By Don McAlavy
In the name of school spirit, five Clovis High students scaled a fence protecting the old locomotive at Hillcrest Park in 1959 and made off with the train’s bell.
The five boys never told anybody that it was them that “borrowed the bell” which can still be heard today ringing at Clovis High School home football games.
George Reiser, who still lives in Clovis, said they never got credit for getting that bell, and were really unsung heroes to all the kids at high school.
At halftime of Friday’s Clovis High alumni football game, the bell was brought across the football field and three of the “unsung heroes,” Ellison Green, Reiser and Gary Bell were recognized.
The two others, Bill Rackley and Jimmy Gee, couldn’t make the event.
Leon Williams, longtime radio voice of the Clovis Wildcats, made it known to the C-Club that if students got a bell he would find a two-wheel trailer and it could be used at home games.
The boys had earlier made a plea to the railroad to donate the bell to the high school, but the railroad said no.
Green even asked his father, Ellis Green, superintendent of Hillcrest Park, if they could take the bell off the locomotive and use it. He, too, said no.
Late that night the students snuck into the park and some of the boys climbed over the 8-foot chain link fence surrounding the old locomotive and climbed atop the engine. One of the boys took off his shirt and wrapped it around the clapper of the bell, fearing they might wake Ellison’s father.
They attacked the yolk that cradled the bell with the wrench, but made no headway on the nuts that had been on there since 1906. With the help of a 10-foot length of pipe place on the handle of the wrench for more leverage, the nuts came loose.
All of the boys came abroad and tossed the yolk and bell to the ground on the north side of the engine, but their aim wasn’t good. The yolk and bell straddled the chain link fence and then, said Ellison, “part of that fence came down and you could easily walk over it.”
Rackley had brought his 1949 Ford 2-door coupe to carry off the bell. The boys loaded the bell into the trunk, half of it sticking out, and all climbed in.
They took the bell to the high school and hid it. The next day Ellison Green’s father saw the fence around the engine had been bent down and the bell was missing. It didn’t take him long to corral his son and tell him to bring the bell back.
The elder Green figured the boys would somehow take the bell back to the high school even if it was mounted back on the engine. So he made a deal with the boys. “Okay, he said, “you can use the bell at high school but you bring it back when football season is over.”
And the boys faithfully brought the bell back to the park at the end of the season. Williams, not knowing from whence the bell came, got a surplus two-wheel trailer from the air base. It has been used during WW II to carry bombs to the bombers stationed at the base.
The high school football stadium was name for Leon Williams after he died in 1971.
The elder Green died of a heart attack in 1961 and the bell remained at the high school.
Don McAlavy is a history buff and lives in Clovis.