Glendolene Vinyard: Canby’s Shooting, Bowling, Mountain Climbing PE Teacher

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They are the stuff of legends. Their stories weave through the fabric of a small town. Their achievements on the field, court, track and beyond stand for eternity, looming larger than life.

They are our sports heroes, and we in Canby have had more than our fair share.

No discussion of Canby’s hometown sports heroes would be complete without mention of Glendolene Vinyard, truly one of the most remarkable women our small town has ever produced.

Accolades came early to Glendolene, the only daughter of local businessman and longtime Canby mayor J.R. Vinyard and Canby Women’s Civic Club leader Hazel Phillips Vineyard. In 1916, at just 10 months, she was named “Prettiest Baby” of the Clackamas County Fair.

Later, working at Camp Onahlee in Molalla, she was asked to take over as the new archery instructor. Sure, she said. Just one small problem: She didn’t know the first thing about the sport.

Not that it was really a problem for Glendolene. The 1933 Canby Union High School grad was a natural athlete, and she found success at just about anything she set her mind to. It took all of two days to teach herself archery, and in no time, she was dusting all comers at competitions around the state.

Archery was a big deal in those days; newspapers covered the tournaments in breathless detail. Glendolene’s chief rival in the state was an established bowsmith named Vivian Chambers, a four-time state champion in target shooting. But no one could touch Glendolene when it came to distance.

In 1938, she smashed the women’s national flight record with a 395 yard bomb at Sherwood field. It would become something of a habit for the “strong-armed girl from Canby,” as newspapers soon began calling her.

Two years later, she stunned the crowds at the 61st Annual National Archery Tournament in Portland, with a 423-yard junket that no one — man or woman — could equal.

“Glendolene’s arrow zoomed farther than that of any man who put his strength to the heavy bow in freestyle flight competition,” said Oregonian sports writer Pat Frizzell, “for the winning mark of M.B. Davis of Los Angeles in the masculine division was a mere 403 yard, 2 feet, 1 inch.”

She would eventually claim the world freestyle record with an even more astonishing mark of 455 yards, 8 inches. To put that distance in perspective, that would be like standing in front of Gwynn’s Coffeehouse, firing and arrow and hitting the front door of the Canby Post Office. (Not that we recommend doing target practice in downtown Canby.)

She would ultimately win 56 trophies in archery, including three national championships, and for two years was the undisputed world long distance champion for women in archery. And she was just getting started.

A few years later, she decided to try her hand at bowling. She would find a talent for that too, winning yet another championship in 1948.

In 1960, she joined the Mazamas, a Portland-based mountaineering organization founded in 1894. A diagnosis of multiple sclerosis barely slowed Glendolene down, as she earned her membership by summiting the 10,363-foot South Sister, the tallest of central Oregon’s famed Three Sisters.

She went on to participate in numerous events, and in 1970, at the age of 54, led a mountaineering outing to the Ruby Mountains of Nevada.

When she wasn’t sighting down a bowstring, she was usually at Ninety-One School, where she taught third grade and PE for nearly 30 years. She attended Oregon Normal School (now Western Oregon State College), and completed her elementary education degree at Mt. Angel College after marrying Ivor Nieland in October 1947.

Like both parents before her, she was active in many local organizations, including the Canby Women’s Civic Club, Canby United Methodist Church, Eastern Star and Kirk Rebekah Lodge.

Glendolene Vinyard Nieland, fourth-generation and lifelong resident of Canby, died April 9, 1996, at the age of 80. She’s buried at Zion Memorial Cemetery with her husband, Ivor, and parents.

Next week, we’ll be continuing our series on Canby’s hometown sports heroes as we look at the legacies at brothers Ralph and Ed Coleman. One was a professional slugger who logged almost 500 games for the Philadelphia Athletics and the St. Louis Browns in the 1930s. The other was a legendary baseball coach for Oregon State University. Their field is named in his honor. That’s next time, on Canby Then.

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