As Tracyites continue to discuss the proposal to rename

Peter B. Kyne Field for former Bulldog coach Wayne Schneider, I have received a

number of e-mail messages. Two of those in particular are worth noting, as the

issue continues to draw public attention.

One comes from an e-mailer signing his message only as

“Billy B.” He wrote, “As a former student at Tracy High, I always thought the

name Peter B. Kyne was a ‘tongue in cheek’ name given as a hoax at the time the

field was named. Silly me. There was a real Kyne, Peter B. Really?  Foolish me to think otherwise.”

Billy B. may be in the minority believing that Peter B. Kyne

did not exist, but he is not alone among many members of our community who know

little, if anything, about the person for whom the high school football field

was named in 1927.

One longtime Tracyite told me just a few days ago that he

had always assumed Peter B. Kyne was a member of an old Tracy family who did

something special for Tracy High football, or at least the school.

Yes, there was really a Peter B. Kyne, and no, he wasn’t a

member of an old Tracy family. So who was Peter B. Kyne, anyway?

Peter B. Kyne was a San Francisco author of adventure novels

and magazine articles. His most popular books were the “Cappy Ricks” adventure

series of life out to sea, mostly in Alaskan waters. The books had a degree of

popularity in the early years of the 20th century, at a time when Americans

were curious about far-off Alaska, but the novels were never considered

literary gems.

Kyne was a member of the exclusive Bohemian Club, whose

wealthy and powerful members have always thought of themselves as people either

involved in the arts or supportive of artistic endeavors. Among Kyne’s friends

in the exclusive men’s club were A.J. “Gus” Russell and R. Stanley Dollar.

Dollar was a member of the family who owned and operated the

Dollar Steamship Line, a major sea carrier headquartered in San Francisco.

Russell was president of the Santa Fe Lumber Co., which owned and operated

Tracy Lumber Co. He was the key in making the connection to Tracy.

So why did a bunch of big-city guys from San Francisco adopt

the Tracy High football team in 1927 and get the stadium named for one of them?

Russell’s ties to Tracy and friendship with Bill Nichelman,

a former Cal Bear standout footballer and Tracy High coach of that era, are two

reasons often cited. But along with that was the opening of the Tracy Inn in

January 1927. This was in the middle of the prohibition era, when booze was

outlawed. Tracy didn’t enforce the Volstead Act with any vigor (to say the very

least), so liquor always flowed in our town.

The Bohemian Club guys would trek out to Tracy for the

weekend, establish headquarters in the Tracy Inn and attend a high school

football game. What went on in the Tracy Inn after the game has been the

subject of some conjecture. In those days, Tracy was known as a wide-open town,

so we can only guess.

In fact, O.S. Imhof, then superintendent-principal at Tracy

High, wanted nothing to do with the hard-partying guys from San Francisco who

had adopted the Tracy High football team, then in its third season. But most

everyone else in town thought the adoption was great.

In May 1927, Russell, with Kyne in tow, organized a one-day

volunteer project to build a fence around the Tracy High field, then mostly

dirt (some things never change). About 100 participants paraded from the Tracy

Lumber Co. at Sixth Street and MacArthur Drive (then Orient Street) to the high

school field, carrying saws and hammers. Kyne himself drove the last nail into

the last board. By noon, the fence was up.

At a luncheon in the Tracy Inn following the completion of

the fence, it was announced that the field would be called Peter B. Kyne Field

in honor of the author.

The Tracy Press, which headlined its front-page story of the

event with “High School Field Is Named for Famous Man,” reported: “The noted

author ‘confessed’ that he had never enjoyed the privileges of a high school or

college education, and in that connection that he had necessarily missed the

hoopla school days the boy and girl of modern times enjoy. He spoke on what can

result from the proper school spirit and then stated that he will present a cup

to Tracy High (for the most-valuable player) which is to remain with the school

perpetually.”

Kyne, Russell and Dollar commissioned Haig Patigian, a noted

San Francisco sculptor and fellow Bohemian Club member, to create the perpetual

trophy. It is more than a trophy, in fact a very handsome statue that stands

heads and shoulders above any other trophy in the Tracy High collection.

Winners are still announced annually.

The involvement of the Bohemians in Tracy High football

continued four or five more years into the 1930s. Dollar offered a trophy to

the winner of the annual Tracy-Patterson football game. Despite the waning

involvement of the Bohemians over the years, the name of the football field and

the trophy remained as their legacy. Kyne died in 1957 at the age of 77.

That brings us to the second e-mail. It came from Perry

Allread, who was the spirited public-address voice of the West High Wolf Pack

football teams during the first years West played home games at Peter B. Kyne

Field.

Perry wrote, “In order to honor Mr. Schneider and continue

to honor Mr. Kyne, I would suggest that retaining the Peter B. Kyne Field

appellation would maintain the historical perspective. In addition, naming the

stadium Wayne Schneider Stadium would show the respect many feel deserves to be

expressed. Thus, Peter B. Kyne Field at Wayne Schneider Stadium may offer a

satisfactory alternative to all concerned.”

When I read Perry’s suggestion, it struck me as an idea that

deserves serious consideration. Earlier, Steve Davanis had suggested making it

Wayne Schneider Field at Peter B. Kyne Stadium, but Perry reversed the order,

and that makes more sense to give greater prominence to Wayne.

When the field was named for Kyne in May 1927, it was just a

field, called a “lot” in many newspaper stories. Over the years, it has become

a stadium with aluminum bleachers, quality lighting, snack stands and a press

box.

If Perry’s idea is carried out, the sports complex at Tracy

High would certainly be called Schneider Stadium (it does have a good ring to

it), but the actual football field would remain Peter B. Kyne Field. While

diminished in prominence, the field name would still preserve the most visible

connection to Tracy High’s football history of a San Francisco author and his

Bohemian Club pals.

Any thoughts?

Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be

reached at 830-4234 or by e-mail at shm@tracypress.com.

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