Part II of II

In 1947, Pendleton was caught up in the hysteria of the local basketball team’s success.

The Pendleton High School boys basketball team had ended its regular season with a string of wins and defeated Clayton and Southport in the regional to advance to semistate in the non-class era.

Members of the team and certainly Coach Steidle believed later PHS was so focused on possibly facing Shelbyville at semistate that year that they didn’t think much about Lawrenceburg.

But Lawrenceburg became their undoing, 45-41.

That evening Lawrenceburg was defeated by Shelbyville, which went on to win the state championship the following week.

Their star, Bill Garrett, then played for the Indiana University Hoosiers, thus becoming the first Black basketball player in the Big Ten.

Through all this exciting period of time, the man in charge was Charles Steidle, assisted by Gail Grable.

Coach Steidle was a no-holds-barred, relentless driving force for these boys.

But they respected him, thought he was a “good buy” and for years after 1947 as many of them as could gathered at his home annually for a reunion.

Steidle had a rich coaching career at several schools from 1934-1963. The coaches had excellent assistance from the Crull brothers — Don as team manager and Carl as the statistician.

And then, of course, leading the cheers an exuberant cheerblock backed by a large contingent of equally loud townspeople were cheerleaders Judy Wills, later Judy (Kenneth) Michael, and Mary Waymire, later Mary (Jim) Schug.

Two more special events occurred for the team.

The Sunday following the semistate the team returned to Pendleton and were met at Million’s Restaurant (now the Crossings) south of town by a lengthy caravan of cars and paraded into town.

In a photo standing with the team and coaches is uniformed State Police Officer George Daughtery, whose wife Charlene just happened to be the PHS sponsor of the class of ’47.

Then, in 1997, during half-time of a varsity game, those still living from 1947 were honored by the athletic department of Pendleton Heights High School.

Many townspeople remembered, and there are still a few who do today.

Leaving the joy the Pendleton community experienced those three or four weeks in 1947, consider now the era, the culture in which the 1947 team members and the student body of PHS lived.

They needed something to cheer about then, too.

They had been depression-era babies. During their school years, the nation had been embroiled in a terrible world war. Students in the senior class in 1947 were in the sixth grade when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Now there was a “cold war.” But in a small midwestern town like Pendleton, life was very simple. In the summer, one went swimming in a pool formed in a creek in a popular park. Or you could ice skate on the pond in the park in the winter. But during the basketball season, unless you went roller skating or to a movie at the Roxy Theatre, you went to the high school gym for every home game on Friday or sometimes Saturday nights. And you were not alone. Townspeople joined students so that the south and west bleachers were nearly always full. It’s simply what we did. Visitors usually sat on the north bleachers and beneath the northeast bleachers juniors popped corn and sold it in the stands to raise money to pay for the Junior/Senior Prom.

The gym was the center building of a group of three on the PHS campus. The WPA built high school known later as the “high rise” and recently demolished, was actually not that old. Its first-year graduating class was in 1937. Ten years later, the basement area beneath the auditorium had not been developed and you could peep through and see grass and weeds growing there. North of the gym was the really old—late 1890s—red brick Gothic building where PHS students had spent their elementary years, except for the first two or three when they had classes in “Old West” located at the corner of West and Taylor street.

Football and wrestling were not offered. Basketball was king in Pendleton and actually most of Indiana. As for girls, athletics were practically non-existent. We did have GAA (Girls Athletic Association) with intermural competition—basketball on a half court basis. A team’s defense stayed on one-half of the court and the offense on the other half. (Apparently the idea was that girls would not be able to run or dribble a ball the full length of the court.)

When this pandemic is over and the Pendleton Historical Museum can again open its doors, look around and see an artifact that makes you think about your grandparents or great-grandparents, the way they lived and how that may be a part of the reason you are who you are. Nostalgia aside, history gives us a sense of being.

My favorite artifact in the Museum is the large framed photo of our 1947 team. It takes me back to a time of great joy in a community united in experiencing fun and excitement.