A Tamaqua treasure trove is transferred
The cardboard boxes contained note pads, tablets and scrapbooks filled with yellowed newspaper clippings.
In terms of monetary value, the contents are modest.
The information compiled inside is priceless.
The boxes are the record-keeping legacy of the late Bob Barnisky, whose hobby of following the exploits of Tamaqua High School athletes in particular and others in general was familiar to readers of THE TIMES NEWS sports pages over the years.
Bob played sports at Tamaqua High himself, and he enjoyed following his alma mater's sports teams. He accumulated quite an array of records for football, basketball and track and field, making him an unofficial authority.
That is a significant niche to occupy in communities such as Tamaqua, which, like many places in the Anthracite Region and beyond, has a part of its collective consciousness wrapped up in its scholastic sports teams.
What made this even more important is that schools often didn't keep track of their sports records themselves, and even newspaper record-keeping was spotty. Bob was always there to fill in the gaps.
When I started as a correspondent for THE TIMES NEWS back in 1983, I covered a lot of Tamaqua High sporting events. Every so often, a question would arise as to whether a certain performance was a school record.
As he had done for writers before I arrived, Bob was always the source to turn to when you needed to know who held the Raider record for longest kickoff return or most free throws attempted in a game.
Whenever I needed that information, I'd call Bob, and he'd look it up and call me back with the answer. Even better, he would often realize when a new record was set, and I'd get a note from him in the mail or dropped off at the TN Tamaqua Bureau. My files still contain many of those notes from Bob, and I always made sure he received the credit whenever I used them.
Later, when computers made their way into the newsroom, emails from Bob replaced the notes, but they were no less valued. In fact, I still have Bob's emails in my file because of pertinent information, such as Erika Barron's career basketball scoring marks.
Bob used to compile a regular list of TN Area football and basketball scoring leaders. In the spring, he would put together lists of the top track and field performances. Anyone who does so must spend countless hours pouring over basketball boxscores and track agate. Bob's lists enhanced the TN sports section.
As my own career continued, I began to keep my own records, but Bob's information was almost always the starting point. Tamaqua High's sports record keeping has also improved since Mike Hromyak became athletic director; in the past, the school's yearbook collection was its primary source of sports records.
Bob, a 1958 Tamaqua grad, was inducted into the school's athletic hall of fame in September, 2001 as an athlete as well as a special contributor. Without his efforts with the latter, there's no telling how much history would haved been lost.
Bob continued to follow Tamaqua's teams up until his death in November, 2008. In fact, one of his notebooks actually included the scores for the '08 Raider grid squad up until the point when he became too sick to continue.
After his death, I wondered what would become of Bob's records. I hoped there was some way they could be preserved for the future.
Last week, I received a call from Toot Green, who was Bob's fiance. Green, who lives in Lehighton, had possession of Bob's sports records. She told me that Bob had wanted me to have them. This week, I was finally able to obtain them.
I have just started going through the boxes, and they are a treasure trove of Tamaqua sports memorabilia. There's a poster from the 1956 football season, scrapbooks jammed with clippings of games, and record books. For a Tamaqua sports fan, this is the equivalent of finding the Holy Grail. Some of the information goes all the way back to 1902.
Perhaps at some point the scrapbooks could be put on display at the school, library or even the historical society museum, where others can enjoy what Bob collected over the years. I look forward to incorporating his statistics into my own records.
Most of all, I feel honored to be the custodian of Bob's labor of love and hope I can preserve his legacy in the proper manner.
As I get ready for this weekend's PIAA Track and Field Championships, I feel Bob is watching from above to see how the Tamaqua thinclads perform at the State showcase. Maybe some of them will add to the records Bob so meticulously kept.