Remembering: From football to the U.S. Navy
BY ED PANY
Curator, Atlas Cement Company Memorial Museum
Recently, Ms. Chris Damore, a 1965 graduate of Northampton High School, visited the Atlas Cement Company Memorial Museum and presented a rare football program from 1946 to Larry Oberly and this writer, who was her teacher in 1965.
It was an opening-day program between the Allentown Buccaneers and the Northampton Concrete Busters. Her father, Phil Damore, was co-captain of the Busters.
He resided in Northampton’s first ward, on Washington Avenue. His father, Angelo, and many of his neighbors walked each day to the Dragon Cement Company, whose roots dated back to 1898.
Young Phil loved football. He wanted to play for Coach Al Erdosy’s Konkrete Kids. The year - 1940. Unfortunately, war clouds were gathering. On Dec. 7, 1941, with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, we were at war. Instead of graduating from high school, Phil enlisted in the U.S. Navy.
He wondered, “Will I ever play football again?”
After intensive training, he was soon at sea.
In July 1943, he was assigned to the U.S.S. Charles J. Badger DD657. On a local note, the ship was launched by Bethlehem Steel, Staten Island, N.Y. The ship saw considerable action during the war, from the Aleutian Islands, Philippines, to Okinawa.
The Badger was involved in Gen. MacArthur’s return to the Philippines in action, driving off Japanese air attacks. Some of the action was against Japanese kamikaze aircraft.
Phil Damore was a gunner’s mate on the Badger. One can only imagine the stress and danger these brave young sailors experienced.
The ship was even hit by an 18-foot Japanese suicide boat, which forced the Badger to dock for repairs before returning to action.
After the war ended, he returned home.
In 1946, the Concrete Busters, a semi-pro football team, was organized. Mr. Damore was a co-captain of the team. After the season, he received a scholarship from the University of Tampa. He spent a year at the school and then decided to return to Northampton.
His daughter Chris said, “He was asked, ‘Why did you leave Florida?’ His answer was simple: ‘I just love Northampton.’ He missed his friends and Washington Avenue neighborhood.”
Like his father, he walked a few blocks and would work at the Dragon Cement Company. In 1961, the company was purchased by Martin Marietta. Phil sadly saw the company close in 1983 - the last operating cement plant in the Konkrete Borough, ending the cement era in the community.
Phil, in retirement, was a bartender at both the Alliance Hotel and Kovach’s Tavern. The businesses are also now but pleasant memories.
Chris said, “My father was a humble man. He was a homebody and was also a fan of Navy football, especially Roger Staubach.”
In two weeks, we will join the Concrete Busters. Bring your football!