Tonight in downtown Minneapolis MN either Virginia or Texas Tech will be National Champions in College Basketball. You won’t see us among the 74,000 in the stands. Easier to watch it on TV.
My contribution to the tournament is some reminiscences of country North Dakota Basketball in the 1950s. More about the photo in a moment:
Pictured above is the Sykeston Wildcats of 1957-1958. I’m top left, next to my Dad, who was coach more of necessity than interest or coaching ability. He was also the Superintendent of the tiny school (nine seniors that year).
We did pretty well that year: 15-4, winning the County Tournament at Fessenden (photo above). We played Hurdsfield twice, beating them at Hurdsfield 71-38; and a second time in Sykeston 80-41. At the end of this post is a bit more about our team and our season.
But this blog, before Virginia and Texas Tech tip off tonight, is about a marvelous piece of North Dakota history, forwarded to me a few weeks ago. It is about Hurdsfield High School in 1953-54 and it speaks eloquently and humorously about the reality of tiny town basketball on the prairie.
The description is six pages, well illustrated, and can be read in its entirety here: Hurdsfield ND 1953-54001. The author, then, was a first year teacher from Wisconsin. When he wrote the article he was a retired history professor with a distinguished career.
The article unleashed a flood of personal memories for me, as I would guess it would similarly jog the memories of other old timers, with their own stories from their own towns.
I’ll leave this post with the two pages from the tiny Sykeston yearbook of 1958, for those interested in more information about our basketball team of 1954-58: Sykeston 1957-58001. (An earlier Sykeston team, in 1950, won third in the ND State Class C tournament. I was 9 years old at the time, and at the game, but don’t remember anything about it. But I was there! Sykeston 1949-50001.
May your favorite team win, and may it be close!
POSTNOTE comments April 10, 2019:
The NCAA final was awesome. In the end, Virginia defeated Texas Tech in overtime. The official story is here.
From Larry: Thanks for the photo. I remember Jerry Sondag from long ago at VCSTC, as well as, of course, Dick Bernard! from Dick: Duane Zwinger also went to Valley City State Teachers College. Arlo Neumiller became a dentist. I’m not certain of the others.
Two other notes came after the initial posting: from my sister, Mary: Great fun…these guys put a lot of energy into March Madness as did the slightly less aggressive and talented from the old days – course the Flos and the Marys of the era remember the importance of the cheerleader!
from the 1958 Sykeston Annual:
From the Sykeston Yearbook for 1949-50: Sykeston Girls 1949-50003
In 1957-58, I don’t have record of a girls team. I do remember that girls basketball, as it was, then, restricted any team member to half-court only.
A note from Darleen, who was a PE teacher in the 1960s: “I read the article on Hurdsfield after I returned home and it is a winner!!! I had not planned to read it & definitely not the entire article, but as I read, I couldn’t put it down. I taught in some of the gyms that he wrote about — of course none that had a trap door in the middle of the court or a ladder to get to the latrine. Carrington’s “old gym” was similar to what [the author] described and Rugby’s I’ll have to tell you about — a real classic.