There are days when I really miss my hometown of
Bolivar, NY, nestled in the foothills of the Allegany
Mountains in western NY state. Today is one of them.
Our football team won it’s first Sectional title
today, and they have a chance to move on to a state
title. Our town is about 1000 people, and about a
decade ago, we merged with adjoining town of Richburg,
which is smaller than Bolivar. My graduating class
was 44 and the Richburg class was 18, so I suspect the
merged school graduates maybe 60 kids now.
The players last names are much the same as they were
when I was growing up. Tompkins, Konert, Miller, and
Lounsberry. Too bad no Stopha’s anymore. Like most
rural NY towns, there’s only enough work for a few to
stay in town. The rest move away. But I hope for
most of us, we never have to leave, at least in our
Bolivar is much the same now as it was 25 years ago
when I moved away. One stop light, and about a 2:1
ratio of churches to bars. Friday night is game night
– football, basketball, wrestling or baseball –
depending on the season. Away games are a reason to
get out of town for most, not a reason not to go. I’m
sure the last names in Belmont, Scio and Cuba are much
the same as when I was there.
Bolivar was the definition of hick to my freshman
classmates at St. John Fisher College in Rochester.
We all ventured there one fall day in my roommates old
chevy van. As soon as we all walked in the door
unannounced, mom and dad ran to the local grocery
store, bought food, and started cooking. Most of my
friends had never been to such a rural place other
than in passing, and they still talk about that trip.
Winning the title will mean a parade, complete with
the lone fire truck and the lone police car, if I’m
guessing right. The whole town was up at the game
anyway, but it won’t be complete without more
celebrating when they drive the 2 hours back from
Rochester to town. The bars will be packed tonight,
probably talking about the last undefeated season back
in the early 1970’s, when local hero Bob Torrey was
the fullback. He went on to play at Penn State and 3
years in the pros – NY Giants and Dolphins. Not sure
if any of the current class have the potential to go
to a big college for football. Those kind of athletes
only come along about once every 2 generations or so
in our parts. Most kids are in every sport in order
to field teams and because that’s how rural
communities work – everyone does everything. If you
aren’t on the team, you’re a cheerleader or in pep
band or at the game one way or another. I hope we
haven’t lost part of our town to video games and cable
This is a day I’d rather be in Bolivar in person.
Luckily, it’s a place I’ve never really had to leave.
Mark Stopha and Sara Hannan
Alaska Wild Salmon Company
Wild Salmon and Salmon Pet Treats
4455 N. Douglas Hwy
Juneau, AK 99801