A pair of longtime dartball players from Colfax were part of the new class inducted into the Wisconsin Dartball Hall of Fame April 5 in Manitowoc.
Gaylon Gotliebson and Paul Strand were nominated by Dan Plomadahl, a fellow competitor in the Eau Claire League they play in, but they had to be at least 50 years old and have 25 years or more of dartball experience to be eligible. With both men age 78 and playing more than 50 years in leagues around Colfax and Eau Claire, they certainly met that criteria and were pleasantly surprised when they received a phone call telling them they would be inducted together.
Gaylon and Paul started playing on the same team when they were 15-16 years old and have always played on the same team. They began with the Holden Lutheran Church team back in the days when dartball was a popular sport around the area. There were as many as 16 teams in the church league and teams had to have at least nine players to compete. There are many, many trophies in the Holden showcase as a result of the successful years the team had.
“Back in those days, you could cheer and hoot and holler against the other team to distract them,” Gaylon said. “I would come home hoarse from those matches. But of course, you wouldn’t dare do that now,” he added.
In 1977, they were both asked to play in the Eau Claire Commercial League with the “Solberg Clan” as Gaylon referred to the team.
“They needed two players to fill their team,” Gaylon said.“And we ended up playing with two of the best players in the state, Arlyn Solberg and Rich Ovren.”
The next year, they added another Colfax resident, Gary Klukas to play with them, then eventually Gaylon and Paul ended up splitting off and starting their own team. They added Joe Hagberg, Jim, Dave and Ron Tuschl and John Secraw, all from Colfax to the team. After winning the second half of the season with this group, the league went to a four man league and the group had to split again. Gaylon, Paul, Joe and Gary all stayed together and the other four made their own team. Players have been added and subtracted over the years with Gaylon’s son Rick joining the team over 10 years ago.
They won a Class A state championship in 1985 as members of Paul’s Repair and won three Oshkosh Eagles tournaments, which is the next biggest tournament in the state in the late 90s and early 2000s.
Although both are quick to say they may not have ever been the best players in the state, they both agree they have put plenty of time and energy into the sport.
“What got us into the Hall of Fame was being very good players, playing a lot of years and doing a lot to promote the sport including getting new players into the game,” Gaylon said. “We both served as team captains for many years and sponsored teams.”
Paul reflected on the differences from the early years and now, as he sees less and less players from the area playing.
“Years ago, there wasn’t as much going on with the younger crowd and dartball was a great way to get out for a night,” he said. “The reason I keep playing is because the league in Eau Claire always plays at the same place (the Legion Hall) and it only costs $2 a week. Although it is like any sport where it gets harder to play as you get older, I can still manage to compete pretty well and have fun,” he added.
Due to bad weather the weekend of the induction ceremony, Paul’s son Mike drove them over to the state meet where the ceremony took place.
“He was just fascinated by the number of teams and the amount of people at the competition,” Paul said. “There are over 90 teams in Class A, B and C and with all the players and spectators there, there were a lot of people. It is much more popular on the eastern side of the state and the teams are very competitive,” he added.
Both Gaylon and Paul plan on playing the game as long as they are able.
“I imagine we will play into our 80s as long as we can still drive and throw the darts,” they said with a laugh.