If you dare to tread that path along decades of recollection, reconciling, observing or creating milestones and change; you need to merge with someone who has put in the mileage and absorbed some of the blows and scrapes along the way. That on the scene, real life experience and action scenario kind of person, one who has had their feet wet on the beach and felt the ebb and flow of the tides in community, sports, students and character of small town Iowa. And it might involve a risk and a very good chance to get moved out of your established comfort zone. That person might as well be a Hall of Famer. Why not a nationally recognized Hall of Famer and six time Iowa Coach of the Year?
We have one in the area, and tracking him down proved to be the hardest part of the beginning of this story.
Coach Stan Rupe’s storied and 25 year plus, tenure in the game; includes the induction into the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Unions’ Hall of Fame in 2006 with 390 victories recorded, most as the Falcon girls Head Basketball Coach. We remember that he was also the Falcon Assistant and Head Football Coach in years past, a couple of decades or so before that, Rupe was a two time all-conference and all-district performer in the 1975-76 Graceland University Yellowjacket football team and a featured member of the Wall of Fame team that participated in the 1975 Mineral Water Bowl. Before those Graceland days, Rupe played football at Indian Hills Community College in 1973 and 1974: 74 was the last year Indian Hills played football and the year they played for the National Championship in the Wool Bowl in Roswell, New Mexico. Indian Hills lost that game 13-14 on the last play of the game.
Rupe, a multi-sport athlete himself playing college baseball along with football. He also coached the Lady Falcon softball teams for many seasons. Stan’s Dad, Charlie Rupe, had played in the major league baseball ranks at one time.
This coach, despite and among all the accolades, awards and trophies that attest to his years of success; remains an active hometown personality and readily displays that independent character and connection with the community and shows very little sign of giving up on participating in the game. So after multiple retirement attempts and decades of coaching at the high school and university levels, is it imagination to think this guy will ever finally hang up the spikes and call it a game? What is that connection between sports, character and small town Iowa?
Mike Morsch, one time TR editor and now successful sports writer, editor and author, reminisces about a time in Corydon and some of that after football games small town character. In an article from Outta Left Field: small town living: night golf and Jesse James. He writes:
“One of Corydon’s claims to fame was that on June 3, 1871, four members of the James-Younger gang robbed the Ocobock Bank on the north side of the town square. The original safe from which the money was taken is still on display at the Prairie Trails Museum.
On a less notorious note, Corydon is also the hometown of Olympic gold medalist George Saling, who won the 110-meter hurdles in the 1932 Los Angeles games.
When I lived there in the early 1980s, I had come to Corydon fresh out of the University of Iowa with a degree in journalism and ready to be the editor of the town’s newspaper, The Times-Republican. The guy who gave me my big break, Hugh Doty, was owner and publisher of the paper.
I arrived in town without a nickel in my pocket and no car. Hugh took me over to the local bank, walked right into the bank president’s office and said, “This is my new editor. Loan this guy $500 so he can get a place to live and a bite to eat.”
Within minutes, I had a check for $500 in my hand, and I learned quickly that’s how things worked in a small town. And it was there in that small southern Iowa town that I set about the task of learning how to be a newspaper editor.
Corydon was where after one of those Friday night football games, I stayed up with assistant coaches Stan Rupe and Joe Crozier until 2 a.m. imbibing cold beverages not named Cherry Coke and arguing about which was more difficult to do: hit a baseball thrown at 95 mph or hit a golf ball just sitting there on the ground and not moving.
To prove his point, Coach Rupe left the comfort of his front deck to tee up golf balls in his yard and hit them out into the darkness of the town, listening to see if we struck anything breakable. I remember thinking that it was not all that difficult to hit golf balls into the darkness. I don’t think we could have hit 95 mph fastballs in the dark.
Every once in a while, my mind drifts back to Corydon, and I miss where everything was black and white and people called me by my first name.”
Coach Rupe, we don’t celebrate Jesse James Days anymore. That historical town event can be read about in a statement from an eye witness account at our Prairie Trails Museum along with seeing that poor despondent victim of a safe that was robbed. It does give the history on how the James gang had such an easy experience in that process. Maybe Mr. Ocobock should have had the meeting taking place about the community support for the eventual railroad coming to the county at the bank; even if he could not support that endeavor? Someone had to open that safe containing the town’s livelihood. Fate blinded vigilance that day and the outlaws made off with the towns loot. But we don’t celebrate Railroad Days either.
What happened to the traditional get together after the games? That era of the Rupe, Daughton and Epperly gatherings to celebrate in the feast of victory, or get it ready to move on out of the misery of an experience of a manageable defeat and sharing and shouldering part of the load put on those young teams? They were open invitations to family and community then. Those days and the precursor to any contemporary ‘team of teams’ concepts. Not so peculiar in those days about how our kids were and are such a big deal to us and the town?
I can tend to be a little melodramatic at times, but sometimes that’s just the way you get. Not everyone is comfortable around old grey men with bi-focals and have hair growing out of their ears; I get that.
There is a Field of Dreams in Iowa and Shoeless Joe had to ask, “Is this heaven?”
Ray, “No Joe…It’s Iowa.”
Coach Rupe, do you miss those days and the fields that dreams are made of? Have I missed something over the years?
Archie ‘Moonlight’ Graham, “We just don’t recognize life’s most significant moments while they’re happening. Back then I thought, “Well, there’ll be other days.” I didn’t realize that that was the only day.”
I am anxious to get Coach Rupe’s Report on the transition from six on six to five on five girls basketball in Iowa.