Saturday, March 11, 2017

In the late 1930s, Art Holten gained national fame as a Linfield basketball player

If photos are too small or cropped so you can't see all of them, click on the photo for an easier-to-see full size version. Art's last name is Holten. Ripley's incorrectly used "Holton." One of the "Photoshopped" Ripley's images with this story has last name correct. All other Ripley's images have last name error.

This is a story about the late, great Art Holten, Linfield Class of 1938, with additional information about Westport (Clatsop County), Oregon, his birthplace, where he grew up and lived.

Arthur Melvin Holten’s 88 years of life were full of enthusiasm, family, friends and a lot of sports, especially basketball.

Born in 1914 in Westport (not to be confused with Westport on the state of Washington coast), Art died in Longview, Wash., in 2003.

He and his wife, Lillian (Johnson) – married in 1946 – made their home in Westport. She died in 2013.

Kirk Holten, Linfield Class of 1976, said his father “loved living in Westport and giving back to the community by supporting development of young men through basketball. He believed that this sport would teach them team work and discipline that would serve them throughout their lives.”

As a school, college and after college (AAU) athlete, Art’s 6-foot-1 height was tall. Add the “tallness” to his innate athletic talent and it served teams on which he played well.

For the Westport High School Pirates, playing for Ted Stensland, a Linfield grad, Art was a standout in football and basketball.

After graduating in 1933 from Westport, Art was recruited by Linfield’s legendary Henry Lever, who became his coach in Wildcat football and basketball. Art was end on Linfield’s 1935 Northwest Conference championship football team and center and forward on Wildcats basketball teams.

As a sophomore for Linfield in the 1935-1936 season, he set a Pacific Northwest basketball scoring record of 302 points in 22 games.

A story about Art in the Linfield Review student newspaper in 1936 includes:

“What is believed to be a new northwest scoring mark was set this season by Linfield’s sensational; sophomore center, Art Holten, who talled 302 points in a 22 game season.

“Holten tallied a total of 135 field goals and 32 free throws for the grand total, averging 13.63 points  per game. Significant is the fact that the six-foot-one-inch Wildcat scored his points in the games that meant something, not only in the tilts that were of little consequence. In the College of Puget Sound series, Holten talled 22 points the first night and 11 the next to lead his mates to a 37-29 and 27-25 victories. Against Portland university he garnered 23 in one game and against the strong Oregon normal team in the recent AAU tournament he rang the hoop for 10 fields goals and 20 points.

“Big Value in Floor Work

“The value of Holten lay not only in his almost uncanny eye for the basketball but in his general floor work and team play. He shot for the basket only when a good shot was the play; he passed to mates when they were in a better position, even a number of times to miss a chance himself for another goal. He was pronounced by many opponents as one of the best defensive men on the Linfield quint, a team winning 17 of its 22 games.

“Although unusually good under the basket, Holten tallied nearly half his goals from the “howlitzer” area with swisher shots that failed to touch the rim but sailed straight through the netting.”

Art played all of his high school and college hoops when there was a center jump ball after each made basket. Plus, during his school and college basketball playing days the most typical or only shot at the basket was using the two-hand set. And, there was no three-point basket.

==In a United Press story in the Feb. 11, 1936, Provo, Utah, Daily Herald reports on a Linfield 37-29 win over the College of Puget Sound (now the University of Puget Sound) in which Art Holten scored 22 points.

==A story in the Feb. 19, 1936 Albany, Ore., Democrat-Herald mentions that the “high - scoring abilities of Art Holten, (Linfield) center” will be hard for opponent Albany College (now Lewis & Clark College in Portland) to stop.

Art, Linfield gained national fame

Art’s basketball scoring fame gained national attention for him and Linfield in two nationally syndicated sports features in 1938, Ripley’ “Believe It or Not” (King Features Syndicate) and “Heroes of Sport” (Universal Phoenix Syndicate) by Tom Swift. (Both features incorrectly spelled Art’s last name as “Holton.”)

After college, Art played basketball for AAU teams. He was with the St. Helens, Ore., Papermakers, 1938-1939; the Adams Buckaroos AAU team of St. Helens in 1939-1940; and the Westport Aces AAU team, 1940-1941.

“Dad remained a very good basketball player even as life’s endeavors took their toll physically,” said Kirk. “It was not until I was 20-years-old and he was about 60 before I could truly say I had half a step on him going to the basket when we played one-on-one. While I was attending Clatskanie High School, he wouldn’t let me leave the gym at night after basketball practice until I made 20 consecutive free throws. That was an example of the discipline he thought the game would teach you.”

