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Arnie Forseth, 85, was a Glenville town barber for 56 years; he has seen more Trojan football games than he cares to remember. During the season he sits at the window of his apartment overlooking the football practice fields and watches the kids go through their daily drills.
"I feel very sorry for them," said Forseth one October afternoon. "Look at them. They're out there now practicing in the rain. Can't they at least have a win for all the time and all the effort they put in? I know they'd like to win. It seems that after all these years, we should win a game. These little devils have the heart, and they go out there and try the best they can. I don't know why they're losing. I don't understand it and it hurts a little bit."
The hurt takes all forms, of course, but nowhere is it more biting than in the sense of lost pride that some of the kids and adults feel at being a part of all this. In fact, some of the kids are admittedly shy about being identified as Glenville football players when they visit Albert Lea, a city of 19,000 that lies just to the northwest, and which Glenville serves as a bedroom community. There are adults who share their chagrin.
"Just like any small-town person, you do take pride in your school and your football team," says Dean Adams, a 33-year-old farmer who played for Glenville. "Who wants to be the laughingstock of the area? People joke about us. A couple of years ago, one of the kids said to me, 'You know, I never won a high school football game. In all the years I played, I never won.' It's got to be depressing as hell."
For these alumni, with memories of better times, it is particularly so. Why, when he was a kid in the early '60s, Bill Severtson watched the Trojans fight for the conference championship three years in a row against Grand Meadow when Grand Meadow had Duane Benson. Benson, reputedly the best player ever to come out of the area, later was an outside linebacker for the Oakland Raiders, Atlanta and Houston. Severtson, a social studies teacher, was a running back and linebacker for the Trojans from 1966 to '69 and the best all-around player ever at Glenville. Walking the sidelines as the Trojans were getting mauled in the rain by Faribault Bethlehem Academy 35-7, Severtson's jaw was set, his countenance grim. "I don't even want to tell people I'm from here," said Severtson, whose cousin Randy plays for Glenville. "It's sad to watch this. It's like being slugged in the gut. The problem around here is commitment. These kids don't want it bad enough. You've got to want it! If I coached here, I'd tell them, 'You either play football for me or work on the farm. You can't do both.' "
The way to get to Glenville if you work, say, at Farmstead in Albert Lea, is to take Route 65 south and follow that for about six miles, alongside the railroad tracks. The road straightens out about a mile from town, and there, in the distance, you'll see a water tower dominating the landscape and a set of huge grain elevators on the right.
That's Glenville. Main Street cuts off to the left and runs for about a quarter of a mile, past a few houses, the American Legion Hall and the Citizens Bank, past the town's favorite swizzle stick, the Office Bar, then past the post office and Wally Hoyt's barber shop and Don's Food Market and a secondhand furniture store. Past a few more stores and shops, Main Street ends abruptly at the bridge stretching over the Shell Rock River.
When Glenvillians say they are going to town, they don't mean Main Street. Town is Albert Lea, whose malls and city lights have taken the vitality from Glenville's businesses. "We used to have two barbershops in town, with two barbers in each shop," says Forseth. "Four grocery stores! A nice creamery, two blacksmith shops and two stockyards; one belonged to the Illinois Central and the other to the Rock Island Line. We had a dandy hardware store and two big saloons. And we had two nightclubs."
One of the nightclubs doubled as the town's whorehouse, but that activity ceased during World War II, and the nightclubs are gone, too. Lately, the town's moral indignation has been aimed at the Loose Caboose, a bar on the southwest corner of town, near the grain elevators, that features exotic dancers who flounce around in G-strings, topless, scandalizing the God-fearing citizens of this two-church town. "That is really a sore spot around here," says Virginia Hefta, a Glenville resident for 25 years. "It's not what a clean, small town needs." Townspeople are quick to point out that license plates on cars in the Loose Caboose parking lot show that most of the patrons are from Iowa; the state line is six miles to the south.
Close to Iowa or not, Hefta says, "That doesn't mean we have to entertain them."