#TBT: Searching for The Hinker Bell

September 28, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Menominee will host Escanaba on Friday in the 121st meeting between two of the Upper Peninsula’s largest high schools and proudest football programs – but with the trophy celebrating the game still missing after it first disappeared more than half a century ago.

The two teams from 1948-1962 played for the The Hinker Bell, a locomotive bell that hasn’t been seen since 1963.

A decade ago, Escanaba Daily Press sports editor (and now Second Half correspondent) Denny Grall wrote about a newfound search for The Hinker Bell. But the mystery continues, and Grall’s story below tells of many of the twists and turns that to that point that had come in trying to locate it.

ESCANABA — Another search is underway to find the Hinker Bell.

The former locomotive bell went to the winner of the Escanaba-Menominee football game for about 15 years but has been missing for more than 40 years. It came from a locomotive owned by the Bay de Noquet Company and used on the LS&I Railroad that operated in Delta and Menominee counties.

The locomotive was built in 1906 by Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia and the bell was believed to have been cast in the railroad foundry, according to a 1953 newspaper clipping.

In 1948, one of the locomotive owners presented the bell to his friend, John Hinker of Menominee, an ardent sports fan who donated materials for the press box at Menominee’s Walton Blesch Field.

Hinker gave the bell to then Menominee coach Mickey McCormick and indicated proper use for the bell would be as an award for the gridiron rivalry.

Now Hinker’s great great nephew is trying to find the bell, which has not been seen since Escanaba’s current high school opened in 1963.

Tim Waters of Land O’ Lakes, Wis., who has launched the search, became interested by researching his family tree. “It is a big trophy (between 80 and 150 pounds by various estimates) and it is odd that it is missing,” Waters said in a recent telephone chat.

“One theory is that it is in somebody’s hunting camp or a home and they are using it as their own trophy,” said Waters.

“We have a pretty good investigation going on and all help is appreciated. If somebody does have it, we’re not looking to prosecute them. We’re just looking to get the darn thing back. Nobody will be in trouble.”

Waters refuted the old idea the bell was melted down. He has contacted numerous bell collectors, and they said a junk yard would have known it was worth a lot more than melted metal.

“The bell was not destroyed. We’ve come to that conclusion,” he said. “It was not put in a scrap yard.”

Waters contacted Coplan Iron and Metal of Escanaba and learned that bells were not melted or crushed and said the firm never accepted a bell with engravings matching the Hinker Bell.

Waters learned those businesses would sell them for the weight value to people who wanted them for yard ornaments/dinner bells, or to collectors.

“It is a treasure and it needs to be found,” said Waters.

Waters said the last known photo of the bell was with then EHS football coach Al Sigman and Esky players John Fisher and Phil Davidson in 1960. Escanaba beat Menominee from 1959-63 but could not find the bell in 1964 when the Maroons won. No one he has talked to remembers seeing the bell present at the first three games during the tenure of coach Jerry Cvengros.

The current Escanaba High School opened in 1963 and Bay de Noc Community College then occupied the old facility, which has since been demolished.

“Records indicate there was no report (of a missing bell) filed by Escanaba school district to the police department,” Waters said.

“The Hinker Bell is part of U.P. Michigan’s history, as is football and the railroads,” Waters said. “The people of Escanaba and Menominee deserve to have this trophy returned to their high schools.”

Waters, who has never seen an Escanaba or Menominee football game but is planning to rectify that omission this season, is hoping students at the two schools will join in the treasure hunt and talk about it with their parents and grandparents.

He has already contacted EHS athletic director Rob Ryan, who plans to thoroughly search the school basement.

He would like to find a photo of the bell to help collectors in their search. “Each bell was for a special locomotive,” said Waters.

“If they have a good picture we can pass it around and say we are looking for this bell. If they can pinpoint what this bell was on, they can help get the word out.”

He has also extended the search to the website at upfootball.com, which has generated interest but no bell. “If the bell is in the area still today, I don’t think it will take long to surface,” he said.

“If we don’t find this bell, we are going to try to make up a replacement as close as possible if the two schools are interested in that,” he said.

Waters is hoping that real estate agents, postal workers, delivery personnel, construction workers, etc., may have seen the bell during their travels and can help retrieve it.

Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

May 26, 2023

Mendon’s run to the Division 2 Final last fall included some of the strongest rushing performances over the history of 8-player football.

The Hornets ran for 4,317 yards, second-most all-time, on the second-most attempts (520) and with a record-setting 682 yards Oct. 14 against Marcellus. Mendon also set the record for total offense with 692 total in that game, and made the single-season touchdowns list with 76 including 66 rushing (also second on that list).

Junior Jack McCaw made the single-season scoring list with 212 points, most coming on 29 touchdowns, and Evan Lukeman made the single-game rushing list with 401 yards against Marcellus. Mendon’s defense also earned praise, twice making the fewest-first-downs-allowed list with a low of three.

See below for more recent additions to the 8-player portion of the football record book:

8-Player Football

Athens’ Landon Bennett earned a pair of record book entries after reaching the end zone seven times during his team’s 72-0 win over Burr Oak on Sept. 8. His seven scores are tied for third-most in 8-player history and included three rushing, three on punt returns and one on an interception return. The three punt return touchdowns are a record. Bennett is a junior.

