A Mother Still Honored

This Democrat column was written in 2009 after i learned my mother was one of the first inductees into the Lebanon High School Athletic Hall of Fame. i remain amazed at how this pint sized woman could so dominate a basketball court, albeit only one third of a basketball court. Back in 1935, when colleges didn’t have women’s basketball, let alone scholarships, the Nashville Business College sponsored an AAU women’s team. They recruited Estelle. She was tempted but then decided she didn’t want to spend her young life away from Lebanon for other girls had their eye on Jimmy Jewell. She was afraid she might lose him. Obviously, i am glad because had she decided to hit the basketball road, i might not have ever been.  A few recent events brought back my memories of her accomplishments on the hardwood (Jack Case, “hardwood” is for you).

SAN DIEGO, CA – Last Monday, Ms Denise Joyner, the Lebanon High School Athletic Director called and announced Estelle Prichard Jewell had been selected as an inaugural member of the Blue Devil Athletic Hall of Fame.

Estelle Jewell is my mother.

About a year ago, J.B. Leftwich, a weekly columnist here, a close family friend, and my mentor in journalism (which I have noted frequently), wrote a tribute to Estelle and suggested she might have been the best women’s basketball player in the history of Blue Devil Sports. For her size, his suggestion just might be a slam dunk.

From 1935 “Souvenir,” the Lebanon (TN) High School Annual. It was enlarged and framed by my father when Mother was selected to be in the initial inductees in the Blue Devil Hall of Fame.

In a 1935 district tournament semi-final, Estelle scored 33 points for the Blue Devilettes girls basketball team and was named to the all-tournament team. For the 1934-35 season, she scored 283 points in 19-games. This was during an era when most games were low-scoring affairs, rarely exceeding 30 points total. Her single game and season scoring records stood for a quarter of a century.

She will be inducted during a half time ceremony during LHS basketball games, December 14

I am elated. LHS’ Hall of Fame is honoring her just after she turned 90 in July.

I am anxious to learn of other inductees. Clifton Tribble, Don Franklin, David Robinson, Ann Lucas. Louis Thompson, David Grandstaff, Hal Greer, and many others immediately come to mind as probable selections. It bemuses me to think of my mother standing next to these heroes of mine and receiving her plaque.

Estelle Jewell today does not come across as a hall of fame athlete. Being 90 certainly belies her earlier skills. She also tops out at five feet tall. I saw her take a shot once. It was a two-handed push. She jumped and spread her legs when she shot. From fifteen feet, it hit nothing but net. I don’t think she could do that now.

In reflection, she laughs about her play. “I got 33 in the semi-finals,” she says, “but I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn the next night, and we lost.” I have never heard her brag about her accomplishments.

In her recollection of a game at Mount Juliet, she recalled how she would try not to drive for a lay-up on one end of the court because she might run into the Ben Franklin stove underneath the basket. The stove heated the entire gym.

Not considering the stove, it was a different game then with three zones with two guards on the defensive end, two forwards on the offensive end, and two centers in the middle who passed the ball from defense to offense. One dribble was all that was allowed.

Still, Estelle’s accomplishments remain exceptional.

Her shooting skills were probably enhanced by chores. Her grandfather, Joseph Webster, the retired Methodist circuit rider, would give her a penny for each fly she swatted and killed inside the farmhouse on Hunter’s Point Pike.

Her endurance and strength were likely abetted by other chores she and her two sisters and brother undertook while her mother was a care-giver, working day and night (Her father, Joe Blythe Prichard, died young and the family lived with their grandfather).

When her hall of fame career in sports was concluded, Estelle quickly put it aside and went to work. She learned secretarial skills at the County Court Clerk’s office in the old courthouse on the square. She worked for the Commerce Union Bank on the north side of the corner of the square and East Main Street. She married my father, Jimmy Jewell, in 1938, three years after she had graduated from LHS.

She is a reflection of all of the women of that generation whom I have known: practically feminine with a firm grasp of reality; frugal but willing to lavish gifts and love on her family and friends. She is a product of hard times (the depression), frightening times of sacrifice and victory (World War II), security produced by hard and loyal work, and change without end. They are strong, balanced, and loving women.

But every once in a while, basketball will come up in a conversation, and you can still see the sparkle in Estelle’s eyes.

When I called my mother for congratulations, her and my father’s excitement made it an unforgettable phone call. She was thrilled. The news was something to feel good about.

Thank you, Blue Devils for proving in a good place like Lebanon, good things do happen, especially for those who wait.

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