The Sisters: Faithful sports fans

Karen Donato Special to the Pioneer Times, Special to The County
10 years ago

The Cogswell sisters of Hodgdon grew up loving sports, mostly influenced by their father, Ken, a native of Fort Fairfield. He was a talented basketball player, accumulating lots of awards and trophies.

The family included three sisters, Geraldine, Norma and Lavina, their younger brother Bill, and their mother, Myrtle. They lived out on the Jackins Settlement Road, some five plus miles from Hodgdon High School back in the 1930s.
The class size at Hodgdon averaged less than a couple of dozen for each of the four high school classes, so often times members participated in a variety of extra-curricular activities, so there would be enough players to warrant a team. Such was the case with the girls basketball team. All three Cogswell girls became members, mostly because, “my sister wanted to do it, so I did it, too.” They remembered Rita McAtee Benn as a talented player on their team as well as Iris Toner Gould, Wilma Bither Welton, Janice Estabrook Tower and Melvina Vail Hutchinson.
Lavina remembers getting the coveted satin uniform. The shorts were blousy with gathered legs and the jacket was a beautiful royal blue; Hodgdon colors. There weren’t enough uniforms for everyone and Lavina thinks that she got one because one of the other players was absent the day they were passed out. Each player was responsible for washing their uniform after each game.
Norma always wanted to be a forward so she could shoot the ball, but she had to settle for being a guard, which in those days didn’t cross the half-court line.
“It was kind of boring,” said Lavina, who loves the fast paced games of today. She wishes they had those same rules back in her day.
The boys and girls teams would travel together to the away games on the back of a covered truck. They huddled under buffalo robes to keep warm. Hodgdon was part of the Katahdin Valley league and played teams from Island Falls, Oakfield, Patten, Sherman and Smyrna. Geraldine and Lavina recalled how cold some of the gyms were.
When the girls’ game was over, many of the players became the cheerleaders for the boys. One of the cheers which they aren’t too proud of today went like this:
“Bring in the baby carriage, bring in the hearse! Haul out Oakfield (or whatever school they were playing against) before they get worse!”
From all accounts, Gerry was “the player.” She was quick and became the foul shooting champion of the league one year. The competition was held outside during the Winter Carnival. Apparently it was her lucky day, as she was also crowned the Winter Carnival Queen that night.
As the girls graduated from school and transitioned into adulthood they never lost their love of sports and music. For many years they would often showcase their musical talents, singing at the Houlton Wesleyan Church, where Lavina still plays the piano on occasion.
Norma, who married George Bates and Lavina, who married Eugene Byron, brought their families up in Linneus and followed the Hodgdon High School teams. Gerry married David Dunn and lived in Houlton, thus following the Shiretowners.
All three sisters have remained very close since childhood and even more so after losing their husbands. There is probably not a day that they haven’t talked to each other on the phone at least once if not more or visited one another’s homes. Both Norma and Lavina moved to Houlton a few years ago and until recently they lived across the hall from each other at Ricker Plaza. Norma has since moved to Madigan Estates and just before Christmas, Gerry gave up living in her own place to reside at the Plaza, as well.
Through the years these three sisters have been faithful sports fans, attending either the Hodgdon or Houlton games or both. They’ve watched their own children participate and most recently several of their grandchildren become members of various sports teams, cheerleading squads or musical groups. They include: David and Abe Carmichael and Peter, James and Leah Bates. Lavina’s daughter, Carol Bates, is the announcer who introduces the team members before each game at Alumni Gymnasium.
The sisters have also made many trips to Bangor to watch the tournament games. Today, Gerry and Lavina are still attending the games, while Norma listens on the radio. They hope to make at least one tournament game, but if not, they will surely be watching the televised ones.
At 87, 86 and 85 respectively, Gerry, Norma and Lavina have loved life; each facing everyday challenges, but through it all they always have a smile, relying on their faith to see them through.