After I retired from the U.S. Navy and we got back to Milton-Freewater, we didn’t expect to find anyone playing darts. Like most folks, we thought it was just a British form of entertainment in pubs.
We put up our board in the back room and did a bit of occasional practice there.
Then, a couple from Phoenix, Bob and Alice Bascom, came to Milton-Freewater and took over the Coast-to-Coast store (which eventually became ACE Hardware).
Our daughter, Patty, was their first employee and at some point during the early employment there, found out that they had played darts in Phoenix. As the conversation continued they came over to our house, and as we played a few games the question of whether there might be other people locally who had played darts, or might be interested in the game, came up.
Bob had joined the Elks Lodge and convinced them to let him put up a board in the Lodge. While it wasn’t located in a very desirable spot, it did draw some interest from several people who had played darts. Most of the players’ experience was with a corkboard on the wall in the garage and for most, just a place to throw a few darts without playing a “real” game.
As we continued to locate interested players, an opportunity to put up a pair of boards at The Inn Between Tavern on Highway 11 was arranged, and we played every Thursday evening with whoever showed up.
By mid-1982 there were about 20 players with enough interest to start a small league which ran from September 1982 until mid-November 1982 to avoid any conflict with holiday schedules. We even got sponsors to supply the funds to get the boards and support equipment.
As the league grew, we developed some contacts with the Tri-Cities Darting Association and they were very helpful in getting the league going.
By 1983, we organized the Milton-Freewater Darts Association, elected Bob Bascom as the first president, and he wrote up the initial draft of the by-laws and local playing rules.
Vice-president was Mark Rodighiero, and I was elected statistician.
We set up the Early Fools Day Shoot, our first really successful dart tournament, which was in March 1984, at the Inn Between Tavern. The tournament drew 50-60 players, again with the support of the Hermiston and Tri-Cities Darts Associations. The tournament drew players from as far away as Boise, Enterprise and Pendleton.
In January 1985, we added two teams for a total of 10 teams.
During this league we had a Pendleton team stay in Pendleton each week to play one of the teams from M-F. Play in Pendleton was at the Riverside Pub, owned by Steve and Elaine Crane.
The First annual Heart Break Tournament was held at the Inn Between Tavern in February 1985. This tournament drew 74 shooters from Athena, Enterprise, Hermiston, Milton-Freewater, Pendleton, Tri-Cities, Walla Walla and Weston. This was a very good shoot and everyone seemed to enjoy it.
By now, we had become very good friends with many of the players from the other clubs.
The Pendleton teams dropped out before the league startedin September 1985. Steve and Elaine bought “Crabby’s” in Pendleton and they tied to form their own league there.
There were 96 participants from 10 cities at the second annual Heartbreak Tournament in February 1986, and 108 players from 11 cities at the third tourney in 1987.
The first Muddy Frogwater Dart Tournament was held at the Nite Train Steakhouse in August 1987. It was organized as one of the events of the annual Muddy Frogwater Festival. We had 24 players from five cities and we played Blind Draw Doubles.
The first Pork and Feathers Dart Tournament was held at the Inn Between Tavern with 24 players from four cities in December 1990.
In January 1994, Dan Hopkins told the league we would have to find another playing location as they were going to do some remodeling to include a restaurant area at the Inn Between. Several players were Elks members and suggested that might be a good location. We met with the ELks Board Of Directors and discussed what we would need to play there.
After some extensive discussion, they agreed to let us play there and we put up carpeted backboards for eight boards. We would put up the boards each week of play so they didn’t interfere with lodge functions or other events held at the lodge.
Since then, we continue to have the both league play and the three tournaments we hold each year at the lodge.
The first week of the 1994-95 league was played at the Milton-Freewater Elks Lodge with eight teams of 4-5 players each.
In February 2012, we held the 28th Annual Heartbreak Dart Tournament with 73 players from 26 cities.
In August 2012, we held the 28th Muddy Frogwater Festival. This tournament averages about 35 players from 10-15 cities.
We started the 2012-13 league this month with four teams. New players are always welcome and I think you will find it an interesting and challenging sport.
Robby Robbins is Statistician for the Milton-Freewater Darts Association 2012-13 Executive Board. He’ll write an occasional column on the game of darts and his experiences with darts for the Union-Bulletin.
For more information on the Milton-Freewater Darts Association, see website http://home.valint.net/robby/MFDarts/.