1906 Basketball Season! Intramural Play

1906 Basketball!

I am not a big basketball fan. Football, yes–baseball, sometimes (especially when the Indians go to the Series–and then disappoint)–but basketball, meh!

Until this year, that is, when hometown hero Lebron James took the Cavs to the first Cleveland major league sports championship in over 60 years. The final game was the first one I watched in its entirety in decades.

All of this brings us to the Norwalk High School Class of 1907. On this day in 1906, Norwalk High School kicked off its basketball season with two intramural games between senior and junior teams, one match between boys’ teams and the other between the girls.

Basketball today is a national pastime and a multi-billion-dollar industry. The NBA playoffs and “March Madness” are eagerly followed by millions. In 1906, the sport was in its infancy. It had been invented fifteen years before by Dr. James Naismith at the YMCA Training School in Springfield Massachusetts (now Springfield College). That first game was a sedate affair compared from today’s fast paced play. Only one point was scored. A soccer ball with laces was used, which made dribbling impossible, and bounce passes erratic. The object of the game was to get the ball into a peach basket fastened nailed to a vertical track.

The sport spread quickly, and by 1906 college, high school, and community teams had been established around the nation. In that year, the peach basked was finally replaced with a metal ring, much like what is used today.

In 1906, Norwalk had at least three teams that had been around for several years: one made up of members of Company G of the Ohio National Guard, and at the high school a boys and girls team. The first Norwalk High School basketball games I can find a record of were on December 1903 for boys’ and girls’ teams.

The Boy’s Game – Exciting!

These first games of the season were well reported in both The Daily Reflector and The Evening Herald. The boys’ game provided plenty of thrills. The Daily Reflector called the match “the most exciting ever played in School Hall.” The juniors were favored, but the seniors proved to be their match. At the end of regulation play, the score was tied 9 to 9 and went into overtime. Finally, the seniors pulled off an upset, winning 11-9.

From the Class of 1907 on the boys’ seniors team were Arthur Young at forward, Homer Beattie at center, and Robert Venus and Harry Holiday as guards. The junior squad only had one center, Homer played alone at center, but John Wickham, a sophomore, was brought in to play alongside Arthur Young at forward.

arthur-young-commencement-photo-1907

Arthur Young, forward for the game, was 17 years old and lived with his parents, Ed and Carrie Young at 55 South Linwood Avenue, near downtown. Both parents were in their forties, so Arthur was either an only child (unlikely) or his siblings had already left home.

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Homer Beattie, also 17 years old, played at center. He lived at 137 Benedict homer-beattie-commencement-photoAvenue, south of Main Street, in the better part of town, with his father, Albert, a successful lawyer, his mother Dora, two brothers, two sisters, and perhaps his maternal grandfather.

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robert-venus-commencement-photo-1907In 1906, Robert Venus, a guard on the boys’ basketball team, was recovering from a series of recent tragedies. He lived at 45 Seminary Street with his father, Carl,and his sister Louise. According to the 1900 Census, in addition to these three, Robert’s mother Wilhelmina, elder brothers Frederick and Carl and and another sister, Blanche also lived in the house. But Wihelmina died in 1904 and Frederick and Blanche passed away the following year. The Norwalk City Directory dated 1909 does not have Robert’s brother Carl living in the house, so I assume he moved out. In the midst of all this tragedy, there was good news: Robert’s father Carl was elected Mayor of Norwalk.

Harry Holiday lived on his family’s farm on Woodlawn Avenue. Today this harry-holiday-commencement-photo-1907area is a mix of residential and light industry, but at that time was all farmland. His father, William Holiday, age 61, had just retired, or was about to retire, from farming. His mother, Alzina, was 59 years old and kept house for her husband, four children, two males and two females, and her widowed mother, Altha Spurrier.  Harry’s brother and sisters were all working folk. His elder brother Frank was a mechanic at Wheeling in Huron. One sister, Myrtle, was a school teacher and the other, Blanche, was deputy recorder at the county courthouse.

The Girl’s Game – Not so Exciting

The girls team had six members,Harriott Wickham and Florence Bascom were forwards, Ruth Jenkins and Ruby Hoyt were guards, and Florence Davidson and Sara Joslin played center

harriott-wickham-commencement-photo

Harriott Wickham will be familiar to readers of the Firelands History Website: she was my grandmother and a descendant of Platt and Sarah Benedict, and of another pioneer couple, Frederick and Lucy Wickham. These two couples played major roles in the settlement of Norwalk as described in the “Sufferers’ Land” series of posts on this website.Platt and Sarah founded Norwalk in 1817. Lucy Preston came to Norwalk with her father, Samuel Preston, who started the Norwalk Reflector. Her husband, Frederick Wickham, left a career as a schooner Captain on the Great Lakes for one in publishing at the Reflector.

Harriott’s father, Frank Wickham, who was editor of the Reflector in 1906, was the youngest of thirteen children (twelve who survived to adulthood). Her mother, Agnes Wickham, nee Benedict, was the second daughter of David and Harriott Benedict. David was grandson of Platt and Sarah Benedict and was a Union Surgeon in the Civil War. His story told in the “Doctor on a Little Black Horse” on this website.

The other forward was Florence N Bascom, who lived at 90 Linwood florence-bascom-commencement-photo-1907Avenue, south of town, with her father William, a blacksmith, her mother Mana and her elder brother Harry, who had already graduated from high school.

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ruth-jenkins-commencement-photo-1907

One of the  guards, Ruth Jenkins was, like Harriott Wickham, a member of the X, Y, Z Club, and helped with the Progressive Dinner on Halloween. She lived at 10 Norwood Avenue with her father Frank, proprietor of a grain elevator, her mother Ida Jenkins, brothers Clayton and Clifford, and her sister Dorothy.

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The two centers on the girls’ team were Sara Joslin and Florence Davidson.

norwalk-high-school-commencement-1907

Florence Davidson

I don’t know much about Florence, but at least I know she was in the class. But what about Sara Joslin? Who was that? She is not in the Commencement photo, nor is she listed in any newspaper announcements for the class. So who is she? That problem took some time to work out. I’ll explain in a later post: “Who Was Sara Joslin?”

Please like this post and let me know what you think in the comments. Thank you.

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One Response

  1. It’s taken longer than I anticipated to research Sara Joslin, but the story I uncovered was worth the effort. I’ll share it in a few days.

    Like

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