Butch Remembers Those CRAZY Basketball Fans

Before school consolidation here in Montgomery County, a stranger driving down Main Street in one of the little towns on a Friday night would have sworn that he was passing through a ghost town. Where was everyone? Well, they were at the high school gym…munching on popcorn, discussing strategy, and yelling the basketball team on to glory. The basketball team not only represented the school, it also represented the town. A Friday night game was the high point of a week’s activities, and the games were a major unifying influence. If a team was “down,” the community kept its hopes and spirits up for each game, and the schools savored the underdog role when playing a larger school. And the fans knew every boy on the team, in addition to his family. Several years ago, I interviewed a few Darlington fans, and here’s what they said….

“At Darlington, you would not have considered missing a game. Everyone attended. You went early for a sandwich and some pie in the cafeteria and then stayed late for the sock hop after the game.” Diana Branstetter Binford

“When we went to Lebanon and Zionsville for the Sectionals, we were always the smallest school. In the final game against Speedway, a sellout, it gave me cold chills to see the whole crowd stand up for Darlington…what a feeling!” Debbie Wilson DeFreitas

“Being a spectator and member of the Booster Club for four years, what I remember most vividly was the spirit that permeated our games. We all knew the cheers, and the pep rallies in the afternoon before the games always helped to set the mood. Tourneys were especially exciting.” Peggy Peebles Foster

“As far back as I can remember, our family went to as many basketball games as possible…One year we got stuck three times going to the County Tourney!” Mary Lou Weliever

“I wasn’t very good in sports, but the coaches gave me a feeling of belonging. We always had a great time riding the school bus back to town, especially after winning…and then going to Cecil Cox’s restaurant and celebrating. And when Ed Miller was coach, we enjoyed going to his house for one of his famous chili suppers.” Don Charters

“In junior high school, I remember watching the high school basketball teams…dreaming of our days out there.” Rich Douglas

“One nice thing about our school was that more kids could take part. If they went out for the ball team of any kind, they usually got to play some. Now they get cut from the team…I think the best time I had was being elected cheerleader for two years. Tourney time was really exciting, leading yells in front of all those people at the Crawfordsville gym.” Mary Ellen Vannice Harmon

“In the younger grades, the kids really looked up to the basketball players and cheerleaders. It was really a lot of fun having admirers, even if you didn’t realize it at the time…It was also great to have teams you could be proud of, at games and especially at the County Tourney and Sectional. You really felt the whole school was involved amd supported the team. The school spirit was wonderful.” Trudy Mennen Freeman

“I will always remember the fathers and mothers who attended every game…at home or away, the County Keg, the small gyms full of people, and the intracounty friends.” Jim Shelton

“In 1954, our boys won the first County Tourney in our school’s history. So many people came to celebrate…a huge bonfire, a day’s vacation from school, and a victory dance. Pete Irwin was our coach, and everybody loved him!” Sharon Hankins Lough

“I didn’t miss many varsity games when I was in junior high. My Dad hauled me and anyone else who wanted to go as far as an “A” gasoline card (during WWII) would take us for this patriotic adventure.” Tom Thompson

“I will never forget the way the people supported the basketball team, and the gym filled to capacity, with the people standing and yelling. The excited fans always cheered…maybe a little booing…but not like today.” Judy Cain Mullen

“The most outstanding moments were the times the team won the Keg, and the times we always had a bad snowstorm each time a tourney was played…and the suspense of wondering if I would get to go or not.” Janet Covault Stockton

One of the biggest thrills of my life was when I played basketball in the fifth grade, and my coach handed me my first uniform. I wore that oversized jersey for hours on end, looking at myself in the mirror, and practicing outside…shooting baskets at the goal on the side of our barn…and even sleeping in my prized basketball “war dress.” And in my first game against another school, I don’t remember whether my team won or lost. I just remember how much fun it was to play in front of a crowd and hear those fans cheering me on…I wanted to be like the high schools boys…my idols. What fun days!

John “Butch” Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 32 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.