Sports Fever in the Fifties

I see it on the front page of the sports section…the young athletes in mid- air scrambling for the basketball and determined to come down on the floor with it in hands. Suddenly I am back in the ’50’s and living for the evenings we would be playing.

It wasn’t easy for the kids who lived out of town. My best friend, Louise, lived in Locke Mills and I, of course, lived in Greenwood Center.  Even the practices were difficult but we were determined.  Oh, yes,  as freshman and definitely not on the “A” team, we were given the dreaded maroon bloomers to wear. The legs puffed around the legs and it was like sending a message to the world..”these are the pitiful ones!” At least that is how we felt at the time.

I had never played basketball in my life. I did not know the rules. Give me a baseball and I could play any position except pitching and rattle off the members of the Boston Red Sox, but the first time I was put into a basketball game, I didn’t even wait for the signal to go in. Nope, just wandered right on to the court. The giggles from the “A” team and some in the crowd still ring in my ears. Well, I stayed in and I played “at it”. You may have guessed I was a stubborn creature.

Practice was after school and , of course, extended until dusk or sometimes dark, no matter the weather. I think if there were a blizzard, it was called off…I think. After every practice, Louise and I started the walk up Route 26. Oh, the flat by the ball field in Bryant Pond was our biggest enemy, with the winter wind hitting us in the face. Both of us bent into the wind and there were times when we turned and walked backwards until we got near the Mills farm and the trees broke the awful icy sting. Louise was enrolled in a Bethel school before coming to Woodstock High and the father of one of her friends sometimes was driving home from work. What a blessing when Mr. Sumner ( I think that was his name) stopped. I hesitated the first time, knowing we should not take a ride with a stranger, but Louise said, “That’s Eleanor’s father.” So in we hopped.

Louise and I walked over the tracks and she proceeded up Crazy Knoll to her home and I had the next four miles to walk by myself. I didn’t mind it and chances were that it was still light enough for me to see the cottages as I walked by. I only had one scare for all the walks I took down that four mile stretch by the ponds.

One night, I rounded a corner and there were two men walking ahead of me, but far enough so I don’t think they knew I was there..at least there was no indication on their part and almost dark enough so they noticed. They were talking in a language I could not understand and I figured they had to be some Finnish loggers who were camped in the woods not far from our house. I followed them for about two miles or more …me on my little cat feet and my heart in my throat.  When I was almost home, they did, indeed, turn and walk up a wood road to their camp.

On the Fifties basketball court, an unwritten rule was that all should wear white sneakers. I had blue sneakers to go with the maroon bloomers. Let that sink in your memory bank. Oh, it was pitiful, but I was so grateful to even be on a team I did not complain. When I was in my third year of high school, my Dad bought a pair of white sneakers from his friend’s sister and they fit perfectly..and they were high tops!! I was , by that time, on the “A” team and wearing a uniform. Never did a second hand pair of sneakers feel so good or look so good on my feet. They weren’t Air Jordans or whatever..just plain no name brand but they were my pride and joy.

We had our photos taken twice each year.  There was one for the Lewiston Daily Sun and the other for the year book, which is pictured here.  There were no photographers on the side lines taking action shots and no big headlines in the sports section of the newspaper. But oh, did we have fun.

There were those bus trips away to other schools which were pretty tiring, especially when we had to get up the next day. Art Farrington, our bus driver for my last three years in school was so patient.  On the way home, he stopped the bus at Goodwin’s in South Paris and those who had money went in and brought out French Fries and other goodies. Louise and I usually had no money, so we sat and talked and smelled!! If one or the other had any money, we shared. That was the way it was.

Sometimes Rex met me at the school to give me a ride home and other times my mother did the task, even though she had to rise early in the morning to work in the mill.

Those were good years. The old gymnasium with its few bleachers on either side, always full of town people shouting and encouraging. Someone was always standing in the open doorway cheering and watching. 

We never had the publicity, but boy did we have fun back in the Fifties!!

( Picture from the 1955 Eureka year book. Front row l-r  Luna Farrington, Charlotte Schultz, Gloria Johnson, Sandra Martin, Louise LaValley, Beverly Morgan

Back Row l-r Evelyn Bean, Geraldine Cushman, Leona LaValley, Roe Toothaker(coach) , Leona Whitman, Kay Ring, Leatrice Farnum)

basketball

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