Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.
When I was maybe 12 years old, I was nuts about basketball. There were several hoops around town, and I would like to tell you about a few of my favorite places to play.
The place where I played most was the basket at one end of Elwood Sawyer’s tennis court, behind his house at the corner of Fourth and Cedar Streets. The court’s smooth asphalt surface made it a great place to play. In winter, Elwood kept a snow shovel in his garage so we could shovel off the snow.
Another basket not too far away was behind the house where the Rosette brothers, “Posey” and “Gus,” lived. The basket was along the alley (called Cottage Street) between Fifth and Sixth Streets, just east of Maple. There was no backboard, so the basket was mounted on the side of the barn that stood there.
This spot presented some challenges, however. For example, the short concrete drive that led to the barn was maybe an inch above the brick alley, and it was pretty easy to trip on it. Then there was the pothole near the left edge of the drive. If it had rained lately, that pothole was always full of water. If you stepped in it, you played the rest of the game with a wet foot. That was OK in the summer, but during winter that foot would get pretty cold. Nevertheless, we had some great games there.
If it was raining, we might go to the barn behind Tom Elliott’s house on West 7th Street, diagonally across from the West School Building. His dad had put up a basket in the haymow of the barn, so it was a good place to shoot some hoops on rainy days. Several of the floorboards were loose, so the ball didn’t always bounce well. But it was better than playing outside in the rain.
I had a friend named Richard Liggett. He was several years older than I was, and was working on a project for one of the school’s teachers. The teacher had given him a key ring with several keys to some school doors. One of the keys was to the high school gymnasium. Another key was to the storage area in the locker room where all the basketballs were kept.
Richard said we could use those keys on Sundays to get basketballs and shoot in the gym. Oh man, that was the best place in town to play basketball. He said we couldn’t do it on Saturdays because the janitors might see us, but they didn’t work on Sunday so we could go in and shoot a few baskets or maybe play a few games of “Horse.” We put the balls back when we finished playing, and no one ever knew that we had been there.
This worked really well for a few weeks, and we had a great time. Then the project Richard was working on ended, and he had to give up the key ring. Our Sunday basketball-playing in Marysville’s best gymnasium was over.
Then there was the Marysville Armory on East 4th Street. I had a friend and classmate named Bill Worthington. I think his dad was in charge of the armory, and they lived in an apartment in that building on the ground floor. That meant Bill had constant access to the gymnasium on the second floor. I thought he was the luckiest kid in town.
Bill could shoot baskets any time he wanted, 24 hours a day. Just think of it … he could wake up at 3 a.m. and decide to shoot some hoops. All he had to do was walk up the steps and turn on the lights. A kid just couldn’t get any luckier than that.
A lot of Bill’s friends would head to the armory when it was raining or snowing. We could choose up sides and use the full court – both baskets.
I’m sure today there are more and far better places around town for young kids to play basketball. That’s nice, of course, but no matter how great those places are, I just don’t see how the kids could have any more fun than we had on Sawyer’s tennis court, or in the alley behind the Rosette brothers’ house … in spite of that pothole full of water.
Those wishing to contact Bill Boyd can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org