The Cony-Gardiner football rivalry has endured dozens of changes since its inception in 1892. High school buildings have come and gone, along with playing fields, coaches, spectators and participants. Now it’s time for a new pair of boots.

The Cony-Gardiner boot was awarded to the winner of the annual game beginning in 1954. It was painted red and white on one side and black and orange on the other, reflecting each school’s colors. Printed on the boot were the scores of each game. A second boot eventually was needed after room ran out on the first for all the scores.

“I think I counted 67 scores on the first boot,” said Bob Creamer, a 1964 Gardiner Area High School graduate who lives in Hallowell.

The second boot has run out of space, too, and there is no room to put the score of the game Friday night at Hoch Field in Gardiner. Cony leads the series, 71-57-10.

Creamer first researched the rivalry in the 1970s, correcting more than 30 scores for the record. The boots, too, had some inaccuracies, primarily out-of-order scores to accommodate space.

“Back when I was in school, they had a little ceremony (for the winner),” Creamer said. “It kind of died out.”

Creamer contacted booster clubs and athletic directors at both schools and would like to restart the tradition with a new pair of boots. He’s enlisted the help of Cony alumni Meylon Kenney and Gary Burns, as well as Gardiner alums Sam Shaw and Peter Boynton.

Kenney, 78, played football at Cony in the mid-1950s and still works at the school. He remembers assemblies in which the opposing coach would travel to the winning team’s school to exchange the boot.

“I don’t think I remember it being presented until after I began teaching and seeing it done on the stage,” he said. “Whenever (a new team won), it was exchanged formally.”

“The boots were made here in town,” said Kenney, who didn’t recall who made them. “There were so many shoe shops, Hazzard’s Shoe and Gardiner Shoe. I have no idea.”

Creamer said he checked around the state and couldn’t find anyone willing to create a new pair of boots. Eventually, a Lamey Wellehan shoe store salesperson recommended J.B. Hill Boot Co. in El Paso, Texas, an outfit that makes handmade custom cowboy boots.

“They have a good reputation,” Creamer said.

Creamer raised more than a few eyebrows when he quoted a price of $1,000 for the pair at local boosters meetings. However, he said that upon reflection, most considered that a fair price. He’s raising the money himself and will pass the pair of boots around the crowd Friday night for donations. Burns is hopeful the money will be raised quickly. Creamer isn’t sure what will become of the old boots but believes each school will retain one for the trophy case.

“It’s only fair,” he said.

There are countless examples in the college ranks of trophies that exchange hands — the Little Brown Jug for the Minnesota-Michigan winner, the Oklahoma-Texas Golden Hat, Indiana and Purdue’s Old Oaken Bucket, for example — but far fewer in high school. And the origin of the boot remains a mystery.

Burns said he recalls his coach, Bob Whytock, giving the boot a kick following a couple of wins over Gardiner while he was in high school in the early ’60s.

“Maybe it was because you were giving them the boot or putting the boots to them; I don’t know,” he said.

Like many of the participants in the annual game, Burns and Kenney remember who won. Both recall losing to the Tigers in their senior year.

“We lost,” Burns said. “It was 1962, the year the bleachers collapsed at Quimby Field (in Gardiner).”

Kenney said his Rams ran into a Gardiner team loaded with talent.

“The players I remember from Gardiner were Bill Ford, Dave Cloutier, Ron Emery, Lefty McAuslin. It was a long game; I’ll never forget it. That was one tough team, no matter who they played.”

Creamer said the new boots will be size 12, the better to accommodate all the scores and then some. The scores will be printed on the boots by Garant Graphics, of Hallowell. They should be ready for the game next season in Augusta.

“What happens down the road is somebody else’s thing to pursue,” he said.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.