Monday, September 26, 2016

limestone country - unionville & the real jimmy chitwood

We all know that the film Hoosiers was loosely based on the 1954 Milan Indians, right?  Well, not so fast.  In the old Unionville School, former home of the Arrows, hangs an aging, but well preserved color photo of the 1966 Sectional Champs - a team that also won the prestigious Wabash Valley Tourney (a 64 team tourney that took place from 1916-1972). That '66 Arrows squad boasted a record of 26-2 and averaged 87.5 points per game (while holding their opponents to 63), but the game that they are best remembered for is the Sectional Final when they defeated Bloomington High 69-68 on a last second shot by Lynn Stevens.  Stevens, now a local barber, remembered that shot in a story done by the Bloomington Herald-Times, "there were seven seconds left when I got the ball.  I thought, I've got to shoot the darned thing, time is running out."  When his defender backed off Stevens took the shot with three seconds left. Nothing but net and the game was over.  A great David vs. Goliath win for Unionville but that's just the beginning of the story.  In the crowd that night was a young basketball player from University High School named Angelo Pizzo (the screenwriter & producer of Hoosiers) who had come to watch his friend Bobby Kent try to upset the hated Panthers of Bloomington. Also on the Unionville team, scoring leader Dan Chitwood.  Well, you can draw your own conclusions here but I have to admit when you tell a tale of an upset victory by a small school in a championship game, won on a last second shot, and throw in a teammate named Chitwood it sounds very much like a film we are all familiar with. CGS.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

chasing James Dean

The Fairmount News headline could have read, "Jimmy Dean, starting guard for the Quakers, scored 40 points in upset wins over Van Buren & Mississinewa before falling to host Marion in the 1949 Sectionals."  Instead it said, "James Dean killed as result of California car crash" and later, "Fairmount buries James Dean's body."  Dean's meteoric rise to stardom and icon status was a few years away when Jimmy called the Winslow farm & Fairmount High his home. Although a good student and athlete, it was acting that would shape his future and take him to Hollywood & New York. In 1955 while living in LA (after filming East of Eden) Dean met another young man on the rise, photographer Dennis Stock.  Shortly after their initial meeting (& Stock's screening of East of Eden) Stock proposed a photo essay about the up & coming actor to Life Magazine that he believed would further both their careers.  The story would eventually follow Dean from LA to New York and, what would prove to be his last trip home, to Indiana.  Although Stock hoped the story would generate more assignment work (which it did) I'm not sure he realized that he was creating iconic images that would outlive both men (as seen below - James standing at the front drive of the Winslow farm, Dean & cousin Markie shooting hoops in the barn and Dean in front of a family grave in the same cemetery where he would be buried).  Fairmount has not changed much since Dean was a boy - the farm is still owned by Marcus Winslow (Dean's young cousin) and the hoop where he practiced still hangs in the barn.  And in the upstairs bedroom that once belonged to Jimmy Dean one can still imagine a young ball player looking forward to a bright future beyond the cornfields of Indiana.  CGS. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

limestone country - slipping away

Smithville, home of the Skibos - consolidated, then closed and now training young baseball players.  Springville, on the other hand, destroyed by fire a week before we arrived.  CGS.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

limestone country - preservation

It's one thing to save old trophies or letter jackets, it's quite another thing to try and save an old gym.  But, that's exactly what Heltonville's Mike Swango is attempting to do.  After purchasing the former high school & elementary for a small sum, Swango has invested more funds & time than he can count in restoring and maintaining the former home of the Blue Jackets and Indiana All-Star Damon Bailey.  Historic preservation comes in many forms but if you're adding sites to Indiana's list, you can ink in the name of Heltonville.  CGS.

Friday, September 2, 2016

limestone country - the trail leads to oolitic

In the planning stages of our limestone country tour we identified a number of old gyms we wanted to photograph & on that list was Heltonville, Shawswick and Oolitic.  Although we didn't realize it at the time (any Hoosier basketball historian surely would have), we were following the trail of Damon Bailey.  Heltonville, where Damon grew up & where he held early morning practice sessions in the old gym, has memorialized Bailey & his legacy in limestone steps away from the former school.  Coming or going, visitors are sure to understand Bailey's importance to the town.  Heading south & west from Heltonville we arrived at the next stop on the Damon Bailey trail - the Shawswick Middle/Elementary School.  Formerly a high school, Shawswick is the site of Damon's now famous 8th grade recruiting encounter with IU coach Bob Knight - a tale immortalized by writer John Feinstein in his book, A Season on the Brink.  After Shawswick the trail led us to Oolitic & the home court of Damon's high school coach, Hall of Famer Danny Bush.  An all-star player in his own right, Bush led his Oolitic Bearcats to back to back Sectional crowns in 1967 & 1968, scoring more than 1400 points in his high school career.  He would go on to become a 3-year starter for Indiana State and an Academic All-American.  In 1990 Bailey & Bush came to the end of their own shared trail in front of 41,000 fans - reaching their ultimate goal, the Indiana Boys Basketball State Championship.  CGS.