Hancock County Hardwood Tidbits - April 2015


Usually I write a lot of information about one subject. In this addition I'm going to write a little information about a lot of subjects.

It's March in Indiana and if you don't know what that means then your either not from Indiana or you've been living under a rock. March in Indiana means basketball whether you like it or not. Basketball is my favorite sport and as a history buff one of my favorite things to research and study is the history of basketball. I've read every book possible, and there are many, about basketball in Indiana. Many, many years ago I began a personal trek of reading, learning and compiling history of basketball in Hancock County. I've written previous articles about the history of the sport and I would encourage you to read those as well.

There are so many stories that one can tell. But we're going to look at some interesting information that all though they are short they are important and interesting.

I've combed through every page of every year of the Greenfield Reporter and Hancock Democrat newspaper documenting the sport. The very first article that I found that mentions the sport of basketball in our local newspapers came on March 28, 1910. And interestingly enough it was about a female! The title was "Coaches Her Team To Happy Victory". The article was about one of Greenfield most famous women, Nellie Baldwin. We'll save the history of Miss Baldwin for another article, but at this time she was teaching Latin and botany at North Vernon High School. She was also the coach of the girl's basketball team. The article discusses her teams 13-9 win over Aurora.

The first article that talks about a basketball team from Hancock County came in the December 2, 1911 issue of the Hancock Democrat. In announces a team that is being formed in Fortville. Players on that team were Carl Haskell and Lon Brizendine, forwards; Ray Irwin, center; John Jareet and Rex Wiseheart, guards, and Ollie Marshall, utility. J.M Hardin was president; F.E. Wright, secretary and treasurer, and Harry Kinnaman team manager.

In the early beginning of the sport and through the 1940's there were numerous articles of games being cancelled due to influenza outbreaks. Now that may seem a little odd by today's standards but during this time flu outbreaks could be deadly and people had to be quarantine. Today when someone is sick it's just that individual player that would miss a game but back then they cancelled entire games and closed entire schools. Luckily today we have shots and other medicine that helps prevent these mass cancellations but reading these articles give you an insight on just how serious this was at that time.

When the sport of basketball began to spread in popularity not all teams were formed in the local high schools. It took many years before the sport became organized at the high school level. So teams in the area comprised of whom ever was willing and interested in playing. Most teams ranged in various ages. Almost all local organization like the Moose, Elks had independent teams. Other teams were the Greenfield Merchants, Greenfield Wildcats in 1928, Tailholt Gang in 1935-36, Eli Lilly, Petroleum White Oilers; 1926-31, Brandywine Independents; 1940.

The Eli Lilly formed their team consisting of employees. The members of their teams were; Ralph Pope and Dale Beagle of Greenfield, Robert Jeffery and John McCain of Franklin, Jesse and Virgil Thomas of Westland, Max Keller of Linton, Floyd Smith of Maxwell, Charles Swain and Bard Logan of New Palestine.

The Petroleum White Oilers was a team organized by Herbert White, who started the White Petroleum Company, Inc. In 1916. He sponsored an independent basketball team from 1926 to 1931. In 1931 his team played Bedford in the Independent League State Finals which was held in Noblesville. Some team members were: Horace Harlan, Dale Johns, Harold Condo, Wesley Simmons, Steve Harlan, Ted Rozzell, Howard Harlan, William Earl Record, Arlie Reger, Fred Smith and Mr. Ensinger. Herb died unexpectantly in 1934 at the at the age of 48. His son Keith took over the family business.

The Brandywine Independents were a team consisting of players from the New Palestine and Sugar Creek Township area.

So have you heard of these independent teams or others?

Newspaper coverage of local high school games were not heavily covered in the early days. They really didn't start consistently covering games until the 1950's. But one thing they did do was have sport articles that would have short highlights of various sports activities. I found the names of these articles more interesting than some of the information itself. Basketball Dribbles started in 1925 in the Daily Reporter and ran for several years. Short Pants Sallies ran in the Hancock Democrat ran for several years starting in 1926. Dribbles and Shots ran in the Daily Reporter in 1927 and 1928. Basketball Shots, written by Lena M. Collingwood, ran in the Daily Reporter in 1933. Sport Slants ran in the Daily Reporter from 1939 and 1940. In 1940-41 it was Short Shots. Under the Basket, written by Duane Hiday, ran in the Fortville Tribute for several years starting in 1940. The longest standing was Phoul Line Philosophy written by Noble Troy. It began in 1926 and ran through 1944.

Would you believe that a location of a school building would be disputed because it was to close to a breeding barn? Well it was. In 1914, the location for a new Maxwell school building was denied because it fell only 200 yards from a breeding barn and a county ordinance at the time stated that a school structure could not be located within 500 yards of a railroad or breeding barn. Now I know this doesn't have much to do with basketball but I've always lumped school news with sports and......well it's just interesting history!

Basketball when it was invented by Dr. James Naismith in 1891. Dr. Naismith created only 13 rules. Today you have to have an entire book dedicated to the rules. Can you imagine only having 13 rules? I've always enjoyed the evolution of rules within the sport. Remember the days that you had a jump ball after every made basket? Well I can't either but up until 1936 you had to have a jump ball after every made basket. Talk about slow. Also up until 1896 you couldn't dribble the basketball. The only way a player could advance the ball was by passing or shooting. Up until 1948 a coach could not speak to his players during a time out. The nets or baskets that were used weren't allowed to be open on the bottom until 1913.


Have you ever heard of the 'Dope Bucket'? The Dope Bucket was the name of the traveling trophy, which was similar to what the Oaken Bucket would be for the Purdue vs. IU football serious. A Daily Reporter article from October 30, 1933 gave a complete history of the bucket.

