Monday, May 18, 2015

What Happened in that Gym, Isn't Gonna Stay in There

Our middle school gym is in the midst of a facelift. Its floor was worn out long ago, and I know our community voted for a more modern look for our school system, but that won't stop me from going down this sentimental path.

I didn't grow up in the Kansas town that's been my home for 26 years, so last week I solicited memories about this gym from my colleagues at USD 268 Cheney. Here's what I learned about the place.

A senior girl accepted a marriage proposal on the three-point line one evening. This gal is now our high school secretary, Molly McGuire Amsink, a '94 graduate. "That was 22 years ago. Still married with three children," Amsink said.

Todd Hague, now CHS activities director and a '96 graduate, told me he was attempting to make a teammate miss a free throw one time by mooning them right at the time Coach Hofer (that was me) came into the gym!

Hague also told me that “Ted Dewey and Vern Ferguson sat on the front row at center court for every basketball game.” Dewey ran the town grocery store back in the day, and Ferguson taught social studies and served as the cross country and track coach.

Hague remembered beating number one ranked Medicine Lodge his senior year and starting the Cardinal Classic pre-season tourney against Collegiate when Maurice Evans played for them. Evans went on to play in the NBA.

"There were also some pretty intense PE whiffle ball games in there. If you hit the top curtain on the stage, it was a home run," Hague said.

Ashley Oliver, CES teacher and '94 graduate, played in the pep band on the stage that used to reside on the north end, as did Ann Albers Asbury, a '91 Cardinal grad and current English teacher at the high school.

“It was really the center of the high school when I was a student; everything happened there—it was not only the gym but also the auditorium, commons, and a classroom,” Asbury said.

“I have a lot of great memories playing in the pep band, which was up on the stage that doesn't exist anymore!" Asbury played flute and recalled her fun time sitting by upperclassman Shelly Griffith who passed away several years ago. "She was such a nice person to a shy freshman," Asbury added. "We were at the end of the front row, so we were always getting hit by loose basketballs during warm-up. We didn't mind because we had a ball just looking at all the cute boys!"

Asbury said she thinks about Shelly every time she enters that gym and when the pep band plays "Sweet Caroline" because that was one of their favorite songs. “I think the fact that Shelly passed away so young makes me have such strong memories of her in the gym,” Asbury said.

I too have memories of that stage. During my first years here in the early ’90s, jr. high promotion and awards were held all in one night and in that gym. One year the event lasted from seven o'clock in the evening until past 10 pm. Toddlers were crawling in the aisles anxious to get home as all us teachers sat up on stage during the entire event.

Awards are now a separate event from eighth grade promotion and held in the mornings during the last few days of school. The stage was converted into the vocal room a year after the new high school was built.

Back then, the stage held extra fans. Debbie Disken Hillman, our high school counselor and '78 Cheney graduate, said the gym was absolutely packed—even the stage—for a Cheney vs. Garden Plain game.

The gym was also a dangerous place. I played 2-on-2 with head girls' basketball coach Jack Goss against our players Carin Wiles Crumrine and Tiffany Lowery Holmes one day after practice. Poor Carin broke her leg. I think it was her ankle, and she was out for the season.

CHS principal and 1984 graduate Greg Rosenhagen drove his head into the sidelines resulting in eight stitches during a Friday night competition.

"We had a make-up game the next night,” Rosenhagen said, “so Doc Gracey, the local vet at the time, put my stitches in that night after the game."

Quirky things happened in there too. Hillman said when her dad, Ken Disken, was head boys' basketball coach, she was cheering on the sidelines, and he got excited and threw up his arms to clap. “His watch flew off and landed at my feet. I was diagonal from the bench,” Hillman said.

Hillman had a few other memories—like the electricity going out during the 1977 graduation ceremony. And I’m sure her dad can provide some more stories too. Maybe they will share those in the comment section of this post.

Holley Masterson Rohloff, current teacher and '94 grad remembered classmate Kirsten Mize Runyan falling during prom decorating and chipping or losing some teeth. Hague remembered that too.

The floor had a crack. Melanie Tolar, former CHS girls' head basketball coach and current CES PE teacher, said, "It [the crack] was growing larger and larger until they finally did some repairs. We always wanted to trap [opponents] by the crack."

The quirks of the gym were infamous in Central Plains League. Jessa Albers, now a school nurse but once a rival Owl from Garden Plain, said, "I hated playing in that gym because of the dead spots on the floor. It was like Cheney had a sixth man on the court."

Mark Rosenhagen, current transportation director, a former Cheney teacher and a 1980 graduate, was known to sing Christmas carols in February while keeping the clock for basketball games while current English instructor Carla Simmons kept the book.

