Where Did Lumpe Lions Get Its Name?
In 1946 eight to twelve year old boys raced from Lincoln and Roosevelt Schools to Kingsburg High School to be first in line. For what were they running? They wanted the best helmet, the most sturdy shoulder pads, and to be first to greet their coach, Frank Lumpe a KHS auto shop teacher and part time Viking Football Coach. These boys were on… The Lumpe Lions tackle football team. This early team gave birth to one of Kingsburg’s proudest heritages, the volunteer effort to have a positive impact on young lives.
Lennis Scheline: The Lumpe Lions were named for the football coach Frank Lumpe. I believe he coached at KHS in the 1940s. Lumpe, according to the 1940 census, was born in 1892 in Vienna, Austria and lived at 1830 21st Street in Kingsburg in 1940.
In 1937 Frank Lumpe wanted younger boys to have the opportunity to play football. He used his own money to purchase equipment… enough equipment to man two six-boy teams. Adding hand-me-down equipment that allowed older boys to play, and later with the help of Pete Querin and Hront Safarjian, Mr. Lumpe began a program that has been a Kingsburg tradition ever since.
In 1946 Kingsburg’s Lions Club was organized. Their first major community youth project was youth football. They named the team they sponsored “Lumpe Lions” and the name continued for decades, honoring the man who got the proverbial ball rolling… Frank Lumpe.
Wayne Warren: I played for the Lumpe Lions in the 1940’s. There were only two tackle football teams in the area: one sponsored by The Kingsburg Lions Club and one by the Legion. We played each other. Once a year we would go to Stanford University and play during half-time. It was exciting. Coach Lumpe was a nice man… not really strict but he wanted us to do our best. We wore leather helmets. It was exciting!
Youth football was unique in those days. The Kingsburg teams were called “midget football teams.” The Lumpe Lions played The Kingsburg Legion Team, as there were no other local tackle teams. And who was the coach? For both teams, it was Frank Lumpe. The youth football in Kingsburg was so unique they were invited to play half-time scrimmages at Stanford University, UPO, USC, Pasadena, and Fresno State.
Henry Swanson: Today the Kingsburg Youth Football play half-time scrimmages during Viking Football Games, but they would load us up and we would go to play at Stanford or USC.
While looking at the above photograph, Mr. Swanson was able to identify a number of players who he still stays in contact with today.
The Legion Team members that year were: Buckley Martin, Calvin Johnson, Jim Cassidy, Richard Erickson, Monte Nelson, Larry Lungren, Kenneth Engstrom, Roy Burnett, Richard Inouye, Charles Sanders, Jim Price, Dan Fore, Bobby Hambleton, Lawson Bronson, Michael Timmerman, and Coach Frank Lumpe.
Early Lumpe Lion graduates like Monte Clark, Rafer Johnson, and Jim Johnson went on to Pro-Football and Olympic greatness. Quite a legacy for a little town like Kingsburg.
Lumpe Lions Coaches Continued to Influence Kingsburg’s Young People
In the years since, Lumpe Lions Coaches like Hront Safarjian and Red Swanson continued Frank Lumpe’s legacy… influencing young kids in athletic skill and character building.
Jerry Satterberg and Lennis Scheline:
Jerry: We used to walk from Roosevelt all the way to high school for Lumpe Lions football (1959-1962) for after school football practice, and we stopped at the A&W root beer stand (about where the freeway is now) for a large drink before practice. Not a wise pre-practice activity.
Lennis: Yes we did, that frosty A&W was so good, but filling.
I played one year in 8th grade. I knew it wasn’t for me when I was running down the field and my helmet (which was big enough for two of my heads inside) bounced around and rotated back to front… And front to back. I ended up falling on my face, which was in the back of my helmet.
Played Lumpe Lions 5 years……Red Swanson moved me and Chris McNabb up the heavy Weights. We were both in 6th grade……We were so excited to go on the Heavy Weights. The Heavy weights back then played against the Freshmen football team from the high school…..When I told my mother she said if you are going to play big boys you need a better helmet. She drove to Fresno and bought me a Riddell helmet……the latest model suspension and face mask with horseshoe. I’m sure my father got upset because the helmet probably cost as much he made in week working for USDA.
