Homecoming: Under the lights in Cloverdale
By MARY JO WINTER / Cloverdale Correspondent
Since 1971, countless numbers of people have passed by the large concrete monument on School Street identifying Cloverdale High School’s athletic field as the John L. Allen Memorial Field. Most, however, have no idea who this man was or why the field was named in his honor.
Allen, a WWII Navy veteran and father of three boys, moved his family to Cloverdale around 1951. He was employed by Pacific Gas & Electric and his wife, Maxine, was a teacher in the district from 1951 until her retirement in 1981.
Allen quickly became a well-respected community leader, active in scouting, the A&FM and the Cloverdale Rotary, serving as its president 1964-65.
During the many years his sons played ball, Allen was a fixture at the ballpark. Friends don’t recall ever seeing him sit down during those games. Instead, he would stand on the top row of the bleachers for the entire game, cheering on the home team.
Before the high school field was built, night football games were played at Recreation Park in Healdsburg. Day games were played at the Cloverdale City Park on West Second Street.
The only goal posts at City Park were on the north end of the field because the park wasn’t long enough to have them at both ends. Footballs regularly ended up across the street in the Zanzi family’s yard.
In those days, because there were no lights, homecoming games were traditionally held on Friday afternoons and were preceded by a parade through downtown that started at the high school.
In 1959, Rotary initiated the idea of installing lights on the high school field under Allen’s leadership. They applied to the state and received approval to raise the necessary $33,000 by selling bonds.
Along with Virgil Wolfe, who operated Wolfe Electric, Allen did the actual installation, finishing the following year in time for the fall football season.
Thanks to Rotary and the hands-on efforts of Allen and Wolfe, the Eagles played their first night homecoming game on their own field Oct. 28, 1960.
On March 21, 1971, Allen was killed in a freak on-the-job accident just south of Geyserville. Coincidentally, Wolfe’s son Brad was student body president at the time, and he spearheaded the drive to name the field in Allen’s memory.
The monument was put in place and dedicated later that year, with a plaque on the front that reads, “In memory of John L. Allen for service to his fellow man.”
The Cloverdale Rotary’s 50th anniversary booklet, published in 1976, reiterated this by noting, “John L. Allen was one of the most well thought of Rotarians, not only in the Cloverdale Club but in the District. He gave Service Above Self.”
So, thanks in large part to the efforts of John Louis Allen more than 50 years ago, the Eagles will host the Fort Bragg Timberwolves on Nov. 2, playing their homecoming game in Cloverdale, under the lights on their own home field.