BROWNVILLE — A piece of Brownville’s past has been brought back to life. The Brownville Junction High School gymnasium scoreboard has been restored and is now on display at the Brownville-Brownville Junction Historical Society Parish House Museum on Church Street. The scoreboard was unveiled following an early afternoon presentation on July 22 acknowledging those who helped make the revival possible.
Brownville-Brownville Junction Historical Society President Susan Worcester told the audience of 40-plus gathered in the Brownville Community Church Parish Hall, adjacent to the museum, that the new look scoreboard showing the point totals for the Railroader basketball teams and the opposition along with the quarter and time remaining via a manual clock would be revealed when they walked across the parking lot.
Worcester began her thank yous by saying Bill Bellatty, a 1959 graduate of Brownville Junction High School, provided funding for the restoration and construction of the accompanying display cabinet. The current museum exhibit includes the Gold Ball from Brownville Junction’s 1966-67 state championship, earned with a 56-55 victory over Old Orchard Beach in Lewiston for the Class M crown. The trophy of the sole basketball state championship in school history is on loan from the BJHS Alumni Association.
She said father/son Tom and Micah Stade of the Greenville-based Moosehead Signs provided the skills necessary for the project to be completed. “They also donated $1,000 in labor to make the scoreboard what it is today, some would say better than the original,” Worcester said.
The historical society president said Bob Murano and Bill Casey designed and built the display case, and she also thanked the dedicated Parish House Museum volunteers and other organization volunteers.
When asked how many attended the high school, several dozen members of the audience raised their hands and about a half dozen kept their arms up when asked who played basketball under the scoreboard.
“Once the school was closed in the mid-70s, the property reverted to the town,” Worcester said. Brownville Junction High School closed in 1968 during an era of Maine school consolidation with the institution and on court rival Milo High School merging into Penquis Valley High School.
“It wasn’t many years before the decision was made to tear the building down,” Worcester said. “As part of that process, citizens were allowed to go in and take whatever they may want from the building before it was demolished and many did just that.”
She mentioned one local contractor took down ceiling tiles to use on the job.
“Before the building was gone, many of the items in it had already disappeared and so did the basketball scoreboard,” Worcester said. “For many years no one knows what happened to it but it seems that the scoreboard had been saved by local entrepreneur Ralph Berg. After his business in Brownville Junction closed his son Bob took it to his business location in Corinna. No one in the local area seemed to care where it went, another lost icon in the town of Brownville.”
Worcester said several years ago a pair of Brownville Junction High School alumni went to pick up T-shirts made for a 50th reunion at Berg Activewear in Corinna. There they noticed the old scoreboard, asked the owner what he was planning to do with it and after some discussion the clock came back to Brownville where it ended up being stored in various garages for more than a decade.
Three years ago historical society volunteer George Dean arrived at the museum to announce that “‘the local lost scoreboard had been found and it is coming to the museum,’” Worcester said.
“I remember putting on my teacher voice and saying ‘do not bring that here until you know what’s going to happen to it,’” she said, as organization officials needed to determine if the scoreboard was worth saving, what the potential restoration costs might be and where the funding would come from.
Upon seeing a photo in the Brownville-Brownville Junction Historical Society 2020 summer newsletter, Bellatty contacted Worcester and offered to pay for restoration costs. “Bill said he could not count how many times he looked at that scoreboard in order to see how many seconds there were left in a quarter,” Worcester said.
After some calls and research, the historical society was connected with Moosehead Signs. “The scoreboard was gone for about two months and when it returned it looked better than new,” Worcester said.
“Now it’s back, looking ready for a new season of basketball and what do the half dozen volunteers at the museum plan to do with it?,” she said. Worcester said the museum is located in a structure built in 1839 as a church and the interior is covered in tin.
The 75-pound scoreboard could not be hung easily even if a suitable spot was found, but Murano and Casey worked to construct a wooden display.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 55 years since the boys won the championship,” Bellatty, a resident of California, said over Zoom. “I am so happy I could do what I did. Brownville Junction High School meant everything to me and I was so sorry it was torn down.”
He said he moved to town in fifth grade and followed the Railroaders teams growing up and after leaving the community following graduation. When he could, Bellatty would call up a friend to learn the scores of games.
“I left there and went in the military in September of 1959 and spent some time over in Asia and I always came home whenever I could, I still miss Brownville Junction,” Bellatty said. He said he hopes to travel to Brownville in the fall.