It was one of the more surreal sports-related scenes I have witnessed here.
Fred Lindley and I were having lunch at City Barbeque in Centerville with Kirk Mee III, the fabled football man from Darrtown who had made his mark as a player and a coach and had spent 25 years with the Washington Redskins as a scout, assistant coach and front office guru.
In that time, the team made four trips to the Super Bowl and won three.
As he was talking, Mee pulled out a small white cloth bag, undid the gray ribbon that held it together and gently dumped out his three bulky, diamond-studded Super Bowl rings and the nearly-as -large NFC Championship ring the team won in 1983.
As he lined the baubles up in a row on the table in front of him, he caught the attention of a nearby family who suddenly had found the one thing that could pull their interest from their platters of ribs, brisket and pulled pork.
And that’s when things became most improbable.
Over the next 15 minutes, Mee never once mentioned the rings or looked at them or even thought about them.
He was talking about a different title his “team” had won.
“We won the Virginia State Open three times,” he said proudly.
He was talking about dancing, which he now does competitively back in Northern Virginia where he lives. For the past 17 years he’s teamed up with Dianne Seay and they dance three to four times a week in a 100-mile radius of Washington D.C.
“All the stuff you see on Dancing With The Stars, all the wild stuff, we can do all that,” he said. “You name it — East Coast jitterbug, West Coast swing, the Cha Cha, the salsas, the Bachata and the Hustle, both the four -count and the three-count. But the Lindy Hop is where we excel best in completion. We know about 15 good aerials. I spin her on the floor, between my legs, we do the flips, all of it.”
He smiled as he looked over at Fred, a longtime Centerville schools and University of Dayton educator who also grew up in Darrtown, the small Butler County crossroads between Oxford and Hamilton.
“This all started back in Darrtown,” Mee said. “When I was a kid, my mother had my sister Linda taking tap dance lessons in Hamilton (at Lubbers Dance Studio) and that got me into it for a while. I performed with my sister until I was a junior in high school. We used to have dances at the K of P (Knights of Pythias) in town and I’d dance there. I can even remember teaching other kids to dance before we went in.”
When Mee finally did turn his attention to those flashy championship rings — telling about the Super XVII victory over Miami where John Riggins set a rushing record and the Super Bowl XXII romp over Denver where quarterback Doug Williams put on a show — it wasn’t long before his conversation again drifted to Darrtown.
He recalled how he and the other kids in town used to play football and baseball in the yard of the Methodist church and basketball during the winter in the hayloft of Fred Lindley’s barn.
Over the next couple of hours, Mee’s conversation often returned to his hometown, a place he’s returned to as often as he could over the years.
And he’ll be there again this weekend as Darrtown celebrates its bicentennial Saturday and Sunday.
Mee will partner with the family of another famed Darrtown sportsman — the late Walter “Smokey” Alston , the celebrated manager of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers — to present a sports memorabilia exhibition open to the public at the fellowship room of the Darrtown Lutheran Church (4411 Walter Alston Highway, which is State Route 177) on Saturday from noon to 2 p.m.
What’s especially notable is that this town of just over 500 residents has two favorite sons who amassed seven world championship rings. Alston’s Dodgers won the World Series in 1955, ’59, ‘63 and ‘65 and Mee’s Redskins won the Super Bowl in 1983, 1988 and 1992.
At 3 p.m. Saturday the sports focus will move to the community’s E-Dot Park (West Street), where dozens of autographed items provided by Mee and a championship baseball from Alston’s collection that is autographed by Smokey, Sandy Koufax, Maury Wills, Don Sutton, Claude Osteen, Jim Lefebvre and several other Dodgers will be auctioned off. Proceeds will go to the Darrtown Bicentennial Fund.
Passion for sports
“When I’m back here all these memories flood back from when I was a little kid,” said the 75-year-old Mee.
During the summers, he remembered Darrtown parents showing outdoor movies on a white sheet hung on the wall of the K of P Hall. And at Christmas time there was Red Huber’s party at the Hitching Post Tavern that was highlighted by the appearance of Santa Claus. On Friday nights he remembers his parents and some of their friends watching pro rasslin’ on their black-and-white TV and his dad making popcorn.
