Editor’s note – This is the second of a four-part series on the 2016 Times-Gazette Highland County Athletic Hall of Fame inductees. They will be honored Thursday, 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.
He’s kept the scorebook for 17 Hillsboro coaches, kept his alma mater’s scorebook for five years before that, and doesn’t see himself quitting anytime soon.
It all started when Galen Neal was a senior at Sinking Spring High School and his dad was injured in a farming accident. Instead of returning to the basketball team his senior he had to work on the family farm, but it didn’t bother him much.
“No, because I wasn’t any good. I didn’t even know what basketball was until I moved over here in 1952,” Neal said. “When I started school at Sinking Spring they said, ‘Do you play basketball?’ I said, ‘No.’ They said, ‘Well, you will.’”
Born near West Middletown in 1937, Neal attended a school with just four buses through the sixth grade, then his parents, Clarence and Sally Neal, bought a farm near Sinking Spring when he was 13.
Basketball was, and always has been, as much a social event as anything for Neal. So while he was reluctant at first, he accepted the offer when Sinking Spring coach Glenn Armstrong asked him to keep the scorebook his senior year.
He kept the book about five more years at Sinking Spring, but then work got in the way again. Oddly enough, it was work that led him back to it.
In 1962, Neal took a job doing school bus maintenance at Hillsboro and a couple years later coach Harry Hall approached him.
“I was driving buses to games for football, wrestling and basketball and Harry said something about needing a scorekeeper,” Neal said. “I said, ‘I kept the book for Sinking Spring,’ so he said, ‘How about keeping score?’ I’ve been doing it ever since. I just enjoy it.”
Neal just finished his 50th year keeping the boys scorebook at Hillsboro (he’s missed just five games in all those years) and said that in five decades he’s worked with just two clock keepers – Edgar Fawley and Bruce Davis. Coaches are a different matter. There’s been 17 of them, although one of them was the Hillsboro coach twice.
Thanks to his wife and ball game companion, Lynn, he can name them all: Harry Hall, 1965-66; Vernon Hooper, 1966-69; Dave Larimer, 1969-71; Bob Ream, 1971-75; Bill Hogan, 1975-77; Bill Newland, 1977-79; Sam Snyder, 1979-82; Gary West, 1982-86; George Barnes, 1986-87; Joe B. Stewart, 1987-90; Rick Earley, 1990-92; Thom Snyder, 1992-95; Pat Stevens, 1995-96; JR Moberly, 1996-2003; Joe B. Stewart, 2003-07; Tim Davis, 2007-11; Brett Prince, 2011-14; and Bruce Miles, 2014 to present.
Last basketball season the four high school basketball coaches for Hillsboro were Bruce Miles, Terry Dean, Adams McGinnis and Tyler Anderson. They all played at Hillsboro and Neal kept score for all of them.
Neal has also kept the clock for Hillsboro home wrestling matches for about 25 years, kept the scorebook for a handful girls basketball games, and drove the team bus to countless contests, although he quit doing that when he retired 15 or so years ago.
He was inducted to the Hillsboro High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003 and was the official scorer at the girls basketball state tournament one year in the early ’80s. He and Lynn are also two of Hillsboro’s biggest fans, no matter the sport.
“Lynn and I have been following wrestling for about 45 years. We go to everything. I just enjoy watching the kids. We both do,” Neal said. “We rarely miss a wrestling match, unless there’s a basketball game that night. We don’t understand soccer, but we go to a few games each year. Volleyball is about the only one we don’t follow.”
So, how many games does he figure he’s been to over the years?
“How would you even begin to figure it out? Ain’t no way,” he said.
In the 60-some years since he started keeping a scorebook, Neal said there have been lots of changes in the game.
The width of the foul line is wider, and when the players used to line up for foul shots, he said on one side there would be two players from the home team and one from the visiting team, and on the other side two from the visiting team and one from the home team. He said rather than having white jerseys at home and dark jerseys at away games, teams usually had two jerseys back in the day, but both were the same school color. One had odd numbers, the other had even numbers, and they wore one at home and one away. He said players used to have to hold up their hand when a foul was called on them, schools had only reserve and varsity teams (no freshmen teams), the referees officiated both the reserve and varsity games, there were no three-second calls for being in the lane too long or 10-second calls for not getting the ball across halfcourt, and there was one coach for both the varsity and reserve teams, with no assistants.
One of Neal’s trademarks as a basketball official is the candy that can always be found beside him on the scorer’s table. Longtime officials are well aware of it.
“It started off with peanut M&Ms – I love peanut M&Ms – and it’s got so I take all kinds of candy,” Neal said. “Hershey’s Kisses and mints, because the refs and coaches get dry. I just lay them there and they pick them up. People even walk behind me and grab them.”
A time or two he’s been asked how long he plans to keep score.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Until I don’t like it anymore, and I don’t foresee that.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.