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Warrior Memories: A local sports history lesson

Another Warrior class just graduated, and there was an impressive ceremony held on Mike Whalen Field.

This reminded me of a discussion I had while substitute teaching in a freshman class at the high school. There was going to be a rally in the Thunen Gym in support of powder puff football games on the Warrior turf.

First I asked why the gym is called Thunen Gym. This started a fun Warrior history lesson. The gym named after Charles Thunen. Charles came to Del Norte High School and was the first football coach of an interscholastic football team in 1924. 

Mr. Thunen had come to Del Norte from the University of California, Berkeley, where he had been a member of the Cal Bears football team. In the first-ever football game, Del Norte beat Arcata at Arcata 7-0 under Coach Thunen’s leadership.

He went on to became principal of the high school and later district superintendent. He was still principal when I graduated in 1951. 

The discussion then went to why the football field was named Mike Whalen Field. Mike, who had been an outstanding athlete at Humboldt State, came to Del Norte in 1950 as an assistant football coach under Coach Chuck DeAutremont. He also was the head baseball coach for the 1951 Warrior baseball team and led the team to their league baseball championship. I had the privilege of playing for Mike my senior year and he was fun to play for.

Mike Whalen also went on to become the principal, a position he held  for many years. He was very instrumental in getting the football field moved from what is now Pykes Field to its present location on the Warrior campus.

While we were having our history lesson, I asked the girls in the dance program where they held classes. One was able to tell me Doris Whalen Dance Studio. Doris Whalen is Mike’s wife and taught for a short time at Crescent Elk, then moved to the high school, where she completed 50 years of teaching in the school district.

She was a wonderful teacher and is still helping students as part of the high school scholarship program. It has been really fun to be part of Warrior sports for so long and to be able to have this discussion with them.

Dick Trone writes on his reflections and the history of Del Norte High sports as a former player, coach, athletic directer and a lifelong fan.

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