Looking back, Kirk said, “my dad didn’t talk a lot about his basketball success. When old friends asked dad if I was as good a player as he, dad always deflected the question and said something like, ‘Kirk is a lot smarter than I ever was,”

During a 50 year career lumber industry career, Art worked:

-- at the Westport mill on the planer chain and then as an engineer for mill owner Shepherd & Morse.

-- as a millwright or quad sawyer for mills in Rainier, Ore., and Aberdeen, Wash., before 20 years with Crown Zellerbach (Crown Z) in Columbia City, Ore.

He served as American Federation of Labor local union chapter president for six years and was a delegate to the 1950 International Woodworkers of America convention in Minneapolis, Minn.

He retired from Crown-Z in 1980

For many years at home in Westport the phone would ring in the Holten home after supper. It would be a call from a young basketball player. It wasn’t the same player each time. “Is Art going to open the (Westport) gym tonight” was the question asked. The answer was “yes!” No matter how tired “my dad was after work, he would grab his shoes and a basketball and drive over to the gym, the same gym in which he played so many games when he was younger,” Kirk said. “He’d unlock the door, turn on the lights and he’d be there several hours while the kids played.” For 20 years he made the gym available.

The 1993 book Toward One Flag: The History of Lower Columbia Athletics says” Perhaps one of the best remembered athletes in Westport history is Art Holten. In recognition of his services Art “was presented a beautiful trophy at the 1988 Westport High School reunion” with the inscription, “Presented for his great achievement in Athletics and his inspiration to the youth in the community.”


Oregon’s Clatsop County is in the state’s northwest coast. One of the county’s borders is on the Columbia River with the state of Washington on the other river bank.

Westport is some 26 miles east of Astoria (Clatsop County) on Highway 30.

“Up until the late 1950s Westport was a typical lumber town with a sawmill,” said Linfielder Larry Hermo. He attended Westport High School until it closed after his sophomore year and he moved and attended (junior and senior years) and graduated from Clatskanie High in 1954. (Larry was a standout athlete for both the Westport Pirate and Clatskanie Tigers. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Linfield in 1959.

Westport’s mill was owned by Shepherd & Morse lumber company of Boston. Many of the small homes in Westport were company owned.

Today, people driving through Westport on the way to the coast usually don’t know its history.

That history, says a Longview Daily News story in 2016 is that “Westport was one of the centers of the Oregon lumber business from 1856 to 1972.”

The book “Westport Oregon: Home of the Big Sticks and Gold Medal Salmon” by Jim Aalberg, says, “Westport’s heydays were a time when money grew on trees and money swam in the river.”

A sawmill opened there in the 1850s, followed by a salmon cannery in 1869.

“In 1909, a group of investors started the Westport Lumber Co. and built a mill and company town…. The Westport Lumber Co. mill employed more than 400 men at its peak, supporting a town of some 900 residents,” said the book.

In 1945, the Westport mill shut down temporarily when the “supply of old-growth timber had been cut,” said the book. When more timber was available, it reopened and operated until the late 1950s, said Larry, who worked in the mill two summers between semesters while attending Linfield. He wasn’t the only Linfield student who worked there. A 2016 Daily Astorian story about the Westport book includes the sentence, “Links with Linfield College were promoted, with students returning for summer mill work.”

When Westport High School closed in 1952, it left a legacy of athletic success, especially in basketball.

Ted Stensland, a 1928, Linfield grad was a superb boys’ basketball coach for Westport High. One of his excellent players was Art, who graduated from Westport in 1933.

According to, thanks to Stensland’s coaching, the Westport Pirates were the class of the small schools on Oregon’s northern coast. Between 1933 and 1942, the Pirates won or shared every championship of Clatsop County.”

By the way, during the time Stensland coached, the Westport team played in district basketball tournaments at Linfield on way to the state tourney.

In the late 1940s, said oregonhoopshistory, Ted Stensland did not coach several seasons because he thought it “unfair” his son, Linfielder Don Stensland, would play for him.

After Don graduated from high school, Ted resumed coaching. In 1947 Ted retired from coaching and became the principal of Westport elementary school and high school.

Succeeding Ted Stensland as Westport coach was Don Nelson, Linfield Class of 1948, another of the standout athletes he coached at Westport.

In the roll of Linfield grads coaching high school state championship teams in Oregon, all three are listed. For Westport, Ted Stensland basketball in 1941 and six-man football in 1947 and Don Nelson six-man football in 1948. Don Stensland, Linfield Class of 1956, won a state basketball title in 1963 with Central of Monmouth.

