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How Paonia's football field got its name

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Photo by Tamie Meck An inconspicuous brass plaque dedicating the football field at Paonia Town Park to Dan Lawrence sits at the north end of the field. A rededication ceremony was held in 1975 during Paonia High School homecoming week. Is it time for anot

Did you know that the football field at Paonia Town Park actually has a name?

In a history of the field compiled by former town trustee David Bradford, in 1922, Violet M. and Harold C. Clark agreed to sell the parcel that would become Paonia Town Park to the town for $10,000. On May 15, 1924, a warranty deed transferring the land from the Clarks to the town was filed.

On Nov. 12, 1936, Paonia High School's then football and baseball field was dedicated to Daniel E. Lawrence, a former football coach and teacher at Paonia High School. A boulder with a modest brass plaque rests at the north end of the field.

A December 2012 back page story by former DCI sports writer Eric Goold provided a brief history of Lawrence and his time at PHS.

The years 1923-1929 and 1933-1937 are known as "the Dan Lawrence Years."

"On Nov. 1, 1923, we got the first glimpse of what Paonia could be when coach Dan Lawrence and the Paonia High School football team demolished Delta by a score of 45-0," wrote Goold.

On Sept. 2, 1926, Lawrence told the Paonian newspaper that he expected a good season. It turned out to be an "epic year for Paonia football ... The Western Slope Conference was played out to a three-way tie between Paonia, Delta and Grand Junction. Each team played two full quarters against each of the others, making a complete game for each team, with 15-minute intermissions.

"A special train took fans to Grand Junction on Dec. 3, where the tangle was ironed out. Fans bought roundtrip tickets to Grand Junction from Paonia for $2.50. Tickets to the game were 75 cents. Among players were Paul Hofer, Clayton Cox, Bob Clements, Phil Rule, Bill McMichael, Kenneth Grove, Ray Parks, Don Dickson, Alfred Bennett, Jim Haley, Glen Allison, Kenneth Carnine and Claude Snook.

"In the first game, Grand Junction beat Delta, 32-0. The second game resulted in a Paonia 6-0 triumph over Grand Junction. And in the third and final game, Paonia beat Delta, 13-0," for the championship.

Paonia native Lynne Bear found through Ancestry.com that Lawrence died Nov. 13, 1973. At the Sept. 27, 1975 homecoming, a rededication of the field was held as part of the Homecoming Week festivities. Students participated in the annual "Dan Lawrence Parade," and 18 freshmen jammed into a VW Bug "under the light of the Spirit Fire." During the celebration, "some well-meaning fans absconded with the team's Victory Bell," which to this day is rung at Eagles football games.

Lawrence also rekindled friendships with some of his past players.

While it was a grand celebration, the Eagles "bowed to the GVL (Grand Valley League) champion Cedaredge Cubs, 44-0."

The Eagles went on to win numerous league titles, including state championships in 1959, 2014 and 2015.

Bear, whose mother was born in Paonia in 1891, suggested that with this year's removal of the old baseball facility at Dan Lawrence Field, and with the many changes occurring in the community, perhaps in the near future another re-dedication would be appropriate.

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