A glance back at the past

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By The Staff

Stories, stories and more stories. I can never get enough of hearing about people who lived through amazing times and accomplished amazing feats - "the good old days" as they're so often called.

That 10-foot jumper may have turned into a 20-footer over the years, that solo home run may have turned into a grand slam and that game-deciding touchdown pass may have stretched out by a few yards. With each tick off the clock, these stories only grow. Nonetheless, it's still great to hear from those who lived through these almost mythical times.

And if you like hearing stories too, you should have been in my shoes Saturday night.

First off, I met with the 1962 Henry County High School basketball team at Deer Camp off Drennon Road. Then, a few hours later, I was enjoying a night inside Eminence High School's cafeteria, listening to and about those inducted into the third class of the Eminence Hall of Fame. Truthfully, it was a night I didn't want to end.

Sitting on chairs in front of an old house that sits on almost 200 acres of wooded land they call Deer Camp, members of that 1962 HCHS team reminisced over 40 years ago. They talked about the thrilling one-point overtime victory over Oldham County in the opening round of the district tournament that almost ended their cinderella run, the state tournament loss to undefeated Allen County at Freedom Hall, the off-court "incidents" in high school, and what followed that remarkable 1961-62 stretch.

Had it really been that long - 46 years this upcoming season? They tell the stories like they happened yesterday. Perhaps they were stretched a bit, but the fact is that '62 team finished with a 31-4 record, won districts, was the first and only HCHS basketball team to win the 8th Region title, played a game in Freedom Hall and had numerous players go on to play college ball. The county schools consolidated that season, and the HCHS basketball team got a big boost - that's another fact.

Fast forward almost five decades, and these same players that brought cheering fans to their feet years ago were reunited once again. And hearing their stories made me want to stand up and cheer.

There was the coach, Fred Rice, who became a head coach at the age of 20 and was only 22 in 1962. Sitting on a bench at Deer Camp, he told the stories so vividly and perfectly. Across from him was George Watson, the real story teller of the group who switched between sitting and standing the whole time. He had the team laughing all those years ago, they all remembered, and he still does today.

Frank Brent, a 1963 HCHS graduate, was there, as was Earl Holmes, Tommy Bryant, Neal Stivers, Billy Wilson, George Sims and Lyndon Adams. Team manager Wayne Ethington and book keeper Lyn Powell were there, too. The only ones missing from the puzzle were Jeff Carter, Earl Wayne Lyons, Johnny Stivers, Tommy Stivers and Bobby Dean.

They are a little older now, probably not as fast or as agile. But as young boys, they sure could play some ball. They came, saw and did what others only talk about. And after they left HCHS, left their names engraved in the history books.

To cap off the night, I headed over to EHS, the rival school of Henry County, to hear some of their stories as well.

Like the Wildcats, the Warriors had some amazing stories to tell.

I can never hear enough about Vance Blade, Keith Blackburn and Harold Frazier running up and down the courts and fields, or the real old timers J.S. Robertson, Harvey Marcum and Wallace Lowrey.

There were also Daisy Stinson-Sneed, Wayne Gunnell, Don VanMeter, Gino Kirchner and Jim Willhite. These were not just some of the great athletes to pass through the school - some were inducted as honorees, distinguished educators or distinguished alumni - they were some of the great people. I got the chance to hear from the people they all touched along the way. Back then, without all the hype of professional sports and gossip magazines, heroes were in our own backyard.

So, I learned a few things Saturday night when I got the opportunity to revisit some special times in Henry County. And it came from people who walked the same streets, saw the same buildings and sit under the same trees. Those streets may have been repaved, the buildings repainted and the trees may not be full of leaves like they once were, but to everyone in the county, the 1962 HCHS basketball team and these 11 members of the Hall of Fame will be remembered. Remembered for their past achievements, remembered for taking the road less traveled, and remembered for becoming great people.

Sure, more athletes will come, more will play and more will tell stories when they are long past their prime. But for these old timers, their stories will forever live on.

Tommie Kendall can be reached at sports@hclocal.com