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Rec League Basketball Reunion Planned for April 27

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Ken Libertoff holds court at the Montpelier Rec Center. Photo by Tom Brown
Lifelong basketball enthusiast Ken Libertoff is organizing a reunion of central Vermonters who played in the organized Rec League, and the less-organized noontime pickup games, at the Montpelier Recreation Center at 55 Barre Street.

The sort of Ben-Gay banquet is set for 1 p.m., April 27, at the Rec Center and will feature reminiscences and light refreshment. 

“The league made the winters much shorter and created a fellowship and a fraternity,” said  Libertoff, a former director of the Vermont Association for Mental Health. “We hope there are people who perhaps would like to come out and talk a little about their experiences on the 27th.”

The evening Montpelier Rec League, which was a thriving and serious enterprise, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, drew a diverse group of hoop lovers, from laborers to lawmakers, who represented the full range of central Vermont inhabitants. The noontime pickup games were only slightly less intense.

“From my vantage point, league play was not for the faint of heart,” Libertoff said. “Games were spirited and competitive.”

There were even a few semi-famous and semi-infamous participants. John Froines, one of the Chicago Seven defendants, was a frequent player while he was teaching at Goddard College in the 1980s. Politician Peter Welch and former politician John McClaughry —  “a vigorous rebounder” —  also stopped by on occasion.

And while women were not heavily represented in the high-testosterone league, at least one, Kathy Johnson, was a stalwart who plans to attend, Libertoff said.

A lot of the rank-and-file players were former high-school stars who wanted to keep their competitive juices flowing, well-known names such as the Rubalcabas and Allens from Barre and the Bresettes of Montpelier. Teams also represented the community with sponsors such as National Life, Allen Lumber, Julio’s, Thrush Tavern, and Carriveau’s Gulf. 

The April 27 event will also serve as a remembrance of the Rec Center itself. The 1932 city-owned structure is in need of millions of dollars in renovation and its future is uncertain. Montpelier voters recently approved the acquisition of the 138-acre former Elks Club golf course, and one of the major uses to be discussed is the construction of a new municipal  recreational facility on that site.

“It will be a celebration and appreciation of that little band box on Barre Street,”  Libertoff said of the event. 

For more information, email kennyL16@aol.com. 

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