Another Westport player for Ted Stensland, was Art Verment, Linfield Class of 1949. During his long-high school coaching career, Art led Drain to a state baseball title in 1951.

“People in Westport loved athletics and supported high school athletics very well. During my time in school, Art Holten lived in Westport and watched me play during my four years of high school,” Larry said.


-This article would not be possible without the assistance of Art’s son, Kirk, and Larry Hermo, Linfield Class of 1959, stories in the Clatskanie Chief, Daily Astorian and Longview Daily News newspapers and other sources including and the books “Toward One Flag: The History of Lower Columbia Athletics” and “Westport Oregon: Home of the Big Sticks and Gold Medal Salmon.”

-Linfielders in Art’s family are Kirk, Linfield Class of 1976, and his wife, Marie (Sammis),  Class of 1975; their son Michael Holten, Class of 2009; and their daughter, Danielle Holten, Class of 2015.

-When it came time for Kirk to think about going to college after he graduated (Class of 1971) from Clatskanie High, “dad took me on only one visitation,” said Kirk. “That was to Linfield. I remember we walked across campus and a window in Riley Student Center opened and a voice called out. It was Roy Helser, with whom dad has played football and basketball at Linfield. At that point, Roy was athletic director.” (Another football and hoops teammate of Art at Linfield was Paul Durham, who went to coaching fame and athletic directing at Linfield.)

- At Clatskanie High, Kirk played football, basketball and ran cross country and track. At Linfield, Kirk took part in Linfield intramural sports and ran on his own. He focused on academics and graduated magna cum laude with a double major in business and sociology. 

--Kirk’s grandparents on his father’s side of the family were Christian “Chris” Knutson Holten and Anna Charlotte Holsten Holten. They lived in Westport. “My grandfather worked in the Westport mill and he also had been a sailor on sailing ships that would transport lumber from Westport to West Coast ports,” said Kirk.

-How did Art become such a good basketball player? Kirk said family history was that “my grandmother cut the bottom out of an old wood vegetable basket and nailed it to the kitchen wall so my dad and his three brothers would play basketball at home!”

--When Larry Hermo was a senior playing on the Roy Helser-coached 1959 Linfield baseball team, Larry and two other former Westport High athletes, Orlin Culbertson, Linfield Class of 1961, and Jerry Luoto (a nephew of Art Verment), Linfield Class of 1964, were team members. (The Luoto family moved to McMinnville while Jerry was in school. He graduated from McMinnville High in 1953.)

--There was a Westport and Linfield connection in the 1951 state high school championship baseball game. It was played the evening of Sat., May 28, 1951, in Drain between the Westport High Pirates, coached by Don Nelson, and Drain High Warriors, coached by Art Verment. Both coaches were Westport and Linfield grads. Larry was starting center fielder for Westport in that game, watched by 1,300 fans. Drain won, 2-0.

--As a Westport High freshman, Larry’s football, basketball and baseball coach was Don Nelson. In February 1962, immediately after Larry’s military service commitment ended, he was hired as a teacher/coach at Yamhill-Carlton High School by principal Ted Stensland and coach Don Nelson.)

--Linfielder/Westporter Larry Hermo recalls the following as among former Westport High School students who studied at Linfield: Art Holten, Art Verment, Ben Sorensen, Dick Brooke, Don Stensland, Don Nelson, Duane Hoagland, Ed Walters, Bob Luoto, Jerry Luoto, Jim Luoto, Larry Hermo, Norm Welch, Orlin Culbertson, Woody Lovelace and Don Miller.




How did the Linfield connection to Westport High School (Clatsop County, Ore.) happened?

It was (based on research and assumptions) something like this ….

John King, Linfield Class of 1929, became Westport’s principal. A lineman, he played four years (1926-1927-1928-1929) on the Linfield football team and was team captain as a junior.

(His brother, Lee King, Class of 1930, was also a Linfield football player. The Kings were from Buhl, Idaho. After Westport, John King became superintendent of the Oakridge, Ore., School District.)

John King hired Ted Stensland, Class of 1928, as Westport boys’ basketball coach. Later, Stensland, succeeded King as principal.

Succeeding Stensland as basketball coach was Don Nelson, Class of 1948.

At some point -- presumably hired by John King – Lucile Beswick, Linfield Class of 1932, became a teacher at Westport. One of her early duties was apparently coaching girls’ sports. Later, after Westport High closed and Westport students began attending Clatskanie High School, she joined the Clatskanie School District, initially as a teacher and later as librarian.

As a Linfield student, Lucile was a member of the L.C. Club, a woman’s organization which sponsored four coed sports and directed the women’s athletic program.

