While you will rarely find me posting anything on Facebook, I do like to troll around once in a while to see what my “friends” are up to.
Such was the case this week when I came upon a post with pictures from Hillsboro resident John Barney.
“As I picked (my son) up from baseball practice at the Marshall gym my heart sunk seeing what this gym has become,” John’s post said. “The facility is in dire need of improvement. I am not sure who runs the gym now since it has been turned over to the community … but if something is not done soon the building will not be there in a year or two. The shine on the pictures of the floor is standing water after today’s storms.”
John went on to say that he is not judging the people in charge of the building that houses the gym and two former classrooms. But, he said it is obvious they need money, and wondered if local businesses and individuals could donate money, or maybe hold fundraisers, to save the storied building – before it’s too late.
My heart sank a bit, too, when I read John’s post. That’s kind of because the part of the old Marshall School that is still standing is the only school I attended in grades K-12 that is still around. Webster Elementary, Washington Elementary, the former Hillsboro high school and middle school buildings – they’re all gone.
Only a piece of Marshall remains as a last bastion of my prep school days.
But it’s not the school part, as much as the gym in Marshall, that holds memories for me. Decades of them.
When I was little, my Dad made weekly trips to Marshall, at least in the winter, to play basketball with other fellows his age in that old gym. A brother and I tagged along most every time. We only got to shoot baskets during breaks in the action, but that was enough to keep us happy and begging to come back each trip Dad made.
The rest of the time we explored every nook and cranny the old gym had to offer. Many times, we climbed atop the brick entrance on one end of the gym. I was always amazed at the old scoreboard that rested up there because its clock actually had “hands” – like an old wristwatch or clock. Sometimes I’d gaze at the 1928 Class B Marshall state basketball championship trophy that was housed in the gym in those days.
The Marshall Red Flashes did not play in the gym in 1928, but their success that year led to the gym being built.
When I was in sixth grade I attended school at Marshall, like a couple generations of Hillsboro kids did. Mine was the third class of sixth graders to be bused there. It was an especially fun year – partly because our school days were shorter due to the bus trips back and forth, but mostly because it was comfortable to attend a school where the only kids there were all in the same grade.
That was the year I had an argument with my Mom about wearing a white dress shirt to a musical performance in the Marshall gym. Mom was pretty adamant that I needed to wear a white shirt, but I must have been more stubborn. I did not wear the white shirt, and I felt mighty stupid when I showed up and everyone else had one on. I think I even asked to go home, but they were having none of that.
In seventh and eighth grade, pretty much every one of my junior high basketball practices was held in the Marshall gym. It was kind of a hassle, with parents taking turns hauling us back and forth, but the ambiance of the old gym was always special, too.
I was in my early 20s when I returned to the Marshall gym again. Some of the guys my Dad played with were still playing pick-up games there weekly in the cooler months. But some younger guys joined the group, too, and I was one of them.
I messed up a knee in those years and my competitive basketball playing days came to an end. But a few years later I found myself in the Marshall gym again, this time as a basketball official for youth games.
About the same time, when my oldest son reached the age when he could play in those youth leagues, my Dad and I found ourselves coaching his team at the Marshall gym. It was mostly my Dad doing the coaching, because I was officiating elsewhere too much, but I helped.
My oldest son was in the fourth grade then – the youngest age group for the youth league. But my youngest son, who was in the first grade then, played on the team, too. I watched one or both of them play in that gym for the next five years.
Once again, I found myself absent from the Marshall gym for a while.
But when the other part of the school was dismantled, I was there, covering it as a newspaper reporter. I went back again when some of the Marshall school stuff was auctioned off in the gym. I even bought an old door. I’m not sure why. I guess I just wanted a piece of the place.
Goodness knows that old gym floor has plenty of pieces of me.
A couple days after I saw John’s post, I ran into him at a local event. He said he’d tracked down a preliminary estimate and that it would take about $30,000 to fix the gym’s roof and some leaky windows. He said that might sound like a lot, but it wouldn’t really be that hard to raise if enough people put their minds to it. I concur.
If something happens to the old gym, I will certainly get over it. But I’m a nostalgic kind of guy, and I’d sure like to see it stick around a while longer.
Who knows, maybe it holds another chapter for me yet.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.