The Kyne-Kimball Luncheon, sponsored by five Tracy service clubs, has continued a tradition launched back in 1927. That tradition, however, is at a crossroads, placing its future in doubt.
It’s not that the service clubs no longer want to honor the outstanding players and their teams — it’s just that there may soon be too many teams for a single awards luncheon.
What 82 years ago was a luncheon hosted by a single service club, the Tracy Lions Club, for one team, the Tracy High Bulldogs, now faces the prospect of four teams.
Millennium, though it plays at a lower level than Tracy and West, still fielded a football team that reached the playoffs this year. Next year, Kimball High School will field its first varsity team. That would make four teams.
Frank Lima, the Breakfast Lions Club member who has made arrangements for the joint luncheon since West High became a participant in 1996, has voiced his concern that the task of honoring four teams might rule out a combined luncheon, leaving individual schools to host their own awards ceremonies.
Coaches who spoke at Tuesday’s luncheon, Tracy’s Mark Stroup and West’s Steve Lopez, both voiced the hope that the combined community salute to the players and teams will be continued. They said that the players appreciated being recognized by the community and that this unique event should not end, if at all possible.
Lima said no decision on the fate of the luncheon has yet been made, and there is still time to take a look at the prospects and problems of keeping the tradition alive.
I think that can be accomplished.
Certainly, some adjustments will have to be made, but that is indeed possible. Already this year, the Breakfast Lions Club volunteered to prepare and serve the food, cutting the cost to the service clubs sponsoring the luncheon.
The program would have to be streamlined. Yes, Stan Strain, the perennial master of ceremonies, would have to reduce the number of jokes he tells down to a select one or two. And individual introductions of team members would have to give way to listing their names in the printed program.
The tradition of introducing individual players was started in December 1927, during the first luncheon. The Tracy Lions Club, then Tracy’s only service club meeting weekly, hosted the Tracy High team in the Tracy Inn Rose Room.
The 1927 luncheon celebrated the Bulldogs’ 19-0 win over Patterson on Thanksgiving Day to win the Dollar Cup. Peter B. Kyne, the San Francisco author for whom the field and trophy were named, was at the game, along with R. Stanley Dollar, the steamship magnate who had donated the game trophy, and fellow Bohemian Club member Gus Russell, who engineered support for the Tracy and Patterson teams and fanned the flames of football fever in both communities.
The winner of the Kyne Trophy was not named at the Tracy Inn luncheon, however. That was to have been announced at a student assembly at Tracy High the next week. The assembly was held, and team letters were awarded, but there was a hitch in awarding the Kyne Trophy.
Ernest Buolumni, who had been selected to win the first trophy, departed for Italy with his parents several hours after the Lions luncheon the previous week.
Buolumni, a fleet, shifty halfback from Roberts Island, wasn’t announced as the winner until he returned home from Italy several months later in 1928.
Over the years, the Kyne Trophy was awarded both at luncheons and at Tracy High student assemblies, but by the 1940s, the joint Lions-Rotary luncheon had become an annual tradition.
For a number of years, guest speakers, including Cal and Pacific football coaches, were an important part of the program, but with two teams being honored when the John Kimball Trophy was first awarded at West High, there was no time for that.
Now, if a unique institution in our town is to continue, some new changes in the format will be required. Keeping alive a tradition launched when Tracy was a small, one–high school town will take some doing — but I say it’s worth the effort.
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or e-mail at email@example.com.