Possibly born and/or lived in Ashland, Ore., she may have moved to McMinnville prior to starting at Linfield.

Lucile Beswick eventually married Clarence Hansen. They had a daughter and son, Jim Hansen. Jim graduated from Linfield, said Larry Hermo, a 1954 Clatskanie High grad, who attended Westport High for two years before it closed.

Larry said Lucile was his English teacher for all four years of high school. He said she was an “excellent teacher of grammar.” His wife, Sharon Hermo, a 1960 Clatskanie High grad, also had Lucile as English teacher. Lucile encouraged Sharon to attend Linfield. Sharon did and graduated from the college in 1964.



--John King’s photo and information listing as a Linfield graduating senior in 1929.

--Lucile Beswick on the far right as member of a Linfield junior-senior women’s basketball team. and in a student photo.

--John King (front row far right) and his brother (second row wearing glasses) as members of Linfield’s Knights of the Order of the Old Oak.

--Ted Stensland as a member of the Linfield men’s basketball team.

--Don Nelson as a member of the Linfield men’s basketball team.

All photos from Linfield Oak Leaves yearbook.

Art Holten info/photos ... posted 4/12/2017

Art Holten -- a 1933 grad of Westport (Clatsop County, Oregon) High School and a member of Linfield Class of 1938-- Art played football and basketball for Linfield College teams coached by Henry Lever.
--Art apparently played football for Linfield in 1933 season and basketball in 1933-1934 season.

--Art apparently played football for Linfield in 1934 season (an Oregonian story from Nov. 1934 mentions him as a member of the Linfield football team) and basketball in 1934-1935 season.

--Art apparently played football for Linfield in 1935 season and basketball in 1935-1936 season. He's mentioned in a lot of basketball stories during the 1935-1936 season as being a sophomore.

--It appears Art did not attend Linfield immediately after graduating from Westport (Clatsop County, Oregon) High School in 1933. It’s assumed he started at Linfield as a freshman in the fall of 1934 instead of in the fall of 1933. If so, that would jibe with sports stories in 1935-1936 saying he was a sophomore.

3/7/1935 -Story (headlines, “Pacific Wins Closing Game, Score 36-30 Victory Over Wildcats”) in March 7, 1935, McMinnville Telephone-Register includes a scoring summary showing Holton and Harrington leading the Linfield team in scoring with nine points each.

12/5/1935 -Story (headline “Wildcats Turn Out For Basketball; 2 Games Scheduled”) in Dec. 5, 1935, McMinnville Telephone-Register includes that returning lettermen include “Holton, forward.”

1/16/1936 -Story (headlines “Pilots To Meet Wildcats Here,” College Slate Opens Saturday Night”) in Jan 16, 1936, McMinnville Telephone-Register includes, “Art Holten, high-scoring center who has paced the way in virtually every game this season, topped the scorers with 23 points.”

3/12/1936 -Cutline for photo (headline “Marksman”) of Art wearing a Linfield men’s basketball team uniform (apparently posing outside on the Linfield campus) in the March 12, 1936, McMinnville Telephone-Register: “Art Holten, Linfield’s high-scoring sophomore center, who has tallied 302 points in the Wildcats’ 22 basketball games this season for what is believed to be a Pacific Northwest Record. He also was chosen by Coaches ‘Nig’ Borleske of Whitman and ‘Spec’ Keene of Willamette on their all-Northwest conference quintet this season.”

3/12/1936 -Photo (headline “Bring Championship to Linfield”) in March 12, 1936, McMinnville Telephone-Register has this cutline: Unbeaten in their Northwest conference games and victors in all but five of their 16 non-conference games, Henry Lever’s Wildcats won the conference co-championship with Whitman this year. In the picture from left to right, are: Purcell, Helser, Holton, Swenson, Durham, Robins, Strang, Harrington, Morris, Hipple and Coach Lever. Holding the ball is Logan, manager.”

8/21/1938 --Story ‘LINFIELD GRIDMEN GET DRILL ORDERS’ in Sunday Oregonian, Aug. 21, 1938,previewing Linfield’s 1938 football season mentions the “non-return of veteran Art Holten.”


Linfield’s Art Holten (far left) as a member of the 1936 NWC men’s basketball all-star team in the ?1936? Spalding Football Guide. Thanks to Linfielder Art Larrance (Class of 1966), who played baseball at HiHi for Ad Rutschman and baseball at Linfield for Roy Helser.  

Linfield 1936 men's basketball team thanks to Linfielder Tom Rohlffs (Class of 1969), who played basketball at Linfield for Ted Wilson. Art Holten is in the back row, second from the left.