The bucket began in 1930-31 season. The bucket was made of Oak and had a beautiful finish. It stood 18" in height. It was supplied by Roy Pickett of Pickett Hardware.

The article stated that it was the property of the Hancock County Athletic Association and was approved by the State Athletic Director, Jim Trester.

It started the season with a drawing a name out of the hat from the county teams participating in the first regular season game of the year. That team carries the bucket until they are defeated by another county school. Each time a new team has the bucket their schools name is inscribed on a link. It continues throughout the season and stops at the last regular season game before Sectionals.

Unfortunately my research never uncovered exactly when the passing of the bucket stopped. At the time the bucket began there were ten high schools in the county.

The county tournament started in 1919-20 season it was played continuously until 1966-67 at which that time it was cancelled due to consolidation and schools playing in other tournament. It started up again for the 2003-04 season. It was played until 2012,when the ISAA changed how many games a team can play in a season and the county schools looked to other tournament.

The first County Tourney was held at the Fortville Opera House. Teams that participated were Fortville, Charlottesville, Mt. Comfort, Westland, Maxwell, McCordsville, New Palestine, Wilkinson, Eden and Greenfield. Fortville defeated Greenfield 34-4 to win the title. If anyone knows of the Fortville Opera house I would love to have information on that structure.

A Reporter article from the 1931-32 tournament reported the profits made from the tournament. The profits would be divided by the each of the participating schools. For the 1931-32 tourney each team took home $77, which was quit a sum for that time. Buy the 1938 tourney each team took home $114.
The last county tourney held in 2011-12 was won by New Palestine. They defeated Mt. Vernon 61-55.
Now you might find it funny that a basketball game took place in an Opera House, but you have to remember that few gymnasiums were thought of or constructed at that time. Teams had to use whatever available building with a large space in it. C. Bert Orr's grocery store on Main Street in Greenfield was one location. So was the Hinchman Building on Main Street in Greenfield. Church rooms were also popular. Sometimes outdoor locations were used. The old Tennis grounds in Greenfield was one place.

Victor Stoner, a 1908 graduate of Mt. Comfort High School, wrote a brief history of Mt. Comfort High School for the alumni association. In his writings he describes the schools first basketball courts was across the road from the school building in a field owned by Columbus Eastes. They used utility poles with backboards and iron hoops. When it got to cold to go outside they cleared out a second floor class room for practice.

The old Greenfield Armory building, built in 1913 was used. The Greenfield Tabernacle building could be considered the first true gymnasium was built in 1914. It stood where the Memorial Building stands today. It could seat 700 spectators at first and was added onto over the years to increase the size to 1,000.

In 1918 the Red Men's Lodge moved out of the 2nd floor of the J.L. Justice General Store building in Wilkinson. This allowed the highs school boys to hold practices and games. Access to the hall was by the wooden stair case. Spectators stood around the walls. At times the vibrations set up by the bouncing balls and moving players caused the plaster to drop and merchandise to fall from the shelves of the store below. Basketball was played there until the new school was built in 1922.

Maxwell High School was the first school to construct a "gymnasium" in 1919. It worked for a short while but it was not equipped with bleaches and was only half the regulation size. No games were ever held there. Maxwell would hold their homes games at the Memorial Building in Greenfield.

A 1929 Reporter article listed the enrollments of each of the schools. Westland 66, Wilkinson 115, Mt. Comfort 68, Maxwell 81, Eden 34, New Palestine 106, Fortville 133, McCordsville 41 and Charlottesville 77. Those numbers are for total students boys and girls. Not sure why Greenfield wasn't listed.

As the sport developed at the high school leveled the state tournament was broken into sectionals, regionals, semi-state and state rounds. Prior to the state having an all-comers organized tournament schools in our area played in the Sixth District Tournament. The first year that a county school played in the tourney was in 1914-15 season when Greenfield participated. Hartford won the tourney that season.

As the state tourney became more organized the Sixth District tourney still continued. My research didn't uncover exactly what year the tourney began or the last year it was played but Greenfield participated in the tourney from 1914-15 to 1933-34. Greenfield won the tournament in 1926-27. They were runner-ups in 1926 and 1929.

Do you know what a hack is? Well a hack is basically a name for a bus. I've always found it interesting how teams would travel to away games. With the lack of proper transportation and the lack of proper roads. So the next time you get on a school bus your also getting on a "hack".


Coaches back in the day had a lot of work to do. I found it interesting when you look through old yearbooks that the basketball coach would also coach football, baseball or track. They coached all the schools sports. They didn't really have Athletic Directors back then either but the coach would also act as the AD by scheduling games and tending to the purchase of uniforms or team needs. Oh and most of them were also the schools principle or at least taught a subject at the school. Can you imagine being the schools principle, Athletic Director and coach of every sport your school played? You won't find that in today's schools.

Well these short stories can go on forever. I found these interesting. It helps us gather an insight of our ever changing times. Maybe in the future we'll dive a little deeper into some of these subjects.


Greg Roland

More Greenfield History

City Phone Directory

Mayor's Office - 317-477-4300
Clerk Treasurer - 317-477-4310
Utility Billing - 317-477-4330
Planning (Permits) - 317-477-4320
Street Department - 317-477-4380
Power and Light - 317-477-4370
Wastewater Department - 317-477-4360
Park Cemetery - 317-477-4387
Pothole Hotline - 317-325-1680
Parks and Recreation - 317-477-4340
Water Department - 317-477-4350
Animal Management - 317-477-4367