An uncanny number of similarities could lead a person to think Burbank High School athletic titans Dave Kemp and Frank Kallem were, indeed, joined at the hip.
They were both born in 1939, moved to California from other states in 1954, attended Hoover High, married sisters, making them brothers-in-law, worked for the Burbank Unified School District as teachers, administrators and coaches, retired in 2000 and were both inducted into Burbank High’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010.
The longtime friends shared yet another honor this past weekend as Burbank High’s athletic field, where the pair spent a huge part of their combined 85 years of service, will now be known as Kemp-Kallem Field — named after the duo during a ceremony Saturday morning.
“Everything went smoothly today and, rightly so, for a pair of honorable men,” said Burbank High graduate Randy Arrington, chief architect and organizer behind a fundraiser to name the field after the men and pay for it. “Everybody had a good time, and there were people in the audience hugging each other who haven’t seen each other in decades. That’s the impact of Kemp-Kallem.”
The honors flowed for Kemp, who completed 47 years with the district, including 12 as a school board member, and for Kallem, whose 38 years included the Iowa native coaching two CIF Southern Section championship boys’ cross-country teams.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) presented Kemp and Kallem with flags flown over the U.S. Capitol in their honor, while awards and accolades also came from the offices of state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian and Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy.
“It wasn’t nearly as much [about] us as it was the students that we had a chance to participate [with] and coach and live and die with basically. All the tribute goes to them,” Kemp said.
“I had the best job in the world. There’s nothing that can compare with this job that I had as being a teacher and a coach at Burbank High School,” he added.
Kemp, joined by his wife, Judith, and Kallem, who sat next to his wife, Sharon, received the longest tributes from former students and colleagues as well as one family member.
“They conducted themselves with such detail, day in and day out, not so much to try and win the upcoming track meet, but just to get the most out of each person every day in practice,” former Burbank High track coach Howard Edelman said.
Burbank High running alumnus Mark Covert, who once held the U.S. record for 16,436 consecutive days of having run or walked a mile, said he learned his “toughness” from the coaches.
“It didn’t much matter if you were the best guy, the fastest guy or the slowest guy, you were going to learn how to be tough,” Covert said.
Kallem said that, while his team won championships and set many school records, there was more to coaching than just victories.
“There were a lot of records that were set, but, you know, the most important thing wasn’t the records, but it was just the camaraderie that we had with each other,” Kallem said.
Cal Linam, Kemp’s son-in-law, said he was grateful for the chance to acknowledge both men.
“Many said, ‘well, it’s about time,’ but for years we were all waiting for something special like this is happen,” Linam said. “We have Randy Arrington to thank for making this happen.”
Arrington asked Burbank Unified school officials to consider renaming the field during a board meeting on April 19.
The district created a facilities-naming committee that held a meeting on Oct. 24 and made a recommendation to the board for the naming. A public hearing was held Nov. 15, and the board voted 5-0 on Dec. 20 to name the field after Kemp and Kallem.
Since then, Arrington has been raising funds for a plaque, which was unveiled Saturday, along with a scoreboard sign, which is in progress, and a glass-display case showcasing a newspaper article detailing the voting process.
“The most important thing wasn’t the records, but it was just the camaraderie that we had with each other.”