I Played a lot of football, youth football Lumpe Lions 5 years, high school 4 years, college 4 years……To this day the most scared I’ve been was when, as a 6th grader, I lined up against the KHS freshmen football team
I remember when I was in third grade, pretty athletic in school but probably only weighed about 50 pounds. I couldn’t wait for tryouts for Lumpe Lions. The day came and Hront Safarjian was the coach. He asked each one of us what position we wanted to play. Me, being one of the smallest kids there, my response was I want to play tackle. I want to tackle somebody. Hahaha! Coach Safarjian look at me said, “You look more like a quarterback to me” and that’s where he put me. Those were great times playing Lumpy Lions. I loved it. I wished every kid could experience such a thing. They gave us hand-me-down pads from the high school if you can only imagine an under 50 lb kid putting high School pads on. Anyway it was a great time in my life.
Red (Swanson) was the best!! His dedication to youth sports, despite having no kids of his own. He always had time for everyone!
Many of us played. I remember running full tilt from Lincoln School to the High School where the equipment shed was located. The closest to the front of the line got the pick of the hand me down equipment. Lotta lessons learned from Lumpe Lions. Forever grateful to Hront Safarjian.
Thank you for acknowledging Hront Safarjian. I played for him in the fifties as well and his dedication to sport, sportsmanship and the youth of the community will always be remembered. I do know it was Hront Safarjian that kept “Lumpy Lions” alive almost single handedly when I played in the 50’s. His pick-up bed served as our equipment and locker room combined! Loved that man! I wish I had pictures of the joy on his face when outfitting this little scrub in his uniform. Also, raised as a minority kid in a largely Anglo community, we were sometimes treated differently. Not so by Hront!
When I and Doug Protzmann started up the Little League Baseball field we insisted it be named in his honor.
John Swenning Sr:
Hront Safarjian should be memorialized forever because of his contribution to youth going back many, many years ago. To honor his contribution those of us who planned and developed our Little League Field specifically chose the field to bear his name. I played for him as a little guy in Lumpe Lions way back in the early fifties and will always remember him as my inspiration. There are many Kingsburg kids who went on to play high school football and more because of his inspiration. Hront Safarjian was the genesis of the current youth football program and somehow his name and contribution to Kingsburg youth should be memorialized forever.
My dad (Hront Safarjian) coached Lumpe Lions for thirty years or so. He used to drive to Traver and pick up kids, driving them in the back of his pick-up truck. Then he would drive them back home again. Occasionally, family money might be a bit tight, but he would still buy cleats for kids who couldn’t afford them. That was his priority. He would also solicit donations for uniforms or other equipment the players needed. He coached my brother Denny in the 50’s and me in the 60’s.
Red Swanson was an enormous contribution to the program as well.
In1998 we were Valley Champs with Ralph Carrender.
David and Shannon Stout:
Ralph was a big reason I went back and coached. He is a great guy and reasons I loved the game.
Where Are The Lumpe Lions Today?
Sometime in the early 2000’s the name Lumpe was removed and the team was called The Lions. Then as the youth football league expanded, the name was changed again to Kingsburg Youth Football. The Lions Club continues to sponsor Kingsburg Youth Football. A main Lion’s emphasis is on safety. As an example, at the end of every season, all helmets are sent back to the manufacturer for safety inspection and testing. If the helmet passes muster, it is returned. If the helmet is not considered safe, it is replaced.
Until Covid, the team remained a strong force in young lives, adding cheer squads and pee-wee football to the roster. They dominated the youth football leagues and developed experienced and strong young athletes for Kingsburg High School, whose football players and cheer squads also dominated their peers. Kingsburg Youth Football anticipates resumption this year. Still influencing young lives, the volunteer coaches and the Lions Club continues the effort to enrich Kingsburg kids for generations to come.
The Lumpe Lion Legacy is alive and well in Kingsburg.