May 1, 2012 By Sam Denny ’69
ABOUT FOOTBALL COACHES, BUBBLE GUM CARDS, AND REUNIONS
During my years at Seneca High School the football coach was Ron Cain, who led Seneca to the state football championship in 1965 and a runner-up finish in 1968. During the championship season Coach Cain was my teacher for ninth-grade health class. One day during class (which that day consisted of polishing our skills on the basketball court) Coach Cain told me that prior to going into teaching he had tried out for and made the Denver Broncos team during the initial season of the old American Football League. He also told me that he had never actually played due to injury sustained prior to the start of the season. Though I always remembered him sharing that part of his life with me, I did not give it a great deal of thought until years later.
Around 1989 I was shopping at a sports card shop as I did on a periodic basis. While there I noticed four 1960 Fleer football cards of a player named Ronnie Cain. Curious, I read the back of the cards and concluded that it was indeed Coach Cain from Seneca. I purchased all four of the cards at fifty cents apiece and over time bought additional cards of the coach as I was able to locate them. Shortly afterward my wife Linda (class of 1970) had her 20-year reunion. I took one of the cards to the reunion and showed it to a number of people there. Virtually everyone (including those who had played for him) was unaware of his being on a professional football roster. I took the card to my 30-year reunion in 1999 and again people were surprised to learn of his time in professional football. Regardless, it intrigued me as to why he had thought to tell me what he apparently had told very few people.
In 2000 Linda and I attended her 30-year high school reunion. Again I took the card of Coach Cain with me. As before, I began showing the card to a number of people there. Then about halfway through the function Linda flagged me down and told me someone wanted to see me about my football card. I was taken to meet a woman standing outside the auditorium. The woman then introduced herself to me, “I’m Phyllis Cain. I would love to see your card. Our family used to have one, but one of our grandchildren lost it a few years ago.” The card had been a family treasure, having become more so after Coach Cain had passed away. I handed her the card and told her she could keep it if she wanted. Initially she declined, but then upon my insistence accepted it. Three weeks later I received the following letter from Phyllis:
Words cannot express how much recovering Ron’s football card meant to me and our children/grandchildren. The four-year-old clasped the card to his chest and said “I’m keeping this, it’s my Big Daddy.” I had to wait until he was distracted to retrieve the card. We don’t want to lose this one.
Ron and I had wonderful memories of our years at Seneca High—it was the best of times. We still cry at times over losing big Ron. Phil Thompson said it best, “Ron was hard to love but we loved him dearly.”
Thank you so very much, we are forever grateful for your kindness.
Since that time, as I have been able to locate additional cards of Coach Cain, I have been in contact with Phyllis as to who she would want to have a card. I was able to get cards to all three of their children, all four of their grandchildren, their nephew who played in the NFL, and a number of former players (several of whom played on the state championship team). Perhaps the most gratifying moment for Phyllis came when in the fall of 2010 Seneca invited back the members of the 1965 state champion team. During that evening she was able to reconnect with a number of people from that time in her life. Though I never played a down of football while at Seneca, I find it interesting that a brief conversation with one of my teachers years ago could have taken me down such an interesting and fulfilling journey.
May 28, 2011 By Grover Sales III
Kenneth B. Farmer… Most Seneca students only know him as the name on the Gym. A picture in the Front Lobby. That’s about it. But he was so much more. Ken Farmer was “my Principal”.
When I arrived at Seneca Jr. High in 1963 I was an ex-military brat. Never had a school that I claimed. Too many transfers. Seneca was my first real school. Ken Farmer was the principal.
He was an Elementary Principal at Greathouse and Goldsmith. Did a really great job. Then JCPS decided that Fern Creek High was overcrowded. A new High School would be built. In 1957 Seneca opened its doors. Ken Farmer took over. He was more than a Principal. He was a friend, counselor, disciplinarian and everything else. Seneca was “his” School too.
Mr. Farmer oversaw many things in his 12 years – athletic championships, academic honors, racial changes. He had many great students – Wesley Unseld, High School and College All American, Diane and Linda Sawyer, Kentucky Junior Misses and TV anchorpersons, Jerry Abramson, longtime Louisville mayor. The list is endless. He saw back-to-back State Championships in boys basketball, the first State Football AAA Championship by a Jefferson County School. Mr. Farmer gripped that trophy and wouldn’t let go. He was so proud.
Ken Farmer took ownership of Seneca. He spent his summers seeding the football field. I know. I helped him. When we graduated in 1969, Mr. Farmer moved on as well to the Board of Education as Director of Building and Grounds. He retired in 1981, but he never actually left. You see, Seneca was “his” school and always will be. He leaves a generation of grateful adults who were proud to call him Principal.
He lived a full life and will be missed. Rest in Peace Mr. Farmer.