Reminiscing 1947, Part 1

1947 Basketball Celebration Bonfire Submitted

Part I of II

Have you ever noticed how some years acquire special names? For example, 2019 will for a long time be known as “2019 — the year of the Pendleton tornado.” Or 2020 would be “2020 — the year of the Pendleton Bicentennial,” commemorating the 200th settling of this community.

Except that is not what 2020 will be known for.

The Bicentennial has completely gone by the wayside, and 2020 is the year of the global coronavirus pandemic.

At this point, we need something to cheer about, so look back with me to 1947 — the year Pendleton High School’s boys basketball team went to an Indiana High School Athletic Association semistate competition.

There was a lot of cheering going on from mid-January into March, and not by just the PHS student body.

This became a community-wide time of excitement and exuberance.

Consider that was the era of non-class athletics. Small schools competed with the large, regardless of size or the pool of talent available.
Next to rivalry with Lapel and Markleville, the PHS student most disliked the Anderson Indians, who were the state champions in 1946.
But “Jumpin” Johnny Wilson had graduated.
And so, after a so-so season — six wins and five losses (but with a five-game win streak) — the PHS Irish went to the Wigwam late in season play and defeated the Anderson Indians 38-36.
This was the beginning. It had happened so seldom that every store in town spent the next week painting and decorating in green and gold because everyone knew we would face Anderson again in the IHSAA Sectional.
Immediately after the winning-season game, a large crowd gathered at the intersection of State Street and Pendleton Avenue, a huge bonfire was set right in the middle of the street, the team was driven in on a fire truck, and the spectators went wild.
Consider this, in this day when athletes tower over us at 7 feet or so: The average height of these 10 boys was 5’8”.
Player Jim Schug was about 6 feet and eventually made it to 6’1”.
We used to joke fellow player Jack Crosley could dribble underneath his opponent’s outstretched arms, shoot and hit the basket.
All 10 of the teammates could hit baskets, and they could run. Pete Clendenen was basketball-savvy, but the rest of the team didn’t always know what he was doing, but it was usually successful.
One of five juniors on the team, Dick Goff, was captain, and at that time, team captains could call time-outs, not depending on the coach on the bench.
Goff must have had a time holding together the varying personalities of this group of boys. But they were first, a team. They included guards Bob Brandenburg, Pete Clendenen, Dick Goff, Gene Crosley and forwards Darrel Maitlen, Alvin McCarty, Jack Crosley and center and forward Barney Harvey and center Jim Schug.
Dick Goff and Jack Crosley are the only two still living today.
At the sectional game in the Wigwam a week later, the Irish had a great first half, but the Indians came roaring back in the fourth quarter.
However, PHS ended the game victors by a 43-39 margin. Again, a bonfire in the center of town found a dense crowd thrilled with the team’s success and realizing we would be headed to Butler Fieldhouse in Indianapolis the next week for regional competitions.
At the regional, PHS defeated Clayton and Southport, and it was on to semistate.

Nancy Wynant is a former member of the Pendleton Historical Museum board.