Courtesy of Anuta Research Center
Clarence “Bugs” Duby, Menominee alderman and postmaster, was the spark plug in the development of a neighborhood park that bears his name. The development of Duby Park began in 1947 and continued over the years. The “Field of Dreams” for the east side neighborhood has been the site of softball, football, basketball, ice skating, hockey and other recreational activities since its inception 71 years ago. Tot lot and T-ball, a part of the former Community Schools programs years ago, cut their teeth at Duby Park. It was where fathers flew kits with their sons and daughters. The legendary playground remains a community landmark. 
Courtesy of Anuta Research Center

Clarence “Bugs” Duby, Menominee alderman and postmaster, was the spark plug in the development of a neighborhood park that bears his name. The development of Duby Park began in 1947 and continued over the years. The “Field of Dreams” for the east side neighborhood has been the site of softball, football, basketball, ice skating, hockey and other recreational activities since its inception 71 years ago. Tot lot and T-ball, a part of the former Community Schools programs years ago, cut their teeth at Duby Park. It was where fathers flew kits with their sons and daughters. The legendary playground remains a community landmark. 

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The old neighborhood playground doesn’t have the charm of yesteryear. The one where kids played all day and early evening. The one where they formed lifetime friendships. Lifestyles have changed modern-day social habits and the nostalgic neighborhood playground was one of its casualties.

Generations ago every village, town and city boasted neighborhood playgrounds. There were swings, slides, chutes and more for smaller children. Teenagers played basketball on any type of court from dirt, to concrete and asphalt. The potholes and chipped surface didn’t matter. The backboards were cracked in spots, the nets worn and, many times, no nets at all. If there was a hoop attached to a pole that could handle the stress of a round ball aimed at its frame, a game was in progress.

A softball diamond was laid out in one section of the grounds. Railroad ties were planked behind home plate to stop the ball from rolling into the streets. There was nothing to stop a foul ball until a generous donor provided funds for a backstop. The potholes that lined the base paths and the outfield were a major source of twisted ankles and bruised knees but none too severe to force a player to the bench. 

Tag and tackle football was played year-round. Participants didn’t wear equipment because their parents couldn’t afford to buy protection. Torn pants and shirts were worn like a badge of honor. 

Ah shucks, I could write a book about the long-standing neighborhood of the past. I grew up across the street from the Boswell School playground in West End. Our two sons, Mike and Steve, had the privilege of experiencing life at a neighborhood relic when we lived on the east side of town.

Duby Park stands as a symbol of good times in maturing years. It was once a vacant field where kids gathered to play ball or partake in some other adventure that kids did years ago. Old-timers who remember the vintage playground of the 1940’s and 1950’s but haven’t seen it in years would be astonished at its present-day appearance compared to their days when rounding the bases meant dodging a pothole along the way or making a tackle in a field of pickers. 

The stories about Duby Park are legendary. If all the alumni who passed through the portals of Duby Park could hold a reunion and show-and-tell was a part of the program the roars of laughter would shake beyond the boundaries of the neighborhood. 

Ken Radick, football and track coach at Menominee High School for many years, also served as part-time recreation director for the city. He utilized Duby Park for some of the summer programs. He had city crews flood the field for ice skating in the winter months.  

One night, some of the rascals in the neighborhood decided to hold a jumbo-sized bonfire. They collected discarded Christmas trees for firewood. The fire lighted the neighborhood and compelled some anxious neighbors to summon the fire department. 

Radick was incensed. He let it be known that if the kids wanted an ice rink they better not ruin the ice by igniting a fire hot enough to melt the ice. 

The Menominee Advancement Council (MACs) was an organization in the 1950’s that was comprised of men who promoted activities that would benefit the community. The MACs sponsored a traveling basketball team called the Iowa Colored Ghosts. They played an all-star unit from the local M&M Industrial League. The game was played at the old high school gym, which now is Blesch Elementary School. Proceeds were earmarked for a fence around Duby Park.  

A member of the traveling squad decided to run off with the gate receipts at halftime. Police stunted his fast break when they nabbed him at the railroad depot on 7th Street, about seven blocks from the gymnasium. 

The MACs got their money back and Duby Park got its fence. The Menominee Herald-Leader also had a humorous page one story under the headline that read “Ghost Disappears With Gate Receipts.”

Clarence “Bugs” Duby was one of two aldermen that represented the First Ward when the city had seven wards and a 14-member council. He was a local beer distributor from Bosch Brewing Co., which was based in Houghton Mich. A staunch Democrat, Duby later was appointed Menominee’s postmaster when the job was a presidential appointment. A genial and jolly person, Duby had never carried a letter in his life. 

Alderman Duby hatched a plan to convert a lot on Wells Avenue (now 4th Avenue) into a playground for city recreation purposes. He convinced George McCormick of the Menominee Sugar Co. to donate 600 yards of top soil to fill the field. The sugar factory across the street from the field. 

One would need a calculator to count the athletes whose footprints are implanted at Duby Park. The task of naming some and missing others is risky, but I’m pleading for understanding from those who were omitted. There’s only so much space in writing a column.

The Englund family is a good place to start — Doug, Ron (Satch), Don, Dennis, Durand and Dale. The Noha Family — Jeff, Jack, Jim and Joe are members of the alumni club. Joe Noha became head coach of the Maroons and Satch Englund was a long-time defensive coordinator. The roster of family names is endless — Beaudo, Porod, Bacon, Nelson, Miller, Parker, Kaufman, Vogel, Bebo, Boettcher, Arsineau, Kaptiz, Welner, Woods. Frank Noha, grandfather of the Noha brothers, was an outstanding athlete in the 1930’s.

Joe Noha says Duby Park is included in his playbook. He has special plays with the name tag. “Duby Park Baller” is a specific award that is worn as a badge of honor, according to the coach.

The famous playground didn’t only produce football players. Duby Park also had athletes who performed in basketball, baseball, track and field, boxing and hockey.

Duby Park stands as a symbol of good times in the maturing years. The community landmark doesn’t attract the young people like it once did, but that’s because life isn’t like it was two and three generations ago.

The old neighborhood playground still has the memories, though, and that would make Clarence “Bugs” Duby a proud man.