i apologize for the number added to this headline. i am trying to keep track of what i have and have not posted of my Democrat columns. This one is special to me. It was a thrilling time for me. My mother was not in the greatest of health, having battled with asthma since her sixties and not walking well when we arrived at the high school. The long walk to the gym was difficult for her. We sat on the front row, across from the Blue Devilettes’ bench.
When they made the presentations, she, having played the earliest, 1932-35, was called to center court first. Randy Sallis offered to get a chair because it would be a while as they introduced each initial Hall of Fame recipients and described their feats. Estelle Jewell refused. She stood through the entire ceremony.
Perhaps that, in a small way, showed the determination and the will she had necessary to be a class athlete and a live a wonderful life.
Lebanon High School honored the initial 13 inductees into the Athletic Hall of Fame, Friday night, during the half-time of the Blue Devilettes’ 60-49 win over Warren County High School. Andy Reed covered the event well in the Saturday edition of The Democrat.
My comments are a bit more personal. You probably know my mother, Estelle Prichard Jewell, the lady in the front-page picture of Saturday’s edition, was part of the program.
My heroes of my pre-teen years, Don Franklin and Clifton Tribble were there. Most gratifyingly, I talked to Gill Robinson, who accepted the award for his late father, David Robinson, who played along side Franklin, Tribble, and Robert Dedman, also an inductee. David was not only a hero; he also was my coach at Castle Heights and reset my shoulder in place when I separated it during a practice.
My friends, Louis Thompson, and his wife, Peggy McDonald were there for Louis’ induction. I had not seen these two special people for more than 45 years.
Rita Rochelle, although she played after I had left for college, sports writing for the defunct Nashville Banner, and the Navy, started her fabulous career as a freshman when my sister, Martha Duff, was playing her senior season.
If anyone’s athletic performance at Lebanon High School accurately could be called heroic– I often guffaw when a television commentator describes a golfer’s shot as heroic – it would have to be Loharrel Stevenson. Stevenson was not only a superb high school and college athlete but also broke the color barrier for the Blue Devils while I watched Perry Wallace doing the same for Vanderbilt and the SEC, both giant steps toward impartiality.
My sister and I sat in the third row behind the inductees during the first half of the Devilette’s game. It had not changed a great deal since she played and practiced there and I played many weekend pickup games. Nostalgia was running rampant in our veins. We exchanged sports stories and recalled our mother’s retelling of some fun moments in her career and our recollection’s of our friends and heroes.
When the first half was over, the board walked to the foul line on the west end of the court. Randy Sallis, a board member, walked over and escorted my mother to receive her plaque and stand at center court while the rest of the inductees received their plaques and joined her.
Amidst all of the current hype and overdose of athletic awards (ESPY’s?) and the excess commercialism of made-for-television (or at least scheduled for television) sports events, the halftime ceremony received little media coverage outside of Lebanon.
But as my sister and I watched the presentations unfurl and watched our 90-year old mother beaming that fabulous smile of hers, we sensed each other had tears welling up, ready to burst. Martha, a pesky and consistent defending guard several years ago, corrected the problem with a modified quote from “A League of Their Own.”
She quietly told me, “There ain’t no crying in basketball.”
As we left for more formal photos of the inductees in the library, I stopped and talked to old friends, Jim Harding and Bobby Byrd, a good “coming home” experience by itself. Before walking down the exit corridor, I turned to look at the gymnasium scene one more time. It will no longer be the high school gym if I ever get back.
The moment captured a wonderful tradition and transition of Blue Devil sports for me. There remains something healthy and right about high school athletics.
Thanks again to Clint Wilson, Denise Joyner, the Board of Directors, and the Booster’s Club for perpetuating the good things.