THE GYM 1960-1985


I doubt if Ed Cloyd or Milton Adams or anyone else at Atlantic Christian College had any idea that the gym they had pushed to reality would house so many different happenings and changes about to be become reality in the 60’s, 7o’s and even the 80’s. ‘Uncle Milty”was the beloved and trusted business manager who delivered the money to fulfill Mr. Cloyd’s vision.

Ed Cloyd was the Chairman of the Physical Education Department and the Athletics Department. A World War 11 veteran who survived the Saipan invasion, Mr. Cloyd was a true idealist and professional. He was also a self effacing , skilled athlete. For years He was the best tennis player in town and able to shoot par equally.

The design of the new gym bore his stamp. 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.   This insured training areas for future teachers, not like many gyms designed only for Men’s varsity basketball. While coaches howled, the lines stayed and never reportedly tripped anyone.

In fact Cloyd saw athletics being only a part of the gym, staff, and departments duties. Steadfastly he built a strong overall program, with first priority for the average student. As for former teacher/coach majors their sacred trust was to consider all students and their health and physical well being.

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. The gym schedule was tight. Everyone claimed ownership and governance was tough. .   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 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 old Cureton danced around in a circle. Later we heard that the same thing happened that afternoon at ECTC (now East Carolina university).

Here are some others gym memories:

There were “club sports” and hosted tournaments for volleyball and badminton enthusiasts. Military clubs and ACC level clubs from “big schools” came to Wilson.

Class registration was held in the gym.

There were indoor soccer tournaments.

Winter nights would fill the gym with intramural games many among the fraternity and sorority teams and fans.

Once we decided to have the heavyweight intramural wrestling championship in the gym.   Raymond Boykin vs Gid Alston. It packed the whole building.

For several years we held indoor professional tennis matches in the gym, World class players on a borrowed mat. These were town sponsored events and never has there been better “town-gown” cooperation.

Once we hosted the Danish Gymnastics team for a performance. They stayed several days and used the gym as home. Lots of male students hung around the gym those three days.

Those who took freshman physical education in the Aerobics requirement period never worked harder , or were in better shape. Laps in the gym. The 12 minutes run. Tough.

The basketball world was shocked about the same time our gym was opened. Henry Logan of Western Carolina was the first black player to play in our league and he kicked the door open. Mid 60’s, before major colleges, our league featured Dwight Durante of Catawba, then Gene Littles of High Point.   Soon after ACC recruited Cliff Black and James Jones of nearby Conetoe,NC. Both were gentlemen as well as fine players. Cliff held several records, many still unbroken.

Carole McKeel saw the light and recruited our first black woman, Lorraine Riley. Like the men, success followed with players like Cathy Wall, and soon our first Women’s All American, Tyra Boyd.

In 1972 the college hired David Adkins as the Athletics Director. He also was to coach the newly added soccer team.   David was a quiet leader and a hard worker.   Still he took his licks too, early on.   His first two teams were 1-22.   Team three, however, was 7-5 , featuring a corner turning coach, and some players who had paid their dues.   Adkins teams became the powerhouse of the conference and our district of the NAIA.   Adkins and his players were influential ambassadors for soccer’s development in Wilson and eastern North Carolina.

There was a “bell cow” effect.   Coach Carole Mckeel’s   women’s basketball team won it first conference. title.   Women’s volley ball team became a “tough out” in league play. The colorful Jack “Doc” Sanford finished his career coaching baseball, his first love.   A delightful leader in his seventieth year, Doc led a special group of youngsters to another formerly rare conference title. During this period Men’s tennis won 11conference titles and two NAIA team tennis championships (1979 and 1984). The first in North Carolina history.   “This proves to our students we can compete with anybody.”

Indeed a new culture was born in the 70’s ,   No more clear-cut evidence was there than the Hawn trophy finishes. For twenty years our total program’s finish was always dead last. Eighth of eight.    Coach Adkins’ years featured a steady climb in the final standings, While Adkins later entered the private business world, the year after he resigned the college job, the Bulldogs finished a historical #2 Hawn finish.. The year after that they won the outright claim to top sports program in this highly competitive conference.   Subsequently there was a three years stretch of Hawn winners.

*And there are more I remember
And more I could mention
Than words I could write in a song
But I feel them watching
And I see them laughing
And I hear them singing along


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. The athletes gave us great games and performances to savor.:   The Dawgs thumping #1 ranked nationally Guilford, featuring Lloyd “World B “Free.   That was a special team” Carraway, Jones, Stallsmith, Gilmore, and Covington. And an injured Coach who chased a referee while confined to a wheel chair.

Our women, valiantly won their rights to the gym, basketball and volleyball.   And gave us great performances.

But there was more than the games. Every birthday my young boys had featured a request to bring their buddies to the gym to play floor hockey. We snuck in on Sundays, or late at night. Talk about a “perk”. Yes, and walking into the hollow gym at 8am hearing Johnson Moore, jr. or a rather large Russell Rawlings, firing away at the rim. “2 for 22!” Johnson said he was HOT!

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.




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