Cassville gym had many names

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Built in 1936 by Works Progress Administration workers, the limestone gymnasium on the Cassville R-4 campus has been known by many names.

It was actually the first honest-to-goodness gymnasium for Cassville Schools. Prior to get the then-modern facility, basketball games were at the community building on the west side of the public square. Many an athletes suffered wood and oil burns and splinter injuries on the old floor. There were adequate bleachers for the facility, but the end of the old court was close to the playing surface, and it wasn't unusual for a player to leave the game after being run into a wall.

Construction of the gym was completed about the time the elementary unit was opened, moving the entire system off the West Seventh Street hill.

Watching the Blues

From the scaffolding used to construct the building was a perfect bleacher for watching the old Cassville Blues of the Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri Baseball League play on an antiquated baseball field that was just east of the location. Being about 7 years old at the time made an ideal vantage point, as well as a challenge to get to the top.

In those days, a frequent baseball landing in that area had to be quickly returned to the field, or one of the players would come after it, making it appear they were playing in a one or two ball league.

Climbed wall

In later years, students weren't allowed access to the gym on weekends. Why? No one ever understood. There was some pretty good basketball players developed during pickup games in off-school hours on the court.

The "no access" rule didn't seem to bother us in those days, since Charles Wooten lived just north of the school campus and was always willing to assist the larger boys getting access inside. Charley was small enough at the time that we could boost him halfway up the stone wall and he could climb the remainder of the way, reaching a window until he found one unlocked, going inside and letting us in an office door.

Smokers' lair

The furnace room of the facility was a good place for some of the older boys to smoke cigarettes in between classes. Just walking in front of the entrance to the basement doors gave you some idea of how many were using this location to satisfy their habit.

For some reason or other, this location was off limits in later years, with the furnace room of the high school being utilized.

Called what?

It was first called the Cassville Wildcat Gym. In later years, after more such facilities were added on the campus, it was labeled the Grade School Gym. Then after that, it became known as the Stone Gym. There were actually discussions about getting rid of the facility.

Then, after his long tenure as basketball coach, the building became the Coach J.C. Duncan Gym, honoring the coach, driver's education instructor and bus driver for his years of service to the district.

Duncan was no stranger to the building, having posted an outstanding career in high school as a Wheaton Bulldog, before going on to Tulsa University for further honors.

Short season

My class of 1947 holds the record for the shortest season in the Stone Gym, playing only nine games that season. That included only one home game, which we lost to Seligman.

An incident during the football season, the Wildcats' first since World War II, saw fit for the state's athletic season to cancel all remaining games after a so-called hearing.

Correction

Following a number of phone calls and inquiries, there's a need for correcting a recent column that was apparently hit by something that actually ruined a pretty good yarn.

The incident involved our return from a trip to the Gulf that took us to Jonesboro, Ark., from the south. Having never been in from that direction, we were actually lost. Stopping for directions, Sue asked a Hispanic couple for directions. He responded by saying "we will take you there", which he did, through a high point residential area of the city.

That part of the story wasn't fouled up.

The dropped out part was that the couple was surprised that we wanted them to wait before driving off to present them a gift. We filled a sack with Florida tomatoes we had purchased and presented it to them, which pleased them very much.

Dates

On successive days this month are a couple of important events.

First is Flag Day June 14, another opportunity to show your colors in honor of America.

Secondly, and one not to be overlooked is Father's Day, June 15.

Then there is June 21, the first day of summer -- hopefully, a time when the green tomatoes on our plants will start to ripen.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.