Football Coach for Ferndale (Dennis Erickson). It also aided in producing one Quarterback/Wrestler , who won Three State Championships (Jason Muggy) and another Running Back/Wrestler , who won Two State Championships (Ben Broselle). That grass helped to produce a Washington State AAA Champion Football Team and a State Champion Band and Drill Team.

It even helped to produce two Ferndale Mayors. One who learned how to hit, or be hit, fall down and then get up with a smile and a handshake. Something politicians of today could still use more of. That stadium allowed me to sit in the stands and watch a skinny, all legs, sophomore, don a cheerleader uniform and grow into a great young lady. The love of my life, second only to the other football cheerleader, her mother. In three years she never knew the feeling of her team losing on that grass.

We thank so many families, many multigenerational, who allowed young men to play on that grass. Names such as Hannah, Locker, Brudwick, Pederson, Oxford, Cline, Muggy, Irwin, Finkbonner, Westford, Ebe, Unick, Hoelzle, Perrin and Broselle. We also thank one of the best coaches we have ever seen, Vic Randall, and all those who came before and after him, such as Bill Dawes and State Champion, Jaime Plenkovich. Ferndale Memorial Stadium, “It’s a matter of Pride”, we say goodbye to you! The name and location may change but that patch of grass will not soon be forgotten.

– Gary Jensen, Ferndale High School Class of ’73

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