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Catching Up With ...
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer
2020-09-16

Sylvia Stahler Wilson

            Sylvia Stahler Wilson spent the entirety of her time at Upper Perkiomen High

Sylvia Stahler Wilson

School as an athlete. She played field hockey, basketball and softball all four years.

           Wilson says she was pretty good at field hockey and softball. Basketball, however, was a different story.

            "I wasn't very good," she said. "I'm pretty short."

            The 1963 graduate made her greatest impact on the field hockey and softball fields. In field hockey, Wilson started two years for Indians at fullback. She served as a captain during her senior year, calling it her best sport.

            Wilson said the rules would not allow her to cross midfield as a defensive player, which means she spent significant chunks of the game idle.  "The game was so different than it is now," Wilson said.

            She continued to play the sport for two or three seasons after graduation. Wilson took the field at right fullback for a Bux-Mont field hockey team based in Lansdale connected to the Women's Field Hockey Association in Philadelphia. The team, which practiced at Swarthmore College and whose opposition included units from Abington and Elkins Park, was very competitive.

            The East Greenville native also excelled on the softball field. She played left field and swung a dangerous bat for the Tribe.  "I could really hit," Wilson said.

            According to Wilson, the teams she played on relied on competitiveness and close friendships. She also credited their coaches for carrying the players through.

            "Back then, we were all friends," said Wilson, who explained that she received the all-around female athlete award because she was only one to play all three sports in all four years at the high school.

            "It was just fun. We played together. We all wanted to win. There was no spite. Everyone played hard, and we respected our coaches."

            According to Wilson, a few talented girls in the class behind her - especially on the softball team - helped the Indians succeed. She said those juniors helped the team contend.

            "We had some pretty good teams," Wilson said. "Everybody pulled each other through."

            After high school, she took a job as a secretary at Perkiomen National Bank in East Greenville. She rose to the role of assistant manager at the bank.

            "Banking was very different then," said Wilson, who lives in Emmaus. "The customers came first. I knew everyone who came in. They weren't viewed as just a number."

            After a few years, she moved to Merchants National Bank in Emmaus, then worked at the First PA Bank on Cedar Crest Boulevard until 1975. Wilson then served as the bookkeeper at a rental business in Wescosville before retiring in 2010.

 

Mike Duka

            Mike Duka's playing impact on the East Greenville High School football team

Mike Duka

may only be exceeded by his later contributions as a teacher and coach. For 33 years, Duka served as an assistant and head football coach at Upper Perkiomen High School.  He also started the tennis and wrestling programs at the school.

            "What I miss most is dealing with the kids," said Duka, who lives in Marlborough Township.

            Duka's offensive exploits at East Greenville generated multiple Division I college offers and he was named to the National High School All-America Football Team. As a senior, in 1950, the running back registered 144 points in just eight games.

            The Green Lane native led the Yellow Jackets to an undefeated record and consecutive Perkiomen-Schuylkill Valley League championships.

            He accepted a scholarship offer to the University of Arkansas, where he spent two seasons. His teammates included Pat Summerall, a 10-year NFL veteran and longtime broadcaster. Duka also played baseball for the Razorbacks, who competed against a B team from the St. Louis Browns.

            "The coaches liked my speed," said Duka, who played in the outfield. "They knew I could catch the ball."

            A football coaching change facilitated Duka's decision to transfer to Gettysburg College. In his two seasons with the Bullets, they won 11 games.

            After graduation, Duka enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served for three years. Stationed at Otis Air Base in Cape Cod, Mass., he piloted C-121A Super Constellation cargo planes "loaded with radar" up and down the east coast.

            "My job was to track everything coming into the country," Duka said.

            In 1959, he began his coaching tenure at Upper Perkiomen. Duka described the football team's competition in the Bux-Mont League as similar to a minor league baseball team playing in the majors.

            "We were just participating," he said.

            Duka, coaching under head coach Bill Keeny, helped the Tribe evolve into a perennial league contender. He said the team's success and enthusiasm rubbed off on other teams at the school.

            In 1980, Duka became Upper Perkiomen's head football coach. He compared succeeding Keeny to replacing Bob Hope, the legendary entertainer. Under Duka's leadership, the Indians remained competitive. He pointed to a 7-6 victory over North Penn, the seventh-ranked team in the state, in 1983 as a highlight.

            "(The coaching staff) knew what to do," said Duka, who coached the team until it joined the Pioneer Athletic Conference in the early 1990s. "We believed in the kids, and they believed in us."

            Duka also coached the tennis team to a league title in 1976, only a few years after starting the program. He said no one was playing the sport until he started teaching it in his physical education class.
 


 

 

 

 

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