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The Eleanors

Updated: Mar 15, 2022

1978 Eleanors - Photo Credit: Cathy Lambeth

One of the more interesting and fun aspects of the USWRF history project is exploring the origins of teams, especially when the teams have unusual names (the Phoenix Squash Blossoms, the Dusty Lentils, the Eugene Housewives, the Heathen Hearts and my favorite, the Spo-Deo-Dees). In coming months we’ll be running short bios on notable and curious teams.

The Eleanors are the first team we have been able to document in California. Their founding date of 1973 makes them one of the original 10 women’s teams that existed between 1971-1973. We were able to contact a few Eleanors to discuss those early rugby days as well as the origins of their name.

How did the team come about?

Betsy Flint Davis: We were mostly the wives and girlfriends of guys playing for Crown City and Eagle Rock. Our coaches, Kei Takarabe from Crown City Rugby, along with Chris Scott and John Salisbury from the Eagle Rock Rugby team, helped organize and coach. We practiced on the same field and same day (Tuesdays and Thursdays) as the men so we could all drink together after the practices. We started playing at Victory Park in Pasadena but also practiced at Glassell Park in Eagle Rock. We played many of our early games at Cal Tech.

1978 Eleanors - Founder Jeanie Salisbury (front center, with sunglasses)

Where did the name Eleanors come from?

Mary Doan: Jeanie Salisbury, one of the founders, was a folk singer who performed the song, Eleanor Rigby so, it wasn’t much of a leap to Eleanor Rugby. The team colors were maroon and white jerseys with white shorts.

What are some notable characters/memories you have?

Betsy Flint Davis: I remember the championship game at the San Diego Tournament in 1978 or 79. We played the Colorado All Stars and lost, but we played at Jackie Murphy Stadium. It was a real success and I received a beautiful black eye for my proud parents.

Clare Miner-McMahon

Mary Doan: I don't remember any notable achievements, with the exception that we were supposedly the first and then one of very few club teams. We weren't great, but we had a great time. I might use the word "infamous" rather than notable. Our scrum half had epilepsy and would occasionally have an "incident" during a game. We were originally coached by Jeannie Salisbury but then some Crown City players got involved. I think Coach Kei was our coach, as well as being the Crown City Coach. Jeannie was once hit by the cross bars of the goal posts. Judy broke her neck in a game. We loved to sing.

Lee Chapman Carroll: I joined the team in the late fall or early winter of 1977 while I was living in South Pasadena. At that time, I had seen several men's rugby matches, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. A college friend, Meg Dampier Booth, got me to go out for the Eleanors and I played for three seasons. Our team drew from the Pasadena and surrounding areas.

Cathy Lambeth: One wonderful thing about the Eleanors is that we were a mixed team as far as sexual identity. We were literally almost 1/2 gay and 1/2 straight. My experience was that this allowed our team to openly discuss and experience social and personal relationships at a time when that 'topic' was not open.

What happened to the Eleanors? Did they fold?

Betsy Flint Davis: I believe the team folded around 1982. By that time many of our players got married and had kids. I have a 9 year old grandson who is playing for the Pasadena youth team and my husband is helping out with coaching. Once a Pasadena player….always a Pasadena player!

Photo Credit: Ellen Cunningham

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