Triton cuts ribbon on Ernie Watkins Pavilion

BOURBON — If fame is defined as “how your luster lasts over the decades,” then 90-year-old Ernie Watkins is as bright and shining as the sun. The well-known Bourbon area resident was honored June 11 as the brand new Triton Jr./Sr. High School pavilion was named in his honor.
The building — a $130,000 construction project — is located at the entrance to the football field and track. It houses ticket windows, a concession stand, and men’s and women’s restrooms. Controlling access to the stadium, it is finished with beautiful landscaping and features its namesake prominently displayed over the entrance.
Watkins is a legend at Triton. For example, Mark Liggett, son of former school superintendent Howard Liggett, wrote a letter to Superintendent Carl Hilling from Spicewood, Texas indicating he graduated from Triton in 1988. Hearing of the honoring of Watkins, he said: “Ernie worked with my father for years and Dad always held Ernie in the highest regard. I have many fond memories of Dad getting up very early in the winter, dragging me with him to ride the back roads with Ernie after heavy snowfalls.”
They would then make a decision on school closing, go back to a phone (before cell phones) and call the radio station, according to Liggett. His dad and Ernie would usually bedevil him by saying there was going to be school, and then cancelling it instead.
Following a long career as maintenance supervisor for the school corporation, Watkins was not about to sit at home and grow stiff. He began a part-time venue assisting Ball Auction Company of Bourbon with auctions. He is still active in this second career to this day. Daryl Ball said: “Ernie is the ‘complete package.’ He is a hard worker, a family man, and treats others well. He is a Christian gentleman.”
As a dedicated husband, he tells his wife, Eleanor, everything and checks with her before committing himself. Ball said, “Something should certainly be done to honor Ernie, but I thought it would be maybe naming the boiler room after him because of his work. Then, this new pavilion came up, and it just seemed to be a natural fit with Ernie’s long contribution to the school corporation. I couldn’t be more pleased with the way this award came together.”
Paying for the project involved a combination of using corporation funds (a portion of tax revenue can be used for construction) and anonymous donations.
“Credit for bringing this project to fruition should go to athletic director Mason McIntyre,” according to Daryl Ball.
“He had the vision and stamina to see the project to completion,” Ball added. This is the first of five major additions to the athletic facilities according to McIntyre. He indicated that a new scoreboard will be erected in the gym this summer.
Additional projects, in order, include a new stadium press box, a new baseball field press box, and a new scoreboard on the football field. These ventures will also be funded by appropriate school corporation money and, hopefully, by donations, said McIntyre.
Mark Liggett said in his letter: “…Dad would’ve been delighted to know that Ernie is being honored by having part of the school grounds named after him. We are all blessed to be able to say that we know and admire him.”