Colonials celebrate history

Members of the former Glove Cities Colonials football team are shown at a team reunion Saturday at the Fulton County Historical Society. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

GLOVERSVILLE — A display of the former Glove Cities Colonial semi-professional football team turned out to be a bigger event than expected at the Fulton County Historical Society Saturday.

Most surprised in the standing-room-only crowd was Bill Pollak, a former Johnstown mayor and founder of the Colonials in 1962.

Not only was he impressed by the size and variety of the display, but he was caught off guard when he was inducted into the Fulton County Sports Hall of Fame at the end of the program for his role as the Colonials’ founder.

“It feels so good to make this exhibit happen,” he said.

Pollak said he was afraid the history of team would be lost–a group of young men “playing an aggressive form of touch football” who quickly became, in 1962, a competitive semi-pro team.

Members of the former Glove Cities Colonials football team and other interested people listen to presentations at a team reunion Saturday at the Fulton County Historical Society. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

Pollak said he was hoping just to get storage space for memorabilia before it was lost.

As it turned out, such an abundance of Colonial memorabilia has been donated to the historical society that this year’s exhibit included only the 1960s and 1970s. Next year, the exhibit will cover the rest of the Colonials’ history, ending last year, according to Mike Hauser, who coordinated the exhibit for the museum. There was reason to fear the loss of memorabilia after the Colonials’ 1974 Empire Football League Championship trophy and two Hall of Fame plaques turned up at garage sales, Hauser said.

Pollak read from the Hall of Fame plaque after receiving it and got a standing ovation.

“The Colonial family had a special bond that they still carry,” said Hauser.

Pollak later told Hauser he never expected the tribute.

Mike Hauser, who organized the Glove Cities Colonials football team reunion Saturday at the Fulton County Museum, points out just one section of the 1960s and 1970s history of the team. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

Hauser said that as a 10-year-old, he used to attend the Colonials’ games, which could draw up to 10,000 spectators.

“I was in awe of these guys,” he said. “They were bigger than life.”

“It’s [the exhibit] a great display,” said Tom Farnan of Johnstown. “What was greater was watching these guys play in the summer wind.”

“I grew up in this community,” said Kathy Zajicek of Johnstown. “Saturday nights we would ask, ‘Are we home or away?’ Colonials was the thing we did on Saturday nights.”

Milt Zoellner was the first assistant coach of the Colonials, and he recalled their enthusiasm. “There was a lot of talent in those guys,” he said. “They really wanted to play.”

Their first game was against the Amsterdam Zephyrs. The Zephyrs were incredulous, he recalled. “We got a chuckle from Amsterdam–you want to place us?” The Colonials won 33-0.

The Colonials played hard, but no one wanted to get injured and be out of work, said player Jim Hall of Johnstown.

He said when it was time to play Scranton, he said he would pray, “Lord, just let me come home without a broken leg or broken neck.”

The museum, at 237 Kingsboro Ave,, is open noon to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. from Labor Day to Columbus Day. Winter hours are 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.