This story has been corrected HERE.
I have mentioned before that my mother always considered her Aunt Velma and Uncle Woody to be “the fun ones” in the family. Looking through Velma’s scrapbook, I can see why she thought so. Pictures of Velma’s college friends reveal a bunch of fun-loving young women who enjoyed making funny faces and striking dramatic poses for the camera.
|The caption reads|
Velma was also on the basketball team at Harrisonburg Teachers College, now James Madison University, located in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Velma is the third girl kneeling on the front row.
The picture is in terrible condition, but at least the important parts survived thanks to Velma’s heavy hand with the glue back in the early 1920s.
Since I only knew Velma when she was in her 50s-60s, I was unaware of her athletic past until I inherited her scrapbook. As a result, I was at a loss for a story to tell when planning this blog post until I remembered that I also have Velma’s 1926 college yearbook, called "The Schoolma’am." Maybe I could find a story there.
I looked at the class sections and found Velma with the sophomores. Beside the students’ pictures was a list of their activities along with a character quote. Velma was a member of the Athletic Association and the YWCA. Her quote: “A jolly good sport in rain and sun.”
At the back of the yearbook is the last issue of The Breeze, the campus newspaper, which summarized highlights of the year. The classes were pitted against one another in a basketball tournament. On Oct 24, 1925, the Freshmen beat the Juniors 43-13 (ouch!). A week later, the Sophomores beat the Seniors 40-12 (double ouch!). On November 14, 1925, Velma’s class, the Sophomores, won the championship defeating the Freshmen 21-18, definitely a more exciting game.
But what’s up with these low scores? Were the rules different? Were girls just not very competent at dribbling and shooting? The Breeze gave a recap of the basketball games that year. While Velma’s team won many of the games, the scores were still low:
· Jan 8, 1926 – HTC vs Bridgewater 36-26 (win)
· Jan 16, 1926 – HTC vs Bridgewater 30-12 (win) This game was described as the “fastest, peppiest game” of the season. Whew! Somebody, hand me a towel.
· Jan 30, 1926 – HTC vs Roanoke YWCA 37-9 (win)
· Feb 6, 1926 – HTC vs Fredericksburg (now University of Mary Washington) 41-18 (win)
· Feb 13, 1926 – HTC vs Radford 34-16 (loss)
· Feb 19, 1926 – HTC vs Radford 24-23 (loss) Two of the “Purple and Gold basketeers” (love these sportin’ terms) “ran up the score in the last quarter with ten free shots.” Now that’s a lot of violations, Ladies!
· Feb 25, 1926 – HTC vs Farmville (now Longwood University) 15-9 (loss)
· Feb 27, 1926 – HTC vs William & Mary 28-23 (loss)
· Mar 5, 1926 – HTC vs Farmville 26-21 (win)
· Mar 13, 1926 – HTC vs Fredericksburg 34-19 (loss)Maybe the scores were inevitably low because of the rules. If the colleges were still playing by the modified rules developed for women at Smith College in the 1890s, then the court was divided into three sections. In the early years, there were nine players per team with three assigned to each area (guard, center, forward). They could not play outside their area. Instead, they passed or dribbled the ball from section to section. Players were limited to three dribbles and could hold the ball for only three seconds. But I can tell from the college newspaper that the 9-player rule was no longer in effect since several articles refer to the players as the “Blue-Stone sextet.”