The Codger Pole

Old grudges die hard. In 1938, cross-county archrivals the Colfax Bulldogs and the St. John Eagles met in a bitterly contested football matchup. St. John emerged the victors with a score of 14 - 0, but the defeated Colfax Bulldogs did not forget. They met on the gridiron again for a rematch - 50 years later. In 1988, most of the players were nearly 70 years-old, but that did not stop the fifty-one players from both teams from a playing each other once again in an epic grudge match 50 years in the making. The idea of nearly 70 year-old men playing a football game in an entertaining attempt to relive their glory days may seem crazy if it were tackle, but fortunately for the players, the 1988 rematch was
a touch game.

Those present at the 1938 game remember it as being one of the best they had ever seen. Even as the players moved on to college, got jobs and raised their families, the big game still lingered in the back of their minds. Fifty years after the game, former Colfax resident turned movie star, John Crawford, was among a group of residents rallying the Colfax community and Bulldog alumni to memorialize the game by holding a 1988 rematch. The game was played at Colfax High, but this time the outcome was different. The Colfax Bulldogs earned their payback, beating the St. John Eagles with a score if 6 - 0. The "Codger Bowl," as it became known, was unlike any other event to have taken place in the region. Many Colfax residents felt that the uniqueness of the game was, in and of itself, worthy of remembrance.

In 1991, John LaBenne from Idyllwild, California was the artist chosen to commemorate the event, which he did by using a chainsaw to expertly carve the faces of all 51 players into five, 65-foot tall cedar poles. Each player even has their original leather football helmets and wrinkled, aged faces added to the detail. Every face is meticulously cut, including their last names and jersey numbers. LaBenne agreed to do the carving for a $10,000 donation, of which, only $960 has yet been paid to the artist. It took four-months to complete and he sunk $5,000 of his money into it, expecting to receive the originally agreed upon sum. The dejected LaBenne still harbors resentment against both the piece and the City of Colfax. In a 1988 interview, he stated that the experience was the "lowest moment" in his life and that, had his car worked, he would have "gone back and set a match to it." LaBenne did a wonderful job in portraying the Colfax and St. John players with his sculpture and his art continues to stand as a monument to the importance of not just the 1938 game, but to the importance of Palouse football period.

Images

Codger Pole, Colfax, WA

Codger Pole, Colfax, WA

The Codger Pole is made up of five individual cedar poles, each with ten players carved into it, except for one pole, which has eleven faces. Photo by author, 2014. View File Details Page

Codger Pole, 2014

Codger Pole, 2014

Each of the 51 faces are very well-detailed. Artist John LaBenne spared no expense to make sure that every player was represented individually. Its the little things, the smallest, most minute details, such as the wrinkles, which really make this work of art stand out. Photo by author, 2014. View File Details Page

Codger Pole at Schmuck Park, 2014

Codger Pole at Schmuck Park, 2014

The Codger Pole was erected and dedicated in Schmuck Park in the North End of Colfax. Schmuck Park is one of the most popular public parks in town and has a skate park and a swimming pool. Photo by author, 2014. View File Details Page

Tallest Chainsaw Sculpture in the World, 2014

Tallest Chainsaw Sculpture in the World, 2014

The Codger Pole has the honor of being the tallest piece of chainsaw artwork on the planet. The 65-foot high poles are a must see, even of you are simply driving through Colfax. Photo by author, 2014. View File Details Page

The Codger's Wooden "Heismanz"

The Codger's Wooden "Heismanz"

Atop the 65-foot tall sculpture sits a small, 3-foot tall football player, dressed in the uniform that the 1988 codgers would have worn in the original 1938 game (including the thin leather helmet and very little padding). The figure stands in an almost Heisman trophy-like stance as he looks over downtown Colfax. reminding the town of the Bulldog Codger's victory over one time rivals St. John. Photo by author, 2014. View File Details Page

Foot of the Sculpture

Foot of the Sculpture

Besides displaying just the names and faces of the 1988 codgers, the pole also has engraved on it the mascots of the two schools - the St. John Eagle and the Colfax Bulldog. Photo by author, 2014. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Robert M. Lambeth, “The Codger Pole,” Spokane Historical, accessed April 29, 2017, http://spokanehistorical.org/items/show/435.

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