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MONTGOMERY COUNTY REMEMBERS: Crawfordsville opens new gymnasium in 1940

I missed a historical date a couple of weeks ago after I said I would not, but that’s how it goes sometimes when you get busy. The date was Jan. 24. What was so special about that date? OK, how about Jan. 24, 1940? Anyone remember? Especially you Crawfordsville basketball fans? Last hint? A new place to play the home games? On Jan. 24, 1940, Crawfordsville High school officially began playing in its new gym (on East College Street). This was the their home until the Athenians would move and begin playing at the new high school on Nov. 24, 1993 where it still plays today. Prior to the playing in gym on East College Street, the Athenians had called the Old National Guard Armory (now where the Journal Review is located) its home since early in the 1935-36 season. The Athenians opened the “new” gym in grand fashion as it played Indianapolis Washington. The Athenians defeated the Indianapolis school 32-28 to move to 8-4 at that point on the season with losses coming at the hands of Fort Wayne South (39-23), Terre Haute Garfield (25-22), Anderson (23-21) and Gary Horace Mann (33-21). The win against Indianapolis Washington propelled Crawfordsville to a 13-2 record the rest of the way as the team finished the season with a 34-31 loss at the hands of Mount Vernon in the semistate 34-31. While the first game was on Jan. 24, 1940, the official dedication game was played on Jan. 31, 1940 against Clinton. The Athenians won that game 46-33. The dedication prior to the Clinton game included was quite an event. Even the Commissioner of the Indiana High school Athletic Association – A. L. Trester – was part of the ceremony. Another big part of the night was the introduction of the 1911 Crawfordsville basketball team. All but two of the members from the first state championship were on hand. Those included Benny Myers, Clio Shaw, Hugh Miller, Grady Chadwick, Orville Taylor and manager Roy Hall. Two players — Newton Hill and Carroll Stevenson — were not able to make the event as they lived in California and Texas at the time. The cost of the new gym $150,000 and was part of a $250,000 addition onto the Crawfordsville High School. The new gym was set up to have seating for 2,400 and the possibility for another 600 portable bleachers. The first game in the new gym was sold out. The Athenians played host to the sectional in its new gym later that year and won easily, beating Bowers 34-25, Linden 33-15 and downing New Market 40-32 in the sectional title game. The gym was also the site for the regional where the Athenians beat Bainbridge 39-23 and Rockville 39-31. This was in the midst of what a lot of people call the “Glory Years” for Crawfordsville basketball. In this time period runs from the 1935-36 season through the 1941-42 season. During that span, Crawfordsville teams posted a 127-57. Crawfordsville won six sectionals, five regionals and made one trip to the Final Four. When you look at who was on the schedule at that time this record becomes even more impressive. Teams the Athenians player included: Anderson, Bloomington South, Franklin, Gary Horace Mann, Indianapolis Shortridge, Indianapolis Washington, Jeffersonville, New Castle, Terre Haute Garfield and Terre Haute Wiley. For those who you who want to know the final game played in this gym came on Feb. 26, 1993 and Greencastle handed the Athenians a 75-67 loss in overtime. Barry Lewis has been playing or covering sports in Montgomery County for more than 40 years and enjoys helping to keep our sports heritage alive with his bi-weekly column for the Journal Review.

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