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Remembering Coy Burnett

Xs and Arrows

In a memo to parents attempting to distance themselves from a recent "Let Them Play" rally, the Tehachapi Unified School District made what appeared to be an innocent typo, claiming the gathering at "Cory(sic) Burnett Field" was not sanctioned by the District in the officially released document.

Of course, most of us know the home field of the Tehachapi Warriors is "Coy Burnett Field," minus the extra "r" inserted by the president of the school board who in haste autographed the memo without checking on the namesake of our beloved stadium. The typo got me thinking that while this was a simple oversight, many of you may not understand why Burnett's name sits atop the sign marking the entry to those hallowed grounds along Tehachapi Boulevard.

Coy Burnett was the president of what was then known as Monolith Cement Company, today Lehigh Southwest Cement Company. Burnett was instrumental in the development of that field in the late 1950s, donating the cement, labor and other materials necessary to build the facility. Something no longer allowed given California's subservience to labor unions and fear of liability litigation. Many have come forward in recent years offering to upgrade the facility, but the paperwork is complicated and the rules mind boggling.

But back in the 1950s, Burnett and Monolith Cement company put in the materials and hours to build the stadium in about a year's time from 1957 to the kickoff in 1958 when the stadium was dedicated and the Warriors moved from nearby Imhof Field (another historical figure) to their current home. The Warriors still call it home despite it not being attached to the current high school up the street.

This was not the only act of kindness from Burnett and Monolith Cement. He donated land for a variety of church projects in the City of Tehachapi and was instrumental in assisting with the town's rebuilding following the 1952 earthquake. A couple years ago I was contacted by a woman from Southern California. She was Coy Burnett's granddaughter and had in her possession some old reel-to-reel film from the late 1940s from her grandfather. She wanted them donated to the City of Tehachapi due to their historical significance.

While many of those reels still need to be transferred into a modern form to preserve their contents, a few of them had already been converted to DVD format. On the DVDs were a few promotional videos from Monolith in the late 1940s, footage of chemists in the lab showing how their product was made, and there were also shots from the mine showing laborers operating steam shovels and riding rail cars full of material down the mountain.

Along with the work footage was footage of a vacation, but not just any vacation. Apparently, Burnett continued his charity to his workforce, closing down cement production for a week or so every year so he could take his employees to Catalina Island. A working-class hero from a bygone era indeed. Not only a legend of kindness to speak of, but video evidence from over 70 years ago to prove it.

So, it is more than a name that sits on that sign marking the entrance to our football stadium, it is a testimony to a man. A man whose generosity was sprinkled all over this community. Hopefully next time he is mentioned by the school board, his name is not only spelled correctly, but "Coy Burnett" is uttered with the respect that the field and that man deserve.

Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. He can be reached at [email protected]. Read more content at http://www.CostelloeMedia.com.