The first Touchdown scored for Alvirne football was on March 4, 1994 at the School District meeting when 450 voters approved the beginning of football at Alvirne. The final score was 232 in favor and 210 opposed, a mere 22 vote margin. Yes, there had been prior attempts at a football program; one as early as 1967, and many in the 1980’s. As I researched for this story, I could see that 1994 was different; the first time that Alvirne school administration officially endorsed the idea even though the School Board and the Budget Committee did not.
Alvirne’s enrollment in 1995 made it the seventh largest Class L high school in the state but ranking poorly when it came to competitive athletic programs. This was affecting the students, the school spirit, and even educational and scholarship opportunities for college.
Alvirne Athletic Director, Clyde Meyerhoefer, presented a well thought out three-year plan to the voters. The first year, $63,250 budget, would include equipment for 60 players coaching staff, transportation, and game officials. The second year, $42,000 budget, would expand the number of players to 80. The third-year budget would be $32.000. The program started at the junior varsity (JV) level and expand to the varsity level. Support for football came mostly from towns people who were active in Pop Warner football and who wanted their family members to continue to play the sport even into college.
Alvirne football began in the fall of 1995. The 1996 class yearbook proudly recorded the excitement and success of the first Alvirne football team coached by Howard Sobolov to a record of 3 wins and 4 losses. Alvirne football jersey #22 was retired as a tribute to the mystical 22 vote margin at the 1994 school meeting and successful plan spearheaded led by Clyde Meyerhoefer. That framed jersey hangs to this day in the office of Karen Bonney, Alvirne Athletic Director.
Stadium lights were added to the field complex through the generosity of the Alvirne Trustees by September 1996; thus, enabling the first home game in Alvirne’s history on Friday evening September 13,1996. It was a rainy cool night and the football fans stood alongside a fence overlooking the field or stood on the back of pick-ups to get the best vantage point. Bleachers and an announcement booth were added by September 1999.
Over the past 20+ years Alvirne football has had some successes while other years have been more challenging. At the end of the day, as AD Karren Bonner reflects, it is about providing students the opportunity to represent their school and their community.
So, we ask, when did earlier attempts to start a football program occur and why did it take so long to become reality?
The earliest I found was in 1967. There was no specific warrant to start a football program, a $3,500 line item was included in the annual school budget for football at Alvirne. This led to much discussion, amendments to the article, and even amendments to the amendments! After lots of discussion and compromises between the School Board and the Budget Committee, the football program was removed from the budget (and expressly prohibited). These are the actual words used by the Telegraph reporter about the meeting. The budget was then approved without football.
During the next 10 to 15 years there was a lot of competition for money within the School District. The completion of Memorial School, the athletic field complex at Alvirne, the fire and rebuild of Alvirne, and the growing need for additional elementary classrooms. During this same time, the annual school budget were often cut by the voters at the annual meetings.
As we entered the 1980’s there was one attempt with an article in 1981, but it never came to a vote. Interest picked up again in 1985 with the introduction of two warrant articles requesting permission to start a football program and to raise $50,000 for it. After much discussion, the voters agreed to form a committee to study the possibility and report back at the meeting in 1986. For the 1986 meeting there was a $790,000 bond issue to expand the physical education facilities at Alvirne. Football startup was a part of this article. 300 people attended the School district meeting at Memorial School. In the end this article was overwhelmingly defeated by a vote of 236 of 58. Another proposal was presented in 1987 which called for $132,000. After about 30 minutes of debate this was defeated 298-70. That brings us up to the successful proposal spearheaded by Clyde Meyerhoefer in 1994.
That leaves the question “Why did it take so long?” These past few months I have had occasions to reminisce with some Alvirne alumni. The question of football and why it took so long often came up. Many alumni, myself included, remembered hearing that football at Alvirne was forbidden because the Hills Family who donated the money to start the school had a son who was severely injured or killed playing the sport. Many had heard it, but none could site the source. My research and the research of many before me have shown this rumor to be false; in fact, Dr. and Mrs. Hills did not have a son. So, let’s look at some more realistic reasons for the delay.
Alvirne began as a small high school in a small town where the initial building was funded by the trust funds of Dr. Hill’s family. The growth of school enrollment was aided by students from neighboring towns such as Litchfield, Pelham, and Windham. These neighboring towns paid tuition which helped with the expenses but the decisions for expansion were made by the Hudson voters.
As a small school in the 50’s and 60’s we concentrated on basketball, track and field, soccer, and baseball. Until the mid-60’s and later with the growth of Pop Warner in town football at the high school did not enter the picture.
There was always competition for school money. We saw this as we reviewed discussions from the various school district meetings. I think of the 1967 school meeting where press coverage of the meeting stated that football was removed from the budget and expressly forbidden. This fact could have fueled the rumor.
Clyde Meyerhoefer and his family came to Hudson in 1974 when he became a teacher/coach. He coached many sports including soccer, track, and baseball. In 1985 he became the Athletic Director, a position he held until 1999 when he moved to Belmont, MA. He served there for three years before he passed in 2002. His impact extends far beyond Alvirne. He was respected locally, at the state and national level for his work as an athletic director. During his career he was the recipient of many awards, including NH Athletic Director of the Year 3 times. The NH Athletic Director’s Association continually recognizes his contributions in this state by presenting the Clyde Meyerhoefer Award each year to a NH athletic director with 3 years or less experience.
Karren Bonney, the present AD, joined the Alvirne staff in 1985 when Clyde became the AD. When Clyde moved to Belmont in 1999, she was promoted to AD. To Karen, Clyde has been a special colleague and mentor, even after he moved to Belmont.
Any reader, especially alumni, who would like to share their memories with this story are encouraged to add their comments by clicking on the comment line at the end of this story.
The following sources were used to research for this article: Hudson School District Annual Reports, Nashua Telegraph, Hudson Litchfield News, Alvirne Yearbooks, as well an inputs from a member of the Meyerhoefer family, and current Alvirne AD, Karen Bonner. Researched and written by Ruth Parker