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Random Thoughts from a Random Memory

By Edward Master

Down the hill from the Parker Personal Care facility once sat the Parker School District gymnasium. My basketball coach, Ron Botz, played his high school hoops in that building. I did my junior high school basketeering in that building. In Coach Botz’s day, as well as in my term, that gym was a “bandbox”, but not the only facility known for its “smaller” size in the area.

When I was in junior high school the Parker gym was not distinctively the only small gymnasium in the district. The gym in the Emlenton building (now Crawford Center) was also small in stature, a bit bigger than Parker, but still smaller than most other facilities in the Claron County League (now Keystone State Athletic Conference). At one end of the gym was the stage. Mats were draped over the one edge of the stage to protect players since ‘out of bounds’ was the edge of the stage.

The opposite end of the court floor had a mat on the wall under the basket, again for player protection. Out of bounds on the other two sides butted up against the stands. A player stood in bounds to throw the ball back to be in play again.

We had music class on the stage with Charles Tritle.

The Emlenton gym had its own pecularities however. Putting aside ‘dead spots’ in the floor, which affected the return of a dribbled basketball, out of bounds on the west side of the building was a wall. A radiator was mounted on the south end; the northern boundary was audience seating. Players sat next to steps leading to locker rooms, straddling the scorer’s table. A third practice basket was raised up for games.

But that isn’t the last of ‘small’ school district gymnasiums. The St. Petersburg building also had a gym. Fold-away seats were located on the eastern side. I recall (at least) once in grade school the seats being down for an afternoon basketball game. The locker room was somewhere under the stage. I never had the inclination to investigate.

On one occasion, on a Saturday, Paul McGuirk, a high school social studies teacher, was gracious enough to ‘chaparone’ a group of us while we played in the St. Pete gym. I’m guessing me, Ron and Jack Klingler, Larry Myers (Ron and Jack’s cousin), and Keith McHenry were the main culprits. At least we had supervision. I heard plenty of stories about an open window (sometimes) allowing access into the Emlenton gym on weekends for my future Emlenton team mates.

The only other ‘bandbox’ in which varsity basketball occured was in East Brady. There mats on the wall under each basket. The two teams sat on the stage. The scorekeeper sat between the two teams. I had my best game as a senior at Brady. We smoked them. Their full-court press didn’t work as planned.

The only other instance with a gym and size was at Karns City in junior high school. I don’t think the gym was “smallish” though. What I remember is the stairs to the locker room were in a spiral. A ‘fence’ surrounded the opening in the floor to prevent a ball from going down the steps. The remaining gyms in the CCL were much the same size; AC Valley caught up to the larger gyms with the new school/gym in fall 1965. I did hear one story that Clarion once played on a stage. I have no verification on that one.

East Brady eventually did away with the bandbox by the time the Kelly brothers arrived. Karns City had a new gym by the time I was a senior. I believe Keystone was the last school to discontinue the fan backboards. Those backboards were in vogue for awhile in the 50s and 60s, but eventually everything went to plexiglas.

I’ve played in other gyms within school distrcts often having backgrounds similar to ACV, products of small schools and consolidation. The one-time senior high schools morphed into junior highs. Glassboro, NJ, was a classic example. Carmen Mitcho was the junior hi principal while his older brother Nick was the district superintendent. They both recruited my wife when she switched to college teaching but to no avail. Indiana, PA, proved similar. The junior hi was the original senior hi and was a 5-minute walk to substitute. The gyms basically had the same background stories.

Other than Parker, the smallest gym I ever played in was in a YMCA in Moorestown, NJ. I played on a softball team looking to pass time in the winter months. We decided to rent the gym once per week. Eight adult males really filled up the court so we played four-on-four rather than five-on-five. It really was small, but served its purpose.

Speaking of sports

Hooray baseball is upon us! Hopefully O’Neil is all healed up. I’m looking forward to excitement from this year’s Bucs.

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