Book keeping and clock running were simple in that gym with the non-computerized system. I remember doing the spooky number activity with Lynn Thalmann, a now retired social studies teacher and former Cheney boys’ basketball coach.

If a player's number coordinated with the time or the score, "Ah, spooky number," he’d say. It was extra spooky if the team foul count matched the time in anyway too. Never a dull moment with Thalmann around. Maybe this post will find him, and he'll chime in at the comment section.

As a girls’ JV coach, I remember a Hail Mary shot by 1994 graduate Cami Sowers McAndrew. She let it fly from the hashmark on the opposite end of the court and in it went. This was right before half-time in a game I'm sure we ended up winning.

Stacy Bolinger DeVore, current teacher, former CHS volleyball coach and a 1982 grad herself, remembered playing donkey basketball in that gym. She also has a vivid memory of current faculty member, Coach Randy Weber. As girls' basketball coach, Weber grew upset about the team not being able to run a guard weave out front.

"He grabbed the ball and threw it down so hard that it hit the ceiling! It was the [maddest] I have ever seen him!" DeVore said.

Like that, PE teachers and coaches have always made an impression on youngsters. Becky Parsons Smarsh, a 1974 Cheney grad and current aide at the middle school, remembered when a young Jack Thomas, now a retired high school counselor, first came to town as the coach and PE teacher.

Seems the high school girls were infatuated with the young man until the principal directed Coach Thomas to run their tails off as discipline for being naughty in home ec class. “We didn’t quite see Mr. Thomas the same after that,” Smarsh said.

Dances, particularly the prom, weren’t always held in the middle school gym. Marilyn Smith Keller, a CES teacher and 1982 graduate, said, "We used to go out of town, but our class liked the idea of being in town and not having to travel to Wichita. The class of 1981 was not thrilled with this idea, but the tradition of prom in the gym continues today," she said. Smarsh had some prom stories too. Maybe she'll tell us more in the comment section.

This beloved small gym served as a rite of passage, and probably still will even with its soon-to-be updated d├ęcor. CES teacher Jenny Murray, mother of a current middle school student this year, summed it up.

"I will never forget peeking into the middle school gym and seeing my daughter dance at her first school dance. She didn't know I was watching...I was instantly filled with pride and sadness at how she had grown. I will never forget it."

What about your old high school gym? This post conjure up any fond memories for you? 

Didn't get to share your CMS gym memories? Comment here on the blog so we have a permanent home for your words. It will get lost on the Facebook feed and the email trail. Posting on the blog will allow people to return back to this post easily to read and reminisce for months to come.

Warning: Blogger has an issue with eating your words, so copy (ctrl-C, command-C for Mac) what is typed before hitting “post.” If it eats it, then you can paste (ctrl-V, command-V for Mac) it back into the comment box that pops up. I’m sorry, but I have no control over this issue. It also does it to the professional bloggers who use this program. There is also no need for you to fill out all the info either. Post anonymously, if you prefer, and then type your name so we know who you are so we can interact with each other.

I enjoyed putting together the tidbits that were sent to me. If someone has a longer story deserving of a separate post, contact me. Thanks for your memories, for they really are a Matter of Life and Breath.


  1. Two of my gym memories include Randy Weber. Both were when I was a freshman when he was both my PE teacher and Coach (poor guy). Kristy Hillman Needham and I were attempting to entertain ourselves during practice one night. We decided that we would attempt to shoot free throws while sitting on the free throw line. Our arms were the size of pencils, so I'm not sure how we ever dreamed the ball would ever make it to the goal. When Coach Weber noticed our shinanigans... he was less than pleased. Let's just say we never attempted seated free throws ever again.
    My other less than pleasant memory was during Freshman PE. We were playing ping pong and my partner for the day was not a ping pong player. My frustrations got the better of me and I hit the table with the paddle. Mistake. Darin Compton, was our aide and he ratted me out to Mr. Weber. The punishment for ping pong table abuse was a swat. So embarrassing. I didn't ever hit the table again either.

    Carla Holt Ewy

    1. Oh my! Swats! Our kids today would be mortified. Apparently, you were too. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Yeah. I was on the drill team ... so performing at the pep rallies always comes to mind. That was a blast. :)

  3. I remember at a boys basketball game all the sudden feeling like death. I had a high fever. Went home and then to the ER that next morning and found out my appendix had burst.
    Pep band was a memory as well with Mr. Mareda. Loved him!!
    Did plays in there as well with Mrs. Simmons.
    My daughters both loved going to middle school dances when they were in grade school. I now have one that attended all three of her MS dances there and moving on to be a Freshman.

    1. Mareda cracked me up. He was the best! Were you, Jessie, in the play where something fell that wasn't supposed to fall? I can't remember the name the production.