Everett Smalley’s 1916 Central yearbook entry. Special thanks to archivist David Kahn for finding it.
By Yvonne Dennis (246)
The Pennsylvania High School Track & Field Hall of Fame wasn’t established until 1995, over 70 years after Everett Smalley hung up his spikes.
But his contributions to the sport at Central and the University of Pennsylvania were so substantial that Mr. Smalley, of Central’s 126th class, was inducted into the Hall in 2009.
Because Mr. Smalley had died in 1967 and the Pennsylvania Track & Field Coaches Association, which established the Hall, could not find any of his survivors, his plaque ended up in the Central archives.
Now, thanks to some intrepid detective work by retired physician-turned archives volunteer Steve Burnstein (222), the plaque is with Everett’s family instead of hiding away collecting dust.
The journey of the lost plaque began several months ago when Mr. Burnstein was helping Alumni Association archivist David Kahn (220) sort through the many decades of trophies in the archives room, housed within Central’s library. The archives staff is considering having rotating displays of Central trophies by sport or some other theme. Other trophies would be placed in storage or possibly even discarded. But when Mr. Burnstein unearthed the personalized Smalley plaque, the archivist told him it really should go to the family if possible.
“So the gauntlet was laid down” Mr. Burnstein said. “I figured this shouldn’t be too hard. There’s probably some family still here” in the Philadelphia region.
Online, Mr. Burnstein found some family information via Mr. Smalley’s December 1967 obituary. He also found some interesting facts on the deceased track star. Mr. Smalley had tied state records in the high and low hurdles and he at one time was third on the all-time Pennsylvania list for the broad jump.
At Central Mr. Smalley was outstanding and at Penn he got even better. A headline from the Feb. 20, 1920, Philadelphia Evening Bulletin read :
Penn Athletes Smash Records
Smalley Eclipses Junior and Senior High Hurdles Mark –Lever Sets New 60-Yard Figure.
Old Penn Wins Relay
The accompanying article on the Junior A.A.U. championships in Buffalo, N.Y., and the New York A.C. Games noted: “Everett Smalley, the former Central High School athlete, in winning the 70-yard high hurdles in 9 1-5 seconds in the junior meet broke the junior and senior record for the high timbers indoors.”
Everett Smalley’s older brother Afred P. Smalley was also a talented athlete at Central, according to the Evening Bulletin, and had been captain of the track team. Sadly Alfred was killed in action during World War I at 22 years old. He left a wife and baby daughter.
Everett Smalley also served in World War I, graduated from Penn’s prestigious Wharton School in 1921, and worked for many years at American Viscose Corp. He had four children with his wife, Francis, and named one of them Alfred E.
Alfred E. Smalley became an esteemed zoologist and ecologist at Tulane University in New Orleans. He wrote dozens of academic papers and because of his discoveries even had some plants and animals named after him.
Through Tulane Mr. Burnstein was able to track down Alfred E. Smalley’s widow, Gwen. And fortuitously, Mr. Burnstein has a son who lives not far from her. So after picking it up during a visit to Philadelphia, Mr. Burnstein’s son took the plaque to Gwen Smalley, who in turn plans to give it Everett Smalley’s daughter Barbara Meyer.
A fine mission accomplished. Everyone’s is happy. Everett Smalley might even be smiling about it, even though he probably wouldn’t have liked all the fuss. Barbara Meyer, who splits her time between Pennsylvania and Florida, said her father was a quiet person who didn’t talk about his athletic feats much. “He liked to garden and he did a lot of woodworking,” she said.
The 84-year-old mother and grandmother is thankful and happy that the plaque soon will be able to join the many other medals of her father’s in her possession.
Read Everett Smalley’s Hall of Fame Entry at http://www.ptfca.org/hall-of-fame/