Back in 1987, visiting Eielson Coach Mike Lessley gets some love from Chester the Cordova Wolverine mascot. Photo courtesy of Cordova High School

Recently the Cordova boys topped Eielson at the Valdez Elks Tournament. 

That triggered memories of the days when Cordova, Valdez, and Eielson were all in the 3A Aurora Conference and waged intense, exciting battles for trips to state. 

School spirit was at an all-time high in those looser rambunctious times. 

Once, with the whole student body cheering on, several CHS students jumped off the dock in survival suits to protest cuts in ferry service for extracurricular activities. 

At a pep assembly students became so rowdy the needle on the famous Spiritometer moved to its max level, which resulted in a blast of gun powder from atop it. The gym filled with a cloud of smoke, which brought sirens and fire trucks as the school was evacuated. Fortunately, the sprinklers didn’t go off. 

When Valdez Coach Dan Eide and team arrived at the entrance to CHS in a school bus, he was greeted with an old purple hearse that had “Eidemobile” neatly lettered on the side. 


Tall, bald and excitable Eielson Coach Mike Lessley was also the center of several pranks at the hands of local boosters who admired his cheerful personality. The good-natured Lessley was a heck of a ball player and held scoring records at University of Alaska Fairbanks.   

As it happens, it was pouring down rain when the Eielson girls and boys teams arrived at CHS in January 1987 after a very bouncy ferry ride across Prince William Sound. It had been two years since they had played in Cordova. The place was packed. 

The custodians were busy mopping up snow and water being tracked into the gym along the end lines and sidelines. A bucket was catching drips from the leaky roof over in the corner near Eielson’s bench. 

Lessley, a veteran of rough trips across the Sound, took his team down to rest in the classroom in which they were staying. Several of them looked rather green.  

Come game time, the short break seemed to have done wonders. Lessley looked crisp and sharp in his traditional red polo and khaki. Many fans knew Mike on a first name basis and said hello as they walked by. They couldn’t wait for the entertainment about to develop both on the court and on the sidelines. 

While Lesley was scanning the scene, and he glanced up to the rafters above his bench, hoping he wasn’t going to be dripped on. He noticed a large black plastic tarp tied to the rafters directly over his bench. 

I happened to be refereeing the game, and always looked forward to working his games. 

He beckoned me over. Mike tended to stutter slightly when excited. 

“D—d-d-Dick, what’s with the t-t-t -tarp up there?” 

“Ah don’t worry. It’s there to make sure water doesn’t drip on your bench.” 

Mike eyed it skeptically.  “Oh. OK. Thanks.” 

The PA announcer introduced the starters for Eielson, and finished with, “and now the coach of the Ravens, Mike Lessley!” 

There was a loud bang, strings from the corners of the tarp were pulled, and down rained a dozen black cloth ravens on Lesley. The crowd roared, the CHS Pep Band belted out the School Fight Song, and the crowd cheered as Lessley brushed the fake birds off his head and shoulders. 

The “ravens” had been created by talented seamstress Sharon McHone, wife of High School Principal Mike McHone. 

And The Night It Rained Ravens became Wolverine Country Folklore.