BOONE: History of New Ross Basketball: The Golden Years — More notable players from the 1950s-60s and a memory from Mary Lou Feltner (Wilson)
March 20, 2019
History of New Ross Basketball: The Golden Years
More notable players from the 1950s-60s and a memory from Mary Lou Feltner (Wilson)
Other notable Blue Jays are Homer Williams and Harold Williams, Howie’s brothers, who played on the Bluejays teams of the early 1940s. Harold’s son Bob was an outstanding player for the Jays in the middle 60’s, Bernie Burk, who also played at Butler University and came back to coach at New Ross from 1963 to 1966 and coached in southern Indiana for many years. Bernie is second on the career scoring list with 1171 points. Mike Stewart is third on the list with 927 points. Mike Whitecotton is fourth with 895 points, followed by Bob Williams with 846 points. Ron Haffner is sixth on the scoring list with 804 points, Rusty Nichols had 780, Phil Haffner scored 731, Charlie Frederick scored 717 and Danny Isenberg rounded out the top ten career scoring list with 657 points.
Rusty Nichols starred for the Bluejays in the late 50s, graduating in 1959, and went on to an outstanding career at Wabash College where he played basketball and baseball and was head basketball coach for the Little Giants for seven years. Charlie Frederick was one of the best all-around athletes the County ever produced starring in baseball, basketball and track all four years at New Ross. (He even played on the HS baseball team as an 8th grader). He was one of three Blue Jay athletes to be voted the Outstanding Senior Athlete for Montgomery County. Charlie won the award in 1963. The others honored were Richard Haffner in 1956 and Nichols in 1959.
Other outstanding Bluejays were Luther Shaw who holds the single game mark at 39 against Pittsboro in the 1963-64 season; Tom Reynolds and Mike Whitecotton were mainstays on the New Ross teams in the early 60s. All three are in the top ten career scorers in New Ross basketball.
Billy Evans was one of the Bluejays who doesn’t appear in the scoring records and didn’t win any awards, but who for two years was the floor leader for the championship Bluejays. He always guarded the best guard on the other team and distributed the ball where the openings were. His strength was probably more in baseball, where he lettered four years at shortstop and was good enough to letter two years at DePauw where he consistently hit in the middle of the order.
Mary Lou Feltner (Wilson) was fortunate enough to live through the Golden Years of New Ross basketball. Mary Lou graduated in 1968 which would have put her in first grade in 1956. During the 12 years that Mary Lou cheered for the Bluejays, New Ross won 211 games and lost only 70 for a winning percentage of .750. Here are her memories.
“I was in the first grade when the class of 56’ went to the semi-state tourney. As well as other classmates, I can remember the excitement. My parents felt that this was a once-in-a -life-time experience and they got my older sister and me tickets. The game was played in the old Purdue Fieldhouse. That gym looked enormous to me. I will never forget it or all the excitement. We were playing Gary Roosevelt High School. Their cheerleaders were amazing and unforgettable. I had never seen anyone able to jump as high as they did and have so much energy. They were as much fun to watch as the game. I feel so blessed to have gotten to experience this part of NRHS history.
We never went to the semi-state again while I was in elementary school, but we did continue to have really good teams. It was a family tradition that on Friday night, my family would have chili for supper, and then go to the NRHS basketball game. When you think of the movie Hoosiers that was exactly what it was like in the New Ross community. If we had a game, nearly everyone from the community was there. New Ross didn’t have a gym that could hold the crowd for our home games, so every game was an away game. The old barn of a gym was used only for practice and junior high games. People from other schools thought it was odd, but it was normal for us.
During the time when I was in elementary, we won the Sectional in 1954 and 1956 and the County in 1956 and 1959. We won the Regional in 1956 and 1961, so I got to go to a lot of tournament games. The 1956 regional was played at Greencastle and the 1961 regional was played at Covington. It was so exciting and so much fun riding the bus to the regional games. The final games were always in the evening and always ‘barnburners.’
I also remember that at this time the Montgomery County schools had a traveling keg. It was a symbol of County supremacy just like the Old Oaken Bucket for IU and Purdue. I remember that New Ross had possession of the keg during most of this time span. If we ever got beat and lost the keg, it was a SAD time.
When tourney time came, there were many times that there would not be enough tickets for the younger elementary students. I can remember waiting anxiously at home on a Saturday morning for my Mom to return from the grocery store (Bertie Frederick’s IGA) to see if she had gotten me a ticket. Schools that had gotten beat earlier in the week would turn in the tickets that their school wasn’t going to use. Those tickets were then given to the schools that would be playing on Saturday. I don’t think I ever missed a game, but I do remember sitting on the steps at the Crawfordsville High School gym at least once.
When Saturday came for the game to be played, everyone decorated their cars with blue and white streamers and wrote on their cars. They would then meet at the high school and all parade into Crawfordsville for the game. People were honking their horns and kids were yelling out the fan bus windows! It was so much fun and so exciting. After we won that night, we would all return to the school for a bonfire and a dance! Fans would be around the fire waiting to cheer the team as they returned to the school. At that time, all coaches and players would speak. They would high-light the game and show off the new trophy, and of course we would all sing the school song over and over. What a great time and great memories!! When we advanced to the Regional, we would take fan buses. Because I was in elementary, they didn’t take a bus for us. I had a good friend, Carol VanScoyoc whose Dad, Bob, was a bus driver. He would let Carol and I ride the bus in the seat right behind him. We got in on all the cheering and excitement. That was so special, being a part of what the big kids were doing.
When we were in elementary school, we attended Mace until we were in the 7th grade then we got to go the New Ross High School with the older kids. Because of that, we got to participate in the pep sessions almost every Friday. The last half hour or so we would go to the gym for the pep session. We would do a lot of cheers and sometimes there would be a skit and then the coaches and players would speak. They would tell us how we were going to beat the team we were playing and help get everyone excited. Sometimes there would be presentations, like players and cheerleaders getting letter jackets or pins, or maybe a trophy that had been earned would be presented. As we left the gym to go home we would sing the school song and continue to get fired up for that night’s game.
When I was a seventh grader, we again advanced to the semi-state. We played at Lafayette in the Purdue Field House, but I don’t remember the team we played. (Logansport) When I was in high school, New Ross had good teams and as always everyone went to the games, but we didn’t win as many games as we had in the past. Yes, I feel blessed to have experienced the ‘Golden years of New Ross High School basketball.’
Because everyone knew everyone else and teachers were so involved in the extra-curricular activities and lived in the community, they played a huge role in our lives. They went to church with you, shopped the local grocery store, and walked down our streets just as everyone else did. As a student, you knew that if you messed up at school your teacher would be seeing your parents by the weekend and they would be sure your parents knew what you had done. I think that helped keep us on track. I know it did me.
As an adult, I have always felt bad for people who never were a part of a winning team and such a tight and positive community. We may have been a small school, but we knew everyone and wanted to share in everyone else’s successes. I truly feel that if we still had our own school in our small communities and if everyone was involved in the school and community, we wouldn’t see as many tragic things happening as we see today.”