Mee said his great, great, great granddad, David Mee, was one of the original Darrtown pioneers and his dad, Kirk Jr., worked three farms in the area.
When he wasn’t doing farm chores, young Kirk would “go exploring,” he said:
“I’d take my pony, Nancy, and my dog, Sandy, and we’d go down to Four Mile Creek, which cut across our property south of town. I spent a lot of time down there. Sometimes we’d go almost all the way to Oxford. We’d look for snakes and crawdads and arrow heads and little fossils.”
Once when working with his dad, he found an ancient Indian stone hatchet. Other times he remembers hunting mushrooms, trapping muskrats and going frog gigging.
Sports soon became his prime passion. They had a local team of kids, the Purple Skunks, that played other towns. Their idols were Smokey Alston and Hamilton’s Joe Nuxhall.
In high school, first at McGuffey and then at the new Talawanda, Mee made his name playing four sports. Lindley, who is a year older, especially remembers one night of basketball:
“I was playing for Oxford Stewart and he was playing for McGuffey. We were at Withrow Court and the basket looked as big as a barrel to me that night. I had 24 points in the first half and then their coach put Kirk Mee on me. He played me nose-to-nose and I got just four more points. He was tough.”
Mee graduated from Talawanda in 1957 and during the next few summers he raced stock cars at both Lawrenceburg and Richmond, Ind., and in Florence, Ky.
He went to Wilmington College, where he played three sports and was both team captain and the MVP of the football and baseball teams as a senior. After that he spent two years as a grad assistant at Ohio University under revered head coach Bill Hess and then got his first assistant coaching job at Defiance College, where his life soon changed.
Love for Darrtown
Defiance had been a losing program for years and when the head coach left, Mee, who’d been on the staff just a year, applied for the job. He said he’ll never forget his interview with school president, Kevin McCann:
“I remember him standing up. He was looking out the window with his back to me and he throws up his hands and says, ‘I don’t know why you want the job. You will never win here!’ Then he just shrugged and said, ‘Well, if you want it, you can have it.’
“All of a sudden I was scared to death. I had the monkey on my back. I had only five seniors and I wondered, ‘Am I gonna lose every game?’
“But I recruited like heck and I put in the offense Bill Hess had at OU and created my own style of defense and we turned it around. We ended up undefeated, rated No. 8 in the nation and we had the No. 1 defense in two categories.”
In 1966 Mee was named the NAIA Coach of the Year.
After three seasons, he joined the staff at Wisconsin, stayed three years and then was hired by the Washington Redskins as a personal scout for Vince Lombardi, who was battling cancer. He spent one season in the NFL, then took over as the head coach at Earlham College for two years before returning to Washington in 1972 as a linebacker coach for George Allen.
After that he would coach tight ends, receivers and special teams for Jack Pardee, become director of pro personnel for Joe Gibbs and director of player personnel for Norv Turner.
In 25 years with the Redskins he worked for seven head coaches, five general managers and three owners.
After retiring he served as football consultant in Serbia for two years.
He’s stayed in Virginia to be near his daughter Mindy and grandson Brandon and also because of his competitive dancing.
“I really enjoy coming back here though because I have so many ties, not just to Darrtown, but in Oxford, at Wilmington College, Defiance, Earlham, down at OU and over at Ohio State,” he said.
He’s in the halls of fame of Butler County, Talawanda High, Wilmington College and Defiance College.
For the past 18 years he’s returned each spring to put on the Wilmington College/Kirk Mee NFL Celebrity Golf Tournament. Each time he brings in several former NFL players to take part. The proceeds go to the school’s athletic department.
But the stop that’s always dearest to his heart is Darrtown.
“I’m kind of like Smokey in a way,” he said. “I thought if I ever came back to the Midwest, I’d live in Darrtown, too. I love it here. I always did.
“Back when I was going to Wilmington, my ultimate goal was to graduate from college, come back to farm in Darrtown with my dad, teach school at Talawanda and maybe be an assistant football coach somewhere … but it didn’t quite go like that.”
He smiled at the memory.
Lined up on the table in front of him were his three Super Bowl rings.