With Black Hills trip came adventure, gasps for airThe day after Thanksgiving in 1960, I boarded a school bus with the rest of the Chamberlain Cubs varsity basketball team and traveled to Deadwood for two evenings of hoops. That may seem commonplace these days, but taking a school road trip on a holiday weekend was a very big deal half a century ago.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
The day after Thanksgiving in 1960, I boarded a school bus with the rest of the Chamberlain Cubs varsity basketball team and traveled to Deadwood for two evenings of hoops.
That may seem commonplace these days, but taking a school road trip on a holiday weekend was a very big deal half a century ago. Think of it. We were out of school, no classes, the day after a major family holiday, and the basketball team was on its way to the Black Hills. What’s more, we weren’t coming home that night. We were staying overnight in a fancy hotel and playing a second game on Saturday. What a sheltered world it must have been, for me to be a high-school junior and to never have gone on an overnight road trip to play basketball.
The only other time I’d been on a school-sanctioned overnight trip was the end of my freshman year, when I went to the state track meet in Watertown. Then, as on the Thanksgiving basketball trip to the hills, Doc Vance was the driver. His name was Dale, but all the older kids called him Doc behind his back, and coach or Mr. Vance to his face.
On the trip to Watertown, Doc drove his personal station-wagon, with me, shot putter Ray Chaussee, pole vaulter-high jumper Rich Henrichsen and head track coach Don Giese inside and Rich’s vaulting pole lashed to the right side of the vehicle. On the Deadwood trip, Doc drove the school bus. Who’d have thought a teacher or coach could drive a big rig like a school bus? He gunned it west along Highway 16 as if he did that sort of thing every day, and he maneuvered it through the tight streets of Deadwood as if it were a VW Beetle.
We were to play Lead the first evening, I believe, and Deadwood the next day. If I remember correctly, Mitchell made the same trip and played the two Black Hills teams, also. The next year, Lead and Deadwood made the two-day trip east. That’s the way I remember it, anyway.
What I remember most is pulling up to the Franklin Hotel on Deadwood’s main street. We hauled our bags out of the bus, climbed the stairs to the lobby and checked in. An elevator was right there handy, but Doc thought it would do us all some good to stretch our legs. We trudged up a couple of flights of stairs, made a few false turns and did a little back-tracking and finally found our rooms. Doc told us to catch a nap, and we’d have a team meal before the game.
I was sharing a room with Lee Simpson, a state rodeo qualifying bronc rider and an enthusiastic basketball player who didn’t mind at all if the game got a little rough. In all the time I knew Lee, I never saw him wear anything but snap-button western shirts. Doc told Lee he ought to get a couple of bulky sweaters, to keep the chill off his chest and fight off colds. I was wearing a thick crew-neck sweater. Doc told me to let Lee try it on. Lee couldn’t stop laughing at his image in the mirror. He told Doc he’d button his coat and wear a stocking cap.
Doc gave us a couple of hours during which we absolutely didn’t come close to napping, and then he collected us for a team meal at a café down the street. We had chicken noodle soup and a couple of crackers. Doc didn’t want is digesting a heavy meal right about tip-off.
In spite of being half-starved, we were in pretty good spirits when we walked into the gym that evening. That lasted right up until Doc told us to be aware of our conditioning, because we were at a higher altitude than we were accustomed to, and we’d probably struggle a little to breathe.
As soon as he said that, the entire basketball team started fighting for breath. I don’t think any of us drew a normal breath again until we were almost at Kadoka on the trip home.
Terry Woster’s column appears each Saturday and Wednesday in The Daily Republic.