Last week we explored the possibilities of kite flying during March; this week I feel we should touch on another important activity in the third month: survival.
March may be associated with the end of winter, but it can be as fickle as February when it comes to the weather.
It’s not beyond the realm of possibility to be raking one’s lawn in shirtsleeves Wednesday and scooping out after a blizzard Friday. It’s just part of the game we play in Iowa.
What’s really tough is being a parent this time of year. How do you send your kids to school? Should he be bundled up in his warmest snow gear or should she be wearing her new spring outfit? Best wait until morning to make that decision and then keep your fingers crossed.
It’s not easy for the kids either. Do they wear boots or sneakers to school? Are they going to be throwing snowballs or a baseball that afternoon? Only time will tell.
I remember those days only too well. Because both the boys’ and girls’ state tournaments took place during March, kids couldn’t get enough of basketball. Our group was constantly on the lookout for a place to practice. That wasn’t easy.
About the only “outside court” in Slater in 1954 was the cement drive and double garage at the home owned and occupied by Doctor George Severson and family. The number of make-up scrimmages and “horse games” played there between 1950 and 1957 could never be estimated, but I’m sure it would be astronomical.
The challenge of dribbling a ball on the well-used and severely scarred cement of Severson’s drive was tough under the best of circumstances, but add a few inches of snow and it was next to impossible.
This necessitated the need for indoor facilities. As the number of indoor gymnasiums was the same as outdoor courts (namely one); getting to use it required some real planning.
That gym, of course, was located in the high school building and saw lots of action during the week, being the scene of everything from band practice to physical education to basketball games to community dinners.
But Saturdays were different. No one was at school except the custodian, Rudy Anderson. Rudy could always be found cleaning the school rooms on Saturday mornings. With a lot of smooth talking, he could be persuaded into letting a few aspiring basketball players shoot some hoops while he went about his duties.
Getting the gym wasn’t the only problem - finding a suitable basketball was a challenge. Rudy wouldn’t allow a ball scuffed from hours of outside activity to be used on his clean, well-polished gym floor, so it became necessary to find a good one.
This is where a little planning was necessary. The school gym wasn’t very big, but it did have a balcony where a ball could easily be stashed. Usually the balcony was never checked by teachers so, during physical education, I would “accidentally” arch a errant jump shot into the balcony. Slick would then volunteer to retrieve it. Without the teacher’s knowledge, he would carry another ball up with him and then toss it down while stashing the other ball behind the balcony’s bleachers. Usually it would still be there Saturday morning.
Another good place to hide a basketball was in the cold air ducts in the inner walls of the building. The ducts were just like skinny passageways built right into the walls. It was too difficult for a teacher to climb up and look in them, so they naturally became ideal spots to hide all sorts of things.
After awhile, some of our teachers got wise to us. They would take a ball count at the end of class. For some reason, if any balls turned up missing, they would send Slick or me after them. We’d either have to produce the ball immediately or be late for lunch that day.
This put a real cramp in our Saturday basketball activities because we would then have to substitute a volleyball for the basketball. (No one played volleyball by choice back in those days.)
(Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He lives near Cambridge.)