Time Halts for Nobody, Except Harlow

  • Gordon Harlow, 80, of Windsor, runs the clock and score board during the Windsor boys basketball game with Woodstock in Windsor, Vt., Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. He has been operating the scoreboard for the Yellow Jackets for over 40 years. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Windsor scoreboard operator Gordon Harlow records a foul by a player on the court during the Yellow Jackets' game with Woodstock in Windsor, Vt., Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Correspondent
Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Windsor — An NFL referee used an index card to show just how close the team was to making a first down during a game this season. Somewhere along the way, that official must have talked to Windsor’s Gordie Harlow to get that idea.

In a Springfield-Hartford high school game many years ago, Harlow did the same thing. During a measurement for a Hartford first down with time running out on a fourth-down play, referee Harlow took out his scorecard and stuck it between the chain and ball to show how close it was to a first down.

Harlow, who will turn 81 in May is still officiating football games, and he can always be found running the clock for Windsor High basketball games. He has been doing both for 44 years and has no intention of stopping.

“I remember it was Mike Stone’s first game, and I had to show him how close he came to making that first down in a game he would lose, 16-14,” said Harlow, referring to the former longtime Hartford High coach.

“Butch Smith was doing the game with Harlow, and he went out of his mind when Gordie took out that card,” recalled retired Windsor athletic director Bob Hingston, who was at the game. “I couldn’t believe it, and I think the Springfield coaches were stunned.”

Harlow has seen a lot of changes over the years, and one of the most significant is the conduct of coaches along the football sidelines.

“I remember guys like Andy Natowich in Brattleboro, Tom LaPlaca in Fair Haven and others who would get downright nasty and get on you all the game,” said Harlow. “Today, the coaches let you know what their beef is and go right back to coaching the game and never bother you again.”

He also remembers going to games where large crowds were the norm.

“When we used to do the Rutland-MSJ game at St. Peter’s Field, the place was always packed,” said Harlow.

The pay was $19 a game when he started. He now gets $75 for varsity games, $50 for junior varsity contests and 50 cents a mile for travel. While that is not a fortune, it would seem to be enough to get young guys interested, but there is a shortage of youthful football officials.

“Some guys have to work both Friday night and Saturday afternoon games because there are not enough officials,” Harlow said.

He also said that the officials perhaps should be paid more, but it’s a burden to schools as it is. Harlow also officiates all subvarsity and middle school games in Windsor.

Harlow also has spent a lot of time doing softball and baseball over the years.

“I got started doing the men’s modified softball league, and then one day Stan Baker asked me if I wanted to do some baseball,” he said. “Stan Baker and his brother, Mickey, used to do all the Windsor baseball games, and when Mickey couldn’t make it, I would work the games.”

Harlow remembered baseball coach Leon Royce getting on Baker, telling him “don’t try to hurry things up Stanley, the Legion will still be open when the game is over.”

Harlow spent most of his life working at Cone Automatic in Windsor as well as the Fellows Gear Shaper in Springfield. He also spent several years at a supermarket and, at age 75, retired from Peoples United Bank.

He also spent time officiating basketball, where he would work the Windsor junior varsity game before changing his clothes and running the clock for the varsity games. Now he works the clock for both contsts.

Harlow has also worked the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl and many championship contests. In the beginning, there weren’t many fields that had clocks.

“We would keep the time on the field,” he said. “At the end of each half, we would have give the coaches a four-minute warning, and we carried red and white flags.”

High school football has moved beyond some dangerous tactics. Harlow remembered when blocking below the waist was OK and lineman could extend their arms.

“Changes were made all in the name of safety, and that’s a good thing,” Harlow said.

“We also used to have four-man crews, and now we have five. And you need five, as the players are bigger, stronger and faster.”

Harlow spent Monday morning shovelling snow, but he also keeps in shape by walking two miles a day in his neighborhood when the weather permits. And he plays lots and lots of golf.

“I also still mow my own lawn,” he said.