Old basketball gyms are a treasure

I went to Regent this weekend for the Regent Centennial celebration and school reunion. I reminisced, partied and had a good time with old friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Regent did a great job with their reunion, especially one aspect — opening up the old three-story schoolhouse for self-guided tours.

I attended kindergarten through six grade in the old schoolhouse. I don’t know when it was, but I remember it being very early in life when I learned about “the old gym.”

Now for a school with probably 100 students top to bottom and in a town of about 300 (at the time), Regent had a very respectable basketball gymnasium. Of course, basketball was and will always be king in the town since that was the longest-running and most successful sport Regent had without a co-op with another school. Through the 70s, 80s and 90s, Regent had very good basketball teams. I played elementary ball there and remember growing up watching my brothers and their friends play on the varsity teams in the late 80s and early 90s alongside my friend and classmate Jaden Honeyman, who was the son of Rangers head coach Curt Honeyman. Heck, I even watched the District 24 quarterfinal game in Bowman between Hettinger and Regent that had the final score of 4-2 in the Black Devils’ favor.

What everybody who ever went to Regent at any time remembers, however, is the shroud of mystery around “the old gym.” It was off limits. It was dark. It was creepy. It was scary.

Now, when Regent built the new high school in the early 60s, it effectively ended the days of playing in the small, sunken, cement gym shown above.

My grandfather, who graduated from Regent in 1938, didn’t play basketball — he was a baseball guy and a farm kid who lived 17 miles outside of town — but he remembers watching games in the gym when it was packed full. That, it seems, wouldn’t be too hard to accomplish.

Regent’s gym truly is a great find. Not many of these old schools kept their tiny old gymnasiums intact. While Regent’s is damp, dark and probably abundant with mold, it’s still fun to check out. I was one of the few people to brave the steep and cracking stairs — with no railings, mind you — and see what it was like to be on the floor and in the locker rooms. My 5-year-old nephew who was checking out the gym with me got a little freaked out when I did that. He stayed up top with a couple people and made sure to tell me a few times that what I was doing “doesn’t seem safe.” Heck, it was so dark in there that I took several pictures with my personal point-and-shoot camera and many of them didn’t turn out. Like this one, which even Photoshop gave up on.

It truly makes you think how good we have it these days with our heated and air-conditioned facilities with nice bleachers and electronic scoreboards. Just remember those who were around in the 1920s when basketball in our area was just getting going were watching games in underground, cement facilities that probably weren’t as safe as their authority figures told them they were.

I don’t know when, but some day in my lifetime the old Regent schoolhouse — which was built in the 1910s shortly after the town was founded — will succumb to age and either be torn down or blown down. Then, the place where I attended grade school and those in my grandfather’s generation played their basketball games will be gone forever and one more of these historic basketball courts will vanish.

If you have any pictures of these old basketball gymnasiums — some of you Rhame alums must have something of The Pirate Pit and I’m betting the Mott St. Vincent’s crowd has something on the dungeon, as I called it, where we played grade school hoops — send them to me at dmonke@thedickinsonpress.com and I’ll make sure to include them on this blog post. Make sure to tell me where the gym is and if you have a little history on it, even better.


3 thoughts on “Old basketball gyms are a treasure

  1. Mr. Monke,

    Great post, wasnt able to be in Ranger Town for the reunion but have enjoyed some of the articles and FB posts and pictures that i have seen. This one is tops. You were right on about “the old gym” Just wanted to drop a comment. In 1996 our junior class was allowed to hold a dance in there, not sure how we got that one passed but it was a pretty neat experience. keep up the good work, i enjoy following your blog. thanks


  2. Great article! as a Rhame alum wish I could help you out with some pics of the “pit”, good to see someone documenting the history of some of these places, as your right it won’t be long most will be lost to history.

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