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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Working on a "chain gang" leads to state honor

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Joel McCaffrey didn't much want to talk about his many years on the chain gang, but retiring Monett High School Athletic Director Alan Spencer wasn't going to let the subject go without making a big deal out of it.

On April 11, the Missouri Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA) honored McCaffrey with its Distinguished Service Award as a result of Spencer's nomination. McAffrey has headed up Monett's football chain crew for 34 years.

"1976?" said Joel, thinking out loud when he began facilitating prep football games. "1975? '74?"

Plus or minus a year, enough life had passed for a little recogitation, engineered by Spencer.

Back when Chuck Berry introduced the duck-walk, burgers were starting to flip and poodle skirts remained zipped, McCaffrey's older brother, Jack, began dedicating his Friday nights to the lights, working the sideline chain gang at Cub football games.

Jack McCaffrey's charter crew consisted of Mike Donnini and Troy Hilton, both now deceased. Dutch Bounous, also deceased, and Jeff McCaffrey, another older brother, joined Jack's crew, part two.

Almost six decades gone, the gang remains just that, limited to a mere nine members in its history.

Joel McCaffrey came on board after his all-conference years as a feisty 138-pound linebacker for Monett High, playing for stadium namesake Burl Fowler.

Rewarding things, big and small, came in the wake of his playing days. The season after he graduated, in 1970, the Cubs took the state championship.

Today, Jack's son, Jim McCaffrey (25 years of service), Kelly Curbow (21) and Joel's son Joseph (11), along with Joe,l comprise the current gang of four, moving the McCaffrey brothers' tradition up and down the sidelines.

"Our crews always get high marks from the officials for professionalism and hard work," said Spencer. "Joel is one of those guys who is always dependable and supportive."

"Best view in the house," said Joel of his scrimmage line vantage point on the gridiron. "I enjoy watching the different (coaching) personalities and how they handle the kids."

Grande Tire stores are the other chain enterprise of the brothers McCaffrey when they're not tending Cubs football.

Cassville super fan Kelly Wade was honored alongside McCaffrey as the region's other Distinguished Service Award winner for 2009-10.



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