On the night Powers North Central broke its 8-player record for consecutive wins, claiming its 28th straight, senior Luke Gorzinski tied Jets great Jason Whitens for the record for interception touchdowns in a game with two, scoring on returns during the second and fourth quarters. Gorzinski has signed with Michigan Tech, and North Central’s winning streak is 37 games and counting.

A pair of Atlanta offensive playmakers and a top defensive lineman earned a total of seven entries in the record book for achievements last fall. Senior quarterback Tyler Currie threw for 30 touchdowns over eight games, and also made the records for six touchdowns and 419 passing yards against Whittemore-Prescott on Sept. 23; the passing yards are second-most for one 8-player game. Sophomore Landon Galea was added for 263 yards and five of those touchdowns against the Cardinals, and also for 1,418 yards receiving and 23 touchdowns over nine games. Junior teammate Tucker Kendrick made the tackles for loss list with five against Hillman on Oct. 6.

Adrian Lenawee Christian senior Brady McKelvey became the first to make the career extra points list in 8-player football this past fall. He bettered his previous single-season record making 64 of 66 extra-point attempts over 11 games and finishing his two-year varsity career with 123 extra points in 127 tries.

Sam McKissack reached the record book showcasing multiple skills for Crystal Falls Forest Park during the 2021 season – twice for rushing attempts in a game including with a record 59 against Ontonagon that Sept. 10, and then with a record 70-yard punt Oct. 30, 2021, against Lake Linden-Hubbell. Teammate Devon Basirico also made the record book with six fumble recoveries over 11 games that season. As a team, Forest Park was added twice for single-game rushing attempts – including 73 total in that Ontonagon game – and for 424 rushes over 11 games for the season. McKissack and Basirico are seniors this spring.

Nikolaus Lewis tied for eighth-most rushing touchdowns in an 8-player game when he reached the end zone six times for Carsonville-Port Sanilac in its win over Caseville on Oct. 7. He’s a senior this spring.

Bridgman has won 24 straight games over the last three seasons, and an exceptional offense – and exceptional offensive star – have played major roles. The Bees were added for 658 total yards in a win over Lawrence last season, that total ranking third all-time, and also 613 yards in a win over Eau Claire. Those included totals of 575 and 547 rushing yards, respectively, and Bridgman was added for 3,598 rushing yards (sixth on the list), 59 rushing touchdowns (fourth) and 76 total touchdowns (seventh). Senior Reid Haskins capped his four-year, 32-game varsity career with 13 record book entries, including for 254 points last season over nine games (tied for fifth all-time) and a record 620 career points, 41 touchdowns last season (fifth) and a record 95 for his career, 2,344 rushing yards last season (third) and a record 5,206 for his career, and 41 rushing touchdowns last season (third) and a record 94 for his career. Senior teammate Tanner Peters made the records three times including for 50 extra points last season (fourth) and 99 over 26 games and three seasons (second on the career list).

Mio's Austin Fox rewrote the 8-player passing record book this past fall, with his 621 yards in a game against Whittemore-Prescott setting a single-game record as he totaled four of the five-highest passing yardage totals. He also set a record with 3,516 over nine games for the season, another record with 289 passing attempts over those nine games and a third record for nine touchdown passes in that game against the Cardinals. His 41 touchdown passes total rank fourth. Teammates Gage Long and Nathan Hurst also earned several record book entries on the receiving end of those passes. Long’s 297 receiving yards against Whittemore-Prescott were tied for third most, and Hurst’s 266 against Alcona rank eighth. Long set a single-season record with 1,739 receiving yards, with Hurst sixth all-time at 1,321, and Long’s 14 receptions against the Cardinals and 70 for the season also rank second on those respective lists. Hurst set a record for longest 8-player kickoff return with a 99-yarder against St. Helen Charlton Heston. All three are seniors.

Peck was one of the first MHSAA 8-player champions, claiming the title in 2013, and Cody Abrego one of the state’s first 8-player stars. The Pirates were added to the MHSAA record book 52 times, and Abrego 14 times individually. Among the most notable entries for the 2015 graduate were for 462 points scored over his two-season career (ranking sixth all-time), 74 career touchdowns (sixth), 2,202 rushing yards in 2013 (fifth) and 35 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (sixth). Current senior Caleb Lentner was one of the stars statewide this past season, and he was added eight times including for 50 points scored in a game (ranking second), 272 points for a season last fall (fifth), eight touchdowns in a game (tied for second), 42 touchdowns in a season (fifth), an 8-player record of 2,694 rushing yards from last season, and 38 rushing touchdowns also last fall (fourth). Others to make the individual lists were Nathan Robar, Caleb Dudley, Steven VanConant, Kyle Abrego and Nathan Neihaus, Dudley for a record 20 career interceptions over two seasons and VanConant for a record 12 tackles for loss in a 2022 game and 36 tackles for loss for the season last fall. The Pirates also are all over the 8-player team record book, including for a record 97 touchdowns in 2013, a record 5,895 yards of total offense that season, 528 carries, 4,346 rushing yards and 73 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (all ranking second); and 24 interceptions in 2014, which ranks second on that list.

Senior quarterback JR Hildebrand was one of the most dynamic players in 8-player football in the fall in leading Martin to the Division 1 title. He had one of his most exciting nights in a playoff opener against Tekonsha, making the single-game touchdown pass list with six in a 68-6 victory.

PHOTO Mendon’s Jack McCaw (21) eludes a tackle during the 8-Player Division 2 Final in November at Northern Michigan University. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)