Basketball Player in the Family

“March Madness” is here again. Time to think about all things basketball. Many of my Dad’s ancestors lived in Indiana, where the sport of Basketball is like a religion. So it isn’t unusual to find that some relatives played the game. My Dad played in High School and was on a pretty good team. But I never expected to find that my Great Grandmother played the game over a hundred years ago!



First, I found these pictures in the collection of family photos I received from my Grandmother. Mary Boone (1897-1992) is my Great Grandmother. I was quite surprised to see her in these pictures. Hard to imagine “Mamommy,” as we called her, playing basketball as a teenager! She is listed as playing the position of Guard for Sheridan High School in 1914. (She’s in the bottom right side of the first picture) I don’t have any additional information about this season of basketball.


Then, I have a copy of the Sheridan High School year book, The Syllabus, from 1915. There is an editorial in the front of the book which says that The Syllabus was published for the first time in 1905, then for whatever reason, not continued until 10 years later when the 2nd issue was published in 1915.

Mary Boone shows up in the year book in a picture of the Junior class. She also is pictured with members of the Girls’ Basket Ball team.


Basketball is a recent addition to the S.H.S. athletic calendar, but without a doubt it has come to stay.” This was the first sentence describing the Boys’ program.

Then there was an edition of the Sheridan High School Newspaper, The Black and White, Vol. 1, No. 1, dated January 12, 1915. It had an article about Girls Athletics: “The girls are doing splendidly under the direction of Miss Hankemeier. She was captain of the basket ball team at Indiana University for 2 years and was president of the girls athletic association when she was a senior. The girls have been divided into basket ball teams according to their classes, having for their captains, Mary Byrkett, Freshman team; Nellie Burton, Junior & Sophomore team; Verlie Hundley, Senior team. Inter-class games are played but Inter-school games have been voted down. Many exciting games have been played and the girls are starting with greater enthusiasm since vacation; for now every game counts towards winning the banner which will be given to the victorious team.

The description of the Girls’ Basket Ball program from The Syllabus stated:

The boys condescended to let the girls use the gym on Tuesday and Thursday evenings after school, and they have had some exciting contests. Heretofore the teams have been divided according to their classes but as there were not enough players in some of the classes to make a full team and as some did not come out for regular practice, Miss Hankemeier organized the strongest players into two teams, the “Black” and the “White.” The line-up for the teams is as follows:

BLACK—Mary Byrkett, F; Leona Butcher, F; Dorthea Applegate, C; Edith McMurtry, S.C; Lula Laughlin, G; Bernice Inman, G.

WHITE—Mary Melson, F; Lois Fristoe, F; Nellie Burton, C; Ivalu Vickery, S.C; Mary Boone, G; Laura Mae Kercheval, G.

All the girls seem to enjoy the game. We are glad to see the girls take an interest in athletics and we hope that they will continue it next year.

Obviously, the teams changed a little since the January article, but regardless of that, it seems that the girls were enjoying themselves. There is no indication of which team won the banner at the end of the season. Hard to imagine playing basketball in the “gym clothes” of that era. Also, considering the hair styles of the day, one general reference I found indicated that after girls’ basketball games there would be hair pins scattered all over the floor!

Anyway, it is fun to think that “Mamommy” played basketball!

© MJM 2017

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