“We could beat anybody in a gym” Doc Sanford (1984). *

Doctor Jack Sanford was standing at the entrance to the gym watching his baseball team practicing indoors, after a week of rain. I asked him how his team was going to be this year? *See quote above.

Wilson/Alumni gym was named after its two sources of funding, the town and the college. It was built in 1965/66, my second year as a teacher at Atlantic Christian College.   My first year my office was located in the bowels of the “old gym”. The physical education department chair, Ed Cloyd, would come by my office almost daily and suggest we go to the new construction site. He had designed the building and knew where every brick should go.

One day I walked to the new site alone, and met Mr Cloyd coming back toward me. He had tears in his eyes. I asked what was wrong? “They took the wall hung urinals out of the bathrooms.! You can’t clean the floor if the urinals are floor mounted”!

The new gym was his baby.

I never saw a gym that wouldn’t fill up if the door was open.   One grown neighborhood man told me “…if you ask me to leave, I will. But I’ll be back tomorrow. The only thing in life for me is basketball.”

The gym housed classes, games, intramurals, free play, indoor soccer, baseball practice, aerobics and the 12 minute run, concerts, class registrations, the Danish gymnastics team, and others too many to recall. Once a year the North Carolina symphony played for the public schools children in the gym. All day bus loads of fifth graders.   When the crowd after lunch settled in I swear you could smell what was served that day in school cafeterias.

One characteristic was the multitude of different lines in the gym. The main blue lines were for varsity basketball and wider. Red lines marked two cross-courts for free play and class instruction, Yellow lines were boundaries for six badminton courts. White for two volleyball.

I taught eight DIFFERENT classes my first semester. Intramural director and tennis coach tacked on. One class was first aid. Twenty years at 8 am, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.   I have been told about 15 times by a former first aid students that they saved someone’s life, or helped with a major injury or drowning. One student swore they saved their beloved mule with CPR.

Three days a week then, I was one of the first in the gym. The first was “Mr. B”. Mister Bowen had one eye, managed the equipment room and loved Ed Cloyd. He had eleven children, all girls. “We threw the boys away”.   He rode his bike four miles a day to open the gym at 5am. Did that at 85 years of age.

At about seven thirty a.m.(mwf) I’d enter the back door: “Mawnin Mr Tom”. “Morning Mr B.”   The next sound came from the gym floor. The ball would hit the floor, then a diminishing sound of 4 or 5 bounces.   I’d guess to myself whether it was Johnson Moore, or Russell Rawlings (the large one).

I’d say Hey,Russell. Hey coach. Or Hey Johnson, and he’d say “watch this one coach.” And there would go that two hander. How you hitting em , Johnson? I’m 2 for 22. I’m hot!

The gym housed concerts people still talk about. Fleetwood Mac, Ray Charles . I had a new pair of tennis shorts in my unlocked locker that the Tams used to shine their shoes.

Ken Cooper, founder of Aerobics spoke to the entire student body. Better still, Tom Cureton led the volunteer students in a skipping/exercise in circular fashion around the gym floor. One by one they gave out and dropped out until only the 70 year Cureton danced around in a circle. Later we heard that the same thing happened that afternoon at ECTC (now East Carolina university).

As you get older memories are about it. I left the gym in 1985. And I am sure the next years provided many similar and different memories. Gyms are good places.

They changed the name of the college to Barton College. But it’s the same gym. Only it is fifty plus years old and needs a major facelift. The college committed to a total renovation and the whole main floor is now gutted. New floor, bleachers, lighting, scoreboards, computerization, and—AIR CONDITIONING to come.

I appreciate the school’s commitment to my old friend, the gym.




One thought on “ODE TO THE GYM

  1. Gerry Ritter

    A piece of the past. Lovely new glimpses of you my brother. Thank you for describing times past.

    Sent from my iPhone


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