Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Thoughtful Piece of Small-Town History

A New Book on an Iowa Sports Legend

By Paul Ingram

(Note: This is a blog by Paul Ingram, buyer for Prairie Lights book store in Iowa City, as posted on the store's website. Both Prairie Lights and Paul are widely respected in book circles.)

Do you love Iowa sports? I mean REALLY love Iowa sports? Do you have a long memory? How about the legendary all-sports coach for the Marion Indians, Les Hipple, who took over at Marion in 1945 and led them to extraordinary success in football, basketball, and track, before his toughness as a disciplinarian no longer fit in with the non-spanking generation's notions of how teenagers should be treated.

Journalist Dan Kellams played football for Hipple in their glory years in the early '50s, and never forgot Coach Hipple's toughness, honesty, and enormous success. This book [A Coach's Life] contains his memories of Hipple and all of Marion's athletic records during the Hipple years.

It's not just a book about one man and his accomplishments as coach and leader; it's a thoughtful piece of American small-town history between the end of World War II and the early sixties. He talks about the meaning of high school sports in a small community and, more interestingly to me, the changes that took place in the way it was acceptable for adults to treat teenagers as the 40's became the 50's and the 50's the 60's.

Kellams is an interesting man who knows what's interesting about the life he lived. He's done a good bit of research to pull together Les Hipple's early life as a poor kid in the country who survived on the same kind of discipline he would later feed his student/athletes.

I doubt if Hipple could have found a more appropriate writer to have told his story than his old lineman, Dan Kellams. Kellams speaks with truth and sympathy about his coach. Hipple, who passed away in 1999, is a member of the Iowa Football Coach's Hall of Fame. This is a great gift for the long-time sports fan or anyone from Marion.

(To see Paul in action, go to http://www.prairielights.com/ and watch his YouTube performances.)