‘Stolen' shovel returned to Keystone 20 years later

By Rodney L. Sherman



Keystone School Board member Greg Barrett usually takes up a defensive posture when someone carrying a shovel approaches him, but this time he knew the approaching man.

And, he knew the shovel.

Former Keystone School District Barney Knorr was carrying the old coal shovel with its broken wooden handle and battered cutting edge in a large plastic bag which did not conceal the fact it was a shovel.

"Someone gave this to me years ago," said Knorr as handed the wrapped shovel to Barrett. "Actually, the guy who gave it me stole it from the school district."

The presentation came during the school board's Aug. 12 work session.

"There were three of you there," recalled Knorr. "(Board president) Mr. (John) Slagle, (district business manager) Mr. (Vern) Lauffer and you, Mr. Barrett."

Knorr explained board member Ken Swartfager was "there," but was not yet a school board member.

"There" was the high school football field in 1999, as volunteers including school board members, school administrators (including Knorr himself) and others donated time, labor and materials to build a new concession stand and spotters' tower, and repair bleachers and the scoreboard.

"We didn't have a dime to spend on those things then," said Swartfager.

Knorr went on to recount the many hours of labor and late evenings that went into the project.

Knorr recalled the sun setting one late evening. Knorr was ready to go home for the day. Barrett suggested they finish part of a landing on the steps to the upper level of the concession stand.

Knorr holding a nail gun, fired a nail through Barrett's thumb.

"I said I was quitting for the day and I left," said Knorr.

"I ended up at the emergency room," said Barrett.

Knorr remembered attempting to weld supports to the scoreboard base.

"I had taken a welding course about 10 years before that," recalled Knorr. "Ken (Swartfager) came over and looked at the beads I welded and said, ‘Barney, why don't you go do something you know how to do.'

"I still think of that advice now and then," quipped Knorr.

The former superintendent then explained that during the project two decades ago, Barrett wore the same red cut-off sweat pants every evening they worked on the project.

"Pretty soon, I noticed no one wanted to work with Mr. Barrett, in fact, they started to stay away from him all together.

"We figured it out he never washed those pants."

Somehow, Barrett's sweatpants ended up on a makeshift flagpole and were paraded past the crowd at the first football game in the fall of 1999.

Barrett then recalled watching Knorr attempting to shovel a large pile of gravel with the small, broken-handled shovel during the project.

Barrett took the shovel home where his wife Kathy painted an image of the new concession stand on the flat shovel blade. The year, "1999" is painted above the image of the concession stand.

The shovel was given to Knorr as a gift all those years ago.

"It's been 20 years," Knorr said with a wide grin. "I think it's time the district got its shovel back. I think maybe it should go up in the concession stand or maybe in the high school trophy case."

Knorr said the shovel is a memento, representing what the community can do for its school when people work together toward a common goal.

"It was an interesting summer, that's for sure," said Knorr. "The community really pitched in to do all that and we all had the attitude that we would get it done."

District superintendent Shawn Algoe said the shovel will likely go in the district's trophy case.

Barrett meanwhile, was showing off the 20-year-old scar on his thumb to anyone who would look.