According to Bob Whitecotton, the New Ross gym was built in 1933, and was made possible because his mother wanted someplace for her boys, Bob and Pat to play. I remember reading someplace that the old barn-like gym was built by the men of Walnut Township. That hasn’t been confirmed, but we are still trying. The gym was so unusual with its pot-bellied stoves and lack of amenities that I have decided to let some of the old-timers tell about their memories of the gym. Glen Harper took control of the New Ross fortunes in 1952 and led the team to a 10-12 record. I think that 1952 was the last year that the Jays played any home games. Rusty Nichols remembers that they played a couple of games a year at Granville Wells, and a couple at Darlington. I asked Rusty to walk me around the gym since I only played one game there. I would have been in the 8th grade and that would have been in 1952.
As you walked in the north door which was not used after New Ross started playing all their games away, you would turn left and walk by the Charlie Frederick stove. I have named it after him because that was his defensive assignment one day during practice. Coach Keith Greve was not too impressed with Charlie’s defensive intensity one day and told him to see if he could guard the pot-bellied stove. Charlie assumed his best defensive stance and held the stove scoreless for the rest of practice.
The east door opened out on the school building side and that was the door that students used when going to P.E. and basketball practice. If you entered that door and turned left, you would go up a flight of steps to the coach’s office. If you turned right from the coach’s office, you went onto the stage. The locker room was under the stage down two short flights of stairs past the office. The locker room had wooden lockers with wire fronts; there was a shower room with two showers. Just to the right of the east door was the other pot-bellied stove.
On the other side of the gym was a short flight of steps that led to the visitor’s dressing room. Up the stairs and turn left and you were on the stage. Go straight and you were in the visitor’s dressing room. As far as anyone can remember, there were no public restrooms in the gym. I wonder if the high school building was open so that fans could go to the restroom.
These are the memories of the old New Ross gym.
I talked to a couple of County boys who played in the New Ross gym and decided that if players today had to play in facilities like New Ross or some of the other early gyms, they might appreciate the palaces they play in today. Kenyon Roberts graduated from Ladoga in 1948.
“I can recall a couple of games we played there. Thinking the stove was at the north end, east side,” he said. “Saw a name on the wall of the dressing room way beyond my reach, Rail Head Maxwell. Never heard of him till later years when I worked at RRD. He was a Darlington guy at 6-5. One gym worse than N.R. was Pittsboro; same as N.R. only colder and very poor lighting. You ran to another building to dress usually through the snow. Vernon Ross decided that he wasn’t going to play and didn’t show up. We loaded up and Doc Neff had the bus stop at Rosses and went in and brought Vernon out. Jim Gephart was playing for Pittsboro back then.”
Bill Greve (Waveland 1955) said he played one game there and remembers that the team dressed at home and rode the bus in their basketball uniforms. (That would have been Bill’s sophomore year, 1952) He also recalled that the dressing rooms were ice cold because the team met in them for halftime. He said that they got beat pretty badly because Bernie Burk and Richard Haffner were on the NR team. Also remembers almost running into one of the pot-bellied stoves which were really hot.
Barbara Morgan Ferling from the class of 1954 has many good memories of the old gym. She wrote:
“I remember that we walked or ran from the school building to the gym on cold or rainy days to PE class,” she said. “I was a cheerleader for four years and didn’t see anything bad about our gym. It was a fun place to be and I remember having to defend it when someone made cracks about our stoves.
Around the county, it was customary for the cheerleaders of the home team to go to the visiting cheerleaders, get acquainted with them and welcome them. Many of the school cheerleaders would go to the opposing crowd and lead a cheer for their team. Mr. Harper (Glen) didn’t want us to do that. He said we should only cheer for our own team. Naturally we did as he asked. We presented junior and senior plays on the stage and had a lot of fun backstage. My class commencement was in the gym and I remember introducing the speaker, Dr. Ted Gronert, a Wabash professor. I was also a speaker that evening.
The old gym was a very important part of our high school experience. I loved it.”
This concludes the tale of New Ross basketball.
Up next — Waveland.
Bill Boone is a local sports historian who contributes to the Journal Review.