I learned to swim as nearly all boys did when I was young, in the swimming hole in the creek by throwing my clothes on the bushes nearby and wading in until the water was up to my waist, then paddling dog fashion until I learned to stay afloat. With practice, of course, my technique improved but the swimming hole, which was only about 15 feet wide and 20 long and had a bottom of oozy mud, was not an ideal spot for water sports. A group of boys would stir up the mud so anyone a half inch under water was invisible. Another disadvantage was that we had to keep watch to make certain that a bunch of tough kids from Dixie didn't come along and tie hard knots in our stockings and shirt sleeves.
After our house burned and the Neeleys bought the ground it had stood on and turned it into lawn the terrain was our favorite spot for playing games after school and on Saturdays and Sundays. Corydon and Arthur owned a croquet set which they kept in the old wooden shed which had formerly been our woodshed. The wickets were generally left in place on the lawn but Dr. Neeley insisted that we change their position from time to time to prevent wearing paths in the grass. When we tired of croquet we played a game we called "tick" in the street. We didn't need fancy equipment to enjoy ourselves. The tick ball consisted of a cloth tobacco bag (they were plentiful then as there were no packaged cigarettes; cigarette smokers rolled their own) which we stuffed full of grass. We used our hands or a shingle for a bat. We played the game like baseball except that we put the runner "out" when we hit him with the tick bag before he could reach base.
The first regular baseball team I played on was a team outfitted by the Rexall Drug Company which bought baseball suits, blue with the word Rexall across the chest, a catcher's mitt and mask and two or three bats and also hired a ten seat carriage pulled by two horses for transportation to out of town games. Russell Moran and I were in the ninth grade but the other players were between 17 and 25 years old. Russell and I thought we were half way to the big leagues when we were asked to play with all of those big guys.
After the new Church of Christ was built the old wooden one next to it where I first went to Sunday school was converted into an armory and basketball court. Paulding High School had no gym and I don't believe there was a high school basketball team until the church became available for a playing floor. The old church was only a half block from the Lowenthal house and Raymond, Russell and I took to going there after school to watch basketball practice. We also went in the evening on drill nights to watch Company B of the Ohio National Guard go thru their marching and drill with their rifles. I became as eager to become a basketball player as I had previously to play baseball.
As soon as I reached the ninth grade I tried out for the basketball team. I had taken a sudden spurt in growth and was taller than the other boys my age and I had good muscular coordination tho I wasn't very strong. Bill Manahan was the coach and by this time the new armory for the Ohio National Guard had been built on Main Street on the east side of the square. That was where we practiced after school and where our games were played. It was also used for dances and for that purpose it was given a coat of wax which made the floor so slippery it was like trying to play on a sheet of ice. Basketball became more popular as a spectator sport and many of the old timers saw their first basketball games. They were scandalized because they thought the boys were playing in their underwear. When the first out of town game took place in Bryan, Ohio, the next county north, only seven boys made the trip, five players and two substitutes. Marion Poorman and I were the subs. Marion was an unusual athlete and after graduating from high school he played with a minor league baseball team. We went to Bryan on the CN train, spending the night at the home of one of the Bryan players, returning to Paulding on Saturday morning. We lost the game.
In 1914 I was a sophomore and thought I had a pretty good chance to become the regular center on the team but it was soon evident that a big, strong country boy was developing into a top-notch player and I began to have doubts. Then I began working Saturdays at the Moore and Bashore grocery, making it impossible for me to play in out of town games, so I dropped out of competition for the basketball team.
My sister Evalyn played basketball on the girl's team. The girls wore middy blouses, black bloomers and long black stockings. Exposing their legs would have horrified the town. Brooks was a good basketball player and was captain of the team in both his junior and senior years. He coached the basketball team after he started teaching in high school.
Basketball had been the only organized team sport in Paulding high until 1914. In the fall of that year, Bill Manahan, who had played football when was in college in Bowling Green, Ohio, persuaded the school board to buy the necessary equipment so that Paulding could have a football team. Manahan was made coach. I went out for the team, playing right end. I was too lightweight to make a good football player tho I was the fastest runner on the team and I proved by winning a race from one end of the field to the other on the first day of practice. It didn't take me long to discover that I was going to be sadly handicapped as a football player. I couldn't add figures in my head fast enough. In 1914 the huddle, in which the players gather around the quarterback before a play to find out what the next play is to be had not come into use. Instead, the two teams lined up with the center holding the ball on the ground ready to snap it back and the quarterback crouched behind him and called off a series of numbers in a code. For example the fourth and fifth numbers would add up to the number of the play. Now I could add well enough, but when I was learning to add in the first grade I had started using what I called a crutch; instead of memorizing the addition tables I had made dots on paper then counted the dots. None of my teaches had caught on the fact that I was using a crutch. As a consequence when a play was called I never know what I was supposed to do when Paulding had the ball. I learned my multiplication tables with no trouble but I am still slow at addition.
Our first game of the season was against a small town northwest of Paulding, Stryker, which had had a football team for several years. They beat us 67 to nothing. Paulding people were used to baseball scores, not those of a game where a touchdown counts 6, 7 with the point after touchdown, and we really got a ribbing the next day. The second game was with Van Wert, a much larger school, and we only got beat 33 to 0. Manahan used me only on defense and toward the end of the game, when Van Wert was only a few feet from making another touchdown I blocked a pass from the quarterback, scooped it up and ran it back for what I thought was a touchdown. Unfortunately someone was offside on the play and the play was called back. I was working the next year and didn't go out for football.
I played first base on the high school baseball team, which Manahan also coached. Russell Moran was catcher and a good one. I was occasionally called on to pitch when Marion Poorman would tire but all I had was a fast ball and throwing it tired me out too fast and I would start throwing inaccurately. I was as crazy about baseball as all the other kids were and knew the names of all of the important major league players of the day, Ty Cobb of Detroit, Honus Wagner of Pittsburgh, Christy Mathewson of Washington and, of course Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees. One Forth of July, Rusty Northrup and I (Rusty was the fullback on our football team) took an excursion train to Cleveland on the Nickle Plate to see Babe Ruth play. I was much impressed by the way he caught long hits into his territory in center field, and with no loss of time or motion sent the ball back so as to reach the catcher on the first bounce, the quickest way to get it there. He didn't hit a home run that day; he struck out once, hit pop flies the other times he was at bat, but the stands quieted down and everybody was expectant when he was in the batter's box.
Last modified on 21 June 2009 @ 12:59