Editor’s note – This is the first of a four-part series on the 2016 Times-Gazette Highland County Athletic Hall of Fame inductees. They will be honored June 23 at the Ponderosa Banquet Center in Hillsboro, along with 31 senior student-athletes. The 6 p.m. event is open to the public and tickets are available. Call 937-402-2522 for more information.
It was the 1948-49 season and if you went to a basketball game at Lynchburg High School, you’d find Jesse Mount keeping the scorebook from a little box tucked in a corner near the downtown gymnasium’s ceiling. What is now known as Lynchburg-Clay High School has moved into two new gymnasiums since then, but if the Mustangs or Lady Mustangs are playing a game anywhere, you’ll still find Mount keeping the scorebook. And for many years if it was a road game, he likely drove the team bus there, too.
Mount actually kept the basketball scorebook a time or two during his senior year at Lynchburg in 1947-48 when the regular scorekeeper wasn’t able to. He took over the next year and has been doing it ever since. He’s also kept the Lady Mustangs’ scorebook for about 20 years, and has driven a bus for the school district for 51 years and counting.
While many people say the game of basketball has changed a lot over nearly seven decades, Mount doesn’t think so.
He pointed out that there used to be jump balls after every quarter and when the ball was tied up, while now he has to keep track of alternating possessions. He said he used to have to tally only two-point field goals, but now there are two-pointers and three-pointers. He said gyms are a lot bigger than they used to be, teams play better defense, there’s no more two-handed set shots, and that scores for winning teams have went from the 20s, to the 80s and 90s, and now back to 50s and 60s.
“But the basic game is still the same,” Mount said. “If you knock a guy down you get a foul on you. And if get a bunch of guys that know how to play together, those are the ones that make good teams.”
Had it not been for polio Mount contracted at the age of 3, this might be different story. But even though the disease limited his ability to run, he was on the Lynchburg basketball team for three years, was a successful fast-pitch softball pitcher for about 10 years, and was also known to shoot a good game of pool.
“I don’t know if I’d say I was pool shark, but I could hold my own,” Mount said.
His softball playing days came mostly in his 20s. Once they got softball lights on the ball field behind the old school downtown, he said, Lynchburg had a fast-pitch softball league with about six teams. The team sponsors picked their pitcher and catcher, then the other guys were divided up by alternating picks. Mount owned an appliance store in Lynchburg at the time, so he sponsored a team and pitched for it. He also played on independent teams on Sundays, playing about three days a week.
“And I was pretty good at it,” he said. “I played up until I was about 30 years old and quit because they went to an old man’s game called slow-pitch. I said, ‘If they’re going to an old man’s game, I’m quitting.’”
Mount said he has no memories that really stand out among others, except for maybe one. That was when Lynchburg had a principal named Gene Cook and Mount said he was strict about how the kids behaved and looked.
“I pulled up in front of the school to take the boys to a game and he came out and said, ‘You’re going to have wait a little bit,’” Mount laughed. “Then Mr. Cook sent Andy Richmond uptown to get a haircut before we left.”
Richmond was about a 6-7 center who played from 1966-70 and was one of the best players to ever come out of Lynchburg.
“As far as I’m concerned he’s the best player Lynchburg ever had,” Mount said. “I know a lot of people like Paul Cluxton (a 6-4 guard who broke Richmond’s all-time Lynchburg scoring record and led the Mustangs to the state tournament), but a lot of them didn’t see Andy play. Cluxton had a lot of good players with him, and Andy didn’t. Now, I won’t deny that Cluxton was a great shooter.”
When he wasn’t traveling to ball games, Mount worked at Acro in Hillsboro for several years, farmed, raised cattle and sold 4-H calves to kids. He’s also served on the Highland County Senior Fairboard the last 18 years and last year was inducted into the Highland County Agricultural Hall of Fame.
He said he’s also proud of two awards he received after his 60th year of scorekeeping – a Friend of Youth Award from the Southeast District and another award from the Southern Hills League.
He’s kept coming back to keep score year after year, he said, because he loves the game of basketball and watching kids play it.
“The girls sometimes are more interesting than the boys anymore,” he said. “They’ve come a long way.”
So how long does he plan to keep on keeping score?
“My goal is for 70 years. If I get to that I might think about giving it up,” Mount said. “But as long as my health holds up, I see no reason to quit.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.