Blogs / Features
Jose GarciaMultimedia Journalist/Historian firstname.lastname@example.org
One man, tons of historyAug 18, 2012
Everybody who knew him has a Barry Sollenberger story.
Some of them can be retold.
Others you just lock up so you can treasure them for as long as you want.
Sollenberger loved to share and collect the Arizona high school sports history he excavated from schools’ basements and wherever else he had to dig. He did so on a shoestring budget and even way before he became the first media point man for the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
Sollenberger passed away on his 60th birthday at his Tempe home in 2005 but not far from the history he preserved. Some of his high school files were packed in the oven at his home.
On Saturday, Arizona will file another high school memory in honor of Sollenberger.
Saturday’s football matchups between Arizona schools Phoenix Desert Vista and Lakeside Blue Ridge and Nevada schools Moapa Valley and Palo Verde at University of Phoenix Stadium will mark the 7th anniversary of the Sollenberger Classic.
“Barry didn’t care about the score of a game,” said Saturday’s game coordinator Ron Halbach of the AIA. “What he relished was the event. He was like a kid in a candy store.”
The AIA’s executive director, Dr. Harold Slemmer, hired Sollenberger in 2002.
On Thursday morning, Dr. Slemmer talked about his good friend and favorite “Barry stories.”
Where are we?
During one of their trips, Sollenberger took Dr. Slemmer to the old site of McNary High School on the Apache Reservation.
McNary won the AIA’s first big school girls basketball title in 1974. To get to the school, Sollenberger and Dr. Slemmer had to drive on a dirt road in a wooded area. Once they reached the secluded site, Sollenberger pointed out where the football field was as well as a nearby cemetery where former McNary students who died during the Vietnam War were laid to rest.
“It was amazing how he remembered how to get there and the details of the school,” Dr. Slemmer said.
During another trip, Sollenberger found in a basement the Coyote mascot uniform belonging to the now defunct Phoenix Union High School as well as numerous trophies.
At Mesa High’s old football stadium, he also found a box full of 8-millimeter game film from the 1950s. Almost everything Sollenberger discovered is stored in a couple of storage units.
“If he (Sollenberger) did not exist, so much of what he found would have been lost forever,” Dr. Slemmer said.
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