Old Shoe history

First Posted: 11/3/2014

The Dallas football team boarded the bus for the ride to Lake-Lehman in the late afternoon on Oct. 31, heading for the latest installment of the Old Shoe Game.

But the Mountaineers had a stop to make along the way.

Dallas players and coaches filed out of the bus at the Village at Greenbriar, each taking time to shake hands with Robert Dolbear in the lobby.

Dolbear, who spent 40 years in the Dallas School District and its predecessors as a teacher and principal, was involved in the creation of the Old Shoe Trophy in 1948.

Red Ambrose, then president of both the Dallas Rotary Club and Dallas School Board, stopped to see Dolbear, who was coaching at Dallas Township at the time, in search of an old shoe.

“We went downstairs, threw all the shoes in the middle of the floor and he picked out one,” Dolbear said. “That’s the way we got the shoe and he had it bronzed.”

In the early years, the Old Shoe Trophy was awarded to the top high school football team in the Back Mountain among Kingston Township, Dallas Township, Lehman Township and Westmoreland.

“The first couple of years, the winner of the shoe got a dinner from the Rotary and the losing coaches were also involved, giving speeches,” said Dolbear, who played baseball and basketball at Mansfield University in the 1930s after playing those two sports and football at Kingston Township.

Through the years of consolidation, the tradition evolved into the Dallas/Lake-Lehman Old Shoe Game often played as the regular-season finale.

Dolbear, who is approaching his 99th birthday on Dec. 7, shared his memories of the rivalry’s history in a video-taped interview with Dallas coach Bob Zaruta. Zaruta spent hours preparing the interview and video, which was viewed by players from both Dallas and Lake-Lehman when they met for the annual Old Shoe Breakfast at Huntsville Country Club the day before the game.

Village at Greenbriar director Cheryl Howatch helped with the arrangements for the team visit.

Dolbear, wearing an Old Shoe Game T-shirt that featured helmets from both schools, sat in a chair in front of a large piano in the lobby with black and orange Halloween balloons hanging over him.

The Dallas players, already in their game pants, dressed in a mixture of jerseys, jackets and sweatshirts, approached. Mike Shutlock made his way up first, answering questions from the former coach.

Dolbear started out asking each player their position and, as the lengthy line made its way through, thanked the remaining players and told them he was glad to see them there.

The players then gathered around as the former coach delivered one more pre-game speech, telling the Mountaineers to “play hard, be safe and listen to their coaches.”

After a series of photos, Zaruta was the last to see Dolbear before the Mountaineers left for the game. He joked that Dolbear set a Villages at Greenbriar record for most visitors in a 10-minute period and promised that the Mountaineers would “play hard” for him.

Gloria Williams, Dolbear’s daughter, said Zaruta had originally contacted her to learn more about the game and invite Dolbear to be part of the coin toss.

Dolbear, who attended the games until a few years ago, still follows sports regularly through the media. He watches games on television and said he would read about how the game turned out in the Saturday morning newspaper.

“I’ll find out in the morning,” he said. “I go to bed early and get up early. It’s a bad habit from all those years at school.”

The Mountaineers indeed played hard and gave Dolbear some pleasant reading in the morning, pulling out a 27-26 victory with no time left on the clock to qualify for a return to the District 2 playoffs after a year away.

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