Historical society looks at girls’ basketball heyday

Special to The Jefferson Herald

The Greene County Historical Society is going to help fans of girls’ high school basketball here do some time travel with its program on Aug. 7 at the United Methodist Church in Grand Junction.

Alan Robinson, of Grand Junction, a member of the historical group’s board of directors and a lifelong fan, will describe what he calls “the county tournament era of girls’ basketball” in Greene County, a time he says stretched from 1922 to 1962.

The program at 1 p.m. is free and open to the public.

There’s also a lunch for $8 at noon at the church, and reservations should be made by Wednesday with the historical society’s community contacts, or by phoning 515-360-8046.

“The presentation will look at organized girls’ basketball as it developed in Greene County in the early 1920s, during a time of a lot of consolidation of country schools into schools in the towns,” said Robinson.  “This was a period of road building for both highways and rural roads in the county, which greatly enhanced travel from town to town. That helped the popularity of girls’ basketball grow during the ’30s and ’40s to where it really became a part of the Greene County culture.”

There were eight high schools in the county in the ’20s — Jefferson, Scranton, Churdan, Paton, Dana, Grand Junction, Rippey and Cooper.

There’d be county basketball tournaments for girls’ and boys’ teams, usually held at the end of the regular season — just before the sectional, district and state tournament games began. Jefferson ended its girls’ basketball program in the late ’20s, but the small schools continued the county tourneys until about 1962.

That’s when another big round of school consolidations was completed, and only three high schools were left with girls’ basketball programs — Scranton, Paton-Churdan and East Greene.

Jefferson re-started girls’ basketball later.

Robinson, who graduated from East Greene in 1973, said his interest in girls’ basketball was kindled in the late 1950s and early ’60s when Pam Slock was starring for the Grand Junction and then East Greene teams.

“She was about 5 feet 6 inches, fast and a great outside shot,” Robinson recalled. “By her senior year, she was first team All-State and she led the state in scoring.”

He was just a star-struck young fan back then, but later as an adult, there was something else Robinson began to admire about the strong girls’ basketball programs in Iowa’s high schools.

“This was a sport that was much embraced, especially in small towns and rural Iowa,” he said. “Girls’ teams were just as important or moreso in their communities as the boys’ teams.

“These were can-do girls who were growing up on farms where the girls and their mothers worked as equals to the boys and men. I find such a strain of feminism running through all this, and it carried right into the high school sports programs.”

He says the program he will present Aug. 7 “begs for a ‘Part II’ somewhere down the line.  That would be looking at the sport from 1963 until 1994, when six-on-six girls’ basketball became so popular across the state.”

Robinson went on to Drake University and then a career as a journalist, including years in New York City as a magazine editor. He is now employed at the new Cobblestone Hotel & Suites in Jefferson, where he’ll be night manager once the facility opens.

The girls’ basketball program follows a special program the historical society is presenting at 2 p.m. Sunday in the main courtroom of the Greene County courthouse.

That is “The Judges of Greene County,” with attorney David Morain, president of the local bar association, and Iowa District Court Judge William Ostlund discussing the 150 years of judicial history in the county.

Contact Us

Jefferson Bee & Herald
Address: 200 N. Wilson St.
Jefferson, IA 50129

Phone:(515) 386-4161