Water Polo in Butte MT – 1962

I was reminiscing with family this morning about playing water polo in Butte Montana in 1962, and then ran across the article by Chuck Hines on the American Water Polo web site. I thought your readers might be interested in the team from Butte Montana that played in the AAU Championships at the Olympic Club in San Francisco in 1962. Here is the story as I recollect.
My older brother Mel and I played intramural water polo at Butte High School in the early 1960s. Our form of water polo was pretty rough and tumble, and the only rules as I recall were that we couldn’t slug someone in the face and couldn’t hold someone underwater too long.
A Dutch fellow, Jorres Hildering, was living in Butte at the time, loved water polo and had played in Holland. Jorres became interested in our intramural games and organized two teams in Butte to play under international rules. Mel’s and my team played under the Butte Recreation Department at the Butte High 20 yard pool, and the other team played at the local YMCA, also a 20 yard pool. We played each other several times in probably the smallest sports league ever.
One day Jorres announced that Butte had been selected to play in the AAU National Championship tournament in San Francisco. Wow, what a shocker that was, so we combined the two teams and prepared to push off to California.
Somehow we raised some money and eight of us piled into two cars and off we went. One car was a Studebaker Hawk owned by Jorres, and the other was an old Mercury owned by our goalie. I don’t remember the names of all of us on that historic team, but here are a few of them; perhaps Mel can recall the rest:
Jorres Hildering  – Player/Coach
Mel Johnson
Allen Bjorkland
Don Johnson
Our goalie’s main skill was that he didn’t sink; he couldn’t swim but could tread water and hopefully fend off a ball shot his way.
I was the fastest swimmer, and one time during the tournament actually got to the ball first at the mid-pool ball drop.
We played two games at the Olympic Club, one against the Stanford B team and the other against a Southern California team, I think it was from El Segundo. We scored no points in either game; 0, zero, zilch, nada, nothing and I’m not sure we even came close. But we had a blast!!
We stuck around to see the championship game between the Illinois Athletic Club (a rough and tumble bunch of old geezers in their twenties), and Long Beach/New Pike (a bunch of sleek race horses from Southern California). As I recall, the SC kids had it all over the old guys in terms of speed and ball handling, but the old guys were savvy, cunning and brutal in their underwater tactics with the toenails, forearms, knees etc. I don’t recall who won, but it was quite a game.
For all of us Butte kids it was quite a trip. The big city, the glamour of the Olympic Club, palm trees, freeways and all, and of course everlasting fame in the annals of water polo and Butte history.
So there you have it; history recalled.
As an aside, when reading through Mr. Hines article, the name Dave Rivenes rang a bell, and then I noticed that he was from Miles City Montana. I was on the Butte Rec. swim team my junior and senior years, and I believe Mr. Rivenes was involved in Montana swimming at that time as well. It surprised me to read that Montana was so well represented in water polo during those years; I thought Butte had all of that fame locked up with our quest for the national championship.
Don Johnson
February 2012


2 responses to “Water Polo in Butte MT – 1962

  1. From Chuck Hines. Enjoyed this article about the history of water polo in MT. Will the writer please contact me at waterywhiz@charter.net. Thanks.

  2. We are very excited to extend our popular Butte Bucks program this season to our visiting guests
    and locals alike.

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